I mean character spoilers, though. Turn back if you have enjoyed watching Daenerys Targaryen rise from being sold and raped to become the just ruler of Slaver Dragon Bay before returning to Westeros and fighting alongside her people. In The Bells, Daenerys goes from being the Breaker of Chains to Queen of the Ashes in an instant, destroying all of King’s Landing and, of course, the internet.
She’d already won the battle…so why did she do it?
Let’s talk about Fat Man and Little Boy.
Hiroshima Atomic Bomb (1945) | A Day That Shook the World
On August 6, 1945, the United States released a nuclear weapon over the Japanese city of Hiroshima, killing 140,000 people. Three days later, the U.S. dropped a second bomb, this one over the city of Nagasaki, killing 40,000 more instantly, while thousands more would die of radiation poisoning.
Eight days later, Japan formally surrendered to the Allied forces, effectively ending World War II.
Last night on Game of Thrones, Daenerys Stormborn defeated the military protecting Cersei Lannister…but she made the choice to raze King’s Landing and the Red Keep to the ground with dragonfire anyway.
The only reasoning I can accept is that she needed to demonstrate the full capabilities of her power so that none would challenge her again. Her logic is that a weapon of mass destruction is justified to ultimately save the lives of the rest of the kingdom.
In other words, she made the decision to nuke Japan to end the war.
If you’re like me and you’ve been thrilled to watch the strongest most bad ass female protagonist ever and she’s your Khaleesi and your Mhysa and, yeah, she burns her enemies a little but whatever who wouldn’t then yes, this hurts.
Many people have argued that this was not an out-of-character arc.
To those people I say Drogon can eat you all…but here we are.
She had her reasons.
When American scientists successfully employed an atomic bomb in 1945, President Harry S. Truman was faced with a decision. He tasked a committee of advisors to deliberate whether to use the bomb against Japan (by then, Germany had already surrendered). Ultimately, the men decided to use the bomb rather than prolong the war.
The alternative was an invasion of Japan, which would have cost (American) money and lives.
If Daenerys Targaryen truly believes that she is not only the rightful ruler of the Seven Kingdoms, but also the best ruler, then it is conceivable that she would pursue victory at all costs. In the episodes leading up to her conquest of King’s Landing, she realized that she didn’t have the support or loyalty of the North that was promised to her by the Starks — not even from her lover-turned-rival Aegon Targaryen Jon Snow.
So I guess in her hangry moment up there on her battle buddy she decided she would have to show everyone what she was capable of — so that fear would cause them to comply.
This will obviously not go over well from the holier-than-thou Starks in what promises to be the crankiest series final ever.
When aspiring operators are being screened for selection into Delta Force, a collection of the most elite soldiers in the Army, they have to pass a series of rigorous and challenging tests, including a ruck march that they begin with no announced distance, no announced end time, and no encouragement. If they can complete this grueling ruck march, they will face a selection board and possibly join “The Unit.”
If they fall short, they go home.
Delta Force was pitched and built to be an American version of Britain’s Special Air Service by men like Col. Charles A. Beckwith, a Special Forces leader who had previously served as an exchange officer to the 22 SAS. Originally stood up in 1977, Delta was always focused on counter-terrorism.
Unsurprisingly, Beckwith got the nod to lead the unit he had helped pitch. He looked to the SAS itself for methods to winnow out those who might not be resolute at a key moment in battle, and embraced their stress event: a superhuman ruck march.
It wasn’t an insane distance, just 74 kilometers — or 40 miles. That’s certainly further than most soldiers will ever carry a ruck, but not an eye-watering number.
Col. Charles A. Beckwith, the first commander of Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta.
(U.S. Army Special Operations Command)
But SAS candidates conducted this training at the end of what were already-grueling weeks of training. And on the day of the final march, they were woken up early to start it.
But the real mind game was not telling the candidates how far they had to go or how far they had already gone. They were just told to ruck march to a set point that could be miles distant. Then, a cadre member at that point would give them a new point, and this would continue until the candidate had marched the full distance.
Beckwith told his superiors that he needed two years to stand up Delta Force, partially because he felt it was necessary to incorporate this and other elements of SAS selection and training into the pipeline, meaning that he would need to recruit hundreds of candidates to get just a few dozen final operators. President Jimmy Carter wanted a new anti-terrorism unit, and senior Army brass were initially loathe to wait two years to give it to him.
According to his book Delta Force: a memoir by the founder of the military’s most secretive special operations, Beckwith had to fight tooth and nail to get enough candidates and time for training, but he still refused to relax the standards. Beckwith successfully argued that, to make a unit as capable or better than the SAS, the Army would have to fill it with men as tough or better.
This couldn’t just be men great at shooting or land navigation or even ruck marching. It had to be those people who would keep pushing, even when it was clearly time to quit.
To make his argument, he pointed to cases where capable men had failed to take appropriate action because, as Beckwith saw it, their resolve had failed. He pointed to the 1972 Olympics in Munich where great German marksmen failed to take out hostage takers early in the terror attack because they simply didn’t pull the trigger.
Beckwith needed guys who could pull the trigger, he knew that the SAS process delivered that, and he didn’t want to risk a change from the SAS mold that might leave Delta with people too reluctant to get the job done during a fight.
And so, the “Long Walk” was born into Army parlance. This is that final ruck march of selection. It’s 40 miles long, it’s conducted on the last day of training when candidates are already physically and mentally completely exhausted, and the rucksacks weigh 70 pounds.
Oh, and there is an unpublished time limit of 20 hours. And candidates can’t march together, each gets their own points and has to walk them alone. And, like in the SAS version, they don’t actually ever know the full course, only their next point.
Members of Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta guard Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf.
Finally, while the first classes conducted the Long Walk at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, later iterations had to conduct the exercise in the mountains of West Virginia, adding to the pain and exhaustion.
Even men like future Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, who came to the course after the existence and general distance of the Long Walk were known, talked about how mentally challenging the uncertainty would be. He lost 15 pounds in the tough training that led to the march, and then he struggled on the actual event.
In his book, Never Surrender: A Soldier’s Journey to the Crossroads of Faith and Freedom, Boykin says that he was exhausted by the 8-hour mark. Having started before dawn, he would still have to walk deep into the night with his heavy ruck to be successful, praying that every point was his last.
But the next point wasn’t the last. Nor was the one after that, or the one after that. The cadre assigning the points cannot cheerlead for the candidate, nor can they tell the candidate if they’re doing well or if they’re marching too fast. Either the candidate pushes themself to extreme physical and mental limits and succeeds without help or encouragement, or they don’t.
In Boykin’s class of 109, only about 25 people even made it to the Long Walk, and plenty more washed out during that test. Freezing in the weather and exhausted from the weight, terrain, and distance, Boykin did make it to the end of the course. But, interestingly, even completing the prior training and the Long Walk does not guarantee a slot in Delta. Instead, soldiers still have to pass a selection board, so some people train for months or years, are marched to exhaustion every day for a month during training, have to complete the Long Walk, and then they get turned away by the board, are not admitted, and don’t become capital “O” Operators.
Delta Force has undoubtedly made America more lethal and more flexible when it comes to missions, but there are strict standards that ensure that only the most fit soldiers can compete in this space. And the Long Walk forces everyone but the most tenacious out.
The new PD-100 black hornet nano-drone has made its way into the Australian Army in a very big way. It is mainly utilized as a small range, inconspicuous recon drone. However, it is essentially the first of its kind, and the possibilities are endless.
Not too shabby for a drone the size of a matchbox
(reddit user /u/harriharris)
These little dudes have been assisting in recon training with the Australian Army. Apparently, they are much quieter than their larger drone counterparts. This, coupled with the tiny size, makes them a perfect match for covert recon. They can also snap some really crisp pictures for a micro-drone.
This makes them a logical improvement from the already tremendously effective “instanteye” being used by forces today. The instanteye has a lackluster battery and picture resolution, but can still be advantageous for getting an idea of the enemy’s position from a safe distance. The PD-100 black hornet improves on this with a much smaller, quieter, design.
A previous generation of the “instanteye”
The thought of spawning hundreds of these little dudes all over a battlefield, essentially giving commanders a fully comprehensive and detailed view of the battlefield, could change the way battle tactics evolve alongside nano-technology.
This brings to mind sci-fi visions of Ed Harris in “The Truman Show” overseeing every single detail in a massive landscape, pulling every tiny string perfectly. Now couple that with tactical genius in a real-world setting, and it’s not too far of a logical jump to consider the combat effects.
Another interesting implication to consider with these little marvels is their offensive capabilities. What if one of these was armed with high explosives and controlled remotely to be deadly accurate? Now consider that possibility, but with a swarm of dozens of them — or hundreds.
US Military Released Micro Drone Swarm From FA 18 Super Hornet Jet…
Here is a video of a micro-drone 9 (albeit, larger than the PD-100 black hornets) swarm being released by some F-18s.
Imagine those, but smaller, strapped and readied with high explosives, each controlled remotely by some military equivalent to a professional gamer. The quiet PD-100 black hornet certainly poses some interesting implications.
As of now, the biggest limitation of this technology is its battery life. It is estimated at somewhere between 30-60 minutes. This is somewhat of a far cry from its larger drone counterpart, the RQ-11b Raven (which is estimated at about 60-90 minutes).
Still, even with its limited battery life and the obvious problems that could arise for a small drone in heavy winds — the PD-100 seems to be dipping its tiny little toes into the water of the world of evolved combat. Time will tell if military tech will continue to go bigger, by getting smaller.
Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) vessels conducted unsafe and unprofessional actions against U.S. Military ships by crossing the ships’ bows and sterns at close range while operating in international waters of the North Arabian Gulf in April of 2020. (U.S. Navy photo)
On July 28, 2020, the Iranian military conducted a kinetic offensive drill against a mock-up dummy of a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Strait of Hormuz. The live-fire attack against the replica ship marked the beginning of Iran’s Payambar-e A’zam 14, or Great Prophet 14, annual military exercise. Broadcast on state TV, the exercise is held by the Revolutionary Guard Corps and showcases Iranian air and naval power.
The targeted mock U.S. carrier is a scale replica of the USS Nimitz built on a barge. The ship even features fake aircraft. Five years ago, it was used during Great Prophet 9 and sustained enough damage during the attack to take it out of action. It was repaired recently to partake in Great Prophet 14.
Unable to match western superpowers like the United States in a conventional fight, Iran focuses more on asymmetrical warfare. Great Prophet 14 demonstrated these military capabilities. Combat divers placed and detonated a contact mine on the hull, fast boats circled the ship and troops fast-roped from a helicopter onto the ship’s deck.
Iranian forces also launched a number of missiles from the land, air and sea during the exercise. A helicopter-launched Chinese C-701 anti-ship missile targeted the mock carrier and struck its hull. The missile fire put US troops at Al-Dhafra Air Base in the UAE and Al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar on alert.
USS Ronald Reagan and Carrier Strike Group Five (US Navy)
The exercise received criticism from the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet. “The US Navy conducts defensive exercises with our partners promoting maritime security in support of freedom of navigation; whereas, Iran conducts offensive exercises, attempting to intimidate and coerce,” said Fifth Fleet Spokeswoman Commander Rebecca Rebarich.
While the exercise showcased a number of Iranian military assets attacking the mock carrier, it is highly unlikely that these tactics would be effective against the real deal. Between airborne early warning aircraft, combat air patrols, destroyer escort screens and its own defense systems like the Phalanx CIWS, an American aircraft carrier is one of safest places to be during an Iranian attack. To paraphrase the late, great Bruce Lee, mock carriers don’t fight back.
The Stinger missile is America’s premier short-range air defense weapon, featuring in-flight guidance and an almost 7-pound warhead that sends shrapnel ripping through planes, helicopters, and pretty much anything else flying low. It can even be shot against ground vehicles when necessary.
Recently, the missile’s manufacturer has created a new proximity fuse for the weapon — and it just passed qualification testing with flying colors.
U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Aaron Kiser, assigned to the USS Bataan (LHD 5), practices target tracking with a Stinger missile training system aboard the Bataan, May 8, 2014.
(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Austin Hazard)
The Stinger is a hit-to-kill weapon, meaning it always tries to physically impact the enemy target before it goes off. That turns the skin of the targeted aircraft into shrapnel that rips through the rest of the aircraft, maximizing damage to engines, fuel tanks, and even the pilots. It usually ends up near the engine, since the weapon uses heat to track targets.
But making contact with the target isn’t always necessary, as the missile itself creates some shrapnel that will tear through the target’s skin. So, if it were to explode nearby its target, it’s still likely to damage or destroy the craft.
Now, the missile is being outfitted with a better proximity fuse that achieved a 100-percent hit rate during testing at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.
That’s great news for Stinger missile shooters. The weapon can be carried by ground troops or mounted on ground vehicles or helicopters, but firing the weapon is risky, especially against ground-support jets or helicopters.
If the Stinger crew fires the weapon and misses, whether because of a malfunction, shooter error, or the target’s defenses, they’re potentially in for a world of hurt. That’s because it always takes time to fire a second missile, especially for ground troops firing the MANPADS, which is a tube with a single missile in it.
That means a very pissed off and scared pilot is going to turn around and follow the smoke plume back it its source, and the pilot is likely going to hit the missile source with everything they have available to drop and fire.
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Joshua L. Field, a low altitude air defense (LAAD) gunner, with 2nd LAAD Battalion fires an FIM- 92 Stinger missile during a live fire training exercise on Camp Lejeune, N.C., on Oct. 10, 2017.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Cody J. Ohira)
But with a proximity fuse, a missile that would otherwise be a near-miss will still go off, generating as much damage and shrapnel as it can. That means the helicopter that would be pivoting to attack is now suffering from damage. Hopefully, the damage is in the cockpit, control surfaces, or engine. A proximity detonation might even still be enough to destroy the target outright.
If not, then at least the crew on the ground has some breathing room as the air crew tries to get an idea of how damaged they are. This could be enough time for troops on the ground to get under cover or concealment or even to get off another shot.
This is especially useful against drones which typically don’t require as much damage to be completely destroyed. And, considering just how much more prevalent drones are becoming, that could be key for future air defenders trying to maintain an air defense umbrella as Chinese or Russian forces test their defenses. All four Department of Defense branches carry the missile in combat.
Col. David Shank, commander of the 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, speaks with Avenger team leader, Army Sgt. Jesse Thomas, and Avenger team member Army Spc. Dillion Whitlock with Charlie Battery, 2nd Battalion, 63rd Armored Regiment, South Carolina National Guard, during an air-defense live-fire exercise in Shabla, Bulgaria, July 18, 2017.
(U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Ben Flores)
Currently, the weapon is most widely deployed in single-shot missile tubes and carried by air defense squads on the ground. There’s even an Army air defense battery that can jump these tubes into combat with other airborne troops. There’s also the Avenger system, a modified Humvee with eight missiles mounted on it.
120 miles Northeast of Los Angeles lies the fictional country of Atropia. That’s the name of the area given to what the commanders at the Fort Irwin National Training Center call ‘The Box,’ a 1,000 square mile area in the Mojave Desert used to train U.S. & allied troops and their commanders in large scale combat and the realities of modern warfare.
I was honored to visit Fort Irwin and witness the lives of some of the 10,000 soldiers and dependents stationed there.
(Courtesy of Kent Matsuoka)
The Department of Defense routinely provides what they call ‘Civic Leader Tours’ to local communities so we might learn and take our experiences back to the rest of the civilian population.
As the closest Army installation to Los Angeles, they hope that their outreach here helps influence creative leaders in Hollywood to provide realistic depictions of military life, instead of the harmful portrayals of dangerous PTSD damaged veterans, or fanciful representations of larger than life superheroes the public can’t relate to.
Two of the most important lessons learned from my visit with the brave men and women stationed at Fort Irwin were quite different from what is commonly portrayed by Hollywood or suggested by our leaders in D.C.
The first is the importance of counterintelligence and public relations in modern warfare. One of the greatest assets the U.S. Military has is in its technological advantages. Comprising of an area larger than Rhode Island, with complete control of the land, airspace, and electronic signals in the area, the commanders of the 11th Armored Cavalry that make up the Opposing Forces (OPFOR) not only have the home field advantage of knowledge of the terrain, but the ability to jam or spoof GPS, track radio transmissions, and operates a closed intranet with its own “Falsebook”, “Tweeter”, and even an “Atropia News Network” for the actors portraying the citizens and insurgents that the visiting units must contend with.
(Courtesy of DVIDS)
One past engagement involved the visiting unit accidentally killing some innocent civilians, and exasperated the situation when a young junior officer came off as unsympathetic when approached by role-playing journalists for the ‘Atropia News Network’ that went viral in the simulation. Another involved a helicopter of the visiting unit being ‘shot down’ by the OPFOR, and reached by insurgents before the visiting unit could rescue the crew. The insurgents then were able to strip the helicopter of its valuable electronics and armament, which were then sold on ‘Falsebook’ and provided the OPFOR additional resources to use against the visiting unit.
Commanders and troops must contend not only with the unforgiving desert terrain as they attempt to approach Atropia, but frequently find themselves either without technological advantages they rely on such as the jamming of their GPS guidance systems, or the targeting of their radio transmissions by OPFOR artillery units that require strategic thinking instead of brute force.
The second, and more important lesson learned was through conversations with some of the spouses and dependents of the troops also invited to participate.
(Courtesy of DVIDS)
They expressed a desire to see more depictions of the difficulty they face at home as their spouses are deployed. Less than 10% of the American population has ever served or come from a military family, and the difficulties they face from constant relocation, inability to conduct some legal transactions without their spouse, or simply the loneliness and worry faced by a deployed spouse is something often forgotten in our rush to war.
Although Hollywood has had a long and beneficial relationship with the military, depictions of the experience of those most affected by a soldier’s deployment are often overlooked. Recent productions such as NatGeo’s ‘The Long Road Home’ or the book ‘Sisters of Valor’ by Rosalie Turner offer an insight into the sacrifices made on the homefront are often glossed over.
As tensions in Korea heat up and the conflict in the Middle East continue with no end in sight, we’ve become used to the sights of soldiers in combat, but thanks to the outreach by Army OCPA-West, the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, and the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, let’s hope we can continue to be a witness not only to the brave men and women serving our country, but to those left behind as well.
If you’re interested in finding out more about how you might be able to access military assets or knowledge for your project, give the Department of Defense a call and see if it is something they might be able to support.
When it comes to things like air superiority, if you don’t have to think about it, you’re probably winning. The ground pounders in the Armed Forces of the United States have it pretty good in that regard. They can be reasonably sure that if they’re going into a combat situation, death will likely not be coming from above.
The Army and Marine Corps know they can count on airmen to have the best food and the worst PT tests, but as long as those airmen can lift bombs and bullets onto aircraft and get the stuff to the fight, everyone is blessed from on high. Everyone allied with the United States, that is.
But what happens to ground troops who can’t depend on US airpower to ensure “death from above” isn’t the last thing they hear? There are countries whose armed forces have to deal with things like that. Some countries go to war and send in ground forces without really thinking about an air force. If air power isn’t a priority, going to war in the 21st century is a terrible idea.
We’re not here to make fun of countries who don’t have an air force, especially if they aren’t going around rattling sabers all the time. You never hear about Costa Rica wanting to invade Belize for their strategic scuba gear caches. No, Costa Rica is too busy getting rich from Americans on yoga trips to worry about things like war. Meanwhile, Iran is constantly talking smack to Israel while rolling around in F-14 Tomcats that Israel can see from the the runways where their F-35s take off.
But just because something is a little old doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its uses. If it works and the country can maintain its effectiveness, then why get rid of it? If a country has antiquated equipment but is still rocking it after all these years, we won’t take points off. Some things are just timeless.
The reason a country’s air force makes the list is because they’re patched together with bubble gum and wishes and expected to fight a war with awful training, no funding, and little regard from the government for the lives of the people expected to keep their terrible air forces flying.
A Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 Hornet gives a shrug as it parks on the flight line at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M.
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Chase Cannon)
It’s still hard to see such a stalwart U.S. ally make the list, but here we are. In our last rundown of the world’s airborne worst, Canada was the least worst of those listed. Last time, we specifically mentioned how terrible the state of Canada’s Ch-124 Sea King fleet was. Just to get them airborne required something like 100 hours apiece.
Replacing them was just as laborious; it took more than 20 years of political wrangling to get to a point where they could first fly its replacement, the Sikorsky CH-148 Cyclone. But the helicopter fun doesn’t stop there. The bulk of the Royal Canadian Air Force’s helicopter fleet is flying the Bell CH-146 Griffon, a bird known to cause constant, debilitating neck pain in most of the pilots who fly it.
Canada never learned from its own cautionary tale – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pushed the F/A-18 Super Hornet for Canada’s next-gen Strike Fighter to replace the aging CF-18s ordered by his father in the 1970s while the rest of its Western Allies are upgrading to the F-35.
Can you see this stealth fighter? So can everyone else’s radar.
Yeah, I know most of you are calling bullsh*t immediately, but hear me out. For all its talk, China isn’t currently capable of global reach, and isn’t expected to be until 2030. It has a relatively small number of early-warning aircraft and aerial tankers. Most of its aerial fleet are licenses or rip-offs of other, better fighting systems. And the vaunted Chinese Chengdu J-20 fighter was rushed into production with a less-than-adequate engine, which negates any stealth capabilities it has and weakens its performance as a fifth-gen fighter.
That’s a pretty embarrassing misstep for an air force that wants to strike fear in the hearts of the world’s second-largest air force: the U.S. Navy.
More than that, when was the last time China did anything with its air force other than attempt to intimidate weaker neighbors in the South China Sea? Historically, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force has a tendency to get in way over its head. It wasn’t a real factor in the Chinese wars with India and Vietnam (though you’d think an air force in the 20th century would be), but where it was a factor – the Korean War, the Taiwan Strait Crises, and the U.S.-Vietnam War – a lack of any air combat doctrine and investment in air power led to heavy losses and big lessons for the PLAAF.
It wasn’t until after the Gulf War of 1991 that Chinese leaders decided to really give air power another shot, both in terms of technology and investment. China still has a long way to go.
Greece, full of historical artifacts – like its air force.
There are a lot of training accidents in the Hellenic Air Force. After a Greek Mirage 2000 crashed into the Aegean Sea April 2018, a look back at the incidents reported to Greek officials found 125 people died in 81 crashes between 1990 and 2018. Two of those were Greek fighter pilots trying to intercept Turkish jets.
Since the Greek government debt crisis, the Greek military has to be incredibly cautious with the money it spends. Every time a Greek fighter has to scramble to intercept a Turkish fighter in their airspace, it bleeds Greece of Euros better spent elsewhere. That might be why Turkey does it more than a thousand times every year – and there’s nothing the Greeks can do about it except go up and meet them with antiquated equipment due to the steep budget cuts demanded by Greece’s creditors.
Turkey will soon be flying F-35s like most NATO allies, while Greece (also a NATO ally, but Turkey doesn’t care) will be “intercepting” them with F-16s at best, and maybe an F-4 Phantom at worst.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani not sitting in a museum piece, but an actual Iranian Air Force F5F fighter, first build in the 60s and still used in Iran.
(FARS News Agency)
The F-14s flown by Iran these days were first introduced under President Richard Nixon. Don’t get me wrong, Iran’s air force should be given props (see what I did there?) for keeping the aging fleet airborne. Iran’s F-14s were purchased by the Shah or Iran and, when he was overthrown, the U.S. wasn’t exactly keen on providing spare parts to the Islamic Republic. They were able to kick ass against Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi air force in the Iran-Iraq War, but that was then and this is now.
Those things are held together with duct tape and wishes by now, with only seven operational Iranian Air Force F-14s. The Islamic Republic now has to use homegrown technology to replace certain avionics systems and weapons on its aging aircraft, even going to far as to claim an old American F-5F was an Iranian-built fourth-gen fighter in 2018 because it had a lot of Iranian-built components.
In fact, Iran is just using F-5s as a blueprint to Frankenstein “new” fighters from its old garbage – most of which is leftover from the Shah or was captured from the Iraqis. Even the IRIAF’s ejection seats can’t save its pilots.
This Ukrainian Su-25 isn’t landing… at least, not on purpose.
Ukraine has a definite Russia problem. Not content to simply let his divorce with Ukraine happen, Russia’s Vladimir Putin is out to give Ukraine headaches wherever possible and Ukraine can do little about it. Russia-backed separatists operate with near-impunity in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region and, when the Ukrainian Air Force is able to act, they often either kill civilians or get shot down on the way.
Its aircraft go down without enemy help, as seen in the 2018 Su-27 crash in Western Ukraine that killed Lt. Col. Seth ‘Jethro’ Nehring of the California Air National Guard. The Flanker went down as the pilot was familiarizing the American with its capabilities. In fact, other Su-27s have crashed, including one at an air show that killed 83 people. The National Interest said these crashes are either a result of poor maintenance, poor training, and/or daredevil flying. The truth is probably a combination of the three.
To top it all off, Ukraine’s air force is so old it was mostly handed down from the Soviet Union after the fall of Communism in the east. The old airframes are no match for the advanced surface-to-air missile being fired at them from the separatists. When Russia captured 45 planes from Ukraine’s Su-29 fleet in annexing Crimea, they probably did Ukraine a huge favor.
PAF: Caveat emptor.
On any global list of sh*t-talkers, Pakistan has historically rated very high, especially toward its longtime arch-nemesis, India (although new Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan seems more conciliatory). The Pakistanis see India as an existential threat, and are not likely to stop anytime soon.
So, after fighting four pitched wars against India and losing all of them, prioritizing air power would seem to be the way forward if Pakistan was still going to rattle the saber every so often. RAND Corporation studies still declare that the Indian Air Force would have air supremacy in any war against Pakistan. Only very recently has Pakistan decided it would be best to upgrade their fighter aircraft. So, in a joint venture with China, they created a bargain-basement version of the F-16, the JF-17 Thunder, which now makes up the bulk of the PAF.
To give you an idea of how (in)effective the Thunder is, China doesn’t fly it. Neither does anyone else. Immediately dubbed the “Junk Fighter-17 Blunder,” the aircraft is dangerous to fly at lower speeds, it can’t fly as fast as older Pakistani airframes (and certainly not as fast as India’s fighters), and it can’t use similar avionics and munitions as its other fighters, which was one of the missions in creating the fighter in the first place. If all they wanted to do was replace their old fleet, then mission accomplished. If they wanted to beat India in an air war, well, it doesn’t look good, but it remains to be tested.
Aside from the JF-17, the PAF lags behind India in terms of both numbers of combat aircraft and the actual serviceable aircraft fielded at any given moment. It also lags behind its rival in terms of training and ability. Even when facing superior Pakistani firepower, skilled Indian pilots still manage to best the Pakistanis.
It’s a good thing the two countries face a nuclear detente.
Mexico has been fighting a war against the cartels for over a decade now, and all it got them was an increase in violence that made them the “Syria of North America.” In all that time, not only did the Mexican government decide not to invest in its air forces, it actively allowed all of its fighter aircraft to retire. Mexico has zero fighters.
While fighter aircraft aren’t necessary as a deterrent for aggressive neighbors, the cartels the country is actively fighting regularly uses aircraft to violate Mexican airspace and move illegal substances that fund the ongoing fight against the Mexican government and rival cartels. The aircraft the FAM does fly cannot fly high or fast enough to intercept aircraft used by drug smugglers and their leadership.
The Mexican Air Force has gone full Afghanistan with its fleet, focusing on drones, light attack aircraft, and troop transports. This is particularly bothersome to its northern neighbors, especially the United States, who considers the defense of the hemisphere a multilateral issue. Without Mexican air power, the U.S. may have a soft underbelly. Moreover, the Mexican Air Force is not a separate entity from the Army and the Air Force commander is tucked away in some headquarters building somewhere, giving air power guidance to no one.
As far as external threats go, an Army War College study says that the Mexican Armed Forces, including the Air Force, are incapable of defending Mexico from an external threat.
The Royal Saudi Air Force: Missing more targets before 9am than most air forces do all day.
3. Saudi Arabia
Despite being at war in Afghanistan for over 17 years, the one thing the United States can be sure of is the superiority of its Air Force. In a prolonged conflict, a good Air Force positions its resources so that it has positive control over that battlespace. When Saudi Arabia fights a prolonged war, not so much. Welcome to 2019, where the Saudi-lead coalition against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen is about ready to begin another year of abject failure.
Not only has the Saudi coalition turned Yemen into an ongoing humanitarian crisis, no amount of foreign training is making the situation any better. Moreover, it’s just making the United States look bad. The U.S. Congress may soon vote over whether or not American participation in the conflict can continue after the Saudis used an American-made bomb to hit a school bus of civilian children in Yemen, killing 40.
That’s not even the first incident of indiscriminate killing of civilians. In October, 2016, Saudi warplanes hit a civilian funeral in an attack that killed 155 Yemenis. The problem with the Royal Saudi Air Force isn’t that their planes are antiquated, the problem is their choice of “military” targets.
Get your sh*t together, Saudi Arabia.
North Korean MiG, complete with glorious people’s revolutionary crocheted ejection seat cover.
2. North Korea
Of course North Korea is going to be near the top of the list. The only reason the DPRK is not at the very top is because it’s not actively trying to fight a war right now. Usually Kim Jong-Un is talking some kind of smack about invading the South or nuking America, but, in 2018, he mostly just got praise for not doing all that stuff.
But Kim still holds on to power with use of the North Korean military. While the Korean People’s Army isn’t exactly considered a formidable fighting force, the tactic of holding hundreds of artillery guns to South Korea’s head works for him. Of all the things Kim Jong-Un has done to the South, using his Air Force is not one of them.
The reason for this is probably because his air force is still relatively similar to the ones used by his grandfather Kim Il-Sung and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army against UN forces in the last full-scale war fought on the Korean Peninsula – the 1950-1953 Korean War. As a result, the North Korean air force is widely acknowledged as the least threatening arm of the North Korean military.
I imagine that the purpose of the North Korean Air Force is to take the brunt of any initial counterattack from U.S. and allied air forces in the event of a war. Sure, it’s a large air force, but it won’t last long in a war.
Syrian MiGs doing what they do best.
It’s a really good thing the Syrians are being backed up in the air by Russians because, if they didn’t, the Syrian Civil War would last a lot longer than it already has. Almost every other power present in the region violates Syrian sovereignty on a near-daily basis. Israel, Turkey, and even Denmark have entered Syrian airspace, with Israel and Turkey both scoring air-to-air kills against Syrian Sukhoi fighters old enough to have fought against the U.S. in Vietnam.
It’s also not great to be an airman in the Syrian Air Force. Besides getting shot down by everyone (including a U.S. F/A-18 Super Hornet), Syrian fighter pilots face advanced surface-to-air missiles their airframes are not prepared to evade, they accidentally veer into neighboring countries (even getting shot down in Israeli airspace), and were the first target of President Trump’s retaliatory strike for the Syrian military’s use of chemical weapons.
Within 16 months of the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War, a Syrian Air Force pilot flew his MiG-21 to Jordan, where he defected. The only surprise is that there aren’t more SAF defectors – as of 2015, Syrian pilots have spent as many as 100 days behind the sticks of their aircraft. At one point, security in Syria’s air force was so bad, they had to move their fighters within Iran’s borders so they wouldn’t be targets for other, better air forces.
Christmas romance movies have become a 21st century holiday phenomenon, first on the Hallmark Channel, then on Lifetime and now Netflix. There are literally hundreds of these movies, with dozens premiering in 2020 alone.
Holiday filmmakers have started to add the military to their formula, and there have been a couple of high-profile releases this year. Those movies inspired us to try to figure out just what’s going on here.
These are assembly-line products made for an audience that expects every plot to follow basic rules: Two people meet and irritate each other, but they’re irritated because they recognize a fellow special soul who doesn’t quite run with the pack.
One of them thinks the holidays are a crock. After some sassy back-and-forth, the doubter learns the meaning of Christmas, and that allows their love to flower. There are cookies, eggnog, flannel shirts and pajamas, a spectacular tree, possibly some chopping of wood, family members who saw it coming all along and, usually, a dog.
Regular readers know that we typically write about movies that feature combat, patriotism, world-changing shifts in power or the chain of command, ass-kicking and explosions, so this was a totally foreign experience.
If you’re the kind of person who gets your kicks complaining about breaches of military protocol in movies, have we got a totally new genre for you! Christmas romance movies are produced on such shoestring budgets that they make those late-period filmed-in-Romania Steven Seagal cheapies look like a Marvel movie. There’s no money for a military adviser, so they’re mostly just winging it.
It’s like these movies exist in an alternate universe. Apparently, there are actors who’ve appeared in multiple Hallmark and Lifetime movies, and the channels promote their starring roles as if they’re Brad Pitt and Jennifer Lawrence.
Let’s agree that these movies have a huge and devoted following because they make some people happy. If you’re one of those people, please continue to watch and enjoy.
This article is for the rest of us who find the whole thing kind of weird. Here are five of the most startling military Christmas romance movies we found during our investigation.
1. USS Christmas (2020)
Filmed in Wilmington, North Carolina, this Hallmark movie had the full cooperation of the Navy, so it features a few scenes filmed aboard a carrier and a lot of stock footage of planes taking off and landing. Did someone in the Navy Office of Information want to reach out to an audience that would never seen “Top Gun: Maverick” or “Hunter Killer,” two other movies that got full Navy support? Or was someone just a big Christmas fan?
This time, a sassy reporter who’s the daughter of an aviator gets convinced to join her mom and aviator sister for a holiday Tiger Cruise. The commander served with her late dad, and his son is also an aviator who hates the holidays, mostly because his parents divorced and he’s still mad at dad.
How much does he hate Christmas? Well, his call sign is “Grinch.” Yep, that’s how obvious everything is here. Grinch learns to love the holidays, forgive dad and appreciate an independent woman. Our reporter learns that maybe it’s best not to be so independent and that a military spouse‘s life might not be so bad after all.
Where these two will be in five years after a few deployments is hard to predict, but there’s reason to suspect that neither of them truly realizes what they’re getting into here.
2. Operation Christmas Drop (2020)
This 2020 Netflix movie had a higher-than-usual budget and was filmed on Guam with the full cooperation of the Air Force, so it looks a bit shinier than the usual fare. Since it’s set in the South Pacific, there’s no snow or hot cocoa or fluffy scarves.
A congressional aide has to cancel Christmas with her family to investigate just why the Air Force is wasting money on this “Christmas drop” every year. The congressional rep (played by Virginia Madsen, an actual movie star) is looking to cut budgets so she can save a base in her district. She sets her sights on Guam.
OK, they never call it “Guam” in the movie, but this is where they lose anyone with an interest in world peace. Why would we shut down an important strategic base in the South Pacifc to keep a base in some random U.S. state open? That’s a movie foul far worse than a sloppy salute.
Anyway, our aide Erika Miller (Kat Graham, “The Vampire Diaries”) doesn’t want to be there and knows her mission is to collect the dirt that will allow her boss to shut down the base. What she doesn’t expect is her encounter with Capt. Andrew Jantz (Alexander Ludwig, “Recon”), the laid-back architect of the current mission to provide presents and supplies to remote Pacific islands during the holidays.
The two clash, she finds herself falling for the captain and his island spirit, and her boss mysteriously cancels her own Christmas to fly to the island to see why Erika’s reports aren’t negative enough. Everyone goes on the holiday flight and then sees the light: Operation Christmas Drop is exactly the kind military holiday maneuver the world needs!
Erika finds her Christmas spirit. Will she find long-term love with Andrew? We’ll have to wait for an “Operation Christmas Drop 2” to find out.
3. Home for Christmas Day (2017)
Everyone knows that many civilian parents don’t want their daughters falling in love with a soldier. Long-distance romance is hard, and there’s usually a neighbor boy named Jody who’s willing to step in and help with the loneliness.
The single mom in “Home for Christmas” has an even more powerful reason to discourage her daughter. The big reveal is that her late husband was killed in combat himself, and she doesn’t want her child to face the same heartache when her new love is deployed.
To explain just how manipulative this one is, we have to go deep into spoiler territory. Our young lover learns that her mom is right when she hears her boyfriend’s name on a list of troops killed in action read aloud at a Christmas concert.
The girl is devastated, but mom realizes she was wrong to discourage her daughter’s true love and they reconcile. Have we reached a breakthrough moment in Christmas romance movies, when the harsh realities of real life must be addressed in the happy holiday world?
No, we have not! Those boobs at the Pentagon mixed up the dead troop records, and our hero is actually alive. He shows up on the doorstep, unannounced and on crutches, and everyone enjoys the best Christmas ever!!
4. A Welcome Home Christmas (2020)
This Lifetime movie takes the ethics manual, sets it on fire and throws a party in the town square. Chloe Marquee (actual character name) is working as a counselor for troubled veterans, and she’s assigned a particularly tough case named Michael Fischer.
She learns that Fischer led a toy drive while stationed overseas and recruits him to start a new one for military families here in their tranquil, picture-postcard, Christmas-loving town. What should be a great project turns sinister when Chloe starts having romantic feelings for her patient.
Well, that’s not how the movie sees it. Chloe heals Michael’s wounded soul through the power of love, and all the kids get some excellent toys after they overcome a few scheduling obstacles. Could a little eggnog and some smooching under the mistletoe be the miracle cure for PTSD that we’ve all been searching for? Lifetime says maybe!
5. Christmas Homecoming (2017)
This Hallmark movie answers the question, “What are the best cures for a grieving military widow and a wounded warrior recovering back home?” The answer may surprise you if you haven’t been paying attention. Why, it’s a little Christmas romance, of course!
Julie Benz (“Dexter,” and kind of a big star for one of these things) plays a military widow whose loss has destroyed her faith in Christmas. She rents a room in her house to an Army captain (Michael Shanks), a wounded warrior whose injuries have not shaken his love for the holidays.
The two team up to raise money to save the town’s failing military museum with a Christmas fundraising event, and these two self-described “wounded birds” find that the holiday spirit kindles a new romance.
Will both get the counseling and support they need going forward? Let’s hope so because both are coming into this relationship with a cartload of baggage. For now, though, tune in and enjoy the spell of mistletoe and twinkling lights.
Of course, there are more of these Christmas movies that try to work in military themes. If you haven’t picked up on it so far, look for titles with “home” or “homecoming” in the title, and you’ll go a long way toward finding what you’re looking for.
Of course, true fans of the genre will also be tuning in for the book editors, real estate brokers, high-powered attorneys and other assorted type-A personalities who need a little holiday spirit to help them get over themselves and fall in love.
If you want to watch them all, one movie a day, make a note on your calendar for Memorial Day 2021 and maybe you’ll have caught up by Christmas next year.
Although it’s not considered an all-time military movie classic like “Full Metal Jacket” or “Stripes,” the 1995 military comedy “Major Payne” is an entertaining family film (with some salty language). The film stars comedian Damon Wayans as U.S. Marine Corps Major Benson Winifred Payne. Payne is a rough and tough Marine who becomes a Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps instructor after being discharged from active duty for not making lieutenant colonel. Payne’s job is to impart confidence and discipline in the rambunctious junior cadets and train them to win a military cadet competition.
The film has some funny and memorable lines – quoted in military training to this day – such as “What we have here is a failure to communicate” and “I’m gonna put my foot so far up your ass, the water on my knee will quench your thirst.” In between laughs, Major Payne bestows some surprising life lessons that apply to current service members, veterans, and society at large.
1. Career transitions are tough – expect setbacks
Major Payne is served his separation papers from the Marines in the beginning of the film. Just a week out of the service, Payne finds himself in jail after a failed attempt to become a police officer by slapping a man senseless during a training scenario.”It’s civilian life, sir. I had a minor setback,” Payne tells his former commander Gen. Decker, played by Albert Hall. Thanks to the help of his former commander, he lands the job as the JROTC instructor.
Lesson: Many people face a career change at some point in their lives. Setbacks are inevitable but it’s important to be patient. It is also important to use your network when looking for a new career.
2. Not everyone is sympathetic; mental toughness goes a long way
The gif above is Major Payne’s most famous quote. He gives his young cadets this verbal tirade as they struggle to complete an obstacle course in the pouring rain. Eventually, the persistence and will of the cadets lead them to overcome the obstacle course and achieve success.
Lesson: Not everyone will be sympathetic to your plight, no matter how difficult things are in your personal or professional life. When faced with challenges, being mentally strong and determined can help overcome any challenge, no matter the level of difficultly.
3. Keep trying to improve
In a classic drill instructor tone, Major Payne tells the young men, “You’re still a shit sandwich, you’re just not a soggy one” following a drill and ceremony routine. In his own unique way, the rough and tough character is acknowledging the effort put in by the boys to improve.
Lesson: Never stop trying to improve. You can always get better.
4. Don’t give up
For Major Payne, failure is not an option. He wants victory at all costs! In order to win the military games, he puts the cadets through hell. He shaves their heads, PTs them all day and makes them run in dresses in front of the whole school. Despite their disdain for the man and his tough training methods, the kids don’t quit.
Lesson: Life will bring challenges. Don’t let that prevent you from achieving your goals.
5. Teamwork is important
The cadets are a ragtag group from the beginning. Despite their differences, they build cohesion, delegate responsibilities and establish a common goal to win the military games.
Lesson: The value of camaraderie is vital in bringing a group of people to work well together no matter their differences. Working effectively as a team will bring success to any project whether you are in the civilian or military sector.
6. Loyalty is crucial
Major Payne is given the chance to return to active duty at the rank of lieutenant colonel. Initially, he chooses to take the job offer and leaves the boys high and dry before the competition. Eventually, his love and loyalty to the cadets brings him back to see his boys in the final event of the competition. He stays on as a JROTC instructor.
Lesson: It seems the thought of loyalty as a core tenet is slipping away to self-interest these days. Being loyal to friends, family or co-workers takes time and sacrifice. Believing in and devoting yourself to someone or something you care about is a great value to have for the rest of your life.
7. Self-confidence is essential
Major Payne instills confidence in all of his cadets, especially the smallest one in the group “Tiger.” He tells him a frightening version of “The Little Engine that Could,” and makes him the drill team leader. This gives Tiger the confidence he needs to trust his abilities. Tiger’s self-confidence shines through as the boys do a drill routine with a classic 90’s hip-hop beat and old-school rhymes. Tiger even breaks it down with the “Cabbage Patch” dance and some vintage Michael Jackson moves. His self-confidence helps him lead the team to victory.
Lesson: Trusting in your abilities will help you accomplish your goals. Believe in yourself.
8. Lighten up
Major Payne is a military badass. He takes his life and his work seriously but he begins to lighten up a bit during the movie. He even has a little fun on the dance floor with some sweet robot moves.
Lesson: There are times in life to be serious, but it’s ok to lighten up. Being able to enjoy life, relax, and not be so uptight can make life more enjoyable. YOLO.
Almost everyone in the world has a favorite soda that they enjoy whenever they get the opportunity. But, is your favorite tasty drink worth giving up a military arsenal big enough to stock a whole country? Well, at one point in history, the Russians thought so.
In 1959, then-President Dwight Eisenhower wanted to bring our America culture to citizens of the Soviet Union and show them the benefits of capitalism.
To showcase their ideologies, the American government arranged the “American National Exhibition” in Moscow and sent then-Vice President Richard Nixon to attend the opening — but things were about to take a turn for the worse.
Nixon and Soviet leader Khrushchev got into an argument over the topic of capitalism versus communism. Their conversation got so heated that the vice president of Pepsi intervened and offered the Soviet leader a cup of his delicious, sugary beverage — and he drank it.
Years later, the people of the Soviet Union wanted to strike a deal that would bring Pepsi products to their country permanently. However, there was an issue of how they would pay for their newest beverage, as their money wasn’t accepted throughout the world.
So, the clever country decided to buy Pepsi using a universal currency: vodka!
In the late-1980s, Russia’s initial agreement to serve Pepsi in their country was about to expire, but this time, their vodka wasn’t going to be enough to cover the cost.
So, the Russians did what any country would do in desperate times: They traded Pepsi a fleet of subs and boats for a whole lot of soda. The new agreement included 17 submarines, a cruiser, a frigate, and a destroyer.
The combined fleet was traded for three billion dollars worth of Pepsi. Yes, you read that right. Russia loves their Pepsi.
The historical exchange caused Pepsi to become the 6th most powerful military in the world, for a moment, before they sold the fleet to a Swedish company for scrap recycling.
So here’s the story. I normally run a few times a week, strength train and figure skate as often as I possibly can. (What can I say? I love knife shoes.) I’ve since gone through several quarantine phases. It started with, “I’m going to use this time to be in the best shape of my life!”…aka denial. It was then followed by stress baking, boredom snacking and finally my current stage: Trying my best to find balance.
Instead of stressing myself out with rigid fitness goals, I’m listening to my body and choosing workouts I actually feel like doing. For motivation, I’m trying a new fitness challenge each day to appreciate everything my body can do. (Even when I’ve eaten more onion and garlic pretzel chips than medically recommended.) These are a few of the exercises I’ve tried so far…can you do them all?
Stand Up From the Floor…No Hands Allowed!
Okay, this one sounds deceptively easy. Lay down on your stomach and try to get up without using your hands for help. Roll over, sit up, bend your knees, lean forward and try to rise to your feet. It doesn’t require exceptional strength, but you do need to have decent flexibility throughout your hips and hamstrings.
Balance on One Leg for 60 Seconds
Another exercise that sounds crazy easy, except that you have to do this balanced on the *ball* of your foot. You don’t have to raise all the way up to your toes, but your heel must be lifted off the ground for it to count. Start out with one hand on a chair or countertop for balance. First, lift your free leg up, keeping your foot pressed lightly against your standing leg for stability. Then, lift up onto the ball of your foot and start the timer.
This is a test not only of balance but of the strength of all the stabilizing muscles from your calves to your core. Thirty seconds and up is considered good, and 60 seconds is excellent. Pro-tip: Try focusing on keeping a tight core and flexing your glutes to hold the position longer!
Hold a Plank for 2 Minutes
The humble plank is a great, full-body exercise, and it’s pretty tough. Just hold the “up” part of a pushup as long as you can, making sure your back isn’t arched and your butt isn’t sticking up in the air — save that for yoga class! While you only need to hold planks for around 30 seconds to benefit from them, it’s fun to see how long you can hold them! (Not to brag, but I did it for 3.)
This is the toughest one on the list, hands down. To do a pistol squat, you extend one leg straight out in front of you and squat down to a minimum of 90 degrees- some people can go all the way to the floor! It’s super tough, and you need more than just strength. You need a ton of flexibility to keep your free leg from hitting the floor. A cheat as you work your way up to a full pistol squat is to hold onto a railing to lessen the resistance. I managed 5 before I couldn’t make it back up and fell on my butt.
Which exercise was the toughest for you? Hopefully, you surprised yourself!
Sgt. Justus Branson, a platoon sergeant with Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, looked on as his brother in arms, Pfc. Roger Gonzales, was lowered to his final resting place. Gonzales died 68 years earlier at the Chosin Reservoir while serving with Fox Company. Branson was part of a group of over 40 Marines who drove from Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Training Center Twentynine Palms to attend the funeral of Gonzales.
“The presence of so many Marines indicates the honor that we give for those who lay down their lives for their Country and their fellow citizens,” said Chaplain Daniel Fullerton, the chaplain for Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division. Chaplain Fullerton delivered the invocation during the funeral.
The group of Marines traveled to Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., to pay their respect to Gonzales, whose remains had been identified and transferred to the Gonzales family, 68 years after he was killed in action during Fox Company’s last stand at the Chosin Reservoir.
The family of U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Roger Gonzales, with Company F, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regimant, 1st Marine Division, speak during his funeral service at the Green Hill Mortuary and Memorial Chaple, Rancho Palos Verdes, California, Sept. 21, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Miguel A. Rosales)
“Even if we were in the middle of a huge training operation, we would’ve driven across the country for this, without a doubt,” said Branson.
Family, friends, and service members from across the US paid their respect to Gonzales as he was laid to rest, next to his mother Anastacia, at Green Hills Cemetery. The bond that exists between the Marines and those that have gone before them is a sacred and timeless connection. Pfc. Gonzales shared some of the same bonds and experiences during his time in the Marine Corps that the Marines share and experience now.
U.S. Marines with the Company F, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regimant, 1st Marine Division, Color Guard, fold an American flag, during Pfc. Roger Gonzales’ funeral service at the Green Hill Mortuary and Memorial Chaple, Rancho Palos Verdes, California, Sept. 21, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Miguel A. Rosales)
During those times, men, ages 18 to 26 were drafted into the U.S. military and required to serve their country for the war ahead — some men didn’t need to be drafted. Such was the case for Pfc. Roger Gonzales, a San Pedro, California native.
Shortly after graduating high school, Gonzales enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserves and two years later found himself in North Korea with Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.
“The Marines moved us around together, his cousin and I, we were the 7th Marines when they were reforming it. We were in infantry training together, in the same squad, and so we got to be good friends,” said Robert Ezell, then a corporal with Fox Company. “We had good times together — we had a lot of laughs. We took care of each other like Marines do.”
Ezell continued by sharing that when he and Gonzales arrived to Korea, they were placed into the same company, but in different platoons.
At the time, the U.S. X Corps, which consisted mainly of the 1st Marine Division and the Army’s 31st Regimental Combat Team, occupied the Chosin Reservoir.
The family of Pfc. Roger Gonzales recive American flags during his funeral service at the Green Hill Mortuary and Memorial Chaple, Rancho Palos Verdes, California, Sept. 21, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Miguel A. Rosales)
On Nov. 27, 1950, the Chinese force surprised the U.S. X Corps at the Chosin Reservoir. From November 27 to December 13, 30,000 United Nations troops (later nicknamed “The Chosin Few”) were encircled and attacked by approximately 120,000 Chinese troops. They were nicknamed the Chosin Few because of the inferior number of troops and the location of the battle.
The conflict lasted a brutal 17 days, which took place during some of the harshest weather conditions and roughest terrain of the war. The extreme weather conditions caused the weapons lubricant to freeze, rendering the troops’ weapons useless, and by the end of the fighting it had come to hand-to-hand combat. It would come to be known as one of the most gruesome battles of the Korean War. The war claimed the lives of more than 30,000 U.S. troops.
“After the first firefight, his cousin called me and told me that Roger had been killed on top of the mountain pass, Toktong Pass,” said Ezell.
U.S. Marines with the Company F, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regimant, 1st Marine Division, Color Guard, render a salute to Pfc. Roger Gonzales during his funeral service at the Green Hill Mortuary and Memorial Chaple, Rancho Palos Verdes, California, Sept. 21, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Miguel A. Rosales)
Gonzales was buried at the base of Fox Hill. After the war, his remains were disinterred and returned to the U.S. but could not be identified at the time. However, through scientific advances and DNA tests from Gonzales’ younger sisters, Alicia Vallejo and Mary Rosa Loy, that changed. On June 4, 2018, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency was able to identify Gonzales’ remains.
After nearly 68 years of uncertainty and unanswered questions, the Gonzales family was finally able to honor their Marine who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
Ezell remembered his friend, “I feel very honored to be able to speak at his burial. It’s just a big honor to me. I don’t know what else to say about him except that he was a great guy.”
For today’s Fox Company Marines, they felt they had to attend the funeral to make sure Gonzales was laid to rest with a proper goodbye from his unit.
“Knowing his story and knowing what he went through- being able to be here for him and represent him,” said Branson. “It’s probably the most meaningful thing I’ve done in the Marine Corps. It’s truly an honor to be here.”
On this day in 1985, two-hundred and forty-eight Screaming Eagles and eight crew members were on their way home for Christmas after a six-month peacekeeping mission on the Sinai Peninsula. Their plane stalled due to iced wings and crashed less than a mile from the runway at Gander, Newfoundland, Canada. There were no survivors.
This horrific plane crash resulted in single largest loss of life the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) has ever endured and December 12th has since been a solemn day at Fort Campbell. The citizens of Gander donated a sugar maple tree for each life lost, planting a total of 256 trees in Kentucky in their honor. The trees stand in formation, each before a plaque bearing the name of a fallen soldier. For more than thirty years, this memorial has remained in the median separating Airborne Road.
After much consideration and with an extremely heavy heart, it was decided that the memorial needed to be moved to the nearby Brig. Gen. Don F. Pratt Memorial Museum.
As a Screaming Eagle soldier who had to police call the park because Blue Falcons tossed litter out of their cars, I can attest to how this change will be a positive change.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Joe Padula)
The sugar maples serve as a living monument in a location that’s visible to everyone. Any time you drive on or off post, you’ll see the rows of trees and be reminded of the sacrifice of those we lost. But that resting spot may not have been the best place for the memorial.
All 256 trees are nestled into a tightly-packed space that spans just 1.5 acres. Sugar maples are hardy trees, but they need plenty of room to grow. This wasn’t a concern when they were originally planted, but after thirty-three years of growth, the roots are becoming intertwined, which may cause them whiter and die. A typical sugar maple tree can live up to 400 years, but those planted in memoriam are already showing signs of weakening.
As much as it hurts to more then, it’d be more disrespectful to the fallen to let their trees die.
(U.S. Army photo by Sam Shore)
The decision to move the memorial was not made lightly and it will require a major undertaking. All of the monuments will be moved less than a mile away in a much larger, 40-acre plot next to the Brig. Gen. Don F. Pratt Memorial Museum. This will give every tree the room it needs to grow into a mighty maple that can withstand the test of time.
Trees will be excavated gently to ensure that they can be replanted successfully. The trees that don’t make it — and the trees that have already started to whither — will be replaced by new trees, again gifted by the citizens of Gander.
All 248 soldiers who died that day were a part of the 3-502nd Infantry Regiment.
The same, annual ceremony honoring the lost soldiers will still occur, just as it always has, only now it will be in a wider, more open space that doesn’t have traffic buzzing by.
In a statement to the Army Times, Col. Joseph Escandon, the commander of 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 110st Airborne Division (Air Assault) said,
“We will always honor the memory of our Gander fallen. Maintaining this annual tradition at a living memorial is essential to ensuring that the memory of those lost will never be forgotten. The Gander tragedy affected not only the Fort Campbell community but countless others across the United States and Canada.”
“Every year on Dec. 12, we take a moment to remember those who lost their lives in service of their nation. While we are saddened by the need for the relocation of the original memorial, one thing will not change: our commitment to honoring their sacrifice and the sacrifices of their families, friends and fellow Soldiers.”