After he parked and got out of his car, he didn’t introduce himself or offer any welcome. The unnamed instructor just said, “okay everybody get over here and sign your death waivers.”
This was my first introduction to a GoRuck Challenge, a team endurance event run by former U.S. military special operators. It was the 83rd challenge to take place in Dec. 2011 — running around Tampa, Fla. with 24 people. Since then, it’s grown to more than 2,500 events that now comprise various skill levels.
GoRuck Challenges usually attract a certain demographic of people: Former military personnel, law enforcement, and fitness enthusiasts. Especially with the ominous intro from our instructor, a former Green Beret, anyone taking part in a GoRuck event knows it will be rough, to say the least.
“We want to promote the sport of rucking,” Kit Klein, partnership manager for GoRuck based in Jacksonville, Fla., told The Tampa Bay Times. “We’re trying to put it on the map.”
The “sport of rucking” that GoRuck promotes now consists of “GoRuck Light,” a four to five hour challenge that covers seven to 10 miles, “GoRuck Tough,” a 10 to 12-hour challenge covering 15 to 20 miles, and “GoRuck Heavy,” a much more demanding 24-hour-plus challenge that can cover more than 40 miles.
But those times and distances can vary, as one of the company’s mottos is to “under-promise, over-deliver.” (For the GoRuck Tough challenge I was on in Tampa, we did roughly 23 miles over 15 hours).
“Your class is led from start to finish by a Special Operations Cadre whose job is to build a team by pushing you to overcome, together,” reads the description of the challenges on the GoRuck website. “You stay with your class the entire time aka a true team event, never in any way confused with a road race or a mud run. And no, your Cadre is not a drill sergeant and no, this is not bootcamp. That stuff belongs to the military, this is simply an event about your team.”
All of the challenges require participants to carry around weights or bricks in a backpack, which is why these events exist in the first place.
In 2008, GoRuck was a new company making rugged backpacks designed to withstand the rigors of military combat. Founded by former Special Forces soldier Jason McCarthy, he sent his bags to friends in the field to test out and he quickly realized selling backpacks may not be his only business.
McCarthy spent two years developing the bags that make up most of GoRuck’s product line (four styles, starting at $195). Early on, he battle-tested his prototypes, literally – sending them to Green Beret buddies in Afghanistan and Iraq. Then he grew concerned about sending unproven gear to men in danger, so he established another proving ground: the GoRuck Challenge. In these team-oriented endurance runs, which are led by combat veterans and incorporate Special Forces training, participants carry a GoRuck sack loaded with rocks or bricks.
“The original intent was very nearsighted,” McCarthy told The Cincinnatti Enquirer of starting his first challenges. “I had a bunch of inventory and wanted people to know about our bags.”
People did learn of GoRuck, and more: “People kept describing this as a life-changing event,” McCarthy told the Enquirer. “I got more and more and more requests to host events.”
An Iraq war veteran, McCarthy began the events in 2010 while attending business school at Georgetown University, according to The Washington Post. Beyond marketing his bags, he told The Post, his goal is “to build better Americans” with his challenges. He does this by promoting leadership, teamwork, and honoring the sacrifices of military service members.
“It’s spiritual, emotional experience they take away,” Derek Zahler, a GoRuck cadre and former Special Forces soldier, told News4Jax. “They get to learn a lot more about themselves. Especially their goals and what they perceive their ability to achieve those goals are.”
The company has moved beyond backpacks and challenging events, however. It now sells apparel, fitness items, and even firearms gear, which it developed in 2014. In that year, the company had $10.8 million in revenue — nearly 30 percent more than the previous year’s figures.
Expelled from their main stronghold in northern Iraq, Islamic State militants are now trapped in a military vise that will squeeze them on both sides of the Syria-Iraq border, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said.
Mattis arrived in the Iraqi capital on an unannounced visit August 22 just hours after President Donald Trump outlined a fresh approach to the stalemated war in Afghanistan. Trump also has vowed to take a more aggressive, effective approach against IS in Iraq and Syria, but he has yet to unveil a strategy for that conflict that differs greatly from his predecessor’s.
In Baghdad, Mattis was meeting with senior Iraqi government leaders and with US commanders. He also planned to meet in Irbil with Massoud Barzani, leader of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region that has helped fight IS. Mattis told reporters before departing from neighboring Jordan that the so-called Middle Euphrates River Valley — roughly from the western Iraqi city of al-Qaim to the eastern Syrian city of Der el-Zour — will be liberated in time, as IS gets hit from both ends of the valley that bisects Iraq and Syria.
“You see, ISIS is now caught in-between converging forces,” he said, using an alternative acronym for the militant group that burst into western and northern Iraq in 2014 from Syria and held sway for more than two years. “So ISIS’s days are certainly numbered, but it’s not over yet and it’s not going to be over any time soon.”
Mattis referred to this area as “ISIS’s last stand.”
Unlike the war in Afghanistan, Iraq offers a more positive narrative for the White House, at least for now. Having enabled Iraqi government forces to reclaim the Islamic State’s prized possession of Mosul in July, the US military effort is showing tangible progress and the Pentagon can credibly assert that momentum is on Iraq’s side.
The ranking US Air Force officer in Iraq, Brig. Gen. Andrew A. Croft, said that over the past couple of months IS has lost much of its ability to command and control its forces.
“It’s less coordinated than it was before,” he said. “It appears more fractured — flimsy is the word I would use.”
Brett McGurk, the administration’s special envoy to the counter-IS coalition, credits the Trump administration for having accelerated gains against the militants. He said August 21 that about one-third of all territory regained in Iraq and Syria since 2014 has been retaken in the last six or seven months.
“I think that’s quite significant and partially due to the fact we’re moving faster, more effectively,” as a result of Trump’s delegation of battlefield authorities to commanders in the field, McGurk said. He said this “has really made a difference on the ground. I have seen that with my own eyes.”
It seems likely that in coming months Trump may be in position to declare a victory of sorts in Iraq as IS fighters are marginalized and they lose their claim to be running a “caliphate” inside Iraq’s borders. Syria, on the other hand, is a murkier problem, even as IS loses ground there against US-supported local fighters and Russian-backed Syrian government forces.
The US role in Iraq parallels Afghanistan in some ways, starting with the basic tenet of enabling local government forces to fight rather than having US troops do the fighting for them. That is unlikely to change in either country. Also, although the Taliban is the main opposition force in Afghanistan, an Islamic State affiliate has emerged there, too. In both countries, US airpower is playing an important role in support of local forces, and in both countries the Pentagon is trying to facilitate the development of potent local air forces.
In Iraq, the political outlook is clouded by the same sectarian and ethnic division between Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish factions that have repeatedly undercut, and in some cases reversed, security gains following the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003.
An immediate worry is a Kurdish independence referendum to be held September 25, which, if successful, could upset a delicate political balance in Iraq and inflame tensions with Turkey, whose own Kurdish population has fought an insurgency against the central government for decades. McGurk reiterated US opposition to holding the Iraqi Kurdish referendum.
“We believe these issues should be resolved through dialogue under the constitutional framework, and that a referendum at this time would be really potentially catastrophic to the counter-ISIS campaign,” McGurk told reporters in a joint appearance with Mattis before they flew to Iraq.
With the Iraqi military’s campaign to retake the northern city of Tal Afar now under way, Mattis has refused to predict victory. He says generals and senior officials should “just go silent” when troops are entering battle.
“I’d prefer just to let the reality come home. There’s nothing to be gained by forecasting something that’s fundamentally unpredictable,” he told reporters traveling with him over the weekend.
We’ve all read things that we considered to be unbelievable — but how often do you take the effort to alter the entire book? That’s exactly what Thomas Jefferson is to have famously done, not with just any book, but the Bible. In fact, he created an entire version himself — 84 pages that have been dubbed the Jefferson Bible. Today, it’s on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.
Jefferson created his form of the Bible toward the end of his life, after being deeply affected by Enlightenment. At the end of the 18th century, he and other founding fathers were influenced by this intellectual movement, which stressed natural-born rights and focusing on those that had been denied by England and their king.
Thus, Enlightenment caused Jefferson to explore natural rights listed in the Bible, particularly focusing on believability. He also had become accustomed to a deity, in which he believed that God was a supreme being, but did not interfere with everyday life. Therefore, passages of interference had to go.
With passages that Jefferson thought to be untrue or elaborated, he decided to edit them out altogether. The former president did this by using a knife and cutting passages directly off the page. He then filled holes with additional passages about Jesus and his teachings.
Notably, Jefferson removed any and all sections that talked about seemingly supernatural happenings. Any miracles, such as walking on water, turning water into wine, healing efforts and resurrection were all removed by Jefferson. Essentially, if a story was thought to be too far fetched, or if it did not match with his Enlightenment theories, it was removed.
Replacement passages were in many languages, including English, Greek, Latin and French, and pieced together in his red leather casing. Two books were created: The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth was made in 1804, but no copies of this were ever found, and The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, completed in 1820. However, despite spending hours on this project, Jefferson kept the final version — and the entire process — to himself. He only used it when completely alone and to read in silence.
This is said to have been for two reasons. One, editing the Bible — especially with a knife — would have been quite the scandal. Scholars state that, had it been discovered at the time, “it likely would have become one of the most controversial and influential religious works of early American history.”
The other reason Jefferson kept his Biblical work a secret was due to personal beliefs. He thought religion was something to be kept quiet and should not be discussed in public. He wrote to this fact in 1813, a text that was later found with his edited book. After his death, the Jefferson Bible was discovered and studied immensely by religious and history scholars alike. The Smithsonian purchased the Jefferson Bible in 1895 from Jefferson’s great-grandaughter, Carolina Randolph for $400 (about $13,000 in 2021 dollars). At that time the contents were announced and are available today in the public domain.
The sun has set over the scrubby Savannah. The moon is full. It is time for Ryan Tate and his men to go to work. In camouflage fatigues, they check their weapons and head to the vehicles.
Somewhere beyond the ring of light cast by the campfire, out in the vast dark expanse of thornbushes, baobab trees, rocks and grass, are the rhinos. Somewhere, too, may be the poachers who will kill them to get their precious horns.
The job of Tate, a 32-year-old former US Marine, and the group of US military veterans he has assembled in a remote private reserve in the far north of South Africa is simple: keep the rhinos and the rest of the game in the bush around their remote base alive.
The men are not mercenaries, or park rangers –they work for Tate’s Veterans Empowered To Protect African Wildlife (Vetpaw), a US-based nonprofit organization funded by private donations. All have seen combat, often with elite military units, in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Though equipped with vehicles, trail bikes, assault rifles, sniper suits, and radios, the most important weapons in the war against poaching, Tate believes, are the skills and experiences his team gained on successive deployments in conflict zones over the last decade and a half.
“We are here for free. We are not going anywhere. Whether it is cold or hot, day or night… we want to work with anyone who needs help,” Tate says.
The initiative is not without controversy. Some experts fear “green militarization” and an arms race between poachers and gamekeepers. Others believe deploying American former soldiers to fight criminals in South Africa undermines the troubled country’s already fragile state.
But the scale of the challenge of protecting South Africa’s rhinos is clear to everyone, with a rise in poaching in recent years threatening to reverse conservation gains made over decades.
Though rhino horns are made of keratin, the same substance as fingernails, a kilo is worth up to $65,000. The demand comes from East Asia, where rhino horn is seen as a potent natural medicine and status symbol, and is met by international networks linking dirt-poor villages in southern Africa with traffickers and eventually buyers. Patchy law enforcement, corruption and poverty combine to exacerbate the problem.
In South Africa, home to 80% of the world’s wild rhinos, only 13 were poached in 2007. In 2015, the total was nearly 1,200, though losses have declined slightly since.
“These criminal gangs are armed to the teeth, well-funded and part of transnational syndicates who will stop at nothing,” a South African government spokesman said in February.
Tate founded Vetpaw after seeing a documentary about poaching and the deaths of park rangers in Africa. His team now works on a dozen private game reserves covering a total of around 200,000 hectares in Limpopo, the country’s northernmost province. One advantage for local landowners is the protection heavily armed combat veterans provide against the violent break-ins feared by so many South Africans, particularly on isolated rural farmsteads. The team has also run training courses for local guides and security staff.
But if one aim of Vetpaw is to counter poaching, another is to help combat veterans in the US, where former servicemen suffer high levels of unemployment and mental illness.
“Everyone gets PTSD when they come back from war … you are never going to get the brotherhood, the intensity again … [There are] all these veterans with billions of dollars of training and the government doesn’t use them. I saw a need in two places and just put them together,” says Tate.
The Vetpaw base in the bush in Limpopo, though considerably less spartan than most “forward operating bases”, is familiar to anyone who has spent time with US forces. There is a rack of helmets and body armor, a detailed map pinned to the wall, and banners with the insignia of US Special Forces hung above a dining table. There is the banter, and the jargon. The team talks of tactical missions, intel, and “bad guys”.
Despite lines on a whiteboard reading, “In the absence of a plan move towards the sound of gunfire and kill everything,” Tate says he has selected combat veterans because they will resist the temptation to use lethal force. Poachers are told to put down their arms, and then handed over to the police.
“This is textbook counterinsurgency here. It’s unconventional warfare,” says Kevin, a British-born veteran who quit US Elite Special Forces last year after a decade and a half largely on active duty, frequently in close quarter combat. “Shooting and killing is easy. The hardest thing is not shooting but figuring stuff out… if you kill someone do you turn a family, a village against you?” Like other members of Vetpaw, Kevin did not want to be identified by his full name.
The thinking is rooted in the “hearts and minds” approach developed by the US military a decade ago when senior officers realized their massive firepower was winning battles, but not campaigns.
Tate says poachers coerce local communities into providing safe houses or other support – much as US army officers once explained assistance given to insurgents in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Francois Meyer, who grew up in northern Limpopo and runs a local conservation NGO that works with Vetpaw, says villages vary. “In some, the poachers are seen as heroes. They give out money. There is a kind of Robin Hood syndrome. Taking from the rich white man to give to the poor. But in others, the poachers get the living shit kicked out of them,” Meyer said.
There is little consensus on what response to the problem of poaching might work best, and fierce debate rages among conservationists, farmers, and officials.
A moratorium on the domestic trade in rhino horn in South Africa implemented in 2009 was controversially overturned by a court in April. Though there has been an increase in arrest of poachers, there are few convictions and “a lack of political will” means many of the “kingpins” remain untouched.
The complexities of the issue seem distant to the veterans out on patrol in remote northern Limpopo, high on a rocky crag, listening to the grunt of a leopard or the cough of the baboons in the gathering night.
“After what I’ve done, I couldn’t just go and do a nine to five. I’ve never had nightmares or flashbacks or anything … [but] after years of doing what I’ve done, this is good for the soul,” says Kevin, the former Green Beret. “It’s in a good cause and you get to watch the African sunset.”
Dozens were killed after three suicide bombers blew themselves up at Turkey’s largest airport, Istanbul Ataturk, on Tuesday.
The Associated Press, citing senior Turkish officials, said that nearly 50 people have died.
The attack, which occurred at around 10 p.m. local time and appeared to be coordinated, left at least 60 others injured, according to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency.
The “vast majority” of victims were Turkish nationals, Reuters reported, but foreigners were also among the casualties, the wire service said, citing an official on Wednesday.
The Associated Press said that initial indications suggest that ISIS is responsible for the attack.
“The assessments show that three suicide bombers carried out the attacks in three different spots at the airport,” Vasip Şahin, Istanbul Province’s governor, said.
The suspects apparently detonated the explosives at the security check-in at the entrance to the airport’s international terminal as they exchanged gunfire with police, a Turkish official told Reuters.
Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said that at least one of the attackers opened fire on the crowd using a Kalashnikov rifle before detonating himself.
It is still unconfirmed who is responsible for the attack, but ISIS and Kurdish groups have claimed multiple attacks in Turkey in the last year. The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is waging an insurgency against the Turkish government, but primarily targets military and security personnel in the country’s southeast.
The Ataturk attack “fits the ISIS profile, not PKK,” a counterterrorism official told CNN, adding that the PKK doesn’t usually go after international targets.
Some flights to the airport have been diverted, an airport official told Reuters.
Ataturk is the 11th-busiest airport in the world, with at least 61 million travelers passing through in 2015. Many have noted that Turkey had assigned extra security to the entrance of Ataturk in the wake of numerous ISIS-linked terrorist attacks in Istanbul in the past several months.
Airport-security workers recorded the surveillance-camera footage of the moment the explosion ripped through the airport:
Lisa Monaco, assistant to the US president for homeland security and counterterrorism, has briefed US President Barack Obama on the attack, according to a White House official.
All scheduled flights in both directions between the US and Istanbul have been temporarily suspended, a senior US official told ABC. The airport will be closed until 8 p.m. on Wednesday local time.
The US State Department renewed its three-month-old travel warning for Turkey on Monday, noting that “Foreign and US tourists have been explicitly targeted by international and indigenous terrorist organizations,” in a warning posted on the department’s website.
The US consulate is working to determine if US citizens are among the airport attack’s victims, the State Department tweeted.
Many passengers are now stranded outside of the airport:
Last July, ISIS claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in southeastern Turkey that killed 33 young activists. Three months later, a n ISIS-linked suicide bombing at a peace rally in Ankara killed over 100 people.
Michael Weiss, co-author of “ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror,” noted on Twitter that ISIS has a “lot of motives for attacking Ataturk airport, including the imminent loss of Manbij [in Syria], Turkish shelling of ISIS, and of course Turkish-Israel rapprochement.”
The Kurdistan Freedom Falcons — a breakaway faction of the PKK — claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Ankara in February that killed 29 people and another in March that killed 37. A car bomb claimed by Kurdish separatists ripped through a police bus in central Istanbul on June 7 during the morning rush hour, killing 11 people and wounding 36 near the main tourist district, a major university, and the mayor’s office.
According to the The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal, American military planners thought the battle would only be a few days. Instead, it dragged on for five weeks, at a cost of more than 6,800 American lives. The Japanese lost more than 18,000.
This Day in Marine Corps History. 19 February 1945: At 08:59, one minute ahead of schedule, the first of an eventual 30,000 Marines of the 3rd Marine Division, the 4th Marine Division, and the new 5th Marine Division, making up the V Amphibious Corps, landed on Iwo Jima The initial wave did not come under Japanese fire for some time, as General Kuribayashi’s plan was to wait until the beach was full of the Marines and their equipment. By the evening, the mountain had been cut off from the rest of the island, and 30,000 Marines had landed. About 40,000 more would follow.
Meathead generals just can’t understand what the brilliant scientist is trying to explain. Soldiers can’t get the job done without the help of the brilliant criminal. The only strategy the military knows how to use is a carpet-bombing campaign.
Seriously, we know that movie and TV writing is complicated, and that movie makers have to take some liberties in order to get their plots jump started, but these seven tropes that rely on military stupidity should really be used less often — if at all.
In Battlestar Galactica, the military got behind a plan to deploy thousands of immortal robot warriors over which they had little control. But, in their defense, the Cylons came back sexy. So… win?
1. Military leaders use dangerous technology because science is hard
The Terminator movies are awesome. Arnold Schwarzenegger is swole, explosions are fun, and robots fighting robots is exhilarating. But does it really make sense that the U.S. military gives control of nearly all of its weapons, from nukes to stealth bombers to cyber defenses, to Skynet, a single computer program that they don’t understand? No human pilots? No man in the loop? No kill switch? Great idea.
The same issues exist within the Cylons of 2004’s Battlestar Galactica, the zombies in Return of the Living Dead 3, and the indominus rex from Jurassic World (yeah, supposedly, the military was secretly buying the data from that research in order to create dinosaur units).
Plots like these rely on the military looking at lethal weapons, over which they have no direct control, and going, “huh? Yeah, sure. We should deploy these things. Preferably, within easy range of our own troops and citizens with little or no real safeguards.”
Seriously, in Terminator Salvation, terminators physically touch John Connor, like, four times and don’t manage to kill him. I don’t think terminators need to eliminate John Connor to win. They need to figure out how to kill in the first place.
Remember when your entire battalion, squadron, or fleet’s mission revolved around one guy, and if he didn’t succeed then the entire battle would be lost? No? Maybe because that’s a horrible way to form a strategy. Nearly all military units spend a lot of time and energy ensuring that everyone can be replaced in case of battlefield loss.
And yet, only one Hobbit can deliver the ring to Mordor even though there are multiple armies standing by to do whatever needs done. John Connor is the only one who can stop Skynet, so much so that the factions fight to protect or destroy Sarah Connor’s womb rather than just promoting a new leader. Surely there’s some other small-unit leader that can fail to detect Terminators until they throw him across the room.
Snake Plissken is the only one who can get people out of dangerous, crime-ridden cities. Maybe because he’s the only one who is this calm while his helicopter is on fire.
In the trope above, at least it’s a soldier that the military is relying on. In Rambo: First Blood Part II, Rambo is freed from prison to complete missions. Snake Plissken, a notorious outlaw, is the only person who can save the president in Escape from New York. Dirty Dozen sees an entire special operations unit constructed out of the Army’s hardest criminals.
It’s weird that the military doesn’t have any other special operators with, you know, more training — and discipline. And impulse control.
“Literally anything has happened. It’s time to bomb people.”
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Xiomara Martinez)
4. The military just wants to bomb everyone
The only way to defeat an enemy force is to bomb it into oblivion — at least according to some movie military leaders. General Brigham, leader of the United Defense Front in Edge of Tomorrow, is asked about what he would do if it turned out one of his soldiers could time travel and knows where the time-controlling hivemind of the enemy is. His reply? Bomb it.
That’s also the military’s response to a quarantine breach in 28 Weeks Later. In just a couple of minutes, they’re firebombing apartment buildings filled with civilians. “Well, about 20 sniper shots failed to solve the problem… I guess we should turn to firebombing civilians.”
Speaking of which …
Soldiers in zombie movies are just so bad. So very bad.
5. The military completely fails to enforce basic security measures
Why is it that the military can’t enforce a quarantine or lockdown in nearly any movie ever? The aforementioned 28 Weeks Later catastrophe occurs when the military decides to study the single human carrier of the dormant strain of the rage virus. They leave her locked behind doors that her husband, a glorified janitor at the facility, has the ability to unlock. Then, the now-zombified janitor is able to access the shelter where all the civilians have been sequestered, causing an outbreak.
Seems like they almost want the infection to spread. And then there’s that gum-chewing scene in 1998’s Godzilla, in which a gate guard lets a Humvee through because the occupants swear a sergeant called for them. He doesn’t check IDs, he doesn’t call the supposed sergeant — great job. I guess that barely matters when base walls in movies like The Hurt Locker are jumpable AF.
“Hey, this fight against these seemingly dead people is getting pretty serious. Think we should take off in any of our helicopters or drive any of our Humvees in either attack or retreat?” “Nah, that’ll screw up the ambiance for any unlikely survivors. Let’s leave them parked and get eaten.”
6. Military units are overrun by zombies and other slow monsters
Maybe that lax security is why zombies overrun mobile military units in shows like The Walking Dead and movies like 28 Days Later and Dawn of the Dead. Sure, you need to get rid of the military for your zombie survivor story to make sense and have high stakes, but how did a helicopter unit and tanks get overrun by zombies that shamble no faster than 5 miles per hour?
Please, at least claim they ran out of fuel or something. (Yes, yes. We know the 28 Days Later zombies are fast, but still.)
A rogue commando officer armed with a rifle, a knife, and years of experience fails to take down a lab-rate chemical weapons specialist in The Rock.
7. Trained killers can’t quite hit the hero or villain
In 28 Weeks Later (I love that movie, but, seriously, come on), an Apache chases a station wagon through the streets of London and is able to stick with it through some determined flying but, somehow, can’t make contact with a single round. An Apache attacks a station wagon and the station wagon survives — what?
It’s sort of like how Nicholas Cage’s character in The Rock, Stanley Goodspeed, survives numerous encounters with elite commandos who shoot at him with rifles and pistols in addition to attacking him with knives and grenades, but the worst damage he takes is self-inflicted when he uses a nerve gas capsule to poison one of the commandos.
Hollywood knows that Marines are really good at killing people, right?
America’s oldest fighting force was founded officially on December 13th, 1636, when the first Militia fighting forces gathered in Massachusetts. 382 years later, here are some of the lesser-known facts about the US National Guard:
1. The very first national guard consisted of militia forces that were divided into three regiments (these units were the first “minutemen,” known for their quick response times).
2. Today, the descendants of those regiments are the 181st Infantry, the 182nd Infantry, the 101st Field Artillery, and the 101st Engineer Battalion of the Massachusetts Army National Guard. They are the oldest units in the entire U.S. military.
3. Two U.S. presidents have served in the National Guard – Harry S. Truman, and George W. Bush
4. President Kennedy once used national guard troops to enforce integration legislature after governor George Wallace blocked the doorway of the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa to prevent integration.
5. National Guard soldiers have fought in every single war since their founding.
6. 50,000 members took on missions during the 9/11 attacks.
7. There have been 780,000 mobilizations of National Guard units since September 11, 2001. They provided about half of the troops to Afghanistan and Iraq.
8.) The National Guard is second only to the U.S. Army in terms of members.
U.S. Army Spc. Josh Sadler, of Regimental Higher Headquarters Troop, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, Tennessee Army National Guard participates in training in preparation for deployment to Iraq at Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center in Hattiesburg, Miss., on Dec. 12, 2009. This will be the units second tour in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in five years. DoD photo by Russell Lee Klika, U.S. Army. (Released)
9. As each state has their own National Guard units, members must swear to uphold both Federal and State constitutions.
10. The National Guard name was not official until 1916, but it was first popularized by the Marquis de Lafayette during the Revolutionary War. Lafayette went on to become the leader of his own National Guard in France.
Lafayette as a lieutenant general, in 1791. Portrait by Joseph-Désiré Court
11. The National Guard was the first to create an African-American unit, 54th Massachusetts Volunteers, during the Civil War. One member of this unit, Sgt. Carney, was the first African-American to receive the Medal of Honor.
In World War I, Germany invented and debuted the world’s first weapons of mass destruction — poison gas artillery shells and pressurized tanks that wafted the deadly toxins over the battlefield. They killed and wounded thousands.
That gas attack took place at Ypres, Belgium, where German troops released hundreds of tons of chlorine gas through buried pipes across a four-mile front. Over 1,000 Allied soldiers were killed and another 7,000 were injured.
And that was the opening of Pandora’s Box. The British military responded with its own chlorine attack in September 1915 at the Battle of Loos. The Germans introduced mustard gas into the fighting in 1917 and America joined the war — and chemical warfare — in 1918.
In the decades that followed World War II, the attack on Pearl Harbor had faded somewhat in the American public’s memory.
The attacks of 9/11 changed all of that. “All those bad memories surged forward again,” said James C. McNaughton, who served as command historian for U.S. Army Pacific from 2001 to 2005. Today, he is the director of Histories Division at the Army Center of Military History.
Just weeks after the 9/11 attacks, McNaughton attended a ceremony commemorating the 60th anniversary of Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. At the ceremony, he found himself among a large number of World War II veterans and Pearl Harbor survivors. Both attacks, McNaughton believes, were on all of their minds.
McNaughton attributes the fading memory of the events that transpired at Pearl Harbor 75 years ago, in part, to World War II veterans’ reticence to share their own wartime memories.
McNaughton’s own father, who served as a Marine participating in the Central Pacific campaign, was reluctant to discuss his wartime experiences.
The story of the devasting Japanese air strike on U.S. naval forces that day has been well documented, McNaughton observed — less so the Army’s role in the response.
At the time of the attack, 43,000 Soldiers were on active duty in Hawaii, where they were tasked with three primary missions, the first of which was to protect the territory of Hawaii from an invasion. (Hawaii remained a territory until statehood in 1959.)
“It was not beyond the realm of possibility that the Imperial Japanese Navy could carry out an invasion,” he explained. “They didn’t do so, but the Army could not be sure, so it deployed combat troops to defend the beaches.”
The second was to defend the fleet with coast artillery and anti-aircraft artillery. Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George C. Marshall Jr. had made it very clear to the highest ranking Army officer, Lt. Gen. Walter Short, commander, U.S. Army Hawaiian Department, that his No. 1 mission was to protect the fleet, McNaughton said.
Before 1940, the U.S Pacific Fleet had been based in San Diego. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, for his own diplomatic reasons, had ordered the Navy to re-base itself at Pearl Harbor, according to McNaughton. The move added to the Army’s defensive responsibilities.
The third mission was training, he said.
By 1940, World War II had already engulfed much of Europe and the Pacific, and Americans were beginning to realize their involvement might be inevitable. For the Army’s part, they were organizing and training units — from squad to regiment and division. They were even conducting field exercises and basic training concurrently.
Besides ground forces, the Army at that time also included the Army Air Corps. “They were trying to train flight crews and mechanics and use the limited aircraft they had on hand,” McNaughton said. “This was a fairly green Army.”
The National Guard and Organized Reserve had been mobilized as recently as 1940 and the draft, known as the Selective Training and Service Act, wasn’t instituted until Sept. 16 that same year.
In 1940, fewer than 270,000 Soldiers were on active duty. That number would climb to about 7 million by 1943.
Set up for failure
By late 1941, the Army in Hawaii was trying to juggle all three missions. “In my judgment, they couldn’t do all three,” McNaughton said. “They spread themselves too thin. Ultimately they failed.”
Coordination between the services was also poor, he said. The Army and the Navy on Hawaii had separate chains of command, and they engaged in very little coordination, at least in practical terms.
Early Sunday morning, the day of the attack, Adm. Husband E. Kimmel, commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet based at Pearl Harbor and his counterpart, Short, were preparing for their weekly golf game, McNaughton explained. Every Sunday morning, the two flag officers would play golf, enabling them to “check the box” for joint coordination.
“Well, you need more than that,” McNaughton said. “And that’s what they didn’t do.”
In 1946, according to the Army’s official history, “Guarding the United States and Its Outposts,” the Congressional Pearl Harbor Joint Committee concluded:
“There was a complete failure in Hawaii of effective Army-Navy liaison during the critical period and no integration of Army and Navy facilities and efforts for defense. Neither of the responsible commanders really knew what the other was doing with respect to essential military activities.”
Senior Navy and Army leaders relieved Kimmel and Short of their commands within days after the attack, and they were never fully exonerated.
Early warning signs
Failure of the services to coordinate had real consequences on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941.
In the pre-dawn hours, a submarine periscope was spotted near Pearl Harbor, where there shouldn’t have been any submarines. At 6:37 a.m., the destroyer USS Ward dropped depth charges, destroying the submarine. The incident was then reported to the Navy chain of command.
Meanwhile, at the Opana Radar Site on the north shore of Oahu, radar operators Pvt. Joseph L. Lockard and Pvt. George Elliott detected an unusually large formation of aircraft approaching the island from the north at 7:02 a.m.
At the time, radar was experimental technology, and operators manned it just 3 to 7 a.m., McNaughton said. Usually, the radar was shut off at 7 a.m. for the rest of the day. It was only because the truck that took Lockard and Elliott to breakfast was late that the radar was still on at 7:02 a.m.
The operators had never seen such a large number of blips before, according to McNaughton. They called 1st Lt. Kermit A. Tyler, an Air Corps pilot who was an observer that morning at Fort Shafter’s Radar Information Center.
“Don’t worry about it,” Tyler told them. He had heard that a flight of B-17 bombers was en route from Hamilton Field, California, that morning.
If the Army and Navy had been in communication, McNaughton believes, they might have recognized the signs of the coming attack: the sighting of a large aircraft formation coming in from the north and the sighting of a submarine at the mouth of Pearl Harbor.
“If you put those two together, you might want to put everyone on full alert. But they didn’t,” he said. “There was no integration of intelligence from the two services. So the only warning they got was when the bombs started to fall.”
The attack commences
The first of two waves of some 360 Japanese fighters, bombers and torpedo planes began the attack at 7:48 a.m., having launched from six aircraft carriers north of Oahu.
While many of the Imperial Japanese Navy aircraft attacked the fleet, other planes attacked all the airfields on the island, including Wheeler Field next to Schofield Barracks.
Among the 2,403 Americans killed, 2,008 were Sailors, 218 were Soldiers, 109 were Marines and 68 were civilians, according to a National World War II Museum Pearl Harbor fact sheet.
Of the aircraft destroyed, 92 were Navy and 77 were Army Air Corps. Two battleships were destroyed and six were damaged; three cruisers were damaged; one auxiliary vessel was destroyed and three were damaged; and three destroyers were damaged, according to the fact sheet.
The carriers USS Enterprise, USS Saratoga and USS Lexington were out on maneuvers and were not spotted by the Japanese.
Within minutes of the attack, Navy anti-aircraft guns opened up. The guns were firing at planes in all directions. A number of stray Navy anti-aircraft gun rounds fell in populated areas of Honolulu, killing more than a dozen civilians.
However, the Army’s anti-aircraft gunners at first struggled to engage the enemy because their guns were not in firing positions and the guns’ ammunition was in a separate location, where it was under lock and key.
“You can imagine them looking for the ammunition sergeant who had the keys at 8 a.m. Sunday,” McNaughton said. “It took them a while, but some guns did eventually get into action.”
Why weren’t the Army guns in position?
Short complained afterward that he had received ambiguous guidance from Washington. He said he was instructed to be prepared to defend against an attack but not to alarm the civilian population, which setting the anti-aircraft guns in position might have done.
Even so, the Army, with four regiments of anti-aircraft artillery in Oahu, had rehearsed defense against air raids. “They knew it was a possibility,” McNaughton said. “But certainly they were caught by surprise.”
Nevertheless, Soldiers found some means to counter-attack. At Army installations, Army men fired back with machine guns and other weapons at attacking enemy dive bombers and fighters, according to “Guarding the United States and Its Outposts.”
One of the Soldiers who lived through that day at Schofield Barracks was Cpl. James Jones, who later depicted the chaos in a 1951 novel, “From Here to Eternity,” which was eventually made into a movie that garnered eight Academy Awards.
As for the Army Air Corps, they eventually got 12 aircraft in the air and shot down a few Japanese planes. Ultimately, though, the Army Air Corps was overwhelmed. The vast majority of Soldiers killed in action that day were in the Army Air Corps, McNaughton noted.
The Army Air Corps flight of 12 B-17 Fortress Bombers — the aircraft that Tyler thought the radar operators had spotted — arrived in the middle of the attack. They were unarmed and almost out of fuel.
The aircraft landed at various airfields, and one landed on a golf course. One of the aircraft was destroyed by the Japanese, and three were badly damaged, according to “Guarding the United States and Its Outposts.”
“Just imagine, it’s supposed to be a routine peacetime flight and you show up in the middle of the biggest air battle the U.S. had ever seen,” McNaughton said. “Not a good situation.”
No plan for invasion
In fact, the Japanese never planned to invade Hawaii, McNaughton said. Rather, they wanted to cripple the U.S. Pacific fleet so it could not interfere with their plans to seize European colonies in Southeast Asia.
At the time, Army and Navy signals intelligence personnel were working hard to break the Japanese code, he said. They were intercepting communications and decrypting what they could, but the communications they intercepted gave no clear warning of the impending attack.
What the Japanese misjudged was the tremendous anger of the American people, which gave President Roosevelt and Congress the excuse they were looking for to declare war against Japan as well as Germany, McNaughton noted.
In the aftermath of the attack, the Army immediately took over the territory of Hawaii, declaring martial law, which lasted until October 1944. In this unprecedented situation, all local police, courts and government operated under Army supervision. The Army, Navy and FBI placed the local Japanese-American population under close surveillance and placed many community leaders under arrest.
During the war, the Army Soldiers in Hawaii — as in various places along the coasts on the U.S. mainland — never had to fire artillery guns to repel an enemy fleet, McNaughton said. The Army eventually disbanded the Coast Artillery branch, and today it uses sophisticated air and missile defense, in coordination with the other services.
Among the lessons to be taken from Pearl Harbor attack, according to McNaughton, is the crucial importance of operating as part of the joint force. Another is that of striking a fine balance between training and readiness. “You just don’t know when your unit will be called to mobilize,” he said.
The forced internment of Japanese Americans on the West Coast in 1942, in the aftermath of the attack, was a further tragedy.
“It was really painful to the Japanese-American community at the time,” he said. “The vast majority of Japanese Americans were loyal citizens, those who had the opportunity fought for America. And many of those died for their country.”
When hijackers crashed American Airlines Flight 77 into the western façade of the Pentagon on 9/11, 125 people inside the building were killed along with the flight’s 59 passengers and crew. It was one of the deadliest single attacks on the U.S. military in modern history and killed the highest ranking Army officer since WWII. As flames and black smoke billowed from the Pentagon, the first major unit to respond was the Army’s Military District of Washington Engineer Company.
The unit is a unique one in that it is the only technical rescue company in the DoD. The soldiers in the unit come from diverse backgrounds including firefighters, combat engineers, horizontal and vertical construction engineers, and other support specialties. To become part of the unit, soldiers undergo additional training and certification as rescue technicians and mine rescuers.
That September morning, the company was engaged in training at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. “We did all of our in-house training, from rope rescue to confined space to collapse structure, to shoring anything in that nature,” Fred Brown told Army News Service. Brown, who now works as a Fairfax County Government project manager, was a senior NCO in the unit at the time. Shortly before 0900, he got word of the attacks in New York.
He recalled a group of his soldiers who were on their way to a funeral service less than an hour away in Quantico. However, his leadership believed that the attacks were isolated to New York and insisted that the group continue to the funeral. That all changed when Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon at 0937. This was the real deal and the unit’s training would be put to the test for the first time.
Brown called his soldiers back (again) and prepped gear for their mission. “We were prepared to move within an hour,” he recalled. The first team arrived at the Pentagon aboard a helicopter with a sling load of search and rescue equipment. However, they were asked to land rather than fastrope because the last hijacked plane (United Airlines Flight 93) was still in the air. The helo was redirected to Fort McNair in Washington, D.C. where they pre-staged their gear.
Thirty minutes south at Fort Belvoir, Brown directed the loading of the company’s Humvees for the mission of their lives. Along with Sgt. Dewey Snavely, who was on terminal leave but returned to the unit when he heard of the attacks, Brown took a Humvee ahead of the main body to meet with the advance team at Fort McNair and head to the Pentagon.
Nothing could have prepared them for what they saw when they arrived. “There was chaos,” Brown said. He linked up with the incident commander who was expecting the company. Shortly after, the bulk of the unit arrived along with local, state, and federal first responders. That’s when Brown’s years of training kicked in. “I didn’t think of anything except making sure that my guys were suited up correctly,” he said. “We were supplied with air apparatuses, and we went in and did the search.”
As bad as the scene was on the outside, the interior of the building was even worse. “It was a living hell,” Snavely recounted to ANS. “When we first went in, there had been water sprayed on the building for so long, there was so much water in between the corridors, walkways had filled up with water.” With nowhere for the water to drain, it flowed down the hallways carrying pieces of the plane, building rubble, and victims.
“Whenever we found human remains, we informed the [FBI] because, by now, it is a known terrorist attack,” Snavely said. “…the best that I can remember, everybody that we found died in the impact.” This reality weighed heavy on the soldiers who were trained in search and rescue. Brown had to rally his troops.
“[We’re] search and recovery, but we switched into recovery mode only,” he said. “We just dealt with it. Many of the young Soldiers were recovering unrecognizable bodies, often unable to decipher burnt insulation from the flesh. It was hard on them. I made them understand I appreciate what they’re doing, the country appreciates what they’re doing and to let me know if there are any issues they’re having.”
With leadership from their NCOs, the untested soldiers completed their mission at the Pentagon. “The Soldiers that went in there performed their duty, and they did it well,” Brown said. The unprecedented disaster validated their training and high standards.
In 2006, the unit was redesignated as the 911th Technical Rescue Engineer Company for its efforts at the Pentagon on September 11. Today, the 911th TREC continues to train hard and specializes in rope rescue, confined space rescue, structural collapse, mine or tunnel rescue and trench rescue.
The Air Force has grounded 55 F-35s after several pilots reported serious oxygen deprivation during flights.
Air Force spokesman Capt. Mark Graff released a statement Friday noting that in five cases pilots “reported physiological incidents while flying.” Luckily, a backup oxygen system on the F-35 kicked, which allowed pilots to land without further trouble, Defense One reports.
The incidents occurred at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, marking the second time Air Force F-35s have been grounded in a year.
According to Graff, the fighter jets at Luke Air Force Base will likely be cleared to fly again Monday.
“Wing officials will educate U.S. and international pilots today on the situation and increase their awareness of hypoxia symptoms,” Graff said in a statement. “Pilots will also be briefed on all the incidents that have occurred and the successful actions taken by the pilots to safely recover their aircraft.”
In late March, Bloomberg reported that Navy pilots have suffered bouts of hypoxia because of a loss of cabin pressure, leading to oxygen deprivation. These issues have steadily increased every year since 2010 on all F-18 models, which includes the Super Hornet. Navy officials are still trying to get to the bottom of what they’re referring to as “physiological episodes.”
The Navy has also recently ground its T-45 Goshawk planes after pilots complained of headaches and oxygen deprivation. The problem was so dire that 100 instructor pilots flat-out refused to fly the planes, forcing the Navy to ground all 195 planes in the T-45 fleet.
Air Force F-35s on other bases like Hill Air Force Base and Eglin Air Force Base are still cleared for flying, and next week, a group of F-35s will fly to France for the Paris Air Show. Those F-35s will come from the Hill base.
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There’s nothing like a trial-by-combat to see if a new weapon is really worth its salt, so Russia has been using the Syrian Civil War to test out a lot of its new military technology.
In 2015, Russia’s Klub cruise missile made its combat debut, and Moscow has sent some of its most advanced planes to the war — including the Su-34 Fullback, the Su-35 Flanker, and the Tu-160 Blackjack — to carry out missions in support of Bashir al-Assad’s regime.
Now, it looks like the Russians are including the R-77 air-to-air missile among the systems being used in what has become an operational testing ground. The missiles have been seen on Syrian Air Force MiG-29 Fulcrums, a fighter that the Soviets and Russians have exported to a number of countries in the region.
The R-77 — also known as the AA-12 “Adder,” or “AMRAAMski” — is an active-homing radar-guided missile. It’s comparable to the earlier versions of the U.S.-made AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile. The Adder has a range of roughly 70 miles, and a top speed in excess of Mach 4. The Adder can be carried by just about any Russian aircraft, from the Su-35 Flanker to the Mig-21 Fishbed. It entered service in 1994.
The AIM-120 AMRAAM has a top speed of Mach 4, and entered service in 1991, although it was being delivered as early as 1988. Early versions of the missile had a range of 45 miles, but the latest variant has a range of over 100 miles. The AMRAAM has been mounted on a wide variety of combat aircraft, including upgraded F-5s for the Singaporean Air Force; the F-22; the F-35; the Tornado F.3; the JAS.39 Gripen; F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets; and even the Eurofighter Typhoon.
Russia’s move to improve its air-to-air capability is certainly intended to stymie any U.S.-led contingency plan of creating a no-fly zone over the war-torn region.