Listen, condoms will save your life. You may not believe it, but the condom is a multipurpose force multiplier that does more than protect one’s little trooper from NBC threats during unarmed combat. The idea of having condoms isn’t even all that new, so this may be old news to many readers. Even the Army’s official survival handbook lists condoms as a necessary item for survival kits.
The reasons are many, and I’m going to list them without a single dick joke. Sorry.
Water is the number one reason you should carry condoms in your survival kit as a U.S. troop. Water is the number two reason you should carry condoms in your survival kit as a civilian. Condoms, of course, are designed to keep fluids in – and they are really, really good at it. When properly handled, a condom can carry two liters of water. Just tie it off with a stick and wrap it in a sock, and you’ve got yourself a durable water container.
You should probably use non-lubricated condoms for this purpose.
I don’t mean you should be using condoms just for the Tinder dating app (although you should definitely be using condoms if you’re on the Tinder dating app). A condom can carry a lot of flammable material and – as I mentioned – the condom is totally waterproof so it will keep your cotton, newspaper, Doritos, whatever you use as tinder, dry.
Also, be advised that a condom will go up in flames faster than you’re going to be comfortable watching. You can use them as tinder themselves and will even start a fire.
Turns out condoms are good at protecting a rifle and a gun, whether you’re fighting or having fun. This is actually a fairly common use among survivalists who spend a lot of time outdoors. You may see (again, non-lubricated) condoms over the barrel of a weapon to keep mud, dirt, and water out. They even make little condoms for this purpose.
If you haven’t noticed by now, the condom’s greatest strengths are its elasticity and waterproofing. You can use the condom as a crude tourniquet in case of injury, but you can also use it as a rubber glove to protect both yourself from blood-borne disease and protect your patient from whatever muck is on your grubby little hands.
The date was April 23, 1975, the war in Vietnam was winding down and the world was waiting to see what America would choose to do. President Ford gave a speech to the people from Tulane University. During that speech he told the citizens of the U.S. and the rest of the world that as far as America was concerned, the war was over.
He stated, “Today, America can regain the sense of pride that existed before Vietnam. But it cannot be achieved by re-fighting a war.” With these words he made it very clear that he would not be sending troops back over, despite the pleas for support from the South Vietnamese.
At this time, North Vietnam was surrounding the city of Saigon, preparing for a final assault on the capital city. The military leaders of South Vietnam ordered their troops to withdraw to the Highlands to a more defensible position. The biggest issue was that the South Vietnamese were largely outnumbered by the North Vietnamese. When they met in battle at Xuan Loc on April 21, it was clear that the end was near. Between the loss at that battle and President Ford’s speech at Tulane, South Vietnam had little hope that they could emerge victorious.
By the time April 27 dawned, North Vietnam forces had completely surrounded Saigon. They soon began their final push and assault on the city. On April 30, when North Vietnamese tanks burst through the gates of the Presidential Palace, the South Vietnamese were battered and beaten, and surrendered there and then. The war in Vietnam was officially over.
The Vietnam War was controversial from day one, especially in the U.S. It remained so through its duration, and beyond. President Ford made the choice to pull the American troops out of Vietnam and not send them back, even though South Vietnam pleaded with him to do so. This too was surely a controversial decision. The Vietnam War was an instance where no matter what was done, someone felt it was the wrong choice. The people of the United States at that time were not shy about shouting their opinions from every rooftop, either.
Those who were against the war, which was a good portion of the country, even made sure the soldiers returning home knew how they felt. The soldiers were not met with fanfare and welcome homes as were the soldiers of past wars, or as the soldiers of future wars would be. They were not given help or support in adjusting back to their lives at home. It seemed the people, the government and the country as a whole were perfectly happy to sweep the entire war and all those involved under the rug and simply move on.
Even now, 45 years after the war ended, the Vietnam War is still considered one of the most controversial wars in history. It is still often talked about in whispers, or not talked about at all. While there have been movements over the past two decades to give the Vietnam Veterans the recognition they deserve, it is still a fight everyday against the stigma felt during that time.
America as a country did as Ford said, “Regain the sense of pride that existed before Vietnam.” For those who fought in the war, however, there was no sense of pride found. They each had no choice but to go through the process of living a ‘normal’ life. For many this proved impossible, the war having taken every piece of them away.
It’s been 45 years since Saigon fell, 45 years since the war in Vietnam ended. Many of those men who fought in those jungles still live with the realities of that war every day. Now is the time to give them the recognition and appreciation they have always deserved. They didn’t choose to fight that battle. But, they answered the call when heeded. Today and every day, thank our Vietnam Veterans and show them the appreciation they never and should have received when they came home.
The sun was fading behind Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush mountains the evening of June 27, 2005, as a team of four U.S. Navy SEALs walked up the ramp and into the back of U.S. Army Captain Matt Brady’s MH-47 Chinook helicopter on Bagram Air Base.
Tasked with inserting the SEAL special reconnaissance (SR) team deep into enemy territory in unforgiving terrain, Brady knew the SEALs — Lieutenant Michael Murphy, Petty Officer 2nd Class Danny Dietz, Petty Officer 2nd Class Marcus Luttrell, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew Axelson — had a difficult mission ahead. Marines in the area knew it was an extremely dangerous place filled with Taliban fighters.
Brady had no way of knowing at the time, but it would be the last time anyone at Bagram would ever see three of those four Americans alive.
The Afghanistan mountains and forest from the valley where soldiers searched for the remains of the three SEALs who were killed in action. Photo courtesy of Steven Smith.
The Army’s elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) is known for having some of the most skilled aviators in the world, who fly the most elite special operators into some of the most austere environments on earth using the most advanced aircraft in the U.S. military inventory. They are famous for the roles they played in both the Battle of Mogadishu and the mission to kill Usama Bin Laden but are revered throughout the special operations community for acts of valor that often never see the light of day due to the classified nature of their work.
As a pilot in the 160th, Brady was the air mission commander for the operation. He and some of his fellow “Night Stalkers” felt the SEALs’ plan was too risky.
The mission was to capture or kill Ahmad Shah, a Taliban commander. The three-phase plan called for inserting a four-man SR team the first night, then inserting the second element of SEALs the following night to establish an isolation zone around Shah. Finally, 150 U.S. Marines would come in to establish blocking positions for the SEALs’ assault on Shah’s compound.
The Night Stalkers’ job was to insert the SEALs on a ridgeline where the terrain left few options for landing zones. The commandos would have to descend from a rope — fast-rope — while the helos hovered high above the trees. That meant if the SEALs got into trouble, extraction would potentially require the use of a hoist to pull the SEALs out, which was a time-consuming and dangerous option.
As he approached the insertion site, Brady could see lights dotting the mountains below through his night-vision goggles.
An MH-47 Chinook with 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment and a KC-130J Super Hercules with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152 conduct aerial refueling during Exercise Yuma Horizon 19. Photo by Lance Cpl. Seth Rosenberg, courtesy of DVIDS.
“This was a desolate part of the Hindu Kush, and at night, you wouldn’t really expect to see much,” Brady told Coffee or Die. “Not really sure who they were, but there was more activity than I expected.”
As the pilots climbed the last 1,000 feet of elevation, the AC-130 crew providing overwatch on their destination radioed to say they had to leave their position due to a mechanical issue. Brady knew that surveillance aircraft going off station without backup was supposed to result in aborting the mission.
He asked the AC-130 crew for one final report on the four potential landing zones the Night Stalkers had identified for the mission.
“We’ve got two military-aged males, possibly armed, on the northernmost LZ,” the crew reported. “Primary and secondary zones appear to be clear of potential threats.”
Believing the gunship could make it back on station in time for the insertion, Brady made the call to continue the mission.
From left, SGT Carlos Pacheco (3/160 medic, former 3/75), SFC Marcus V. Muralles (Legend – 3/160 medic), MAJ Sam Sauer (3/160 flight surgeon), SFC L.E. Shroades (medic R/160), SGT Dan Bell (E Co/160) during during the timeframe of Operation Red Wings. Photo courtesy of Daniel Bell.
Approaching the insertion point, the pilots flared the Chinook and came into a hover. As the lead aircraft descended, it became clear the LZ was on a steep slope of the mountain, making descent difficult due to the front rotors approaching the mountainside faster than the rear of the aircraft.
“Hold your right and left; hold your front and rear,” came the internal radio traffic from the flight engineer to Brady.
There were 100-foot-tall trees on all sides of the Chinook, and they were so close the pilots had no room to sway as they descended.
“When you hear all four directions, everyone gets pretty tense,” Brady said. “It means you can’t drift any direction without crashing.”
The pilots descended to the point where the Chinook’s front rotor was just a few feet away from the mountainside with tall trees all around the aircraft. The flight crew kicked out the ropes, and the SEALs fast-roped down.
When the crew chief tried to pull the rope up, they found it was entangled below. After several tense moments of struggling to bring in the rope, they decided to cut it loose. The odds of enemy fighters hearing the echo of the dual-rotor helicopter increased every second it remained in a hover. The SEALs did their best to hide the rope and keep their presence on the ridgeline hidden from enemy fighters.
It wasn’t an ideal insertion, but the Night Stalkers had accomplished their mission. They ascended and flew back to Jalalabad to link up with another group of SEALs and standby as a quick reaction force (QRF) in case the SR team was compromised.
At Jalalabad, Brady was approached by SEAL Commander Erik Kristensen in the command operations center. Kristensen confronted him about the decision to cut the rope at the LZ and asked if the Night Stalkers would go back and retrieve it.
A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from 1-228th Aviation Regiment conducting hoist operations. Photo by Spc. Steven K. Young, courtesy of DVIDS.
“We would have to drop a man down with a hoist in that hole of an LZ,” Brady explained. “Hoisting a man at that altitude on that kind of terrain at night is a dangerous operation. Once on the ground, they’d have to pick up the rope, hook it to themselves, and get hoisted back up. Hovering for that long over the same spot would burn the LZ and likely alert the enemy to the SR team’s presence.”
Kristensen agreed with Brady’s evaluation, and after the SR team radioed that they would be laying down for the day in their hide site, Brady and Kristensen called it a night.
Walking toward the flight line, the SEAL commander quipped, “What made you want to fly such ugly helicopters?”
“They’re not much to look at, but they get the job done,” Brady fired back. “Kind of like SEALs.”
They shared a laugh as they loaded up for the flight back to Bagram.
At the Bagram operations center, Major Stephen Reich approached Brady urgently, asking why he didn’t follow abort criteria and fly back with the SR team after the AC-130 had to leave the airspace.
Brady said he estimated the AC-130 would only be off station briefly and that the crew had reported no hostile activity on the LZ. He told Reich pushing the mission back would allow Shah to continue his terrorist activities, likely leading to the death of locals and U.S. military in the area.
“Good,” Brady recalled Reich saying. “I’m glad you’re a thinking air mission commander and not simply one that takes a black-and-white view of the situation.”
With that, they retired to their rooms to rest for phase two of the operation the following night.
Some of the Night Stalkers hanging out in the B huts they slept in, enjoying much needed down time. Photo courtesy of Matt Rogie.
As the Night Stalkers slept, the SR team was discovered by a numerically superior force of enemy fighters. They engaged in a fierce firefight, and at some point the task force lost contact with them.
Brady’s maintenance officer woke him and said the SR team was in trouble and the Night Stalkers had orders to spin up and pull the team out.
“That’s not possible,” Brady replied, confused at how quickly the SEALs had become compromised. “They’ve got their own quick reaction force. We’re completely separate commands. It doesn’t make sense.”
But he knew and lived by the Night Stalkers’ promise to every customer: “If we put you in, we’ll stop at nothing to get you out — even if it’s technically someone else’s job.”
Brady rushed to the operations center where Chief Warrant Officer 4 Chris Eicher was telling the task force commander that they should wait until dark before sending the QRF because going in during daylight would subject them to more danger. The 160th had only lost helicopters during daylight missions at that point — they’re called Night Stalkers for a reason.
The commander explained that the ground force commander had already rejected that plan and didn’t want to wait any longer.
Brady ran over to where his platoon sergeant, Sergeant First Class Mike Russell, was sleeping and updated him on what had unfolded.
“Are you serious?” Russell replied.
Russell went to work right away getting the crews together to prep the aircraft for the mission.
Three of the 160th’s MH-47D Chinooks on the flight line in Bagram, Afghanistan. Photo courtesy of Matt Rogie.
Back in the operations center, leaders were busy trying to figure out the SEALs’ last known location and calculating how many soldiers each helicopter could fly with. They finalized plans and sent the Night Stalkers on their way.
As Brady approached the Chinook he’d be flying, he noticed the tail number: 1-4-6. The bird’s call sign was Turbine 33. Kristensen and his SEALs were waiting on the ramp, standing in a circle.
“Our plan of action is for you to get us to the high ground as close to the troops in contact as you can, and we’re going to fight our way downhill,” Brady recalled Kristensen saying.
Since the SEALs weren’t sure where exactly the compromised team was located, Kristensen believed inserting at a position of tactical advantage was the best option.
“Drop us on the high ground, and we’ll make our way to our swim buddies,” Kristensen told Brady.
Navy SEALs operating in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. From left to right, sonar technician (surface) Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew G. Axelson, of Cupertino, California; Senior Chief information systems technician Daniel R. Healy, of Exeter, New Hampshire; quartermaster Petty Officer 2nd Class James Suh, of Deerfield Beach, Florida; hospital corpsman Petty Officer 2nd Class Marcus Luttrell; machinists mate Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric S. Patton, of Boulder City, Nevada; and Lt. Michael P. Murphy, of Patchogue, New York With the exception of Luttrell, all were killed June 28, 2005, by enemy forces while supporting Operation Red Wing. Photo courtesy of DVIDS.
As Brady climbed into Turbine 33 and started strapping in, Reich tapped his shoulder and asked what the plan was. Reich, who had been designated mission commander for phase two of the operation, felt the QRF was his responsibility.
“We argued for what seemed like 10 minutes but was actually about 30 seconds,” Brady recalled.
But Reich cut the debate short. “I don’t really care, Matt,” he told Brady, “just get your stuff and get off the airplane. This is my mission.”
Brady said he pleaded with Reich to at least let him come with and act as an extra gun and set of eyes.
“Nope, I want you to take my spot as the operations officer and monitor from here,” Reich replied.
Disappointed, Brady followed the order and got off the aircraft. As he watched the two Chinooks taxiing onto the runway, he locked eyes with Russell, his platoon sergeant.
“He had a look of competence and professionalism — like he was ready to live out the Night Stalker creed,” Brady said.
He walked back to the operations center to monitor the situation and provide support from Bagram.
Matt Rogie, left, and Matt Brady having jovial conversation in Bagram. Photo courtesy of Matt Rogie.
The two Chinooks — Turbine 33 and Turbine 34 — were packed with 16 SEALs each, plus the Night Stalker pilots and crewman. Flying toward Jalalabad en route to the last known position of the SEALs, they received word from Bagram on the number of men they could have on board each aircraft and still fly at the extreme elevation. They would have to offload eight SEALs from each helicopter before continuing.
“A lot of guys really wanted to stay on the mission,” recalled Chief Warrant Officer 3 Tim Graham, one of the pilots on Turbine 34.
The plan was for the SEALs to fast-rope onto the ridgeline above the original LZ. The Night Stalkers would then circle back and pick up the remaining SEALs who offloaded at Jalalabad.
During the flight, the Night Stalkers passed two Apache gunships whose pilots asked if they wanted to slow down so they could provide surveillance and support for the operation. Not wanting to burn valuable time waiting on approval from the task force commander for the audible, the Night Stalkers continued on without the Apaches.
Tim Graham standing by in Bagram. Photo courtesy of Matt Rogie.
Arriving at the insertion point on the ridgeline, Turbine 33 descended into a hover. Graham watched from Turbine 34 as Turbine 33’s ramp lowered and the crewman walked onto it to observe the landing zone below. Graham’s aircraft pulled off to the right to circle around and insert their payload of SEALs after Turbine 33 moved off to allow their entrance.
That’s when Staff Sergeant Steven Smith, the flight engineer in the rear of Turbine 34, saw a smoke trail emerge from the tree line directly toward Turbine 33. The projectile flew through the open ramp of the Chinook and exploded inside. Turbine 33’s nose dipped down, and the aircraft slid to the left, appearing to almost recover. Then the helo’s blades started hitting each other, and the aircraft rolled to the right before inverting as it descended to the mountainous terrain below.
Smith and the others in Turbine 34 watched helplessly as the Chinook full of their fellow aviators — their friends — crashed into the mountain and erupted in a ball of flames.
“Al and Kip were on the ramp when the RPG impacted,” Smith, who witnessed the horrific event, recalled. “They rode it all the way in that way.”
Soldiers sit on the rear deck of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter while flying over southern Afghanistan Oct. 19, 2010. Photo by Cpl. Robert Thaler, courtesy of DVIDS.
Graham and his co-pilot whipped their Chinook around to look for survivors. As they were turning around, Graham saw five Black hawks performing a star-cluster evasion. Turbine 34 started taking heavy gunfire from unseen fighters below. They broke off and flew out of reach of the enemy fire.
Graham reported the situation back to Bagram. Receiving the transmission, Brady couldn’t believe it. He would have been on that bird were it not for the last minute change. He asked Graham to repeat, unable to register what he had just heard.
One of Brady’s soldiers in the operations center was asking him a question, but Brady was momentarily frozen with shock. Then the realization hit: He was now in charge.
Brady told his operations NCO to give him a minute to gather more information to get the next plan of action in place. He walked out of the operations center and found Eicher.
“Chris, Turbine 33 has just been shot down,” he told Eicher, who earned the nickname “Iceman” for his always cool demeanor.
Eicher looked at Brady and said, “Nah, they probably put down for maintenance.”
Brady persisted with the details. He and Eicher hurried back to the operations center.
The two Apaches had arrived on station, drawing heavy gunfire, but nonetheless giving Turbine 34’s crew back in the operations center a good look at the crash site.
“It didn’t look like there was any way anybody could have survived,” Graham said. “You hope they could. It just didn’t look good.”
The crash site of Turbine 33. Photo courtesy of Steven Smith.
They ascended back into orbit and remained there for an hour until the task force commander ordered them back to Jalalabad. Not wanting to leave their brothers, the SEAL team commander hatched a plan with the Night Stalkers to insert higher up on the ridgeline and fight their way down to the crash site so Turbine 34 could fly back to Jalalabad, pick up as many SEALs as he could, and fly back to reinforce the eight SEALs. The task force commander denied the request and ordered Turbine 34 back to Jalalabad. Frustrated and angry, Graham followed the order.
Smith said everyone on the Chinook was angry. One of the SEALs even drew his pistol and attempted unsuccessfully to force the Chinook to land so they could try to save their friends.
Graham made a stop at a Forward Arming and Refueling Point (FARP) just outside of Jalalabad. After landing, Graham saw the same five Black Hawks that had peeled off earlier parked on the runway. He didn’t think much of it at the time, but many years later he found out a new platoon leader came into their company within the 160th and was responsible for those Black Hawks.
Each of the five Black Hawks was loaded with Marines and had flown out thinking they were the QRF for the SR team. When Turbine 33 was shot down, they received orders to fly back along with Turbine 34 and the Apache gunships until the next phase of the mission was developed.
Flight line view of U.S. Army UH-60L Black Hawk helicopters. Photo by Mark C. Olsen, courtesy of DVIDS.
After refueling, he continued on to Jalalabad and off-loaded.
“When I met him there on the ground in Jalalabad, Graham was fairly shaken to say the least,” Brady recalled.
The task force commander debriefed the men and then focused on planning their next steps.
Smith said he saw a line of armored vehicles full of troops.
“I could see a lot of vehicles with troops armed to the damn teeth,” Smith recalled. “They rolled out with a convoy and with some vengeance, and they fought their way up that mountainside, all the way up to the crash site.”
The remaining Night Stalkers prepared for a rescue operation. Navy SEALs, Army Rangers, and other Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) personnel loaded onto five Chinooks. All the men were anxious, angry, and ready to retrieve their brothers in arms.
The Chinooks took off toward the mountains once again, but as they climbed in elevation, severe weather rolled in. Thunder boomed as lightning struck all around them.
“So the enemy is one factor, but the terrain and weather are now a huge factor, and they’re starting to overtake the enemy in terms of danger to the force,” Brady said.
He said visibility got so bad that he couldn’t see the heat glow of the engines from the Chinook in front of him. The order was given to again abort the mission and return to base. It was a gut-wrenching decision for everyone on the mission, as they knew the original SEALs on the SR team were fighting for their lives and one of their own aircraft and crew was burning on the side of a mountain.
Back at Jalalabad, the commanders decided they had no choice but to wait for better weather and try again the next night.
Troops searching for the KIA and survivors. Photo courtesy of Matt Rogie.
As the storm raged, the members of the task force — haunted with thoughts of their brothers on the mountain — tried to sleep.
As the next night approached, the task force went to work, planning another insertion onto the deadly ridgeline. The Night Stalkers again loaded their Chinooks with Rangers and SEALs and took off toward the mountains.
Arriving on site, the task force members fast-roped in. The extreme height of the trees made the full length of rope — approximately 90 feet — necessary. Many of the men suffered scorched hands from gripping the rope through gloves for such a long descent.
Once on the ground, they started their search for casualties, potential survivors, and sensitive equipment.
As the Night Stalkers flew back to Bagram, the JSOC ground force that had convoyed to the crash radioed to the task force that they had secured the site. There were no survivors.
The JSOC troops, along with their newly arrived reinforcements, went to work recovering those killed in action as well as sensitive equipment that could not fall into enemy hands. They then used explosives to clear out a large enough area for Chinooks to land when they came back.
Explosives were used to chop down trees due to width of the trees being too big for chainsaws. Photo courtesy of Steven Smith.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Matt Rogie arrived in Bagram just before the Night Stalkers came back after dropping off the recovery force. Assigned to replace Eicher as senior flight lead, he was trying to learn as much as he could before hopping into an aircraft and joining the mission.
Rogie met Eicher on the flight line when he landed after returning from the mission.
“I’m glad you’re here because I am spent,” Eicher told him.
The Night Stalkers flew back to their newly forged landing zone the following night. The weather was turning bad again as they offloaded Marines to assist with security.
“I could see the grass being blown by the rotor wash and all the remains bags being lined up in a row — 16 of them,” Rogie recalled. “There was still some smoldering from the crash site, and I could see the glow from the heat through my night vision.”
Some of the fallen members of Turbine 33 prior to being flown out. Photo courtesy of Steven Smith.
One by one, the Rangers and SEALs loaded the fallen onto the Chinooks and headed back to Bagram with their brothers. The flight back was pure silence. The loss weighed heavy on the men.
As the Night Stalkers approached Bagram they could see what looked like everyone on base standing outside, showing their respect for the fallen.
“When we landed, we just saw a row of Night Stalkers and Rangers and SEALs for as far as I could see, lined up and ready to help transport the remains off and take them to the mortuary affairs section,” Brady recalled.
When the ramp lowered, the Night Stalkers on the Chinooks stood tall and proud for their fallen brethren as task force members boarded and began solemnly moving each remains bag to the mortuary affairs building.
“All of us were pretty broken up at that point,” Rogie said.
Pastors from the task force lead the caskets onto the C-17. Photo courtesy of Daniel Bell.
The C-17 sat on the runway with the ramp down, waiting to receive the 16 interment cases containing the fallen warriors. Brady stood next to a SEAL commander — both had to take command of their respective units when Reich and Kristensen were killed on Turbine 33. Their war-weary faces were chiseled stone as they watched the task force solemnly load 16 flag-draped internment cases into the C-17.
Brady said it seemed like the whole base turned out to give the fallen a proper sendoff. As the cases were being loaded, a SEAL ran up to the new SEAL commander and placed a written note in his hand. The note said that Marcus Luttrell was alive at a nearby village. The SEAL commander broke down and cried at the desperately needed positive news.
The fallen Night Stalkers of the 160th SOAR included:
Staff Sergeant Shamus O. Goare
Chief Warrant Officer Corey J. Goodnature
Sergeant Kip A. Jacoby
Sergeant First Class Marcus V. Muralles
Major Stephen C. Reich
Sergeant First Class Michael L. Russell
Chief Warrant Officer Chris J. Scherkenbach
Master Sergeant James W. Ponder III
Soldiers and Sailors from the Task Force saying their final goodbyes. Photo courtesy of Daniel Bell.
The members of the task force said their final goodbyes. The C-17 closed its ramp and taxied down the runway and took flight. The fallen warriors were now on their way home.
The lone C-17 aircraft lumbered through the sky after departing Germany, a necessary stop on the way back to the United States. The back of the aircraft contained the flag-draped coffins of 16 great Americans: the fallen Night Stalkers and SEALs from Turbine 33.
Children of varying ages ran around the coffins, playing and yelling, not yet old enough to understand the sacrifices these warriors made. A Taliban high-value target (HVT) sat tucked into the corner away from them all, guarded by other soldiers.
Three war-weary escorts — one of them a SEAL and the other two Night Stalkers Daniel Bell and Chris Eicher — sat off to the sides, grimly staring off into space. They were exhausted and angry with the mistake the U.S. Air Force had made when they allowed Space-A seating to be filled on this leg of the flight home.
The men of the task force saying their final goodbyes to the fallen before they are flown home to their final resting place. Photo courtesy of Matt Rogie.
The rescue operation, known as Operation Red Wings II, continued for weeks. Almost every variety of special operations troops in the U.S. military inventory participated in a coordinated effort through some of Afghanistan’s most dangerous and austere terrain during the search for their brothers — both alive and fallen.
Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell was the only survivor from the initial four-man SEAL reconnaissance element.
For the Night Stalkers of the famed 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, the war on terror continued.
Every era has its arch-nemesis. The Nazis, the Communists, and the Terrorists all seemed to come in succession. Now, it seems America’s new arch-rivals are making their presence known. After spending a decade or more in its “peaceful rise” era, the People’s Republic of China appears to have switched to “Crouching Tiger.” President Trump has responded in kind, meeting aggression with aggression, which raises the stakes.
But that also means a lot of civilians are gonna get drafted if and when the war comes. The Infographics Show will tell you why.
The video above wargames China mobilizing its forces to invade Taiwan. When it does, the U.S. military would move to DEFCON 3, requiring the U.S. Air Force to be able to mobilize in 15 minutes or less. Once China’s invasion force starts boarding ships to land on Taiwan, the United States will be at DEFCON 2, which requires all the armed forces to be ready for war at the front in six hours. By the time the U.S. Navy engages Chinese Air Forces, Chinese ballistic missiles will have already targeted Naval air assets in the Pacific, killing thousands of American troops.
In the first month of fighting, the casualties will mount, and they will be heavy. The number of killed and wounded will reach the levels last seen in the Vietnam War. In less than a year, it would be the bloodiest war since World War II. And guess what? The military is gonna need replacements.
If it helps any, Beijing doesn’t seem that far away on this map.
The Chinese military numbers some two million or more with another half million in reserve. Since the most likely flashpoint is the tiny but democratic American ally of Taiwan, just off China’s coastline, the fighting will be focused, but intense, and casualties would be enormous. The United States would call on its 860,000-plus reservists to bolster its forces in the area. While that would be enough to counter the Chinese threat to Taiwan, it would not be enough to forcibly topple the Chinese government. That would require an invasion of mainland China, and that would be really, really hard.
To successfully invade China would require so many troops, the United States doesn’t currently have that many. It would have to activate the Selective Service System, instituting a draft for American males between the ages of 18-25, a potential pool of 16 million American troops. While it’s unlikely the U.S. will have to draft the entire 16 million, it will need a lot of troops to get to Beijing.
Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman, the “Boat Guys” in all those Navy SEALs photos, are a small and elite bunch of warriors who don’t get nearly enough credit for their contribution to American security.
Here’s what makes the “SEALs Taxi Service” so lethal.
First, yes, they have SEALs on the boats. When your payload is Navy SEALs, that’s a pretty big plus in the lethality department.
And the Navy isn’t afraid to recruit potential candidates while they’re still young. Scout teams go into the community to seek out talented individuals who might be interested in a special operations career.
Ralph Roberts didn’t leave the Navy with the dream of starting the world’s biggest telecommunications provider. When he left the service, television was an emerging technology and radio still dominated the airwaves. The company he would soon found would go on to be America’s largest cable provider at one point – and one of the biggest supporters of military veterans.
The story of Ralph Roberts isn’t a stereotypical rags-to-riches tale set in early 20th Century America. The young Roberts was the son of a wealthy family of immigrants who owned a number of pharmacies in the New York City area. When he was still a boy, his father died of a heart attack and, having lost their fortune, they went to live in Philadelphia. His new stepfather was also a business owner, running a successful cigar company. This early exposure to the freedom of running a self-owned business no doubt influenced Ralph’s decision to attend the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.
It was 1941 when Roberts graduated. Later that year, the United States would be pulled into World War II with the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Roberts, like many wealthy businessmen, could have probably avoided service with a draft deferment or through government connections. He didn’t. Instead, he opted to join the Navy, where he served for the duration of the war at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.
Roberts married his wife Suzanne during his first year in the Navy.
After the war, Roberts became a “serial entrepreneur.” He started by selling a series of golf clubs, most notably a putter with which he persuaded legendary Hollywood personality Bob Hope to pose with, asking him to do a veteran a favor. He marketed it as the “Bob Hope Putter.” He then went to work in subscription sales for the Muzak company, which made… muzak, music for entertainment productions that could be easily licensed and replicated. Eventually he started working for the Pioneer Suspender Company, a business which he eventually owned. When beltless polyester pant hit the market in the early 1960s, Roberts worried it was the death knell for his business, so he began to look elsewhere.
That’s when he discovered a small cable television provider in Tupelo, Miss. that serviced some 1,200 people. Back in the early days of television, rural customers struggled to get clear reception from over-the-air broadcasters like NBC, CBS, and ABC. The focus was in providing services to major metropolitan areas. In those days, cable wasn’t a package of new and diverse channels, it was just a way to get clear reception using cable instead of a broadcast antenna.
Roberts sold his suspenders company and and bought American Cable Systems. He soon redubbed it Comcast.
Comcast would eventually become the country’s largest cable provider, a conglomerate that would acquire other, smaller cable companies and internet service providers, all with Ralph J. Roberts in his trademark bowtie at the helm. Though Roberts died in 2015, the company still regards serving veterans as a core corporate responsibility, supporting National Guard and reserve troops when they’re activated, providing low or no-cost internet services and computers to low-income veterans, pledging to hire 21,000 veterans by 2021, and funding veteran-related initiatives through partner organizations.
One such organization is the Military Influencer Conference, a three-day event that brings together important and emerging entrepreneurs, influencers, creatives, executives, and leaders who are connected to the military community. The annual conference focuses on delivering actionable insights from the stories of others and fostering an environment where people of diverse backgrounds and skill sets are motivated to forge legitimate relationships through conversation that lead to powerful collaborations.
Meet Spoiled.io — the bane of all your friends who love “Game of Thrones.”
For just $0.99 per episode, Spoiled.io will automatically and anonymously send out a text to any phone number that ruins the newest episode of the hit HBO fantasy series. The messages will be sent after each episode airs, so it’s perfect to use for those friends who watch “Game of Thrones” after it first airs on TV.
Spoiled.io charges $0.99 per spoiler, or $4.99 to send out spoilers for all of the six episodes in the upcoming season. Season 8 airs on HBO on Sundays starting April 14, 2019, and is the final season of “Game of Thrones.”
“For just .99 USD, Spoiled will anonymously and ruthlessly text spoilers to your unsuspecting friends after each new episode airs,” Spoiled.io says on its website. “Afterwards, sit back, relax, and view your friends’ responses.”
The spoiling texts service first emerged in June 2016 before the final episode of the sixth season of “Game of Thrones.” Spoiled.io published to Twitter the responses it got from unsuspecting people who had the episode spoiled for them by the texting service.
The developers of Spoiled.io, Spoiled Rotten, told Business Insider back in 2016 that the texting service was only ever supposed to be a simple side-project. But they quickly amassed “a couple hundred” users.
“I don’t think we’ll be quitting our day jobs anytime soon, but the response has far exceeded our exceptions and made us question ways we could expand,” Spoiled Rotten told Business Insider.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Mark Bentley of De Pere, Wisconsin was proficient in the use of the Army’s top secret W54 weapon. But it’s a great thing he never had to use it.
The W54 was a nuclear weapon that fit inside an Army-issued duffel bag with a payload one-tenth the size of the “Little Boy” weapon dropped on Hiroshima, Japan in World War II.
Bentley told the Green Bay Press Gazette that the portable nuclear weapons were part of a plan to disrupt any potential Soviet movements into Western Europe in the event of World War III.
The Army learned a lot about mountain fighting in the Korean War. It also developed smaller nuclear weapons, ones like the M28 Davy Crockett device. These tactical devices could be fired from a weapon as small as a recoilless rifle. The idea was to block certain passes with ash and radiation, forcing the massive Red Army to redirect its movement.
An estimated 400 W54 man-portable Special Atomic Demolition Munitions (SADM) – backpack nukes – were built by the United States in 1961 and deployed until 1971. They weighed roughly 50 pounds and were roughly 11 inches in diameter, with a height of 15 inches.
Originally the nukes were built with the idea that special operations forces like the U.S. Navy SEALs could infiltrate enemy harbors and destroy them with such devices. For the U.S. Army, the idea was not to destroy large chunks of Soviet military units or bases. Instead, the idea was to funnel large formations into a greater kill zone.
“The problem was, the blast range was larger than the trajectory,” he said.
This means there was no way of escaping the nuclear device’s death zone before it was triggered. Still, he signed up for the job in 1968 – because it was better than being drafted.
Bentley had a very low draft number during one of the hottest years of the Vietnam War. He described his choice as either getting drafted to be a target for two years or spending three years doing something he actually wanted to do.
The draft ended just after he signed on to enlist, but stayed in, eventually joining a Special Atomic Demolitions Munitions platoon. He spent his entire career training for World War III in Fort Belvoir, Virginia.
He said someone would have to set the explosive and secure it until it went off. It would either be the person carrying it or another person who would secure the site after the soldier who set the nuclear charge made a hasty retreat.
“You set your timer, and it would click when it went off, or it went ding or I forget what, but you knew you were toast,” he said. “Ding! Your toast is ready, and it’s you.”
The U.S. Air Force developed similar nuclear devices affixed to the AIM-4 Falcon air-to-air missile, the only air-to-air device to be fitted with a nuclear warhead, intended to knock out large Soviet bomber formations.
The W54 wasn’t the only compact nuclear device developed by the U.S. military. An advanced version, the W72 was an air-to-ground guided bomb device that could be used for the same purpose, without the suicide sacrifice of a soldier on the ground.
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge may not officially open until the end of June 2019, but for some fans, it could happen even sooner. Nearly a month sooner, to be exact, according to an update from Disneyland on April 22, 2019, which revealed how visitors can snag early passes to the park.
“If you are planning to visit Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at the Disneyland Resort between May 31 and June 23, 2019, a reservation and theme park admission are required,” the resort posted on its website, adding that reservations do not cost extra but that they are “subject to availability.”
Registration will open on May 2, 2019, at 10 a.m. PT on Disneyland.com after more specific instructions are posted two hours prior at 8 a.m. PT. Guests will need to have a Disney account before registering, which Disneyland recommends creating ahead of time.
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge | Behind the Scenes at Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort
Additionally, anyone who wants a guaranteed reservation can book a room at one of the park’s three official hotels (Disneyland Hotel, Disney’s Paradise Pier, and Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel) between May 31 and June 23, 2019. Each guest over the age of three will receive one reservation for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Based on confirmation emails that Disneyland has sent to visitors who have already booked rooms, the hotel reservations are good for strict four-hour time slots. Not only are guests required to leave as soon as their four hours are up but Polygonreports that the email notes, “If you decide to leave Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge before your reservation time is over, you will not be allowed to reenter.”
For anyone who doesn’t get a reservation, the new Star Wars land will open to the general public on June 24, 2019, in Hollywood and on Aug. 29, 2019, in Orlando.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Brazil has had a decent aerospace industry centered on Embraer, a conglomerate that made everything from airborne radar planes to trainers. However, that industry has gotten a little too full of itself lately. They think one of their trainers can replace the A-10.
But we digress. We’re not here to cyberbully a wannabe A-10 to the point that Selena Gomez has to consider making an aviation version of 13 Reasons Why, despite how much fun it would be to really make said wannabe feel really bad about itself. Even though it should… but again, we digress.
The fact is, the P-51 Mustang could arguably fly circles around the A-29, but the A-29 makes for a decent trainer.
No, we are here to take a look at this plane, which is already giving honorable service in the fight against terrorism. It’s been dropping bombs on al-Qaeda and the Taliban for a bit. It’s in service with over 14 countries.
The Super Tucano boasts a top speed of 229 miles per hour (the P-51 Mustang could hit 437). It can carry rockets, bombs, AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, air-to-air missiles, and gun pods for use against enemy forces. The plane also boasts a maximum range of 2,995 miles. Currently, 205 Super Tucanos are in service around the world.
The United States Air Force is one of 14 countries using the Super Tucano.
While the winner of the OA-X competition has yet to be determined, the Super Tucano does have a decent track record as a trainer and light attack plane. Learn more about this Brazilian A-10 wannabe in the video below.
Germany’s military has been struggling with a variety of organizational and technical problems, like equipment shortages, debates over funding, and troop shortfalls.
Manpower in particular is a lingering issue for the Bundeswehr, which has shrunk since the end of the Cold War and further reduced after mandatory military service was ended in 2011.
From a high of 585,000 personnel in the mid-1980s, German troop levels have fallen to just under 179,000 as of mid-2018. In 2017, the Bundeswehr had 21,000 unfilled positions, and half of the force’s current members are expected to retire by 2030.
In mid-2016, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said the Bundeswehr had to “get away from the process of permanent shrinking.” (Women weren’t allowed to be in the armed services until 2000.)
Von der Leyen said she would remove the 185,000-person cap on the military and add 14,300 troops over seven years — a total that was upped to 20,000 in 2017.
Ursula von der Leyen with German soldiers during a visit to the Field Marshal Rommel Barracks, Augustdorf.
That approach has general support among the governing parties, though not without qualifications. Defense experts and politicians have said that any foreign recruits should be offered citizenship, lest the force become “a mercenary army.”
Another strategy that has been underway for some time is the recruitment of minors. The Bundeswehr has mounted a media campaign to bring in Germans under 18.
The military’s official YouTube channel has over 300,000 subscribers, and its videos have garnered nearly 150 million views.
The Bundeswehr Exclusive channel, which posts video series, has more than 330,000 subscribers, and its videos — like the six-week series called “Mali” that followed eight German soldiers stationed with a UN peacekeeping force in the West African country — have drawn more than 68 million views.
The service is also active on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, among other social-media sites. The army’s recruitment spending in 2017, about million, was more than double what it spent in 2011.
And since that year the service has signed up more than 10,000 minors, according to Reuters. 2017 saw a record 2,128 people under the age of 18 sign up, 9% of all recruits and an 11.4% increase over the previous year.
“I wanted to experience something and to get to know my own limits, to see how far I can go,” said Marlon, who joined the Germany army a few months before he turned 18.
Because of his age, he needed his mother’s permission to join, which she was happy to give. He told Reuters that she is now pleased that her formerly messy son is now more organized.
‘This is not a normal profession’
After the destruction of World War II and the division of the Cold War, the military is still a controversial topic for Germans. Many are skeptical of the service, reluctant to spend more on it, and wary of overseas military operations.
The Bundeswehr still struggles with the legacy of the Nazi Wehrmacht, and instances of far-right extremism in the ranks strain civil-military relations. Some military officers wear civilian clothes to and from work to avoid the stigma attached to their duties.
That attitude may be changing among younger Germans.
A recent survey of 20,000 students there found that the military was the third most attractive place to work, behind the police in first place and sports brand Adidas. Marlon told Reuters that a career in uniform was much more appealing than working on a car-production line.
A German infantryman stands at the ready with his Heckler Koch G36 during a practice exercise in 2004.
But the recruitment of minors has proved to be an especially contentious issue.
Some politicians and children’s rights advocates have criticized the government for the approach, describing it as misleading and decrying the precedent it could set.
The record recruitment numbers indicate that von der Leyen “clearly has no scruples,” Evrim Sommer, a legislator from the pacifist Left Party, said in early 2018, after requesting Bundeswehr recruitment data.
“Young people should not be used as cannon fodder in the Bundeswehr as soon as they come of age,” Sommer added at the time. “As long as Germany recruits minors for military purposes, it cannot credibly criticize other countries.”
Ralf Willinger from the children’s rights group Terre des Hommes told Reuters in August 2018 that recruiting minors is “embarrassing and sends the wrong signal.”
“It weakens the international 18-year standard, encouraging armed groups and armies from other countries to legitimate the use of minors as soldiers,” he added.
Germany military officials have said their recruitment efforts are in line with international norms and stressed that they need to compete with private-sector employers to attract personnel.
The German military also has rules in place about what minors can do while in uniform. While they undergo training like adult recruits, they are not allowed to stand guard duty or take part in foreign missions, and they are only allowed to use weapons for educational purposes.
The Defense Ministry has also said that minors have the ability to end their service any time in the first six months.
To some, those stipulations don’t change the fundamental nature of what the military is training minors to do.
“This is not a normal profession,” said Ilka Hoffman, a board member of the GEW Union, which represents education and social workers.
“In no other profession does one learn to kill, and is one confronted with the danger of dying in war,” Hoffmann added. “That is the one difference.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
China is working hard to bring new stealth fighters and bombers online, and the US is preparing to push back with its F-35 stealth fighter, a US general commanding US air assets in the Pacific region told Bloomberg.
The Chinese military, according to US intelligence, is developing new medium- and long-range stealth bombers to provide penetrating strike capabilities. China’s new J-20 stealth fighter could be operational this year, and the country is also considering turning its J-31 stealth fighter into a stealthy carrier-based aircraft for the Chinese navy’s future carriers.
China’s air force is the largest in the region and the third largest in the world with 2,500 aircraft and 1,700 fighters, bombers, and attack aircraft. China is one of only three nations to develop a fifth-generation fighter, and if it successfully fields a nuclear-capable stealth bomber, it will be one of only three countries with a complete nuclear triad.
Gen. Charles Brown told Bloomberg this week that rising F-35 deployments will be needed to counter these developments. Talking about his observations of the way the Chinese operate, the commander of US Pacific Air Forces said, “They’ll continue to push the envelope to figure out does anybody say or do anything.”
“If you don’t push back it’ll keep coming,” he added, noting that the J-20 represents a “greater threat” in the Pacific.
The amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) transits the waters of the South China Sea.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker)
Brown recently told Japanese reporters he expects the US and its allies in the Pacific to have as many as 200 F-35s operating in the region by 2025.
A US Marine Corps F-35B squadron deployed to Japan at the start of 2017, and later that same year, a dozen US Air Force F-35As deployed to the Pacific for a six-month rotation.
The US military has also been experimenting with the “Lighting Carrier” concept, turning flattop Navy amphibious assault ships into light aircraft carriers outfitted with stealth fighter jets, and the US Navy is moving closer to fielding aircraft carriers armed with F-35Cs.
US allies Japan, South Korea, and Australia are all part of the F-35 program.
Chinese analysts, according to Chinese media, have argued the Chinese J-20 fighter will have “overwhelming superiority” over the F-35, giving it the ability to take on the so-called “US F-35 friends circle.”
While China’s new fighter has some advantages, range in particular, it is generally considered to be less capable than its fifth-generation counterparts in the US military.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper is pledging to improve the way troops are treated while in coronavirus quarantine after a soldier in Texas reportedly called the situation “the most dysfunctional Army operation I’ve ever seen.”
A soldier, referred to by the pseudonym Henry Chinaski by The Daily Beast, told the outlet he has been stuck in a 15-by-15 foot room with three other troops at Fort Bliss since Sunday. The service members just returned from Afghanistan and have been ordered to remain quarantined for two weeks in case they caught the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, while deployed or returning to the States.
The group gets two meals a day and a couple bottles of water, The Daily Beast reported Tuesday. The soldier, who has served for 17 years, texted reporters with the outlet about their experience. He said they’ve gotten no information about what they’re supposed to be doing while they wait.
“Prisoners receive better care and conditions than that which we are experiencing at Fort Bliss,” the soldier told The Daily Beast. “The Army was not prepared, nor equipped to deal with this quarantine instruction and it has been implemented very poorly.”
The situation now has Esper’s attention, a Pentagon spokesman told reporters Wednesday.
“His response is, ‘We can do better, and we need to do better,'” Jonathan Hoffman said. “I know that the commander at Fort Bliss is aware; he has been in contact. My understanding is that he met with all the soldiers who are quarantined and talked through some of their concerns.”
The soldier at Fort Bliss told The Daily Beast his exercise has been limited to push-ups, sit-ups and lunges in the room. On Tuesday, the service members got 20 minutes of yard time, according to the report.
The military is now looking at allowing troops stuck in holding patterns before they’re considered to be virus-free more time outside, Hoffman said, and visits to base exchanges, where they can purchase toiletries and other items.
“[We’re] also looking at other bases that are doing quarantines,” Hoffman said. “We’re checking to see how they’re holding up and doing this, as well. We can do better.”
As of Wednesday morning, 49 U.S. troops had tested positive for COVID-19. Another 14 Defense Department civilians, 19 dependents and seven contractors also have the virus.
Hoffman said every base commander is looking at how the military should handle quarantine situations as a result of The Daily Beast’s story.
“This is something that’s unusual for all these bases to be handling, and they’re doing the best they can,” he said. “… [But] we owe it to them, and we’re going to look into it and try to do better.”