Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe - We Are The Mighty
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Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe

The United States Army Air Force’s daylight bombing campaign in Europe involved thousands of bombers, and tens of thousands of crewmen. While there were pilots, crew chiefs, radiomen, bombardiers, and navigators on planes like the B-17, about 40 percent of the crew were aerial gunners.


Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe
A U.S. Army Air Forces Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress flying through flak over a target. A hit by flak lead to the capture of Brigadier General Arthur Vanaman, placing ULTRA at risk. (USAF photo)

What did it take to get these specialists ready? In some ways, it didn’t take long – maybe a few weeks. But these gunners had to learn a lot. Maintenance of their machine guns was vitally important. But they also had to learn to hit a moving target – because the Nazi fighters trying to shoot the bombers down were not going to make things easy for them.

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe
Messerschmidt Bf 109. (Photo: Kogo CC BY-SA 2.0)

So, what did it take to teach gunners how to hit a moving target? Well, for starters, there were lessons on maintenance for both a .30-caliber machine gun (mostly used early in the war) and the M2 .50-caliber machine gun, and how fix them when they jammed. Then, they had to learn how bullets traveled downrange, and how to adjust for the drop of the bullets from the guns.

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe
A look at the ball turret of a B-17 Flying Fortress, carrying a pair of M2 .50-caliber machine guns. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

When that was done, the trainees were started on full-auto BB guns at an indoor range. Once that was mastered, they then did a lot of skeet shooting with 12-gauge shotguns.

Yep, a popular shooting sport was used to train the folks whose job involved keeping Nazi fighters from shooting down a bomber with ten airmen on board.

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe

The training went on to include live-fire of the machine guns, as well as how the turrets used on planes like the B-17 and B-24 worked. Aircraft recognition — including knowing an enemy fighter’s wingspan — was also very important.

Following that, they took to the air, and learned how to fire the guns while wearing the gear they’d need on board a bomber – including a life vest, parachute, and the helmet.

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe
B-17 gunners wearing bulky sheep-shearling flying clothing to protect against the deadly cold at the altitudes typically flown in Europe.— At 25,000 feet, the temperature could drop below -60 degrees Fahrenheit. (U.S. Air Force photo)

As you can imagine, this included a lot of learning and skills to master. You can see an introductory video for aerial gunners made during World War II below.

Articles

Here are the best military photos for the week of July 15th

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they’re always capturing what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


Air Force:

Chief Master Sgt. Alan Boling, Eighth Air Force command chief, visited Minot Air Force Base, N.D., July 10-11, 2017. During his visit, Boling spoke with 5th Bomb Wing Airmen and visited facilities including the fire department, phase maintenance dock, bomb building facility, dining facility and parachute shop.

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman J.T. Armstrong

French Alphajets, followed by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and two F-22 Raptors, conduct a flyover while displaying blue, white and red contrails during the Military Parade on Bastille Day. An historic first, the U.S. led the parade as the country of honor this year in commemoration of the centennial of U.S. entry into World War I and the long-standing partnership between France and the U.S.

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe
U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Michael McNabb

Army:

A U.S. Army airborne paratrooper from the 4th Brigade, 25th Infantry division prepares to jump out of the open troop door on a U.S. Air Force C-17 from Joint Base Charleston, S.C., July 12, 2017 in support of Exercise Talisman Saber 2017. The purpose of TS17 is to improve U.S.-Australian combat readiness, increase interoperability, maximize combined training opportunities and conduct maritime prepositioning and logistics operations in the Pacific. TS17 also demonstrates U.S. commitment to its key ally and the overarching security framework in the Indo Asian Pacific region.

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe
U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Gregory Brook

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. John L. Gronski, deputy commanding general for Army National Guard, U.S. Army Europe, talks with Soldiers of 5th Battalion, 113th Field Artillery Regiment, North Carolina National Guard during Getica Saber 17 on July 7, 2017 in Cincu, Romainia. Getica Saber 17 is a U.S-led fire support coordination exercise and combined arms live fire exercise that incorporates six Allied and partner nations with more than 4,000 Soldiers. Getica Saber 17 runs concurrent with Saber Guardian 17, a U.S. European Command, U.S. Army Europe-led, multinational exercise that spans across Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania with over 25,000 service members from 22 Allied and partner nations.

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe
U.S. Army Photo by Spc. Antonio Lewis

Navy:

Sailors refuel an F-35B Lightning II joint strike fighter aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1). Wasp is currently underway acquiring certifications in preparation for their upcoming homeport shift to Sasebo, Japan where they are slated to relieve the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) in the 7th Fleet area of operations.

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Zhiwei Tan

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) sits in Dry Dock 4 at Fleet Activities (FLEACT) Yokosuka to continue repairs and assess damage sustained from its June 17 collision with a merchant vessel. FLEACT Yokosuka provides, maintains, and operates base facilities and services in support of U.S. 7th Fleet’s forward-deployed naval forces, 71 tenant commands and 26,000 military and civilian personnel.

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe
U.S. Navy photo by Daniel A. Taylor

Marine Corps:

Landing craft utility 1666, assigned to Naval Beach Unit 7, offloads Marine equipment on a beach as a part of a large-scale amphibious assault training exercise during Talisman Saber 17. The landing craft utility 1666, assigned to Naval Beach Unit 7, launched from USS Green Bay (LPD 20) that enabled movement of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) forces and equipment ashore in order for the MEU to complete mission objectives in tandem with Australia counterparts.

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Sarah Myers

A Marine, assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), departs the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) as part of a large-scale amphibious assault during Talisman Saber 17. The 31st MEU are working in tandem with Australian counterparts to train together in the framework of stability operations.

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Gavin Shields

Coast Guard:

Four people are transferred from a sinking 30-foot recreational boat to Coast Guard Station Menemsha’s 47-foot Motor Life Boat off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard Thursday, July 17, 2017. The vessel was dewatered and returned to Menemsha Harbor under its own power.

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe
Photo by Lt. John Doherty, Barnstable County Sheriff

Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Keola Marfil, honorary Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Bishop and Petty Officer 2nd Class Cody Dickey walk to an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter during a search and rescue drill at Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, July 8 2017. Fulfilling Bishop’s wish to be a rescue swimmer, they hoisted a hiker and simulated CPR while transporting him to the air station.

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. Cmdr. Michael Benson

Articles

This is what happens when an Army Ranger goes through Navy SEAL training

When Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was released in March of 2016, the thought of two colossal superheroes clashing on the big screen brought out huge box office numbers for its opening weekend. But despite the initial hype, the pedestrian offering saw a huge drop-off in enthusiasm the following week, as poor word-of-mouth reviews plagued it: the final product, as usual, not living up to expectations


Batman versus Superman, on its face, seems such an intriguing construct though. We are unabashedly drawn to comparisons like Willie v The Mick, the US Government v John Gotti, et al, and iPhone v Android.

But what if we were to compare two REAL superhero castings? Let’s say, the US Army’s Rangers and the US Navy’s SEALS. And just for sh*ts and giggles, what if we compared their individual crucibles — their selection processes — and attempted to discern which was the harbinger for guaranteed future toughness or success? Let’s attempt to glean which selection program applied the most pain to its candidates. Is graduating from Ranger School a more daunting task than making it through the Navy’s difficult Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training? And is earning a Ranger tab easier or more difficult than being awarded a SEAL Trident?

And, which course actually results in more drop on requests–a fancy term for quitting? And how can we compare completion rates?

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe
Ranger training. Photo courtesy of US Army.

The comparative analysis is difficult. To my knowledge, I haven’t heard of any former Rangers or SEALS transferring service branches and then embarking on the pursuit of their new branch’s most elite distinction. Maybe there does exist the unique American stud — or committed glutton for punishment — who chose this path of dual misery, and accomplishment. But I haven’t come across any stories chronicling some. With this in mind, I am going to share my reflections on some unique experiences I was privileged to have been afforded during my thirty-three years of government service.

That professional service began when I graduated from West Point in 1987 and was branched as an officer into the Infantry. During the course of my four-year military career, I attended Army Ranger school and graduated with class 4-88. I turned 23 while incarcerated in the mountain phase, endlessly trekking up and down the formidable peaks of the Tennessee Valley Divide. While I wasn’t the class Honor Graduate, I did fairly well throughout the demanding course of instruction and was lucky enough to graduate with my tab, on time, and without being recycled to repeat a phase.

I served during the Cold War Era and the American military buildup precipitated by President Reagan’s stare-down of the Soviets. The 10th Mountain Division had just been reconstituted in 1985, following its long dormancy beginning when WWII ended. Officers and non-coms were selected for the unit’s rebirth only if they possessed the coveted tab. Division brass was intent on modeling the 10th after the Ranger battalions. My assignment to the 10th was contingent on my graduation from Ranger School. Failure to graduate meant a reassignment to the 197th Infantry Brigade (Mechanized), and the embarrassing stigmatization that would assuredly follow that failure.

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe
Photo courtesy of US Army

From those fledgling days of (re)existence, the 10th Mountain Division has now distinguished itself as a solid and repeatedly deployed war-fighting machine in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. But it’s mid-1980’s formation with Ranger leadership was critical to its early success and reestablished prestige as a unit. So, in mid-March of 1988, I arrived at 2-14 Infantry battalion headquarters in my starched BDU’s with freshly attached Ranger tab.

The tab carries with it a certain distinction. And that respect for its woven black and gold threads stems from the hardship endured to earn it — the US military being one of the last bastions of meritocracy in this new 21st century era of everyone-gets-a-trophy.

Historically, the failure rate at the US Army Ranger School fluctuates between 50% – 65%. A portion of those failures, DORs, are self-inflicted. There doesn’t appear to be available statistical data that highlights just how many of those failures are related to DORs.

So, after ETSing from the Army on February 1, 1991, I packed up my quarters at Ft. Drum, NY, loaded my then-wife, newborn son, and two rescue dogs into my ’88 Chevy Blazer, and headed south to the FBI Academy at Quantico, VA, where I began the 20-week course to become an FBI Special Agent. In June of same year, I posted to the FBI’s New York City Office’s Brooklyn-Queens Metropolitan Resident Agency, and began a proud 25-year career as a Fed.

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe
U.S. Army photo by Patrick A. Albright

Along the way, I was selected for the FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team, where I served as a counter-terrorist operator on Echo Assault Team from 1997 – 2001.

And in the Fall of 1998, while serving as one of Echo Team’s divers, and recently returned from deployments to Africa (US Embassy bombings) and North Carolina’s Nantahala Forest (search for ’96 Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph), I was suddenly tapped to deploy to Coronado, California, with three of my fellow HRT diver teammates, for a once in a lifetime experience.

I was an “old man,” all of 33 years. And though I was in peak physical condition, having spent almost a year and a half lifting, and running, and training at a HIGH level … I was in for a rude awakening.

It was September of 1998, and Dave, Jeff, Matty, and I checked into the Naval Special Warfare Center at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado and were officially informed we’d be joining BUD/S class 220. We had just offloaded our rental cars and strode across the sand dunes separating the BUD/S compound from the Pacific Ocean. Worst thing we could have done was to time our arrival with the conduct of Hell Week for BUD/S class 221. Long before casual observers had been treated to Discovery Channel documentaries on the course of instruction to become a SEAL, the four of us took in the spectacle.

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe
Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Shauntae Hinkle-Lymas

Exhausted youngsters — many between 18 – 20 years old — slogging along at the water’s edge, ferrying inflatable RHIBs, lifting massive logs over their heads, performing a staggering amount of “corrective actions” — flutter kicks, crunches, push-ups, and bear crawls. All accompanied by the monotonous, annoying, and ever-present Instructor “motivationals” echoed through a hand-held loud-hailer.

After we’d ingested all the observed pain and misery we could and signed in at NWSC, my HRT colleagues and I made our way over to the Second Phase HQ, a low-profile, nondescript group of single-story military buildings, and introduced ourselves to the cadre.

“All good,” the congenial class proctor stated. Get over to the BOQ on Mainside. Drop your gear off, change into UDT shorts and your yellow HRT PT shirts, and we’ll meet you at the pool for your qualifying PT test — 500 meter swim, push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, and mile and a half run in Bates brand combat boots. We even rolled our wool socks down over our boots exactly the way the SEALs did.

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe
Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Russell

When in Rome…

And so it began. After easily completing the fit test required of all BUD/S aspirants, we joined class 220 as they began the initial stages of Phase Two. The classroom portions on Dive Physics weren’t too daunting — the four of us had the benefit of college degrees — but the daily regimen of early morning PT was an eye-opener. Yes, the four of us were quite fit. But we were also in our thirties, and didn’t take part in the same skill-specific training one receives in the BUD/S preparatory course the Navy offered its young sailors interested in becoming frogmen. And we didn’t have the benefit of true youth. If we were professional athletes, we’d be desperately trying to find an organization to sign us, so we could come off the bench, with a head coach “managing our minutes.”

We also didn’t have the benefit of having taken part in the first phase of BUD/S; that unforgiving crucible that weeds out the weak and strengthens the committed. The relationship between the USN and HRT was a long and durable one. Many of the early generation FBI-HRT operators had been SEALs (as well as former Rangers, Green Berets, and Marines). Compared to the military’s special operations units, HRT was an infant, having come on line in 1983, as a civilian counter-terrorist option for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. The ’72 debacle in Munich was a not-so-distant memory. And US law precluded the military from acting as law enforcement inside the United States.

So, here’s the thing: While I was certainly younger and my body more resilient as a 23-year-old when I completed Ranger School, ten years later, when I attended the Dive Phase of BUD/S — open circuit (SCUBA) and closed circuit (LAR-V rebreather) — with my HRT colleagues, I was certainly more experienced, savvy, and skillful at my craft. But that didn’t aid in the recovery time my body desperately needed between evolutions at BUD/S. Every night, the four of us limped back to our BOQ and attempted to “heal” before the fun began again the next morning, bright and early.

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe
Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Russell

On the ground (or in the sand), we were the BUD/S students equals. We four were strong runners and could complete the grinders of push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, flutter kicks, and crunches as well as any of the kids in 220. On the beach, during timed four mile runs, we were more than their equals, often having to hold back so as not to bring the SEAL Instructors’ wrath down upon our classmates, as in:

“Hey, you pathetic pieces of human filth and fecal matter, why are you letting these old-ass FBI-HRT guys beat you on a timed run? You’ll all be ‘paying the man’ if you allow this to happen again!”

Yes, the typical SEAL Instructor was wicked smart and imbued with a great sense of wit and timing.

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe
Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Shauntae Hinkle-Lymas

We reined in our run times, not wanting to cause any more pain to the young men who so graciously accepted us into their fraternity — despite the fact we hadn’t shared the excruciating pain of First Phase and Hell Week with them.

One of the most special gifts I’ve ever received in the course of my life was to be afforded a Hell Week t-shirt from BUD/S class 220. This class-specific attire made us feel a part — if only for a moment — of their exclusive club. It was truly an honor and I cherish the now tattered shirt emblazoned with the class motto that borrowed from William Ernest Henley’s short and powerful Victorian poem Invictus:

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

During the course of our “internment” at BUD/S, we also participated in the required weekly SEAL Obstacle Course completion. It was an ass-kicker. And again, as I reminisced about my days at Ranger School and tangling with the infamous Darby Queen Obstacle Course, I have to give this round to the SEALs, as well. In the summer of 1998, we HRT guys were fit, relatively young, nimble, agile, and strong. We had all the necessary tools required to excel at the SEAL Obstacle Course. But it was still a daunting task to make the required times. We did so, narrowly, and aided by the Instructor allowance for us to use a rope traversing technique that wasn’t available to the BUD/S students in Second Phase. [Full disclosure: we were also permitted to discreetly utilize calculators for the long division and multiplication required in the classroom on the dive physics exams]

Well, as proficient as we HRT guys found ourselves in PT, on the sand dunes and while partaking in the dreaded “soft sand runs,” we quickly ascertained that the water, however, was a different story altogether. Here’s where those same young kids flat-out kicked our assess. On the weekly open-water two-mile swims, Dave, Jeff, Matty, and I were “competent.” We were all notably strong swimmers who had been hand selected by HRT Dive Team cadre to “represent” at BUD/S.

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe
Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd class Megan Anuci

While we consistently barely made the required times, we were often the last, or next to last teams to come in.

But we were in no condition to compete with the damn dolphins that BUD/S students typically morphed into by Second Phase. The water became our Waterloo of sorts.

But it was pool competition, or pool comp in SEAL shorthand, that really cemented for me what the BUD/S experience was about, and just why SEALs are a cut above all others in the Special Operations community.

And, yes, we four HRT guys participated in pool comp.

And, again, it was another eye-opener.

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe
Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Antonio Turretto Ramos

SEAL Instructors had their own comically dreadful names for the knots they would tie in your hoses underwater. As a BUD/S student, your job was to diligently cycle through a sequence of trouble-shooting procedures to untangle the mess of knotted hoses and restore your air supply…while on a breath-hold. And you had to do so without exhibiting any signs of panic. We were treated to the Matlock and the Babilock — two impossibly difficult and deviously conceived knots named after two particular SEALs on the cadre. Failure to extricate your gear from the wicked devices of the seasoned knot-tying instructors OR failure to work through the prescribed sequence for trouble-shooting your crippled gear led to a failure. Two failures in the same event and you earned a rollback — just like the nefarious recycle at Ranger School — to the next class, if you were lucky not to be dropped from the course.

There’s a reason that, as Rob O’Neill, former SEAL Team Six counter-terror operator — the man who killed Bin Laden — stated to Howard Stern recently, on his eponymous Sirius radio program, that some 85% of BUD/S attendees don’t graduate.

BUD/S is tough — even the teensy-weensy taste of it that I experienced. It’s REALLY tough. And it sucks.

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe
Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jumar T. Balacy

Ranger School was “uncomfortable” and difficult for all the reasons that include sleep deprivation, starvation, and relentless physical overexertion. It was a grind. And reports from recent graduates confirm it’s STILL a grind.

At BUD/S, however, they fed you lots of chow, and in Second Phase, getting eight solid hours of sleep was never an issue. But just as in Ranger School, you had to perform, to make sound decisions, to accomplish critical military tasks and objectives when your body was futilely attempting to heal, and always with the overzealous instructors omnipresent in your ear…

…but you did it at depth.

Whether at the bottom of the 15-foot pool, on the Coronado Bay side, or in the unforgiving waters of the Pacific Ocean, performing at depth takes special operations training to another level entirely. We were forced to conduct doff and don procedures, and buddy-breathing exercises — you know, like sharing the same oxygen supply at depth and while performing tasks like an equipment exchange. There were insanely long breath-holds, while enduring the Instructor-assaults associated with the dreaded pool comp. Then there was the archaic (by design) and cumbersome Jacques Cousteau era twin 80’s tanks and leaky two-hose regulators which made for a purposeful panic-induced set of pass/fail evolutions. Yes, I believe the experiences to be the closest thing to waterboarding — sanctioned “almost-drowning” — that there is. And it’s legal!

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe
Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Dominique M. Canales

Learning to dive with the Dräger (or Draeger) closed circuit rebreather gear — the LAR-V — was the purpose behind sending HRT divers to BUD/S. So, no, in a civilian law enforcement capacity, there’s no need to learn the craft of placing limpet mines on enemy ship hulls. However, learning the advanced system of transit-diving that allows an operator to approach a target underwater, bereft of telltale bubbles is a key skillset for HRT to have at its disposal. That was the purpose behind the relationship we had with the Navy and is how we ended up enrolled in the Second Phase of BUD/S.

The advanced dive skills we learned were necessary. The voluntary participation in PT and mild hazing — being dropped for push-ups or forced to become “wet and sandy” — the “sugar cookie” punishment — was part of earning our stripes and being accepted as outsiders within the close-knit SEAL and BUD/S community.

Make no mistake about it — we weren’t to become SEALs and weren’t subjected to a fraction of what the Navy candidates endured, but we certainly gained a modicum of appreciation for the process.

And again, as difficult as Ranger School was to complete, the 8 weeks I spent at BUD/S proved that there’s a clear distinction between difficult and difficult-at-depth.

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe
Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Adam Henderson

Apologies, fellow Rangers, but this round goes to the Navy’s SEALs. I’ve been up close and personal with both Selection processes. 81 torturous days at Ranger School did not compare to the tiny portion of the year of misery available to BUD/S candidates that I experienced.

Rangers, can I get a Hooah!

And SEALs, while we’re at it, how about a Hooyah!

And let’s forever remember that we’re ALL part of the same team!

God bless the United States of America and God bless and protect our brave Special Operators who continue to confidently stride into places full of wrath and tears, and do so bravely, selflessly and willingly.

Thank you.

Originally published July 2017.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

American Dragoons get their up-armored firepower in Germany

The 2nd Cavalry Regiment, known as the Dragoons, now have an appropriately named vehicle. The first of the M1296 Stryker “Dragoon” infantry carrier vehicles have arrived in Germany, and will be equipping this unit in 2018.


According to a report from Stars and Stripes, the M1296s are intended to help the Vilseck-based unit defeat Russian armored vehicles, including BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles, which outclassed the M1126 Stryker infantry carrier vehicles used in Iraq and Afghanistan during the War on Terror.

The baseline Strykers are primarily armed with either a Mk 19 40mm automatic grenade launcher or an M2 .50-caliber heavy machine gun. The M1296s, however, are equipped with a 30mm Bushmaster II chain gun. Like the M1126, the M1296 can carry nine infantrymen, the standard composition of an infantry squad in the United States Army. These dismounts can use the FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missile, which has a range of just over a mile and half and is able to accurately strike the top of an armored vehicle.

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe
M1126 Stryker Infantry Combat Vehicle. (US Army photo)

The BMP-3, by comparison, carries only seven infantrymen, but compensates by having a 100mm main gun, a 30mm autocannon, and three 7.62 x 54mm machine guns. The Russian BTR-80A and BTR-90 wheeled armored personnel carriers — other Russian competitors in the Stryker’s class — are equipped with a 30mm autocannon.

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe
A BMP-3 in Moscow, prior to a 2008 parade. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

The Dragoon is not the only new Stryker variant arriving in Germany. At least 87 Strykers are being equipped with the Kongsberg Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station (CROWS II) that can fire the Javelin missile. These vehicles would be used in conjunction with the M1134 Stryker Anti-Tank Guided Missile vehicle, which can fire the BGM-71 TOW missile.

Check out the video below to learn more about the M1296 Stryker “Dragoon.”

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=duel4upv6wM
(New Update Defence | YouTube)
MIGHTY HISTORY

8 books about the Iraq War that will give you something to think about

The morning of March 19, 2003, marked the beginning of the Iraq War that would eventually lead to devastating loss for both countries. With its roots in the first Persian Gulf War, some argue that the Iraq/U.S. conflict was inevitable, while others consider it an unnecessary war.

After dictator Saddam Hussein’s refusal to abandon Iraq in 2003, U.S. and allied forces launched a full-scale attack. What followed were years of American occupation, a large number of Iraqi and American casualties, and a growing tide of opposition to the seemingly unending war. The Iraq War spanned nearly the entirety of two presidential administrations in the United States, leading to shifting strategies and new technologies. Eventually, the Obama administration withdrew the final troops in 2011, but the long years of warfare continue to affect the Iraqi nation. These Iraq War books recount, analyze, and revisit the effects and experiences of a war that some have deemed preventable.


Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe

(The Feminist Press at CUNY)

1. Dreaming of Baghdad

By Haifa Zangana

A humane approach to Middle Eastern affairs, Dreaming of Baghdad is a hauntingly beautiful memoir that will leave you with a new perspective on the “War on Terror”. We follow Haifa Zangana’s experience as a political activist during Saddam Hussein’s reign in Iraq. She — along with a small group who resisted Saddam’s rule — was eventually captured and imprisoned at Abu Ghraib.

There is a stark illumination on the psychological disturbances experienced by individuals under dictatorship. Zangana is brutally honest when retelling her story of exile and incarceration; she experienced the agonizing loss of friends and comrades through torture and death in prison. A first-hand account that shifts between time, place, and subjectivity to comment on how the trauma of power and war affect our memory.

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe

(Skyhorse)

2. Packed for the Wrong Trip

By W. Zach Griffith

The relatively unknown prison at Abu Ghraib garnered global attention once photos of the abuses inflicted on prisoners were released. Abu Ghraib quickly became the focal point of a worldwide scandal. Just a few months after the photographs were released, the 152nd Field Artillery Battalion of the Maine National Guard arrived to serve as guards. Originally trained and meant to serve in Afghanistan, the soldiers were deeply unprepared for the scrutiny they would receive and the attacks they would soon endure. The group of citizen-soldiers were forced to rely on each other in order to survive one of the darkest prisons in the world and change it for the better.

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe

(Open Road + Grove/Atlantic)

3. The Finish

By Mark Bowden

Get inside the political choices that brought down Osama bin Laden. Bowden’s narrative takes the reader all the way back to President Clinton’s administration to discover the many seemingly minor actions that allowed al-Qaeda to grow. After Bin Laden’s terrorist organization wreaked havoc through the 1990s and early 2000s, taking him down became a top priority for foreign intelligence services around the world.

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe

(HMH)

4. Why We Lost

By Daniel P. Bolger

Firsthand experience and understanding brings a new perspective to American actions in the Iraq War. With a career as an army general that spanned over 35 years, Daniel Bolger provides a candid look into U.S. led campaigns with an insider look into the meetings, strategies, and key players of the war.

Bolger’s main argument is that we lost the Iraq War because the American forces never knew who they were truly fighting. As Bolger puts it, “Every man shot by U.S. soldiers wore civilian clothes. If he had an AK-47, was he getting ready to shoot you or merely defending his family? If he was talking on a cell phone, was he tipping off the insurgency or setting off an IED, or was he phoning his wife?”

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe

(Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)

5. The Iraq War: The Military Offensive, from Victory in 21 Days to the Insurgent Aftermath

By John Keegan

His background as a military historian with extensive knowledge on warfare gives Keegan’s discussion a refreshing, objective perspective. Keegan collated a well-detailed look into Iraqi history, from its origins in the Ottoman Empire to Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship. The Iraq War, despite its broad title, primarily recounts the 21-day invasion by the United States and allies that removed Hussein from power. As an explanation of the factors that led to the war, this is an unmissable resource.

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe

(Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)

6. The Mirror Test: America at War in Iraq and Afghanistan

By J. Kael Weston

This powerful 2016 book examines the relationship between warfare and diplomacy. Like many of the other authors on this list, Weston had an inside look into the U.S. government during the Iraq War. Weston was a State Department official — serving over seven years in Iraq and Afghanistan. Weston uses this experience to show both the war and his own personal journey throughout the narrative. As a firsthand witness, he saw the sacrifice and casualties caused by a devastating war. The book follows Weston as he visits families, memorials, and the grave sites of 31 soldiers who perished in a helicopter crash on January 26, 2005 — an operation he personally ordered. This deeply affecting tale reckons with Weston’s and the country’s actions in Iraq.

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe

(Bloomsbury Publishing)

7. Run to the Sound of the Guns: The True Story of an American Ranger at War in Afghanistan and Iraq

By Nicholas Moore

This eyewitness account of the Iraq War is presented through a series of vignettes as Nicholas Moore recounts the development of the Ranger Regiment. He chronicles the challenges troops had to face and adapt to while hunting for Iraq’s Most Wanted. Serving in an elite special operations unit, Moore was intimately involved in the war on terror, spending over a decade with the U.S. Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment.

Moore discusses the search and rescue of Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell and the devastating loss of the Chinook helicopter crash, which killed 38 men and one military working dog. Moore sees the events both as a soldier and as a husband and father who nearly lost his life in a global war against terrorism.

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe

(Random House Publishing Group)

8. The Strongest Tribe: War, Politics, and the Endgame in Iraq

By Bing West

This is a straightforward recapitulation of the Iraq War that reconfigures the reader’s understanding of the long-lasting conflict. Whatever your political stance, West puts it all under the microscope and leaves you questioning what you thought you knew. From the United States’s entrance into the war to the brink of defeat in 2006, to the unimaginable turnaround in 2007, West criticizes the Bush administration and Army generals as he travels between the Pentagon and Ramadi. In the end, West asks us to reflect on our mistakes to avoid repeating history.

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

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Today in military history: US raids Hanoi

On Aug. 27, 1972, U.S. aircraft hit North Vietnamese barracks near Hanoi and Haiphong in the heaviest bombing in four years.

Earlier that year, the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) launched a ferocious military operation known as the Easter Offensive, designed to gain as much territory and destroy as many U.S. and South Vietnamese units as possible. 

In response, President Nixon unleashed Operation Linebacker I, a continuous bombing effort against the North.

On Aug. 27, U.S. aircraft flattened NVA barracks near Hanoi and Haiphong and destroyed bridges on the railroad line to China as four ships shelled the Haiphong port and attacked two NVA patrol boats. 

Operation Linebacker One would continue through October and in December, Linebacker II would begin.

Tens of thousands of Americans would die as a result of the Vietnam War, with three hundred thousand more injured and countless traumatized. In 1995, Vietnam released an official estimate detailing as many as two million civilian deaths on both sides with somewhere between two hundred thousand and one million combatants killed. 

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Veteran Democrats use Day 3 of DNC to put verbal crosshairs on Trump

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe
Congressman Seth Moulton, a Marine Corps vet., addressing the Veterans and Military Family caucus at the DNC in Philadelphia. (Photo: Ward Carroll)


PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — Last week the Republicans used Day One of their convention in Cleveland to tee up national security issues, rolling out military veterans like “Lone Survivor” SEAL Marcus Luttrell and former head of DIA Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn to attack Hillary Clinton for her inaction around the force protection disaster in Benghazi, Libya and her reckless handling of classified emails while serving as Secretary of State.

Several veterans advocates who’d also attended the RNC in Cleveland had wondered aloud, after a couple of days of next to nothing on the topic of issues facing the military, whether the DNC was going to mount any counter to Republican accusations and what they’d presented on behalf of the military and veterans community the week prior. Yesterday they got their answer as the Democrats brought out the party’s own platoon of military veterans to put the verbal crosshairs squarely on Donald J. Trump’s center of mass.

Massachusetts Congressman Seth Moulton, a Marine veteran who served four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, set the tone in the afternoon when he kicked off the Veterans and Military Family Counsel session with some very specific criticisms about Trump.

“The Republican nominee for president goes around praising Vladimir Putin and Saddam Hussein,” Moulton said. “Specifically, about Saddam Hussein, he praised him for killing terrorists. Let’s just remember who Saddam Hussein termed ‘terrorists.’ There are American troops like me. He killed hundreds of Americans. And there were tens of thousands of innocent Shite civilians in his own country whom he massacred in the streets. It’s pretty unfathomable that we have a major party nominee who says things like that on the campaign trail.”

Moulton, who just returned from a Congressional junket to Iraq and Afghanistan, went on to accuse Trump of having a bad effect on the morale of troops on the front lines.

“I would never purport to speak for all the troops, but there was remarkable consensus around those dinner table discussions that Donald Trump is a threat to our country,” Moulton said. “And when you’re hearing that from the guys who are literally putting their lives on the line as we sit here today, it makes you stop and think.

“If there’s one group of people who Americans will listen to it’s all of you who have put your lives on the line for our country. It’s all of us who have the credibility to say, ‘I know a little bit about our national security because I was part of it.'”

Moulton’s remarks were followed by an equally pointed attack against Trump from Illinois Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, an Army veteran who lost both legs after her helicopter was hit by enemy fire in Iraq.

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe
Tammy Duckworth speaking to a vet gathering at the DNC. (Photo: Ward Carroll)

“We’re talking about a man on the other side who this morning said he wanted to renegotiate the Geneva Convention,” Duckworth said. “Well, let me tell you what: When you’ve sat in a downed aircraft outside the wire after you’ve just been shot down and you’re bleeding to death, you got a whole different perspective about the Geneva Convention.”

“[Donald Trump] categorically wants to send more young women and men into combat,” said Will Fischer, veterans representative for the AFL-CIO, who followed Duckworth on the stage. “His kids, like Donnie Jr., ain’t putting on a flak jacket anytime soon.”

After the Veterans and Military Families Counsel session concluded, We Are The Mighty had an exclusive audience with more than a dozen flag and general officers who were present this week to show their support for Hillary Clinton.

“One of the most important things is understanding the value of partnerships, coalitions, and alliances for the U.S. to be able to carry out its missions,” retired Navy Rear Admiral Kevin Green said. “Candidates for commander-in-chief need to understand that’s how we avoid unnecessary wars, that’s how we leverage our allies and our friends to do the kinds of things we need to do keep the United States safe and secure.”

Green framed Trump’s business approach to foreign policy as a liability, saying, “If you consider the relationships with other nations as transactional – what do I get if I give you this? – it undermines our national security.”

“Reality TV has nothing to do with [national defense] reality,” added Rear Admiral Harold Robinson, a retired Navy chaplain. “He can say three lies during the day and then deny them. Soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines need to be looked at in the eye and told God’s own truth when we ask them to go out there and kill or be killed.”

“The commander in chief doesn’t have any checks and balances,” said retired Air Force Major General Maggie Woodward. “He makes a decision on the spot and we execute it. That’s why it’s so terrifying to have a guy that we all believe is not qualified or temperamentally fit for that position.”

“One of the things I discovered, not only leading troops in combat but also while in charge of recruiting for the Marine Corps, is what we had to tell America in order to have their sons and daughters be part of the military,” said retired Lieutenant General Walter Gaskin. “They expected us to be professional, to lead, and to be knowledgeable of the world where we were sending their kids. We have to do that again so that the average person understands what’s about to happen if the person putting them there is alienating our allies and the Muslim locals in the areas we’re going to be fighting in.”

But the final thought for the day on matters of military readiness and national security was reserved for Leon Panetta, former head of the CIA and Department of Defense.

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe
Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta speaks to the DNC. (DNC TV screengrab)

“Donald Trump says he gets his foreign policy experience from watching TV and running the Miss Universe pageant,” Panetta said from the main stage at the Wells Fargo Center during his primetime appearance just before President Obama’s speech that closed out the program. “If only it were funny, but it is deadly serious.”

The response from the Trump campaign to the daylong fusillade was muted by Trump standards. The usually prolific candidate was idle on Twitter until late in the day when he tweeted something about how shooting deaths of police officers were up by 78 percent and that the country doesn’t feel great already, a counter to a statement made by Obama during his remarks.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Air Force is finally designing female-specific flight equipment

The Air Force is working to redesign the gear used by female pilots across the force after facing challenges with current flight equipment.

“We have women performing in every combat mission, and we owe it to them to have gear that fits, is suited for a woman’s frame and (one) can be in for hours on end,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein at a Defense Writers Group breakfast, March 2018 in Washington, D.C.

The majority of the equipment currently worn by pilots was built off anthropometric data from the 1960s, a time when only men were in aviator roles.

The lack of variety and representation in the current designs have caused multiple issues for women, said Col. Samantha Weeks, the 14th Flying Training Wing commander, assigned to Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi.


Many of the uniform issues circulate around G-suits, flight suits, urinary devices and survival vests.

“The challenges other female aviators and I face are the fit and availability of our flight equipment,” said Capt. Lauren Ellis, 57th Adversary Tactics Group executive officer.

Limited sizes and accessibility often force aircrew to order the wrong size and have it extensively altered to fit properly, taking time and money away from the mission, Ellis said.

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe

A participant of the Female Flight Equipment Workshop writes down issues women experience with current urinary devices at AFWERX Vegas, Las Vegas, Jan. 30, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)

“All of the bladders on my G-suit need to be modified,” Ellis said. “It’s a lot of work for the Aircrew Flight Equipment, or AFE, Airmen. Even after they’re modified, the proportions don’t fit.”

G-suits are vital anti-gravity gear for aviators. The bladders in the suit fill with air and apply pressure to the pilot’s body to prevent a loss of consciousness during high levels of acceleration. Not having a properly fitted G-suit could lead to hypoxia followed by unconsciousness.

Ellis said ill-fitting flight suits are a common problem for men and women. Aircrew who are significantly above or below average height have a hard time finding suits that fit their body type.

Even if a woman found a flight suit close to her size, the flight-suit zipper is designed for men—not women. Female aircrew struggle with relieving themselves during flights because the flight-suit zipper isn’t designed low enough for them to properly use their urinary devices.

“There are flight suits that were designed with longer zippers for women, but they’re almost never available,” Ellis said. “It’s common for females to have to wait months to receive the flight suit they’ve ordered which causes them to have to wear the male one.”

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe

Participants of the Female Flight Equipment Workshop review various flight-suits designs at AFWERX Vegas, Las Vegas, Jan. 30, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)

Along with the possibility of injury and discomfort associated with G-suits and flight suits, women struggle to get their life-saving gear to fit accordingly. The process of ejecting is so powerful, even pilots with well-fitting gear are at a serious risk of injury. It’s important for aviators to be heard and the modernization of equipment for everyone continues, Ellis said.

“In certain situations, having ill-fitting gear, such as harnesses and survival vests, can result in a loss of life,” Ellis said. “If an aircrew member ejects from the aircraft with equipment that doesn’t fit, they can be severely injured or lose their life.”

The Air Force and Air Combat Command are working to find a feasible solution for aircrew members.

Part of the strategy to correct the uniform problem was to take part in several collaborative Female Flight Equipment Workshops at AFWERX Vegas. Female Airmen stationed across the globe traveled to the innovation hub and attended the workshops to explore areas of opportunity and come up with proposed solutions.

“The purpose of the workshops is to bring together female aviators, Aircrew Flight Equipment, Human Systems Program Office personnel and subject matter experts to understand the current products, the acquisition process and the actual needs from the field,” Weeks said.

Throughout the workshops, aviators participated in briefings, as well as discussions and exercises with the agencies involved in the design and distribution of their gear.

“The Human Systems Program Office acquires and sustains all equipment for male and female Airmen,” said Lt. Col. Elaine Bryant Human Systems Program Office deputy chief, assigned to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. “We are committed to hearing our consumers’ voices, and we will make the changes necessary to our current process to meet their needs.”

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe

Participants of the Female Flight Equipment Workshop discuss the advantages and disadvantages of multiple- piece body armor at AFWERX Vegas, Las Vegas, Jan. 30, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)

The workshops established the communication needed between the consumer, designers and suppliers to reach a mutual goal of understanding and development.

“We now have some pretty clear actions coming out of the Female Flight Equipment Workshops,” Bryant said. “We’ve heard the feedback, and we want to make sure we have actionable things we’re accomplishing within specific time frames for our consumers.”

The Human Systems Program Office will strive to make progressive changes within their operations and better their acquisition process, explained Bryant.

“We will take the field up on their offers of coming out to the units and meeting the aircrew for whom we supply,” Bryant said. “We’ll ensure we maintain the lines of communication needed to better our program.”

Another major improvement for female aviators is the adoption of the Battlefield Airmen Rapid Resource Replenishment System, a centrally managed equipment facility. BARS is capable of shipping needed resources directly to female aircrew. Using this system will allow women to acquire the proper fitting equipment they need within an acceptable timeline.

“BARS is a step in the right direction,” Ellis said. “Everyone deserves to have equipment that fits them. There are certain things we have to adapt to, but as long as we’re trying to improve and modernize our gear, we can be a more ready and lethal force.”

“The Air Force has evolved over the years and continues to evolve,” Weeks echoed. “Female aviators entering the Air Force now will not have the same issues I had over the last 21 years.”

Information from an ACC news feature was used in this story.

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

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10 things to look forward to about military retirement (and 5 things not to)

Taking off the uniform and retiring is fraught with fear and uncertainty. Luckily, you’ll live. It might not seem like it sometimes after spending so much of your life in the military, but with a little persistence and patience, everything will be fine.


First, 10 things you can look forward to:

1. Higher pay

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe

This is what everyone gets excited for and it’s a good deal after you get through the searching, preparing, and interviewing processes. It takes time and can cause night sweats wondering where you’ll end up after retirement, but if you play your cards right and land a decent job then your net pay can increase by about 50 percent. It’s not Easy Street, but it’s Easier Than Before Street.

2. Stability

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Cpt. Angela Webb)

This is a double-edged sword. Some people like the nomadic lifestyle the military gives us and actually struggle with sitting still in one place. We enjoyed seeing new places and wondering where we’ll be sent next. So when that train stops, it’s hard for some people to deal with. Others can’t wait to put down roots in a community and never move again. It’s nice to finally have an address that doesn’t change and no chance of another deployment order.

3. PT on your time

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe
Staff Sgt. Gideon Connelly leaps over a gutter during training at an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colorado. He is training to be a part of the Paralympic track and field team for the 2016 Paralympic Games. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

If you hated early morning PT then good news … you can hit the gym at whatever time you like. Leave work early and go for an afternoon run? Why, yes, I will thanks.

4. Networking

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe
(Photo: Starbucks)

This can be fun or a pain depending on how you look at it. Networking is always a good idea, especially if you’re a professional. If a post-military job doesn’t work out and you want to try something else, you have to know people who can help. So now you have a valid excuse to get out there and mingle.

5. Health insurance

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe
(Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Elizabeth Merriam)

While your co-workers at your new job are complaining about co-pay, premiums, and Obamacare, you’ll be comfortable in knowing Tricare and/or the VA system is cheap and effective … okay, now that I read that back it sounds kinda ridiculous. However, if you happen to be in an area that has a good military hospital and your family doesn’t have any major medical issues, the money you save on healthcare can be significant. I’m probably one of the few people who has nothing bad to say about the Army healthcare system, but I live outside Ft Belvoir (huge hospital) and have not had anything significant to deal with.

6. Hobbies

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe
(Photo: Wikimedia)

Never had time for one before? You do now. And if your hobby is hanging out with family, even better. Build a drone, write a novel, or hike the Grand Canyon finally.

7. Joining the “old farts” organizations

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe
Army vet, actor, and American Legion member Johnny Jenkinson. (Photo: We Are The Mighty)

The American Legion, VFW, IAVA, and everyone else will try to get you to join their club. These groups do good things for the collective good of the military but they’re honestly not for everyone. As soon as I retired I joined my local outpost but just never really connected with them on a personal level. But I continue to pay my dues and support them because those organizations are great advocates for the veteran community.

8. Running into old friends again

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe

The American military is the biggest fraternity in the world. I live in DC and during any given month an old friend has to come here for one reason or another and we invariably get together, have a few drinks and enjoy Reason Number 9 to look forward to retirement …

9. Reliving old tales

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe
Military veterans share their individual stories during dinner at an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colo.

Over and over and over again. And history seems to change with each telling of the tale.

10. Facial hair

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe
Gen. George Crook. (Photo: Civil War archives)

Come on … you know you want to grow that sweet goatee.

Now, five things not to look forward to:

1. Loss of camaraderie

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Richard W. Rose Jr. (Ret.) and Staff Sgt. Gideon Connelly celebrate after climbing a 50-foot mountain during an Adaptive Sports Camp in Crested Butte, Colorado. (U.S. Air Force photo by/Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

You take the uniform off the soldier, but not the soldier out of the uniform…or something like that. The people you served with are what makes the life special. They had your back and you had theirs and it’s hard to find that camaraderie in the civilian world.

2. Lack of respect from young bucks

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Mstyslav Chernov

Get it through your head that your former rank doesn’t mean anything when you get out. Even if you were a general officer, you’re Mister Jones now, so when some brazen E4 cuts in front of you in line at the PX because he’s in uniform, get over it.

3. Not being able to do what you did on active duty

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe

This is more of an age thing, but the days of running 5 miles in body armor or going on a drinking binge the night before a Company run are over. Long walks through the neighborhood are the routine now. And naps.

4. Going to the bottom of the list of priorities

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe
(Photo: Greenbrier Historical Society)

Whether you’re picking up a prescription or trying to get on a MAC flight, retirees are the last priority for everything. In an instant, you go from priority one to priority none.

5. Dental insurance

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe
(Photo: Department of Defense)

For some strange voodoo reason, Delta Dental is 4 times more expensive than any of the dental insurance plans of the civilian companies I’ve worked for since retiring. Weird.

Kelly Crigger is a retired lieutenant colonel and the author of “Curmudgeonism; A Surly Man’s Guide to Midlife.”

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That time the Japanese made a last-ditch plan to spread the plague in Calfornia

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe


The Empire of Japan was in dire straits by 1945. Between the terribly bloody Pacific island-hopping campaign by the United States and its allies and the firebombing against Japanese cities, Japan was looking for anything it could use to hold back the enemy tide. One plan that was almost brought into fruition was the mass use of bubonic plague against the U.S. mainland, meant to terrify the civilian population and disrupt the war effort off the West coast.

The plan was named Operation Cherry Blossoms at Night, and was the brainchild of Lt. General Shiro Ishii, the commander of Japan’s infamous biological warfare program. Unit 731, as the program was known, had been developing and testing biological weapons since 1932 under the perversely named Army Epidemic Prevention Research Laboratory.

Using special float-planes deployed from five of the huge Japanese I-400 class submarines, which had been designed to launch airstrikes against the United States West coast, the plan was to use either biological bombs or Kamikaze attacks to spread bubonic plague across San Diego. The mission was expected to be a one-way suicide mission for all pilots and submariners involved.

To develop these weapons and others, Unit 731 had been using human experimentation on a vast and horrifying scale, testing everything from germs and chemical toxins to flame throwers on live subjects. Most of the experimentation took place on civilians from occupied territories, mainly China, but some Allied prisoners of war were also included in the experiments.

But it was by far the aerial biological bombing in mainland China that took the largest toll. Unit 731 used low-flying aircraft to infect Chinese coastal cities with bubonic plague infected fleas, and also experimented with air-dropped cholera, anthrax, and tularemia. The resulting outbreaks are estimated to have killed as many as 400,000 to 600,000 Chinese, mainly civilians.

These sort of results made the weapons seem ideal for a strike on the U.S. west coast. They hoped that the resulting epidemic would spread and disrupt the huge logistical operations supplying the U.S. armies and fleets bearing down on the Japanese Home Islands.

It was not the first plan by the Japanese to attack the U.S. mainland. Several Japanese submarines had shelled targets targets on the west coast, with minimal results. Operation Fu-Go launched over 9,300 hydrogen balloons loaded with explosives into the Pacific jet stream, where they would be propelled towards North America.

The plan was that the explosives would start forest fires, burn cropland and spread fear among the civilian population. Despite Japanese propaganda that claimed American deaths in the thousands and widespread panic, the program was an almost complete failure. It was clear that something more destructive was needed for such piecemeal attacks, and biological weapons seemed a natural solution.

In the end, after a lot of careful planning, the operation never happened. Only 3 out a projected 18 I-400 submarines could built, and the Japanese high command wanted those held back to defend the Home Islands. The operation was not slated to begin until Sept. 22, 1945, and the August atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the subsequent surrender rendered the operation moot. No biological weapons were ever dropped onto to U.S. soil.

After the war, despite the horrific atrocities committed against civilians and Allied POW’s, many of the doctors of Unit 731, including Shiro Ishii, were granted immunity from war crimes prosecution in exchange for their knowledge of biological warfare and human experimentation. Part of Operation Paperclip, which also gave immunity to hundreds of German rocket scientists and other scientific personnel, the US government had decided their expertise was too valuable to lose.

It is unlikely that Operation Cherry Blossoms at Night could have had any real effect on the outcome of the war, given that victory over Japan by the U.S. in 1945 was a foregone conclusion. Japan was essentially blockaded, its remaining forces were hopelessly outgunned, and the U.S. atomic bombings and the Soviet invasion of Manchuria showed that no last ditch plan could save them.

Unit 731 was the first to use modern biological weapons on a large scale, and the terrible toll they took in China showed how ruthlessly effective such munitions could be. If the war had not ended when it did, San Diego and southern California might have faced what China had already suffered, with terrible consequences.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia will challenge any UN ban of killer robots

Russian diplomats delivered a message for those who want to ban killer robots: Russia will build them no matter what. That is the sum total of what happened during a week of discussion on the issue of weapons and vehicles operated by artificial intelligence in Geneva.


According to a report by DefenseOne.com, a statement by the Russian government on Nov. 10 laid out a very hard-line position against the ban on what the United Nations is calling “lethal autonomous weapon systems,” or LAWS.

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe
This screen capture fro a video released by the Russian Republic of Dagestan shows a robot equipped with weapons. (Youtube screenshot)

“According to the Russian Federation, the lack of working samples of such weapons systems remains the main problem in the discussion on LAWS,” the statement said. “Certainly, there are precedents of reaching international agreements that establish a preventive ban on prospective types of weapons. However, this can hardly be considered as an argument for taking preventive prohibitive or restrictive measures against LAWS being a by far more complex and wide class of weapons of which the current understanding of humankind is rather approximate.”

The Russians also claimed that there was a risk of harming civilian artificial intelligence capabilities, saying, “It is hardly acceptable for the work on LAWS to restrict the freedom to enjoy the benefits of autonomous technologies being the future of humankind.”

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe
An Endeavor Robotics 710 Kobra checks out a vehicle. (Youtube screenshot)

The Russian hard line comes as questions percolate about Russian compliance with other arms control treaties. Russia has already been accused of violating the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, prompting the United States to begin development of a new ground-launched cruise missile. A report from RealClearDefense.com noted that Russia’s force of Tu-22M3 Backfire bombers may have been modified in a manner that fits the definition of strategic bombers under the New START Treaty.

In the past, some arms control treaties have not prevented bad guys from using banned weapons. The Chemical Weapons Convention did not prevent the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria from using mustard agent against American troops in 2016.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The origins of the moon’s ‘sunburn’

Every object, planet or person traveling through space has to contend with the Sun’s damaging radiation — and the Moon has the scars to prove it.

Research using data from NASA’s ARTEMIS mission — short for Acceleration, Reconnection, Turbulence and Electrodynamics of the Moon’s Interaction with the Sun — suggests how the solar wind and the Moon’s crustal magnetic fields work together to give the Moon a distinctive pattern of darker and lighter swirls.


The Sun releases a continuous outflow of particles and radiation called the solar wind. The solar wind washes over the planets, moons and other bodies in our solar system, filling a bubble of space — called the heliosphere — that extends far past the orbit of Pluto.

Magnetic Bubbles on the Moon Reveal Evidence of “Sunburn”

www.youtube.com

Here on Earth, we’re largely protected from the damaging effects of the solar wind: Because the solar wind is magnetized, Earth’s natural magnetic field deflects the solar wind particles around our planet so that only a small fraction of them reach our planet’s atmosphere.

But unlike Earth, the Moon has no global magnetic field. However, magnetized rocks near the lunar surface do create small, localized spots of magnetic field that extend anywhere from hundreds of yards to hundreds of miles. This is the kind of information that needs to be well understood to better protect astronauts on the Moon from the effects of radiation. The magnetic field bubbles by themselves aren’t robust enough to protect humans from that harsh radiation environment, but studying their structure could help develop techniques to protect our future explorers.

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe

Research using data from NASA’s ARTEMIS mission suggests that lunar swirls, like the Reiner Gamma lunar swirl imaged here by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, could be the result of solar wind interactions with the Moon’s isolated pockets of magnetic field.

(NASA LRO WAC science team)

“The magnetic fields in some regions are locally acting as this magnetic sunscreen,” said Andrew Poppe, a scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, who researches the Moon’s crustal magnetic fields using data from NASA’s ARTEMIS mission along with simulations of the Moon’s magnetic environment.

These small bubbles of magnetic “sunscreen” can also deflect solar wind particles — but on a much smaller scale than Earth’s magnetic field. While they aren’t enough to protect astronauts by themselves, they do have a fundamental effect on the Moon’s appearance. Under these miniature magnetic umbrellas, the material that makes up the Moon’s surface, called regolith, is shielded from the Sun’s particles. As those particles flow toward the Moon, they are deflected to the areas just around the magnetic bubbles, where chemical reactions with the regolith darken the surface. This creates the distinctive swirls of darker and lighter material that are so prominent they can be seen from Earth — one more piece of the puzzle to help us understand the neighbor NASA plans to re-visit within the next decade.

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