If you ever saw the movie Black Hawk Down, you saw the “Little Bird” kick some serious butt out there. Officially, it comes in two variants, the MH-6 (a small transport that holds as many as nine troops, according to GlobalSecurity.org), and the AH-6 (a small but powerful attack helicopter that usually carries miniguns and Hydra rockets, per GlobalSecurity.org).
These helicopters serve well, but they had an ancestor that is much less known. That was the OH-6 Cayuse, also known as the Loach, which first flew in 1963, according to MilitaryFactory.com. Back then, it was made by the Hughes Tool Company’s aviation division, and was known as the Hughes 500 in the civilian market. And yes, that company was owned by the Howard Hughes – mastermind behind the Glomar Explorer and Spruce Goose, among other projects.
The OH-6A was not armed, other than whatever pilots took aboard. But it was small, nimble, and fast. The Army bought over 1,400 choppers, but the Army soon was forced to re-assess its procurement decision. Massive losses in Vietnam (over 650 airframes) and training (297 more) caused the Army to realize they needed a new helicopter.
In 1969, the Army bought a version of the Bell 206, which became the OH-58, and which would serve for almost five decades. It seemed like the end, but some U.S. allies bought the OH-6, and some found their way to what would become the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, the Nightstalkers. In the wake of “Desert One,” the Army unveiled new versions using an improved version of the OH-6, the first “Little Bird” helicopters to serve America’s special operators.
A weapons sergeant with the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) who heroically fought up a mountain through a barrage of enemy fire to help rescue his detachment members will receive the Medal of Honor.
The White House announced today that Master Sgt. Matthew O. Williams went above and beyond the call of duty during an operation on April 6, 2008. Williams — a sergeant at the time of the operation — was assigned to Special Operations Task Force-33 in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.
Williams will receive the highest military award for valor at a White House ceremony, Oct. 30, 2019. A “Hall of Heroes” induction ceremony at the Pentagon is slated for Oct. 31, 2019.
In April 2008, Williams joined 14 other Special Forces operators and roughly 100 Afghan commandos on a mission to take out or apprehend high-value enemy targets that were operating out of a mountain-top village within Shok Valley.
Then-Sgt. Matthew Williams with other team members assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), wait on a hill top for the helicopter exfiltration in eastern Afghanistan, late spring 2007.
(Master Sgt. Matthew Williams)
Shortly after the joint force dropped into the area and organized into elements, the lead command and control team started their treacherous hike up a near-vertical mountainside toward the objective.
It did not take long for the adversary to respond. A barrage of heavy sniper and machine-gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades rained down on the team’s location.
In the ensuing chaos, the lead element was pinned down at a higher elevation and isolated from the larger military force. Further, they had sustained injuries and were requesting support.
In response, Williams organized a counter-assault team and led them across a waist-deep, ice-cold fast-moving river, and fought their way up the terraced mountain to the besieged lead element’s location.
Joined by his team sergeant, Williams positioned his Afghan commando force to provide a violent base of suppressive fire, preventing the enemy force from overrunning the team’s position. In turn, the actions of Williams and his team allowed the first command and control element to consolidate and move the casualties down the mountain.
As Williams worked to defend the force’s position, an enemy sniper took aim and injured his team sergeant. With disregard for his safety, Williams maneuvered through an onslaught of heavy machine-gun fire to render aid.
Then-Sgt. Matthew Williams assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), conducts long-range weapons training at Camp Morehead, Afghanistan, during the fall of 2009.
(U.S. Army Master Sgt. Matthew Williams)
Once his team sergeant was secure, the joint team egressed off the mountainside. Williams descended with his team sergeant off a near-vertical 60-foot cliff to a casualty collection point and continued to provide first aid.
With more injured soldiers coming down the mountainside, Williams ascended through a hail of small arms fire to help with their evacuation, and also repair his operational detachment commander’s radio.
As Williams returned to the base of the mountain with three wounded soldiers, enemy forces maneuvered to their position in an attempt to overrun the casualty collection point. Williams and the Afghan commandos quickly responded with a counter-attack and courageously fought back the attacking force.
As the medical evacuation helicopter arrived, Williams exposed himself to insurgent fire again to help transport casualties. Once the injured were secure, Williams continued to direct Commando fires and suppress numerous enemy positions. The team’s actions enabled the evacuation of the wounded and dead without further casualties.
The entire Shok Valley operation lasted for more than six hours. During that time, Williams and the joint force fought back against about 200 adversaries, all while they were subjected to a series of friendly, danger-close air strikes.
Williams is the second member of his detachment to receive the Medal of Honor for this operation. The president presented Staff Sgt. Ronald Shurer II the Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony Oct. 1, 2018.
GI Joe is a national treasure and the doll that has made red-blooded American males tough for decades. But not all GI Joes are created equal once the shooting starts. Here are the 10 most useless among them:
Altitude’s special abilities include making quick sketches while skydiving. It may or may not be relevant that he’s a full-blooded Apache. After the failure of syndicated cartoons, he joined the military. His photographic memory helps his sketches be as accurate as possible. According to his official filecard, he’s the first Joe ever to combine two totally different specialties – Reconnaissance and Combat Artistry.
Once the “baddest, hottest disc jockey in Boston,” Dee-Jay is a Communications expert who can work “complicated sound equipment… and coax strange sounds out of it with an infectious beat.” The only person more useless would be Cobra’s Falconer, but at least he knew how to dodge tax laws.
Metalhead is from the short-lived GI Joe EXTREME series. His specialty is computer communications and playing loud rock music in battle. He also has an “in-your-face attitude” (aka “being an asshole”).
Also, a leather vest and peace symbol necklace aren’t intimidating anyone, least of all Cobra Commander.
GI Joe’s hostage negotiator, Bullhorn is an “intervention specialist… an extremely calm individual, possessing an open and compassionate personality.” He “has the looks of a choirboy and is a good listener!”
5. Colonel Courage
The Colonel whose military specialty is “administrative strategist,” his filecard quotes him as saying “I’ll never surrender when I’m wearing a tie ’cause I can’t be beat when I’m neat!” His skills include organization and an efficient work ethic.
Colonel Courage’s filecard even says he rides a desk. Colonel Courage seems like the kind of Colonel who would deny Gung-Ho a promotion because his mustache was out of regs. Also I can’t take him seriously with a name like that.
6. Ice Cream Soldier
I don’t understand why he’s not just called “Ice Cream.” They don’t call Leatherneck “Leatherneck Marine.” Anyway, this seems like a bet between some Hasbro execs to see if they could just sell anything. Ice Cream Soldier is a Fire Operations Expert and BBQ Chef. His filecard says his name is designed to make Cobra underestimate him, but his filecard quote makes that seem like a dodge: “Eating ice cream without hot fudge is like fighting without ammunition!”
His card specifically states Sci-Fi “lives in a slow-motion world. He takes everything real easy and is never in a hurry to get anywhere or do anything.” It sounds like Sci-Fi is the biggest Blue Falcon in the whole Joe organization. Also, his specialty is shooting a laser. Forget that everyone shoots lasers, Sci-Fi’s laser takes much longer to be effective so he shoots it miles away from the battlefield.
Neon green is obviously the go-to color to wear in any small arms situation.
Chuckles, with maybe the least threatening name of any GI Joe (keeping in mind that Ice Cream Soldier still has the word “soldier” in his name), is a former insurance investigator whose greatest skill is “likeability.” He works criminal investigations, in case any Joes violate the UCMJ. No one is really sure who Chuckles works for, but he shows up every day in his Hawaiian shirt, “grinning, cracking jokes, and punching Cobras in the shoulders.”
An environmental health specialist, Ozone cleans up dangerous chemicals while fixing the holes in Earth’s Ozone layer. “Yo Joe! Ozone is here!” said no Joe ever.
“Hey, Ozone, buddy… we’re gonna need that Napalm back.”
Hardball is a failed minor league baseball player who still dresses like he’s going to play baseball at any moment, as if he just can’t accept the fact that he couldn’t make it to the big leagues and joined the military instead. His specialties include being able to judge distances quickly and his ability to be a team player.
I mean, come on man, let it go. It’s time to move on.
North Korea’s latest missile test, carried out this past weekend, ended about sixty miles off the Russian coast. Russia is not happy about the test, as one might imagine. In fact, they may get angry. Of course, we should note that Putin has options aside from sending Kim Jong-un a letter telling him how angry Moscow is.
Russia has long pushed the development of surface-to-air missiles, and the Soviets put that system on the map in 1960 by downing the Lockheed U-2 flown by Francis Gary Powers. In one sense, Russia needs to have good air defenses since their fighters tend to come out second-best when tangling with American or Western designs.
So, what options does Russia have to shoot down a North Korean missile? Quite a few – and it can be hard to tell them apart.
1. SA-10 Grumble
This is probably the oldest of Russia’s area-defense systems capable of downing a ballistic missile. Like the Patriot, it was initially intended to provide air defense for important targets by shooting down the strike aircraft. It eventually began to cover the tactical ballistic missile threat as well – much as the Patriot made that evolution.
According to GlobalSecurity.org, the baseline SA-10, or S-300PMU, now exported to a number of countries (including Iran), had a maximum range of 124 miles. A navalized version of this missile, the SA-N-6, is used on the Kirov and Slava-class cruisers.
2. SA-12 Gladiator
The Russians consider the SA-12 to be a member of the S-300 family. While the S-300 was initially designed to handle planes, the SA-12 was targeted more towards the MGM-52 Lance. Designation-Systems.net notes that the Lance’s W70 warhead could deliver up to a 100-kiloton yield. That could ruin your whole day.
But the development of a conventional cluster munition warhead for the Lance really bothered the Russians, who expected to see a many as 400 Lances launched in the early stages of a war in Europe. GlobalSecurity.org credits the SA-12 with a range of about 62 miles – not as long a reach as the SA-10 but more than enough to take out an incoming missile before it can do harm.
3. SA-20 Gargoyle
This is an improved version of the SA-10, according to GlobalSecurity.org. It has the same maximum range as the SA-10 version (about 124 miles), but there is a capability to engage faster targets than the baseline SA-10, which usually translates into neutralizing ballistic missiles launched from further away.
The system, also uses several types of missiles — including in the 9M96 family (9M96E1 and 9M96E2) that are smaller than baseline SA-10 missiles. Like the SA-10, there is a naval version, called the SA-N-20, which is on the Pyotr Velikiy and China’s Type 51C destroyers.
4. SA-21 Growler
This is also known as the S-400. The system made headlines when it deployed to Syria after Turkey shot down a Su-24 Fencer jet. The system is often compared to the American Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system, but unlike THAAD, it is also capable of hitting aircraft and cruise missiles. GlobalSecurity.org credits the SA-21 with a range of about 250 miles.
5. SA-23 Giant
What the SA-20 is to the SA-10, the SA-23 is to the SA-12. This is a substantially improved version of the SA-12, and is intended to deal with longer-range ballistic missiles than the MGM-52 that the SA-12 was intended to take out. The SA-23, also known as the Antey 2500, has a range of 124 miles according to GlobalSecurity.org.
Russia’s born-of-necessity work on surface-to-air missiles has lead to some very capable options in air defense. The real scary part is that Russia has been willing to export those systems – and that could mean they will face American pilots sooner rather than later.
Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.
Our assault team leader, Daddy-Mac, who would also accept Mac-Daddy as his call sign, had come to frown over the team’s overall performance during our pre-alert cycle weapons shake-out at Ft. Bragg’s Range 44, the most all-encompassing free-firing-est range on post.
We just didn’t take the shake out for what it was really worth. There was an opportunity there to train up and improve on skill sets… not just spray bullets down range to check the function of the gun. Really, that IS what the shake-out was about, but D-Mac saw it as an opportunity wasted; he was correct of course.
Shake-out meant we brought everything we had in our team room weapons vault and rocked the bejesus out of the Casbah for a day and night free-fire episode to make sure every aspect of our weapons were on point. Soldiers headed home for the evening would pull over and line the road shoulders to gaze at the spectacle; one they had never witnessed.
We focused our attention on crew-served machine guns, AT-4 anti-tank rockets, and the Carl Gustav 84mm recoilless rifle (also an anti-tank weapon). Since our team weapons were already loaded for alert, we grabbed extra machine guns from the Unit arms room.
M-240 7.62 x 51mm (short barrel) crew-served machine gun.
We the men of Daddy-Mac’s assault team drove to the range to set up and wait for Mac-Daddy to arrive with the ammunition he brought from the Unit’s magazine. A potential easy day of zero coordination at the Unit ranges turned into one of modest coordination due to us not being allowed to fire automatic weapons on our Ranges.
On our compound our ranges were always open, so we never had to call up Range Control to request permission to open fire; we just coordinated for space internally and started shooting. To shoot machine guns and rockets meant we had to schedule a time and place to train from Range Control, then report when we started and stopped our training.
That restriction never actually stopped us from grabbing a few Ak-47s on an occasional day off from the usual grind to just blindly pump full-auto magazine after magazine of hate into a dirt berm. This was typically coupled with a thunderous “GET SOME” to compliment the cloud of erupting dirt plumes.
7.62 x 39mm AK-47, AK: Автома́т Кала́шникова, Avtomát Kaláshnikova — (“Kaláshnikov’s Automatic Rifle) 47 is the year that Kaláshnikov invented it.
There were times when we pumped a little too much hate into the berms, and Range Control would literally hear the automatic fire, or some loser would hear it and rat on us to Control. That typically lead to a report of admonition to filter down to team level whereby Daddy-Mac would quiz with an arched brow:
“Were any of you potato-head pipe-hitters rock-n-rollin’ on the ranges last week?”
“Gosh, Mac-Daddy… no Sir; none of us were doing that. That’s just awful; why, there ought to be an investigation and men severely punished!”
AT4 Anti-tank rocket.
“Lose the bullcrap. If you find out or you think you know who did it tell them to nix the Tom-Foolery.” Sure, message delivered in his Dad-Mac style; message gratefully received by us all. The fact was, Mac-Daddy always had our six, and by Lucifer we all had his too.
Daddy Mac pulled up in a cargo truck, and we started to pull and stack crates of ordnance. As shirts came off, we the almighty men of Mac-Daddy’s assault team became painfully aware that there was far, far more ammunition than we could ever expend ourselves:
“Lord Jesus, Daddy-Mac… just what time are you expecting the Chinese hoards to attack? Aha…”
Mac-Daddy returned regard with just a heavenward arch of brow: “Right now, so let’s get started!”
Author (left) and Daddy-Mac joking as they prep for range fire.
In all, there were 17,000 rounds of 7.62 x 51mm for the machine gun, 25 AT-4 Anti-Tank rockets, and 50 rounds for the recoilless rifle. Every single report of either of those rockets was a guaranteed bell ring for the gunner. My head hurt just looking at it all.
“Daddy-Mac… we can’t shoot all these rockets, not by regulation we can’t; we’ll tear our pericardiums with all that concussion… we won’t be fit for duty with shredded heart sacks,” I whined.
“Guys, today is a good day to get good,” he began with a sinister grin that was developing across his face, “and that’s what we are going to do; we’re going to get good on all these weapons. Lock and load; I’ll open the range,” and Mac-D fenced with Range Control to open his range.
One of the bros grabbed an AT-4 and plopped in a firing pit behind cover and started to administratively prepare it for fire.
“Nope, nope, nope… not like that.” Mac-Daddy interrupted, “That is no longer how we employ AT. Sling that rocket and stand back 50 meters from the pit. At my signal you’ll, sprint to the pit and take cover. Once you start your sprint, I’ll call out your target. You need to have your distance figured out during the sprint. Once under cover, prep your rocket then pop up and fire. If you take longer than five seconds on your pop up… you fail whether you get a hit or not.”
Now I was pumped. This was realistic training, yes it was!
84mm Carl Gustav Recoilless rifle.
I did field a reservation about this training scenario: range conduct was very rigid and confining. Weapons were only to be loaded strictly on the firing line under strictly-controlled guidelines. Sprinting with loaded ordnance from a distance behind the firing line was absolutely out of bounds!
“Daddy-Mac, Range Control would crap a cinder block if they saw this,” warned a pipe-hitter.”
“Well Range Control ain’t here are they, so there’ll be no masonry crapping… now on your mark, get set, GO!”
So it went, and the competition was red-hot with second after second being shaved off of best times. Expended AT-4 tubes were strewn about making the firing line look the blast side of Mt. St. Helen. The machine gun rattled away thousands of rounds of jacketed lead further heating the already blazing-hot North Cackalacky summer day.
“Good Christ… you could glaze ceramics out here…” lamented a gunner.
Mac-Daddy: “What you meant to say was, RELOAD!” The gun spat and the rockets belched on.
A Range Control truck hockey-slid at our firing line and a cantankerous man scowled from his window:
Firing the 84mm Carl Gustav Recoilless rifle.
“Cease fire, cease fire!! …you’re destroying my range!”
The machine gun had been digging deeper and deeper V-shaped ruts into the known-distance berms, and some of the armor target subjects were just… simply… gone.
Mac Daddy closed the distance to the truck’s window and:
“How about you get off my range, tough guy! You can’t put me on check fire; I own this range! What you need to do is, first of all, get the f*ck off MY range, and second, you need to get some more armor out here and fill in those ruts in the berms before I come out here next. Fire at will, boys!!” And the machine gun rumbled, and the rockets red glared.
“You probably should send this one to depot,” I suggested as I turned in the machine gun to the armorer that night, “she’s seen better days.”
The moral of the story is: when Daddy-Mac tells you to jump, you request how high and crouch, because Mac-Daddy is going to make you jump.
As for what we took away from Mac-Daddy’s lesson, there was palpable embarrassment how we pissed away a live-fire opportunity on an admin shake-out, and we never treated it the same way. Every belt of machine gunfire, every rocket salvo was preceded by a physically taxing event that mimicked an engagement under the stress of combat. How could we have been so obtuse? We didn’t know, but it wasn’t going to happen again.
Karah Behrend’s tattooed arms and wild blue hair aren’t the only reasons she stands out on the rugby field. It’s a relatively new hobby for Behrend, though her practiced technique paints a different picture. She performs with the intensity, coordination, and endurance of an experienced athlete.
And she does it all from the seat of her wheelchair, facing an opponent that the crowd cannot see.
“In 2015, a doctor handed me a sticky note with seven small life-changing letters on it,” the retired Senior Airman and Air Force Wounded Warriors Program member said. Those letters were CRPS/RSD.
She was diagnosed with a disease know as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome — a rare, largely untreatable and widely unknown neurological disease. According to the McGill Pain Index, it is the most painful chronic form of agony known to modern medicine.
“It rates above amputations, phantom limb and natural childbirth,” Behrend said. “It’s a lot to handle on the good days.”
But no one could see Behrend’s pain. It was hidden inside of her body, sending incorrect nerve impulses to her pain receptors. She said her invisible wound even damaged her way of thinking.
U.S. Air Force retired Senior Airman Karah Behrend, a member of the Air Force Wounded Warriors Program, poses for a photo at the Tactical Fitness Center on Joint Base Andrews, Md., Nov. 16, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alyssa D. Van Hook)
“I was very sick and tired of feeling like I constantly had to prove myself, and prove the existence of this [disease],” said Behrend. “Everything was breaking down but you could not see it.”
After nearly two years of dealing with excruciating pain, Behrend decided to attend her first Air Force Wounded Warrior CARE event.
“Before that event, I was a recluse. I wasn’t functioning,” said Behrend. “But that first CARE event taught me to value myself and see past my disease and disability.”
Behrend said the introduction of adaptive sports guided her back to happiness. She decided she would no longer sit back and play defense in her own life.
She said she started participating in as many sports as possible, from basketball to shooting, and even won a gold medal at the Warrior Games. Wheelchair rugby, however, quickly became her passion.
“Adaptive sports gave me my life back,” she said.
At first, Behrend wasn’t wheelchair-bound — she still had the ability to walk, but in Wounded Warrior events, basketball and rugby competitors play in wheelchairs regardless of their mobility. It didn’t take long before Behrend found both success and enjoyment in the activity.
Wheelchair rugby combines elements of basketball, rugby, and handball. Devoting herself to the offensive position of “high pointer,” Behrend said she used her aggression to excel. Off the field, she constantly had to endure the unpredictable ebbs and flows of debilitating, chronic pain. On the field, she had an opportunity to reclaim some brief control in her life — in the form of attitude and effort.
Senior Airman Karah Behrend, Air Force Wounded Warrior, poses for a portrait with medals she won during the Wounded Warrior Trials in Las Vegas, NV March 13, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alexandre Montes)
And much of that progression happened in spite of a huge obstacle — in June 2018, Behrend lost her ability to walk. It happened as a result of a car accident injury, which caused her disease to creep its way to her spinal column and confine her to a wheelchair permanently.
Making matters worse, the spreading of her CRPS also affected her ability to fully control her hands. That makes all her athletic endeavors all the more difficult.
Despite near impossible odds, Behrend presses on.
“I take my life 10 seconds at a time,” she said. “It helps me get through the pain, the frustration and the thoughts of not wanting to go on. It’s okay to have those thoughts and feelings. Allow them, accept them, and embrace them. Allow them to motivate you to do something bigger and badder, just to prove to yourself that nothing can ever stop you.”
“When I’m playing, it’s the only time I’m free and feel like myself again,” Behrend said. “No limitations, just free.” Through AFW2, Behrend not only found her release through sports, but was welcomed into an irreplaceable support network of coaches, fellow wounded warriors and team leads.
One member of that support network, Ilyssa Cruz, said she witnessed Behrend’s resilience firsthand.
“I started my job at the end of April ,” said Cruz, a team lead for the Air Force North West Warrior CARE Event. “My first event was Warrior Games with the Air Force, and that’s where I met Karah. From the first time I met her till now, she has really progressed. She’s been kicking butt the past couple months, participating in event after event.”
This article originally appeared on DVIDS. Follow @DVIDSHub on Twitter.
Military leaders must appreciate the changing character of war, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Nov. 11, 2018, as he returned home from Paris, where he was attending ceremonies marking the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford reflected on the anniversary, which signaled 100 years since the end of World War I, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.
“I think one of the things with World War I is the character of war hadn’t changed in some time,” he said. We saw … our own experience in the Civil War — machine guns, concertina wire, railroads, communications, and so forth. And I think even 50 years later, it’s pretty clear that leaders didn’t fully appreciate the changed character of war and the introduction of new technologies and how they’re going to change war.”
The general described that costs of subsequent wars has “an enduring lesson for all of us, [and] that one of our responsibilities as a leader is to appreciate the changing character of war, and ensure that we anticipate the changes and the implications of those changes.”
Alliances and partnerships
Dunford said the fact that the United States fought alongside allied countries for the first time during World War I resonates even today, as one of three lines of effort within the 2018 National Defense Strategy involves the nation furthering its alliances and partnerships with other nations.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his wife, Ellyn, visit the chapel at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial near the Belleau Wood battleground, in Belleau, France, Nov. 10, 2018.
(Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
“If you look back at the 20th century, [in] every conflict we were involved in, we participated as part of a coalition, participated with allies and partners on our side: World War I, World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam War, and the main skirmishes that we had in between,” he emphasized. “And … the NDS recognizes that we certainly don’t anticipate being on any future battlefield without allies and partners.”
During his two-and-a-half days in Paris, the chairman participated in the 100th Armistice Day commemoration at the Arc de Triomphe with President Donald J. Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron, and some 80 other heads of state.
He also attended ceremonies at World War I gravesites of U.S. servicemen at Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near the site of the Battle of Belleau Wood in Belleau, France; and Suresnes American Cemetery outside Paris.
Dunford noted some key leaders of World War I, but emphasized, “For me, World War I is less about an individual leader and more about the individual doughboy. Many of them, [at] 17, 18, 19, 20 years old left home for the first time [and] in many cases came from rural America and never had seen anything outside of their hometown before they found themselves on the battlefields of France. And so what I’ve been mindful of all weekend … [is] just the young faces for every young doughboy lost in France.”
EUCOM Joint Color Guard carry the colors at Suresnes American Cemetery to honor the centennial of Armistice Day, Paris, France, Nov. 11, 2018.
(Photo by Cpl. Kevin Payne)
Dunford found his tour of Belleau Wood on Nov. 10, 2018 – also the Marine Corps 243rd birthday – to be a solemn experience. Before touring the gravesites, he and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly laid a wreath in front of the chapel at Aisne-Marne cemetery, where the names of 1,060 U.S. service members, whose remains never were found, are etched in stone, high on the chapel’s interior walls.
At the hallowed grounds of the American cemetery and the adjoining World War I battlefield – where the Marine Corps played a key role in securing Allied victory and earned distinction for their tenacity during the battle – the chairman said he was moved by the profound loss that takes place in combat: The human toll.
At the 100th Armistice Day commemoration at Paris’ Arc de Triomphe, Nov. 11, 2018, Dunford said he was struck by the number of leaders who all came together to replicate what took place when the deadly war came to an end.
“It was very powerful to see them all there … and to have them representing their countries; and frankly, I think in many ways making a commitment never to repeat the mistakes that led us into World War I,” the chairman reflected. “I think it was a reminder probably for all of us, and certainly those senior leaders in uniform, of the responsibility that we have to avoid the mistakes of the past.”
It says a lot about a Britisher to even be considered for the title of “classiest,” but Maj. Robert Cain should definitely be in the running. He took on six Nazi tanks by himself while holding off the rest of the coming German onslaught. In the end, he was forced to retreat, but only because he ran out of ammunition. Before he did, however, he stopped killing Nazis long enough to take a shave. Only after he was properly clean-shaven did he make his retreat.
Classier than most of you are, anyway.
Cain was an officer of the British 1st Airborne Division during Operation Market Garden, the World War II Allied invasion of the Netherlands. British and Polish forces were to be dropped near Arnhem to advance on the city over three days. Cain was to lead his men in the first lift over Nazi-occupied territory, but the disastrous operation was flawed from the start, especially for Cain. Because of a technical snafu, he had to wait until the second day. It would prove fortuitous for everyone in his periphery.
When Cain landed, he and his men were sent forward into the city, where they unexpectedly encountered heavy enemy armor. The only thing they had to fight back against these defenses were small anti-tank weapons and mortars. The anti-tanks were not enough to penetrate the armor, and they were soon forced to fall back.
The small PIAT anti-tank weapon used by the British at Arnhem.
Many British troops were forced to surrender. Others who managed to fall back did so in complete disarray, low on ammunition and unable to take out the approaching armor. Cain and the rest of the British were eventually forced to retreat to nearby Oosterbeek, where they formed a perimeter and tried to protect the howitzers that would be catastrophically destroyed if they fell back further. Cain was in command of forward units, who were digging in a populated area, trying to hold the armor back.
After one of his men was killed by a tracked, armored vehicle with a mounted heavy gun, Cain picked up the anti-tank weapon and poured round after to round into the tank until it was disabled. His PIAT anti-tank weapon eventually exploded from overuse, incapacitating Cain for a half hour. When his vision returned, he went back to work with whatever he could use. When he ran out of anti-tank weapons, he used a two-inch mortar.
Major Robert Cain was fighting these. By himself.
Cain fought off Tiger tanks, flamethrower tanks, self-propelled guns, and even Nazi infantry in an effort to maintain his position in the village of Oosterbeek. He personally was responsible for destroying six armored vehicles, four of which were Tiger tanks. The Germans were forced to fall back this time, but the British were in no condition to pursue them. They made an orderly retreat across the river but, before they did, Maj. Cain took a moment to shave his face (he had been fighting for a full week by then) for a proper appearance. When he returned to the British Army that day, his commanding general commented on it.
“There’s one officer, at least, who’s shaved,” said Gen. Philip Hicks. To which Cain replied, “I was well brought up, sir.”
The respect of his fellow officers wasn’t the only thing he won that day. Cain was awarded the Victoria Cross for his gallantry.
We’ve all heard the familiar tune being blared over the intercom or performed live bright and early as the American flag is raised for the beginning of the day.
For other troops stationed on a military base, it’s the bugle call that made them dash for cover so they wouldn’t have to stand outside and salute on a cold morning or throw your pillow at the window in your barracks like it’s going to get the signal to stop — you get the point.
But the motivation behind the “Reveille” tune isn’t to just wake us up, but instead is to remind us of those who have served in remembrance.
Airmen salute the flag during reveille at the Eglin Professional Development Center. (Photo: Tech. Sgt. Jasmin Taylor)
Reveille comes from the French word “réveiller” or in English to “to wake up.”
In 1812, U.S. forces designated the iconic melody to call service members to muster up for roll call to start the work day.
It appears there is no official composer of the tune, which is used by about six countries like Denmark, Ireland, and Sweden to mark the start of the day.
The notes for each country do vary and they all have written different lyrics as well.
“Out on a hike all day, dear
Part of the army grind
Weary and long the way, dear
But really I don’t mind
I’m getting tired so I can sleep
I want to sleep so I can dream
I want to dream so I can be with you
I’ve got your picture by my bed
‘Twill soon be placed beneath my head
To keep me company the whole night through
For a little while, whatever befalls
I will see your smile till reveille calls
I hope you’re tired enough to sleep
And please sleep long enough to dream
And look for me for I’ll be dreaming too”
Click play on the video below and try to sing along.
(United States Air Force Band – Topic, YouTube)Fun fact: Reveille is also the official name of the Texas A&M mascot in the ROTC program — a dog. That is all.
Although we’re not always keen to admit it, the way we see the world and how we function in it tends to be largely informed by the pop-culture we consume along the way. The movies and TV shows we watch as kids not only help us to perceive a world beyond our views out the window, they have a habit of planting the seeds of foolish thought in our brains Inception-style; leaving us with a skewed idea of things like what really goes on in a fight, thanks to how often we see them depicted inaccurately on screen.
In fact, if you’ve never had the misfortune of suffering a nasty injury on one of your limbs, getting knocked out, or being in close proximity to an explosion, you might be harboring some pretty unrealistic ideas about just how deadly each can be. It might sound silly to suggest that people can’t tell the difference between something Wolverine can do and something your average Joe can… but many of these movie tropes have become such deep-rooted parts of our cultural lexicon that it starts to get difficult to discern truth from fiction. That is, unless you’ve been there first hand.
This is actually how Chuck Norris babysits people’s kids.
Being knocked out is totally fine
It’s Batman’s bread and butter, it helped Marty McFly’s mom gets handsy with her time traveling son, and it’s the most common workplace hazard for henchman and thugs, but the truth is, getting knocked out could seriously mess you up.
Movies may make it seem like getting knocked out with a single blow is basically the same thing as racking out for an impromptu nap, but here in the real world, blunt force trauma to the head tends to come with some serious repercussions. The Riddler’s henchman may come to in a few hours and complain of feeling groggy, but if you’re ever knocked out for hours, you’ll almost certainly wake up in the ICU of your local hospital, surrounded by some very concerned family members (and hopefully you’ll still know your name).
Head trauma that’s sufficient to knock you unconscious actually creates a neurochemical reaction in the brain that causes cell death that can potentially affect you for the rest of your life.
Fire is apparently the only dangerous part of explosions
Watching a protagonist walk toward the camera while a slow-motion explosion unfolds in the background might be one of the most overused (and somehow still rad) shots in cinematic history… but it’s also totally ridiculous. Movies treat explosions like it’s the fireball you have to be worried about, but the most dangerous part of an explosion is usually invisible to the naked eye: the shockwave.
Way back in the first “Mission Impossible” movie, Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt actually managed to seemingly ride the shockwave of an exploding helicopter (that was foolishly made out of dynamite, apparently) onto a speeding train. The shot is incredible, and it actually makes the superhero-like sequels make a lot more sense, since Ethan Hunt must actually be dreaming in a coma from that point on, while surgeons try to do something about the soup that used to be his organs.
Anyone that’s ever thrown a grenade can tell you that explosions are far faster and more dangerous than they’re depicted in movies. Most happen so quickly that we perceive them as little more than a thunderous impact and sudden poof of smoke, but it’s the shockwave that will literally liquify your inside parts (like your brain). In the medical community, they call this internal mushification “total body disruption,” which may not sound as cool as “internal mushification” but is apparently just as deadly.
I mean, the bleeding has already stopped. This guy might actually make it if he quits now.
Flesh wounds are no big deal
There’s no faster way to show us how badass a movie hero really is than to watch him dismiss a gunshot to the arm as “nothing but a flesh wound.” John Mcclane loses enough blood in the “Die Hard” movies to keep the Red Cross from chasing down donations for at least a year, but somehow those injuries never seem to slow him down at all.
These “flesh wounds” usually exist only so the female lead’s character arc can develop from annoyed at the hero to empathetic: “You’re hurt!” She exclaims as she runs to check the flap of skin hanging off of our hero’s tricep.
“It’s nothing,” he grimaces as he loads another seemingly infinite magazine into his weapon. As Jesse Ventura said in “Predator,” and probably at least once as Governor of Minnesota, “I ain’t got time to bleed.”
The problem is, you can absolutely die from a wound on your arm or leg. In fact, you can die pretty damn quickly if you rupture an artery. When it comes to unchecked bleeding, what you really don’t have time for is ignoring it.
The Saab Gripen is a beautiful fighter with a nifty little mane on its nose, and it’s popular with small militaries around the world because it’s cheap to operate, has high-mission readiness, and can take off from nearly anywhere. Seriously, if you’ve got a half mile of level pavement, you can probably get a Gripen in the air from it.
You might need to cut down some light poles or whatever, but that’s on you.
The Gripen fighter, which recently saw its E-variant enter serial production, is squarely aimed at fighting whatever it needs to, including fifth-generation fighters like Russia’s Su-57. That might be surprising since it’s not as fast. Or have as many weapons. Or have much stealth coating or many materials.
But the Gripen’s manufacturer, Saab, isn’t trying to win at air shows, and it isn’t accepting the price point required to develop stealth aircraft. (Even Russia can’t actually afford its stealthy Su-57, which might not even be that stealthy.)
That’s because Saab makes weapons for Sweden and for export to countries like Thailand, Hungary, and South Africa. These countries don’t have the money to drop 0 million per F-35, a plane that costs ,000-,000 per hour of flight. And they don’t have the billion to develop a Su-57 and fail like Russia did.
A Saab Gripen takes off from a public road.
(San Diego Air and Space Museum)
So Saab built the Gripen around a few complementary ideas. The first was that they could develop a capable jet fighter with a low cost per flight hour. Right now, new Gripens cost up to million per copy and come out to ,000 per flight hour.
Part of this low-cost per flight hour is making it easy to refuel, rearm, and maintain the plane on the ground. And, the way they did this allows operators to work the plane from nearly anywhere a 20-foot cargo container can be delivered on a truck, provided there are at least 875 yards of runway-ish concrete for the plane to take off from. So, Gripens can easily disperse during combat. Sure that’s not scary for an aggressor who has to face them.
But operators, obviously, still need them to be lethal. Paper planes are cheap and hard to spot, too, but there’s a reason they aren’t popular with militaries. But the Gripen is lethal, partially because it can fire most NATO-produced missiles and partially because the entire plane was designed around electronic warfare.
But the Gripen’s electronic warfare is robust, so much so that Saab believes the plane can blind nearly all of the Russian fighters the Gripen is designed to deter, especially the large number of Flankers in Russia’s inventory but also the Su-57. Even better, Saab thinks the E-variant can fight the Su-57 on equal terms.
There is one serious caveat, though. Sweden doesn’t want the fighter jet’s electronic warfare tools recorded by adversaries who could create exploits against them. (Electronic warfare in combat turns into a game of tit-for-tat as each side tries to reconfigure their signals to defeat the other.) So, Sweden has rarely allowed pilots to turn on the full electronics suite in exercises with England.
And so, no one can be really certain how the Gripen E will perform against advanced air defenses and fighters. They can hide in the brush, they can take off from anywhere, but they can only probably cut their way through Russia’s air force.
Alcohol is a staple of military culture and troops have been consuming it en masse since the first sailor left port for lands unknown. But as times have changed, so, too, have the rules of consumption. Since the good ol’ days, the rules for drinking have become much stricter — especially in combat zones. But, that doesn’t stop service members from finding a way to get their fix.
Reddit user Lapsed_Pacifist shared a story of how he and his buddies essentially made home brews out of their makeshift barracks room during one of their deployments — violating the UCMJ for a cold one.
If you plan to brew beer out of your barracks room (we don’t recommend it), make sure you do plenty of research beforehand and exercise extreme caution — and, of course, don’t go telling people we gave you the idea.
Of course, no one has control over what someone else sends them… Right?
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brian Ferguson)
It all started when a soldier deployed to Iraq wanted the taste of the sweet nectar known as beer but, of course, couldn’t find enough to quench his thirst. He had friends mail him some hoppy, carbonatedcontrabandknowing that not all of the mail coming into base would be checked, and that worked out for a while— butit just wasn’t enough.
This is what one of these kits looks like.
(Photo by Coin-Coin)
This soldier had heard tales of another member of his unit stashing brewing equipment in locations throughout another base but, where he was living, obtaining such materials was no easy task. After a discussion with some friends, they decided to risk it all by ordering, directly from Amazon, a home-brewing kit.
After a tense waiting period, their equipment finally arrived and they were able to begin their own underground (and highly illegal) brewing operation.
Don’t f*ck with the UCMJ.
(Air Force photo by Senior Airman Naomi Griego)
Now, possessing alcohol in a combat zone violates the Uniformed Code of Military Justice — but it seems like these guys didn’t give a flying f*ck. Their goal was to have the sweet taste of alcohol bless their tongues, fill their bloodstreams, and mingle with their livers.
In no time at all, their room began to smell like a chemist’s lab and their adventure in illicit alcohol picked up speed.
This is how the professionals do it.
(Photo by Hong Reddot Brewhouse)
You see, the home-brewing kit they ordered only could only produce 3 gallons of beer with every fermentation cycle, which took a couple of weeks. They had several months left of their deployment, and they simply couldn’t wait that long to drink so little.
So, what did they do? They started fermenting in plastic water bottles. To use a direct quote from the story,
Professional brewers and distillers don’t brew or distill in plastic 2-liter water bottles of dubious origin because, in short, they are not f*cking morons.
(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Evan Loyd)
Needless to say, their illicit brewing company, referred to as “Riyadh Brewing Corporation, Ltd. (Established 2008),” ended up blowing up in their faces — literally. The plastic bottles couldn’t withstand the pressure build-up and they ended up losing more of their stock than they wanted.
Thankfully, they were able to clean up the mess and cover their tracks before anyone too high in their chain of command could find out — and now we have this beautiful story to laugh about.
Like most general officers commissioned right after the Vietnam War ended, Gen. Martin Dempsey’s firsthand experience of dealing with combat losses came relatively late in his career. During the summer of 2003, then-Major General Dempsey was commanding “Task Force Iron” in Iraq when the post-invasion lull ended and the insurgency began going after American troops.
“We started taking casualties,” Gen. Dempsey recounted. “And during the morning briefing, after we talked about the high-level mission items and what we called ‘significant incidents,’ we’d flash up the names of the fallen and have a moment of silence.
“The names were up there on the screen and then, whoosh, they were gone,” he said. “After about two or three weeks of the same thing, I became really uncomfortable with that. One minute it was there and real, and then the next minute it was somebody else’s problem.”
Gen. Dempsey attended a number of the memorial services held at the forward operating bases downrange for those killed in action.
“They were both heart wrenching and inspirational,” the general said about the services. “To see the love that these soldiers had for each other made me take my responsibilities that much more seriously.”
But as he greeted the battle buddies of the fallen, Gen. Dempsey wasn’t sure what to say to them that would help at those moments. “I had nothing,” he said. “I mean, I’d say, ‘hang in there’ or ‘we’re really sorry about what happened’ . . . I felt so superficial.”
Then it hit him one morning after he was just waking up in his quarters in Baghdad. “A phrase was echoing in my head,” he remembered. “Make it matter.”
He did two things immediately after that: First, he had laminated cards made for every soldier who had been killed to that point. The cards were carried by all the general officers in theater as a constant physical reminder of the human cost of the war. In time the number of casualties became so great that it was impractical to carry the cards at all times, so he had a mahogany box engraved with “Make it Matter” on the top and put all but three of the cards inside of it. He would constantly rotate the three he carried in his pocket with the ones in the box.
Second, from that point forward when he would address the soldiers in units that had experienced losses, he’d simply say, “Make it matter.”
“They knew exactly what I meant,” Gen. Dempsey said.
Five years after Gen. Dempsey’s introduction to the challenges a two-star leader faces during periods of significant combat losses, Marine Corps Major David Yaggy, a veteran of three combat deployments, was an instructor flying in the rear cockpit of a Navy T-34C trainer on a cross-country flight between Florida and South Carolina when the airplane went down in the hills of Alabama. Yaggy and his flight student at the controls in the front cockpit were both killed in the crash.
The day of that crash is burned into the memory of Maj. Yaggy’s widow, Erin. She first heard from a realtor friend that a helicopter had gone down, and she immediately went online and saw a report that, in fact, a T-34 had crashed in Alabama. Fearing the worst, she put her 18-month-old daughter Lizzy in a stroller and went for a walk, in denial and hoping to avoid any officials who might show up to tell her that her husband had been killed.
During the walk, she received a phone call from her cousin. “Where are you?” she asked.
“I’m at your house,” he replied. That was all he said.
Erin ran home pushing the stroller, in her words, “like a crazy person.” When she arrived she caught a glimpse of a uniform, and she broke down, hysterical. “That didn’t go so well,” she said.
She had a long period of vacillating between shock, anger, and sorrow. “I felt like other people wanted me to cry,” she said. “I was like, ‘I don’t want permission to cry, I just want him here.”
The sister of the flight student killed with Erin’s husband convinced her to get involved with Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), and she wound up making the short trip from Baltimore to Washington DC to attend her first Good Grief Camp — the organization’s signature gathering — when Lizzy was four years old.
General Dempsey had just taken over as Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army when his aide briefed him that he was scheduled to address the TAPS Good Grief Camp attendees gathered in a hotel ballroom across the interstate from the Pentagon. Although the general had heard of TAPS and was armed with the requisite three-by-five cards filled with talking points provided by his staff, when he got there he realized he wasn’t fully ready for what he was walking into.
“I walked into this room with 600 kids all wearing big round buttons with images of their parents, and I knew I was ill-prepared,” Gen. Dempsey said. “It was emotionally overwhelming. It’s hard enough meeting a single family that’s had a loss. It’s another thing altogether meeting 600 families.”
Gen. Dempsey started his appearance with a question-and-answer session, and after a couple of innocent ones like “do you have your own airplane?” and “do you like pizza?” a little girl dramatically shifted the mood by asking, “Is my daddy an angel?”
“I was stunned,” Gen. Dempsey recalled. “How do you answer that question?”
The general thought for a few moments before calling an audible of sorts. Fearing that he could well break down if he tried to talk he decided to attempt something else.
“I knew I could sing through emotion instead of trying to speak,” he said.
So he answered that, of course, her father was an angel — like the fathers of everyone there — and that the entire group should sing together because singing is joyful and the fact that their fathers were angels should bring them great joy.
Then he launched into the Irish classic, “The Unicorn Song,” including a lesson in the proper hand gestures required during the chorus. Soon the entire room was singing.
After his appearance, General Dempsey asked Bonnie Carroll, the founder of TAPS, if he could meet the little girl who’d asked the question and her family, so Bonnie introduced him to the Yaggys. The general was immediately struck by Lizzy’s spark, and, as Erin put it, Lizzy was drawn to the man with lots of silver stars on his Army uniform who’d raised her spirits by singing with all of the kids.
“His timing was perfect,” Erin said. “Before [General Dempsey’s singalong], Lizzy had just said, ‘I don’t want to talk about daddy being dead anymore.’ Her attitude changed after she met General Dempsey.”
At the following year’s Good Grief Camp, they began what blossomed into a tradition: Lizzy introduced him as the keynote speaker.
“She stood up and said, ‘this is General Dempsey. We love him, and he loves to sing, and he makes us feel good,'” the general recalled. “And she finished with, ‘and now my friend, General Dempsey.'” With that, once again, General Dempsey had to fight back tears as he faced hundreds of military survivors.
General Dempsey and his wife Deanie stayed in touch with the Yaggys, exchanging email updates and Christmas cards. The third year Lizzy introduced the general he’d taken over as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Pentagon’s senior-most position. Before they got on stage together she gave him a little box with an angel-shaped medallion in it, saying, “You’re my guardian angel.”
The general was deeply moved and wanted to return the gesture, but all his aide had in his possession was a ballcap with the numeral “18” on the front of it, signifying the 18th CJCS. He wrote in black ink on the bill: “To Lizzy — From your chairman friend. Martin E. Dempsey.”
“It was so cute to see her wearing that hat for the rest of the night,” Deanie Dempsey said. “Here was this little girl in this long green dress with a ballcap on.”
“She wore that hat all the time after that,” Erin said. “She even took it to bed with her.”
The entire time General Dempsey served as the chairman he only had two things on his desk in the Pentagon: The mahogany “Make it Matter” box full of the laminated cards that profiled those who were killed under his command in Iraq and the guardian angel medallion Lizzy gave him.
When it came time for the general to retire, the Pentagon’s protocol apparatus sprang into action — after all, a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff change of command is like the Super Bowl of military ceremonies. As the officials were coordinating all the moving parts, including the details surrounding President Obama’s attendance, they were surprised to learn who the outgoing chairman wanted to introduce him. They pushed back, but the general was insistent.
The day arrived and at the appropriate moment in the event, a little girl on the dais confidently strode by the dignitaries and political appointees and the President of the United States and stood on the box positioned behind the podium just for her.
And without any hesitation, Lizzy Yaggy delivered her remarks to the thousands in attendance, and finished with, “Please welcome my friend, General Dempsey . . .”