Most people have heard of Jet-Assisted Take-Off, also known as “JATO.” Unfortunately, it’s usually in connection with a story involving a Chevrolet Impala and a Darwin Award that may or may not have actually happened. Despite this blemish on its reputation, JATO was in use for almost a half-century before the infamous award — and is still used today.
A Lockheed P-2 Neptune is launched from the aircraft carrier USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CV 42) with the use of JATO rockets.
First of all, the “jet-assisted” part of JATO is actually a misnomer. There’s no jet involve. JATO systems actually use a rocket – or several rockets. These rockets were capable of cutting the takeoff run by almost 60 percent. That sort of advantage is huge when your airfield has been bombed and the runways have been dotted with potholes. It’s also important for taking off in a heavily loaded plane, whether it’s full of cargo or bombs.
Perhaps the most prominent use of JATO: When the Blue Angels’ C-130 Hercules takes off.
Early jet engines didn’t have good performance during takeoffs and landings. As a result, they needed long runways to safely operate. This made the early jet fighters vulnerable to propeller-driven planes. For example, P-51s would often lurk around the bases used by Me-262s and hit the Nazi jets as they took off. JATO systems were designed to get jets off the ground faster — and they help with performance.
Early jets were tricky to fly (those who flew the YP-80 reported that the engine would sometimes cut out mid-flight — not a good situation to be in). America’s ace of aces, Major Richard Bong, was killed in an accident involving a prototype P-80 Shooting Star, and the top ace of the Korean War, Joseph McConnell, was killed while test-flying the F-86H. A JATO rocket provided assistance to early-model jet engines during takeoff, allowing the plane’s ejection seat to function properly.
Receiving the Medal of Honor confers a great deal of prestige on the recipient as well as an acknowledgement that the recipient and their unit members went through an especially dire and dangerous experience or gave a heavy sacrifice for the American people. The celebrity that goes with the medal allows recipients to cast light on issues that affect veterans and active duty troops.
But in addition to the intangible benefits like honor and stature, there are some tangible benefits that the military and the U.S. government give to medal recipients to acknowledge their sacrifice. Here are 6 special benefits that serve as an enduring “thank you” from the American people:
1. Preferred access to military academies for their dependents
Every American senator can nominate up to 10 candidates from their state for each of an allotted number of seats in the next freshman class at the Army, Navy and Air Force military academies. The number of slots changes from year to year, but the total number of names that state senators can put forward represents an annual “quota.”
But as a recognition of the sacrifice that MoH recipients have made for their country, recipients’ children can bypass this part of the selection process and put their name in for consideration regardless of whether there are open slots in that state’s academy quota.
2. A monthly stipend
Every Medal of Honor recipient is entitled to a monthly stipend on top of all other pay or retirement benefits. This stipend was originally $10 a month in 1916 but has climbed to $1,299 per month.
The recipient’s base retirement pay is also raised by 10 percent.
3. Free, priority Space-A travel
Medal recipients are granted lifelong access to the military’s “Space A” travel, which allows active duty military members, some veterans and their dependents to hitch rides in empty seats on military planes. MoH recipients get preferred access, meaning they can jump the line.
4. Special parking spots at on-base amenities
Service members with an MoH also get lifelong access to other military benefits like the commissary, on-post gyms and pools and recreational facilities. Many of these facilities have reserved spaces for MoH recipients.
5. Special status in the exchange of salutes
While military members aren’t required to salute Medal of Honor recipients, they are encouraged to do so as long as the recipient is physically wearing the medal, even when the recipient is in civilian clothes.
Also, while military salutes in other situations are always up the the rank structure — meaning the junior soldier salutes the senior one — anyone may render a salute to a MoH recipient first. There have even been cases of American presidents saluting MoH recipients.
6. Headstones with gold lettering and full burial honors
Medal of Honor recipients are guaranteed a burial with full military honors — an honor otherwise only guaranteed to retirees and active duty service members. This includes a nine-member team of six pallbearers, a chaplain, an officer-in-charge or noncommissioned-officer-in-charge and a bugler.
At the gravesite, the MoH recipient is also entitled to a special headstone with gold lettering.
Author’s Note: An earlier version of this story referred to Medal of Honor Recipient and Lt. Col. Charles Kettles as an Army major. He was a major at the time of the actions for which he received the award, but he retired and received the award as a lieutenant colonel. The author regrets this error.
Being in the military is hard. I served in the military for 13 long years, and I know how demanding and exhausting that job is. But, do you guys want to know what’s hard too?
Being a military spouse.
Being a military spouse comes without a title, without a rank, without the specialized training, and most of all, without the brotherhood that accompanies the life of an armed forces member and that, my friends, is not easy. Out of all the jobs that I have done in my life, and believe me when I say that I have had my share of challenging and insanely stressful jobs, being a military spouse has been, by far, the most difficult one.
I still remember when I became a military spouse 21 years ago. By the time I became Mrs. Morales, I was already a hard-core soldier. A soldier that had been trained to go to war, trained to kill, trained to survive in the most difficult situations, but also trained to save lives. Yes, I was trained to be a combat medic in the Army, a job that I enjoyed doing with all my heart, but one thing the Army never trained me for was becoming a military spouse, which I became when I was just a 20 year old kid.
U.S. Army Spc. Leo Leroy gets a kiss from Regina Leroy and a bow-wow welcome from dogs Yoshi and Bruiser at a homecoming ceremony on Fort Hood, Texas, Nov. 28, 2009.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Sharla Lewis)
My friend, the spouse of a Foreign Service Officer, asked me once how it felt to be a military spouse, especially during war time. When she asked me that, I realized that, as much as I wanted to tell her how it felt, I didn’t have the words to express all I wanted to say, so I froze, and after a while, she changed the topic and I never got the chance to give her an answer to her difficult question. But, now that I think about it, I do have an answer.
Military spouses come from all backgrounds, and all of us characterize ourselves as strong individuals who are not only capable of running a household by ourselves, but who are also experts at making miracles out of nothing. I’m sure that most military spouses out there will agree with me. But, those of you who are not military spouses may be thinking, what’s wrong with that? Well, let me tell you.
Have you ever been in a position where being strong is the only choice you have even when your entire world is collapsing on top of you? Well, that’s what military spouses do every single day, and the difference between our service members and us is that, we don’t get trained for such challenging job. We are just expected to perform the job and move on.
As a soldier, I had many great and challenging experiences, but nothing could ever compare to living at home as a military spouse. There were many times when my husband was overseas when I questioned my commitment to the military, and no, I don’t mean my commitment as a soldier, I questioned my commitment as a military spouse.
Capt. Lucas Frokjer, officer in charge of the flightline for Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463, reunites with his family after returning from a seven-month deployment with HMH-463.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Jacob Barber)
I still remember the time when my husband was sent to West Africa for 18 months. Those 18 months were the longest 18 months of my life. At that time, I was not only serving in the military myself, but I immediately became the sole caregiver of three children, who needed my full attention and my full support, but three children who also used to go to bed, every single day, crying because they didn’t know when or if their father was going to come home again.
How did I survive those 18 months under those circumstances, you may ask? Well, let me tell you; I became a functional zombie. A zombie who was able to keep three children alive, keep a household running while serving in the military herself, but most important of all, able to stay strong amid all the challenges that came into her life during those 18 months. Challenges that I had zero control over them, but that I knew I had to overcome not only for the well-being of my children, but also for the sake of my marriage. And again, that’s a job I was never trained for.
The bottom-line is, Marielys the soldier was a very strong individual, but Marielys the military spouse had to be even stronger. I wasn’t trained for this job, but I did it proudly so that my husband could go and serve his country without having to worry about anything other than the mission he was assigned to do. And for that, I can proudly say that I am not only an Army veteran, but I was also A Badass Military Spouse.
Marielys Camacho-Reyes formerly served for 13 years in the US Army, first as a Combat Medic and later on as a Human Resources Manager. She also served in the US Army for 21 years as a Badass Army Wife. She is currently a stay home mom and a member of the Vet Voices Program in Central FL.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
In 1967, Israel fought the Six-Day War. Also known as the June War, the Israeli Defense Force was armed with the FN FAL battle rifle against the AK-47s of the Arab coalition. In the desert sand and dust, the Israeli FALs were prone to jamming and malfunctions. Moreover, the rifle was considered long and heavy. Israel needed a new rifle.
In the 1960s, America was replacing France as Israel’s primary ally and weapons supplier. The Israelis were offered the M16A1 to replace the FAL. While the new rifle was lighter and accurate, early M16s (and the accompanying ammunition) were not reliable enough for the IDF.
During the Six-Day War, Israel captured thousands of AKs. The IDF found that the stories of the rifle’s legendary reliability were true, but found its accuracy lacking. What they needed was a weapon that combined the accuracy of the M16 with the reliability of the AK-47.
Uziel Gal, designer and namesake of the iconic Uzi submachine gun, submitted a design for the new rifle. However, it was determined to be too complex and unreliable. Yisrael Galil, a British Army veteran of WWII, entered a competing design.
Galil’s rifle was based on the Finnish Valmet Rk 62. The Valmet uses the same 7.62x39mm cartridge as the AK-47 and is based on the Polish licensed version of the AK. However, Galil modified the Valmet to fire the 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge from the M16. Not only was the smaller American round more accurate, but it was readily available to Israel from the United States. The rifle, named Galil after its designer, was declared the winner and Israel’s new primary rifle.
Designed for the specific needs of Israeli soldiers, the standard service rifle version issued to infantry units had some special features. Designated as the Automatic Rifle Machine-gun variant, the Galil ARM was fitted with a bipod. This allowed troops to fire the weapon from a more steady position in the prone. The bipod hinge also functioned as a wire cutter. This reduced the time needed for IDF troops to cut through the wire fences common in rural Israel. Finally, the bipod latch could be used as a bottle opener. Civilian reservists often used the magazine feed lips of the Uzi to open bottles which resulted in damaged magazines. The Galil came with a bottle opener built right in to prevent this.
However, in 1973, Israel was caught off guard with the Yom Kippur War. The Arab coalition launched coordinated surprise attacks on the Jewish holiday and the IDF was forced to rapidly mobilize. This war delayed the production and issuance of the Galil. Additionally, most Israeli conscripts preferred the lighter, but less reliable, M16.
By 1975, 60,000 M16A1s from the United States were issued to the IDF. Compared with the high cost of domestically producing the Galil, the M16 was simply a better option to arm the majority of the IDF. The introduction of the even lighter, more versatile, and more reliable M4 and new 5.56x45mm NATO ammo sealed the Galil’s fate and it was phased out of standard-issue by 2000.
Although its use by the IDF was limited, the Galil saw extensive service overseas. Many third world countries adopted the Galil in 5.56x45mm NATO or 7.62x51mm NATO for its rugged reliability and use of NATO ammo. Licensed as the Vektor R4, the Galil is a favorite of the South African military and police. The Galil was even reportedly used by the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department SWAT Team in California. The Galil ACE is a modernized version of the rifle that comes in more calibers and configurations than its predecessor. The ACE has been adopted by the Chilean Army and People’s Army of Vietnam. However, it lacks the famous bipod with its wire cutter and bottle opener.
The Army is accelerating its efforts to field a directed-energy prototype system by fiscal year 2022, and hypersonic weapon prototype by fiscal 2023.
For starters, the Army is fast-tracking the development and procurement of the Multi-Mission High Energy Laser, or MMHEL system, said Lt. Gen L. Neil Thurgood, director of hypersonics, directed energy, space, and rapid acquisition.
The MMHEL is a 50-kilowatt laser retrofit to a modified Stryker vehicle, designed to bolster the Army’s maneuver short-range air defense capabilities, according to officials with the Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office.
The Army is slated to field a four-vehicle battery by late fiscal 2022, Thurgood said. The new system was meant to be maneuverable, while protecting brigade combat teams from unmanned aerial systems, rotary-wing aircraft, and rockets, artillery, and mortars.
A 5-kilowatt laser sits on a Stryker armored vehicle.
(U.S. Army photo by Monica K. Guthrie)
Further, the Army will consolidate efforts with the other services and agencies to help improve directed-energy technology, the general added. While the Army is executing a demonstration of 100 kW high-energy laser technology on a larger vehicle platform, it is working with partners to exceed those power levels.
In addition to the MMHEL, the Army is expected to field a four-vehicle battery of long-range hypersonic weapon systems the following fiscal year.
Four modified heavy expanded mobility tactical trucks, or HEMTTs, will be equipped with a launcher. Each vehicle will carry two hypersonic weapon systems — totaling eight prototype rounds, Thurgood said.
“The word hypersonic has become synonymous with a particular type of missile,” he explained. “Generally, hypersonics means a missile that flies greater than Mach 5 … that is not on ballistic trajectory and maneuvers.”
The hypersonic system will also rely on the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System 7.0, which is currently available to artillerymen, for command and control.
“Within the Army’s modernization plan, there is multi-domain, and there is the Multi-Domain Task Force. Part of that task force [includes] a strategic-fires battalion and in that strategic fires battalion [will be] this [hypersonic] weapons platform,” Thurgood said.
“It is not long-range artillery. It’s a strategic weapon that will be used … for strategic outcomes,” he added.
Residual combat capability
Overall, the MMHEL and hypersonic systems will both move into the hands of soldiers as an experimental prototype with a residual combat capability, Thurgood said.
“When I say experimental prototype with residual combat capability, and as we build the battery of hypersonics … that unit will have a combat capability,” Thurgood said. “Those eight rounds are for them to use in combat if the nation decides they want to apply that in a combat scenario. The same [applies] for directed energy.”
US Army rocket artillery.
(US Army photo by Sgt. Dustin D. Biven)
In addition to providing an immediate combat capability, soldiers will have an opportunity to learn the new equipment and understand the “tactics, techniques, and procedures” required to use each system during combat, the general added.
Further, the Army will also receive valuable feedback to help shape potential broader production of each system after they transition to a program of record.
The Army has already initiated the contract process to develop the prototype hypersonic systems. Senior leaders plan to award vendors by August, Thurgood said.
With both systems, “what we’re trying to create [is an] an opportunity for a decision, based on actual use by a soldier,” he said. “Does this thing do … what we needed it to do? Do we want to continue and make it better, or do we want to have other choices?”
The nose of their amphibious tank entered the ocean and bobbed through the waves en route toward the reef of Saipan, the largest archipelago among the Northern Mariana Islands. Wayne “Twig” Terwilliger, a radioman assigned to the 2nd Armored Amphibian Battalion of the 2nd Marine Division, watched helplessly as they crept over the reef toward the beach into the range of Japanese defensive positions.
“I started seeing these puffs of water all around us, and it took a second to realize what was causing them,” Terwilliger wrote in his autobiography. “Then we heard small arms fire hitting our tank, and the reality sank in: there were people on that island who wanted us dead.”
Prior to the invasion of Saipan, U.S. Navy frogmen conducted a daring reconnaissance mission in advance of the assault force. Valuable intelligence collected had provided the amphibious tanks with adjustments to successfully land on the beach — but they didn’t anticipate how their tracked vehicles would navigate earth displaced by battlefield weaponry in combat.
Wayne Terwilliger, third from the left, on the beach at Saipan during a shelling attack, June 1944. The photo ran in newspapers across the country; in 2000, it appeared as background on a sheet of commemorative stamps issued by the U.S. Postal Service. Photo courtesy of wayneterwilliger.com
While the amphibious tanks attempted to land on the beach, some were destroyed and others became trapped in craters left from mortar shells in the sand. “Japanese mortars kept whistling over our heads,” Terwilliger said, describing his first hours in combat stuck inside a large, green, immobilized target. “Most of them were headed toward the beach area, but we never knew when one would come our way. We also had no idea how long we’d be stuck there. We were there at least a couple of hours, though it seemed like forever.”
Terwilliger’s crew left the disabled tank and scattered, diving into foxholes situated out of the open. Gunfire snapped overhead, and explosions from mortars and grenades flung a wall of shrapnel through the air. Before they could catch their breath the rumbling sound of an unfamiliar tank grew nearer. Their horror realized Japanese armor with the big red “Rising Sun” emblem on the tank’s side was blasting its 37mm turret gun and had stopped directly beside their foxhole.
With nothing more than a few hand grenades, his crew couldn’t defend themselves. They pulled the pins and hurled them at the tank before fleeing for cover, but there wasn’t any within crawling distance. Terwilliger ran under heavy fire across open ground until he reached an old Japanese artillery piece. His stomach dropped when he realized he had run the wrong way. He found a little path, as if all of the enemy’s attention was upon him, and sprinted toward the beach as bullets zipped passed. He looked over his shoulder to find the Japanese tank trailing his every move.
Wayne “Twig” Terwilliger, front left, with Company D, 2nd Armored Amphibian Battalion, which was created to lead the assault on key islands in the South Pacific. They fought at Saipan, Tinian, and Iwo Jima, and were preparing for new battles when the war ended. Photo courtesy of wayneterwilliger.com
He zigzagged through the soft sand to give the tank a harder target to hit. Marines waved and yelled to get his attention, and he dashed over a small sand dune for cover. “I looked back just in time to see one of our tanks made a direct hit, which knocked the Japanese tank on its side,” Terwilliger reflected. “That was my first six or seven hours of combat.”
Terwilliger served honorably in the U.S. Marine Corps, participating in the invasion of Tinian, as well as being among the first amphibious tanks to lead the invasion of Iwo Jima. During World War II, many amateur and professional baseball players joined service teams when not actively participating in combat operations.
“We didn’t have any spikes so we played in the boots the Marines issued us,” Terwilliger told ESPN. “You would have an air-raid sound during the game, you would scatter and then come back later to finish.” Terwilliger helped lead his battalion team to a 28-0 record, even winning the 2nd Division Championship — not bad for a high school second baseman.
When news of Japan’s surrender in 1945 came in, Terwilliger was in Hawaii, preparing to invade mainland Japan. He left the military that same year and went on to have a successful career as a player, coach, and manager in Major League Baseball. For 60 years, taking Terwilliger well into his 80s, he remained active in America’s national pastime. He was a teammate of Jackie Robinson — the first Black player to break the color barrier — and a personal friend of Ted Williams, one of the greatest hitters in all of baseball. However, Terwilliger’s most prized experience was his service as a U.S. Marine.
BRCC Presents: WWII Army Ranger Roy Huereque & The Best Defense Foundation
1. The Army has more aircraft than the Air Force and more boats than the Navy.
This is something that gets passed around Army circles with pride and is occasionally mentioned by other services with embarrassment. Well, buck up little sailors and airmen, the top rankings actually do go to their respective services.
The Army has 5,117 aircraft which is surprisingly high, but the Air Force still wins with 5,199 according to the 2015 Aviation Plan from the Department of Defense. Sometimes, the myth says the Navy has the most aircraft, but even when counting the Marine Corps helicopters and planes, the Department of the Navy comes in third with 3,847.
This is one of the claims we can’t outright debunk, but it’s still ridiculous. The story goes that at the United States Bullion Depository at Fort Knox, Kentucky, there is actually just an empty vault. A former head of the mint claims the gold is all there and points out that a full audit in 1953 found that all of the gold was present, a visit by Congressional leaders and the news media in 1974 found nothing suspicious, and annual inspections by the Treasury Department and the U.S. Mint always report that the gold is in place.
4. At base flagpoles, there are items to destroy the flag with honor in case the base is overrun.
The story goes that military installation flags are supposed to be destroyed if a base is overrun, and there is a kit with each flagpole to accomplish the task. The items stored at the flagpole change depending on who’s telling the story. Generally, there is a razor or match for destroying the flag, a set of printed instructions, and a pistol round. Either these items are in the truck, the ball at the top of the flagpole, or they are buried in a footlocker nearby. There is supposedly also a pistol, almost always in a buried footlocker, that the service member uses with the pistol round to kill themselves when they’re done destroying the flag.
This is insane for a few reasons. First, if a base is being overrun, the military has bigger problems than the flag. Flags are important symbols, but the tanks, ships, classified documents, and personnel on military bases are typically more important. The military Code of Conduct orders service members to resist the enemy as long as they can, so they should use the pistol round to kill the enemy rather than themselves. Finally, as a military historian pointed out to Stars and Stripes, few service members would actually be able to climb the flagpole which can be as high as 75 feet tall.
5. There are self-destruct buttons on bases and ships.
The idea that military bases, ships, or manned vehicles have self-destruct buttons likely comes from Hollywood, which uses the trope a ridiculous amount. Some foreign military vehicles have had self-destruct charges in rare instances, but the U.S. military typically guards its secrets in other ways.
Navy ships can be scuttled and the Air Force can bomb any downed airplanes or damaged vehicles. Modern computers can be “zeroized” to get rid of sensitive information. Any infrastructure on a military post that might need to be quickly destroyed could be destroyed with incendiary grenades nearly as quickly as with a built-in self-destruct mechanism.
A U.S. congressman and former Army infantry officer has started a company that makes an exact replica of the rifle wielded by soldiers he fought against in Iraq.
Dubbed the “Tabuk,” the Iraqi-made AK-47-style rifle remains a rare collectible and cannot be brought back to the United States. However, veterans who want a souvenir of their service in Iraq can get one made in detail to look and act the part.
And best of all, they have Iraq veteran to thank.
Army Lt. Col. Steve Russell is one of the founders and owners of Two Rivers Arms in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and is making the replica Tabuk rifles and other Iraqi-designed arms. Retired from the Army in 2006 after helping lead the mission to capture Saddam Hussein in Iraq during Operation Red Dawn, Russell is now a Republican congressman representing Oklahoma’s 5th district.
The replica Tabuk his company makes is a semi-automatic, long-stroke gas piston operated rifle chambered in 7.62×39 mm with a rotating bolt and firing from a detachable 30-round box magazine. And all of the original markings on an Iraqi Tabuk have been replicated to exacting detail.
In the Late 1970s Saddam Hussein ordered his Ministry of Defense to start production on a domestically made variant of the AKM. This was in the middle of the on again, off again war between Iraq and Iran and a reliable supply of small arms was needed. As the Iraqi military already had a good relationship with the former (at that time current) Yugoslavia an easy partnership was formed and tooling and training delivered.
The new Iraqi made AKMs were dubbed the Tabuk and were identical copies of the Yugo M70B1 and M70AB2 rifles.
Russell and his company spared no expense in making the replica Tabuk as close to the ones U.S. troops saw in Iraq as possible. In fact, they’re so authentic looking, Two Rivers Arms-made Tabuk rifles were used in the movie “American Sniper.”
The right side of the rear sight base on the Two Rivers-made rifle is marked “Tabuk” and “Cal. 7.62x39mm” in English just as on the original. Two Rivers Arms took special care to match the style, size and font of all the engravings using original samples. On the left side of the rear sight block is found the same text as on the right but in Arabic.
In between the name and caliber designation is the lion circle emblem that appears on all Tabuks. This is supposed to represent the Lion of Babylon standing in front of a pyramid and surrounded by a circle. The lion is standing over a prostrate man and has a saddle on its back as in legend it was ridden by Ishtar the Babylonian goddess of love and war.
A final touch of authenticity is that every rifle comes with an exact reproduction of the Iraqi instruction manual issued to troops and manufactured from an original and hard to find manual. It is of course in Arabic.
The Two Rivers Arms Tabuk replica rifle comes in at about $1,200.
Preparations for President Donald Trump’s “Salute to America” Fourth of July parade are underway, as evidenced by numerous sightings of military vehicles in the streets of Washington, DC, on July 2, 2019.
Infantry variants of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (BFV), an armored transport vehicle, were sighted crossing a bridge and moving down streets on top of a large truck:
The BFV, which is crewed by three troops and has a range of 300 miles, weighs around 25 tons. City officials raised concerns over the weight of the tracked military vehicles in the weeks leading up to the event.
“Tanks but no tanks,” the Council of the District of Columbia tweeted.
President Trump’s decision to use military assets — including fighter jets and M1A1 Abrams tanks — for his celebration has been scrutinized for being too costly, creating flight restrictions at local airports, and the possibility of road damage caused by heavy vehicles.
“We have some incredible equipment, military equipment on display — brand new,” President Trump said on July 1, 2019. “We’re going to have a great Fourth of July in Washington, DC. It’ll be like no other.”
Snipers from Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, and Spain attended the International Special Training Centre’s Desert Sniper Course in July 2018 at the Chinchilla Training Area here.
ISTC is a multinational education and training facility for tactical-level, advanced and specialized training of multinational special operations forces and similar units, employing the skills of multinational instructors and subject matter experts.
The Desert Sniper Course is designed to teach experienced sniper teams skills for operating in desert environments.
“The students that come to this course all have prior experience,” said a U.S. Army sniper instructor assigned to ISTC. “We help them build upon what they already know in order to operate in a desert environment. During the course we teach them concealment techniques and stalking in desert terrain. This culminates with students conducting missions where they put their newly learned skills to the test.”
A sniper team from the Netherlands collects ballistic data during a nighttime range session during the International Special Training Centre Desert Sniper Course at Chinchilla Training Area, Spain, July 9, 2018.
(Army photo by 1st Lt. Benjamin Haulenbeek)
Because of the nature of their work, the snipers’ names are not used in this article.
Snipers operating in dry or barren environments must take extra measures to alleviate the effects of heat that can increase the challenges when constructing concealed positions, known as hide sites.
Unique camouflage requirements
“The biggest challenges snipers will encounter during most desert operations are the unique camouflage requirements, the heat and exposure to the harsh environment, and having to engage targets at extreme distances,” the U.S. instructor said.
The first week of the course gave students the opportunity to acclimate to the environment.
“We ease into operations by conducting ranges where they collect data for their rifles and learn about environmental considerations such as heat mirage and strong winds that affect their ability to make long shots,” the instructor said. “From there, they practice building hide sites and stalking to refine the skills they’ll need when conducting missions during week two.”
ISTC’s ability to conduct and train across various countries in Europe provides NATO and partner nations the opportunity to participate in cost effective training close to home.
“Spain is the perfect place to conduct this type of training,” a Spanish sniper instructor. “We have the right kind of climate and terrain to replicate the conditions that a sniper team will encounter when deployed in a desert. We also have the space needed to conduct ranges for long-distance shooting, something that is not easy to find in Europe.”
With snipers from multiple countries, the opportunity to share knowledge helped all those who attended.
“One of the greatest benefits is that our courses bring together knowledge and resources from so many places,” the ISTC operations and plans officer said. “By combining efforts and sharing knowledge, the nations that participate in course like Desert Sniper are able to reinforce alliances and strengthen their capability to work together.”
Aviation journalist and expert Ian D’Costa shared a video on Oct. 1, 2018, we had to pass on. This Korean news video, originally published on bemil.chosun.com, loosely translated from Korean as “Military News”, is a dignified and heart-wrenching tribute to South Korea’s repatriated fallen soldiers from the Korean Conflict.
On Oct. 1, 2018, South Korean President Moon Jae-in cancelled the traditional South Korean military anniversary parade in favor of holding a ceremony for the arrival of remains of South Korean soldiers killed during the Korean conflict. The remains were repatriated in early 2018 from North Korea, flown to Hawaii’s Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency for DNA identification and, once verified as South Korean servicemen, scheduled to return to South Korea for formal military burial.
D’Costa managed to find the Korean in-flight newsreel video of a Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) F-15K Slam Eagle of the 11th Fighter Wing from Daegu, South Korea joining other aircraft including FA-50 Fighting Eagles of the 8th Fighter Wing at Wonju, South Korea as they escort the remains flight in a ROKAF C-130H transport.
The newsreel video published on bemil.chosun.com shows an F-15K Slam Eagle crew fly right wing formation alongside the remains flight C-130H and, with perfect military precision, render a final in-flight salute before dropping back to fly wedge formation while escorting the aircraft. It’s a heart-wrenching moment to see.
The video goes on to show the precise and reverent loading of the remains onboard the C-130K flight in Hawaii for return to South Korea. The remains repatriation flight was escorted by two ROKAF F-15K Slam Eagles and two FA-50 Fighting Eagles.
The dignified gestures attendant the handling of military remains is an important ritual in observing the personal loss to families of fallen servicemen. In this case, the rituals are also a historic part of the slow healing process between the two fractured Koreas.
The aerial funeral procession in flight near South Korea as it returns from Hawaii.
According to several sources including CNN, South Korea suffered 217,000 military and a staggering “1,000,000” civilian casualties during the entire Korean Conflict which began on June 25, 1950, and continued to varying degrees until April 27, 2018, when talks between North and South Korea brokered by the United States brought an end to the conflict. According to reports, 7,704 U.S. servicemen remain unaccounted for following the end of the Korean Conflict.
Thanks to Ian D’Costa of The Tactical Air Network, Sightline Media Group and We Are The Mighty for letting us know about this story.
One of the first women to lead a military op might not meet your stereotype. Instead, envision the Civil War, and a woman who has been working as a spy for the Union Army. She has been gathering valuable information to help the Union turn the tide in the war. She has come to be relied on by generals for the information that she supplies. And with that, she is given the opportunity to lead a military operation called the Combahee Ferry Raid.
Do you have the woman pictured in your mind?
Her name is Harriet Tubman and you might have learned her story as one of the leaders of the Underground Railroad. Even referred to as the “Moses of her people,” but being a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad is just part of her story.
Harriet was born into slavery between 1820 and 1825. In 1844, even though it wasn’t allowed, she married a free, Black man named John Tubman. She was ready to escape slavery in 1849, but her husband did not want to leave Maryland. She left anyway and eventually he remarried in 1851. It was after she was freed from slavery that she began to go back countless times to help other slaves find their way to freedom on the Underground Railroad. She is remembered in history for never being caught or losing a passenger on the road to freedom.
But this is only the beginning of her story.
Because of her extensive knowledge of the South due to the Underground Railroad, Tubman became a key informant for the North (Union Army). She knew the towns and transportation routes of the South and long before GPS or reliable maps, this made her insight an invaluable tool. Not only would she dress up as an aging woman and wander Confederate streets and talk to enslaved people and gather information such as troop movement/placement and supply lines, but her work made her a respected guerrilla operative. So much so that in 1963 she began to plan a military operation under the command of Colonel James Montgomery.
The Union officers knew that the people of the South didn’t trust them, but did trust Harriet. Her demeanor and way with people were just part of the asset she provided to the military. Although she was illiterate, she was able to capture intelligence with her memory. To make the Combahee Ferry Raid a success, they traveled upriver in three boats: the John Adams, Sentinel and Harriet A Weed. They relied on Harriet’s memory where the slaves were at strategic points to collect the fleeing slaves while also using those points as places; they could destroy Confederate property. She also helped them navigate around known torpedoes.
At approximately 2:30 AM on June 2, they were down to two ships as the Sentinel had run aground early on in the mission. The two remaining ships split up to conduct different raids. Harriet Tubman led 150 men on the John Adams toward the fugitives. Once the signal was given, there was chaos. Slaves running everywhere. Angry slave owners and rebels tried to chase down the slaves, even firing their guns on them. As the escaped slaves ran to the shore, black troops waited in rowboats to transfer them to the ships. In the chaos, Tubman broke out into popular songs from the abolitionist movement to help calm everyone down. That night, more than 700 slaves escaped. The troops also disembarked near Field’s Point, torching plantations, fields, mills, warehouses, and mansions. Overall, it was a huge success and caused a humiliating defeat for the Confederacy.
The first story written by a Wisconsin State Journal noted Harriet as the “She Moses,” but didn’t actually include her name. A month later Franklin Sanborn, the editor of Boston’s Commonwealth newspaper picked up the story and named Harriet Tubman, a friend of his, as the heroine.
Even with the mission’s success, Harriet was not paid for her contribution. She petitioned the government many times and was denied because she was a woman.
After the war, she dedicated her life to helping impoverished former slaves and the elderly. She also continued to petition for recognition from the military with a military pension. She also remarried a Black Union soldier, Nelson Davis. And eventually, Tubman received military compensation after his death. Although she often found herself in financial constraints, she was always giving her time and money.
If you would like to learn more about Harriet Tubman you can check out these resources and books: