During the Cold War, the Soviet Union had a problem. Well, to be honest, they had over a dozen problems: United States Navy carrier battle groups. Each American aircraft carrier was able to bring in five squadrons of tactical jets to take down targets on land, and the Soviets got a good look at what carrier air wings could do in the Vietnam War.
The Soviet’s Tupolev Tu-16 Badger simply could not be counted on to counter this massive threat and survive, so they started looking for better options. The first effort to replace the Badger, the Tu-22 Blinder, was a disappointment. It had high speed, making it harder for opposing fighters to intercept, but it wasn’t the easiest plane to fly. So, Tupolev tried to field a new replacement.
What emerged was a plane that would dominate the nightmares of American admirals. The Tu-22M Backfire had high performance and wouldn’t struggle with any of the many issues that plagued the Blinder.
There are some key differences between the Tu-22 Blinder and the Tu-22M Backfire. One of the biggest changes was the addition of a fourth crew member to the three-man crew of the Blinder. The primary armament also changed. Unlike its predecessors, which made heavy use of gravity bombs, the Backfire is primarily a missile shooter. Its main weapon was the AS-4 Kitchen, a missile with a range of 310 miles that carries either a 350-kiloton nuclear warhead or a one-ton conventional warhead. The AS-4 can hit targets on land or ships at sea.
The Backfire entered service in 1972. It has a top speed of 1,243 miles per hour and is capable of mid-air refueling. The capability was reportedly deleted after the START treaty, but Russia’s compliance with arms control treaties has been dubious in recent years.
Learn more about this lethal bomber in the video below:
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.
The M4 carbine completely slicked down is already a mighty-fine assault weapon, but nothing is above improvement. With the rise of a hypersensitive world, where one picture can change the game, the great members and I of the unit put out a request for some serious target acquisition and fire control hardware. What we didn’t expect was the flood of equipment some good… some less than helpful.
I’ve seen how the evolution of weapons and kit works among pipe-hitters. It roughly follows this sequence: the newest brothers readily slap every new gadget onto their ARs and love and swear by them all. Soon their ARs become an unruly sort of Rube Goldberg contraption that resembles a deep space cruiser out of Star Wars. Inevitably SHOOTING… becomes a secondary or tertiary function of the… the thing!
There finally comes the time when the brother is tired of weeds, branches, socks, and whatever snagged up and caught on his “weapon,” and the fact that he can no longer fire it from the prone or even hold it up steady firing off-hand… he starts to get wiser about his configuration; he resolutely removes from his M4 Carbine:
• the Hubble star finder scope he thought would be great for navigation • the AM radio receiver dialed into the 24-hour continuous weather variables reporting station he thought would be great for fine aiming adjustments • the Enterprise Photon Torpedo launch tube and rails are the next to go • the 22 LR rim-fire spotting sub-rifle comes off; he would just have to learn to zero better • (approximately) 19 linear feet of Picatinny rail segments • (finally) the coffee press
But there are some pieces of gear that actually do make the M4 much more lethal than what those Neanderthal iron blade and peep sights have to offer. A red-dot scope will replace those nicely, perhaps even one with a couple of times (X) magnification power thrown in.
(An example red dot stop superimposes an adjustable red dot where your bullet will
A forward pistol grip is always a plus, lending stability to the weapon when firing, as it assists with recoil management and site-picture recovery. In the struggle between ‘yes’ forward pistol grip and ‘no’ forward pistol grip, a folding or collapsible pistol grip feature could quell the struggle.
(A decent representative folding forward pistol grip)
Chamfered, flared, or beveled magazine wells are a real plus for combat shooters who require speed during reloads as well as accuracy. The simple fact is trying to align a rectangular-shaped magazine into a rectangular-shaped magazine well quickly requires a relatively precision alignment, one that takes a split-second more time than you might have.
The flared magazine well attachment provides a gentle sloping angle to the bottom of the well to allow for subtle errors in alignment of the magazine to be accepted foregoing the loss of time due to poor alignment. This feature is just as effective for pistols as well as rifle combat shooters.
(An after-market flared magazine well attachment. Note the extended bolt release that allows the shooter to seat the magazine and release the bolt in almost the same movement)
Perhaps you may feel the need for a LASER aim point for your AR. That can be a visible red dot that is aligned with your rifle sight and allows you to hit whatever the light dot is on. It allows you to hit a target even without a sight picture such as firing from the hip. This advantage comes heavily into play when the shooter is restricted from his sight picture by the requirement to wear a protective (gas) mask. Carrying out the tactical scenario even farther, you may want your light dot to be infrared and only visible by Night Observation Devices (NODs).
(An odd off-brand, small and very inexpensive visible red dot LASER mounted to a 2.5″ Picatinny segment. A device such as this costs less than .00 w/o rail segment.)
We still need illumination. A strong white light source can always be capped by a snap-on/snap-off filter that renders the light to the Infrared spectrum, so no need for two separate devices. Technology affords us the luxury of going from attaching clumsy flashlights to ARs with pipe clamps, to small LED light devices of very high lumens and elegant mountings.
Subject to the accessories dance is the “need” to not only have all of these target acquisition and fire and control devices, but to also have them located in such a configuration that you can activate them all quickly while firing your weapon. After a while, it might seem like trying to play a piano concerto with one hand. Perhaps some of us would be better off playing the one-handed concerto…
(Not the lowest profile solution today, but a workable illumination choice nonetheless. This lamp uses a high-lumen Halogen bulb for a flood)
It is an observation of mine that the older guys on the assault team seemed to have the slickest ARs; that is, the ones with the fewest gadgets on them. The reason for that is readily debatable, lending itself never to be fully defined. I think my own Delta Team leader summed it up the best I ever heard during yet another “kit argument.” When he was asked to inject his two cents into the debate, he replied, “Let me tell you something, homes… 50 years ago the American Army assaulted Omaha Beach wearing f*cking WOOL!”
If you saw The Pacific on HBO, then you saw what amphibious landings usually involved during World War II and most of the 1950s and 60s. Higgins boats were used to deliver infantry and light vehicles while heavier vehicles and tanks came from larger landing craft or ships that beached themselves.
That is no longer the case. These days, the grunts are likely to ride in on helicopters, like the CH-53E Super Stallion and the MH-60S Seahawk, or tiltrotors, like the MV-22 Osprey. When possible, Marines use these aircraft to fly in from dozens of miles offshore. Sometimes, however, the mission requires an approach by sea — and when it does, it doesn’t make much sense to run a landing ship tank onto the beach.
A new landing craft was developed to be the perfect entry vessel: the Landing Craft Air Cushion. It isn’t exactly a boat — it’s a hovercraft — and it’s a huge step up from WWII-era landing craft that were, in actuality, barely functional. Previously, troops were often forced to wade through water – a very slow process that left them very vulnerable. If you saw the beginning of Saving Private Ryan, you get the idea.
The LCAC entered service in 1987 and the United States bought 91. They have a crew of five and can haul troops, tanks, and cargo onto the shore and well inland. Unlike previous landing craft, the LCAC can move inland a bit and then deliver the troops, instead of dropping the ramp at sea. The Marines can storm beaches without getting their feet wet.
While the LCAC can’t take much punishment, it still gets the Marines’ vehicles ashore quickly.
Learn more about this combat hovercraft by watching the video below!
It seems like every week brings another potential flashpoint for global conflict. North Korea acts like it wants to go 12 rounds over its nuclear program. China threatens war to protect its control of Taiwan and the South China Sea. Russia stages major exercises near NATO borders and is currently occupying two regions of Ukraine.
And that’s without touching the cluster that is the ongoing conflicts in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
But Americans can still sleep soundly because its military keeps teams ready to deploy at a moments notice, projecting power to any part of the globe within hours.
These are the U.S. military units who, in conjunction with NATO and other allies, would be in charge of drawing first blood in a knockdown fight. We modeled the conflict based on the war in Syria erupting into something larger, but the scenario would play out similarly in other regions of the world.
Listen to the author and other vets discuss this World War III scenario on the WATM podcast.
1. U.S. Air Force’s first move is to achieve air superiority.
The Air Force is likely going to find itself the first one in the ring. Strikes in Syria fall under U.S. Central Command, but command and control for a conflict that spills into Turkey would shift to U.S. European Command.
Within 24 hours, the Air Force would dispatch 1-2 “Rapid Raptor” teams. Each consists of four F-22s that can refuel in the air as they race to any spot on the planet in 24 hours. Their support crew and additional equipment follow them in a C-17. The rest of the planes in each squadron would come later.
Marines deployed to the Black Sea Rotational Force in Romania would provide expertise and assist in defending Romania’s coast from potential attacks by Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. Marines across the rest of the continent would prepare to repulse a land invasion from Moscow.
4. The Army looks to hold the line across over 750 miles of border.
They would be backed up by the Global Response Force from the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
5. Supporting all of this activity would be the special operators of Special Operations Command Europe.
Special Operations Command Europe has operators from the Army, Navy, and Air Force. The Army fields its oldest Special Forces group, the 10th, in Europe. Navy Special Warfare Unit 2 mostly supports forward deployed SEAL platoons but could also pivot missions to leading a Naval Special Warfare Task Unit that would support U.S. European Command.
Meanwhile, the Airmen of the 352nd Special Operations Group would plan the complex air missions supporting these other operators. The Air Force special operators from the 321st Special Tactics Squadron would provide pararescue, air traffic control, and reconnaissance capabilities.
The SS Meredith Victory might be the luckiest and most important ship of the entire Korean War. The Merchant Marine vessel carried men and materiel that saved US troops in the Pusan Perimeter, protected the supplies around Inchon harbor, and pulled off the “Christmas Miracle” – the largest single ship rescue evacuation of refugees in history.
Merchant Mariners might be history’s biggest unsung heroes. The Korean War in 1950 was not going well for the United Nations forces. American troops were relegated to a small corner of the Korean Peninsula, barely holding off the Communist onslaught as North Korea fought to push them into the sea and out of the war. In what came to be known as the Pusan Perimeter, American and South Korean forces held the line until the Americans could relieve them.
In true joint force action, the Army and Marines, supported by the Navy and Air Force, planned a landing at Inchon, behind the North Korean lines. The enemy around Pusan practically dissipated as the Army broke out of the Pusan Perimeter while Marines were landing at Inchon. Within two weeks, the UN forces had partially retaken Seoul and cut off the enemy’s supply and communications ability.
The unsung heroes of the Merchant Marine were part of the Inchon Landing force as well. If it weren’t for them, the whole thing might have fallen to the bottom of the ocean. The day before the landings at Inchon, a massive typhoon hit the coast of the Korean Peninsula, just off of which lay the United Nations invasion fleet. Hurricane-force winds slammed the boats supporting the invasion. Among them was the SS Meredith Victory, a merchant marine ship carrying men and supplies for the landing. Were it not for the ship’s crew’s skill at saving the ship, the entire invasion might never have happened.
The UN fleet off the coast of Inchon, Korea.
But that’s not the last time history called the Meredith Victory. By the end of 1950, the Chinese had intervened in the war and were pushing UN forces back to the south. Along with those retreating troops came thousands of North Korean refugees fleeing the repressive Communist regime. By the time the Meredith Victory arrived in Hungnam Harbor, the docks were packed with refugees and soldiers fleeing the Chinese.
“The Koreans on the dock, to me, that’s what we were there for, that was our job. The problem was how we [were] going to get them aboard,” remembered Burley Smith, a Merchant Mariner, the third mate aboard the Meredith Victory. “There were too many people and not enough time to get them all loaded. It looked like Times Square on New Year’s Eve.”
North Korean refugees crowd the harbor at Hungnam, December 1950.
By this time, the Army had already left, and the Chinese were being held back by Naval gunfire. The crew of the Meredith Victory began loading passengers aboard this ship meant to house 59 people. The crew worked around the clock, loading the masses of people on to her decks. They managed to get all 14,000 onto the ship and safely away from the harbor before the Army blew the port facilities.
The ship traversed the coast of Korea, on the lookout for mines, enemy submarines, and North Korean fighter planes. By the time the ship got to Geoje Island, every single refugee was alive – and five more were born along the way. It was a Christmas miracle.
Former NBA star Dennis Rodman said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un didn’t really “understand” President Donald Trump until he gave him a copy of the president’s book, “The Art of the Deal,” for his birthday in 2017.
In a recent interview with TMZ, Rodman said, “I think [Kim] didn’t realize who Donald Trump was at that time, I guess, until he started to read the book and started to get to understand him.”
Rodman, who considers Kim a friend and has made a number of visits to North Korea, said he believes the North Korean leader has had “a change of heart” when it comes to both Trump and the American people. The former NBA player didn’t take full credit for this, but still feels his efforts at basketball diplomacy with North Korea played a significant role in the recent warming of relations.
“I don’t want to take all the credit. I don’t want to sit there and say, ‘I did this, I did that.’ That’s not my intention,” Rodman said. “My intention was to go over and be a sports ambassador to North Korea so people understand how the people are in North Korea. I think that has resonated to this whole point now.”
Trump is set to meet with Kim at some point in the near future to discuss North Korea’s nuclear program, though a location and date have not yet been announced. Rodman is seemingly very pleased with this development.
“I’m not the president. I’m just one person. I’m just one person and I’m so happy that things are going well,” Rodman said.
In 2017 North Korea conducted a series of long-range missile tests as part of its broader ambition to develop a nuclear weapon capable of reaching the mainland US. This led to a war of words between Trump and Kim as well as harsh economic sanctions to be leveled against Pyongyang by the international community.
But the tide has turned in 2018 as North and South Korea have rekindled relations. Kim recently traveled to South Korea for a historic summit with President Moon Jae-in, in which the two leaders vowed to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and work toward formally ending the Korean War.
Moon, as well as a number of Republican lawmakers back in the US, have given Trump a great deal of credit for these developments and have suggested the president should win the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in pressuring North Korea.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The leaders of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence battle group in Poland honored Polish firefighters on Monday for their response when a US Army Stryker armored vehicle caught fire at the end of January.
The Stryker burst into flames on the side of a road outside the village of Gorzekaly, in northeast Poland near the Lithuanian border, on January 28. Its crew was able to pull over but unable to put out the fire and instead called local emergency responders.
Firefighters from the nearby town Pisz arrived and extinguished the fire quickly enough to prevent the vehicle’s total loss, according to an Army release, which said there were no injuries and damage was limited to the engine compartment.
US Army Lt. Col. Andrew Gallo, commander of NATO Battle Group Poland, and Command Sgt. Maj. Marcus Brister, the group’s senior enlisted adviser, presented certificates of appreciation to the firefighters on February 10.
“We sincerely appreciate the fire chief’s professionalism and dedication to duty,” Gallo said. “We are excited to continue to build relationships like this one with the local community during our deployment to Poland.”
“On public roads, we have never had to deal with vehicle fires, of course some kind of accidents but never fires,” said Lt. Col. Pawel Pienkosz of the fire brigade. “We were just doing our jobs; we will do it for you every time.”
The NATO battle group replaced the Stryker with a new one from Vilseck, Germany, where the 2nd Calvary Regiment, to which the Stryker was assigned, is headquartered.
NATO set up the enhanced forward presence battle groups after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea to show the “strength of the transatlantic bond” and provide training opportunities.
The Stryker fire isn’t the 2nd Calvary Regiment’s first incident during a NATO operation. During a June 2018 exercise, four of the regiment’s Strykers collided during a road march in Lithuania, injuring 15 US soldiers.
I’m calling it now. This weekend will be one of the quietest weekends in recent history. Why? It has nothing to do with 2nd MARDIV’s insane level of micromanaging and everything to do with how lower enlisted troops think.
For starters, it’s a non-pay day weekend for the second time in a row. Less shenanigans when everyone is broke as Hell. Secondly, NCOs will know exactly where everyone is located at any given moment. Friday night? They’re all out seeing Avengers Endgame. Saturday afternoon? In the barracks playing the new Mortal Kombat game. Saturday night? Probably seeing Avengers again. Sunday? Too hungover (I said quiet, not uneventful) and Sunday night will be Game of Thrones.
If you’re an NCO trying to find a good reason to cheer up your sergeant major, pointing out the lack of blotter reports on their desk will surely help.
Here’s to a quiet, entertainment filled weekend. Enjoy some memes.
(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)
(Meme via Not CID)
(Meme via Lock Load)
(Meme via Call for Fire)
(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)
(Meme by Devil Dog Actual)
(Meme via Valhalla Wear)
(Meme via Private News Network)
(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)
(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)
(Meme via Air Force amn/nco/snco)
(Meme by Ranger Up)
My ass is firmly in the “why leave a perfectly good aircraft” category.
Call me a leg, but at least we use Air Assault these days.
It’s more than a Grunt Style t-shirt, those awful Oakleys, or an American flag ball cap — you know, the one with the IR patch on the front? People don’t need to hear you ask if there’s a veteran’s discount or relate everything back to how your old unit did things.
People can tell you were in the military — just by looking at you.
8. The way you stand.
Some call it “command presence” while others call it “closed body language.” No matter what you call it, you stand there with your arms crossed, feet planted beneath your shoulders, and shoulders slightly hunched – you’re in a power stance: a military power stance. How better to show someone you’re frosty, collected, and listening to them than looking like you’re leaning on a pole without actually doing it.
You may have started the conversation with his hands on his hips, thumbs through belt loops.
“Your party called ahead. What now, POG?”
7. You are always 15 minutes early to everything.
People will figure out that if you aren’t 15 minutes early, you consider yourself late. Especially since you’ll call them to let them know… meanwhile, they haven’t even left their house yet.
For civilians, this works out because you’ll always be at a restaurant to put the group on the waiting list for a table. They will use this to their full advantage.
When you find out Yogurtland has froyo in Sea Salt Caramel.
6. You move fast.
It doesn’t matter if you actually have to be anywhere at a certain time, you move with a sense of urgency, a sense of purpose. You know that Pinkberry will still be there no matter when you arrive, but you still approach the cinnamon churro froyo like T-1000 chasing John Connor.
5. Your haircut.
This is a dead giveaway. Why would anyone on Earth willingly subject their head to the high and tight (or worse, the flattop) unless they were forced to keep it that way at some point? I’m pretty sure the coiffure equivalent of Stockholm Syndrome takes hold in TAPS class.
Like standing at parade rest for pizza.
4. You stand at parade rest for bizarre reasons.
Ever catch yourself staring out into the distance, perhaps over a lake at sunset, only to have an older guy tell you to “stop standing at parade rest for the goddamned lake, boot.” It’s a sign of respect for those above you and, after spending so long as an E-3, just a comfortable position to put yourself in.
Stand like you’re wearing a cavalry hat while meeting a foreign head of state.
3. Your ramrod-straight posture.
You stand tall. We all do. That’s not going to stop just because we stopped wearing a uniform.
It’s like they drilled it into you or something.
2. You walk with coordinated arm swings.
Have you ever noticed yourself walking down the street with your right arm perfectly in sync with your left leg and vice versa? That’s not an accident. You had all those military marches and facing movements drilled into you. They’re going to hang around for a while.
1. You eat so fast, people wonder if you ever taste food.
Appetizers, dinners, desserts — all gone in the blink of an eye. Wouldn’t it be great if you could slow down and enjoy the flavors of life? Well, you can’t. This is because you’re probably worried that, if you do, your stripper ex-wife will take that, too.
Intel said on March 18, 2019, that it would build the US’s most powerful supercomputer, so fast that it could process 1 quintillion — 1 billion times 1 billion, or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 — calculations per second.
To put that in perspective: If every person on Earth did one calculation (say, a math problem involving algebra) per second, it would take everyone over four years to do all the calculations Aurora could do in one second.
Intel and the US Department of Energy said Aurora would be the US’s first exascale supercomputer, with a performance of 1 exaflop, when it’s completed in 2021.
That kind of number-crunching brawn, the computer’s creators hope, will enable great leaps in everything from cancer research to renewable-energy development.
Aurora, set to be developed by Intel and its subcontractor Cray at the Energy Department’s Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago, would far surpass the abilities of supercomputers today. It’s likely to be the most powerful supercomputer in not just the US but the world, though Rick Stevens, an associate laboratory director at Argonne, said that other countries might also be working on exascale supercomputers.
Rajeeb Hazra, a corporate vice president and general manager at Intel.
The effort marks a “transformational” moment in the evolution of high-performance computing, Rajeeb Hazra, an Intel corporate vice president and general manager of its enterprise and government group, told Business Insider.
What Aurora could do
A computer that powerful is no small thing. Though Intel didn’t unveil the technical details of the system, supercomputers typically cover thousands of square feet and have thousands of nodes.
When it’s finished, this supercomputer should be able to do space simulations, drug discovery, and more. The government said it planned to use it to develop applications in science, energy, and defense. Aurora could also be used by universities and national labs.
For example, it could be used to safely simulate and test weapons — without actually setting them off or endangering people — or design better batteries, wind-power systems, or nuclear reactors. It could also be used to better understand earthquake hazards and model the risks of climate change.
U.S. Department of Energy and Intel to Deliver First Exascale Supercomputer
It could even be used for research on cancer, cardiac issues, traumatic brain injuries, and suicide prevention, especially among veterans. The supercomputer is designed to apply large-scale data analytics and machine learning to understand the risk factors for these kinds of physical and mental health problems to help prevent them.
Intel, which says it helps power over 460 of the top 500 supercomputers, has worked with the Department of Energy for about two decades. It said Aurora would be five times as fast as the most powerful supercomputer, IBM’s Summit.
The Department of Energy’s contract with Intel and Cray is worth over 0 million to build Aurora, which Secretary of Energy Rick Perry authorized in 2017. The department also plans to build additional exascale supercomputers to start working between 2021 and 2023.
“The biggest challenge is also probably the most exciting part: to envision and create technologies that have never been created before,” Hazra said. “Because this machine requires a level of capability we haven’t seen before, the biggest risk is we’re inventing something new — but to us, that’s also the most exciting part.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The next season of the 1980s-horror-nostalgia-fest that is Stranger Things will debut on July 4, 2019, on Netflix and in the new trailer, it really feels like the series could be ending. Because of one specific plot element, this excellent trailer for Stranger Things 3 makes a strong case that perhaps, the series could — and should — end after this season.
On June 20, 2019, Netflix released the final trailer for the third season of Stranger Things. Unlike season 2, in which Eleven (Millie Bobbie Brown) was separated from Lucas, Mike, and Will for almost the entire season, this time around, everyone is back together and clearly hanging out in the town of Hawkins. This is smart because what made season 1 of Stranger Things so great was the fact it went small to go big, and it looks like season 3 is the same; keeping it local in Hawkins, reminding everyone why they loved the show in the first place.
The new season looks great, and it’s super exciting to see how the kids will defeat the Upside Down creatures once and for all. Speaking of which…that roar at the end of the trailer was clearly the Mind Flayer creature from season 1, and it seems like the Mind Flayer itself is narrating the trailer. All the kids are worried: maybe it never left? Maybe it’s possessed one of the regular cast! Oooh, spooky!
Honestly, I love this trailer and the 12-year-old in me thinks it’s right to make the stakes in season 3 about familiar creatures. Eleven wonders aloud: “It doesn’t make sense…I closed the gate.” But clearly, she didn’t. When you’re a little kid, this is how sequels always worked in your mind: Let’s just bring back the monster from the first story, only bigger, badder and grodier than before. The fact that Stranger Things season 3 isn’t trying to do something experimental, but instead is doing something safe is why this trailer kicks ass. It’s why I want to see this season RIGHT NOW.
Stranger Things 3 | Official Final Trailer | Netflix
But, the return of the Mind Flayer and the continued questioning of whether or not the Upside Down has really been sealed off makes me think this really should be the final season of Stranger Things. Last year series star Millie Bobby Brown got everyone worried that the show was ending after this season but then clarified that she wasn’t saying that outright. However, she also didn’t say there 100 percent was going to be a season 4 after this. So, right now, no one actually knows.
Because the new trailer is so focused on resolving old conflicts, it feels like season 3 could really be the end. But then again, because we haven’t seen it yet, we don’t know that for sure, either. Still, as much as I love Stranger Things doubling-down on its own nostalgia, how much nostalgia is left in the Upside Down? If Eleven closes that dimensional doorway again should we really re-open it?
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Many military members are familiar with the sight of a shift change at Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Only the U.S. Army’s finest can join the Old Guard and walk the carpet as a tomb sentinel, so the highlight of any visit to Arlington is catching the Changing of the Guard, where the guard’s M-14 rifle is famously inspected during the ceremony.
What you might not notice is the duty NCO’s sidearm, holstered but clearly ready for use. This weapon is as clean as the rifle the NCO inspects, with one important difference for the guards.
The M-14 rifles used by the Tomb Sentinels are fully functional, the Old Guard says. While the unit would not discuss further security measures due to the sensitive nature of what they do, it’s clear the rifle isn’t loaded when it’s carried by the men walking the line in front of the Tomb. An M-14 with a magazine is distinctly different than one without. Furthermore, when the rifle is inspected during the Changing of the Guard, the inspection would eject a round from the rifle, were there a round in the chamber.
No one really knows if there are live rounds in the nearby tent or another means for the sentinels to defend themselves in case of an active shooter. But the NCOs are packing.
When an NCO of the Old Guard attends to the Changing of the Guard, the NCO is equipped with a custom, U.S. Army-issued weapon, the Sig-Sauer M17. The weapon was built by the gunmaker specifically for the Tomb Sentinels and comes with a number of beautiful features. There are only four like them ever created, and all are carried exclusively by NCOs in the Old Guard.
The hardwood in the grip of these special pistols comes from the deck of the USS Olympia, a cruiser first laid in 1895 and seeing service in the Spanish-American War and World War I. Marble from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is superheated, converted into glass, and added to the weapon’s sights, making for one of the most unique weapons created for the military anywhere.
Since things are so tight at the Pentagon in terms of operational security, it’s not known whether the NCOs are carrying ammunition for the sidearms, but since there is a magazine in the weapon, they certainly could be. After the 2014 shootings at Canada’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and subsequent spree on Ottawa’s Parliament Hill, they certainly should be.