Warriors In Their Own Words: SOG's covert operations in Vietnam - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Warriors In Their Own Words: SOG’s covert operations in Vietnam

The Military Assistance Command — Studies and Observations Group, now better known as SOG, was one of those true dark-arts units that hid dangerous men with dangerous jobs behind a boring name. The missions that these special operators, including a large number of U.S. Army green berets, undertook helped save the lives of infantrymen fighting across Vietnam.

Now, these warriors are telling their story.


Warriors In Their Own Words: SOG’s covert operations in Vietnam

Then-Sgt. Gary M. Rose, a member of Studies and Observations Group, is led away from a helicopter after heroic actions that would later net him a Medal of Honor.

(U.S. Army)

Warriors In Their Own Words, a podcast that captures the authentic stories of America’s veterans as they tell them, spoke with two members of the unit. You can enjoy their riveting tales in the episode embedded above — but make sure you carve out time for it. The episode is just over an hour, but once you start listening, you won’t want to stop.

J.D. Bath and Bill Deacy describe their harrowing experiences serving in Vietnam with the SOG, and they both tell amazing stories.

J.D. Bath was an early member of SOG, recruited after his entire team was killed in a helicopter crash. He tells of how his SOG team bought pipes, tobacco, and bourbon for local tribes to enlist their help. Later, he and his team came under fire from a U.S. helicopter that had no idea that Americans were so far behind enemy lines. Luckily, another U.S. aircraft threatened to shoot down the helicopter if it didn’t stop immediately.

Bill Deacy, on the other hand, survived multiple firefights and endured a bad case of malaria before ending up on the wrong part of the Ho Chi Min Trail. The Special Forces soldiers planned an ambush against a small North Vietnamese force, and Deacy had no way of warning his men when he spotted a massive column of enemy soldiers approaching just as the ambush was being sprung.

These are incredible stories coming straight from the heroes who were there. We’ll be featuring a story each week, so keep your eyes peeled. If you can’t wait, Warriors In Their Own Words has a massive archive on their website.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day

Almost seven years ago, Spc. Dakota Williams lost more than his stepbrother. He lost his hero.

His stepbrother, Spc. Dylan Johnson, had been deployed in Iraq’s Diyala Province just north of Baghdad for less than a month when a bomb detonated next to his vehicle. The explosion killed him.


Inspired by his service to the country, Williams later joined the Army to follow in his footsteps.

On May 24, 2018, he personally honored his stepbrother when he placed an American flag at his headstone in Section 60 of the Arlington National Cemetery during the annual Flags In event.

“He’s not here, but he’s here,” said Williams, 23, of Salina, Oklahoma. “He’s still such an important part of my life.”

All Soldiers, including Williams, in the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, known as “The Old Guard,” participated in some way in 2018’s Flags In. The regiment has conducted the event before every Memorial Day since 1948. It was then when the regiment was designated as the Army’s official ceremonial unit.

Warriors In Their Own Words: SOG’s covert operations in Vietnam
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Lane Hiser)

Over a course of four hours, more than 234,000 small flags were laid in front of headstones across the 624-acre cemetery. Flags were also placed inside the Columbarium as well, where the cremated remains of service members reside. In all, enough flags were placed to account for the more than 400,000 interred or inurned within the cemetery. Regiment Soldiers also placed about 11,500 flags at the nearby Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery.

“It’s a great commitment by these Soldiers to do this, to place them at the hundreds of thousands of graves here,” said Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper. “What it does is it pays respect and homage to those who served before them, going all the way back to the Civil War and signals the importance of their service and that they will never be forgotten for what they did. So that they know, these young Soldiers today, much as I knew when I was in uniform, that should I have to pay that ultimate price, I would not be forgotten either in America’s hearts and minds.”

Warriors In Their Own Words: SOG’s covert operations in Vietnam
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Lane Hiser)

Col. Jason Garkey, the regiment commander, said Flags In is also a time of reflection for the Soldiers who participate.

“For every one of those headstones where we put a flag at, we have the solemn honor to put that flag in for a family member who can’t be here to do it themselves,” he said. “That’s a privilege.”

Each Soldier who took part in the event had the opportunity to place hundreds of flags into the ground, about 1 foot centered in front of every headstone.

When doing so, Garkey encouraged his Soldiers to read the name engraved onto the headstone.

“I tell them that the cemetery is alive,” Garkey said. “If you pay attention, it will tell you things.”

Buried throughout the cemetery are Medal of Honor recipients, young service members who were killed in war, retirees and spouses — all with a story to share.

Garkey, who took part in his sixth Flags In, recalled one time seeing two graves next to each other with the same last name. From the dates on the headstones, he believed they belonged to a father who had served much of his adult life in the military and his son who had died in combat years before him.

Warriors In Their Own Words: SOG’s covert operations in Vietnam
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Lane Hiser)

“There’s no worst thing than for a parent to bury their child,” he said. “But they ended up there for eternity.”

When his Soldiers recognize those sacrifices, he said, it helps put things into perspective while they perform their ceremonial duties.

“You realize there are many stories in the cemetery and that brings the cemetery to something more than just a place where we go to work,” the colonel said. “It makes it a living, breathing entity where we honor our fallen.”

For Sgt. Kevin Roman, who serves with Williams in the regiment’s Presidential Salute Battery that is responsible for firing blank howitzer rounds during ceremonies, Flags In gives him the chance to appreciate those who came before him.

“Memorial Day is a day to pay your respects to the [service members] who have made the ultimate sacrifice or who have served honorably,” said Roman, 23, of Bronx, New York. “For some people, it’s just a holiday and the unofficial start of summer.”

Before he participated in his fourth Flags In, he said every time he gets to place flags it is still meaningful to him.

“When you get out there and start reading tombstones, you gain that respect back that you may have lost during those hard days in the cemetery,” he said. “Everything comes flooding into you and you get that sense of proudness and that American spirit.”

Some gravesites are even more significant to other Soldiers in the regiment, whether they belong to a family member or a service member they once served with.

Garkey places a flag at the headstone of retired Lt. Col. Toby Runyon, a Vietnam War veteran and a family friend who died two years ago.

“I’ll take a photo and send it to his spouse just to say that we were thinking of Toby today,” he said.

Meanwhile, he said, the regiment’s sentinels who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier will stop at the gravesites of former sentinels.

Warriors In Their Own Words: SOG’s covert operations in Vietnam
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Lane Hiser)

“Everybody has got their specific places that they go to,” Garkey said. “There’s a healing aspect that goes into it for us. It’s more than just a task, it’s an experience.”

Esper also placed flags at gravesites in the cemetery. A former Soldier himself, he said, he knows comrades in arms who have died in service to their country.

“On a day like this, I think about also my West Point classmates,” Esper said. “I know one for sure who passed away during my war, Desert Shield/Desert Storm. I had another one who was killed when the Twin Towers were felled on 9/11. And another one killed in Afghanistan. And I think about them as well, because they are peers, and like me, I can relate more to their point in life, where they got married or had children, or maybe never had the opportunity to do either. I think about them especially.”

Over Memorial Day weekend, Esper said, he hopes that Soldiers, family members, and Americans across the country will be thinking about those who fought for and died to secure freedom for the United States.

“Hopefully they will all reflect upon the great sacrifices that America’s Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines make in defense of our country and in defense of our liberties,” Esper said. “Particularly those fallen heroes that are here in Arlington National Cemetery.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

When the Navy sank nuclear waste with machine guns

In the 1950s, nuclear reactors and weapons were all the rage. Bombs were getting bigger, people were hosting nuclear parties, and reactors were enabling the Navy to launch submarines and ships that could go years without refueling.

But all that nuclear activity had a dark consequence — and no, we’re not talking about the fun Super Mutants of Fallout.


Warriors In Their Own Words: SOG’s covert operations in Vietnam

We love them, too, Vault-Tec boy!

As most everyone knows, using radioactive materials to generate power also creates waste. Triggering the nuclear process in a material (which is what you need to do to create said power) is basically irreversible. Once activated, nuclear material is dangerous for thousands of years.

The Navy was still in the process of learning that fact in the 1950s as they tried to decide what to do with a newfound problem: dealing with nuclear waste.

Their initial solution, unsurprisingly, was similar to how they dealt with chemical waste and other debris at the time. They dumped it — usually in 6,000 to 12,000 feet of water.

At this point, Godzilla is your best-case scenario.

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Sailors like George Albernaz, assigned to the USS Calhoun County in the ’50s, were left to decide how they’d go about their job dumping the materials, typically low-level nuclear waste.

They would take about 300 barrels per trip out into the ocean from docks on the Atlantic Coast and roll them to the edge of the ship. When the ship tipped just right on the waves, they would push the barrels over.

Most of them, filled with dense metals, salts, and tools encased in concrete inside the barrel, would sink right away. Barrels that bobbed back up were shot with a rifle by a man standing on the end of the ship, which usually sent it directly to the bottom of the sea.

But the rifle fire wasn’t always enough.

Warriors In Their Own Words: SOG’s covert operations in Vietnam

Navy aircraft take off after during operations in 1957.

(US Navy)

In July 1957, two barrels bobbed back up during a dumping mission and simply would not sink. So, the Navy sent two aircraft to fire on them with machine guns until they finally sank to Poseidon’s depths.

While shooting radioactive barrels actually sounds sort-of fun, the sailors involved said that the Navy failed to properly inform them of the dangers of working with radiation, took shortcuts on safety and detection procedures, and failed to provide necessary safety gear.

That left men like Albernaz susceptible to a number of diseases and conditions associated with radiation, including cancer and other lifelong ailments.

A 1992 article in the New York Times detailed other shortcomings of the Navy’s programs, including instances where dumps occurred mere miles from major ports, like Boston, in only a few hundred feet of water, increasing the chances that radioactive particles could make their way into civilian population centers.

These days, Navy nuclear waste is taken to be stored on land, but the U.S. still lacks permanent storage for high-level nuclear waste. Instead, nearly all high-level nuclear waste in the U.S. is stored in temporary storage, often on the grounds of nuclear power generation facilities.

It’s not ideal, and a number of potential permanent sites have been proposed and debated, but at least barrels probably won’t come bobbing back up.

If they do, well, even the F-35 could probably sink them.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Syria may have accidentally shot down a Russian plane

US military officials believe Syrian forces accidentally shot down a Russian aircraft, according to a CNN report published on Sept. 17, 2018.

Syrian anti-aircraft artillery reportedly responded to a number of Israeli missiles that were launched towards the coastal city of Latakia when it accidentally shot the Russian maritime patrol aircraft, according to a US military official cited in the report.

Syria, Russia’s ally in a prolonged proxy war in the region, claimed its air defenses “intercepted a number” of the missiles headed toward the city, Reuters reported on Sept. 17, 2018, citing state-media.


Russia’s defense ministry also announced it had lost contact with an IL-20 aircraft carrying 14 service members, Syria’s state-run media reported. Russia’s presence in Latakia includes a large naval base, which was reportedly under attack by an unclaimed missile strike that Syria alleges to have come from Israel.

Although Israeli Defense Forces also declined to comment on the missile strikes, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sept. 16, 2018, that his country will be “taking action to prevent our enemies from arming themselves with advanced weaponry.”

Warriors In Their Own Words: SOG’s covert operations in Vietnam

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.


A US Central Command spokesman did not comment on where the strikes originated from but denied US forces were involved: “The US was not involved in any strikes in Western Syria or in the shoot down of any planes tonight,” US Navy Capt. Bill Urban said in a statement to Business Insider.

Russia and the Syrian regime have previously boasted about their air defense capabilities. After an airstrike in which US and its allies fired over 100 missiles towards suspected chemical weapons facilities in April 2018, Russian forces claimed the “high-effectiveness” of Russian-supplied weapons and “excellent training of Syrian servicemen” had shot down 71 missiles.

Russia’s claim was contradicted by US reports that said Syria’s air defenses were “largely ineffective” in response to its “precise and overwhelming” strikes.

“The Syrian response was remarkably ineffective in all domains,” US Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie said at the time.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy prepared to counter favorite Russian tactic

The Russian military and its NATO counterparts have been increasingly active in Eastern Europe, as the West moves to counter what they view as Russian aggression in the region.

One facet of Russian military activity that has been well noted by Western military planners is the expansion of anti-access/area-denial, or A2/AD, capability in strategically valuable areas.

Assets like the S-400 air-defense system — believed to be able to target aircraft from as far as 250 miles away, even the latest stealth aircraft — have been set up around Kaliningrad, which is Russia’s exclave on the Baltic Sea, further south on the Crimean Peninsula and around the Black Sea, and on the Syrian coast, which provides a base from which to reach into the eastern Mediterranean.


Surface-to-air missile systems deployed around Kaliningrad, which is tucked between Poland and Lithuania, were “layered in a way that makes access to that area difficult,” retired Air Force Gen. Frank Gorenc told The New York Times in January 2016, when he was head of the US Air Force in Europe and Africa.

Those systems could affect NATO operations in Poland and the Baltic States, Gorenc said. (Russian forces using Kaliningrad to block the Suwalki Gap and cut the Baltic States off from the rest of NATO is a particular concern for the alliance.)

Warriors In Their Own Words: SOG’s covert operations in Vietnam

(Russian Defense Ministry)

“There are varying degrees of capabilities” at each of those sites, Ben Hodges, who led the US Army in Europe before retiring as a lieutenant general at the end of 2017, told Business Insider at the beginning of November 2018.

“But the one in Kaliningrad and the one in Crimea are the most substantial, with air- and missile-defense and anti-ship missiles and several thousands of troops” from Russia’s army, navy, and air force, Hodges said. “That’s part of creating an arc of A2/AD, if you will.”

Russian state media said another battalion of S-400 missiles had assumed combat duty in Crimea at the end of November 2018, amid a state of increased tension with Ukraine over a violent encounter between their navies in the Black Sea.

Other air-defense systems, including the less advanced but highly capable S-300, are deployed in the region, including in the Black and Baltic seas. Other deployed A2/AD assets include coastal missile batteries firing anti-ship missiles.

When those systems — long embraced by Moscow to counter NATO’s technical and numerical superiority at sea and in the air — are paired with electronic-warfare and radar systems, the concern is they could limit NATO’s freedom of movement, especially in situations short of all-out war, when offensive options are restrained.

But “the alliance is alive to these challenges” and would “be prepared to use all the different things that would be required” in response to them, Hodges said, without elaborating.

Warriors In Their Own Words: SOG’s covert operations in Vietnam

Russian S-400 Triumph launch vehicle.

Navy Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, who recently took over the Navy’s newly reestablished Second Fleet, which oversees the eastern half of the Atlantic Ocean, echoed Hodges during an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Nov. 28, 2018.

“Without going into things I shouldn’t talk about, I’m confident that we can operate in an A2/AD environment, in a contested environment,” Lewis said when asked about Kaliningrad and A2/AD. “In fact, I know we can.”

“I know we can with our carrier force. I know we can with our surface force. We have a very clear way of doing that. It is based upon maneuver,” he added. “It’s based upon physical maneuver. It’s based upon maneuver in the spectrum, and it’s based upon our ability to keep quiet when it’s time to keep quiet and talk when it’s time to talk.”

There was still room for improvement, Lewis said, but he was confident US forces could get there.

“That’s something that we’re really, really focused on, and we have been focused on for a number of years now, and we’re getting a lot better.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Multi-Purpose Canine retires with his handler

For an average service member, it takes an obligation of 20 years to retire from the military. For their furry four-legged counterparts, it takes over 30 years to accomplish the same goal in dog years of course. Marine Corps working dogs date back to Nov. 1, 1943, during World War II when 1st Marine War Dog Platoon out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina attacked the beach of Bougainville, Solomon Islands.

Today, working dogs lead regular Marine Corps careers by deploying, taking official photos and even attaining rank. A Marine Special Operations Command working dog, however, has much more rigorous training, increased mission capability and known as a Multi-Purpose Canine (MPC).


“A dog handler is around for about five years,” said U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. John Koman, multi-purpose canine handler, Marine Special Operations Command, “around the same time as them leaving we try to retire their dog.”

Warriors In Their Own Words: SOG’s covert operations in Vietnam

U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. John Koman, multi-purpose canine handler with Delta Company, 1st Marine Raider Support Battalion, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, awaits command during the retirement ceremony of his multi-purpose canine, Roy, at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, March 29, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Drake Nickels)

Roy is one such multi-purpose canine with MARSOC, and Koman just so happens to be his handler. On March 29, 2019, the command held a formal retirement ceremony to honor Roy’s five years of faithful service as a specialized force multiplier within the special operations world. After spending 16 weeks developing skills in explosives detection, tracking, controlled aggression, Roy’s amphibious capabilities, such as water insertion and extraction techniques, prepared him to serve in combat. For this accomplishment, Roy received the Military Working Dog Service Award, an award presented to working dogs and MPCs that deploy into combat.

As a Marine receives a ceremony after 20 years, MARSOC conducts the same for MPCs. Once the MPC retires, it is put up for adoption and given priority to the owner. According to results from recent data from the Department Of Defense Military Working Dog Adoption Program, more than 90 percent of military working dogs and MPC’s adopted by their handlers.

“The handler and dog have been through so much together,” said an unnamed MPC master trainer with MARSOC. “It’s a no brainer for the dog to go to the handlers.”

Before Roy was ready to transition into civilian life, the unit was required to ensure that there are no signs of aggression towards humans and animals. After this assessment, Koman was able to proceed in filing the necessary paperwork for adoption.

“When I first saw him I knew he was the dog I wanted,” added Koman, “it’s just surreal that he’s officially mine today!”

When asked about his and Roy’s plans for the future, Koman stated that he plans to give Roy the most relaxing life possible.

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

Military Life

5 reasons why the deployment guitarist is so phenomenal

There’s always at least one person in every deployed unit who brings their guitar with them. Sometimes it’s because they want to learn how to play and decide their down time as the perfect opportunity to practice. Sometimes they just can’t part with their baby for 12 months.


Either way, you’ll find them hanging around the smoke shack playing for the masses. If they’re at the point where they’re willing to play for their squad in between missions, they’re probably pretty good at it. Here’s why:

Warriors In Their Own Words: SOG’s covert operations in Vietnam

If you start playing, others will stop what they’re doing — giving you even more free time. Just saying.

(Photo by Sgt. Eddie Siguenza)

They’ve got plenty of time to practice.

Contrary to popular belief, there actually is down time on a deployment. Which unit you’re serving in will determine how much time that is, but everyone can at least have a moment to breathe.

If the guitarist brought an acoustic guitar, they can play it whenever and wherever they feel like it.

Warriors In Their Own Words: SOG’s covert operations in Vietnam

But thankfully they’ll stop caring before the guitar solo comes up.

(Photo by Pfc. Nathan Goodall

They learn to take requests.

There’s a handful of songs everyone who first picks up a guitar has to learn how to play. Iron Man, Smoke on the Water, Seven Nation Army, and eventually Stairway to Heaven. They’re kind of ‘rite of passage’ songs.

But not everyone on the deployment gets that and everyone will always request Free Bird.

Warriors In Their Own Words: SOG’s covert operations in Vietnam

It’s always a great time when other musicians get together.

(Photo by Sgt. Eddie Siguenza)

They play all genres.

When you first pick up a guitar, you’ll play what you know and play what you like. But the deployment guitarist, after taking requests from everyone, learns to play all sorts of genres of music. Especially if they find other gifted musicians or singers in the unit.

Rock guys learn to play gospel. Country guys learn to play pop. And everything in between. As long as you’ve got someone to play with, you’ll learn their style too.

Warriors In Their Own Words: SOG’s covert operations in Vietnam

And I’m just saying, from personal experience, it’s also very common in the aid station since the guitarist is often times a corpsman or medic.

(Photo by Cpl. Alfred V. Lopez)

They’ll play to the battalion or just a handful of smokers.

An odd thing happens when command teams find artists in their unit. They’ll single them out and voluntell them to share their art with the unit. Normally, this never bothers them because they just love playing.

But more often than not, they’re usually in the smoke pit — just strumming away at whatever comes to mind.

Warriors In Their Own Words: SOG’s covert operations in Vietnam

If they brought an electric guitar, oh yeah…they have passion.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Samuel Morse)

They really do have the passion in their art.

A good guitar isn’t cheap. A beginner’s guitar can run you around 0 but the ones our semi-pros play on are up in the 0-00 range.

If they’re willing to risk losing that money by having their guitar get damaged though out a deployment, play in front of their brothers-in-arms, risk ridicule if they suck, and still get out there and perform — they’ve got as much passion as any recording artist out there.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is Russia’s nuclear ‘doomsday’ torpedo the US just can’t stop

Just days after Russian President Vladimir Putin met with President Donald Trump, Russia’s Ministry of Defense has released a video of one of its most inhumane and fearsome nuclear weapons ever created — and it’s purpose-built to avoid US defenses.

The weapon, a high-speed nuclear-powered torpedo, isn’t like other nuclear weapons. While there’s a risk of radioactivity any time an atom is split, nuclear weapons have typically used nuclear detonations to create heat and pressure, with lingering radioactivity emerging only as a dangerous side effect.


But the new Russian torpedo uses radioactive waste to deter, scare, and potentially punish enemies for decades.

“Nuclear weapons only generate significant amounts of radioactive fallout when they are detonated at, near, or beneath ground level,” Stephen Schwartz, the author of “Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of US Nuclear Weapons Since 1940,” told Business Insider.

These types of nuclear explosions “suck up dirt, or water, contaminates it with debris from the bomb, and then lofts it into the atmosphere,” leaving deadly radioactive fallout potentially strewn across thousands of miles, Schwartz said. What’s more, the bomb is rumored to have its nuclear core coated in a metal that would make the fall out last for half a century.

Warriors In Their Own Words: SOG’s covert operations in Vietnam

Russia’s nuclear-powered torpedo.

“It’s an insane weapon in the sense that it’s probably as indiscriminate and lethal as you can make a nuclear weapon,” Hans Kristensen, the director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, told Business Insider.

Russia hasn’t specified how big the nuclear warhead is, but Kristensen said reports indicated it’s “anything from a normal yield to up to 100 megatons,” making it potentially one of the biggest bombs ever built.

Russia has advertised a simple mission for the torpedo: “Going in and blowing up a harbor with the purpose of blanketing a coastal area with radiation to make it uninhabitable” in a “blatant violation on the international laws of war, which require them to avoid collateral damage,” Kristensen said.

What the video shows us

Russia, which first leaked images of the weapon in 2015, released the video of the torpedo, called “Poseidon,” along with several other updates on new weapons programs. Putin announced all of the weapons in a March 1, 2018 speech in which he said they’d been designed to defeat all existing US defenses.

The video of the Poseidon shows its stern suspended in a factory with engineers standing by. Lines across its hull indicate where its various components and chambers separate and indicate a large space for a warhead.

Analysis from H.I. Sutton shows that Russia augmented a test submarine to carry the Poseidon as far back as 2010, indicating a long testing period.

But Russia traffics in military propaganda frequently, and it may be bluffing on how far along its weapons are. The torpedo is shown only in a lab setting, and then the video cuts to a computer-generated simulation. The actual weapon shows its ability to steer in water, and doesn’t even show it can propel itself.

Additionally, the video demonstrates a new, only slightly less dangerous use for the weapon: Targeting US aircraft carriers and their strike groups. As it stands, the US doesn’t have a way to defend against fast-moving torpedoes like the Poseidon.

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Take a look at the video below to get a look at Russia’s underwater doomsday device:

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

No, NASA didn’t waste millions making the space pen

Look, this whole article is basically a rant written because we’re getting tired of seeing comments about this every time we talk about NASA and/or Roscosmos. Somewhere in the comments on those articles, on our videos, or really anywhere across the internet as a whole, you’ll see someone sharing that same stupid story of NASA investing millions in space pens while Russia sensibly used pencils instead.

Nearly all of that story is complete and utter nonsense.


Warriors In Their Own Words: SOG’s covert operations in Vietnam

NASA astronaut and former Air Force test pilot Col. Gordon Fullerton, wearing communications kit assembly mini headset, watches a free-floating pen during checklist procedures on the aft-deck of Space Shuttle Columbia during the third shuttle mission, STS-3, in 1982.

(NASA)

A few quick things: First, neither NASA nor Roscosmos spent a single dime developing the space pen. NASA and Roscosmos both gave their spacefarers pencils and both of them hated to do so because floating graphite flakes can cause fires in sensitive electronics in zero gravity.

NASA, to cut down on the chance of a fire destroying their multi-million dollar spacecraft and killing their priceless astronauts, invested in insanely expensive mechanical pencils. The pencils were 8.89 each, or a grand total of ,382.26 for 34.

Man, imagine having to go to the supply sergeant for a box of those every time the major loses a few.

Warriors In Their Own Words: SOG’s covert operations in Vietnam

Astronaut Walter Cunningham writes with a space pen during the Apollo 7 mission in 1968.

(NASA)

Taxpayers, predictably, freaked out. They felt like pencils shouldn’t cost over 0 — fair enough.

So, NASA went back to cheaper pencils, but remained worried about their spacecraft and astronauts. Russia, in a similar vein, was worried about their cosmonauts.

Then, the Fischer Pen Company came to them with an offer to sell “anti-gravity” pens that could write upside down, under water, and in any temperature that humans could survive. It was the uber pen.

Warriors In Their Own Words: SOG’s covert operations in Vietnam

A photo of an Apollo astronaut taking notes in space.

(Project Apollo Archive)

NASA paid a grand total of .39 per pen for 400 of them — a total of 6. Russia also bought the pen for the same price per unit (Well, Scientific American thought the cost was .39 each. A NASA historian citing old media reports pegged the number at per — still, not millions in either case).

Thus concludes NASA’s total sunk costs for the first delivery of pens. They paid in development or research costs. None.

Now, the Fischer Pen Company did spend a lot of money developing the pens — about id=”listicle-2608414142″ million, but they’re a private company counting on future sales to make up for the development costs.

And that was a sound bet. After all, lots of industries and the military need pens that can write in any situation. Miners, loggers, divers, soldiers, and a ton of other people in other professions need to be able to write in wet environments. So, Fischer would earn their research money back regardless.

So, please, when you want to make fun of the military or the government for wasting money, point to something else. The multi-million dollar space pen is and has always been bupkis.

Maybe point to the anti-aircraft weapon that attacked toilets or the slew of awesome weapons the military investigated but was unable to bring to fruition.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of March 8th

So apparently there are talks within the Senate to give each troop who deployed under the Global War on Terrorism $2,500 as part of the AFGHAN Service Act, which would also negotiate the end of the conflict.

On one hand, sure. I’d love the money. Bills suck ass and cash is king. On the other hand, well, let’s look at the lettering of the bill. It’s a one-time payment, and it’d be sent out to every troop who’s deployed anywhere under the Global War on Terrorism. I can only imagine the impending sh*tstorm that’d come when everyone got that check in the mail.

Deploying one time to Kuwait would get you the money, deploying multiple times to Afghanistan still only gets you one check and the older vets who served before 9/11 get nothing. See where I’m going here? The veteran community will turn into the freakin’ Thunderdome. But then again… that is a rent payment…


Anyways, enjoy some memes before the ensuing sh*tstorm!

Warriors In Their Own Words: SOG’s covert operations in Vietnam

(Meme via Keep Calm and Call for Artillery)

Warriors In Their Own Words: SOG’s covert operations in Vietnam

(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)

Warriors In Their Own Words: SOG’s covert operations in Vietnam

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

Warriors In Their Own Words: SOG’s covert operations in Vietnam

(Meme via Not CID)

Warriors In Their Own Words: SOG’s covert operations in Vietnam

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

Warriors In Their Own Words: SOG’s covert operations in Vietnam

(Meme via US Army WTF Moments)

Warriors In Their Own Words: SOG’s covert operations in Vietnam

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

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5 things we wished we knew before joining the Navy

Joining the Navy is one of the best learning experiences for a young adult — especially if it’s their first time away from home.


When you talk to a recruiter about signing up, they’ll likely sell you on all of the positives and leave out most of the less attractive aspects.

That said, most of us don’t do enough homework on our own to understand what life is really like in the Navy.

Related: 9 reasons you should have joined the Marines instead

So, check out five things we wished we knew before joining the Navy.

5. All the additional duties

In some smaller naval commands, there typically aren’t enough Masters-at-Arms (the Navy’s military police) to guard all the bases’ gates. What’s even worse, there sometimes isn’t enough room in the budget to pay civilians to defend those iron fences either.

So, what does the Navy do to fill those roles? They turn to the junior enlisted personnel who aren’t even trained to guard a box of coloring books.

The Navy created A.S.F. — or Auxiliary Security Force — made from various Navy rates, like cooks and mechanics, to stand guard duty.

4. The rank of ‘seaman’ sounds worse when it’s yours

Some rates in the Navy aren’t even called seamen when they get to the rank of E-3 — so that’s a plus. Corpsman who are E-3s are referred to as Hospitalman while Seabees are called constructionmen, so we luck out.

Other ranks don’t have that privilege. It can be embarrassing saying, “Seaman Smith, reporting for duty.”

Catch our drift?

3. You can graduate boot camp as an E-3

Some young adults score so high on their ASVAB that when they pick an academically challenging rate, they’re automatically promoted in boot camp.

There are others ways to get promoted, like earning college credit before enlisting or recruiting other people, which most people don’t know.

Warriors In Their Own Words: SOG’s covert operations in Vietnam

Seaman Richard Cassube (left) assists Seaman Jeremy Cryer (right) with the proper measurements of the ribbons on his dress uniform in preparation for their upcoming graduation.  (U.S. Navy Photo by Susan Krawczyk)

2. All the different bases you can be stationed at

Many people don’t know that the Navy integrates with the other branches. In fact, it’s not uncommon for a sailor to serve in an office building on an Air Force base.  So, not only can you serve on a ship or a Naval base, but you can be stationed on an Army, Air Force, or Marine Base, too.

Also Read: 6 reasons why Marines hate on the Air Force

1. Regardless of your junior enlisted rank, you’re going to clean… a lot.

This is the aspect most recruiters (if not all) forget to tell you about. Sure, you will frequently clean your berthing quarters, but you’ll clean areas you don’t usually occupy during the week.

We’re training to go to war, but first, we need to mop the senior chief’s floor. Son-of-a-b*tch!

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Rhodesian Fireforce took airborne operations to a whole new level

By the 1970’s, the Rhodesian Security Forces were facing a growing and determined insurgency in the civil war known as the “Rhodesian Bush War.” Faced with increased threats, manpower and equipment shortages, and a large territory to cover, they needed a new tactic to deal effectively with rebel groups. This led the Rhodesian Light Infantry to the development of the fireforce, a vertical envelopment technique involving light infantry, helicopters, and paratroopers in a rapidly deployable posture.


 

Warriors In Their Own Words: SOG’s covert operations in Vietnam

A fireforce was equipped with four helicopters, one C-47 Dakota transport aircraft, and a light attack aircraft. The helicopters were of two types; the K-Car and the G-Car. The K-Car was so called because it was the ‘killer’ with its 20mm cannon and functioned as the command and control aircraft. The G-Cars served as gunships with machine guns and as transports for heliborne troops, though they were only capable of carrying four combat loaded troops at a time. The unit was also supported by vehicles, called the ‘Landtail’ that supported the deployment of the airborne component. Weapons were standard for Africa at the time – FN FALs and FN MAG machine guns.

A unit set to a fireforce mission was distinctly organized from standard infantry units. Instead of fire teams, squads, and platoons, the Fire Force was composed of ‘waves’ that were broken down into stops, also known as sticks, each consisting of four men, due to the space constraints on the G-Cars. Each stop had a stick leader, machine gunner, and two riflemen, one of which was also trained as a medic. The fireforce airborne component was composed of eight stops. Stops one through three were assigned to the G-Cars while stops four through eight were assigned as paratroopers. These forces, along with the light attack aircraft, constituted the first wave. The remaining men assigned to the fireforce were in vehicles as the ‘Landtail,’ or second wave.

Warriors In Their Own Words: SOG’s covert operations in Vietnam

There were three main fireforce units located at three bases throughout the country, ready to respond to a contact or sighting of enemy forces by the Selous Scouts. That’s when the excitement began. Once contact was reported, a siren would sound alerting the fireforce. The first three stops would board helicopters while the rest would quickly don parachutes with the help of off-duty team members. The airborne component would rush to the objective where the fireforce commander would determine a drop zone and position the heliborne stops to encircle the rebels. Once on the ground, the stops would attempt to stop the enemy. They would act as blocking positions for the sweep element, usually paratroopers, creating the classic hammer and anvil movement. Combined with circling gunships and close-air support, this method proved deadly effective, resulting in a kill ratio of better than 80:1.

Warriors In Their Own Words: SOG’s covert operations in Vietnam

The fireforce became the primary tactic of the Rhodesian security forces. By 1977, all infantrymen would be trained as paratroopers. While on a ‘bush trip’ – usually lasting about six weeks – the men on a fireforce would rotate between heliborne insertion, paratrooper, landtail, and off-duty. After a bush trip, the men were given ten days rest before returning to the field. This allowed for a very high ops tempo. As the fireforce was perfected and the insurgency gained strength, this meant that Rhodesian soldiers were called on more and more to conduct missions. In his book Fireforce: One Man’s War in the Rhodesian Light Infantry Chris Cocks tells of men making three combat jumps in a single day. This led to a truly staggering number of jumps for many members of the Rhodesian Light Infantry, unmatched by any other unit in the world.

Warriors In Their Own Words: SOG’s covert operations in Vietnam

The fireforce was not enough to keep the Rhodesians from losing the war and the method was never adopted by other militaries. The French had used paratroopers extensively in Indochina while the Americans preferred to use only helicopters. With Rhodesia turning over to majority African control and becoming Zimbabwe, the Rhodesian Light Infantry and fireforces were disbanded. Though it would go down in history as one of the most effective counter-insurgency forces ever conceived.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army rebuilds Myrtle Beach after Hurricane Florence

South Carolina is no stranger to hurricanes and each one takes its toll on shorelines and beach communities located across the Atlantic coastal region.

After each significant storm, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers personnel assess erosion impacts, work hand-in-hand with state and local partners to determine mitigation measures for erosion damage to shoreline projects and take authorized measures to rehabilitate effected areas.


According to USACE Deputy Commanding General for Civil and Emergency Operations, Maj. Gen. Scott A. Spellmon, these efforts are extremely beneficial to both local communities and nationwide efforts to protect the environment and foster economic growth.

Warriors In Their Own Words: SOG’s covert operations in Vietnam

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers beach renourishment operations underway along Myrtle Beach, S.C., following Hurricane Florence, Sept. 22, 2018.

(Photo by Edward Johnson)

“Our scientists venture out and measure where shoreline erosion has occurred,” said Spellmon. “At Myrtle Beach, it appears the impacts of Hurricane Florence were enough that we’re adding additional quantities of sand to an existing contract underway to address damages from Hurricanes Matthew and Irma.”

Warriors In Their Own Words: SOG’s covert operations in Vietnam

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Deputy Commanding General for Civil and Emergency Operations, Maj. Gen. Scott Spellmon (left), discusses beach renourishment operations with Chris Promfret, a USACE contractor with the Great Lakes Dredge and Dock LLC, following Hurricane Florence, Sept. 22, 2018.

(Photo by Edward Johnson)

Work was paused because dredging craft were moved to safe harbor during the storm, but has since resumed.

“We’re deploying high-tech equipment to quantify the losses and then utilizing dredging vessels and ship-to-shore pipelines to rehabilitate the federal project, thus ensuring beaches and dunes are ready to provide their full benefits whenever the next storm may impact the area,” added Spellmon.

Warriors In Their Own Words: SOG’s covert operations in Vietnam

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers beach renourishment operations underway along Myrtle Beach, S.C. (lower left), following Hurricane Florence, Sept. 22, 2018.

(Photo by Edward Johnson)

Great Lakes Dredge Dock LLC, contracted to complete this project, utilizes hopper dredges to vacuum sand from the sea floor through drag arms from a location approximately three miles from the impacted shoreline.

Chris Promfret, a USACE contractor with the Great Lakes Dredge and Dock LLC, says the sand being pumped to the beach comes from an underwater area about 30 feet below the Atlantic ocean’s surface.

Warriors In Their Own Words: SOG’s covert operations in Vietnam

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Deputy Commanding General for Civil and Emergency Operations, Maj. Gen. Scott Spellmon, points out beach renourishment operations to local government officials, USACE personnel and contractors along Myrtle Beach, S.C., following Hurricane Florence, Sept. 22, 2018.

(Photo by Edward Johnson)

The renourished shoreline beaches and dunes serve to reduce the impacts of future hurricanes and other coastal storms to communities and infrastructure. With that in mind, USACE partners with state and municipal officials on shoreline restoration initiatives.

Warriors In Their Own Words: SOG’s covert operations in Vietnam

A hopper dredge vessel uses a ship-to-shore pipeline to transfer sand from the ocean flood to the shoreline as part of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers beach renourishment operations underway along Myrtle Beach, S.C., following Hurricane Florence, Sept. 27, 2018.

(Photo by Edward Johnson)

Chief of Programs and Civil Project Management for USACE, Charleston District, Brian Williams, says this project covers more than 25 miles of beach shoreline.

“Under normal conditions, we cost-share 65 percent of this work at the federal level,” said Williams. “But in emergency situations like the one following Hurricane Florence, we fully fund all rehabilitation operations, subject to Congressional appropriations, in support of our state and municipal partners.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

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