In football, fullbacks are used to bring hurt to the opposing team. They provide lead-blocking for the running backs and, at times, serve as offensive threats, running the ball or catching short passes. But one fullback can bring the hurt on the battlefield — both to threats in the air and on the ground.
Well, to be honest, this ‘fullback’ is an airplane. To be precise, it’s the Sukhoi Su-34 Fullback. The plane is intended to replace the Su-24 Fencer, an all-weather strike aircraft comparable to the General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark. The Fullback is, in essence, a heavily modified Su-27 Flanker. Here’s what’s changed:
A Russian Air Force Su-34 Fullback intercepted by Royal Air Force Typhoons over the Baltic Sea.
(Royal Air Force)
The Su-34 has a top speed of 1,134 miles per hour and a maximum range of 2,485 miles. It can carry over 17,000 pounds of bombs, maintains wingtip rails for the AA-11 Archer, and packs a 30mm cannon. The plane can also carry the AA-12 Adder, a medium-range, radar-guided, air-to-air missile.
Like its predecessor, the Su-24, the Fullback has a tandem seating arrangement that comfortably fits both the pilot and a weapons operator.
The Fullback had an unusually lengthy time between its first flight in 1990 and its entry into service. The Russians introduced the Su-34 in 2014 – a full 24 years after its first flight. The collapse of the Soviet Union made it extremely difficult to find funding for this project. As cash slowly started to flow once more, so, too, did progress on this airframe’s production.
“We’re trying to get normal people — civilians who wouldn’t normally have access to military equipment — a little bit of hands-on knowledge,” said Drive A Tank’s owner Tony Borglum in the video below.
It’s one of the only places in the world where you can drive a tank and shoot a machine gun under one roof that’s not owned or operated by the government, according to MarKessa Baedke-Peterson.
With packages ranging from $449 to $3,699, this military theme park will have you behind the wheel of a 15-ton armored vehicle through a course of woods and mud. The course ends at the car crushing area where visitors get to destroy perfectly intact Priuses (and other vehicles) by running them over.
But that’s not all. After the tank course, attendees get to shoot anti-material rifles like the Barrett 50 Cal. and belt fed machine guns like the M1919 Browning.
“Now that’s one badass motherf–ker,” Baedke said.
This video shows what a day is like for people who visit Drive A Tank:
The Marines and Aussie Airmen recently made the news because of a misunderstanding in local dialect and cultural differences. The story then got blown out of proportion, as was reported by LADBible, that the Aussies were ‘banned’ from using their slang. Sure, on the surface, it sounds like a funny headline but when you look a bit deeper into it – the entire situation isn’t as dumb as people are making it out to be.
One of the slang terms to get axed was “nah, yeah.” Anyone who’s ever talked to someone from the Midwest who also says it, knows that just means “yeah.” Another one was “lucked out.” Which isn’t a problem at all if you figure out the context clues to know that it was used either literally or sarcastically.
Aussie slang isn’t really all that difficult to understand. The only one that could actually cause confusion is their slang for sandals – which is ‘thongs.’ Having personally seen an Aussie compound while on deployment, it’s a little jarring to read the signs outside their showers reading “must wear thongs before entering” and expecting everyone to be rocking a Borat man-kini.
Anyways – here are some memes.
There’s an Avengers: Endgame reference in the third meme – so if you don’t care about a minor throwaway joke from early in the film that has since been used in the post-release trailers…
Skipping out on work is an age-old practice and, in the military, it requires a decent amount of both skill and luck. The art of ‘skating’ is not one that can easily be taught or learned. To become an expert, one must be trained by a master — probably the grand, old lance corporal of the platoon — and one must train hard.
Since skating is generally frowned upon by members of the command, it’s all the more surprising and sweet when they give you the opportunity to do so.
At the insistence of your command, you get out of an entire day’s work to learn how to drive a van then drive said van. In some rare cases, you might be pulled away for a few days to learn how to drive the van, take a written test, and then take a road test. Not only do you get to enjoy a few easy days courtesy of your command, you’ll occasionally get pulled away to drive the battalion’s officer on duty, which means, essentially, you get those days off as well.
2. Be a HMMWV driver
Taking this course means you get a week away from your unit to learn about the wonderful HMMWV (pronounced ‘humvee’) and how often you’ll have to fix it. On some days, classes end early, so be prepared to get out of work before the rest of your unit. Aside from that first week, this is a ticket to occasionally get out of hikes and fields ops to drive supplies or weak bodies from point A to B.
3. Platoon radio operator
This skate takes place mostly in the field because it requires you to follow the platoon commander around. It’s your job to monitor radio traffic for the lieutenant to keep him up to speed on what’s going on, so while others are on patrol, you’ll be busy relaying info.
4. Mess duty
Sure, you might have to get up early and go to bed a bit late, but that’s what it takes to get hot meals ready for everyone in the field. You prepare breakfast and dinner usually and spend the afternoon cleaning the cooking equipment. You’re basically attached to the cook that’s been assigned to your company, so whenever they need help, you get to spend time away from your platoon.
These Marines are driven to and from the ranges to make sure everyone who is shooting is doing so safely and effectively. Your job is simple: pay attention. All you have to do is make sure PFC Bootface isn’t going to shoot Lance Corporal So-and-so in the back on accident (or on purpose).
This is more or less the Army’s summer intern program, where young future officers get hands-on experience as a kind of “third lieutenant,” under the tutelage of a commissioned officer for three or four weeks. This gives cadets going into their final years of pre-commissioning training the opportunity to experience life in an active duty unit. Specifically, it allows them to try their hands at officership, and to get a feel for the kinds of officer/NCO relationships that are essential to the success of our Army.
CTLT happens in all kinds of units, both in the US and OCONUS. As far as I know, there are no CTLT positions in combat zones. But short of that, cadets can end up in just about anywhere. While CTLT is a useful and important mentorship and developmental activity, many units see CTLT as a drag, and dealing with cadets as a hassle. Sometimes cadets are relegated to less-meaningful duties, or endure some modicum of hazing as part of the experience.
I was recently in a conversation with a senior noncommissioned officer in an elite US Army unit, when the subject of CTLT came up. I wondered how he, as a senior NCO in a highly specialized unit, felt about having cadets around. I asked if he gave the cadets in his unit a hard time as part of their CTLT experience.
“No, I always salute them and treat them as officers, and I make sure everyone else does too,” he replied in total sincerity. Somewhat surprised by this, and thinking back to my own experiences in CTLT, I asked why he felt that way.
“Because according to the Army, they outrank me, sir.”
I was floored. Everyone knows that the lowest Army private outranks the highest cadet… right? I mean, that certainly seemed to be the case at Airborne School back in the day.
The NCO referred me to AR 600-20, Army Command Policy, which makes it pretty clear that West Point cadets do, in fact, outrank Army NCOs. This regulation shows that cadets rank after commissioned and warrant officers, but before NCOs. Very interesting. I learned something that day. You’re right, Sergeant, a West Point cadet DOES outrank you. Technically.
OK, fine. That’s what the reg says, but how does that work in practice?
But having learned this, it made me wonder when this would actually matter in any meaningful way. Outside of authorized developmental training events such as CTLT, no NCO is going to allow a cadet to swoop in and take charge of his platoon, squad, or section. So when would a cadet actually “be” in charge?
AR 600-20 again provides the answer:
AR 600-20, Section 2:
2-8. Death, disability, retirement, reassignment, or absence of the commander
a. Commander of Army element.
(1) If a commander of an Army element, other than a commander of a headquarters and headquarters element, dies, becomes disabled, retires, is reassigned, or is temporarily absent, the senior regularly assigned Army Soldier will assume command.
(2) If the commander of a headquarters and headquarters element dies, becomes disabled, retires, is reassigned, or is temporarily absent, the senior regularly assigned Army Soldier of the particular headquarters and headquarters element who performs duties within the element will assume command. For example, if a division headquarters and headquarters company commander is temporarily absent, the executive officer as the senior regularly assigned Army Soldier who performs duties within the headquarters company would assume command and not the division commander.
(3) Senior regularly assigned Army Soldier refers (in order of priority) to officers, WOs, cadets, NCOs, specialists, or privates present for duty unless they are ineligible under paragraphs 2-15 or 2-16. They assume command until relieved by proper authority except as provided in 2-8c. Assumption of command under these conditions is announced per paragraph 2-5. However, the announcement will indicate assumption as acting commander unless designated as permanent by the proper authority. It is not necessary to rescind the announcement designating an acting commander to assume duties of the commander “during the temporary absence of the regularly assigned commander” if the announcement gives the time element involved. A rescinding announcement is required if the temporary assumption of command is for an indefinite period.
Of course, there is another reason to treat West Point and ROTC cadets with respect: they are not going to be cadets forever. The best way to train cadets to be officers that their soldiers will look up to and their NCOs will respect is to treat them the way you want them to act. While it might be fun to haze the new “margarine bar” (he hasn’t even worked his way up to “butter bar” yet), is that really the impression you want him taking with you when he gets commissioned and reports to his first unit?
So yes, a West Point cadet DOES outrank a sergeant. Or a sergeant major for that matter. But only a complete cadidiot would get his or her cadet rank confused with an NCO’s authority and influence.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in conjunction with analysis from the Delphi Behavioral Health Group, showed that military service members drink more than any other profession — much to the surprise of absolutely nobody.
A tale as old as time…
It’s no secret that heavy drinking is a staple of military culture in the U.S. In fact, it’s so significant that military consumption of alcohol can seem like something out of an Onion article — like the time Iceland ran out of beer to serve troops.
The CDC study has confirmed just how severe it is, especially when ranked against literally any other profession.
The study covered over 27,000 people from 25 separate industries, focusing on their drinking frequency from 2013 to 2017. It discovered that the average person has at least one drink on about 91 days of the year.
(Photo by Sgt. Rebekka Heite)
However, military members lead all other professions with a whopping 130 days of drinking per year. That’s a drink a day for more than one third of the year.
The next closest profession was miners at 112 days, followed by construction workers at 106 days. Unsurprisingly, manual labor jobs round out the majority of the heaviest drinking jobs.
Okay, so that’s the rate of knocking off for a beer after work — but what about binge drinking?
(Photo from US Army)
The Department of Defense, using data from 2015 and 2016, discovered that about 30% of military members reported binge drinking in the month preceding the survey. Marines, specifically, reported doing so at an astronomic rate of 42.6%.
Veterans’ rate of binge drinking has reportedly risen from 14% in 2013 to about 16% in 2017.
This is alarming, as the initial study has also determined that drinking in the U.S. is trending downward. This has not been the case for service members: the number of days that military members drink has risen steadily since 2014.
Researchers attribute PTSD as one of the major factors causing veterans and active duty personnel to drink. Another reason for the surge could be a systemic culture that has allowed casual binge drinking as a rite of passage, or simply a way to pass time in isolated areas.
Whatever the reasoning, one thing is clear, drinking culture in the military is not going away without some major changes.
When engineers from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory brainstormed on how to improve soldier lethality, the idea of a third arm seemed like something that might help.
Mechanical engineer Dan Baechle carefully planned out a device that doesn’t need batteries, is lightweight and can evenly distribute the load of a heavy weapon.
“It can help stabilize the weapon and take the load off of their arms,” he said. “It’s made from composite materials to make it as light as possible, but also to ensure the range of motion that soldiers need.”
The device, officially called the Third Arm helps take the weight of the weapons off of a soldiers’ arms. It weighs less than four pounds, and because of the innovative design, the weight of the device and the weapon are evenly distributed.
“We’ve actually tested it with the M249 and M240B machines guns. The M240B weighs 27 pounds, and we were able to show that you can take the weight of that weapon completely off of the soldiers’ arms,” Baechle said.
(U.S. Army photo by Conrad Johnson)
Soldiers testing the device pointed out that initial versions didn’t make it possible for them to use the device and go into the prone position. But that’s not an issue with the current version.
At a recent test with a soldier at the Military Operations in Urban Terrain site at APG, a sergeant wore the device with an M-4 type weapon and dove into a prone fighting position from a sprint. The Third Arm provided immediate stabilization to improve marksmanship for the soldier.
“Right now it’s a prototype device, and it’s a fairly early stage prototype device,” Baechle said. “It’s been getting a lot of interest higher up in the Army, but also online with some of the stories that have come out. We’re using some of the interest to help motivate further development of the device.”
Baechle said that the Army modernization priorities include “soldier lethality that spans all fundamentals — shooting, moving, communicating, protecting and sustaining.” Further documentation specifically mentions the fielding of “load-bearing exoskeletons.”
“It falls in line with the direction that the Army wants to be heading in the future,” Baechle said. “We get comments from Soldiers who tell us different things about the way it feels on their body … about the way it redistributes the load. Some like it, some give us tips about the ways it could be improved, and we’re using that input to improve the device and improve the design so that it not only works well, but it also feels good.”
(U.S. Army photo by Conrad Johnson)
In 2017, the lab conducted a small pilot study of active-duty troops using Third Arm in live-fire trials. The results showed the device can improve marksmanship, reduce arm fatigue and muscle activation for some soldiers.
“We’re using that small study to motivate a larger study this year with more soldiers taking a look at dynamics, shooting scenarios,” Baechle said. “We’re still refining the device. We’re starting to look at heavier weapons.”
Baechle stressed that what you see now may not be what gets to future soldiers.
“What we have right now is a very specific device, but we can learn from that device,” he said. “I hope in the future what we’ll end up with is something that will help the soldier. Whether or not it’s in the form you see today, that’s less important. Helping the soldier is what I really hope for. I think this year is really going to be a good one and an important one in showing what this device can do.”
The U.S. Army Research Laboratory is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities that provide decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the joint warfighter and the nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.
Later in December 1967, the guards hauled a new prisoner strapped to a board into Day’s cell.
Day was in bad shape himself. He had escaped and was on the run for two weeks before being caught. The beatings had been merciless, but the condition of the new guy was something else.
“I’ve seen some dead that looked at least as good,” Day would later reportedly say. The new prisoner was in a semblance of a body cast. He weighed less than a hundred pounds. He had untended wounds from bayonets. His broken and withered right arm protruded from the cast at a crazy angle.
Day thought to himself that the North Vietnamese “have dumped this guy on us so they can blame us for killing him, because I didn’t think he was going to live out the day.”
Then Day caught the look: “His eyes, I’ll never forget, were just burning bright,” and “I started to get the feeling that if we could get a little grits into him and get him cleaned up and the infection didn’t get him, he was probably going to make it.”
“And that surprised me. That just flabbergasted me because I had given him up,” Day said, as recounted in the book “The Nightingale’s Song” by Marine Vietnam War veteran Robert Timberg.
(Simon & Schuster)
Day had just met Navy Lt. Cmdr. John Sidney McCain III, or as Radio Hanoi called him, “Air Pirate McCain.” Day realized this was the Bug’s “Crown Prince,” the son of Adm. John S. McCain, Jr., commander of U.S. Pacific Command.
The nearly five years he spent as a POW were a reckoning for the future senator from Arizona.
But now, he’s facing a different kind of reckoning.
In July 2017, he was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer that usually is terminal.
Shortly after the diagnosis, McCain went to the Senate floor to plead for bipartisanship.
“Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio and on the Internet. To hell with them,” he said.
“We’ve been spinning our wheels on too many important issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle,” he added. “We’re getting nothing done, my friends; we’re getting nothing done.”
McCain, still chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, went home to Arizona before Christmas and has not returned.
Before leaving the Senate, McCain said in a floor speech that “I’m going home for a while to treat my illness,” McCain said in a floor speech before leaving the Senate. “I have every intention of returning here and giving many of you pause to regret all the nice things you said about me.”
“And I hope to impress on you again, that it is an honor to serve the American people in your company,” McCain added.
At his ranch in Sedona, Arizona, McCain has reportedly not been a model patient. He has jokingly accused his nurses of being in the witness protection program.
“His nurses, some of them are new, they don’t really know him, so they don’t understand that sarcasm is his form of affection,” Salter said May 28, 2018, on the “CBS This Morning” program.
“He fights, he’s fought with everybody at one point or another,” Salter said. “You know, he always talks about the country being 325 million opinionated, vociferous souls — and he’s one of them.”
In an audio excerpt from the book, McCain faced mortality.
“I don’t know how much longer I’ll be here,” he said in the book. “Maybe I’ll have another five years. Maybe with the advances in oncology, they’ll find new treatments for my cancer that will extend my life. Maybe I’ll be gone before you hear this. My predicament is, well, rather unpredictable.”
Maverick no more
In the 1990s, A&E ran a documentary on McCain that included in its title the moniker “American Maverick.” The title was probably suitable for a politician who clashed so frequently with others but managed to maintain friendships with rivals, including Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton.
McCain said he’s seeking to shed the “maverick” label, discussing the subject in an HBO documentary on his life that will air on Memorial Day.
“I’m a human being and I’m not a maverick,” McCain said in a trailer for the documentary obtained by ABC.
“I’ve been tested on a number of occasions. I haven’t always done the right thing,” he said, “but you will never talk to anyone who’s as fortunate as John McCain.”
Throughout his life and public career, McCain has demonstrated humor in dire circumstances and the ability to absorb grave blows and continue on.
When he was told that the Hoa Lo prison, dubbed the “Hanoi Hilton” by the POWs, had actually been turned into a hotel, McCain said “I hope the room service is better.”
He could also be self-deprecating.
“I did not enjoy the reputation of a serious pilot or an up-and-coming junior officer,” McCain, with long-time collaborator Mark Salter, wrote in his book “Faith of My Fathers,” describing life before his A-4 Skyhawk was shot down over Hanoi.
He had crashed three planes in training. He was assigned to attack aircraft and was not among the elite who flew fighters.
The look that riveted Bud Day in the prison camp signaled that the gadfly and carouser McCain was renewing a commitment “to serve a cause greater than oneself.”
It is a message that he has delivered to Naval Academy graduates and to congressional colleagues, and he has admitted to often falling short of living up to his own mantra.
After his return from Vietnam, there was a failed marriage and his implication in the “Keating Five” scandal, a bribery affair with a a corrupt wheeler-dealer that almost ended his career in politics.
McCain recently described to CNN’s Jake Tapper how he wanted to be remembered.
“He served his country, and not always right,” McCain said. “Made a lot of mistakes. Made a lot of errors. But served his country. And I hope you could add ‘honorably’.”
On the campaign trail with McCain
The famously named “Straight Talk Express” campaign bus was actually reduced to a minivan when McCain was broke and running on fumes in the New Hampshire presidential primary of 2008. The few reporters still covering him had no problem squeezing in. The small group included this reporter, who covered the McCain campaigns for the New York Daily News in 2000 and 2008.
McCain would be off to some high school gym to speak, but mostly to listen. Everybody knew the script, because there wasn’t one, and that’s part of what made him a treat to cover.
His “Town Hall” events really were town halls. There might be a talking point at the top, or some message of the day fed to him by handlers, but McCain would get rid of it quickly and throw it open to the floor.
The practice had its downside. There was the guy who seemed to show up everywhere and always managed to grab the mic. He wanted to grow hemp, or maybe smoke it, and thought McCain should do something about it. It drove the candidate nuts.
The ad-lib nature of his campaigns sometimes backfired. There was the time in New Hampshire when he was headed to Boston for a Red Sox game and a sit-down with pitching hero Curt Schilling. Red Sox? New Hampshire primary? Impossible to screw that up.
The news of the day was that opponent Mitt Romney had hired undocumented immigrants to sweep out his stables, blow the leaves off his tennis courts, or similar tasks.
A small group of reporters hit McCain with the Romney question on his way to the car. McCain hadn’t heard. He started to laugh, thought better of it, and rushed back inside the hotel.
He could be seen in the lobby doubling up as aides explained the Romney situation. He came back out, said something to the effect of, “Of course, if true, this is troubling … ” and went to the ballgame.
Somebody wrote that McCain was the only candidate who could make you cry, and that was true.
In 2000, McCain was basically beaten when the campaign reached California. George W. Bush would be the Republican nominee.
McCain was running out the string in San Diego with many of his old Navy buds. On the dais was Adm. James Stockdale, who had been the senior officer in the prison camps. Stockdale received the Medal of Honor for his resistance to his captors.
Somehow, Stockdale had become the running mate of the flighty and vindictive Ross Perot, who had disrespected him and sidelined him from the campaign.
In his remarks, McCain turned to Stockdale and said that, no matter what, “You will be my commander — forever.”
There was a pause, and then the crowd stood and applauded.
His friends from the prison camps would occasionally travel with him on the bus or the plane. They were easy to pick out. During down times, they were the ones who would rag on him about what a lousy pilot he had been. It was a learning experience for those who covered McCain.
One of the former POWs was Everett Alvarez, who was the longest-held Navy pilot from the camps. At an event in California, there was a great rock n’ roll band that opened and closed for McCain. Outside the hall, as the crowd filed out, Alvarez was at an exit, enjoying the band as they blasted out ’60s hits.
“Great stuff,” he said to this reporter, who wondered later whether that was the first time Alvarez was hearing it.
Son of a son of a sailor
The title of the cover song of a Jimmy Buffett album applies to John McCain: “Son Of A Son Of A Sailor.”
His grandfather, John S. “Slew” McCain Sr., was an admiral who served in World War I and World War II. His father, John S. McCain Jr., was an admiral who served in submarines in World War II. Both father and grandfather were in Tokyo Bay after the Japanese surrender in World War II.
John S. McCain III was born on August 29, 1936, at Coco Solo Naval Air Station in the Panama Canal Zone. The family moved 20 times before he was out of high school, and his transience became an issue when he first ran for Congress in 1982.
His opponent tried to pin the “carpetbagger” label on him, and said he had only recently moved to Arizona. McCain said his opponent was correct: the place he had been in residence longest was Hanoi. He won easily.
McCain was an indifferent student and his poor academic record continued at the U.S. Naval Academy, where he graduated in 1958 fifth from the bottom in a class of 899.
After flight school, he was assigned to A-1 Skyraider squadrons and served on board the aircraft carriers Intrepid and Enterprise.
In 1967, in his first combat tour, he was assigned to the carrier USS Forrestal, flying the A-4 Skyhawk in Operation Rolling Thunder.
On July 29, 1967, McCain was in his A-4 on the flight deck when a missile on a following plane cooked off and hit the A-4, starting a fire that killed 134 and took more than a day to bring under control.
McCain transferred to the carrier USS Oriskany. On Oct. 26, 1967, McCain was flying his 23rd combat mission over North Vietnam when his aircraft was hit by a missile. He broke both arms and a leg when he ejected and nearly drowned when his parachute came down in Truc Bach Lake in Hanoi.
McCain’s decorations include the Silver Star, three Bronze Stars with combat ‘V’ devices, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart.
“In all candor, we thought our civilian commanders were complete idiots who didn’t have the least notion of what it took to win the war,” McCain would later write of the Vietnam war.
A final fight
McCain did not vote for President Donald Trump. The antipathy was there when Trump said during the campaign that McCain was “a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured,” but the break came later when a video emerged of Trump spewing vulgarities about women.
In speeches and in his writings since, McCain has not referred to Trump by name but made clear that he is opposed to some of the policies and crass appeals that won Trump the election.
In an address in October 2017, at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, McCain said that it was wrong to “fear the world we have organized and led for three quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership, and our duty to remain the last, best hope of Earth.”
He said it was wrong to abandon those principles “for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems.”
To do so was “as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history,” McCain continued.
While hoping for recovery, McCain has made plans for what comes next. He said in the HBO Memorial Day documentary that “I know that this is a very serious disease. I greet every day with gratitude. I’m also very aware that none of us live forever.”
In his new book, McCain said that he was “prepared for either contingency.”
“I have some things I’d like to take care of first, some work that needs finishing, and some people I need to see,” he said.
He has asked that Barack Obama and George W. Bush give eulogies when his time comes. He has asked that Trump not attend his funeral.
McCain has also asked that he be laid to rest alongside Adm. Chuck Larson at the Naval Academy’s cemetery in Annapolis. Larson, who was twice superintendent of the Naval Academy, was McCain’s roommate at Annapolis.
In a message of his own last Memorial Day, McCain recalled his friend, the late Air Force Col. Leo Thorsness, a Medal of Honor recipient for his valor in Vietnam. Thorsness was shot down two weeks after the actions for which he would receive the medal.
“I was in prison with him, I lived with him for a period of time in the Hanoi Hilton,” McCain said.
Through the nation’s history, “we’ve always asked a few to protect the many,” McCain said. “We can remember them and cherish them, for, I believe, it’s only in America that we do such things to such a degree.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
Sleep is, apparently, one of those things that medical professionals tend to claim is vital to not dying. While in the military, you’ll get so little sleep that your body grows accustomed to functioning at a high level with just four hours of non-continuous sleep.
For one reason or another, putting aside large chunks of time for that vital sleep just doesn’t happen. So, troops quickly learn how to rack out at the drop of a dime while smothered in their gear. Or they find a nice, cozy spot underneath a HUMVEE in the glaring Afghan sun with only their rifle and pebbles to keep them comfy.
It’s really an impressive skill — and it’s usually among the first truly mastered by even the most average of recruits.
That’s not to say that calories are a good thing either. It’s a level of complication that can’t be footnoted into an article about sleep deprivation, though.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kimberly Hackbarth)
The biggest contributing factor to this mastery over snoozing is that troops are constantly on the move. The human body is only meant to exert so much effort and that limit is pushed daily by all troops. Normally, the body needs to both sleep regularly to rebuild damaged muscles and eat healthy foods to replenish what’s lost.
Troops supplement this by maintaining a higher-than-average caloric intake. It’s assumed that an average active male in their twenties should take in about 3000 calories to function normally. The average deployed troop takes in three MREs per day, which totals 3,750 calories.
Contrary to popular belief, eating calories is actually a good thing if you’re moving about as much as troops do. This intake means that the body has more to work with when it finally has time to recharge.
Troops exhaust themselves by being constantly in motion. When an opportunity to knock out arises, even if it’s just for a few minutes, it will be seized.
And you really don’t want to try that while on guard duty. That’s still punishable under the UCMJ.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Charles M. Willingham)
The next contributing factor is that troops are generally sleep deprived and have their sleep cycles interrupted constantly. Starting in basic training, a drill sergeant could wake everyone up at 0100 for sh*ts and giggles, have a special someone pull fire guard at 0300, and wake up for the rest of the day at 0500.
The body does most of its recharging during cycles of REM sleep, the first of which starts after roughly 45 minutes of sleep and again in another 45 minutes. The rigors of training, however, rarely permit troops to achieve multiple cycles of REM, so the body tries to recharge as much as possible during those first 45 minutes. As this pattern of interrupted sleep becomes the norm, the body adapts and requires less time to get into REM cycles.
In essence, this pattern resembles polyphasic sleeping — which is a terrible thing to try without adding in a solid, 6-8 hour chunk of rest into the mix.
Even if it’s in broad daylight on a pile of sharp rocks.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ken Scar)
The body actually can’t handle this type of sleep deprivation but, by sheer power of will (and a metric f*ck-load of caffeine), troops can shut off their body’s warning signs.
Troops’ bodies can endure this for a few days, typical of a combat mission while deployed, but a dearth of sleep can’t last for weeks. There will have to be a time when that troop hits their rack to get a full night’s rest.
And when they do, it’s some of the best sleep they’ve ever gotten.
What Iran billed as a “100% indigenously made” fourth-generation fighter with “advanced avionics” immediately registered with aviation experts as a knockoff of the F-5 Tiger, a US jet that first flew in 1959.
Iran still has a few F-5s and even F-14s in its inventory from before the Islamic Revolution, when it maintained relations with the US.
Joseph Dempsey, a defense and military analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, tweeted a useful comparison.
But according to Justin Bronk, an aerial-combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute, the real Kowsar project isn’t the F-5 Tiger reboot, but a new system of avionics simply parked in the F-5 as a placeholder.
Bronk said the real Kowsar wasn’t a fighter at all, but a jet trainer and a light attack plane that could save Iran’s air force.
The state of Iran’s air force
“The Iranian air force is an interesting mix,” Bronk told Business Insider. “They’re, unquestionably, extremely good at making use of older equipment against endless predictions” that those systems will break down — for example, Iran still flies US-made F-14s and F-4s, while the US abandoned those airframes decades ago.
But somehow, Iran, even under intense sanctions designed to ensure it can’t get spare parts from the US, keeps them flying.
“Given the state of their economy and the embargoes, that is pretty impressive,” Bronk said.
Even with the impressive feat of workmanship that is an Iranian F-14 flying in 2018, when asked to describe Iran’s air force’s fighters against a regional foe like Saudi Arabia, Bronk said that “‘hopelessly quaint’ would not be too far off the mark.” Matched against Israel or the US in air power, Iran sees its chances sink from bad to much, much worse.
An Iranian F-4 Phantom II armed with an AGM-65 Maverick.
But besides quaint aircraft having no chance against upgraded Saudi F-15 gunships, Iran has another problem in its shortage of pilots and trainer aircraft, which is where the real Kowsar comes in.
“Iran has been relying for a long time on basically a bunch of increasingly old veteran pilots, a lot of whom were trained by — or were trained by those who were trained by — the US before the revolution,” Bronk said.
Therefore, Iran needs to drum up its own indigenous fighter-pilot training program — and that’s the real purpose of the Kowsar: to train the next generation of Iranian fighter pilots.
“It’s not a bad play,” Bronk said. “It makes the most of the limited technology options they have.” Meanwhile, according to Bronk, Iran’s Gulf Arab enemies have ignored domestic training and had to bring in mercenaries from other countries.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Moments of levity are a must. It’s those little moments of relaxation that give our nation’s war fighters the rest they need operate at peak efficiency. That, and everyone would rather spend their downtime drunk than sitting at battalion staff duty on their day off.
Nobody wants to get a call informing them that their weekend plans have officially gone to sh*t. We know you don’t want to do it, but we’re going to advise against going AWOL, getting locked up, ending up in the hospital, or flat-out telling your superior to f*ck off. There are a few ethical ways to wiggle your way back into doing nothing productive until Monday.
“Nope… I don’t see that ’09 Mustang bought at 39% interest rate… he must be gone already.”
(Photo by Sgt. Melissa Bright)
Park somewhere else
Form habits. Let everyone know your routine.
If you park your car in the exact same place, day in and day out, pretty soon, that’ll become the go-to indicator of your presence. If, one day, you happen to park your car in the other parking lot, they’ll take a quick glance and assume you’re not there. Now just be sure to keep your phone on silent and never answer your door.
“I’m so sorry, I’d love to help, but I got this thing. Yes. That totally legit thing.”
(Photo by Airmen 1st Class Dana Cable)
Someone has pull staff duty or charge of quarters (CQ). The goal here isn’t to screw over the unit, it’s to hot potato that responsibility onto someone else.
If you let your superior know that you’ve got responsibilities that you can’t or “can’t” wiggle out of, like “helping someone in your unit move,” they’ll probably pick that other guy.
Bonus points if you tell them you’ll be somewhere without service and you just turn your phone off.
(Photo by Airmen 1st Class Frank Rohrig)
Be out of town
Let everyone know you’ve got big plans. Be obnoxious about it. Everyone from the lowest private to the battalion commander should know that your ass has tickets to whatever.
If you plan on having fun, whoever is coming to ruin your weekend should know well in advance that you’re not going to be anywhere near.
If they do take the time to go check the paperwork and you were bullshitting, then plausible deniability is your only way out…
(Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Brian Morales)
Put in a 4-day pass (or say you did)
Having a piece of paperwork that says the commander has approved you to do nothing all weekend is great. Take a photo of it with your phone and send it along any time someone asks you what you’re doing.
Or, if the NCO is out on the prowl, trying to find some lower-enlisted to pull CQ and you feel like your poker face is good enough, go ahead and say your 4-day pass is up at battalion and hope they don’t call your bluff.
Just keep one by the door, if you have to.
(Photo by Airman 1st Class Joshua Magbanua)
Be drunk or “drunk”
If there’s any tried-and-true method that every member of the E-4 Mafia and LCpl Underground know too well, it’s this one: Never answer your door without a bottle of beer in your hands.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve actually been drinking; it doesn’t matter if it’s 0900. There’s no way you can go to some BS duty if you might be intoxicated. Always keep that in mind.
To celebrate Ken Burns’ documentary, “The Vietnam War,” PBS and USAToday created a Vietnam War Draft Lottery calculator. Simply enter your birth month and day to find out if you would have been drafted for wartime service in Vietnam.
The calculator, of course, does not use your birth year because many of us were born well after the Vietnam War. For those born in 1950, however, being drafted in 1970 was a very real prospect. In today’s all-volunteer military, the idea of someone being forced into that lifestyle change can seem very bizarre. Most of the men who rotated through the country were volunteers, but a significant number were not.
Unlike World War II, there were no lines to sign up for service. And unlike the Civil War, there was no paying a substitute to take your place. But still, the perception existed that with money and connections, someone could avoid serving. So in an effort to make the draft more fair (or appear fair), a lottery was put in place.
Draft age men were assigned a number between 1 and 366, depending on their birthday. The lowest numbers were called first. This was all entirely at random.
Of course, that didn’t stop some of those who were called to service from further avoiding Selective Service. Some went to college or graduate school or faked medical conditions, while others fled to Canada. In all, half a million Americans dodged their Vietnam War service.
They were fugitives until 1977 when President Jimmy Carter ordered a general amnesty. Deserters, however, were not given amnesty.
Ken Burns’ film recalls the accounts of more than 100 witnesses to the war in what he calls a “360-degree narrative.” The 10-part, 18-hour documentary “The Vietnam War” is available for streaming on PBS.
In 1863, Union soldiers attempted to root out deeply entrenched Confederate soldiers at Vicksburg, Mississippi. Repeated assaults failed to breach the defenses, leading to over 100 troops committing acts that would later earn them Medals of Honor for valor — including 78 soldiers who took part in a nearly suicidal attempt to build a bridge under fire.
Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at the Battle of Vicksburg.
(Library of Congress)
Vicksburg was the ultimate target of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s campaign down the Mississippi. His assault started with a landing on the shore of the Mississippi on April 30, 1863, and he fought his way south in the battles of Port Gibson to Champion Hill and Big Black River.
Within weeks, Grant was outside Vicksburg, the city President Abraham Lincoln called, “the key to victory” and President Jefferson Davis called the “nailhead that holds the South’s two halves together.” The Confederates pulled back inside the “Fortress City.”
The defenders were crouched in a ring of forts with 170 cannons, many aimed at bottlenecks and approaches to the city. Grant hoped to take the city before the defenders could truly settle in.
“First at Vicksburg” depicts the 1st Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment which was the only unit to reach the top of the fortifications on May 19, but even they were later thrown back.
He sent his infantry against an earthen fort named Stockade Redan on May 19, but they were repelled with 1,000 casualties. Grant spent the next two days coming up with a new plan.
He once again chose Stockade Redan, but the new plan called for two feats of combat engineering under fire. One feat was quickly erecting scaling ladders against the wall, a challenging but time-tested move. Before the ladders went up, though, a group of volunteers would need to cross a quarter-mile of open ground while under fire and construct a bridge across an 8-foot-wide ditch.
A call went out for 150 volunteers, only single-men need apply. They came and were split into three groups. The first group carried beams to span the gap, the second group carried the planks that would form the rest of the bridge, and the last group carried the scaling ladders.
These men were collectively known as “Forlorn Hope.” Their assault was part of a three-phase operation. First was a four-hour artillery barrage, then the bridge construction and ladder emplacement, and then an assault by a brigade up the ladders.
But Confederate artillery and rifle fire quickly rang out, and an estimated half of Forlorn Hope was hit and down before they reached the ditch. The survivors quickly found that, with so few people still carrying the materials, they did not have enough pieces to construct the bridge.
They scattered, some attempting to take cover in the ditch or against the stockade wall as others ran back across the open field.
The Siege of Vicksburg ends as Confederate leaders, near the center, walk out with a flag of truce to discuss surrender terms.
(Library of Congress)
Grant and his men were forced to conduct a siege that would drag on for six more weeks before the city finally surrendered. In 1894, 53 survivors of Forlorn Hope were awarded Medals of Honor for their heroism at Vicksburg, another 25 soldiers who took part in the failed effort would receive the same award in other ceremonies. Approximately 42 other Medals of Honor were awarded for actions during the siege and assaults, bringing the total to 120.
The Confederate forces had their own Medal of Honor, and Confederate Navy Capt. Issac Newton Brown received the medal for his actions on the CSS Arkansas while trying to fight past the U.S. Navy to relieve the pressure on Vicksburg.