The Marine Corps' love-hate relationship with the AV-8 Harrier - We Are The Mighty
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The Marine Corps’ love-hate relationship with the AV-8 Harrier

The Marine Corps’ love-hate relationship with the AV-8 Harrier
Capt. Jonathan Lewenthal and Capt. Eric Scheibe, AV-8B Harrier pilots with Marine Attack Squadron 231, Marine Aircraft Group 14, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), fly over southern Helmand province, Afghanistan after conducting an aerial refuel Dec. 6, 2012. VMA-231 deployed to Afghanistan to provide close air support for counter-insurgency operations. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Gregory Moore)


Dubbed the “widow-maker” in some aviation circles, the AV-8 Harrier is as dangerous to America’s enemies as it is to the pilots who commandeer it.

From its commissioning to as recent as 2013, there have been about 110 fighters involved in Class A mishaps — accidents causing death, permanent injury or at least $1 million in losses.

Related: This Marine pilot makes landing his Harrier fighter on a stool look easy

“Measured by its major accident rate per 100,000 flight hours, which is the military standard, the Harrier is the most dangerous plane in the U.S. military,” said Los Angeles Times reporter Alan C. Miller in the video below. “Overall the Marines have lost more than one-third of the entire Harrier fleet to accidents.”

The first Harrier model, the AV-8A had a Class A mishap rate of 31.77 accidents per 100,000 flight hours. The Marines improved the rate to 11.44 per 100,000 hours with the introduction of the AV-8B in the mid-1980s, according to Miller.

By contrast, the Harrier has more than twice the accident rate of the F-16, more than three times the rate of the F/A-18, and about five times the rate of A-10.

Despite its astronomical accident rate, the fighter is beloved and remains in service more than 40 years since its introduction in 1971.

“One Marine general who flew the plane early on described it as an answer to a prayer,” Miller said.

The Marine Corps’ love-hate relationship with the AV-8 Harrier
An AV-8B Harrier jet aircraft assigned to the air combat element of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (13th MEU) performs a vertical landing on the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer June 16, 2013. Boxer is conducting amphibious squadron and MEU integrated training.(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Mark El-Rayes)

The Corps’ need for an aircraft with a vertical landing and short takeoff capability can be traced to the 1942 Battle of Guadalcanal. The Marines lost over 1,000 men during that fight and felt abandoned by the Navy to fend for themselves.

“Since then, the precept that the Marines in the air should protect the Marines on the ground has been an essential part of the Corps’ ethos,” Miller said.

This History Channel video shows how the Harrier supports the Marine Corps’ mission to fight anywhere, anytime regardless of the risks:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUFBV–62tA

Engineering Channel, YouTube

MIGHTY HISTORY

The soil new infantrymen walk on is bloodied from every American war

Deep in the swampland along the Alabama-Georgia border is U.S. Army Infantry School at Fort Benning. It’s home to many beautiful locales, such as Sand Hill, where you’ll hear drill sergeants snapping the civilian out of young infantrymen, and the Red Diamond Land Navigation course, where you’ll blink and run into a banana spider web. Most importantly, however, is the Inouye Parade Field at the National Infantry Museum.


Built and commemorated in 2009, the National Infantry Museum houses the rich history of America’s infantry dating back to the Revolutionary War. The parade field just outside is no different. Sprinkled across the field is ‘Sacred Soil‘ from the battlegrounds of Yorktown, Antietam, Soissons, Normandy, Corregidor, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

The Marine Corps’ love-hate relationship with the AV-8 Harrier
Everyone graduating out of Ft. Benning walks these hollowed grounds. (Photo by Patrick A. Albright MCoE / PAO Photographer)

Descendants of Alexander Hamilton, Founding Father and commander of the infantrymen who forced the British surrender at Yorktown, laid their soil first. Henry Benning Pease Jr., descendant of Brig. Gen. Benning and namesake for the installation, laid the soil from America’s bloodiest single-day battle, Antietam.

Samuel Parker Moss, grandson of the most decorated officer of WWI, Lt. Col. Samuel I. Parker, and George York, the son of Sgt. Alvin York, spread the soil of Soissons, France. Theodore Roosevelt IV, grandson of Theodore Roosevelt Jr., who earned the Medal of Honor on D-Day, and great-grandson of President Teddy Roosevelt, spread the sand from the Normandy beach. Son of Charles Davis, Kirk Davis, spread the dirt of Corregidor Island to represent the WWII Pacific Theater.

Col. Ola Lee Mize, who held Outpost Harry and earned the Medal of Honor, and Gen. Sun Yup Paik laid ground from Korea. Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Hal Moore and Command Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) Basil Plumley brought the soil from the Ia Drang Valley and other Vietnam battlefields. And finally, Command Sgt. Maj. Marvin Hill, the senior enlisted adviser to Gen. David Petraeus, spread soil from the battlefields of Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan to honor Operations Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom, and Enduring Freedom respectively.

The Marine Corps’ love-hate relationship with the AV-8 Harrier
The field also holds plenty of smoke from the shows Drill Sergeants put on for military families. And maybe some sweat from a cocky private… (Photo by Patrick A. Albright MCoE / PAO Photographer)

In 2014, the parade field was named after the late Sen. Daniel Inouye, who held his ground at San Terenzo, Italy against overwhelming forces and was awarded the Medal of Honor. Ever since that bright March morning in 2009, every single infantryman who graduates out of Fort Benning will have the honor of walking among the heroes of every major conflict in American history.

 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army is developing exoskeletons that will save your knees

David Audet, chief of the Mission Equipment and Systems Branch in the Soldier Performance Optimization Directorate, at the Research, Development and Engineering Command’s Soldier Center, is gearing up his team for the next User Touch Point activities to explore exoskeleton options in late January 2019.

“As we explore the more mature exoskeleton options available to us and engage users, the more we learn about where the possible value of these systems is to Army operations,” said Audet.


“Before the Army can consider investing in any development above what industry has done on their own, we need to make sure that users are on board with human augmentation concepts and that the systems are worth investing in. The Army is not ready yet to commit. NSRDEC [RDECOM Soldier Center] has a lead role in working with PEO-Soldier and the Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning, to determine whether or not a longer-term investment in fielding new technologies is justifiable. But this is what we do best. We find the options and create the partnerships to help us figure it out.”

The Marine Corps’ love-hate relationship with the AV-8 Harrier

Soldiers from Army’s 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York, were able to get hands on and try two of the current human augmentation technologies (pictured here) being pursued by the RDECOM Soldier Center. The soldier on the left is wearing the ONYX and the soldier on the right is wearing the ExoBoot.

(RDECOM Soldier Center)

Recent media has brought a lot of attention to the Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Controls, or LMMFC, ONYX, a Popular Science award recipient for 2018.

As innovative as it is, and with all the attention on the Soldier Center’s .9 million Other Transaction Agreement (OTA) award, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and lose perspective of the overall work the Soldier Center is actually doing.

Out of the 48-month phased effort, roughly 0K has been put on the LMMFC OTA — currently focused on having enough systems to take to the field for operational evaluation. Although performing, the technology has yet to prove itself in a full operational exercise before moving forward. And while LMMFC is highly confident in their product and continues to invest their funding on further developing the system for commercial use, the Soldier Center is also looking at other technologies.

Located in Maynard, Massachusetts, Dephy, Inc.’s ExoBoot is another entrant in the program. The Dephy ExoBoot is an autonomous foot ankle exoskeleton that was inspired by research done at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology under collaboration with the Army. It is currently under consideration for evaluation during the third and fourth quarter of 2019. Brigadier General David M. Hodne has worn the ExoBoot during Soldier Center program updates and is quite intrigued by the capability. User feedback will determine if both systems move forward and under which considerations.

“Under ideal conditions, we would favor a full development effort,” said Audet. “However, given the push for rapid transition and innovation, we can save the Army a lot of time and money by identifying and vetting mature technologies, consistent with the vision of the Army Futures Command, or AFC.

The Marine Corps’ love-hate relationship with the AV-8 Harrier

(David Kamm, RDECOM Soldier Center)

“In order to achieve the goal of vetting and providing recommendations, NSRDEC [the Soldier Center] and PEO-Soldier are strong partners, teamed up to work with third party independent engineering firms such as Boston Engineering out of Waltham, Massachusetts. The engineering analysis of systems will provide an unbiased system-level analysis of any of the technologies under consideration, following rigorous analysis of the capabilities as they exist, the operational parameters provided by users and assessment of how humans will use and interact with the systems.”

“We are confident products will succeed or — at a minimum — fill a gap we have not been able to address by any other materiel or training means,” said Audet.

“We will be prepared to transition, but we know there is a road ahead before we get there. We aren’t committing to anything more than to bring the systems to a demonstration and educate the community at large on what these preliminary technologies can offer. In the meantime, we add a layer of third party independent analysis as a reassurance policy that we are mitigating bias and staying laser focused on user needs and meeting the demands of the future warfighting landscape.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Ancient nomads protect Genghis Khan’s tomb to this day

Inside Northern China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, one people have guarded the secrets and spirit of Genghis Khan for the past 800 years. They are the Darkhad, a group of nomadic warriors who have spent generations protecting the area where the Great Khan was laid to rest – but even they don’t know where that is.


It is said that Khan’s funeral procession murdered everyone it came across. After the slaves finished burying his remains, soldiers escorting the train killed the slaves. Upon the soldiers’ return, they too were killed to keep anyone from knowing the Khan’s final resting place.

It’s also said the Darkhad were given the order to protect this area some 37 generations ago, slaughtering the curious and the grave robber alike. They and their families have been there ever since.

The Marine Corps’ love-hate relationship with the AV-8 Harrier

But you’re probably cool. Go give it a try.

A lot of things have happened to this region in the 800 years since. There were three Chinese imperial dynasties, two opium wars, and a Boxer Rebellion, not to mention the slaughter suffered by the Chinese people at the hands of the invading Japanese during World War II and the endless suffering caused by the first decades of Chinese Communism.

During the Soviet Era, however, the Mongolian People’s Republic, backed by the Soviet Union, kept the area restricted and the Darkhad people briefly took a back seat to satellite technology.

The Marine Corps’ love-hate relationship with the AV-8 Harrier

A Darkhad shaman performing a ritual in Inner Mongolia’s Darkhad Valley.

These days, of course, no one will kill the curious traveler (or even the archaeologist) for entering the area and searching for the Great Khan’s tomb. But the Darkhad, now some 16,000 strong, continue to guard the living spirit of Genghis Khan in relics related to him. They were housed in eight white yurts passed on from father to son, emblems of the nomadic lifestyle of the Mongolian people. It was the Darkhad who protected the yurts from the emperors, the Japanese, the Chinese Nationalists, and the Chinese Communists.

In 1956, the Communists constructed the Mausoleum of Genghis Khan in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, to be a permanent home for the Khan-related relics. The Mausoleum is open to the public, but does not include the remains of the Mongols’ “Son of Heaven.”

Articles

Team Rubicon is on the ground in Nepal

Team Rubicon, a non-government organization made up of military veterans and first responders, rapidly deploys skilled personnel to emergency areas after disasters. After the earthquake in Nepal, Team Rubicon sent folks who have made a difference on the ground executing what they’ve called Operation Tenzing Nepal.


The Marine Corps’ love-hate relationship with the AV-8 Harrier
Photo: Team Rubicon

The team members have deployed to very remote areas, so knowing what to put in the pack-up is crucial.

The Marine Corps’ love-hate relationship with the AV-8 Harrier
Photo: Team Rubicon

Veterans with the appropriate skills set up medical aid stations to help those affected by the quake. After major disasters, the spread of disease can be accelerated due to contaminated water and a loss of basic services.

The Marine Corps’ love-hate relationship with the AV-8 Harrier
Photo: Team Rubicon

Keeping track of care can be a challenge in the chaotic, high patient volume environment that follows a disaster.

The Marine Corps’ love-hate relationship with the AV-8 Harrier
Photo: Team Rubicon

Many patients have multiple injuries, each of which requires treatment and follow-up. Teams stationed in a village do their best to make sure injuries don’t become worse.

The Marine Corps’ love-hate relationship with the AV-8 Harrier
Photo: Team Rubicon

Team Rubicon works with local and foreign governments while conducting their operations. And since many members are veterans, they are able to interact with militaries more easily than some NGOs.

The Marine Corps’ love-hate relationship with the AV-8 Harrier
Photo: Team Rubicon

Reconnaissance in remote areas can be challenging, especially after existing infrastructure is damaged by an earthquake. Drones allow foreign responders like Team Rubicon, as well as local forces, to respond more efficiently.

Team Rubicon is collecting donations to support of Operation Tenzing Nepal on their website. Also, military veterans or civilians with skills as first responders can volunteer with Team Rubicon for future operations. Teams serve one of 10 regional areas in the United States or deploy internationally.

MORE: This Green Beret’s heroism was so incredible that Ronald Reagan said it was hard to believe

AND: New report shows vets more civic-minded than non-vets

Articles

This family fought for survival after the ship they were on was torpedoed in the Gulf of Mexico

In May of 1942, U-boat 506 sank the freighter “Heredia” approximately 40 miles off New Orleans. Most of the crew onboard were merchant seamen, but there were also a handful of civilians including the Downs family, consisting of the parents, Ray and Ina, along with their two children, eight-year-old Sonny, and eleven-year-old Lucille.  When the ship exploded, chaos ensued and Ina and Lucille were separated from Ray and Sonny who found refuge in a four-foot balsa wood life raft. Father and son were joined by the Heredia’s captain, Captain Edwin Colburn, and civilian George Conyea.  The following narrative, excerpted from Michael Tougias’ new book “So Close to Home,” chronicles their final hours in the life raft when all hope seemed lost.


The Marine Corps’ love-hate relationship with the AV-8 Harrier
The Downs family after their rescue.

The baking rays of the sun pounded down on the four souls clinging to the square life raft, that was now partially submerged. If we don’t drown, thought Ray Downs, we’re going to die of dehydration.  They had been drifting in the Gulf of Mexico for over fourteen hours, and Ray worried his boy Sonny wouldn’t last another hour.

Sonny was lost in his own exhausted stupor. Then he felt something against his leg. He glanced down and could not believe what he saw: a banana, perhaps the same one he had lost earlier, was bobbing in the water.

“Dad, look!” he gasped, reaching out and snatching the green banana.

“I knew you’d find it. I think that banana is really going to help us. Why don’t you unpeel it and take a big bite and then pass it around for all of us to share?”

Sonny did as he was told. It was a struggle to swallow his piece of the banana with his mouth and throat so dry. Twenty seconds later, he felt nauseous and vomited the banana bite back into the sea.

“Well, that didn’t work so well,” Ray said. “The banana wasn’t ripe anyway.”

Sonny only nodded. He was slumped forward with his head hanging so low that it almost reached his knees.

A few minutes later, Sonny said, “Dad, can we go in now?” He said it as if they were on a fishing trip and it was up to his father when to call it quits.

Rather than try to explain the situation, his father answered, “Soon, son, soon.”

Sonny looked up at his father and just nodded.

It wasn’t long after this exchange that Ray noticed fellow survivor George Conyea staring at something directly behind where Ray was sitting. Ray turned his head and saw not one but four grey shark fins lazily cutting through the sea just five feet away from the raft. When he looked over at Conyea and the captain, he saw another couple of fins. By now, all four of the survivors could see the sharks. No one said a word.

One shark turned toward the raft and then glided directly under it. The group could see the outline of its body as it passed directly beneath them. It looked to be about five to six feet long.

Sonny quickly pulled his feet out of the water.

“Take it easy, Sonny, don’t thrash around,” said his dad. “They’ll move on.”

But they didn’t move on.

The four survivors now counted seven different sharks making slow half-loops around the raft before making a pass directly underneath it. This was by far the most terrifying experience of the ordeal for both Sonny and the three adults. The raft was too small for the men to try and get their legs on top of the balsa wood. Ray was right: their best defense was not to make a commotion.

The men did not know what kind of sharks they were, only that they were as big as themselves. The life raft probably acted like a magnet for sharks, attracting their interest simply because it was a floating object, and the sharks, with their keen sense of smell, could also have been drawn in by the scent of the blood from the wound on Ray’s leg. And any movement the group made, such as switching position, would have caused a vibration in the water, and that too would attract sharks. It’s also possible that smaller fish were holding position under the shade of the raft, and the sharks came in to investigate this potential prey, and then became inquisitive about the humans.

Whatever kind of sharks were circling the Heredia survivors, they were curious and gradually moved in closer to the life raft, making their lazy half-loops just a couple of feet off the side of the raft before they submerged and swam directly under it. One shark, when passing under the raft, rolled on its back, and an anxious Sonny could see its half-opened mouth. The boy almost let out a scream, but his dad, who had seen the same thing, reached over and put his hand on Sonny’s shoulder.

“Don’t worry, they are just checking us out. We are something new to them.”

Ray had no idea if what he was saying was true or not, but the last thing he needed was for his son to go into a panic. He also hoped his words calmed the captain and George Conyea, because they were as wide-eyed as Sonny, watching every move their new visitors made.

Ray felt despair like he had never known. Sundown was just three and a half hours away, and the thought of the sharks gliding beneath them at night was too terrible to contemplate. He felt absolutely helpless.

Minutes crawled by and the four survivors kept still, eyes glued on the fins lazily cutting through the water on all sides of the raft. The behavior of the sharks stayed the same; they came within a foot or two of the castaways but there was no direct contact with either the raft or the group’s legs or feet.

“How long will they stay?” asked Sonny, looking at his father.

“Don’t know, Sonny; but like I said, they are just curious.” Ray paused and continued his calming words: “If we don’t bother them, they won’t bother us.”

An hour went by and the group tried to ignore the sharks, but with little success. There was nothing else to look at, nothing else to take their mind off the seven fins circling them.

About two hours after the sharks first arrived, more fins appeared in the water not far from the raft. Sonny was terrified, thinking, not more sharks. . . .

Captain Colburn spoke up. “Hey, those are dolphins.”

Like the U-boat that had caused their ordeal, the sharks submerged and were not seen again.

Sonny experienced an incredible sense of relief and joy with the dolphins’ arrival and the sharks’ departure. He felt as if he had been holding his breath for the past two hours, afraid to move a muscle. There was no doubt in his mind that the dolphins had driven the sharks off to help him.

The dolphins’ presence not only relieved Sonny’s concern over the sharks, they also gave him something new to watch. Unlike the sharks, the dolphins swam quickly around the raft, their entire backs almost coming out of the water, and then briefly submerge and repeat the process. Up and down came their fins. But after just three or four minutes, they moved on and were gone from sight.

The group didn’t speak. Without the fear of sharks, their minds went back to the predicament of time running out for a rescue. It would be dark within the hour. Their thirst was unbearable and all felt extremely weak. Sonny was in the worst shape because of his small body. Now that the sun was low in the sky, he was shivering again. His father noticed and had him move back on his lap where he wrapped his big arms around the boy, trying to stop his shaking.

Sonny looked up at his father. “Shouldn’t a boat be here by now?” he asked.

Ray needed to keep his son’s mind occupied. So instead of discussing the lack of a rescue boat, he said “Let’s play a game. See those seagulls way up there? You choose one and I’ll choose one and we’ll count how long they go without flapping their wings. Whoever’s bird flies the longest without using its wings wins.”

Sonny perked up a bit. He didn’t really want to play the game because he was so chilled and his mouth so parched that he’d rather not talk. But he thought maybe this game was what his father needed to do.

“Okay, I’m picking the one over there,” Sonny said as he lethargically pointed at a shape off to the west.

“And I’ve got the one straight up,” answered Ray.

With heads tilted back, father and son watched the birds they had chosen. It was easy to look up because the sun was almost touching the ocean.

“Mine just flapped,” said Ray. “You win.”

Sonny gave a half-hearted nod.

“Well, let’s play another round,” said Ray.

Again they chose birds. Sonny chose one high in the sky and way off on the eastern horizon. This time the captain and George Conyea also looked up to see which birds the father and son chose. Anything to take their minds off their body’s demands for water.

Again Ray’s bird flapped its wings quickly. “You win again,” he said.

Sonny kept his eyes on his own bird. “Wow, Dad, mine is still going along without flapping.”

Ray looked closer at the bird in the distance.

“Captain, let me use your binoculars,” Ray said.

The captain removed the strap from around his neck and handed them to Ray, who hurriedly put the binoculars to his eyes. He adjusted the focus and stared intently at the bird far in the distance.

“That’s no seagull, it’s a plane!” he shouted.

“Yes, yes!” shouted the captain.

The survivors still could not hear its engines or tell what kind of plane it was, but there was no doubt it was a plane and that it was heading toward the raft.

“Quick, Sonny, take off the captain’s coat! I’ve got to get it on the board.”

Within seconds, Ray was waving the board with the white coat on it, and the others were waving their arms.

Ray couldn’t tell if the pilot had spotted the white coat, and the tension was unbearable. Please, please, he said to himself. His son’s very life was at stake. The boy could not make it through another cold night. He waved the white coat wildly.

As the plane drew closer, its metal skin briefly glittered when the sun’s rays hit it. Now they could hear the dull drone of the engine, and Sonny shouted “Help!”

“Keep waving the flag!” shouted the captain, his excitement growing. “It’s got to see us. It’s our last chance. I think it’s coming our way.”

Ray could make out the outline of the plane and, because of its unique construction, realized it was a Navy PBY. The single wing was elevated on a pylon above the fuselage rather than coming straight out from the sides. This allowed unobstructed visibility for its aviators to scan the ocean during either patrols for U-boats or search-and-rescue missions. Two engines with propellers were mounted on the wing, one on each side of the aircraft.

The plane came ever closer but it did not descend. Ray thought maybe it was going too fast to see them.

But Sonny’s heart soared. He was certain the plane was coming for them. And he was right. In one swift motion, the PBY started descending and adjusting its course slightly so it was just fifteen feet off the ocean and heading right toward the raft, banking hard so that Sonny could actually see the pilot, who was giving a thumbs-up. The boy let out a croak of joy along with the cheers of his father, the captain, and George Conyea.

The four raft passengers watched with awe as the plane circled back toward them. Its 104-foot wingspan and 63-foot length made it appear enormous so close to the water. Just as the plane was barreling over their location, they saw the pilot drop a package out the window, landing just ten feet from the raft. Using the board and their hands, all four survivors paddled furiously toward what they hoped was their salvation floating in the water.

The captain grabbed the package and ripped it open. Inside were two flares, a large container of water, and a note. The captain read the note out loud: “We will send shrimp boats to come and get you. If anyone is seriously hurt, wave me in and I’ll pick them up.”

Ray thought for a minute. He knew the plane was going to search for other survivors in the few minutes of daylight left and he didn’t want to slow it down. Someone, maybe Lucille or Ina, might be hurt and the plane could rescue them. He thought Sonny could make it the half hour or hour that he expected the shrimp boat to take to arrive.

The plane made a broad circle above the raft and then moved off.

“We made it, son,” said Ray; “we’ll be on the boat in no time.”

Then the captain passed the water container to Ray, saying, “Let’s all take a drink. We may want to let our bodies adjust to the water before we take a second drink.”

When Sonny took his gulp of water, he thought he had never tasted anything so good, so sweet. It was as if the water had magical powers, because he felt better immediately. He couldn’t wait for the container to come around again for his second drink of the life-giving fluid. But the captain said again that they shouldn’t drink too much all at once, and the other adults agreed.

A few minutes later the plane reappeared, then moved off. The survivors had no way of knowing that the pilot had dropped a note to shrimp boats a few miles off that said: “Watch my direction. Follow me. Pick up survivors in water.”

A half hour went by and the survivors bobbed on their little raft in the darkening shadows. They all had another drink of water, and the captain said that he thought a shrimp boat could reach them within the next half hour.

Sonny shivered in his father’s arms. The hydrating water had eased his thirst but did nothing for his growing hypothermia.

“That plane can land on water, right, Dad?”

“Yes.”

“Then why didn’t they just do that and pick us up?”

“They needed more time in the air to find others. But the boat will be here soon.”

“What if the boat can’t find us?”

“They will. And remember, we’ve got flares to use if we see a boat.”

Sonny had forgotten about the flares. But he also wondered how his dad would see a boat in the distance in the pitch black of night.

More time went by. The sun had set, but the survivors could still differentiate between the horizon and the ocean in the twilight. Sonny had forgotten all about the sharks, but Ray hadn’t. Ray still scanned the dark ocean around the raft for any sign of a fin. He wondered what to do if a shark appeared and thought that should one come, he could use the strong light from a flare to scare it off. But with only two flares. . . .

The prospect of another night in the water scared Ray to the core—not for himself but his concern over Sonny, who he could feel shivering in his arms. He second-guessed himself about not waving in the plane. Now there was nothing he could do to change that decision.

The Marine Corps’ love-hate relationship with the AV-8 Harrier

Editor’s note: Michael Tougias is a New York Times bestselling author and co-author of 25 books including “The Finest Hours,”  “A Storm Too Soon,” “Rescue of the Bounty,” “Overboard,” “Fatal Forecast,” “Ten Hours Until Dawn,” and “There’s a Porcupine in my Outhouse.”

His latest work is an inspiring historical narrative titled “So Close to Home” that tells the story of all four members of the Downs family as they struggle for survival.  Their story is contrasted against that of the daring U-boat commander, Erich Wurdemann, who pushed his crew to the limit of endurance as he laid waste to ships throughout the Gulf.  

To see more visit Michael Tougias’ website.

Articles

Why ‘American Sniper’ Is For Military Wives

The Marine Corps’ love-hate relationship with the AV-8 Harrier
Photo: American Sniper/ IMDb


When the husband of one of my close friends was killed in Iraq, she slipped an E. E. Cummings poem into his casket before he was buried at Arlington. That poem ran through my mind, in verses and lines, like a skipping CD, the whole time I watched “American Sniper” in the theater this past weekend.

the boys i mean are not refined

they go with girls who buck and bite

I’ve read many commentaries about this movie in the past week, most of them heralding it for telling the wife and family side of war.

It’s true. More than any war movie I’ve seen – and loving a man who lives at the ‘tip of the spear’ means that I’ve seen most of them – “American Sniper” touches on what war was like for Taya Kyle, Chris Kyle’s wife.  It tells what war is like for all the wives.

I do mean wives.

I say ‘wives’ and not ‘spouses’ intentionally, though I’ve been conditioned to correct myself on this, because most, if not all, of the spouses of military operators are women.

That this is the first movie to humanize the wives of warriors – to make us out to be more than ribbon-festooned cheerleaders – is almost offensive. It is, or should be, obvious to everyone that combat exposure is not the sum total of a warrior, and that war does not only affect the warrior.

But – and I think Taya Kyle would agree with me on this – to say that the movie tells the whole family story would be like saying that ping pong at the Rec Center tells you all you need to know about Wimbledon. There is no way a movie can truly show the family side of war, but at least this one tried.

one hangs a hat upon her tit

one carves a cross on her behind

they do not give a s— for wit

the boys i mean are not refined

These are the people we sacrifice to save.

My husband and I watched the movie together, sitting in a packed theater in a town that has few veterans and even fewer – if any – operators. I glanced around at our fellow moviegoers, many overweight, most missing the inside jokes sprinkled throughout the film. I smiled to myself, proud of my husband, knowing that none of the others in the theater knew that the guy in the third row had lived through encounters exactly like the ones on the screen; knowing that these are the people we sacrifice to save.

A couple sitting behind us brought their children, who looked to be about two and four years old. My husband and I — parents of young children ourselves — were disgusted with that couple.

Only someone who has no concept of how awful war can really be would choose to force visions of it onto the innocent. Their innocent. Our own children were one block away, at a drop in childcare center. Playing. Laughing. Being kids. He goes away to war, and I make do without him, so that our kids won’t have to see it here.

We signed on for this war together.

We signed on for this war together. He, to fight it. Me, to hold his life together so that he can leave. He, to keep the bad guys ‘over there.’ Me, to give him a life to come home to. He, to place himself directly in front of the worst the world has to offer. Me, to be the place where he can go to rest.

It takes a special kind of man to volunteer to run toward the ugliest of fights. It takes a special kind of woman to let him.

In the movie, when Chris and Taya first meet, she tells him that she would never date a SEAL. When my husband and I first met and he told me he was in the Army, I told him, “So long as you aren’t one of those psycho killers.” We laugh about that now.

the boys i mean are not refined

they cannot chat of that and this

they do not give a fart for art

they kill like you would take a piss

I got my college minor in studio art. I can chat expertly about “that and this.” I was a Journalism major and well into a career as a newspaper reporter when I met my soldier. I harbored no visions of deployments or camouflage back then. I did not want to be a warrior’s wife.

I never imagined that my vacuum cleaner would break because it sucked up a brass shell casing or that my dryer’s lint screen would be dotted with orange foam ear plugs.

I did not know that I would come to find the smell of Army – dirt, sweat and metal – sexy. That the sound of ripping velcro would become a turn-on. It had never before occurred to me that I could love someone whose job might involve killing. Killing people.

In an early scene, Taya and Chris Kyle lie together in bed, her hair long and dark like mine, fanned out across her pillow as his arm is slung across her body, his wrist near her face.

“I wonder if her hair will get caught in his G-Shock?” I whispered to my husband, laughing. The watch was an excellent, accurate, detail that was probably lost on most of the movie goers.

“Maybe,” he replied. “But I bet she won’t bitch about it.”

I shuddered both times in the movie when Taya was on a satellite phone call with Chris and combat erupted around him, turning war into a conference call. I have been on that call.

The movie didn’t show what came next.

The movie didn’t show what came next. I wished it would have. The throwing up, reflexively, again and again, out of pure fear. The dry heaves, streams of snot, and the feeling of your own body temperature dropping as you curl into a fetal position and stay like that for hours.

The movie didn’t show how you must use every ounce of energy just to exist through the two days of wondering if you’re a widow yet, and then relaxing a bit on the third day because the casualty notification team has not come. If he were dead, they would have been here by now.

That friend who put the poem in her husband’s casket, she and I used to talk about casualties a lot. In one of our conversations she said, “You’re strong. When it happens, you’ll be okay. It will make you sad, but it won’t destroy you.”

“When,” not “if.”

She corrected herself immediately, but it had already been said. It felt like a “when” to me in those days. I attended so many memorial services for friends then. It seemed like there was at least one every month. It seems like those days are behind us now. Like we are the lucky ones. The ones who got away. But I’m sure it felt like that to Taya Kyle, too.

“American Sniper” is a excellent film, deserving of all the praise it is receiving. It has started a long overdue conversation, about warriors, and family, and life after war. About PTSD and what it really means. About the nature of people who will give absolutely everything they have – their arms, their legs, their minds, their years, their families, their memories, their lives – for something bigger than themselves. For their friends. For their country. For their childrens’ futures.

the boys i mean are not refined

they shake the mountains when they dance

Rebekah Sanderlin is an Army wife, a mother of three and a professional writer. She writes the Must Have Parent column for Military.com. Her work has been published nationwide including in The Washington Post, The New York Times, National Public Radio, CNN, and in Self and Maxim magazines. She currently serves on the advisory boards of the Military Family Advisory Network and Blue Star Families.

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This article originally appeared at Military.com Copyright 2014. Follow Military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

16 facts you never knew about the American flag

It’s time to get out your stars and stripes – it’s Flag Day! June 14, 1777, is the date that Congress officially chose the design for our flag, and Americans have been pledging their allegiance to it ever since. While you’ll only get the day off work if you live in Pennsylvania, the state where the flag originated, the holiday’s history and meaning are important to know. Whether you’re reading this on Flag Day or any other day, these facts are fun enough to learn all year long.


The Marine Corps’ love-hate relationship with the AV-8 Harrier

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1. Betsy Ross may not be the flag’s real designer

Betsy Ross is often cited as the designer of the first American Flag, but we have little evidence to support that claim. Her grandson presented statements by his own family in 1870, but beyond that, there’s no proof. Some historians want to transfer the credit to Francis Hopkinson, who was named as the flag’s designer in journals from the Continental Congress.

The Marine Corps’ love-hate relationship with the AV-8 Harrier

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2. The celebration of the flag was invented by a teacher

In 1885, a 19-year-old teacher named Bernard J. CiGrand asked his class to write an essay on the symbolism of our flag. He spent the following half-century trying to make Flag Day a national holiday.

The Marine Corps’ love-hate relationship with the AV-8 Harrier

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3. There have been 27 official versions of the American flag

On the American flag, the stripes represent the 13 original colonies, while the stars represent each state. Since there weren’t always 50 states, there weren’t always 50 stars. Each flag was similar, but with a different number of stars. If you visit the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, you can see the remnants of the 15-star, 15-stripe flag that inspired the national anthem.

4. The colors of the flag have important meanings

Red, white and blue were chosen to represent, respectively, valor, liberty and purity. The colors also have specific names; “Old Glory Blue,” “Old Glory Red”, and white. Just plain white.

5. The current version of the flag was designed by a student

In 1949, 17-year-old Robert G. Heft created an updated flag for a class project, and the poor kid only got a B-. Luckily, that didn’t dissuade him. He submitted his idea to President Eisenhower when Alaska and Hawaii gained statehood. Our of over 1500 submissions, his design was chosen.

The Marine Corps’ love-hate relationship with the AV-8 Harrier

6. The flag has rules of its own. Lots of them.

According to the U.S. Flag Code:

– The flag shouldn’t be flown in bad weather.
– It should be raised and lowered slowly.
– No other flags should be placed above it.
– When flags from two or more nations are flown, they should rest on separate poles at the same height. They should also be about the same size.
– It must be flown at every school and during all school days.
– If flown at night, the flag should be illuminated.
– Flags can be burned if they become damaged and can no longer be flown.
– And many more.

7. You can’t sign your name on it

Despite what flag-signing politicians would have you believe, The Flag Code strictly prohibits adding any markings or drawings to the flag.

8. … or put it on a t-shirt

Every 4th of July, half the country is decked out in stars and stripes. As it turns out, we’re not really supposed to do that. The Flag Code actually specifies that the Stars and Stripes should never be used on clothing, bedding, or decorations. Considering how much Americans love our flag merch, that’s one rule we’ll probably keep breaking for a long, long time.

The Marine Corps’ love-hate relationship with the AV-8 Harrier

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9. Flying a flag upside down isn’t necessarily disrespectful

At least not in the way you’re thinking of. An upside-down flag isn’t usually a signal of protest, rather, it’s a signal of distress. On your next cruise, if you see someone frantically waving an upside-down flag on a nearby island, he’s probably not a rebel. He’s stranded.

10. Burning a flag isn’t technically illegal

Historically, unlike flying a flag upside down, burning the flag WAS done as an act of protest. The Flag Protection Act of 1968 made this illegal, but the act was revoked 20 years later. The Supreme Court ruled that the government couldn’t limit citizens’ First Amendment rights, making it legal to do whatever you want to a flag with no legal consequences.

11. Indestructible flags exist

Historically, enemies of the United States have burned or defaced our flag to make a statement. (That’s why messing with the flag is a really, really bad idea, even if it’s not illegal!) To protect defaced flags from being used as a propaganda tool by enemies, a Green Beret veteran has designed an all but indestructible flag. Made out of kevlar and Nomex, the new materials ensure the flag can’t be burned or torn while still allowing it to fly naturally. Here’s how to order your Firebrand Flag today (and the first 150 WATM readers to order get off and free shipping – a additional savings!)

The Marine Corps’ love-hate relationship with the AV-8 Harrier

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12. Using the American flag in burial ceremonies isn’t just for veterans

While draping the flag over the coffins of government officials and veterans is common practice, it’s not their exclusive right. Anyone can adopt this tradition if they like it!

13. Old Glory was the nickname of a specific American flag 

We now refer to any ol’ flag as Old Glory, but that wasn’t always the case. It started with a sea captain named William Driver, who nicknamed the flag on his ship “Old Glory” when he saw it flying on his ship’s mast back in 1831. It was such a good nickname that it stuck for good.

14. After 9/11 we held our flag a little closer

National tragedies are known for bringing our country together. According to Karen Burke of Walmart’s Corporate Communications, their stores sold 115,000 flags on September 11, 2001, compared to only 6,400 flags in 2000. In the following year, they sold a whopping 7.8 million US flags- around triple the sales of the previous year.

15. There are 6 American flags on the moon

…but only 5 are standing. Over the course of many moon expeditions, six US flags have been planted. The wind generated by the landing and takeoff of a shuttle, however, dislodged the original flag placed there by Neil Armstrong during the first-ever moon landing.

16. ‘Gilligan’s Island’ directors respected the flag.

During the opening sequence of the first season of the show, the American flag is filmed at half-staff. This was done to honor President Kennedy, who was assassinated the day the pilot episode was filmed.

You don’t have to walk to the moon to honor our flag. Kick off the Flag Day festivities by learning how to properly fold a flag, learn more about its history, or try one of these tasty, patriotic treats!

Which fact was your favorite? Let us know in the comments!

Articles

Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping

Honorably discharged veterans who want to shop at the online exchanges could be given access early as part of a group of “beta testers” through a new veteran shopper verification system launched June 5th.


The Defense Department resale board last year approved a plan to open the exchange’s online stores to all veterans. Those who are verified through a new site will have access to all of the online exchange stores, including AAFES, the Coast Guard Exchange, the Marine Corps Exchange and the Navy Exchange.

The Marine Corps’ love-hate relationship with the AV-8 Harrier
A U.S. Army soldier exits an Army Air Force Post Exchange at Steel Castle camp ground near Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina. | US Army photo by Spc. Emmanuel Samedi

The verification site, VetVerify.org, asks users to input their first and last names, last four digits of their Social Security number, birth date, email address, and service branch. Veterans will then be notified whether they are ineligible, are already eligible to shop, that they will be eligible on the official Nov. 11 launch date, or that they have been randomly selected to be a beta tester.

The new benefit is available to all honorably discharged veterans. The rule change does not allow the new veteran shoppers to use the exchange in person or shop at the commissary. It also does not include access to gasoline, tobacco, or uniform sales.

Officials with the Army and Air Force Exchange Service said early shoppers will be given access on a rolling basis in an effort to make sure the system is ready when the benefit fully opens on Veterans Day. Although verification and shopping should be seamless, they said it is possible that beta users could experience some hiccups.

“They don’t want to just open this thing on Veterans Day … when you can work the kinks out ahead of time,” said Chris Ward, an AAFES spokesman. “That is the point of doing this — to make sure there aren’t any hiccups or bugs in the system.”

Products purchased through the exchanges are tax free, and a percentage of revenue benefits Morale, Welfare, and Recreation programs.

About 13 million veterans qualify for the new benefit. Officials did not have an estimate for how many veterans are expected to shop the online exchanges after Veterans Day or how many will register early.

“We’re kind of just going in blind,” Ward said. “We’re rolling it out this early — I don’t anticipate everyone comes today.”

Articles

This is what happened to the real ‘Black Hawk Down’ pilot after his rescue

Mike Durant is a prime example of an individual who took a terrible situation and turned it into a positive life experience.


He’s the real “Black Hawk Down” pilot shot down and captured during the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993. Today, he credits his harrowing ordeal for his success in business and his personal life.

Durant — a young chief warrant officer at the time — was part of a Special Operations aviation unit deployed to Somalia in August 1993 to assist U.S. forces during the peacekeeping mission there. The country was ripping itself apart by clans and militia groups vying for power after strongman, Mohamed Siad Barre’s downfall.

His unit’s objective was to capture Somali clan leader Mohammed Farrah Aidid and to provide security to relief organizations trying to aid the starving locals. As a result, Durant’s team had several successful operations, capturing about two dozen warlords.

Related: Hussein Farrah Aidid left the Marine Corps to become a warlord like his father, Mohamed Farrah Aidid

But everything went pear shaped on October 3, 1993, while providing air support to the troops hunting Aidid’s senior militia leaders. A man on a rooftop fired a rocket-propelled grenade at Durant’s slow-moving UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter causing it to spin toward the earth from 70 feet in the air.

“In my mind, I died,” Durant told National Geographic. “When we crashed, I was knocked unconscious, and I think psychologically that was the end for me.”

Durant had been trained at survival, evasion, resistance and escape school, but nothing could compare to the real experience. He’s thankful to Delta Force operators and Medal of Honor recipients Gary Gordon and Randy Shughart for sacrificing their lives while attempting to rescue him. He almost suffered the same fate but was taken prisoner instead.

“I have tried to raise the bar on myself, elevate my game, do things that I probably wouldn’t have done if I hadn’t had that experience,” he said. “I’ve done a lot of things that stray outside the lines for me, but I did them because I realize I already have a second chance, I’m not going to have a third. So, I’m going to take full advantage of what’s been offered to me.”

Watch Durant explain his mission, captivity, and how it turned his life around:

National Geographic, YouTube
Articles

Soldiers created these hauntingly beautiful paintings during the Vietnam War

The Vietnam War was the first American war broadcast on TV, something that profoundly changed the way we see expeditionary warfare. For the first time ever, Americans at home saw young men crawling through dense jungles thousands of miles away. And it wasn’t like the newsreel footage of the ’40s, scrubbed clean and careful to show the good guys fighting the good fight. The news coverage in Vietnam showed young American men out on patrol in a strange, foreign land in what was a bitterly controversial war back at home. But less well-known are the paintings created by dedicated teams of army painters tasked with depicting the war in Vietnam as they saw it, with unlimited creative license and no travel restrictions.


The Marine Corps’ love-hate relationship with the AV-8 Harrier
“Swamp Patrol” – Roger Blum, 1966

The Vietnam Combat Art Program was created in 1966 as a way to create a record of the war as seen through soldiers’ eyes (a similar program existed in WWII). Applications were solicited from soldiers through the U.S. Army Arts and Crafts Program, a separate program originally set up to boost morale in the mobilization leading up to WWII. But unlike the Arts and Crafts Program, which decorated barracks, hosted art classes and sought to fill the long periods of downtime of a life at war, this new Combat Art Program dedicated artist teams to observe and depict the war in Vietnam.

The Marine Corps’ love-hate relationship with the AV-8 Harrier
“Wounded” – Robert C. Knight, 1966

In a departure from the army’s caginess towards news media coverage of the war, the program sought out artists looking to depict scenes in Vietnam that were both honest and compelling. In the U.S. Army’s announcement of the program, it called for “competent artist-illustrators who have a sound foundation in life drawing, composition and color. They must be able to record military events and experiences pictorially and with strong emotional impact.” The teams were to spend 60 days traveling through Vietnam, following units on patrol while making sketches and doing preliminary research. The teams would later finish their work during a 75-day stay in Hawaii.

The Marine Corps’ love-hate relationship with the AV-8 Harrier
“Killed In Action” – Burdell Moody, 1967

The army assembled nine Combat Artist Teams (CATs) from 1966-1970. Each team consisted of about 5 artists who were given the freedom to travel wherever they wished in Vietnam. “We had open Category Z Air and Military Travel orders, which meant we could hitch a ride anywhere in Vietnam. It was a letter-sized sheet of paper with written and signed orders,” explained James Pollack, who was a member of CAT IV, which operated in late 1967. “We usually just walked up to a pilot or someone in charge and flashed the orders. We guarded these papers closely – if we lost them it would have been difficult trying to explain why we were hitchhiking around Vietnam.” Pollack described his experiences in the Vietnam Combat Art Program in an essay published in 2009 in War, Literature the Arts: An International Journal of the Humanities.

The Marine Corps’ love-hate relationship with the AV-8 Harrier
“Looking Down the Trail” – James Pollack, 1967

“Were we propaganda machines for the army? Absolutely not,” Pollack told The Magazine of the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2011. “I was drafted and didn’t even want to be in the army.”

The Marine Corps’ love-hate relationship with the AV-8 Harrier
“Unreal Realities” – Ronald A. Wilson, 1967

 

The Marine Corps’ love-hate relationship with the AV-8 Harrier
“Last Stand” – Phillip W. Jones, 1967-68

 

The Marine Corps’ love-hate relationship with the AV-8 Harrier
“Cobra” – Stephen H. Randall, 1968

 

The Marine Corps’ love-hate relationship with the AV-8 Harrier
“The Ladies” – David Fairrington, 1968

 

The Marine Corps’ love-hate relationship with the AV-8 Harrier
“Saturday Uptown” – James R. Drake, 1969

 

The Marine Corps’ love-hate relationship with the AV-8 Harrier
“Rice Mill, My Tho” – William R. Hoettels, 1969-70

Articles

‘6 Days’ tells the story of a daring SAS raid to rescue hostages in London

It was one of the most audacious special operations raids ever launched. Nearly 30 hostages were being held for close to a week in the heart of Britain’s capital city — the target of an assault by a Middle Eastern separatist group who stormed the Iranian embassy.


And in broad daylight, after six days of fruitless negotiations in April and May of 1980, one of the world’s most skilled counter-terrorist units assaulted the target in front of news cameras who broadcast the daring operation live around the globe.

In the end, only one of the hostages was killed and two wounded and the nearly three dozen commandos from the British Special Air Service cemented their place as some of the most fearsome and capable operators the world had ever seen.

That dramatic story will be retold this summer in the movie “6 Days.” Directed by Toa Fraser and starring Jamie Bell, Abbie Cornish and Mark Strong, the movie recounts the drama of the Iran embassy takeover and the rescue mission, dubbed “Operation Nimrod,” from the perspective of the SAS team, a BBC reporter and the police negotiator trying to get the terrorists to surrender their prisoners.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the story is that the SAS assault took place in broad daylight in front of dozens of TV cameras — exposing for the first time the secretive world of Britain’s most elite warriors and making them instant heroes in the eyes of their countrymen.

“6 Days” is scheduled to open in the England in August. No U.S. release date has been set so far.

WATCH

This is how squats can open doors for you

As an artist, Jim Morrison was obsessed with the barriers that exist in our own minds between what we know and the mysteries hidden just beyond. By means of artistic expression, philosophical musing, and a wide variety of mind-altering drugs, he spent his short, bright tenure as a rockstar searching for the breach points in those barriers: the famous “Doors of Perception.”

And that is why The Doors are called The Doors and not The San Fran Drug Lovin’ Band. True story.

The Marine Corps’ love-hate relationship with the AV-8 Harrier

As a veteran trainer and WATM in-house ruckstar, Max Philisaire is likewise obsessed with the Doors of Perception, but rather than approaching the breaching issue as a question of which weed strain to choose, Max would prefer that you simply squat so hard that the doors implode.

The Marine Corps’ love-hate relationship with the AV-8 Harrier
For the record, Max is only squatting hard enough here to ruffle the drapes. (Go90 Max Your Body screenshot)

Because this is Max. Max’s front door doesn’t have a mat, it has a moat. Max’s doorbell is a grip test. His mail slot is a bazooka. Max hopes Weakness tries knocking, so he can breach his own door outward and sick himself on the whole Weakness sales force.

In this episode, Max is out to rock the socks right off your under-developed legs. Breaching doors is a key skill in modern urban combat and Max wants your quads, hamstrings and glutes to be up to the task. You will proceed through a progression of squat drills designed to send your legs a message, a message that reads: Ten hut, ham hocks!”

The Marine Corps’ love-hate relationship with the AV-8 Harrier
**1-up** Boop boop bee do do do. (Go90 Max Your Body screenshot)

Oh. But if you’re thinking of knocking on Max’s door to thank him?

Watch out for the mail slot.

Watch as Max sneezes and the gym falls over, in the video embedded at the top.

Watch more Max Your Body:

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Our trainer will make you want to play Ruck Ruck Goose

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