Looking almost like an oversized pistol, the Heckler Koch MP7 is a cross between a submachine gun and a carbine that serves around the world in the hands of law enforcement and special operations units.
In the late 1980s, NATO developed requirements for a next-generation personal defense weapon that would be more effective against body armor than current pistol-caliber PDWs. While submachine guns based on the .45 ACP or 9mm deliver plenty of stopping power against unarmored targets, the growing availability of capable and affordable body armor meant that something new was needed.
SEAL Team 6 operators in Afghanistan armed with a mix of MP7s and HK416 rifles. (Photo from imgur)
So German gunmaker Heckler Koch developed the MP7 to meet these NATO requirements and it has served across the world since entering full production in 2001.
Some of the most commonly-spotted submachine guns in the hands of law enforcement and other professionals are the MP5 and its successor, the UMP. These guns typify the classic submachine gun, being automatic weapons chambered for pistol cartridges.
The MP7, however, is chambered for the 4.6x30mm cartridge. The steel core 4.6x30mm was developed specifically to be a lightweight pistol-ish round delivering the penetration more like a rifle cartridge. The smaller, lighter round means that more ammunition can be carried and that it has a minimal recoil even in full-automatic shooting.
The 4.6mm cartridge was developed by HK for the MP7 and its companion sidearm, the UCP pistol. The UCP never got past the prototype stage, but the 4.6x30mm has definitely made its mark in the MP7.
The MP7, currently being produced as updated models MP7A1 and MP7A2, weighs less than 5 pounds with a loaded magazine and is only 25-inches long with its adjustable stock fully extended. The barrel is 7.1 inches long and the magazine feeds into the pistol grip, creating a compact, easy to handle package.
The action is a gas-operated short stroke piston like that of HK’s HK416 rifle and is rated at 950 rounds per minute. A folding forward vertical grip comes standard on the MP7, though this has been replaced on the new MP7A2 model with a standard lower rail which allows the user to easily install any grip if desired. A full-length top rail comes with removable folding sights and permits the mounting of any standard optic or other accessory, and side rails can be easily added for additional mounting options.
The 4.6x30mm ammunition means that magazine size is decreased compared to those holding traditional cartridges. A 40-round MP7 magazine is comparable in size to 30-round 9mm magazine like the ones in the MP5. This means more firepower ready for action and fewer mag changes, both of which can easily spell the difference between success or failure in life and death situations.
The MP7 utilizes a great deal of polymer in its construction, and the weapon’s light weight, ergonomics, and physical size allow it to be fired accurately with one hand. When the stock is extended and the forward grip used, it suddenly becomes a mini carbine with performance similar to full-sized guns as long at the range stays below 200 meters or so.
Military special forces utilize the MP7 much like they have used submachine guns for decades. Smaller, lighter weapons that can provide automatic fire are invaluable for close-quarters combat and the 4.6x30mm’s armor-piercing capability make the MP7 a natural choice for elite units needing compact firepower. The weapon’s design and tactical rails mean that the gun can be easily upgraded as needed with off the shelf accessories. Additionally, the MP7 is suppressor-ready, adding another level of utility to an already-capable gun for special operations use.
The U.S. Navy’s Naval Special Warfare Development Group, more commonly known as SEAL Team 6, is one of the most famous units that employ the MP7 in the special operations community. Many details of their equipment became known after the 2011 mission that killed Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan, and the MP7 was said to have been chosen by some of the raid’s members.
Pistols will remain common sidearms for as long as sidearms are needed. And while standard submachine guns using pistol ammunition will continue to serve a vital role for years to come and carbine-configuration assault rifles will remain the standard infantry weapon in militaries for the foreseeable future, the HK MP7 and other weapons like it will fill a crucial middle ground for those looking for the best of all worlds.
Measured against today’s politically correct standards for training raw recruits, I must have been abused to the point of permanent psychologically scarring during basic training.
Only, that’s not how I remember it.
The definition of the word abuse seems now to be generationally interpreted. In my generation it meant ‘treat with cruelty or violence.’ Today it appears to mean disturbing another’s chi. In fairness to today’s recruits, their feeling in boot camp is the same as mine was. The loss of personal freedoms, learning to respect authority, and being a part of a team can be disorientating concepts to many.
I’m not saying that the training of raw recruits then or now is better or worse. I am saying that the judicious application of power to totally control and mold a human being into an effective contributor to an organization is appropriate and far from abusive or cruel.
We’ve all seen folks, both draftee and enlistee, we were positive would never survive boot camp go on to stellar careers at the highest levels of the military because someone else was responsible for developing the drive the recruit wasn’t even aware they possessed.
Yelling at someone who commits an error that could result in injury to themselves or others is neither cruel nor violent.
Having a foot unceremoniously planted in your butt when falling behind on the morning run was actually a motivational gesture. You might feel you’re going to die on the run, but you won’t fall behind again. The foot was embarrassing — not painful, cruel, or abusive. Anybody remember that handprint on their butt from the first jump at Benning? It wasn’t abuse. It gave you something else to think about besides freezing in the door.
In the final days of boot camp we had earned a post pass. We could only go to the PX, post theatre, or beer garden. After falling in formation wearing highly decorated Class ‘A’s (name tags and U.S. brass) we filed up by squad to sign for our passes.
During this process the platoon sergeant asked if anyone had a pencil. I did and ran it up to him, then returned to formation. When he had finished calling out the names to collect their passes and was folding his little OD green wooden table, I was still at attention.
As he began to walk away I said, “Excuse me, Staff Sgt. Johnson. I signed for a pass.”
He looked in the sign out book and responded, “No you didn’t, boy. Look.” I looked, and my name had been erased, possibly with my own pencil.
Cruel? It took me years to admit it was my mistake, but I got it. To this day I only use pencil on electronically scanned forms and crossword puzzles.
I’m a product of the Greatest Generation. My dad, uncles, and neighbors had all served. We were raised on the stories of that era and had no illusions about what to expect in boot camp. We were all prepared to be treated as one rank below, and certainly less revered than the general’s dog.
But some fifty years later not a day goes by that I don’t call on and use those lessons imprinted on me in boot camp: Help those who need it but don’t facilitate weakness. Be part of something greater than myself. This life is not all about me. Spend any available time you have improving your position.
To all my “abusers”: you earned my respect and have my heartfelt thanks for making me the person I am today.
This article first appeared in The Havok Journal on 10MAR15.
Charlton Heston offs undead nightstalkers in the ’70s cult film “The Omega Man.” (Warner Bros. screen capture)
In real life, the Smith Wesson M76 submachine gun was a weapon for men who fought in the shadows.
Created as a replacement for an embargoed firearm popular with American clandestine operators and special forces during the 1950s and 1960s, it combined a rapid rate of fire with the ability to attach a suppressor.
But the M76 is also a movie gun that Hollywood has generously splashed all over the silver screen.
Some film historians say it earned the honor of being the first “zombie apocalypse gun.” Charlton Heston packs one in the ’70s cult classic The Omega Man, where his character Col. Robert Neville sprays deranged nightwalkers with automatic fire after bio-warfare wipes out most of the world’s population.
Then there is Heath Ledger’s Joker, who wields one against Batman in the 2008 epic The Dark Knight. As the Joker stumbles out of a wrecked van, he fires an M76 and shrieks, “Come on, I want you to do it, I want you to do it. Come on, hit me. Hit me!”
The development of the M76 is a story that is part American ingenuity, part Swedish politics, and all about ensuring special operators could continue to use a choice weapon.
The M76 replaced the Carl Gustav M/45 Kulsprutepistol, a 9 x 19 mm submachine gun with a 36-round magazine manufactured in Sweden that was a favorite of covert forces. The M/45 actually was the main submachine gun of the Swedish Army from 1945 until it phased out in the 1990s, but reserve units carried it until 2007.
The Americans who used the weapon began to call it “the Swedish K.”
Journalist Michael Herr in his memoir Dispatches describes “Ivy League spooks,” CIA agents who carried the Swedish K as their preferred weapon as they drove near the Cambodian border.
Soon, SEALs and Green Berets used the Swedish K because much of their fighting was in the narrow confines of a jungle environment where firepower and maneuverability were more important than range and accuracy.
SEAL team members also liked the fact the Swedish K is an open-bolt weapon, which allowed it to be fired almost immediately after a frogman crossed the beach.
“You could see why it would be preferable to the US Thompson or M-3 Submachine gun,” said Alan Archambault, former supervisory curator for the U.S. Army Center of Military History and a retired Army officer. “A friend of mine who served with Special Forces in Vietnam relatively early on told me that by using foreign weapons like the Swedish K it also helped to conceal the US presence a bit. I also think that Special Ops men tend to like unusual weapons rather than using standard US issue weapons.”
Light, rugged, capable of firing 550 rounds a minute and unfailingly reliable, Swedish Ks soon became a weapon in the arsenals of covert forces, particularly those operating in Southeast Asia as the United States became more and more involved in what became the Vietnam War.
“I know my friend was proud of using a Swedish K in Vietnam,” Archambault said. “It was one more way the Special Forces were set apart from the typical ‘line doggies.’ It goes along with the Green Beret and other elite designations.”
However, in 1966 the Swedish government adopted the position of officially opposing U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. Pacifist Sweden placed an embargo on military supplies exported to the United States, including the Swedish K.
The decision particularly troubled the U.S. Navy SEALs, who decided to turn to a domestic supplier for a copy of the Swedish K. The Navy approached Smith Wesson and by 1967 the company produced a clone, the M76.
It had all of the good qualities of the Swedish K as well as few refinements including a higher rate of fire (720 rounds per minute). It also could be fitted with the SG9 suppressor.
In addition, Smith Wesson experimented with a version of the M76 that electronically fired caseless ammunition. The gun actually worked well, but the caseless ammo was easily damaged by rough handling so the project was scrapped.
M76s found their way into the hands of SEAL team members and some Green Berets, where they are were used successfully during many covert operations. But as the Vietnam War began to wind down demand for the weapon decreased; more powerful weapons soon replaced it.
By 1974, Smith Wesson ceased production of the M76. However, the weapon remained in use in the Navy, where it was still used in some instances by SEAL teams or it was issued to helicopter pilots for self-defense in case of a crash landing.
Law enforcement agencies also purchased the weapon. In fact, the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center destroyed a cache of M76s where New York state law enforcement agencies maintained an arsenal.
There was even an attempt to revive the weapon during the 1980s. In 1983, Mike Ruplinger and Kenneth Dominick started a company called MK Arms after acquiring the rights to the M76 from Smith Wesson. The company manufactured both new weapons and replacement parts for existing M76s that were still in military and law enforcement inventories.
However, the M76 gained new life as a movie weapon where it was featured prominently not only in the films already mentioned but also Magnum Force, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, Dog Day Afternoon and Black Sunday.
But perhaps it is in The Omega Man where the M76 gets the most screen time.
Not only does a leisured-suited, eight-track-tape-playing Charlton Heston have one in hand during almost every scene, the weapon used in the film introduces an innovation: the tactical light. In several scenes, the movie’s armorer used C-clamps to attach a flashlight to the gun’s barrel so Heston could hunt the film’s nightwalkers more efficiently.
On Oct. 14, 1947, then-Capt. Chuck Yeager flew the Bell X-1 rocket plane at Mach 1 and broke the sound barrier. Since then, the Air Force has continually stretched and pushed the limits of speed – finding new ways to make its aircraft fly faster and farther.
However, the U.S. is not alone in this quest for speed. China and Russia are already flight-testing hypersonic weapons and several other countries have shown interest in pursuing technologies for hypersonic flight.
Hypersonic refers to flying at five times the speed of sound, also known as Mach 5 or higher. From an Air Force perspective, it is a game-changing capability, which can amplify many of the enduring attributes of airpower, including speed, range, flexibility and precision.
Still, while beneficial to the U.S., speed is also one of the greatest threats the nation faces.
(Graphic by Corey Parrish)
“My biggest fear is that the country’s lost the ability to stay ahead, and we’re moving slowly now, very deliberately, where we have adversaries that are moving unbelievably fast,” said Gen. John Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command. “Twenty years from now, if we’re not careful, somebody could catch up to us. I believe we can never let that happen, so we have to stay ahead of technology.”
Helping the Air Force stay continually one step ahead for the past 60 years is the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency or DARPA.
DARPA’s mission as the central research and development agency for the Department of Defense is to make pivotal investments in breakthrough technologies for national security and to prevent strategic surprise. Together with the Air Force Research Laboratory, a fusion of ideas is leading to newly highlighted innovations.
This video shows how DARPA and AFRL are working to push the boundaries of speed and make future technologies possible today.
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
On July 19, the stars of Paramount’s “Star Trek Beyond” joined First Lady Michelle Obama in hosting more than 100 service members, veterans and their families for an advance screening of the upcoming film.
The screening was a part of the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden’s Joining Forces initiative. The cast dropped in as part of their publicity blitz for the movie’s July 21 premiere. This was an exceptional screening for the cast, as the Star Trek franchise has always held members of the military and their families in high esteem.
The previous Star Trek film, “Star Trek Into Darkness” was dedicated to The Mission Continues, an organization dedicated to helping troops as they return home from war. It featured cameos from several veterans dressed as Starfleet officers in the film’s final scenes. Members of the cast also showed the first film of the Star Trek reboot series to active-duty service members in Kuwait.
At the White House, Chris Pine, Simon Pegg, and Karl Urban were humble in their brief introductions to the film and the First Lady. The actors joked that the veterans made better actors than the Hollywood stars.
In her remarks at the screening, the First Lady highlighted the important role that military families — especially the children of service members — play in allowing active duty servicemen and women to do their jobs. She ended with the Vulcan salute and a heartfelt “May the force be with you!” (wrong movie, of course) to the delight of the crowd.
For the cast, the screening was a small way to thank service members and their families. They also seemed a little star struck themselves; Urban interrupted Pine’s speech with an excited “We just met the first lady!” Pine referred to them as “a bunch of 8-year-olds” while touring the White House.
Pine, Pegg and Urban stuck around after the showing for photo ops and to say thank you to the veterans and their families.
“Star Trek Beyond” premieres in the U.S. on July 21.
The problem the Japanese had in Burma during World War II wasn’t just dense jungle and rough terrain. It wasn’t even just that they were fighting the British Empire’s best – the Gurkhas.
No, their main problem is that they were fighting in the Gurkhas’ backyard. They were in Bhanbhagta Gurung’s backyard.
In February 1945, the 2nd Gurkha Rifles was part of a greater offensive in Burma, one that sought to retake Mandalay. The elite Nepalese warriors were to fight the enemy in diversion tactics, drawing attention away from their Army’s main objective. The Gurkhas held two positions — known as Snowdon and Snowdon East. One night, the Japanese stormed Snowdon East in full force, killing many of its defenders and pushing the rest out.
By the next day, it was heavily fortified.
The Gurkhas were ordered to take it back, no matter how many men it cost them.
As they approached, the Nepalese warriors started taking intense fire from snipers, mortars, grenades, and machine guns. They were sitting ducks, and there was nothing they could do about it. Rifleman Bhanbhagta Gurung stood up in the melee – fully exposed – and calmly just shot the sniper with his service rifle.
The 2nd Rifles began to advance again but were stopped 20 yards short of Snowdon East by murderous fire. Some of his fellow riflemen were killed before the attack could even begin. That’s when Gurung sprinted into action. This time, he literally sprinted.
Acting alone, he rushed four foxholes, dodging gunfire at point-blank range. When he came to the first, he just dropped in two grenades as he rushed to the next enemy position. When he got to the second foxhole, he jumped in and bayoneted its Japanese defenders. He did the same rushing move on the next two foxholes.
This entire time, he was dodging bullets from a Japanese light machine gun in a bunker. The gun was still spitting bullets, holding up the advance of two platoons of Gurkha fighters. Gurung, despite realizing he was out of ammunition and frag grenades, rushed the bunker, and slipped in two smoke grenades.
When two partially-blinded defenders came out of the bunker, Gurung killed them with his kukri knife, the entered the bunker and gave the machine gunner the same fate.
A position that took dozens of Japanese infantry to storm and reinforce had fallen to one fleet-footed Gurkha and his kukri knife in a matter of minutes, saving the men of his platoon and another from storming the heavily-fortified position.
King George VI presented Bhanbhagta Gurung with the Victoria Cross at Buckingham Palace in October 1945. According to the Telegraph, Gurung left the service to take care of his widowed mother and wife in Nepal. His three sons also served in the 2nd Gurkha Rifles.
“In nonviolent technique, as I have said, there is no such thing as defeat. It is all ‘do or die’ without killing or hurting,” Gandhi wrote to Hitler. “It can be used practically without money and obviously without the aid of science of destruction which you have brought to such perfection.
“It is a marvel to me that you do not see that it is nobody’s monopoly. If not the British, some other power will certainly improve upon your method and beat you with your own weapon. You are leaving no legacy to your people of which they would feel proud.”
That I address you as a friend is no formality. I own no foes. My business in life has been for the past 33 years to enlist the friendship of the whole of humanity by befriending mankind, irrespective of race, colour or creed.
I hope you will have the time and desire to know how a good portion of humanity who have view living under the influence of that doctrine of universal friendship view your action. We have no doubt about your bravery or devotion to your fatherland, nor do we believe that you are the monster described by your opponents. But your own writings and pronouncements and those of your friends and admirers leave no room for doubt that many of your acts are monstrous and unbecoming of human dignity, especially in the estimation of men like me who believe in universal friendliness. Such are your humiliation of Czechoslovakia, the rape of Poland and the swallowing of Denmark. I am aware that your view of life regards such spoliations as virtuous acts. But we have been taught from childhood to regard them as acts degrading humanity. Hence we cannot possibly wish success to your arms.
But ours is a unique position. We resist British Imperialism no less than Nazism. If there is a difference, it is in degree. One-fifth of the human race has been brought under the British heel by means that will not bear scrutiny. Our resistance to it does not mean harm to the British people. We seek to convert them, not to defeat them on the battle-field. Ours is an unarmed revolt against the British rule. But whether we convert them or not, we are determined to make their rule impossible by non-violent non-co-operation. It is a method in its nature indefensible. It is based on the knowledge that no spoliator can compass his end without a certain degree of co-operation, willing or compulsory, of the victim. Our rulers may have our land and bodies but not our souls. They can have the former only by complete destruction of every Indian—man, woman and child. That all may not rise to that degree of heroism and that a fair amount of frightfulness can bend the back of revolt is true but the argument would be beside the point. For, if a fair number of men and women be found in India who would be prepared without any ill will against the spoliators to lay down their lives rather than bend the knee to them, they would have shown the way to freedom from the tyranny of violence. I ask you to believe me when I say that you will find an unexpected number of such men and women in India. They have been having that training for the past 20 years.
We have been trying for the past half a century to throw off the British rule. The movement of independence has been never so strong as now. The most powerful political organization, I mean the Indian National Congress, is trying to achieve this end. We have attained a very fair measure of success through non-violent effort. We were groping for the right means to combat the most organized violence in the world which the British power represents. You have challenged it. It remains to be seen which is the better organized, the German or the British. We know what the British heel means for us and the non-European races of the world. But we would never wish to end the British rule with German aid. We have found in non-violence a force which, if organized, can without doubt match itself against a combination of all the most violent forces in the world. In non-violent technique, as I have said, there is no such thing as defeat. It is all ‘do or die’ without killing or hurting. It can be used practically without money and obviously without the aid of science of destruction which you have brought to such perfection. It is a marvel to me that you do not see that it is nobody’s monopoly. If not the British, some other power will certainly improve upon your method and beat you with your own weapon. You are leaving no legacy to your people of which they would feel proud. They cannot take pride in a recital of cruel deed, however skilfully planned. I, therefore, appeal to you in the name of humanity to stop the war. You will lose nothing by referring all the matters of dispute between you and Great Britain to an international tribunal of your joint choice. If you attain success in the war, it will not prove that you were in the right. It will only prove that your power of destruction was greater. Whereas an award by an impartial tribunal will show as far as it is humanly possible which party was in the right.
You know that not long ago I made an appeal to every Briton to accept my method of non-violent resistance. I did it because the British know me as a friend though a rebel. I am a stranger to you and your people. I have not the courage to make you the appeal I made to every Briton. Not that it would not apply to you with the same force as to the British. But my present proposal is much simple because much more practical and familiar.
During this season when the hearts of the peoples of Europe yearn for peace, we have suspended even our own peaceful struggle. Is it too much to ask you to make an effort for peace during a time which may mean nothing to you personally but which must mean much to the millions of Europeans whose dumb cry for peace I hear, for my ears are attended to hearing the dumb millions? I had intended to address a joint appeal to you and Signor Mussolini, whom I had the privilege of meeting when I was in Rome during my visit to England as a delegate to the Round Table Conference. I hope that he will take this as addressed to him also with the necessary changes.
When you’re asked what’s the most important tool for any U.S. service member who’s facing down a bad guy in battle, the most obvious response is his or her weapon.
When it comes down to it and the shots are flying, it’s the rifle or handgun that can make the difference between victory and defeat. But there’s a lot more to it than that, and oftentimes it’s what the trooper is actually wearing that can determine whether the bullets start flying in the first place.
Military uniform designers and suppliers over the last half century have been developing new ways to help soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines avoid fights if they want to and to survive them when things go loud. From things as simple as pocket placement and camouflage, to fabrics that won’t burn or show up in night vision goggles, the folks who build combat uniforms for America’s military have taken the best of material science and matched it with the conditions and operations troops are facing in increasingly complex and austere combat environments.
While the “modern” battle uniform traces much of its lineage to the Vietnam War, a lot has changed in the 50 years since that utilitarian design changed the course of what U.S. service members wear when they fight.
It was really the Korean war that introduced the pant-leg cargo pockets we all know today, according to an official Army history. But combat uniforms issued to troops in Vietnam took those to another level.
With bellowed pleats and secure flaps, there were few items the side cargo pocket couldn’t handle. Vietnam-era combat blouses also used an innovative angled chest pocket design that made it easier to reach items in the heat of battle.
In the 1980s, the U.S. military ditched the angled chest pockets for vertical ones, mostly for appearance, and the combat trousers maintained their six-pocket design until the 2000s.
But when America went to war after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, pocket placement and design took a quantum leap. Way more “utilitarian” than combat threads of Vietnam and the Cold War, the new battle rigs are like night and day — with everything from pen pockets near the wrist of a combat blouse, to ankle pockets on the trousers to bellowed shoulder pockets.
Interestingly, it was special operations troops that developed the shoulder pocket later adopted by both the Marine Corps and Army for their combat uniforms. During the opening days of the Global War on Terror, spec ops troops cut cargo pockets off their extra trousers and sewed them onto the arms of their combat jackets, giving them extra storage within an arm’s reach.
Modern combat uniforms now also incorporate internal pockets for knee pads and elbow pads, so when a trooper has to take a knee or go prone in a hurry, he’s not banging his joints on the dirt.
Marines in Iraq were issued fire-resistant flight suits to guard against burns from IED strikes.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
2. Combat uniform material
By Vietnam, the heavy cotton and polyester of the Korean War-era uniform were replaced with a tropical-weight cotton ripstop that was wind-resistant yet cooler for troops operating in the sweltering heat of Southeast Asian jungles.
Both trousers and jackets were made of this cotton-poplin material for years, until the Army adopted the so-called “Battle Dress Uniform” in the early 1980s. That uniform was made with a nylon-cotton blended material with was more durable and easier to launder than the Vietnam-era combat duds.
But the military was forced to offer a variation of the BDU in cotton ripstop after operations in Grenada proved the nylon-cotton blend material too hot in warmer climates.
Though today’s combat uniforms are made with similar materials to those of the BDU-era, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan proved that some front-line troops need kit that’s resistant to the flame and flash of roadside bombs and IEDs.
Early on, some troops — including Marines deployed to Iraq — wore flight suits manufactured with flame resistant Nomex during combat operations. But that fabric wasn’t durable enough for the rigors of battle on the ground. So companies developed new, more durable flame-resistant fabrics for combat uniforms like Defender-M and Drifire.
Now all the services offer variants of their standard combat uniforms in flame-resistant material that protects troops against burns from improvised bombs.
American Special Forces soldiers adopted the camouflage pattern of ARVN Rangers dubbed “tiger stripe” to blend into the Southeast Asian jungles.
(Image by Bettmann/CORBIS by Shunsuke Akatsuka via Flicker)
3. Combat uniform camouflage
It’s like the 1911 vs. (everything) debate, or the M-16 versus the AK-47 argument.
For decades, the question of camouflage patterns has been as much art as it was science. And over the last half century, the U.S. military has seen no fewer than 11 different patterns bedecking America’s warfighters.
The six-color Desert Combat Uniform is the iconic look of Operation Desert Storm.
Most Joes in the Vietnam War were clad in olive drab combat uniforms. But special operations troops began using camouflage garments in greater numbers during the war, and acted as the bleeding edge for pattern development within the wider military.
From ARVN Ranger “tiger stripes” to old-school duck hunter camo, the commandos in The ‘Nam proved that breaking up your outline saved lives. With the adoption of the BDU in 1981, the military locked into the service-wide “woodland” camouflage pattern.
The Marine Corps was the first service in the U.S. military to dramatically change its uniforms from the BDU design. The service also was the first to adopt a “digital” camo pattern.
In the early ’90s, the services developed desert combat uniform with a so-called “six-color desert” pattern (also known as “chocolate chips”). These uniforms were issued to troops conducting exercises and operations in arid climates and were more widely issued to service members deployed to Operation Desert Storm.
The woodland BDU dominated for more than 20 years until shortly after 9/11. And it was the Marine Corps that took the whole U.S. military in an entirely different direction.
Soldiers complained that the UCP didn’t really work in any environment
The Corps was the first to adopt a camouflage pattern with so-called “fractal geometry” — otherwise known as “digital camouflage” — that diverges from the curvy lines and solid colors of woodland to a more three-dimensional scheme designed to literally trick the brain. While the Marines adopted a digital woodland pattern and a desert version in 2003, the Army decided to try a single pattern that would work in a variety of environments a year later.
Dubbed the Universal Combat Pattern, or “UCP,” the green-grey pallet flopped, with most soldiers complaining that instead of working in a bunch of environments, it made Joes stand out in all of them. As in Vietnam, special operations troops engaged overseas adopted a commercial pattern dubbed “Multicam,” which harkened back to the analog patterns akin to woodland.
The Navy recently adopted a new camouflage uniform in a pattern developed by the SEALs.
Pressure mounted on the Army to ditch UCP and adopt Multicam, and by 2015, the service abandoned the one-size-fits all digital pattern and adopted Multicam for all its combat garments.
Likewise, the Air Force and Navy experimented with different patterns and pallets since the Army adopted UCP, with the Sea Service issuing a blue digital uniform for its sailors and the Air Force settling on a digital tiger stripe pattern in a UCP pallet. In 2016, the Navy ditched its so-called “blueberry” pattern for one developed by the SEALs — AOR 1 and AOR 2 — which looks similar to the Marine Corps “MARPAT” digital scheme.
The Air Force still issues its Airman Battle Uniform in the digital tiger stripe pattern to all airmen except those deploying to Afghanistan and on joint missions in the combat zone.
New uniforms incorporate innovative technology from the outdoor sports industry.
4. Combat uniform design
Aside from the rapid development and deployment of new camouflage patterns, some of the most impressive changes to U.S. military combat uniforms have been with their overall design.
Gone is the boxy, ill-fitting combat ensemble of troops slogging through the rice paddies and jungle paths of Southeast Asia. Today’s battle uniform traces its design to the high-tech construction of the extreme outdoor sports world, from high-altitude climbing to remote big game hunting.
Troops in the services now have uniforms that have pre-curved legs and arms, angled and bellowed pockets that stay flat when they’re empty, Velcro closures and adjustable waists. The services even use specially-designed combat shirts that ditch the jacket altogether and use built-in moisture-wicking fabric to keep a trooper’s torso cool under body armor yet provide durable sleeves and arm pockets for gear needed in the fight. With integrated pockets for knee pads and elbow pads, the new combat uniforms’ design takes “utilitarian” to a whole new level.
US Marines inside the Citadel in Hue City rescue the body of a dead Marine during the Tet Offensive.
(Photo via Flickr)
5. Combat armor
Aside from the actual clothing an American combat trooper wears, there are a host of new protective items that make up his or her battlefield loadout. These items have evolved exponentially over the last half century, and many uniform manufacturers have supplied protective accessories to integrate with their clothing.
Students from the Saint George’s University of Medicine pose with a member of the 82nd Airborne Division during Operation Urgent Fury.
(U.S. Military photo via Flickr)
Late in the war, the Vietnam-era soldier or Marine was issued a body armor vest that would protect him against grenade fragments and some pistol rounds. Made of ballistic nylon and fiberglass plates, the armor was best known as the “flak jacket.” It was heavy and didn’t protect against rifle rounds.
In the 1980s, the U.S. military developed a new body armor system using steel plates and Kevlar fabric that could stop a rifle round. First used in combat during Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada, the so-called Personnel Armor System for Ground Troops, or PASGT, was a revolution in personal protection.
Today’s armor and helmets are lighter, more protective and offer a host of methods to modify the loadout for specific missions.
Still heavy and bulky, armor evolved over the years since 9/11 to be lighter, with a slimmer profile and much more protective than the flaks of yore. Today’s vests can protect against multiple armor-piercing rifle rounds, shrapnel and pistol shots — all in a vest that weighs a fraction of its PASGT brethren.
Like the armor vest, the “steel pot” of Vietnam has changed dramatically in the last 50 years. The new Army Combat Helmet and Marine Corps Lightweight Helmet can take multiple bullet strikes and shrapnel hits, allow for greater mobility than the Vietnam-era one or the PASGT and now incorporate various attachment points for accessories like night vision goggles, IR strobes and cameras.
Marines in turn-of-the-20th-Century Peking found themselves outnumbered and surrounded in the foreign diplomatic section of the capital. Anti-foreign Chinese Boxers threatened to overrun their position and kill everyone inside: troops, diplomats, and civilian refugees. One Marine Corps officer, Capt. John T. Myers, added to the USMC’s steadfast reputation of attacking in the face of insurmountable odds by leading a daring counterattack with American, British, and Russian Marines that would save the garrison.
John T. Myers was born into a family with an impressive legacy of military service. His great-grandfather John Twiggs served as a militia general during the American Revolution. One of John Twiggs’ sons, General David E. Twiggs – known as the “The Bengal Tiger” for his fierce temper – forged a reputation for stubbornness and bravery during the antebellum period until his death in 1861. Another son, Major Levi Twiggs, was a Marine officer killed while storming the castle of Chapultepec during the Mexican-American War. Myers’ father Abraham fought in the Seminole and Mexican Wars. Abraham married the “Bengal Tiger’s” daughter in 1853 and served as Quartermaster General for the Confederacy during the Civil War.
Abraham fled to Germany after the South collapsed in 1865. John T. Myers was born there in 1871 and returned to the U.S. with his family at age six. Ten years later, he attended the Naval Academy at Annapolis. He graduated in 1892, after suffering from a lingering illness and outlasting his tendency for poor behavior.
Myers served in the Navy Engineer Corps before being transferring to the Marines in September of 1895. He first “saw the elephant” – an American expression of the time, meaning he gained experience at significant cost – during the Spanish-American War and the Philippine Insurrection. In March of 1899, the Marines promoted him to captain for his service during the Spanish-American War. The apex of his career came when the Navy sent him to Peking (modern-day Beijing) to protect the American Legation from violent anti-foreign sentiment brewing in China.
On May 31, 1900, he led 48 Marines and two officers of the USS Oregon and USS Newark from Tientsin to Peking. He and his Marines fought behind stacked sandbags and barricades alongside British, Austrian, Italian, French, German, Japanese, and Russian troops to beat back numerous attempts to overrun the garrison.
“It was all a matter of ‘sitting tight’ behind a barricade, constant vigilance night and day and firing promptly at such of the Chinese as had the temerity to expose themselves,” Myers wrote.
“There was scarcely an hour during which there was not firing on some part of our lines and into some of the legations, varying from a single shot to a general and continuous attack along the whole line,” as U.S. Minister Edwin Conger described it.
On July 2, Myers discovered that “during the preceding night and day the Chinese had succeeded in building a wall into and across the bastion and were then busily engaged in erecting a tower directly on my left flank, the fire from which, when completed, would reach all parts of our position.” The English and Russian ministers and military officers inside the Legation Quarter gave Myers the go-ahead to storm the enemy’s barricade and drive them from the menacing tower.
Myers reinforced his 14 U.S. Marines with 16 Marines from Russia and 25 from Britain for the counterattack. It was set for July 3rd.
“These men arrived between 2 and 3 a.m., and as the Chinese had almost finished their tower and were amusing themselves throwing stones into our barricade, I at once made the dispositions for the advance.” With sword unsheathed, Myers led the multinational detachment into the enemy’s barricade in a surprise assault.
During hand-to-hand fighting, Myers received a severe wound from an iron-pointed Chinese spear below the right knee but refused to leave the field. He reluctantly handed over command once his force pushed the Chinese Boxers back from their barricade.
Despite downplaying the severity of his wound, Myers could not return to the front line. He was moved to the Russian Legation to recuperate but continued to issue orders to his men from this position. At some point septicemia set in, and “considerable quantity of pus discharged from counter-opening made about 4 inches below original wound,” forcing him to hand over command of the U.S. Marines to his deputy. Not until the end of July was he was “able to hobble about with aid of crutch.” He soon fell victim to a bout of typhoid fever.
Eventually, the European defenders of Peking were relieved by a multinational column on August 14 after a 55-day siege. Captain Myers returned home to a hero’s welcome in January 1901. He served the U.S. military for another 34 years and rose to the rank of Major General until placed on the retired list in February of 1935 at the mandatory age of 64-years-old. He died in April 1952 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
John Twiggs Myers’ counterattack was immortalized by Charleton Heston 11 years later in the 1963 film “55 Days at Peking.”
Paracord, commonly known as “550-cord,” is a simple, nylon, kernmantle rope that was originally used by paratroopers in World War II for suspension lines. The tiny bit of fabric is designed to have a minimum breaking strength of 550 lbs — hence the unofficial name.
But the usefulness of paracord has extended far beyond Airborne units. Throughout the decades that’ve followed its introduction, troops have found many creative and ingenious uses for the cord. Here’s what makes it such a versatile tool:
Paracord is abundant in nearly every supply room
The main reason why so troops use paracord for virtually everything is that supply rooms have spools of it laying around. If you ask nicely, they can toss you a bunch off the hand receipts.
On a post-9/11 deployment, the cord (and ponchos that are rarely used in the desert) is used to zone tents, marking off the area “owned” by each troop.
Paracord can secure anything
The cord can support up to 550 pounds before you run the risk of snapping it. For most tasks, this is more than enough. Because of its strength, it’s the go-to tie-down strap for many military operations.
It’s used for everything, from acting as a stand-in shoelace or belt to securing sensitive equipment, like NVGs and rifle optics. The U.S. Army trusts paracord.
It’s perfect for arts and crafts
On a deployment, you’ll have plenty of downtime. Troops get pretty ingenious when coming up with ways to pass that extra time. It’s not uncommon to see troops learning how to make key chains, rosaries, and survivalist bracelets out of 550-cord.
The idea here is that if a troop ever needs some cord, they can snap off the plastic that holds their little doll together and unwind several feet of it for good use. When a troop doesn’t need some cord, they have a toy. Joy!
Paracord can be used everywhere
The cord is remarkably durable. The strength comes from the interwoven braids and the outer cord protects those braids from withering in the elements, making it water and sand resistant. 550-cord can easily hold together a radio antennae through a hot Afghan summer.
But it really has been used everywhere. In a 1993 repair of the Hubble Space Telescope, senior engineer Mark Neuman fixed things up with thermal blankets with 35 feet of paracord. This means that the -billion-dollar astrological marvel was fixed using about of paracord.
It can become a makeshift anything
If you’re in a bind and all you have is your trusty paracord bracelet, you’re in luck because this stuff can be made into anything. The cord’s guts can be great for sewing, fishing, and starting a fire while the outside can make a great shoe lace or trap.
(This story was provided courtesy of the Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division)
Mother’s Day 1943 was not a day of celebration in the Sullivan house in Waterloo, Iowa. Just four months earlier, Alleta Sullivan along with her husband Tom, her daughter Genevieve, and her grandson James received official word that all five of her sons had been lost after the ship on which they all served, USS Juneau, was sunk Nov. 13, 1942, during the Battle of Guadalcanal.
News spread across the country of the enormous sacrifice made by the Sullivans and honors were heaped onto Alleta and her family including posters honoring the brothers’ sacrifice, extensive media coverage and even a 1944 motion picture based on their story.
Alleta became an important figure in the war effort. She volunteered at the United Serviceman’s Organization (USO) to help make life easier for troops stateside and abroad. With her husband and daughter, Alleta visited more than 200 manufacturing plants and shipyards offering encouragement to employees in the hopes their efforts would bring the war to an end sooner. By January 1944, Alleta and her family had spoken to more than a million workers in 65 cities and reached millions of others over the radio.
The second ship to be called The Sullivans (DDG 68) was commissioned April 19, 1997, and was sponsored by Kelly Sullivan Loughren, Alleta’s great granddaughter. The ship’s motto is “We Stick Together.” Today the ship, which returned home from a six month deployment just in time for the holidays on Dec. 22, 2013, is based at Naval Station Mayport, Fla.
Kelly obviously admires her great-grandmother’s courage and continued service to the nation in the face of the most devastating loss a mother can suffer. But the story that sticks with her the most is that long after the war, after the movie, the media and the ceremonies had faded, Alleta would receive house calls from Sailors that either knew her sons or who just wanted to stop by and extend their condolences. Kelly said her great-grandmother would often cook them a hot meal and offer them a place to stay for the evening or the weekend.
On this Mother’s Day, America’s Navy salutes the quintessential Navy Mom – Alleta Sullivan, as well as all the mothers who have served, or who have stood on the shore as their sons and daughters went down to the sea in ships.
Let’s face it. The world likes — and America loves — zombie movies.
The idea of having to fight across the countryside and through clustered cities, cutting down hordes of the undead with a shotgun is enticing.
That’s why zombie movies and video games do so well. The “Resident Evil” franchise released its sixth film 20 years after its first video game hit the market. That’s a two-decade run for, “Zombies, but like, monsters, too.”
But, sorry, Milla Jovovich fans. There is no way that a zombie outbreak is taking over the U.S. or any allied country while the American military is around. Here’s how the U.S. would respond to a zombie outbreak, shutting it down quickly.
First, let’s assume that an entire country was ravaged before America geared up, just for funsies. (But, really, military human intelligence collectors and signal intelligence should have given us the heads up before a single town was wiped out). And let’s assume it’s a country that emphatically said the U.S. military wasn’t welcome, and that’s why the outbreak went on as long as it did.
And, Russia has good topography for containing zombies. Because of the mountain ranges (in black, below) and the Arctic Circle (in red), there are only a few places where zombies could conceivably break out of Russia to threaten the rest of the world in large numbers.
So, small contingents of the Navy can patrol the Arctic and a few dozen companies of POGs can guard the mountain ranges, picking off the few zombies lucky enough to make it through the mountain passes.
But the western and southern breakout zones could be huge problems for American allies and the world as a whole.
The southern breakout zones would give the zombies access to Kazahkstan and maybe Mongolia. The western gives a large front that hits Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, and Finland. It also hits Belarus, but they hate America nearly as much as Russia does, so screw ’em.
So what could 632,000 ground combatants supported by the largest navy and the most advanced air force in the world possibly do against 130 million zombies?
Lol. They would kill an average of 205.7 zombies each, and it would be awesome.
The Navy would park multiple carriers in the Baltics and Barents seas. From there, they could fly strike aircraft and sensor platforms to find and target large clusters of zombies.
The Air Force would bring its own strike and ground attack planes as far east in Europe as they could hold the line. From there, A-10s and AC-130s would rain hot lead in support of ground pounders while B and F-series planes blanket the countryside with bombs.
Finally. Guilt-free carpet bombing is back.
And sure, none of these are the headshots needed to permanently put down a zombie. But a few hundred pounds of explosives will mess up a zombie’s legs pretty badly, as will 30 mike-mike through the chest. Pretty sure that will make the infantry and other ground maneuver forces’ jobs a little easier.
Speaking of which, the Marine Corps and Army are going to love the most entertaining range they’ve ever held. Think about it. What sucks most about range days? First, being put on target detail. And, second, having to shut down the range every time a turtle wanders by.
Guess what? No one is going to order a range halt because of a turtle when a bio menace is marching towards Paris. And there’s no need for a target detail when the targets can be lured with the sound of gunfire.
So, the Marines and soldiers basically get to call shots to each other as they gun down crippled zombies over a couple of thousand miles of the Russian border. If the engineers can wait to shoot zombies long enough to dig a couple of trenches and raise concertina obstacles, it’ll delay the already wounded zombies even further.
And don’t think the artillery and mortarmen are going to let a chance to practice against undead targets pass them by.
The biggest challenge is going to be making sure that all those cavalry, infantry, etc. have enough ammo. But remember, American logistics troops train to maintain operations in a contested environment. This time, they would have completely safe roads, railways, and rivers to use without fear of significant enemy resistance.
Hell, the operation could probably be catered.
So soldiers and Marines could simply mow down the oncoming hordes, talking the machine guns and interchanging barrels to prevent a meltdown. No Milla Jovovich needed (though she would probably be welcome on a USO tour or something).
Of course, the Navy SEALs can be used to clean out river deltas where zombies were washed downstream attempting a crossing, and the Green Berets can jump into zombie-held territory to try and train up survivors for resistance operations if they like.
But zombie operations are basically just the world’s easiest siege. None of the enemies can tunnel, or use weapons, or conduct coordinated military operations. Easy, peasy.
The real bad guys these days are known as the Taliban, al Qaeda, ISIS, and others. But for decades, U.S. troops have been fighting wars against fictional enemies that only exist in training exercises. They usually have ridiculous-sounding names and strange back stories.
While we received plenty of help on social media and this post at Mental Floss on these opposition forces (OPFOR), to include name and which training exercise or location they operate in, some details remain murky.
If you find yourself fighting these forces in the future, here’s the basic intel you need to know.
The Krasnovians (National Training Center)
These are your hard-core fighters from a Soviet bloc country called Krasnovia. Unpredictable and a very non-traditional enemy force, the Krasnovians are known to switch up their tactics and quickly adapt, like stopping the use of radios and moving to cell phones to throw off U.S. soldiers they are fighting.
We’ve heard the key to beating them is by offering them vodka as a peace offering, or just send in this guy:
The United Provinces of Atlantica (Special Forces “Q” Course)
A northern neighbor to Pineland, the UPA is a former Cold War ally of the Soviets. The Atlanticans aren’t fans of the U.S. or their neighbors. That’s especially true, since they invade and take over peaceful Pineland around eight times a year.
Fortunately, Army Special Forces candidates come in and save the day on a regular basis.
The Mojavians (Combined Arms Exercise at 29 Palms, Calif.)
Not much is known about the Mojavians, except that they like to exclusively fight against U.S. Marines during a 22-day period of combined arms training at their desert base in Twentynine Palms, California. These bad guys operate in similar fashion as insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, and will rarely engage in a real fight. Instead, they rely on hit-and-run tactics.
The Centralian Revolutionary Force (The U.S. Marine Corps Basic School)
In the depths of a three-year civil war, the people of Centralia hope to have a democratic state and live in peace. But their neighbors in Montanya, and an oppressive rebel force known as the Centralian Revolutionary Force, continue to harass the local populace.
Both the CRF and the Montanyan Regular Forces continue to attack the Centralian Army and civilians in the region. Let’s all just hope those fresh Marine Corps officers are able to bring stability to Centralia, a country which has been oppressed for far too long.
Arianan Special Purpose Forces (Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, La.)
A force from Ariana — an enemy nation seeking nuclear weapons and hostile to the U.S. and Israel which sounds kind of like Iran — the ASPF constantly invades its neighbor in Atropia, a key U.S. ally.
The ASPF is a threat to U.S. interests — including the consulate in Dara Lam — and it continues to support a local insurgency known as the South Atropian People’s Army. This enemy is unpredictable and employs similar tactics to enemy forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Possibly worst of all: U.S. soldiers only have 11 days to beat them and save Atropia. Good luck.
Have any more you would add to the list? Let us know the enemy force and where you heard it in the comments.