This was the Littoral Combat Ship before there was a Littoral Combat Ship — Video - We Are The Mighty
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This was the Littoral Combat Ship before there was a Littoral Combat Ship — Video

During the 1980s, the United States had a small squadron of vessels intended to work close to shore. These ships gave good service, and proved to be decent at not just their primary purpose. Yet when the peace dividend came, they got retired, and most were scrapped. One has been saved as a museum.


Meet the Pegasus-class missile-armed patrol hydrofoil. They were 255 tons. They could go up to 48 knots. They had a 76mm Mk 75 gun and eight RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles.

That was a lot of firepower on a small vessel. With a crew of four officers and 17 enlisted, these were not very manpower-intensive ships.

Six vessels of Patrol Combatant Missile Hydrofoil squadron 2 travel in formation en route to Naval Amphibious Base, Little Creek, Va. for decommissioning. The formation includes the USS PEGASUS (PHM-1), USS HERCULES (PHM-2), USS TAURUS (PHM-3), USS AQUILA (PHM-4), USS ARIES (PHM-5) and USS GEMINI (PHM-6). (DOD Photo)

The Pegasus patrol boats never did have to carry out their primary mission to take out enemy ships. But GlobalSecurity.org notes that these ships did prove very valuable in other missions, including the drug interdiction role.

The “Seventh Edition of Combat Fleets of the World” notes that the ships were very steady weapons platforms for their size. Since they were based out of Key West, Florida, the patrol boats could keep an eye on Cuba.

Original plans to base them in the Med were scrapped, according to the “Thirteenth Edition of The Ships and Aircraft of the United States Navy.”

Think about what these ships could do with 255 tons. Now, let’s look at the Littoral Combat Ship.

What do we get for the 3,500 tons on a Freedom-class LCS? Well, we get roughly the same top speed (47 knots). We get a hangar with two MH-60 helicopters (primarily for anti-submarine warfare, but they have Hellfire missiles, which don’t do jack against anything larger than a Pegasus). We get a 57mm gun (the Mk 110), a Mk 31 RAM launcher … and a few .50-caliber machine guns.

While there is some improvement in air-defense (matched by the DART round for the 76mm gun), it’s weak when it comes to the anti-ship side of things.

Looking at the LCS, while it has had its shining moments — particularly USS Freedom’s 2010 Southern Command deployment — it has also had problems galore.

Perhaps the Navy should have gone back to the proven Pegasus design while it got the LCS right.

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Here’s how to beat fatigue in your next PT test

Private First Class Shawndel Hunter, Delta Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, does a pushup at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. | US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tyler Viglione


When taking a physical fitness test (PFT), you may recall giving all you have to max out the pushups, only to stop half-way up, shaking violently. No matter how hard you try in the next few seconds of the test, you are not going to get another pushup. That is muscle fatigue.

Also read: A retired Navy SEAL commander breaks down his morning fitness routine that starts at 4:30

Here is a question about how to avoid muscle fatigue during fitness tests.

Stew – it does not matter on what exercise I am on, I can never keep going until the entire two minutes of the PFT is complete. On a good day, I might manage 1:30 of pushups or situps. I usually just shake and drop to my knees uncontrollably. Don’t even ask how my bad days look. I would really like to score better on the PT test. I am a runner so the 1.5 mile run in 7 min mile pace is no problem. Jake

Jake – There are a few things that could be contributing to your fatigue or lack of muscle endurance (aka stamina) during the pushups and sit-up test.

1. Lack of Training

You need to up your training volume. I highly recommend doing pushups, sit-ups, pullups, and other core exercise (planks, etc.) three days a week. For example, if you have never done 100 pushups or sit-ups in an entire workout, you will never get 100 reps in two minutes. Try to build up over time to 2-3 times your goal maximum score during a workout. For instance, if your goal pushups max is 50 in 2 minutes, shoot for 100-150 during a normal workout. (See workout ideas for every OTHER day: PT Pyramid, PT SuperSet, Max Rep Sets). Also, stretch out your sets to 1-2 minutes in length on Max Rep Set Days.

2. Pace Yourself

Too many times people start out way too fast on these exercises only to burn out in the first minute. Pacing your running makes sense to you, right? You do not start the run in a sprint of your first lap (1/4 mile) — you have a set pace. The same holds true for exercises like sit-ups. Too many people start off in the first 30 seconds getting 30-35 sit-ups and fail to match that in the next 1:30. If you are stuck at 60 due to this, you can increase your score near overnight by dropping your pace to 20 reps in the first 30 seconds and push closer to 80 reps in 2 minutes. For pushups — that is a different animal, as you have gravity slowly eating away at your reps the slower you go. I recommend you let gravity take you down and exert fast on the up movement. Don’t waste energy going down when gravity will do that for free. Keep working your pace in the workouts and you will find that you have the stamina to go the full 2 minutes after a few weeks.

3. Fuel and Fatigue

Half of fatigue is in your mind, as your brain will tell you that you are finished before you really are. The other half of fatigue is in your fuel. Did you eat well the day before or the morning of the fitness test? Are you hydrated? Having your body well fueled will help you with PT tests — that means nutritious foods. However, when you start to shake at the end of your pushup timed set, you are going to waste a lot of energy fast, as that is a central nervous system breakdown (or the beginning of it). It is actually best to call it quits and not try to get that last pushup in, versus staying there and shaking for 10-15 seconds. You have to remember that you still have to do the 1.5 mile run next, and you will need that energy your body just dumped failing at pushups.

Practice taking the fitness test once every week or two just so you can also mentally say to yourself, “this is just another workout.” Getting rid of some of the PFT Anxiety might help you perform a little better as well. Eat well and workout regularly, so that 1-2 minute sets become easy instead of an impossibility. Check out the PFT Bible if you are interested in a program that is specifically designed for the most common PFT in the world.

Stew Smith works as a presenter and editorial board member with the Tactical Strength and Conditioning program of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). He has also written hundreds of articles onMilitary.com’s Fitness Center that focus on a variety of fitness, nutritional, and tactical issues military members face throughout their career.

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These 6 tweaks could make America’s military better without breaking the bank

Pentagon budgets are shrinking (or growing at a smaller rate than they had during the previous few decades). And while there’s not a lot of money to procure new weapons systems, the threats to the nation aren’t going away. The U.S. military still has a job to do. There are no bucks, but the American public still expects Buck Rogers.


Here are six improvements — “tweaks,” if you will — to existing platforms that would improve military readiness without breaking the increasingly small bank:

1. An internal gun for the F-35B/C variants of the Lightning II

(Air Force photo by Senior Airman Julius Delos Reyes)

The Air Force’s F-35A has a gun — the GAU-22, a 25mm Gatling Gun, with 182 rounds. The GAU-22 is based off the AV-8B’s GAU-12, and it gives the F-35A an offensive edge. But the F-35B and F-35C don’t have an internal gun (only a gun pod with 220 rounds).

The same situation existed with the F-4 Phantom – probably America’s first real joint strike fighter, which saw action during the Vietnam War with the Air Force, Navy, and Marines. As Navy ace (and convicted congressional felon) Randy Cunningham noted in his memoir, Fox Two, the lack of a gun cost him kills.

2. The Penguin anti-ship missile for the MH-60R Seahawk

MH-60R fires a Hellfire missile. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

This chopper is an advanced version of the SH-60B. Equipped with a choice of lightweight torpedo (either Mk 46, Mk 50, or Mk 54), and Hellfire missiles, it serves as additional eyes and ears for surface combatants. But the Hellfire has only a 20-pound warhead and a range of about five nautical miles.

The SH-60B, though, had the Penguin anti-ship missile. This weapon had a 265-pound warhead and a range of 15 nautical miles. In other words, it can handle bigger targets – and would be very useful additions to the MH-60R’s arsenal.

3. More bomb capacity for the B-1B Lancer

(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

While the B-1B already has the largest bombload of any American combat plane, it could have even more. Presently, it has a bomb bay that can hold 84 Mk 82 500-pound bombs. The venerable B-52 can only carry 51 such bombs. In other words, the B-1 can deliver about 60 percent more hurt to the bad guys.

But it could be even more. The B-1B, when designed, had the capability to carry up to 14 cruise missiles or 44 more Mk 82s on external pylons. Restoring those external pylons would give the B-1 50 percent more firepower.

4. Harpoon launchers for the Flight IIA and III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers

Flt I Burke class destroyer shoots a Harpoon missile. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

While the Flight IIA and Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers are very capable vessels in anti-air warfare and anti-sub warfare. But the earlier Flight I and Flight II versions of this destroyer have something the later ships don’t: A pair of Mk 141 launchers for Harpoon anti-ship missiles. Boeing’s latest version of the Harpoon has a range of 130 nautical miles and a 300-pound warhead. The Mk 141 launchers don’t take up a lot of space, and it never hurts to have more anti-ship firepower as China and Russia are adding modern ships to their naval arsenals.

5. Laser-guided bombs for the B-2 Spirit

B-2 dropping a JDAM GPS-guided bomb. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

What more could you want on America’s most advanced bomber in service? The B-2 Spirit has stealth technology and the ability to deliver precision-guided weapons including the AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, as well as nuclear weapons – excuse me, “special stores.” It’s also expensive – a flyaway cost of just over $700 million per plane caused the production run to stop at 21 airframes.

That said, they have a couple of gaps in their capabilities. All of the B-2’s weapons are either dumb bombs or GPS-guided. So, perhaps the best upgrade they could get would be to give the B-2 the ability to drop laser-guided bombs like the GBU-24 and to use Harpoon anti-ship missiles and the Standoff Land-Attack Missile, giving them more options to target ships like the Chinese Type 52C destroyer.

6. Bushmaster cannon for the M1126/M1127 Stryker

(Photo: U.S. Army)

The Stryker’s proven itself in combat operations during Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. The M1126 and M1127 have a remote weapons station that can use an M2 heavy machine gun or a Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher.

But now, it could be asked to help fight Russian aggression against NATO allies. Here it has a problem. The Stryker is outgunned by the BMP-3 or BTR-90, Russia’s most modern infantry fighting vehicles. The former has a 100mm gun and a 30mm coaxial cannon. The latter has a 30mm cannon and an AT-5 Spandrel anti-tank missile.

So, to give the Stryker a better chance in a fight against the Russians, the best option would be to give it the same chain gun that the M2 and M3 Bradley Fighting Vehicles carry: the 25mm Bushmaster cannon.

These six weapons systems serve with our troops – and have done so with excellence. But some small improvements to each of them would give our troops even better odds on battlefields around the world.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Why grenades in movies look nothing like real life

Yeah, yeah, yeah… We know grenades in movies aren’t like the real thing. But that could make you wonder, “Why?”

Real grenades are puffs of smoke with a bit of high-moving metal. Why not give troops mobile fireballs that instill fear and awe in the hearts of all that see them? Why not arm our troops with something akin to Super Mario’s fire flower?


First, we should take a look at what, exactly is going on with a real grenade versus a movie grenade.

The grenades you’re probably thinking of when you hear the term “grenade” are likely fragmentation grenades, consisting of strong explosives wrapped up in a metal casing. When the explosives go off, either the case or a special wrapping is torn into lots of small bits of metal or ceramic. Those bits fly outwards at high speed, and the people they hit die.

The U.S. military uses the M67 Fragmentation Hand Grenade. 6.5 ounces of high explosive destroys a 2.5-inch diameter steel casing and sends the bits of steel out up to 230 meters. Deaths are commonly caused up to 5 meters away from the grenade.

U.S. Army soldiers throw live grenades during training in Alaska.

(U.S. Army)

That’s because grenades are made to maximize the efficiency of their components. See, explosive power is determined by a number of factors. Time, pressure, and temperature all play a role. Maximum boom comes from maximizing the temperature and pressure increase in as little time as possible.

That’s actually a big part of why M67s have a steel casing. The user pulls the pin and throws the grenade, starting the chemical timer. When the explosion initiates, it’s contained for a fraction of a second inside that steel casing. The strength of the steel allows more of the explosive to burn — and for the temperature and pressure to rise further — before it bursts through the steel.

As the pressure breaks out, it picks up all the little bits of steel from the casing that was containing it, and it carries those pieces into the flesh and bones of its enemies.

Movie grenades, meanwhile, are either created digitally from scratch, cobbled together digitally from a few different fires and explosions, or created in the physical world with pyrotechnics. If engineers wanted to create movie-like grenades, they would need to do it the third way, obviously, with real materials.

The explosion is easy enough. The 6.5 ounces in a typical M67 would work just fine. Enough for a little boom, not so much that it would kill the thrower.

But to get that movie-like fire, you need a new material. To get fire, you need unburnt explosives or fuel to be carried on the pressure wave, mixing with the air, picking up the heat from the initial explosion, and then burning in flight.

And that’s where the problems lie for weapon designers. If they wanted to give infantrymen the chance to spit fire like a dragon, they would need to wrap something like the M67 in a new fuel that would burn after the initial explosion.

Makers of movie magic use liquid fuels, like gasoline, diesel, or oil, to get their effects (depending on what colors and amount of smoke they want). Alcohols, flammable gels, etc. all work great as well, but it takes quite a bit of fuel to get a relatively small fireball. The M1 flamethrower used half a gallon of fuel per second.

But liquid fuels are unwieldy, and even a quart of gasoline per grenade would add some serious weight to a soldier’s load.

So, yeah, there’s little chance of getting that sweet movie fireball onto a MOLLE vest. But there is another way. Instead of using liquids, you could use solid fuels, especially reactive metals and similar elements, such as aluminum, magnesium, or sodium.

The military went with phosphorous for incendiary weapons. It burns extremely hot and can melt its way through most metals. Still, the AN-M14 TH3 Incendiary Hand Grenade doesn’t exactly create a fireball and doesn’t even have a blast. Along with thermite, thermate, and similar munitions, it burns relatively slowly.

But if you combine the two grenades, the blast power of something like the M67 and the burning metals of something like the AN-M14 TH3, and you can create actual fireballs. That’s how thermobaric weapons work.

U.S. Marines train with the SMAW, a weapon that can fire thermobaric warheads.

(U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Brian J. Slaght)

In thermobaric weapons, an initial blast distributes a cloud of small pieces of highly reactive metal or fuel. Then, a moment later, a secondary charge ignites the cloud. The fire races out from the center, consuming the oxygen from the air and the fuel mixed in with it, creating a huge fireball.

If the weapon was sent into a cave, a building, or some other enclosed space, this turns the secondary fire into a large explosion of its own. In other words, shoot these things into a room on the first floor of a building, and that room itself becomes a bomb, leveling the larger building.

But throwing one of these things would be risky. Remember, creating the big fireball can turn an entire enclosed space into a massive bomb. And if you throw one in the open, you run the risk of the still-burning fuel landing on your skin. If that’s something like phosphorous, magnesium, or aluminum, that metal has to be carved out of your flesh with a knife. It doesn’t stop burning.

So, troops should leave the flashy grenades to the movies. It’s better to get the quick, lethal pop of a fragmentation grenade than to carry the additional weight for a liquid-fueled fireball or a world-ending thermobaric weapon. Movie grenades aren’t impossible, but they aren’t worth the trouble.

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US Army general approves Bergdahl sentence, no prison time

Army Gen. Robert Abrams endorsed the decision to spare Pvt. Bowe Bergdahl prison time after Bergdahl plead guilty to desertion and misbehavior charges in 2017. Roberts, the convening authority in the court-martial and the head of U.S. Army Forces Command, approved the sentence, which had reduced Bergdahl in rank from sergeant to private and ordered a fine.

Bergdahl was also given a dishonorable discharge.

Bergdahl was captured in Paktika province, Afghanistan, on June 30, 2009, and did not return to the United States until June 13, 2014. He was charged with desertion and misbehavior in March 2015. In August 2017, he chose to be tried by a military judge instead of a jury and was sentenced on Nov. 3, 2017.

Prosecutors had requested Bergdahl serve 14 years confinement.

Also read: 10 details you should know about the Bergdahl case

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8 famous people who served on D-Day

On June 6, 1944, the Allies embarked on the crucial invasion of Normandy on the northern coast of France. Allied forces suffered major casualties, but the ensuing campaign ultimately dislodged German forces from France.


Did you know these eight famous individuals participated in the D-Day invasion?

James Doohan

James Doohan | Golden Pacific Media, YouTube

Actor James Doohan is beloved among Trekkies for his portrayal of chief engineer Montgomery “Scotty” Scott in “Star Trek.”

Years before he donned the Starfleet uniform, Doohan joined the Royal Canadian Artillery during WWII. During the Normandy invasion, he stormed Juno Beach and took out two snipers before he was struck by six bullets from a machine gun, according to website Today I Found Out. He lost part of a finger, but the silver cigarette case in his pocket stopped a bullet from piercing his heart.

David Niven

David Niven | Oscars, Youtube

Academy Award-winning British thespian David Niven became a lieutenant-colonel of the British Commandos during the Second World War. In the D-Day invasion, he commanded the Phantom Signals Unit, according to the New York Post. This unit was responsible for keeping rear commanders informed on enemy positions.

After the war, he declined to speak much about his military experience.

Yogi Berra

Yogi Berra | Getty Photos / Al Bello

Famed baseball catcher Yogi Berra helped to storm Normandy by manning a Naval support craft. The vessel fired rockets at enemy positions on Omaha Beach.

The New York Post reports that Seaman Second Class Berra manned a machine gun during the battle.

Medgar Evers

Medgar Evers | YouTube

In 1963, activist Medgar Evers was assassinated due to his efforts to promote civil rights for African Americans. Decades earlier, Evers served in the 325th Port Company during WWII, eventually rising to the rank of sergeant. This segregated unit of black soldiers delivered supplies during the Normandy invasion, according to the NAACP.

J.D. Salinger

J.D. Salinger | Wikimedia Commons

“The Catcher in the Rye” author J.D. Salinger belonged to a unit that invaded Utah Beach on D-Day. According to Vanity Fair, Salinger carried several chapters of his magnum opus with him when he stormed the shores of France.

John Ford

John Ford | Allan Warren | Wikimedia Commons

Director John Ford, famous for Westerns like “Stagecoach” and “The Searchers,” also went ashore with the D-Day invasion.

As a commander in the US Naval Reserve, Ford led a team of US Coast Guard cameramen in filming a documentary on D-Day for the Navy.

His film on the Normandy invasion ultimately saw a very limited release to the public, due to the amount of Allied casualties. Much of the D-Day footage has since disappeared, according to the Los Angeles Times. 

Henry Fonda

Henry Fonda | National Museum of the United States Navy | Flickr

According to “WWII: The Book of Lists” by Chris Martin, American actor Henry Fonda served as a quartermaster on the destroyer USS Satterlee, which provided support to the Allies during the Normandy invasion. Years later, he played a part in the war epic “The Longest Day,” which focused on the D-Day landings.

Alec Guinness

Alec Guinness | Lucasfilm

“Star Wars” and “Bridge Over the River Kwai” star Alec Guinness served in Great Britain’s Royal Navy during WWII, according to the History Answers blog. StarWars.com reports that the Obi Wan actor served as an officer on a landing craft and transported British soldiers to the shores of Normandy on D-Day.

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Mattis makes a statement about Marine ‘misconduct’

The purported actions of civilian and military personnel on social media websites, including some associated with the Marines United group and possibly others, represent egregious violations of the fundamental values that are upheld at the Department of Defense, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said today in a statement.


“The chain of command is taking all appropriate action to investigate potential misconduct and to maintain good order and discipline throughout our armed forces,” Mattis said.

General Mattis.

“Lack of respect for the dignity and humanity of fellow members of the Department of Defense is unacceptable and harmful to the unit cohesion necessary to battlefield victory,” the secretary continued. “We will not excuse or tolerate such behavior if we are to uphold our values and maintain our ability to defeat the enemy on the battlefield.”

Related: It’s not a scandal; it’s sexual harassment — Marines investigated after sharing nude photos without consent

Defense press operations director Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters today that Mattis spoke several times during his confirmation process about military service and unit cohesion and how those are predicated on the core values of trust and mutual respect.

All Held Accountable

“Our leaders at all levels of the chain of command will be held accountable to ensure that each member of our military can excel in an environment that maximizes their talents and [will have] no patience for those who would degrade or diminish another service member,” Davis said.

The secretary will meet with uniformed and civilian leaders in the days ahead and ensure that they are taking all appropriate actions to maintain good order and discipline, the captain added.

“The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is investigating…web sites and other services are looking into the matter, as well,” Davis said.

Values

“Our values extend on- and off-duty, and we want personnel experiencing or witnessing online misconduct to promptly report matters to their chain of command,” the captain said.

Also read: Marines’ nude photo scandal is even worse than first realized

Davis said service members who might feel uncomfortable reporting alleged online misconduct to their chain of command have alternative avenues that include family support services, equal opportunity offices, Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program, the inspector general and law enforcement.

(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Sticky grenades are only really a thing in video games and movies

From a video game standpoint, it makes sense: A weapon that racks up in-game kills without the hassle of managing a frag grenade bouncing all over the place. Even in Saving Private Ryan, quickly improvising a sticky bomb to take out a tank proved how smart Tom Hank’s Captain Miller was in battle.


In actuality, sticky grenades did exist, but were far more headache than help. Meet the British Anti-tank No. 74.

They weren’t used against infantrymen like video games would have you believe, though. Packing 1.25 lbs of nitroglycerine along with another pound of plastic and glass meant that the boom from real-life sticky grenades would only destroy things that are stuck to it.

Diagram of the No. 74 Sticky Grenade. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

As such, the British No. 74 was designed as an anti-tank weapon that troops would break out of its casing, throw (or, more likely, just walk up and plant), and, five seconds after the lever is released from the handle, boom!

As for the “epic sticky grenade throws” you see in Call of Duty — still no. The most common concern with the No. 74 was that once you take it out of the protective casing that conceals the stickiness, you’ve armed it. Everything that it sticks to is now going to be destroyed. Meaning that if it stuck to your clothes or anything around you, you need to remove whatever it’s stuck to without letting go of the lever. If the lever was released… you’d better get as far away from it as you can in five seconds or else… boom!

You can understand why most troops planted the grenade instead of tossing it. (Image via YouTube)

To make matters worse, they traveled terribly. The inside was made of glass, so if it cracked in transit, the explosive would leak. If the leaked explosive got just a tiny amount of friction… you guessed it: boom!

Even if the handling, arming, and tossing of the grenade all went perfectly, it still may not work as intended. If the Brit managed to get close enough to toss the 2.25 lbs grenade at the German armor, which was usually surrounded by ground troops, tanks were always covered in things that the grenade had trouble sticking on: Wet surfaces and dirt.

Despite being having over 2.5 million sticky grenades produced, it rarely saw as much use as it does in pop culture.

To see the No. 74 in use, watch the old training video below:

(YouTube, Okrajoe)

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How Germany deployed the first weapon of mass destruction

In World War I, Germany invented and debuted the world’s first weapons of mass destruction — poison gas artillery shells and pressurized tanks that wafted the deadly toxins over the battlefield. They killed and wounded thousands.


The Germans first attempted two attacks in October 1914 and January 1915 that failed due to technical reasons. But the first successful attack came in April 1915.

That gas attack took place at Ypres, Belgium, where German troops released hundreds of tons of chlorine gas through buried pipes across a four-mile front. Over 1,000 Allied soldiers were killed and another 7,000 were injured.

And that was the opening of Pandora’s Box. The British military responded with its own chlorine attack in September 1915 at the Battle of Loos. The Germans introduced mustard gas into the fighting in 1917 and America joined the war — and chemical warfare — in 1918.

U.S. Army Soldiers put their gas masks on for a simulated chemical attack during a training mission near Camp Ramadi, Iraq, Sept. 25, 2007. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Andrew D. Pendracki)

The war ended with approximately 100,000 chemical weapons deaths and 1 million wounded. The use of chemical weapons was widely banned in 1925 in The Geneva Protocol.

But countries, including some who signed onto the treaty, have used the weapons since. It’s happened everywhere from World War II Italian attacks on North Africa to the modern day.

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5 reasons why Ronald Reagan was a great commander-in-chief

The passing of Nancy Reagan gives occasion to think back on the Reagan years and their impact on the warfighting capability of the American military. Here are five things that the Reagan administration gave to the troops that endure today:


The Reagan presidency began in a dramatic manner on January 20, 1981. As Reagan was giving his inaugural address, 52 U.S. hostages, held by Iran for 444 days, were set free. (National Archives photo)

1. Reagan’s defense spending was the hallmark of his presidency

Reagan believed the Cold War policies of Containment and Détente were both outmoded. He opted for a new way forward with a strategy determined by his National Security Council. This theory was one of a long-term strategic offense and was neither reactive or proactive. The strategy was designed to pressure the Soviets through a massive military buildup, which raised defense spending from $214 billion in 1982 to $258 billion in 1983. The Soviet Union was compelled to raise its defense spending from 22 percent to 27 percent of GDP. The total number of uniformed personnel didn’t change much, but the Bradley Armored Fighting Vehicles, F-117 Stealth Fighters, Apache Helicopters, and M-1 Tanks that rolled over Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Army in 1991 did so because Ronald Reagan helped put them there.

A view of an Iraqi T-72 main battle tank destroyed in a Coalition attack during Operation Desert Storm near the Ali Al Salem Air Base (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Joe Coleman)

While most historians (and former Soviet officials) agree the Soviet Union collapsed under its own weight, Reagan’s defense policies, including providing $1 billion worth of support to Afghan Mujahideen, certainly sped up the process.

2. Reagan began the tradition of presidents saluting U.S. troops

President Obama caught some flak from the U.S. right wing a while back when he saluted U.S. Marines with a Starbucks cup in his hand. Obviously, while rendering a salute holding something in the right hand is a no-go (which is why you’d be hard pressed to find military members in uniform holding briefcases in their right hand on base), the tradition of the President saluting military personnel is just that: tradition.

President Reagan salutes a military cadet (wikimedia commons)

The fact is, military members do not salute while in civilian clothes. The tradition started with President Reagan in 1981 and even then, it was a curious thing. Reagan had served in the Army Air Corps during WWII and likely knew salutes weren’t rendered out of uniform, it also means he knew it was a courtesy, and allowed the airmen and Marines who transported him to drop their salute after he returned it. Plus, the Commander-In-Chief can do what he wants. RHIP.

3. He raised the military’s pay and gave them better gear for the fight

General Edward Meyer, Army chief of staff under President Reagan, warned him that the Army was a “hollow force,” beaten around by the Vietnam War. When Reagan took over, Meyer’s assessment of the Army for the new President found one full of racial conflict, drug and alcohol problems, and full of recruits who were barely qualified to join. He also opened large training centers for the military, such as the Army’s National Training Center in California’s Mojave Desert. Meyer to the President the military needed to be told by the top person that they were honored and appreciated, and President Reagan took the time do just that.

(White House photo)

Reagan gave the military a much-needed pay raise. He modernized attack aircraft, like the F-14 Tomcat and F-15 Strike Eagle. The Navy grew from 479 combat ships to 525. The military soon rolled out the B-1 Bomber, Trident Attack Submarines, and Peacekeeper Missiles. M-1 Tanks replaced aging M-60 tanks used in Vietnam. Jeeps gave way to Humvees, and money flooded into training centers. He also made sure the right men were in them. It was a military an American would be proud to join.

“Regardless of the political consequences, Reagan bought us what we needed,” Reagan’s Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger to The Baltimore Sun. “You can see it today.”

4. Reagan improved the morale of the force by shaking off the spectre of Vietnam

The 40th President believed the United States needed a win. Like a college football team in week one, he scheduled an easy start to what could have been a tough season. With the Cold War in full swing, the Gipper gave the troops the warmup they would have needed to fight the Russians, consequences be damned.

82nd Airborne artillery personnel load and fire M102 105 mm howitzers during Operation Urgent Fury. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. M.J. Creen)

After ordering 7,000 U.S. troops to storm the beaches of the tiny Caribbean island, President Reagan declared “Our days of weakness are over!” in a speech to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. “Our military forces are back on their feet and standing tall.” After the United Nations condemned the invasion, the President replied: “It didn’t upset my breakfast at all.”

5. Reagan’s ‘Good Cop, Bad Cop’ routine kept the peace with the Soviets

During his first term, he famously called the Soviet Union an “Evil Empire,” a phrase which worried critics of the U.S. military buildup at the time and earned him the dreaded “warmonger” label. Worried that his hard stance hurt his image, Nancy encouraged the president to have a direct relationship with Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet General Secretary. President Reagan reconsidered his strategy.

Gorbachev and Reagan sign the INF Treaty at the White House in 1987 (National Archives photo)

In his 2004 book Nancy: A Portrait of My Years with Nancy Reagan, senior presidential adviser Michael Deaver wrote that Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko once asked her, “Does your husband believe in peace or war?” Nancy told the Russian minister Reagan wanted peace and that she would remind him of that every night.

She also said that she would whisper it in Gromyko’s ear as well.

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This Marine Corporal is helping his fellow vets “cowboy up”

Photos courtesy Semper Fi Fund


For Marine Corporal Alex Monaghan, who retired from the Corps in 2009 after four years as a rifleman during which he deployed twice (once to Iraq and once to Afghanistan), the phrase “boots on the ground” has taken on a far different meaning than those words typically suggest.

That’s because Alex is the first graduate of a brand-new Semper Fi Fund program: Semper Fi Fund Apprenticeship Program, which helps service members learn valuable skills that they could one day leverage to start a business.

In Alex’s case, that skill is making high-quality cowboy boots.

It all began when Alex was considering going on “one of these horse stints,” as he describes it, as part of the Jinx McCain Horsemanship Program. While filling out the paperwork, there was a question at the bottom asking, “Are you interested in learning any of these skills?” Among the skills listed were knife-making, silver-engraving, roping … and making cowboy boots.

“It was weird that it was on there,” Alex recalls. “I always wanted to design my own boots. It’s a two-week program in St. Jo, Texas. The days are long—12 hours a day, six days a week—and there’s a lot to learn in a short amount of time. You get a pair of customized boots when you’re done.”

The time may have been short, but Alex was learning from the best: The boot-making program is run by Carlton T. Chappell, a third-generation award-winning bootmaker who started in leathercraft in 1964 and has been recognized as one of the very best bootmakers in the world.

“It’s pretty neat,” Alex says. “You can’t learn everything in two weeks—Carl is in his 70s or 80s now, and he’s still learning new techniques every day–but it’s interesting. There’s always something new to learn, a new skill to master.”

While making a quality pair of cowboy boots is intricate and artistic work, Alex felt he had something of a head start over his half-dozen or so classmates.

“I did tattoo work for a couple of years,” he explains. “As far as working with machines and stuff, you have this huge thing on the table—you still have to draw out your sketch pattern and sew it up. I felt as if I had some advantage, because I’d been doing something similar to it.”

After finishing the two-week seminar, Alex went on to serve a month-long apprenticeship in Vernon, Texas, with award-winning bootmaker Dew Westover. Dew spent 20 years as a working cowboy, attended Carl’s seminar in 2002 and opened his own boot shop in 2004.

Alex made two pair of boots during his apprenticeship, and now he’s studying business at Texas AM as part of an entrepreneurship for veterans program.

Looking back over the years since he’s left active duty, Alex has seen a number of ups and downs in his own life, but he credits the Semper Fi Fund with helping him get out and get active—and he encourages his fellow veterans to do the same.

“If there are vets who are thinking about these sorts of programs, and they’re itchy or worried about it, I say just give it a try.”

“A lot of vets create a bubble and don’t go out in public,” Alex continues. “I think it’s a great experience—you have buddies to hang out with, you’re pushing yourself to do things that your anxiety or PTSD is preventing you from doing. I do these things, it pushes me to get out and go on the road and deal with people.”

“I would encourage more vets to get out there and find something they enjoy. Whether it’s bike riding or horseback riding or whatever—I’m sure the Semper Fi Fund has something for them.”

To learn more about Alex, the Jinx McCain Horsemanship Program and how these types of programs assist our nation’s veterans visit Semper Fi Fund Apprenticeship Program.

 Special thanks to the incredible generosity of one very special family for helping to provide funding for this important program in memory of their brother who wished to remember whose who serve.

We Are The Mighty is teaming up with Semper Fi Fund and comedian Rob Riggle to present the Rob Riggle InVETational Golf Classic. The veteran-celebrity golf tournament will raise money and awareness for Semper Fi Fund, one of our nation’s most respected veteran nonprofit organizations, in support of wounded, critically ill and injured service members and their families. Learn more at InVETational.com.

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This blind WWII Marine veteran protected his US flag from vandals

Howard Banks is a WWII veteran who was injured while protecting Old Glory. Not in Europe or the Pacific, but in front of his Texas home.


Onetime Cpl. Howard Banks at home in Texas. (Credit: Yona Gavino/CBS 11)

The 92-year-old Banks is legally blind, but could spot someone trying to tear down the American flag posted in front of his house in Kaufman, Texas. When he went out to see what was happening, he was pushed to the ground.

“They could see me. I couldn’t see them,” Banks told the Dallas-Fort Worth CBS affiliate. “I turned and looked in the other direction, and about then – ‘wham!’ They knocked me down.”

Banks didn’t stay down for long. Just the previous year, vandals took down his U.S. flag, shredded it and then tore up his Marine Corps. Still holding on to the railing, Banks stood back up, ready to meet his attackers.

Howard Banks’ American Flag, still up on its pole. (Credit: Yona Gavino/CBS 11)

But they ran off. Banks was left with a twisted knee and some other bruises, but his flags were intact. Neighbors moved to help the 92-year-old, whose flags were still there. Banks attributed his dedication to the flag as more than just defending his property and his Marine Corps heritage.

“We’ve honored our flag all that time and doggone it, with our political climate the way that it is, we need something to rally around and that’s our flag,” Banks told the local Fox affiliate. “Once a Marine, always a Marine. I try to live that way.”

In the days since, Banks was surprised with a gift from Honor Flight, whose mission is to help older veterans by flying them to Washington, D.C., free of charge so they can visit their war’s memorial.

Banks’ neighbors moved in quickly to assist him. He now has security cameras in place to monitor his flags.

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Tom Cruise says ‘Top Gun 2’ is ‘definitely happening’

After years of rumors about a potential sequel to the 1986 blockbuster, Tom Cruise has confirmed that there will be a “Top Gun 2.” And it sounds like you won’t even have to wait all that long.


While on the Australian morning show “Sunrise” to promote his latest movie, “The Mummy” (out June 9), Cruise was asked about the rumors of a sequel.

“It’s true,” Cruise said. “I’m going to start filming it probably in the next year. It’s definitely happening.”

For the last few years, more talk about a “Top Gun” sequel has bounced around the internet as reports surfaced that it was in development.

Also read: What Hollywood gets wrong about military stories

In 2015, Skydance CEO David Ellison said a script was being written and that the story would take place in the contemporary times and feature drone fighters.

“It’s really exploring the end of an era of dogfighting and fighter pilots and what that culture is today,” Ellison said at the time.

Later that year, fellow “Top Gun” star Val Kilmer confirmed that he would be in the sequel.

The original “Top Gun,” which starred Cruise as a hotshot pilot who’s training at the elite Navy Fighter Weapons School, was one of the biggest hits of the late 1980s, earning over $350 million worldwide on a $15 million budget. The movie didn’t just attract the male audience that wanted to see intense aerial action scenes, but women also flocked to the theaters thanks in part to Cruise’s sex-symbol status and the music that ranged from Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” to Berlin’s Oscar-winning ballad “Take My Breath Away” (used as background music to Cruise’s romance with Kelly McGillis in the film).

Here’s Cruise making the official announcement: