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The 10 worst armies in the world

Wars should be like taking off Band-Aids: If a country can’t get it over with fast, maybe it shouldn’t think about shedding blood.

When a country is this bad at war, it probably runs the risk of just slowly bleeding to death. There are many, many examples of this in both history and in today’s newspapers — and we’ve collected our favorite examples.

This episode of “Fixer Upper: Armed Forces Edition” has seen a lot of changes since 2015.


Since the last list of the world’s worst armed forces, Iraq turned the whole “losing half the country” thing around and started showing up for work, so its army is probably a little better now — and that meant it was time for a new list of the World’s Worst.

There are also a few new faces on this updated list. When considering this year’s candidates, I actually created some criteria. It was important to consider what the armed forces of a country needs versus what it has and what a country’s priorities really are. I also considered how much sh*t the country (or its leadership) talks versus what it actually accomplishes.

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Some things never change, though. Like North Korea’s pride in a jet from 1964.

But keep in mind this is not about criticizing the people who fight wars on the front lines. For the most part, it’s about criticizing the governments and policymakers who fund, train, and equip these armies and then expect them not to get annihilated once they go into battle.

There are many countries with extremely substandard defense forces, but most of those aren’t going around rattling sabers, either. For example, Gambia has about 2,000 troops with old weapons and uniforms that don’t match, but they spend most of their time fighting HIV and wizards, not threatening to invade Senegal.

And though there are many armed forces engaged in fighting around the world, many of those aren’t actually from a recognized country.

The 10 worst armies in the world
Stop trying to make the Islamic State happen. It’s never gonna happen.

This year’s list gave Mongolia a break for going the extra mile and having a Navy despite being totally landlocked. We also said goodbye to the Philippines. After the Manila Standard called our 2015 assessment of the Philippines’ armed forces “spot on,” incoming President Rodrigo Duterte decided to spend $6.6 billion upgrading the AFP.

To be clear, no one here is taking credit for this.

The 10 worst armies in the world
No one should ever take credit for anything Duterte does. Seriously. Google it.

Also leaving this year’s list is “Africa’s North Korea,” Eritrea. At the time of this writing, the country is looking to end its war with Ethiopia and maybe even stop “drafting” all of its men to work in forced labor.

Also missing from the list is Somalia, whose armed forces is pretty much subsumed by U.S. special operations along with Kenyan and Ethiopian troops.

These are the forces that make the KISS Army seem even more formidable than they already do.

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This was only a matter of time. (KISS Army)

10. Tajikistan

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Good to know those old Soviet ushankas found a home.

The latest hand-me-downs from Russia to the Armed Forces of the Republic of Tajikistan include two classes of helicopter from the 1960s, tanks from the 1970s, and personnel carriers from the 1980s. This is still a big step up from the absolutely nothing they got from the fall of the Soviet Union. That’s just the equipment. It doesn’t get much better for the troops on the ground in an army where even the doctors will haze them to death.

If the hazing doesn’t get them, the disease, hunger, or terrible conditions might. This is why no one wants to join the Tajikistan army… except when they’re kidnapped and forced to go.

But congrats to the Tajik armed forces, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2018. This is only weird because independent Tajikistan is 27 years old.

9. Russia

“Why does the brick have to be on fire, comrades? I’m not sure that adds anything to the experience.”

Many might be surprised to see Russia on a “worst armies” list, but the country’s biggest wins of the last few years include:

  • Not starting World War III in Syria.
  • Air strikes on poorly-armed Syrian rebels.
  • Fighting Ukraine to a draw.
  • Building a Navy it can’t crew.
  • Annexing a peninsula with no electricity, fresh water, or money.
  • Hypersonic missiles that fly only 22 miles.
  • Finally building a robot tank after 30 years and failing at it.
Russia seems strong because it doesn’t let anyone tell it what to do. But all it wants to do is beat up on its weaker neighbors and generally be an asshole to Washington — and this is the source of its true power. It can fight a war. It can conquer countries.
 
But that all depends on who it fights. Just look what happened when Russian “mercenaries” accidentally fought a professional army in Syria.

Spoiler: They died.

8. Turkey

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Yay, you did it. After everyone else did it first.

President Erdoğan is a lot more aggressive with Turkey’s armed forces than he used to be, both in use of force and imprisoning generals he thinks started a coup against him in 2016. That’s what dictators do. But as ISIS fighters approached the Turkish border with Syria, Turkey did very little about it. Erdoğan only cared about consolidating power, (something he finally did with the most recent election) while Turkey’s longtime enemy, the Kurds, cleared ISIS from the area.

Fast-forward to when Turkey did act in Syria, months after the U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters defeated ISIS in northern Syria. Turkey invaded and immediately started attacking – you guessed it – the Kurds. Turkey has always had a reason to hate Kurds, but it’s poor timing to exercise those demons on a de facto ally in the middle of a war they were winning to help protect Turkey.

The only goal of the Turkish invasion is to keep the Kurds from getting their own country, the ultimate geopolitical dick move.

7. Nigeria

The 10 worst armies in the world
Some Nigerian army officers sell their weapons and ammo to Boko Haram.

If you thought it was bad that Nigerian military members were fired for making a strategic retreat or that Nigerian troops could only run away from Boko Haram because neither their weapons nor vehicles worked, remember: it can always be worse. Especially for Nigerian women.

After escaping the terror of living under Boko Haram and being “liberated” by Nigerian troops, women can now expect to be exploited for sex by Nigeria’s military. Their troops can also be almost as bad as Boko Haram itself.

As for the troops’ welfare, senators are more likely to have armored cars than front-line troops. And when the country did decide to invest $2 billion into its military, it was immediately funneled into personal bank accounts of government ministers – to the tune of $2.2 billion, more than the original investment.

6. Afghanistan

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“Congratulations on graduating from Not Going AWOL 101, soldiers.” (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kevin P. Bell)

First of all, let’s understand that the U.S. is never, ever going to leave Afghanistan — ever. If we really planned to leave Afghanistan, we’d give them something more effective than old prop planes and uniforms we don’t want. When U.S. troops do give the ANA reasonably modern equipment, the ANA turns right around and deserts them in the next Taliban attack. So the U.S. then has to go destroy their own Humvees. And while some call the Afghan Air Force a win for U.S. training, they should remember that when the Taliban get its hands on those planes and laser-guided munitions and the U.S. has to blow those up, too.

Most of the funding for the ANA goes toward salaries, essentially begging ANA troops not to kill their fellow troops or NATO allies. This is a game the ANA can’t win when the Taliban is offering three times as much to do the opposite. So, even though the ANA called the 60mm mortar a “game changer” for ground troops, the Taliban will still pay a king’s ransom for them to fire it into a friendly base. The United States has sunk billion into an Army that can’t win — or even fight. Hell, they pass basic training just by not going AWOL.

To top it all off, the older generals are being forced to retire from the Afghan Army. Remember what happened the last time the U.S. pushed to fire a whole big chunk of another nation’s army? The Iraq War and, eventually, ISIS.

5. Venezuela

The 10 worst armies in the world
“And now it’s ready to fire, abuela.”

The number one PT score for Venezuela’s army is probably in running, because that’s all they’ve been doing lately. When a Venezuelan soldier’s choices are limited to either working for free and potentially starving to death or to desert entirely, the choice becomes clear.

So, what does an embattled President do when his army starts crumbling? Tell civilians the U.S. is going to attack and then show them how to defend the country.

Which is exactly what Venezuela’s military did. Cool.

4. Mexico

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“Mexico: At least we aren’t Syria.”

Mexico militarized its law enforcement then sent its military into Mexico to fight of violent drug cartels… and still lost. The country was divided into five security zones and then invaded by the armed forces. Then they became just as corrupt and criminal as the local law enforcement they replaced.

To make matters worse, when the army takes out any kind of cartel leadership, it creates a power vacuum and then a war among the cartels. The strategy of removing high-level kingpins has resulted in a 60 percent increase in violence that the Mexican military can’t control, despite fully occupying its own country. They’ve been at this since 2006 and it’s taken a heavy toll on the Mexican military and Mexican people. In the last few years, Mexico quietly became the second deadliest conflict, surpassed only by Syria.

That means you’re actually safer in Kabul than in Cabo.

3. North Korea

The 10 worst armies in the world
No one ever did that to Saddam either.

Of course North Korea makes the list again. Despite the recent Singapore Summit, there is no one better at rattling a saber than a North Korean named Kim. In fact, Kim Jong Un is really just following the North Korean game plan to get concessions from the United States:

  1. Create a scene
  2. Threaten all-out war with the South
  3. Get talked down at the last minute
  4. Get rewarded for not starting the war you had no intention of starting in the first place.
But to make step two seem plausible, North Korea needs to have a credible threat. So while it does have hundreds of artillery pieces pointed at Seoul, a city with 9.8 million people, it also has the world’s oldest air force and trains its pilots using the power of imagination, mostly because it can’t afford jet fuel. Its navy is just considered a “nuisance” and we would all be amazed if its army had enough food for the time it takes to actually kill those 9.8 million people.
 

2. Syria

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Do they get issued photos of Bashar al-Assad?

Syria’s armed forces are so awful, they can’t win a civil war with the help of Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and the U.S. and Kurds fighting ISIS for them. In fact, anyone can feel free to violate Syria’s sovereignty. Turkey, the GCC, Europe, and Israel are doing it without repercussions on an almost daily basis. So, naturally, what do Syria’s armed forces do? Threaten to attack the U.S. and Israel. As if they didn’t have enough problems.

And when they do win, it’s not exactly clean. Chemical weapons, cluster munitions, and starvation are the primary tactics used for the now-seven year long civil war there. It’s not exactly the way to convince the civilian population that Assad is the right leader for them. Seven years down, five to go.

1. Saudi Arabia

The 10 worst armies in the world
What billion a year buys you.

Saudi Arabia talks a lot of smack about a war with Iran but even when it brings its full military might to bear, it can’t keep a coalition together, let alone finish off an Iranian proxy. They’ve been fighting the Houthi-led insurgents in Yemen since 2015 and with the help of half of Yemen, all of Sudan, Morocco, the U.S., the UAE, Senegal, France, Egypt, Jordan, and Bahrain, they still fail to win the war.

This coalition has every numerical and technological advantage on sea, land, and air and they’re just being manhandled, the result of overconfidence and a dash of hubris. The Saudis thought 150,000 battle-hardened Houthis would just roll over after a few airstrikes. “Winning” was the extent of their plan and, if it didn’t work for Charlie Sheen, it sure as hell isn’t going to work for Saudi Arabia.

Not only have they failed to win after three years and heavily outnumbering and outgunning the Houthis, they’ve lost coalition partners and turned the entire country into a humanitarian disaster. That’s what you get for relying on another country’s military to bail you out of everything for 20 years.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This pilot describes what it was like to shoot down an Su-22 in first Super Hornet fighter kill

The day started out with a close-air support mission and ended with the first Navy air-to-air “kill” since 1991.


Three months after an F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the carrier George H.W. Bush shot down a Syrian Su-22 Fitter near Raqqa, Syria, on June 18, 2017 the four Navy pilots who participated in the mission offered a blow-by-blow account during a special panel at the Tailhook 2017 Symposium.

In a recording first uncovered by The Drive, the pilots describe an operating environment that had become more unpredictable and dynamic.

The George W. Bush, which had been launching daily airstrikes from the Persian Gulf, had moved into the Mediterranean in early June, just days before the mission.

“Everyone’s kind of heading to the same place that day, to Raqqa,” said Lt. Cmdr. Michael “MOB” Tremel, a pilot with Strike Fighter Squadron 87, the “Golden Warriors,” who would ultimately execute the shoot-down that day.

The 10 worst armies in the world

“At that point in time, the [area of responsibility] was pretty hot in that general vicinity and a lot of guys were dropping bombs,” he said.

Walking to the jets, the mission of the day was close-air support, and that’s what the pilots on board the Bush were prepared for.

But there was time en route for a cup of coffee — both Tremel and his wingman, VFA-87 training officer Lt. Cmdr. Jeff “Jo Jo” Krueger, enjoyed some java at 22,000 feet inbound to Raqqa, Tremel said.

“Again, we briefed to CAS and that was going to be our mission that day, so we felt like it would be in our wheelhouse, what we were doing,” he said. “But we also trained to all the air-to-air contingencies we might have and we talked about that.”

Eventually, the aircraft arrive in the region and coordinated with two other Hornet pilots, all in a “stack” above the area of operation. All four were communicating about events playing out on the ground far below.

The 10 worst armies in the world

“We’re hearing that the situation’s getting more heated on the ground with some of the friendly forces getting closer to some of the Syrian forces so, based on that, we get Jo Jo and MOB on the radio,” said Lt. Cmdr. William “Vieter” Vuillet, a pilot with another squadron attached to the Bush, VFA-37 “Raging Bulls.”

As the pilots prepared to execute their CAS mission, someone spotted a Russian Flanker aircraft circling overhead, an occurrence the pilots said was not unusual in the region.

Throughout the deployment, the pilots said, their interactions with Russian fighters were professional.

But as a cautionary measure, Tremel, who previously had some minor technical issues with his aircraft, volunteered to follow the aircraft and monitor its actions.

The 10 worst armies in the world

Picking Up the Syrian Aircraft

“I’ll extend out in air-to-air master mode while these guys are in air-to-ground master mode to monitor the situation on the ground,” Tremel said. “That’s when I’ll pick up an unknown aircraft approaching from the south.”

Observers, including Air Force assets in the region, were sending conflicting information about the identity of the aircraft, but eventually a consensus emerged that it was a Syrian plane.

Tremel decided the best thing he could do is get a visual ID on the aircraft and its activities, so he decided to descend and get a better look.

Meanwhile, Krueger worked to streamline radio communications, shedding secondary tasks and focusing on keeping information flowing as the situation unfolded.

As Tremel neared the Syrian aircraft, he emphasized that he was ready to return to his primary job as soon as he could be sure it posed no danger to friendly forces.

The 10 worst armies in the world

“Our whole mission out there was to defeat ISIS, annihilate ISIS,” he said. “So as quickly as we can get back to that mission, that was our goal that day … At any point in time, if this had de-escalated, that would have been great. We would have gotten mission success and [gone] back to continue to drop bombs on ISIS.”

But that was not to happen. The Hornets began putting out radio warning calls to persuade the SU-22 Fitter to turn around, but it kept approaching friendly ground forces.

Krueger then advised that the U.S. aircraft should execute “head-butts,” close overhead passes on the Syrian aircraft with warning flares, Tremel said.

They ultimately did three such passes, with no effect on the Syrian plane.

The 10 worst armies in the world

Su-22 Releases Ordnance

“After that third one, he [proceeded] to execute a dive and release ordnance in proximity of friendly forces,” Tremel said.

As the Syrian aircraft climbed after dropping ordnance, Tremel would respond, firing an AIM-9X Sidewinder missile. For reasons he didn’t explain, the sidewinder missed the Fitter.

“I lose the smoke trail and I have no idea what happened to the missile at that point in time,” he said.

Losing little time, Tremel let another missile fly — an AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, or AMRAAM. This time, it had the desired effect.

“The aircraft will pitch right and down and pilot will jump out and left in his ejection seat,” he said.

The 10 worst armies in the world
An F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the Stingers of Strike Fighter Attack Squadron (VFA) 113 prepares to land on the flight deck aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). Theodore Roosevelt is underway conducting a composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX) with the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group in preparation for an upcoming deployment. COMPTUEX tests a carrier strike group’s mission-readiness and ability to perform as an integrated unit through simulated real-world scenarios. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Alex Corona/Released)

Wanting to stay clear of the debris field, Tremel executed a quick turn to the left, he said, allowing the ejection seat to pass to the right of his canopy.

The pilots described the events in understated terms, but acknowledged adrenaline was high as they returned to operations.

Vieter, who descended to get a visual following the air-to-air engagement, said he and the pilot flying with him, Lt. Stephen “Scotty P” Gasecki, could not resist getting on a secure communication channel to tell the tanker crew what happened when they went to refuel.

Vieter and Gasecki opted to continue with their mission, while Tremel and Krueger soon decided to return to the ship.

The 10 worst armies in the world

‘No Small Feat’

Krueger said it was “no small feat” for Tremel to take the initiative to arm his aircraft and fire ordnance at an armed aircraft for the first time in two-and-a-half decades.

“Looking at the wreckage down below us, It was a different feeling,” Krueger said. “… We had to make some decisions pretty quickly, and I thought that the training and commander’s guidance that we got at that point was a big deal.”

Upon return to the ship, the fanfare was underwhelming; the sentiment was merely that “the show goes on,” Tremel said.

He shook a few hands on the flight deck, then was ushered away, the ordnance remaining on his aircraft quickly reloaded onto other fighters that would launch within the hour.

The 10 worst armies in the world

He even completed his scheduled safety officer duties once back aboard the ship, he said.

As he addressed the Navy’s annual convention of fighter pilots, though, the atmosphere was different.

“It’s extremely surreal to be sitting here in this environment,” Tremel said. “I couldn’t have done it without the guy sitting next to me, Jo Jo, and the other guys that were airborne. It was an absolute team effort, to include all the coordination that went on with the Air Force the entire time we were in the AOR.”

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

One year and one week later: where military families stand following the housing crisis

As military spouses, we are all too familiar with the phrase “hurry up and wait.” When it comes to the health and safety of our families in our homes, enough is enough.


When we heard from our network that families were struggling with the safety and deterioration of their military homes, we mobilized the Military Family Advisory Network’s research process so that we could learn more. Our goal was simple: understand what is happening through scientific data. Good data can be powerful and hard to ignore.

The 10 worst armies in the world

We created a survey that allowed us to take a deep dive into the issue, and we shared what we learned with the Department of Defense, Congress, and the general public. We made sure our data was actionable, because our priority is shortening the time between the identification of an issue and the deployment of a solution.

Sadly, it has been one year and one week since we released findings from our Privatized Military Housing Survey, and families are still struggling. It should not have taken a survey with nearly 17,000 military families sharing their experiences with us – many of which were severe – to drive change. The entire country heard about what was happening in military housing in the nightly news, in the paper, and on social media. Despite the overwhelming number of heartbreaking stories, the brave testimonies from military spouses, the news coverage, and the compelling data, families are still struggling.

Based on what we hear, we believe that those who are entrusted with fixing this issue are on the right path, but we also know that there is a long way to go. We understand that for the military families who have spent months in temporary housing or hotels, who have thrown away thousands of dollars’ worth of furniture due to water damage, have lived with pests, and worst of all, who are struggled with the health-implications that can be associated with mold or lead, actions speak louder than words. We understand that the trust between military families and housing offices (and those charged with oversight) continues to erode as families wait for a Tenant Bill of Rights and increased accountability.

We commit to keeping the pressure up and continuing to learn from families who share their experiences with us, and we commit to doing so in collaboration with everyone who has a vested interest in supporting our community. That is why MFAN created the Military Housing Roundtable. During our first meeting, we took a step back to answer a few key questions: What is happening that is causing families to choose to live in military housing? Do military families have other safe and affordable options? Or, do they feel stuck? Based on these questions, here’s what we know:

We need to bring together public and private agencies to ensure that military families have a central hub where they can get the information they need.

We need to explore what is happening in housing and rental markets near installations.

We need to educate families on the Service Member Civil Relief act, so they know their rights when they are signing a lease or need to move.

We need to teach families the dangers of mold and lead, show them where to look, how to safely navigate these hazards, and where to turn for help if they discover them in their homes.

The 10 worst armies in the world

Most importantly, we need to elevate the voices of military families, because as the last year has shown us, their experiences matter. MFAN is proud to have provided the microphone for these families through our research. We are honored to be able to create collaborative solutions with Roundtable attendees – which included nonprofits, military and veteran service organizations, subject matter experts on environmental risks, the Department of Defense, the military services, and businesses with a mission of supporting military families.

We are committed to rallying together to fix this because we all know one thing for certain: military families deserve a safe place to live, raise their families, and call home.

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA mental health therapy in your living room

Veterans receiving care at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston, Texas, can now connect to mental health services remotely using a computer, smartphone or tablet. The system, called telemental health, has helped nearly a thousand Houston area veterans get the care they need.

telemental health uses the VA Video Connect app, which provides a secure connection between veteran and provider no matter where the veteran is located. Seventy-five Houston VAMC mental health providers are equipped to provide remote services.

“The technology is ideal for veterans who live far away, have medical problems or find it difficult to leave the house,” said Houston VAMC psychologist Dr. Jan Lindsay.


“Often, coming to the clinic is a big burden for our veterans. Barriers include child care, traffic, parking, taking off work or feeling anxiety when leaving their homes for treatment.”

telemental health eliminates those barriers. “When we provide psychotherapy via telehealth, some veterans report that being at home makes it easier to focus on the work being done and acquire the skills they need to engage their lives more fully,” said Lindsay. “They feel safer at home.”

The 10 worst armies in the world

Houston VAMC social worker Veronica Siffert places a consult for a veteran to receive telemental health services.

“It is actually easier than coming into the facility,” said Air Force Veteran Christopher Banks. “I can be in my own home, which helps me with sharing.”

Banks, who has trouble walking, often had to cancel his in-person mental health appointments. When he did make it to the provider’s office, he had to fight traffic to get there. “I’d get so stressed from the drive that I would spend 90 percent of my therapy talking about why I’m so angry,” he said.

telemental health is “a major benefit for those with mobility issues,” agreed Dr. Kaki York, deputy clinical executive with the Houston VAMC Mental Health Care Line.

“We have vets with ALS or Parkinson’s or who have had a stroke, who for whatever reason cannot get here to continue treatment. Also, family therapy services. Have you ever tried to coordinate an entire family? It’s very difficult. Video allows them to get in the same place at the same time instead of getting all of them to the VA.”

Veterans who travel for work also benefit from using telemental health. “Houston has a lot of oil field workers who live here for part of the time but somewhere else the other time,” said York. “They’re here for three months, then travel for six months. If they have an internet connection, we are here for them.”

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(Photo by Christin Hume)

For Banks, another plus is that reading material his therapist recommends is right at his fingertips. “When I was with the providers, they would recommend different links or health guides and I had to wait to get home to pull it up,” he said. “With telehealth, it’s right there. Memory is not the most reliable, especially with some of us vets. At home, I can open a search bar and go straight to it.”

There are advantages for clinicians as well. For example, during an office visit, if a therapist asks a veteran what medications she is taking, the veteran might not remember them all. Using remote video, the veteran can just show the therapist her medication containers.

“It’s up to each veteran how much he or she uses remote services,” said Lindsay. “If you like coming into the clinic to see your provider, you can continue to do so and only use video telehealth when convenient,” she said. For veterans who lack the means to connect remotely, equipment is available to use for the duration of treatment.

“Our goal would be that any mental health clinician at the main facility will be able to provide telehealth services when the patient wants it and provider thinks it would be helpful,” said York. “We are not quite 100 percent there yet, but we are getting close.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

This retired Navy SEAL shares 100 deadly skills

Yeah, The Official 700 Club isn’t where many people go for advice about how to defend themselves and kill others, but former Navy SEAL Clint Emerson went on the show to promote his book, “100 Deadly Skills: The SEAL Operative’s Guide to Eluding Pursuers, Evading Capture, and Surviving Any Dangerous Situation.”


The 10 worst armies in the world
(Book cover: Amazon)

Emerson gives a quite a few of the tips and a lot of the mentality behind those skills during an interview on the Christian Broadcasting Network.

Again, not where we normally go for violent advice, either.

Tips run the gamut from always knowing which way you’ll run in a crisis to remembering to keep razor blades hidden nearby and carrying a steel barrel pen that can withstand multiple stabs against an opponent.

Check out the video below. For a guide you can carry around with you, check out the book linked above.

Articles

Hollywood legend Jimmy Stewart was a World War II hero

Today I found out Jimmy Stewart was a two star general in the United States military.

The 10 worst armies in the world


In 1940, Jimmy Stewart was drafted into the United States Army, but ended up being rejected due to being five pounds under the required weight, given his height (at the time he weighed 143 pounds).  Not to be dissuaded, Stewart then sought out the help of Don Loomis, who was known to be able to help people add or subtract pounds.  Once he had gained a little weight, he enlisted with the Army Air Corps in March of 1941 and was eventually accepted, once he convinced the enlisting officer to re-run the tests.

Initially, Stewart was given the rank of private; by the time he had completed training, he had advanced to the rank of second lieutenant (January of 1942).  Much to his chagrin, due to his celebrity status and extensive flight expertise (having tallied over 400 flight hours before even joining the military), Stewart was initially assigned to various “behind the lines” type duties such as training pilots and making promotional videos in the states.  Eventually, when he realized they were not going to ever put him in the front line, he appealed to his commanding officer and managed to get himself assigned to a unit overseas.

In August of 1943, he found himself with the 703rd Bombardment Squadron, initially as a first officer, and shortly thereafter as a Captain.  During combat operations over Germany, Stewart found himself promoted to the rank of Major.  During this time, Stewart participated in several uncounted missions (on his orders) into Nazi occupied Europe, flying his B-24 in the lead position of his group in order to inspire his troops.

For his bravery during these missions, he twice received the Distinguished Flying Cross; three times received the Air Medal; and once received the Croix de Guerre from France.  This latter medal was an award given by France and Belgium to individuals allied with themselves who distinguished themselves with acts of heroism.

The 10 worst armies in the world

By July of 1944, Stewart was promoted chief of staff of the 2nd Combat Bombardment wing of the Eighth Air Force.  Shortly thereafter, he was promoted to the rank of colonel, becoming one of only a handful of American soldiers to ever rise from private to colonel within a four year span.

After the war, Stewart was an active part of the United States Air Force Reserve, serving as the Reserve commander of Dobbins Air Reserve Base.  On July 24, 1959, he attained the rank of brigadier general (one star general).

During the Vietnam War, he flew (not the pilot) in a B-52 on a bombing mission and otherwise continued to fulfill his duty with the Air Force Reserve.  He finally retired from the Air Force on May 31, 1968 after 27 years of service and was subsequently promoted to Major General (two star general).

Bonus Facts:

  • Both Stewart’s grandfathers fought in the American Civil War.  He also had ancestors on his mother’s side that served in the American Revolution and the War of 1812.  His father served in the Spanish-American War and World War I.  His adopted son, Ronald, was killed at the age of 24 as a Marine in Vietnam.
  • The full list of military awards achieved by Stewart are: 2 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 4 Air Medals, 1 Army Commendation Medal, 1 Armed Forces Reserve Medal, 1 Presidential Medal of Freedom, 1 French Croix de Guerre with Palm.
  • As a child, Stewart was a Second Class Scout and eventually became an adult Scout leader.  He was also the recipient of the prestigious Boy Scouts of America Silver Buffalo Award, of which only 674 to date have been given out since 1926.  Of the other recipients besides Stewart, 14 have held the office of President of the United States.
  • A brigadier general is equivalent to a lower rear admiral in the navy.  A major general is equivalent to a rear admiral and is typically given 10,000-20,000 troops to command and is authorized to command them independently.
  • U.S. law limits the number of general officers that may be on active duty at any time to 302 for the Army, 279 for the Air Force, and 80 for the Marine Corps.
  • Eligible officers to be considered to promotion for the rank of brigadier general (one star) are recommended to the President from a list compiled by current general officers.  The President then selects officers from this list to be given the promotion.  Occasionally, the President will also nominate officers not on this list, but this almost never happens.  Once the President makes their selection, the Senate confirms or rejects the selected individuals by a majority vote.
  • The name “brigadier general” comes from the American Revolutionary War when the first brigadier generals were appointed.  At that time, they were simply general officers put in charge of a brigade, hence “brigadier general”.  For a time in the very early 19th century, this was the highest rank any officer in the military could achieve as the rank of major general (two star) had been abolished.  The rank of major general was later re-established just before the war of 1812.
  • At Princeton, Stewart excelled at architecture and was eventually awarded a full scholarship for graduate work by his professors as a result of his thesis on airport design.
  • Stewart and Henry Fonda were roommates early in their careers.  Later in life, they still shared a close friendship and, when they weren’t working, they often spent their time building and painting model airplanes with each other.
  • Jimmy Stewart also was an avid pilot before his military service.  He received his private pilot certificate in 1935 and used to fly cross-country to visit his parents.  Interestingly, when he did so, he stated that he used rail road tracks to navigate.
  • Stewart was also one of the investors and collaborators who helped build Thunderbird Field, which was a pilot training school built to help train pilots during WWII.  During the WWII alone, over 10,000 pilots were trained there.
  • After WWII, he strongly considered abandoning acting and entering the aviation field, due to personal doubts that he could still act.
  • His first film after the war was Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life which, at the time, was considered somewhat of a flop with the public, though it was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Stewart.  Partially due to this film’s poor showing at the box office, Capra’s production company went bankrupt and Stewart began to further doubt his ability to act following the war.
  • On January 5, 1992, It’s a Wonderful Life became the first American program ever to be broadcast on Russian television.  A translated version, courtesy of Stewart and Lomonosov Moscow State University, was broadcast to over 200 million Russians on that day.
  • Stewart went on to act in several flops, as well as several critically acclaimed films, and by the 1950s was still considered a top tier actor over all.  This was important because in 1950 he became one of the first top tier actors to work for no money up front, but rather a percentage of the gross of the film.  Others had done this before, but it was rare and generally only lower end actors on the tail of their careers would agree to this.  He did this on the movie Winchester ’73 where he had asked for $200,000 pay to appear in that movie and Harvey.  The studio rejected, so he countered that he’d work for a percentage of the gross.  He ended up taking home nearly $600,000 for Winchester ’73 alone.  Hollywood’s other top-tier stars took noticed and this practiced began becoming the norm for top tier actors.
  • By 1954, Stewart was voted the most popular Hollywood actor in the world, displacing John Wayne.  He also was the highest grossing actor that year.
  • Stewart was also known somewhat for his poetry.  He frequently would appear on Johnny Carson’sThe Tonight Show and would read various poems he had written throughout his life.  One of his poems, written about his dog, so moved Carson that, by the end, Carson was choking back tears.  Dana Carvey and Dennis Miller, in 1980, parodied this on Saturday Night Live.  These poems were later compiled into a book called Jimmy Stewart and His Poems.
  • Later in life, Stewart appeared in The Magic of Lassie (1978), much to the dismay of critics and the general public, as the film was a universal flop and seen to be beneath him.  Stewart’s response to them was that it was the only script he was offered that didn’t have sex, profanity, or graphic violence.
  • Stewart’s final film role was as the voice of Wylie Burp, in the 1991 movie An American Tail: Fievel Goes West.
  • Stewart devoted much of the last years of his life to trying to enhance the public’s understanding and appreciation of the U.S. constitution and the Bill of Rights as well as promote education.  He died of a blood clot in his lung on July 2, 1997.  Over his life, his professions included a hardware store shop-hand; a brick layer; a road worker; an assistant magician; an actor; an investor; a war hero; and a philanthropist.  He also held a bachelors degree in architecture from Princeton.

Articles

The Army is close to fielding a weapon sight straight out of science fiction

In the next 18 months or so, the Army expects to field two new systems to dismounted Soldiers that will allow for more rapid acquisition of targets, even those hidden by darkness, smoke, or fog.


First out of the gate will be the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle III, expected to be fielded sometime between April and June of 2018. Shortly after, the Army hopes to field the Family of Weapons Sights – Individual, between January and March of 2019.

The FWS-I and ENVG III are unique in that the FWS-I, which would be mounted on a Soldier’s weapon, wirelessly transmits its sight picture to the ENVG III, which a Soldier wears on his helmet.

Additionally, the ENVG combines thermal imaging with more common night vision image intensification technology, which is recognizable by the green image it creates.

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Photo from US Army

Under starlight, targets may blend in with the background. But with the thermal capability overlaid on night vision, targets can’t hide in smoke or fog. They “really pop out with that contrast,” said Dean Kissinger, an electronics engineer who is currently assigned to Program Product Manger Soldier Maneuver Sensors at Program Executive Office Soldier.

Lt. Col. Anthony Douglas, who serves as product manager for Soldier Maneuver Sensors at PEO Soldier, said the two sensors have benefits beyond helping dismounted Soldiers better visualize targets. By paring the two systems wirelessly — allowing what the weapon-mounted sight is seeing to be beamed directly to the Soldier’s eye — these systems also help the Soldier acquire a target faster.

Rapid Target Acquisition

“The capability gap that we were tasked with [closing] by developing this was the rapid target acquisition capability,” Douglas said. “We are allowing the Soldier to actually see what is on their weapons sight, saving them time from having to bring the weapon to his eye.”

Master Sgt. Lashon Wilson, the senior enlisted advisor for product manager Soldier Maneuver Sensors, explained how the system will work and make it easier for a Soldier to acquire a target.

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Photo Credit: PEO Soldier

“This weapon-mounted system talks wirelessly to the smart battery pack that is on the Soldier’s head, that then transmits a signal to the ENVG III, which now displays a reticle onto the Soldier’s optic,” Wilson explained. “So now what this does is, while the Soldier is on patrol and he has his ENVG III on and he is looking, he has a greater field of view of what is going on in the battlefield.”

Soldiers wearing the ENVG III, which is mounted on their helmet, can choose to see both night-vision imagery and thermal imaging as well in their goggle. But they can also choose to see the image coming off the FWS-I that is mounted on their rifle.

A variety of modes allows Soldiers to see in their goggles only the image from the ENVG III itself, only the image from the FWS-I, or a combination of the two. Using a “picture-in-picture” mode, for instance, the image from their FWS-I is displayed at the bottom right of the image that is coming from the goggle.

In another mode, however, if the FWS-I on the rifle and the ENVG III on the Soldier’s helmet are both pointed in the same direction and seeing essentially the same thing, then the image from the FWS-I can project a reticle into the goggle. The Soldier can see the full image of what his goggle normally sees, but a circle representing the reticle from the FWS-I is overlaid onto that image, letting the Soldier know where his rifle is pointed. What this means is the Soldier doesn’t need to actually shoulder his weapon to acquire a target. That saves time for the Soldier in acquiring that target.

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Army photo by Jalen Brown

“We are saving him three to five seconds, and increasing their situational awareness on the battlefield,” Douglas said.

Additionally, because the reticle is projected onto what the Soldier is already seeing in his goggle — a much wider view of his environment than what he would see if he looked through his rifle scope — he is able to acquire a target while maintaining situational awareness of what else is going on around him.

Steep Learning Curve

At Fort Belvoir, members of the press were allowed to shoot an M-4 rifle that was equipped with the FWS-I, while wearing a helmet equipped with the ENVG III.

Several man-shaped targets were spaced out in the firing lane, each equipped with thermal blankets to simulate body heat. A pair of fog machines simulated battlefield smoke to make it difficult to acquire those targets using only day optics. Using night vision goggles alone, some of the targets could not be seen. But when combined with the thermal imaging capabilities built into the ENVG III and FWS-I, those targets were easily visible.

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Army photo by Jalen Brown

Using the system proved a bit challenging, however. When looking through the goggle, which was at one point displaying the image transmitted from the rifle-mounted FWS-I, it was hard to tell if it was the helmet that was crooked, the ENVG III that was crooked, or the shooter’s own head that wasn’t on quite straight.

“The gun is tilted,” Wilson confirmed. He served as a trainer for members of the press who were allowed to shoot.

Maj. Kevin Smith, who serves as the assistant product manager for FWS-I, said there is a “steep learning curve,” for the system.

“We just got through with the tests with the 4th Infantry Division out of Fort Carson, Colorado, back in June,” he said. “We only spent about 40 hours of in-classroom training. But we also spent about a week on the range or so. That’s where the Soldiers were really starting to get it and understand it and feel it, on the range.”

Smith said one such training event was held at Fort Carson, and two were held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.

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USMC photo by Cpl. AaronJames B. Vinculado

“Once they get comfortable with it, they really love it,” Smith said. “One Soldier, a noncommissioned officer who didn’t like it at first, later on during the last test we did, asked me when are we getting this fielded. He said he wanted it now. They want to take them to war and they want to use them.”

A Family of Sights

The soon-to-field FWS-I is meant for the M4 and M16 rifles, and can mount on those rifles in front of day sights that have already been bore-sighted, Kissinger said. What this means is that Soldiers can pop the FWS-I onto and off of their rifle without having to remove their day sights first.

The FWS-I will also work with the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, the M141 Bunker Defeat Munition, and the M136 AT4 Light Anti-Tank Weapon.

Kissinger said the FWS-I actually provides capability to both light and medium weapons. In the past, there had been sights fielded for both types of weapons. Now that FWS-I provides capability to both, he said, there will be less variations in weapons sights, and a smaller logistics trail.

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Army photo by Sgt. Jeffrey Alexander

More capability is also coming to this “family” of weapons sights, Douglas said. There will be a crew-served variant and a sniper variant as well. Both are still under development, he said.

Both the FWS-I and the ENVG III are currently in low-rate initial production. The Army hopes to buy 36,000 of the FWS-I, and about 64,000 of the ENVG III, Smith said. He also said that the new gear is targeted squarely at dismounted Soldiers with infantry brigade combat teams and special operations forces.

For now, he said, he expects it will be squad leaders and two team leaders within a squad that might first see the FWS-I.

“This is a day or night capability,” Douglas said. “We’re talking about dismounted Soldiers who would use this. For our mounted soldiers, those on the Stryker or Bradleys … they do not operate without their thermal on all the time. So we are giving the dismounted Soldier the same capability the mounted Soldiers have.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

China says new radar can spot US stealth fighters at incredible distances

China has reportedly developed an over-the-horizon maritime early warning radar system that its creator claims can detect stealth aircraft far beyond visual range, an advanced capability that could threaten US fifth-generation fighters operating in the area.

Liu Yongtan, the team leader for the radar project, told Chinese media his high-frequency surface wave radar emits “high frequency electromagnetic waves with long wavelengths and wide beams” that travel along the surface of the sea, the Global Times reported June 10, 2019, citing a recent interview with Naval and Merchant Ships magazine.

The radar system, part of China’s ongoing efforts to prevent a sneak attack by enemy stealth assets, can purportedly detect enemy air and naval threats hundreds of kilometers away in any weather condition.


The 83-year-old creator says the radar is also “immune” to anti-radiation missiles, which track the point of origin for electromagnetic waves.

Liu’s radar system, which won him the country’s highest scientific award, has been named China’s “first line of defense.”

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F-35A Lightning II.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)

Does it actually work?

Western experts argue that this type of radar, which is not new technology, offers the defending country a chance against incoming stealth assets, but there are limitations that prevent it from being the death of a fifth-generation fighter like the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.

“Because of its very long wavelengths, it can detect objects like stealthy aircraft,” Todd Harrison, an aerospace expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies told Business Insider, explaining that stealthy aircraft are designed to be less detectable to shortwave radar.

Major drawbacks, however, include the low resolution and lack of a real-time target-grade track. “It will tell you there’s something there, but you can’t characterize it,” Harrison explained, adding that the radar “can’t get a precise enough fix on a position to target it.”

Justin Bronk, an air combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute told Business Insider that “China might be better informed about where American stealth fighters are operating in the battle space, but still unable to use those radar systems to cue in missiles to actually kill them.”

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F-35 Lightning II.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexander Cook)

But, the over-the-horizon radar does have the ability to cue other types of radar systems to narrow their field of view and concentrate their radar energy on the position where an object was detected. “You have a better chance of finding it” with the over-the-horizon radar, Harrison explained.

Another big problem with the powerful Chinese radar, though, is that it is vulnerable to attack, meaning they might only be useful in the early stages of a fight.

While they may be immune to counter-radar anti-radiation missiles, these systems are large, can be easily seen from space, and could be targeted with a GPS-guided missile. “It will help you in the initial stages of conflict, but the US will probably put a missile on the antenna sites and take it out of commission pretty quickly,” Harrison said.

The Chinese radar system is also presumably vulnerable to jamming and electronic warfare attacks, a high-end capability provided by US fifth-gen fighters.

China’s new radar system is not perfect, but it does provide early warning capabilities that could alert the country to the presence of incoming stealth assets, strengthening its defenses and potentially giving it a shot.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

These were the WWI ‘Harlem Hell Fighters’

It’s African-American History Month and a fitting time to recall the black soldiers of the New York National Guard’s 15th Infantry Regiment, who never got a parade when they left for World War I in 1917.

There were New York City parades for the Guardsmen of the 27th Division and the 42nd Division and the draftee soldiers of the 77th Division.


But when the commander of the 15th Infantry asked to march with the 42nd — nicknamed the Rainbow Division — he was reportedly told that “black is not a color of the rainbow” as part of the no.

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Children wait to cheer the Soldiers of the 369th Infantry Regiment as they parade up Fifth Avenue in New York City on Feb. 17, 1919, during a parade held to welcome the New York National Guard unit home. More than 2,000 Soldiers took part in the parade up Fifth Avenue. The Soldiers marched seven miles from downtown Manhattan to Harlem.

(National Archives)

But on Feb. 17, 1919, when those 2,900 soldiers came home as the “Harlem Hell Fighters” of the 369th Infantry Regiment, New York City residents, both white and black, packed the streets as they paraded up Fifth Avenue.

“Fifth Avenue Cheers Negro Veterans,” said the headline in the New York Times.

“Men of 369th back from fields of valor acclaimed by thousands. Fine show of discipline. Harlem mad with joy over the return of its own. ‘Black Death hailed as conquering hero'” headlines announced, descending the newspaper column, in the style of the day.

“Hayward leads heroic 369th in triumphal march,” the New York Sun wrote.

“Throngs pay tribute to the Heroic 15th,” proclaimed the New York Tribune.

“Theirs is the finest of records,” the New York Tribune wrote in its coverage of the parade. “The entire regiment was awarded the Croix de Guerre. Under fire for 191 days they never lost a prisoner or a foot of ground.”

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Soldiers of the 369th Infantry Regiment parade up Fifth Avenue in New York City on Feb. 17, 1919, during a parade held to welcome the New York National Guard unit home.

(National Archives)

For that day, the soldiers the French had nicknamed “Men of Bronze” were finally heroes in their hometown.

In the early 20th Century, black Americans could not join the New York National Guard. While there were African-American regiments in the Army there were none in the New York National Guard.

In 1916, New York Gov. Charles S. Whitman authorized the creation of the 15th New York Infantry to be manned by African-Americans — with white officers — and headquartered in Harlem where 50,000 of the 60,000 black residents of Manhattan lived in 1910.

When the New York National Guard went to war in 1917, so did the 15th New York. But when the unit showed up in Spartanburg, South Carolina, to train, the soldiers met discrimination at every turn.

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New York City residents cram the sidewalks, roofs, and fire escape to see the Soldiers of the 369th Infantry Regiment march up Fifth Avenue in New York City on Feb. 17, 1919, during a parade held to welcome the New York National Guard unit home.

(National Archives)

To get his men out of South Carolina, Col. William Hayward, the commander, pushed for his unit to go to France as soon as possible. So in December 1917, well before most American soldiers, the men from Harlem arrived in France.

At first they served unloading supply ships.

But the French Army needed soldiers and the U.S. Army was ambivalent about black troops. So the 15th New York, now renamed the 369th Infantry, was sent to fight under French command, solving a problem for both armies.

In March 1918, the 369th was in combat. And while the American commander, Gen. John J. Pershing, restricted press reports on soldiers and units under his command, the French Army did not.

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Soldiers of the 369th Infantry Regiment parade up Fifth Avenue in New York City on Feb. 17, 1919, during a parade held to welcome the New York National Guard unit home.

(National Archives)

When Pvt. Henry Johnson and Pvt. Needham Roberts won the French Croix de Guerre for fighting off a German patrol it was big news in the United States. A country hungry for war news and American heroes discovered the 369th.

The 369th was in combat for 191 days; never losing a position, never losing a man as a prisoner, and only failing once to gain an objective. Their unit band, led by famed bandleader James Europe, became famous across France for playing jazz music.

When the 369th arrived in Hoboken, New Jersey, on Feb. 10, 1919, the New York City Mayor’s Committee of Welcome to the Homecoming Troops began planning the party.

On Monday, Feb. 17, the soldiers traveled by ferry from Long Island and landed at East 34th Street.

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Sgt. Henry Johnson waves to well-wishers during the 369th Infantry Regiment march up Fifth Avenue in New York City on Feb. 17, 1919, during a parade held to welcome the New York National Guard unit home.

(National Archives)

They marched up Fifth Avenue and passed a reviewing stand that included Gov. Al Smith and Mayor John Hylan at Sixtieth Street. The official parade route would cover more than seven miles from 23rd Street to 145th Street and Lennox Avenue in Harlem.

“The negro soldiers were astonished at the hundreds of thousands who turned out to see them and New Yorkers, in their turn, were mightily impressed by the magnificent appearance of these fighting men,” the New York times reported.

“Swinging up the avenue, keeping a step spring with the swagger of men proud of themselves and their organization, their rows of bayonets glancing in the sun, dull-painted steel basins on their heads, they made a spectacle that might justify pity for the Germans and explain why the boches gave them the title of the “Blutdurstig schwartze manner” or “Bloodthirsty Black men,” the Times reporter wrote.

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Wounded Soldiers of the 369th Infantry Regiment are driven up Fifth Avenue in New York City on Feb. 17, 1919, during a parade held to welcome the New York National Guard unit home.

(National Archives)

Lt. James Reese Europe marched with his band, the New York Tribune noted, while Sgt. Henry Johnson, who had killed four Germans and chased away 24 others, rode in a car because he had a “silver plate in his foot as a relic of that memorable occasion.”

“He stood up in the car and clutched a great bouquet of lilies an admirer had handed him,” the Tribune wrote about Johnson. “Waving this offering in one hand and his overseas hat in the other, the ebony hero’s way up Fifth Avenue was a veritable triumph.”

“Shouts of ‘Oh you Henry Johnson’ and ‘Oh you Black Death,’ resounded every few feet for seven long miles followed by condolences for the Kaiser’s men,” the New York Times reported.

Along the route of the march soldiers were tossed candy and cigarettes and flowers, the newspapers noted. Millionaire Henry Frick stood on the steps of his Fifth Avenue mansion and waved an American flag and cheered as the men marched past.

When the 369th turned off Fifth Avenue onto Lennox Avenue for the march into Harlem the welcome grew even louder, the New York Sun reported.

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Soldiers of the 369th Infantry Regiment parade up Fifth Avenue in New York City on Feb. 17, 1919, during a parade held to welcome the New York National Guard unit home.

(National Archives)

“There were roars of welcome that made all the music of the day shrink into itself,” the Sun reporter wrote. And although the 369th Band had 100 musicians nobody could hear the music above the crowd noise, the reporter added.

People crammed themselves onto the sidewalk and into the windows of the buildings along the route to see their soldiers come home.

“Thousands and thousands of rattlesnakes, the emblem of the 369th, each snake coiled, ready to strike, appeared everywhere, in buttonholes, in shop windows and on banners carried by the crowd,” the New York Times reported.

“By the time the men reached 135th Street they were decorated with flowers like brides, husky black doughboys plunking along with bouquets under their arms and grins on their faces that one could see to read by,” the Sun reported.

At 145th Street the parade came to its end and families went looking for their soldiers.

“The fathers and mothers and wives and sweethearts of the men would no longer be denied and they swooped through police lines like water through a sieve,” the Sun wrote.

“The soldiers were too well trained to break ranks but when a mother spied her son and threw her arms around his neck with joy at getting him back again, he just hugged her off her feet,” the paper wrote.

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The color guard of the 369th Infantry Regiment parades up Fifth Avenue in New York City on Feb. 17, 1919, during a parade held to welcome the New York National Guard unit home.

(National Archives)

With the parade over, the men were guided into subway cars and headed to the Park Avenue Amory, home of the 71st Regiment, for a chicken dinner and more socializing. The regimental band, which had begun playing at 6 a.m. and performed all day, finally got a break during the dinner and the men lay down to rest.

The New York Times noted that the band boasted five kettle drums presented to the unit by the French Army “as a mark of esteem.” They also had a drum captured from a German unit that had been “driven back so rapidly that they lost interest in bulky impedimentia.”

The New York Times estimated that 10,000 people waited outside the armory and “all the spaces about the Armory were packed with negro women and girls.” The soldiers inside ate quickly and came back out to find their families.

“I saw the allied parade in Paris and thought that was about the biggest thing that had ever happened, but this had it stopped,” Lt. James Reese Europe, the band’s commander, told the New York Sun reporter as the party ran down.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Into the Wild bus was airlifted by the Alaska National Guard for safety concerns

In 1990, Chris McCandless graduated from Emory University and set to begin an itinerant life traveling across America. He moved from California to Arizona, and eventually South Dakota where his car was disabled in a flash flood. McCandless packed up what he could carry and continued his journey on foot. In April 1992, he hitchhiked from South Dakota to Fairbanks, Alaska, where he set out on an old mining road called the Stampede Trail.

After hiking roughly 28 miles through the snow, McCandless came upon an abandoned bus, Fairbanks Bus 142. With thick vegetation deterring further progress, he set up camp in the bus and attempted to live off of the land. His journal documents that he spent 113 days in the area where he foraged for food and hunted animals. In July, after a little over two months of living in the bus, McCandless decided to return to civilization. Unfortunately, the trail was blocked by a swollen river, trapping McCandless in the wild.

On September 6, 1992, a group of hunters came upon McCandless’ bus and discovered his decomposing body in his sleeping bag. The prevailing theory regarding his death is that he died of starvation about two weeks before his body was discovered. McCandless’ story has been immortalized in Jon Krakauer’s 1996 book Into the Wild and its 2007 film adaption of the same name directed by Sean Penn.


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McCandless in front of Bus 142 (Photo by Chris McCandless)

The 1940’s-era bus that McCandless took shelter in has since become an object of intrigue, attracting tourists from around the world. However, the trek to reach the bus and the surrounding wilderness is notoriously perilous and many tourists have taken unnecessary risks to see the famous bus. Last year, a woman from Belarus drowned trying to cross the river that prevented McCandless’ return. In February of this year, five Italian tourists had to be rescued on their pilgrimage to the bus, one of them suffering from severe frostbite. As recently as April, a stranded Brazilian tourist had to be rescued after he became stranded trying to return from seeing the bus. Between 2009 and 2017, the state has carried out 15 bus-related search and rescue operations.

Out of growing safety concerns, Alaska state officials decided to remove the bus from its location on the trail outside of Denali National Park. In a joint effort between the Alaska Department of Natural Resources and the Alaska Army National Guard, Bus 142 was airlifted on June 18, 2020 by a CH-47 Chinook of the 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment. Bus 142 was flown to Healy where it was loaded onto a flatbed truck and taken to a secure location for storage. Officials have not yet decided the bus’s fate, but it may be put on public display in the future.

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Bus 142 rigged and ready to be airlifted (Alaska National Guard photo by Sgt. Seth Lacount)

The removal of the bus is sad for many people who had hoped to one day make the trek out to see it. However, the safety concerns and the costly search and rescue operations it created made Bus 142 “a perilous attraction” in the words of Denali Borough Mayor Clay Walker. “For public safety, we know it’s the right thing,” Mayor Walker said. “At the same time, it is part of our history and it does feel a little bittersweet to see a piece of our history go down the road.”


MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how insanely specific WWI fighter planes had to be

In December of 1903, the Wright Brothers made history in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina as they took to the skies in their powered and controlled aircraft, making an 852-foot flight. Less than a dozen years later, mankind revolutionized military aviation with a hugely important invention: the synchronization gear.

This ingenious device managed the milliseconds that stood between crashing to the ground and defeating your enemy.


In the early days of World War I, aviation was still very much in its infancy. People were skeptical about the effectiveness of aircraft in battle, so many turned to mounted cavalry for reconnaissance. When that couldn’t cut it, they finally gave aircraft a shot — which turned out to be an effective way to cross no-man’s land without serious risk.

The low-power engines of the time, however, couldn’t build enough lift to carry any weapons what weren’t also found on the battlefield below. Machine guns only become a viable option once the engineers increased wing space. Thus, the iconic biplane was born.

The 10 worst armies in the world
Or you could fly with three winged Fokker Dr.I like the Red Baron because why not?

The attached machine gun, which usually faced the rear of the aircraft, could rain Hell from above, but they were extremely ineffective against other aircraft. To address that need, they affixed a forward-facing machine gun that could fire in the direction of the aircraft. The problem was, however, that there was a propeller to contend with.

As an interim solution, the British developed the F.E.2. This machine-gun faced the front of planes but, to avoid hitting the propellers, it was located in the middle of the aircraft. It wasn’t pretty but it was an effective compromise.

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(Phillip Capper)

Then, the Germans introduced their newest advancement: the synchronization gear. Pilot Kurt Wintgens scored the first aerial victory utilizing one on July 1, 1915 — and it changed everything.

The theory behind it is fairly simple to explain. The machine gun was placed directly behind the propellers and would fire only when the propellers were safely out of the way. The execution, however, was much trickier. A poorly timed synchronization gear meant that the pilot would drop out of the sky like Wile E. Coyote.

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Not something you’d want to have happen while you’re almost a kilometer above enemy territory.
(National Archive)

Let’s talk mechanics: A timing cam rotated at the same speed as the propellers. This would physically stop the trigger from pulling at the moment a propeller was in the line of fire. The timing cam allowed the propeller to move at a various RPMs without adjusting the machine gun itself.

Americans improved on this design by employing hydraulics near the end of the war. This meant a faster rate of fire, more acute synchronization, and increased gun accuracy. The system could be adapted for nearly any engine and aircraft. The synchronization gear became a relic after the jet engine eliminated the need for propellers, but it still stands as one of the most ingenious inventions in aviation.

For more information on the physics of WWI aviation, check out the video below:

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

How to do the military spouse career balancing act

Military spouse careers are a unique balancing act. We are always teetering between what is best for ourselves, our military members and our families. The military lifestyle means many things are out of our control. What can spouses control in this uncertain, often stressful, amazing adventure called military life?


Control Over Our Careers

We do not envision ourselves pursuing an education, vocation or degree to land a job and work our way up the ladder, only to have it fall apart once we marry into the military. None of us plan for our careers to take a back seat to that of our beloved member of the armed forces. We have our own career aspirations. We do not aspire to be underemployed or unemployed. Unfortunately, this is often our reality. When do military spouses get to put our careers first and submit our “dream sheet” for life?

Luckily, there are many resources available to enable us to have more control over our careers, despite the challenges presented by the military lifestyle. Organizations and publications exist to tackle the military spouse employment issues identified by recent Blue Star Families Military Family Lifestyle Surveys. Specific resources encourage educational, mentoring, advocacy and entrepreneurial opportunities for spouses. There are work-from-home, flexible, telework and remote work options available if we know how to search for them appropriately. We can take control of our careers by utilizing available resources and researching our options. Included below is a list of a few available career resources specifically for military spouses.

Balancing our careers with our family’s well-being

Like all working parents, we must consider what our career options mean for our families. Our goals and aspirations may not be the best thing for all parties involved. We are always balancing our happiness against what is best for our children. The military lifestyle means deployments, long periods away for one parent, and frequent moves. These types of challenges compound the need for us to focus on others above ourselves. We want to provide stability for our families when the military cannot.

As spouses, we do have control over recognizing and prioritizing the needs of our family and ourselves. We can have honest, open discussions with our military members and families about our career goals, needs, and dreams. Our children learn from watching us as parents. As military spouses, we have a unique opportunity to show our children how to develop a strong work ethic, appreciate career and gender equality, set goals, and pursue dreams.

Our service member’s careers can benefit ours

In a perfect world, the military member’s career and that of the spouse always align. The reality is, the service member’s career always comes first. The active-duty opportunities dictate our location, home choices, our children’s schools, and, ultimately, our career opportunities as military spouses. However, we can control how we advocate for ourselves regarding the service member’s career. Perhaps if we compromise, the next duty station can provide options that benefit both careers. The following location might hold additional educational opportunities for spouses. If childcare is an issue, we can advocate to move closer to our support resources.

We are not that different from our career-oriented civilian spouse counterparts. Any families with two employed parents struggle with similar balancing acts. However, the military lifestyle brings an added layer of complexity. There is a lack of control over one’s own life that comes along with the military. They are called orders for a reason. Military members, spouses, and families do not have a choice.

However, as spouses, we can choose how we deal with the orders. We can make career choices that allow us to have less uncertainty and anxiety in our lives. We can pursue our dreams and passions. We can determine our career destiny separate from that of our military members. We may not have control over what the military hands us, but we do have control over how we handle what comes our way. Perhaps, we can find more life balance and career satisfaction if we focus on what we can control.

Articles

The F-35 hits an unusual snag: the US dollar

The F-35 program has hit another snag, this time not an expensive production mishap or overrun, but the strength of the dollar itself.


At Lockheed Martin’s 2017 Media Day, Jeff Babione, general manager of the F-35 program, laid out the “blueprint for affordability,” or the defense giant’s plan to bring down the cost of the Joint Strike Fighter to below $85 million in the coming batches.

But therein lies a problem.

The 10 worst armies in the world
An F-35A Lightning II from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, takes off from Nellis AFB, Nev., Feb. 2, 2017, during Red Flag 17-01. This is the first F-35A deployment to Red Flag since the Air Force declared the jet combat ready in August 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

With about half of the F-35s Lockheed Martin intends to build in the next five years heading out to foreign countries, even in house belt-tightening and big initial investments to help ramp up to economies of scale can’t offset the strong dollar.

Asked by a Wall Street Journal reporter if the dollar’s high exchange rate with foreign currencies is a problem for the most expensive weapons system in the history of the world, Babione said, “I think it is.”

“We’ve had some of our customers come up and raise the concern that this may potentially hurt their buys,” said Babione, who noted that some elements of production cannot move outside of the country to help mitigate costs for foreign buyers.

“We have some 1,700 suppliers in seven countries around the world. Many of the countries that are buying the F-35 produce parts for the F-35,” said Babione. But still, Babione concluded that currency exchange rates not withstanding, the best tactic is just to get the F-35’s price down, period.

The 10 worst armies in the world
A pilot takes the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter aircraft up for its first night flight near Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., Jan. 18, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo)

“What I think I can do is drive the price down so whatever the exchange rate is, it’s affordable,” Babione said.

As of today, the most expensive F-35 is the Navy’s troubled variant, which remains under a review announced by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis as it’s being compared to Boeing’s F-18 Advanced Super Hornet package.

Meanwhile, U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan told reporters that Lockheed Martin’s blueprint for affordability was “just ok,” and suggested revisiting the supply chain instead of simply seeking bigger upfront investments, as Defense News notes.

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