The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division 'White House' at Pendleton - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton

The building has withstood the test of time. It has seen generations of Marines enter and leave its halls. It has seen Marines off to several wars from the shores of Pacific Islands, the mountains of North Korea, the jungles of Vietnam, and the deserts of the Middle East. It has served as the operational and cultural epicenter of the 1st Marine Division — the most storied and consequential Division in the United States Marine Corps. It has seen its share of history both for the division and the Corps.

The building has even been reviewed as a historical site, still bearing the simple style and white paint associated with World War II era buildings, which were originally meant to be temporary. Few of its kind are still standing across the nation, yet it remains, bold in both color and design, while its peers have been replaced over the decades. If you walk through the musty halls that were once treaded by the likes of Chesty Puller and James Mattis, you can see the artwork — paintings of past commanders, old battle scenes ripped from the pages of history and photos of Marines from modern wars.


“It’s a unique building,” said Colonel Christopher S. Dowling, former Chief of Staff of the 1st Marine Division. “When it was built in 1942-1943 it was supposed to only last five years, five years — that was it.”

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton

U.S. Marine Corps Col. Christopher S. Dowling.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Audrey M. C. Rampton)

Humanity creates things that last; tools which pass through dozens of hands before becoming worn beyond use, structures that stand strong for decades, centuries and even several millennia. There are also occasions where we make things for a simple and easy use, where they are only meant to last for short periods of time. Building 1133 of Camp Pendleton, better known as “the white house” was one such structure. Acting as both a headquarters and administration building for the growing conflict in the Pacific, it even expanded to accommodate the needs of the 3rd, 4th and 5th Marine Divisions that also participated in World War II’s Pacific Theatre.

“The sergeant major’s office is my favorite room,” said USMC Sgt. Maj. William T. Sowers, former sergeant major of the 1st Marine Division. “The amount of detail in the wood and the fire place gives it that really old feeling and gives off the air of a museum.”

In the early years it did not have the nickname “the white house”. It stood amongst many buildings that were painted the same cheap, bare off-white and was not unique beyond its purpose. Styled like many of the buildings to ensure the security of the command, it served many Marines throughout the Pacific for the course of World War II.

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton

The 1st Marine Division Headquarters Building on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Joseph Prado)

The structure grew upon the Marines that called it home and in 1946 it was officially ordained the 1st Marine Division Headquarters building. This would lead to it being modified decades later, not once, but twice to ensure the building could continue to function and support the many Marines that passed through its halls. Though the renovations have ensured the building has stayed with both the times and technology of the era from phone wiring to internet within its walls, its overall structure and design are still the same as it was when first built.

“It was not as iconic to us during our time,” said U.S. Marine Corps Retired General Matthew P. Caulfield. “We never knew it as ‘the white house’. We never thought about the fact it was the division command post during World War II. We simply knew it as the place we work, though we sometimes referred to it as ‘the head shed’.”

Due to the era in which ‘the white house’ was made, there were many developmental needs required of it during that time. One of the largest was the need to withstand a possible attack. A Japanese invasion of the U.S. was a realistic threat in the 40s. To ensure the safety of the command staff, the building was meant to be indistinguishable from the rest. To those born in the last 40 years, the very concept of a military attack on the U.S. is simply something that would not and could not happen. But in 1940, when Camp Pendleton was officially opened, thousands of Marines marched up from San Diego for combat exercises against a fake enemy. It caused a panic within the civilian population. People initially thought a Japanese invasion had occurred. The base’s presence even led to a drop in the housing market, a fact that is inconceivable to most Southern California home owners today.

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton

The main gate of Camp Pendleton.

The threat of attack from the skies influenced much of what would become Camp Pendleton as we know it today. The camps on base are spread wide across the camp’s more than 195 square miles, originally designed to protect the base from being crippled in one decisive airstrike, according to Dowling. In the attics of the White House and other buildings from the era, there is still evidence of the original plywood roofing used. Pressed wood was used at the time for two reasons: actual wood planks were in immediate need to build and replace decks of Navy ships, and pressed wood was less likely to create deadly wood debris if the buildings were stuck by a Japanese bomber.

“The white house” was designed by Myron B. Hunt, Harold C. Chambers and E. L. Ellingwood. Their firms handled the development of several buildings across Camp Pendleton during the 1940s. Based on the U.S. Navy B-1 barracks, which was a common design to further make the building indistinguishable from other building on base at the time, making it less of a target for Japanese bombers after Pearl Harbor. Few of these barracks are still left standing after the 70 plus years since their development. The B-1, much like its sibling structure, “the white house” was only a temporary design meant to last for the duration of the war. In 1983 congress would pass the Military Construction Authorization Bill of 1983, which demolished many of the older temporary structures of World War II in favor of new designs. Some structures were renovated due to their historical significance. “The white house” interior was included in these renovations. The building underwent changes to its exterior but maintained its current shape with only a few minor changes.

Since its construction many people have entered “the white house” and many more have driven past it. It is an iconic symbol of the 1st Marine Division with dozens of memorials surrounding it, capturing the sacrifice of every Marine who fought with the Division during its many battles through our history. From officers arriving at its doors in 1940 Ford staff cars, to 1968 Volkswagen Beatles, and even more recently, a 2018 name your make and model. When one steps out of their vehicle, they would gaze up at the white building marked by the iconic blue diamond and the battle streamers the division has earned.

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton

The 1st Marine Division Headquarters Building on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, May 17, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Joseph Prado)

In the old days it would support the entire command staff, but now much of the command is spread out across Camp Pendleton. Many Blue Diamond alum have even thought of making it into a museum, given the many historical pieces that already line its halls. It gives off that feeling of having entered a place engrained with history.

“The iconic building of the ‘Blue Diamond,’ it is the division,” said Sowers. “Many people assume that this is the main command post for the Marine Expeditionary Force or even the Marine Corps Installations West.”

Many of the older veterans were not using to dealing with the commands of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, said Sowers. When they thought of “the white house” they’d think of the commanding general who presided over all they knew of the Marines on the West Coast at that time.

Generals, majors, sergeants and lance corporals have walked its halls over the last 70 years. Some still live amongst us while others have given the ultimate sacrifice. Their memories and actions live through both the 1st Marine Division and “the white house” itself, which has been an unchanging monument to the Marines of the 1st Marine Division. No matter the age in which one served the Division, all have known that building in one way or another. It is a testament to both the Division and the Marines that have served. Our ideals have become engrained into its very structure and it has become a permanent member in both the hearts and minds of the Marines of the 1st Marine Division.

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

World War I created millions of conscripted Veterans, improved benefits

World War I marked the fourth time Congress declared war, but just the first time America instituted a draft. The “Great War” also created a new series of benefits for Veterans–some that exist in different forms today.


The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton

A story from The Cook County News-Heraldfrom Grand Marais, Minnesota, July 4, 1917, referring to World War I registration slackers.

VA

World War I and the draft

April 6 marks the start of the U.S. involvement in World War I, which 4.7 million Americans fought in.

President Woodrow Wilson asked for a declaration of war April 2, 1917. The Senate voted April 4 and the House of Representatives voted to adopt the war resolution April 6.

Despite the declaration, American men did’nt volunteer in large numbers. Because the U.S. needed to organize, train and equip a force to fight Germany, Congress passed the Selective Service Act, which started U.S. conscription.

Following the May 18 passage, the first draft registration day was June 5, 1917, for the 48 states and Washington, D.C. In July, the first draft registration for Puerto Rico, Alaska and Hawaii started. This period also started the round up of draft evaders, called “slackers.”

According to the Library of Congress, over 70% of American Army troops were conscripts.

Of the 4.7 million Americans who fought, 116,000 died in service and 204,000 were wounded.

New benefits

Veterans did see new benefits arise out of their World War I service. Congress amended the War Risk Insurance Act of 1914 in 1917 to offer government-subsidized life insurance for Veterans. Additional legislation provided Veterans a discharge allowance at the end of the war.

The War Risk amendments also established authority for Veterans to receive rehabilitation and vocational training. The benefits focused on Veterans with dismemberment, sight, hearing, and other permanent disabilities. Injured service members remained in service and trained for new jobs.

The Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1918 provided vocational rehabilitation training for honorably discharged disabled World War I Veterans. The act also gave special monthly maintenance allowances for Veterans who couldn’t carry on a gainful occupation. In 1919, a new law fixed Veteran medical care. It gave the Public Health Service greater responsibility, transferred military hospitals to the Public Health Service and authorized new hospitals.

The war also produced another benefit for service members: information. For 17 months, The Stars and Stripes newspaper informed American service members about the war. Over 100 years later, the publication still provides independent news and information to active duty, Department of Defense civilians, Veterans, contractors and families.

Current day

For information on VA life insurance, visit https://www.va.gov/life-insurance/options-eligibility/.

To learn about VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment, see https://www.benefits.va.gov/vocrehab/.

To read about the current Military Selective Service Act, last amended July 9, 2003, go to the Selective Service System website.

Listen to what the National Commission on Military, National and Public Service is working on to report to Congress on the military selective service process.

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

Articles

The Army once considered putting the A-10’s BRRRRT! on a tank

The A-10 Thunderbolt II, popularly known as the Warthog, was originally designed as a “tank-killer”. In fact, the entire aircraft was essentially built around a 30 mm rotary cannon, known as the GAU-8 Avenger, a fearsome name for a gun capable of spitting out depleted uranium shells the size of soda bottles designed to shred heavy Soviet tanks and armored personnel carriers into mental confetti.


While the Avenger’s primary use has been as the A-10’s main weapon, seeing combat action from the Persian Gulf War onward, the US Army once considered making this cannon its own by mounting it on the very thing it was created to destroy: tanks.

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton
General Electric’s concept of the M247 Sergeant York, complete with a shortened version of the Avenger (General Electric)

In the late 1970s, the US Army began looking to replace their aging force of self-propelled anti-aircraft guns with newer, more effective systems that could do a similar job with even more lethality and effectiveness than ever before. The result of this search for new air defense artillery would be fielded alongside the Army’s newest and fighting vehicles — namely the M1 Abrams main battle tank and the M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle, as part of the service’s vision for the future.

A competition under the Division Air Defense name was thus created.

The goal of the DIVAD program was to design, build and field a self-propelled air defense gun system, able to engage and shoot down low-flying enemy aircraft with controlled bursts of shells from a cannon mounted on a turret. The system would be manned by a small crew, aided by a radar tracking system that would pick up targets and “slave” the gun to them before firing.  In concept, the DIVAD vehicle could go anywhere, dig in and wait for enemy aircraft to appear, then shoot them down quickly.

One of the various participants in the competition, according to Jane’s Weapon Systems 1988-1989, was General Electric, fresh from designing the GAU-8 Avenger for what would be the Air Force’s next air support attack jet – the A-10 Warthog. General Electric had the bright idea to take a modified version of the Avenger and place it in a turret, configured to hold its weight while moving the cannon around quickly to track and hit new targets as they appeared.

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton
The GAU-8/A Avenger Gatling gun next to a VW Type 1. Removing an installed GAU-8 from an A-10 requires first installing a jack under the aircraft’s tail to prevent it from tipping, as the cannon makes up most of the aircraft’s forward weight. (US Air Force photo)

The turret, in turn, would be mated to the chassis of an M48 Patton main battle tank as per program requirements, giving it mobility. Able to spit out shells at a rate of 3900 rounds per minute at an effective range of 4000 feet, the Avenger would’ve been a major threat to the safety of any aircraft in the vicinity, sighted through its radar.

However, General Electric’s entry, referred to as the Air Defense Turret, didn’t advance during the DIVAD program. Instead, Ford and General Dynamics were given prototype production contracts to build their designs for testing, with Ford ultimately winning the competition. Known as the M247 Sergeant York, Ford’s anti-aircraft gun system was much more conventional, significantly lighter and apparently somewhat cheaper to build than the Avenger cannon concept.

However, it under-performed severely, much to the embarrassment of its parent company and the Army.

The DIVAD program soon proved to be an abject failure, with nothing to show for pouring millions into the project and the Sergeant York prototypes. The M247 couldn’t adequately track target drones with its radars, even when the drones were made to hover nearly stationary.

In 1985, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger finally put the program out of its misery, noting that missiles were the future of air defense.

The Avenger cannon nevertheless does serve in a somewhat similar role today, functioning as the core of the Goalkeeper Close-In Weapon System, found on a number of modern warships around the world. Goalkeeper is designed to engage surface-skimming missiles aimed at naval vessels and obliterate them by putting up a “wall of steel” – essentially a massive scattered burst of shells which will hopefully strike and detonate the missile a safe distance away from the ship.

Still, one can’t help but wonder just how incredibly awesome mounting a 30mm Gatling cannon to a tank could have been, had the Army chosen to pursue General Electric’s idea instead of Ford’s.

Military Life

6 things a milspouse wants people to know about her life

The day my husband swore in to the US Marine Corps, his veteran grandfather gave me a book that had belonged to his late wife: “The Marine Corps Wife,” published in 1955.

This marked the first of many sources I came across in my quest to figure out Military Spouse 101; as a new, eager (and, frankly, naive) military wife, I was desperate to *prepare* myself for the life that lay ahead of me.


I was met with (what I believed to be) a veritable charcuterie of articles and forums — but as the years went by, I noticed that there was something missing. The spread was inadequate, repetitive, and at times, toe-curlingly tacky; a little more big box store than French boutique, if you will.

There’s a slew of contemporary literature out there for the prospective military bride, but among the twee messages about “stages of deployment” and care packages and (yawn) PCS season, there are myriad mil-nuances that your average milspouse blogger will omit.

The truth is, there’s a delicate disconnect between the star-spangled blogs and real-life immersion in military culture; the too long/didn’t read version is, quite simply, that military life is not real life.

No one — no musty tome or cheery modern blogger —quite prepared me for this.

Granted, I’ve drunk my fair share of military Kool-Aid (and — yikes — tap water) in the relatively short time my husband and I have been married, but I’m here to tell you about the subtext, the small-print: some of the things you don’t hear about military life.

amy_photo_2


1. It’s not glamorous.

Imagine: Laundry that smells worse than Lake Bandini, dowsing your true love’s blistered feet in hydrogen peroxide, and the smell of MRE farts. And I can’t speak for everyone, but when I think of deployments, I think of cheap wine, popcorn for dinner, and record-breaking Netflix marathons (shout-out to me for slaying six seasons of “Lost” in a month).

Even the movie-montage-worthy highlights are largely unspectacular. I’ll take all the flack that comes my way for admitting this, but farewell ceremonies before deployments are, honestly, rather tedious; imagine a lot of standing around for several irksome hours while bags are loaded and fed-up children cry.

Homecomings happen at relatively short notice, rarely do things go according to plan, and there’s always those awkward hours of families standing around with bedazzled signs, twiddling their thumbs. There’s the heartbreaking sight of junior enlisted troops trudging off to the barracks without anyone to greet them, the readjustment phase that no clipart-laden pamphlet can prepare you for, and work begins as usual within an obscenely short window of time.

It’s worth it — it’s always worth it — but trust me, nothing about military life is glamorous.

amy_photo_5


2. Your spouse’s job affects your social life.

Ah, the mother of all military spouse debates: does your husband’s rank determine your social life?!

Unpopular opinion: yes. Yes, it does. A military spouse’s life is at least somewhat affected by their significant other’s job. And yes, it’s as asinine and frustrating as it sounds.

By this, I do not, by any stretch of the imagination, mean that there are ranks among spouses —even my quaint 1950’s wife manual states as much, for goodness’ sake — and the (perceived) dichotomy between officers’ spouses and enlisted spouses only exists if one allows it to.

Lore of spouse’s “wearing” rank is, more often that not, just that: social myth. That’s not to say that wives who refer to “our” promotion or bluster when they aren’t saluted don’t exist, but these rare prima donnas are best left to stew in their own little worlds.

We military spouses do, however, have to accept that our significant other’s job will have some degree of influence over our social life. Fraternization rules dictate who service-members can and cannot be friends with, and therefore, socializing as a couple can get a little thorny. We learn to accept that it’s at least expected that we’ll make an effort with the spouses of our husband’s chain of command (I consider myself to be enormously blessed in that I ended up making some seriously fabulous friends this way).

We also become accustomed to pasting on a smile and being ultra-nice to the people our partner tells us to be pleasant to, even when we’re cranky and would rather not be a circus monkey, thank you very much.

Amy photo 1


3. It’s seriously old-fashioned.

Sorry, not sorry, y’all: military life is pretty archaic. The question of how to solve this is a much bigger one than I can give credence to, so, for now, I’ll stick with a few illuminating personal examples.

Recently, I took a vacation by myself because my husband had to work through the weekend. This simple endeavor was met with pure shock in dozens of my peers: to think, a married woman might travel to a new place on her own. Pass the smelling salts!

At the ripe old age of 26, no single group of people has ever been so interested in my reproductive health or family planning methods — not even my grandparents, and trust me, they are thirsty for grand-babies. Turns out, there’s an unspoken timeline in military marriages, and after a certain point — generated by some vague algorithm involving your age and the amount of time you’ve been married — people feel no shame in asking unsolicited questions.

I’ll also never forget how I read a three-page list of guidelines for wives of Marines attending the annual USMC birthday ball; highlights included a friendly reminder to “remember: this is not about you,” and a subsequent series of commandments forbidding everything to include cleavage, talking before one’s servicemember, and being afraid of utensils. Bless this lady’s heart; the piece was punctuated with a reminder to “HAVE FUN!!”

I wish someone had at least forewarned me of this before I married my husband. It wouldn’t have changed a thing — I like, like like him, guys — but this retrograde aspect of the military is something that I do wish people talked about more openly. Stay tuned for the book to follow.

4. It’s freaking weird.

There are endless quirks to life on a military base; granted, you become accustomed to them fairly quickly, but to an outsider, it’d be pretty easy to see why most people inside the military community refer to it as a “bubble.”

For example, when you live on a military base, gone are the days when you can roll out of your car and into the grocery store in your favorite Spongebob pajamas; there’s a dress code, ma’am, and you’ll be kicked out if you don’t stick to it. You get used to passing gas stations for tanks, helicopters passing overheard stopping your conversation in its tracks, and speed limits that seem more adequately designed for tortoises. You stand to attention (yes, even as a civilian) for colors twice a day. You notice the coded badges pinned to people’s collars, and you understand what they mean.

It’d take a real Scrooge to hate all these strange subtleties, though; it just becomes part of life that, when you’re extracted from it, is simply a little bit kooky.

amy bryne


5. This is a job that your spouse can’t escape from.

Now, when I come home from work, I have the luxury of becoming real-life Amy the moment I clock out. My husband? Not so much.

Servicemembers are paid by rank, not by the total amount of hours worked (which is arguably criminal if you look at the military pay rate, especially for junior enlisted ranks). Thus, they’re never “off the clock.”

This bleeds into everyday life, even when they’re not working. They’re never not a Marine, a soldier, a sailor, or an airman.

If I could only take back the number of hours I’ve lost waiting for my husband to get his weekly haircut, I could probably take a short sabbatical with them. He shaves every morning that he has to go out in public (save for the cheeky vacation scruff of 2017, RIP). He receives work-related phone calls at all hours of the day, seven days a week. Vacations are a precarious endeavor that are dictated by ops temp o, deployments, and leave blocks — not simply a whim and accumulated hours.

Furthermore, the military life whittles at the character of the person you married. In my case, this has been all positive; my husband has truly blossomed since he became an active duty Marine, and I wouldn’t trade any of the lost hours (or facial hair) for this immaculately-sculpted person.

Regardless, cheesy stories aside, no-one ever tells you that the job will mold the human you wed in ways you weren’t anticipating.

6. It does take a specific type of person to be a military spouse.

In the beginning, I naively thought that marriage would be easy (that was my first mistake).

The second, larger mistake was ardently believing that anyone could be successfully married to a service-member if they wanted to. I truly believed that grit and love were the only necessary components of a lasting military marriage.

Now, I look at long-term military spouses with nothing less than awe; to weather decades as a military spouse is a truly incredible feat.

You have to be tolerant. You have to be flexible. You have to be resilient. You have to be extroverted, or at least sociable enough to fool all the pools of new people you’re thrown in with on a regular basis. You have to be willing to make sacrifices to your career — because fulfilling, military-spouse-proof, work-from-home jobs don’t grow on trees (whatever Susan’s pyramid scheme would have you believe). You have to be capable enough to manage a household single-handedly, but humble enough to be sidelined in social situations.

Could I do it? I’m not sure; time will tell.

What I am sure of is that military couples who manage to maintain strong, healthy relationships over long periods of time deserve unadulterated respect.

The bottom line? Military life is a life of sacrifice, however large or small, for servicemembers and their families.

Admitting this is not martyrdom, it’s an admission of truth in a world that encourages marriage without making it known that civilian wellbeing is not a priority.

Ultimately, I think if we talked about this elephant in the room, instead of laughing at it and labeling it a “dependa,” we’d see some real change in military family culture.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to display ‘Old Glory’ with honor

This week, American flags will be displayed across the nation in celebration of the Independence Day holiday. Following a few guidelines can ensure we are displaying Old Glory properly.

In 1923, the U.S. National Flag Code was created and distributed nationwide. The code became Public Law in 1942 and became the U.S. Flag Code we know today. The U.S. Flag Code lays out the ways to display and respect the flag of the United States.

For example:


• The flag should not be on display outdoors during bad weather.

• The flag should not be used for advertising purposes, or embroidered on cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins or boxes.

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton
Above all

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael Fuller)

• The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding or drapery.

• It should never be displayed upside down unless trying to convey a sign of distress or great danger.

• When displayed either horizontally or vertically against a wall, the union should be uppermost and to the flag’s own right, that is, to the observer’s left. When displayed in a window, the flag should be displayed in the same way, with the union or blue field to the left of the observer in the street.

Other Do’s and Don’ts:

• Clean and damage-free flags should always be used. Dirty, ripped, wrinkled or frayed flags should not be used. Also, when flags are damaged, they should be destroyed in a dignified manner.

• The U.S. flag should flow freely in the wind or in a lobby with a passing breeze as people walk past. Stretching a flag is a lot like walking around with your arms held out straight. It is not to be held captive by metal arm spreaders as if to say, “Look at me!”

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class George M. Bell)

• Staffs and finials should always be upright and not leaning.

• Clamping a U.S. flag to a vehicle’s antenna is acceptable, or the flagstaff clamped to the right fender, as long as the flag displays in the proper direction.

• Service flags are displayed in order of service precedence, not the host service where they are displayed. The order of precedence is Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard.

• Army music unit wearing 18th-century style uniforms participates in parade.

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton

(National Guard photo)

• When displaying the U.S. flag with other flags, the U.S. flag comes first and is centered in the middle of a flag display. In addition, the U.S. flag must be placed higher than the other flags, unless other national flags are present. In that case the U.S. flag would be the same height.

• Buntings are a good way to display the national colors and decorate for Independence Day without discrediting the U.S. flag.

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s how the Air Force keeps its biggest planes in the air

In a team, there’s a leader, a lancer, the smart guy and the lovable big guy.

In the Air Force, it’s the fighter jets, the stealth bombers, the drones and the cargo planes … except they aren’t as beloved as the big guy.

Often overshadowed by their more aggressive, quicker and sleeker cousins, the fighter jets, the heavy aircraft are the airframes that carry the US Air Force and sister-service components, and it is about time they get the love they deserve.


Some people tend to think the Air Force is all about the pilots that bring the fight to the enemy and protect America’s freedoms from the sky with sleek, supersonic fighter jets. They’re not wrong, to a point. Fighter pilots in the Air Force do exactly that.

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton

Crew chiefs with the 421st Aircraft Maintenance Unit work on an F35A Lightning II at Hill Air Force Base, in Utah, July 31, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

But just as an army marches on its stomach, an air force’s mobility depends on the fleet of aircraft and maintainers to handle the logistics of troop and material movement. That is where the heavies and their crew come in.

Aircraft from the modern C-17 Globemaster III and the KC-46 Pegasus — the new kid on the block — to the venerable C-130 Hercules, B-52 Stratofortress, KC-135 Stratotanker and others play a massive role in the service’s global operations, all with different purposes. Although one commonality they have is this — all of their crew chiefs start their careers with training at Sheppard AFB.

“For their first 23 days of training, its fundamentals,” said Master Sgt. Jason Ricke, section chief for 362nd Training Squadron’s Heavies Flight. “Fundamentals have a large focus. They learn a lot about fighters, heavies, some of the UAVs, bombers cargo, but if they’re going to 135s, the 52, or 130s, they’ll learn the specifics here [in the 362nd Training Squadron.]”

Ricke said students, whether coming in with some experience in mechanics or can’t tell the difference between a wrench and a hammer, will learn the heavy maintainer lifestyle and comradery in the crew chief apprentice course.

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton

C-130 crew chief apprentice students open the cargo door of a C-130 Hercules at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas, Nov. 20, 2018.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Pedro Tenorio)

“A lot of people don’t know what goes into being a crew chief specifically. It’s a lot of hours and hard work,” Tech. Sgt. Dennis Neville, 362nd Training Squadron Instructor Supervisor for the C-130 course, said. “We get students with a wide range of ages and backgrounds. Some of them who are excited to be here, some who don’t know what they will be doing yet. That’s something they’ll pick up and go with once they get out on that flight line and once they see their aircraft fly for the first time.”

Neville said there is no better feeling as a crew chief than seeing your aircraft leave with a pallet of supplies or a pallet of patients or even filled to the brim with bullets and bombs and watch it come back with nothing. Knowing that it completed its mission, but not without the help of the crew chiefs.

“Without the maintainers, and not just crew chiefs but maintainers in general, these aircraft don’t fly or at least they aren’t going to fly like they’re supposed to,” Neville said. “[The pilot] will have no guidance systems, no electrical systems, you definitely can’t fly without your engines, you gotta have fuels as well, different shops maintain those systems without them, that aircraft would just sit there and people will just admire it from the ground and it’ll never get to do its mission.”

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton

US Air Force crew chief trainees change a tire on a KC-10 Extender at Travis Air Force Base, California, Feb. 7, 2018.

(US Air Force photo by Heide Couch)

This mission to get these aircraft in the air is exemplified in the crew chiefs that must undergo months of training learning more than three volumes of information. Information pertaining to engine pylons, navigator positions, booms, loadmaster tasks and refueling missions, the crew chief will learn all these tasks, depending on their assigned airframe.

Crew chiefs are part of the maintenance force that ensure aircraft are airworthy and mission-ready so pilots can complete their various variety of missions.

Examples of the wide range of missions for the C-130, one of USAF’s oldest and most reliable assets, can range from humanitarian missions, military supply runs to allies all over the world, transporting hardware like tanks for the Army, to being outfitted into a AC-130 “Spooky” gunship and going to battle with an array of weaponry to wreak havoc on the enemy.

The KC-135’s mission is a bit more streamlined as it is about 300 gas stations with wings. Its mission is to refuel other aircraft during flight so they can continue their mission without landing.

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton

B-52 crew chief apprentice course students install a drag chute onto a B-52 Stratofortress at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas, Nov. 19, 2018.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Pedro Tenorio)

The B-52 is the oldest bomber in the Air Force inventory, having first begun flying in the 1950s. The fortress in the sky is able to fly long distances and carry around 70,000 pounds of mixed ordnance.

All these flying giants are sustained by crew chiefs that have trained at Sheppard. Ricke said the crew chief job, while daunting at times, because of the age of some aircraft in the fleet, is also rewarding because he works on aircraft and builds camaraderie with fellow maintainers. It’s why he continues to put on the uniform.

“What our instructors instill the most within the students is the brotherhood and sisterhood between all maintainers,” he said.

Ricke said everyone who joined the Air Force, right next to their personal reason, was a desire to be part of something bigger than themselves, a desire to be part of a team or a second family. He said being an Air Force maintainer is something a student, whether or not they specifically wanted the maintainer job, will learn to and hopefully become excited about being part of this important team of unsung heroes.

“That’s probably the main things that really kept me around,” he said. “You’ll never make better friends than the ones you make in the military service. When it’s easy and nice anyone can do the job, but when it gets tough and dirty that’s when the best people show up and that’s when best friends make it fun.”

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton

From left, Airman Greg Hogle, Airman 1st Class Daniel Miranda, Airman George Michael Singer III, and Airman Brycen Brooks, all B-52 crew chief apprentice course students, in a B-52 Stratofortress at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas, July 2, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Pedro Tenorio)

Ricke said he tries to instill these values into the students who come through that while doing their job, know there’s people who are there that can help pick up the slack as being a maintainer is a hard job. He and Neville also encourage students to try to become flying crew chiefs, a position that makes all the hardships seem worth it.

“The first time they get to do their first TDY when becoming a flying crew chief, that’s really when it gets brought home and you get to see your part of this mission,” Neville said. “The biggest thing is that drive and force, needs to remember, those pilots can’t fly those without us and who doesn’t want to fly over the world as a part of your job. There’s great food all over the world.”

Ricke said the same thing about flying crew chiefs being one of the more rewarding parts of the hard crew chief life and said whether the mission is a four to five day trip just dropping supplies or working on an military training exercise with the Army for two weeks, becoming a flying crew chief is a goal any new crew chief should strive for.

Many of the aircraft in the Air Force’s heavies fleet will be on display at the SAFB Air Show this Oct. 26-27, showing off the often underappreciated heavy aircraft that are the base of our Air Force.

“For all our cargo aircraft, they will be opened up so people can walk through it, go in the flight deck, they can experience it all,” Ricke said. “That’s the thing for us, showing them one aspect of how this little thing makes all this move around, it’s all just a piece of the puzzle and to show them that we don’t just have fighters or bombers, they can learn about the cargo mission, the training mission.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Can military spouses be buried in veterans cemeteries?

You may know that most veterans can be buried in state and national veterans cemeteries for little or no money, but what about their spouses and other dependents?

Your spouse may be eligible to be buried with you in a veterans cemetery at little or no cost. However, if you and your spouse have divorced and they have remarried, they probably aren’t eligible. Dependent children may also be eligible. Some parents of those killed on active duty may also be eligible.

As always, only veterans with an other-than-dishonorable discharge (and their dependents) qualify for this burial benefit. There are also other restrictions against those found guilty of certain crimes.


Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery is run by the Department of the Army. As such, it has rules that are a bit different than National Veterans Cemeteries, which are run by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The cemetery is also running out of space for new burials.

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton

Arlington National Cemetery.

Therefore, burials and inurnments, the placing of cremated remains in a large wall, are limited to specific groups. Currently, burial at Arlington National Cemetery is open to:

  • Members who died on active duty and their immediate family
  • Retirees and their immediate family
  • Recipients of the Purple Heart or Silver Star and above, as well as their immediate family
  • Any honorably discharged prisoner of war who died after Nov. 30, 1993, and their immediate family

Veterans and their dependents as well as some retired reservists are eligible for inurnment in the cemetery.

The cemetery will furnish a headstone/marker for both the veteran and dependents.

National veterans cemeteries

These cemeteries are run by the VA. There are currently 136 national cemeteries in 40 states and Puerto Rico. Locate a VA cemetery near you.

Burial is available to any veteran with an other-than-dishonorable discharge, as well as their dependents. The VA will furnish a headstone/marker for the veteran and dependent.

VA National Cemeteries

State veterans cemeteries

Many states have their own veterans cemeteries. Eligibility is similar to VA national cemeteries, but may include residency requirements.

Most states provide free burial and a headstone for the veteran; many charge a fee less than id=”listicle-2636201112″,000 for eligible dependents.

State veterans cemeteries

Other cemeteries

The VA may provide a free headstone or marker for all eligible veterans buried at any cemetery worldwide; however, it doesn’t pay the cost of placing the marker. Some states will reimburse this cost.

Dependents aren’t eligible for this benefit; however, some states may provide a headstone to dependents.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 reasons why peacetime training actually matters

It’s easy to complain about training for a sh*t deployment to Okinawa, Japan, when there’s an active war going on that you would rather be fighting in. Realistically, training exists for a reason. If there wasn’t a solid reason for it, you’d go straight from boot camp graduation to combat, but, after centuries of warfare all over the world, we’ve learned a thing or two.

We get it. You didn’t join the military in the post-9/11 era just to be sent to some stable country in East Asia, but you knew the deal when you signed the contract: Where you go and what you do when you get there is officially no longer your choice after you set foot on those yellow footprints.

But just because there’s a war going on doesn’t mean your “peacetime” training is pointless or worthless. Here’s why:


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Just cause you use fake rifles now doesn’t mean you’ll be doing it that way forever.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brendan Mullin)

So you don’t get complacent

It’s been famously said — complacency kills. If you get too used to training against a fictional enemy to the point of no longer putting forth effort, you’re just going to start performing that way. If you’re slacking when real bullets are flying, there’s a good chance you’ll f**k things up.

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton

You don’t want to be the unit that goes to combat only to get whooped by the enemy.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Darien J. Bjorndal)

So you’re prepared for the next real mission

You don’t train like you fight, you fight like you train. If you train like sh*t, you’re going to fight like sh*t. If you take every training event as seriously as real combat, your unit will be better off for it.

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton

Depending on where you’re at and what you’re doing, chances are a mistake in training won’t get someone killed.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Christian Ayers)

So you can learn from your mistakes the easy way

If you step on a simulated IED, you won’t lose your limbs — but you’ll sure-as-hell remember the mistakes you made that led you there. This is a little bit easier than waking up in a hospital room wondering what you could’ve done differently.

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton

Train your boots like their life depends on it.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Dylan Chagnon)

So you can prepare the next generation 

Even if you never go to combat while you’re in, you’ll still be responsible for training the FNGs as they fill the ranks. But here’s the thing — they’re going to stick around long after you’re gone and they’re going to train the guys after them. This cycle continues until, eventually, someone goes to war — and they’ll have generations of experience at their backs.

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton

Those Korean Marines just might experience some real sh*t after you leave.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

So you can prepare other countries

If you get the opportunity to train with another country, keep in mind that they might be using the knowledge they gain from you on a combat mission in the near future. You can teach them to be just as lethal on the battlefield as you are and they’ll get the chance to prove it.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Step inside a 30-ton Marine Corps amphibious assault vehicle built to battle onto enemy beaches

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — For more than four decades, the amphibious assault vehicle has been key to getting Marines ashore and into the fight.


US Marine Corps AAVs are large, tracked vehicles capable of operating in the water and on land that are essential for getting Marines onto the beach in an assault, and Insider recently had the opportunity to climb inside.

i.insider.com

The AAV replaced the older Landing Vehicle, Tracked (LVT) and is expected to eventually be replaced by the Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV), but for now, the AAV is the go-to vehicle for amphibious assaults.

Over the past month, the Marines at Camp Pendleton in California have been training with their Japanese partners to execute an amphibious assault in the latest iteration of Iron Fist.

“AAVs bring a lot to that fight,” 2nd Lt. Nicholas Pierret, an officer in charge on a live-fire range, told Insider as the gunners practiced putting fire down range.

An AAV is a lightly-armored, fully-tracked amphibious landing vehicle specifically designed to get troops from ship to shore, as well as take troops inland to continue the fight.

Although Marine Corps AAVs are more than 40 years old, these 30-ton tracked vehicles are still the “the number one vehicle” to perform the amphibious assault task, Pierret told Insider.

These heavy “amphibious tractors” are commonly called “amtracs” or “tracks” by Marines.

Each AAV can carry around two dozen Marines and their gear.

The standard operating procedure for these vehicles is three operators — the crew chief, the driver, and the rear crewman — and 21 infantry.

The crew are sometimes referred to as “trackers.”

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Marines drive an AAV into the water during training at Camp Pendleton, California.

Lance Cpl. Alison Dostie/US Marine Corps

It is currently the only operational Marine Corps vehicle capable of operating on land and in the water.

AAVs can run at a maximum speed of around 45 mph on land but only about 8 mph in the water, where they maintain an exceptionally low profile with over 75 percent of this amphibious armored personnel carrier submerged.

The AAV has a V-8 diesel engine that powers two water jets that propel it through water. In combat, it can push through waves up to 10 feet high. The ride can be rough, and there are no seat belts. It’s not uncommon for people to throw up.

AAVs are armed with significantly more firepower than the infantry units they carry ashore.

The amtracs, as the Marine’s call them, are equipped with a Mk 19 40mm grenade launcher and M2HB .50-caliber machine gun, weapons operated by the crew chief.

“Those are heavy firepower assets. Infantry has nothing that compares,” Pierret explained.

AAVs can be outfitted with additional weaponry as needed.

For example, the Marines have AAVs outfitted with Mk 154 Mine Clearing Line Charges (MICLICs) that can fire a rocket-propelled explosive line charge filled with C4 to eliminate mines and improvised explosive devices.

These AAVs can clear an entire lane out to a distance of about 100 yards.

In addition to these assets, the Marines inside all have their service weapons.

Each of the infantrymen riding in the AAV will dismount with their M4 service rifle.

Besides bringing extra firepower to the fight, another thing AAVs are really good for is logistics.

“They can carry supplies, ammo, MREs,” Pierret told Insider, referring to the sealed Meals Ready to Eat that troops eat in the field. “An AAV is also a very good casualty evacuation platform.”

On land, additional gear can be stored externally.

Marines can also live inside an AAV if necessary.

An amphibious assault vehicle is big enough to serve as an armored battle camper when necessary. Some Marines are said to call it a battle RV.

Sgt. Juan Torres Jr., a section leader, told Insider that he once lived out of an AAV for almost a month and a half. “You’re out in the field,” he said, “This is your home.”

Marines can even shower in them.

Theoretically, there is supposed to be air circulating inside the vehicle, but when it’s packed with Marines and the engine is running, it gets really hot, one Marine told Insider.

“A couple days in the field, and we’re smelly,” they said.

AAV crews can shower in their tracks using five gallon jugs filled with water carried onboard or stored in the hull. The AAV can hold up to 171 gallons of any liquid.

It takes a ton of maintenance to keep these old amtracs operational.

A few hours of training can require as much as four times as much prep work and maintenance, Torres told Insider.

“The four hours of cool stuff we get to do adds up to about 16 hours of hard work and preparation if not more,” he said.

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

Articles

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War

Berlin was a dangerous place during the Cold War. A preserved piece of the Wall containing a mural memorializing 146 Germans killed trying to escape communism stands in stark testament.



As the grand central station of East-West espionage, the city was a playground for all sorts of secret agents. And its place in the history of the 20th century far outweighs its size. Indeed, 37 percent of Americans viewed the fall of the Berlin Wall as the single most important event of the 1980s.

That Wall came down after 28 years because Americans in uniform stood as a barrier to Soviet aggression. The vast majority of those GIs were clearly visible. But a small contingent operated behind the scenes, not even acknowledged until long after the Cold War ended. Only this year were they fully and publicly recognized.

Born in the Mid-’50s

Though the Status-of-Forces Agreement signed by all four powers occupying Berlin prohibited elite forces, each country had its own prowling the city. It was 10 years after WWII ended, however, before the U.S. had such a unit formally in place there.

In August 1956, the elite 10th Special Forces Group, based in Bad Tolz, Germany, stationed the secretive 7781 Army Unit (also known as the 39th Special Forces Operational Detachment) in West Berlin. It consisted of six modified detachments that became part of the Headquarters Company of the 6th Infantry Regiment. Each team had six members.

Two years later, the unit was renamed Detachment A and assigned to the Headquarters Company of the U.S. Army Garrison, Berlin. Then in April 1962, it was attached to the Berlin Brigade. Its area of operations was primarily that city, but it could undertake missions elsewhere in Europe.

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Top secret spy photos taken by Det-A in the early ’60s showing detail of the Berlin Wall. (Photo: Bob Charest)

“Detachment A was literally in the eye of the Cold War hurricane,” said Lt. Gen. Charles T. Cleveland, commanding general of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command. As an unconventional and classified outfit of 90 men (a normal tour of duty was three years), Detachment A carried out clandestine operations.

Originally operating in small cells, by the late 1960s it expanded to 12-man “A” teams. Unit members were as unique as the U.S. Army ever recruited. Many were German or East European refugees who still had families trapped behind the Iron Curtain. In the early years, a significant number were WWII vets, too. Hence they brought much-needed skills along with knowledge of other nations and languages to the unit.

Training and tools of the trade

Physical training was wide-ranging and progressively intense. For instance, winter warfare training in Bavaria consisted of downhill and cross-country skiing equivalent to extreme skiing. Specialized demolition training was required for various targets in Berlin. Some teammates attended the CIA’s specialized demo course at Harvey Point, N.C. Scuba diving was another required skill.

Every month, members made parachute jumps staging out of Tempelhof Air Base in Berlin. Detachment A participated in NATO escape and evasion exercises. Exercises exclusive to Berlin included dead drops, live drops, primary meetings, surveillance and communications. Team members trained with the elite West German Federal Border Guard and Border Protection Group 9, British Special Air Service and special police units.

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The Det A boys ready to go all cloak and dagger circa ’72. (Photo: Bob Charest)

But they also taught an urban course to other 10th SFG personnel, as well as SEAL Team 2 based on Crete. As masters of spy craft, team members carried items reminiscent of a James Bond movie.

Coal filled with C-4 explosives was used to potentially sabotage the rail ring surrounding Berlin. Oneshot cigarette-lighter guns, vials filled with metal shavings for destruction of turbines and noise-suppressed weapons for eliminating targets were all part of the arsenal. The German Walther MPK 9mm SMG that fit in a briefcase was the weapon of choice.

All scuba gear was German-made, including the one-man portable decompression chamber. Every member spoke fluent German and dressed mostly in authentic German civilian clothes. They sometimes carried non-American flash documentation and identification. Dual passports, or dual nationalities, were part of the deception.

Adversaries in this potentially deadly game of cat and mouse included the notorious East German Secret Police (Stasi), Soviet KGB (Committee for State Security) and even Spetsnaz (Russian Special Purpose Forces). Being vigilant of Soviet surveillance was a given. The KGB had members under constant watch and possessed dossiers on everyone in Detachment A. Yet the Green Berets always deceived their adversaries into believing they were an exponentially larger force than they really were.

Mission

During the mid-1970s, the unit’s mission began to evolve. Though the classic Cold War enemy always remained, a new one reared its ugly head in the form of terrorism. The lethal Red Army Faction —a rabid Marxist group targeting the U.S. military starting in 1972—came into play, killing six GIs in all. That meant being prepared to take on terrorists with snipers and SWAT tactics.

“They were very brave men and took on some tough missions,” recalled Sidney Shachnow, who led Detachment A from 1970 to 1974. Still, the Soviet threat hovered over the divided city. In 1978, the unit was tasked by the CIA with digging up several mission sites positioned throughout Berlin for stay-behind operations. Also, to maintain the equipment in them— weapons and demolitions, for example.

In April of 1980 Detachment ‘A’ participated in “Operation Eagle Claw,” the attempt to end the Iran hostage crisis by rescuing 52 diplomats held captive at the United States Embassy and the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tehran, Iran. Det-A’s portion of the mission was code-named “Storm Cloud.”

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton
Patch for Operation Storm Cloud. (Courtesy: Bob Charest)

Detachment ‘A’ was responsible for the pre-mission reconnaissance of the targets by successfully infiltrating a team into Tehran on several occasions and contributed an element to rescue three hostages held in the MFA.

When the first mission was aborted because of a crash involving a C-130 and a CH-53 in the middle of the Iranian desert, a second attempt was planned for later that year. That was cancelled when negotiations proved successful.

Four years later the mission of this unique outfit was deemed unnecessary even though the Cold War was far from over. At the end of 1984, Detachment A was disbanded.

“I knew when I closed the door,” said Eugene Piasecki, the detachment’s last commander, “I would no longer serve in a unit like that.”

Bob Charest, a retired Army master sergeant, served with Detachment A from 1969 to 1972 and 1973 to 1978.

Articles

US military helicopter crashes off southern coast of Yemen

A US military Black Hawk helicopter crashed off the southern coast of Yemen while training its crew, leaving one service member missing, officials said.


Five others aboard the aircraft were rescued, officials said in a statement issued by US Central Command.

The crash took place on August 25. Officials said the accident was under investigation.

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton
Two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters from Company C, 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment. Photo from DoD.

Asked if the crash involved another special forces raid, Central Command told The Associated Press that “this was a routine training event specifically for US military personnel.”

“Training events such as this are routinely held by US forces within a theater of operations in order to maintain their proficiency within the operating environment,” CENTCOM told the AP in a statement.

“Commanders deemed this location appropriate and safe for a routine training event, considering both the operational environment and weather conditions at the time.”

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton
A Missouri Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopter (left) sits next to an AH-64 Apache attack helicopter on the flightline. USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Michaela R. Slanchik.

Yemen is located on the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula.

The United States has been carrying out airstrikes against al-Qaeda in Yemen, with at least 80 launched since the end of February.

A small number of ground raids using US Special Operations forces have also taken place, including one in January which resulted in the death of a US Navy Seal.

Articles

This guy allegedly sold $1M worth of military equipment to China and Russia

More than $1 million in weapons parts and sensitive military equipment was stolen out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and sold in a vast black market, some of it to foreign buyers through eBay, according to testimony at a federal trial this week.


The equipment — some of it re-sold to buyers in Russia, China, Mexico, Hong Kong, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine — included machine gun and rifle parts, body armor, helmets, gun sights, generators, medical equipment, and more.

John Roberts, of Clarksville, Tennessee, is being tried in Nashville on charges of wire fraud, conspiracy to steal and sell government property, and violating the Arms Export Control Act. Six soldiers and his civilian business partner made plea deals in exchange for their testimony.

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton
Photo from DoD

Roberts, 27, testified Aug. 30 that he did not know the soldiers were bringing him stolen equipment, and said the military items he bought and sold were commonly found in surplus stores, on eBay, and in gun stores.

“I didn’t try to hide anything,” Roberts said Aug. 30. “That’s why I filed taxes on everything I sold on eBay. I thought it was OK.”

Roberts said the soldiers told him the equipment was legally purchased from other soldiers or that the Army was discarding the equipment. He also said he didn’t know that he needed to have a license to export certain items overseas.

But a former business partner, Cory Wilson, testified that he and Roberts would find soldiers selling military items through classified ads or on Facebook, and then ask them for more expensive and harder-to-find items. It was “fast easy money,” Wilson said. Wilson pleaded guilty to buying and selling stolen military equipment, wire fraud, and violating the Arms Export Control Act.

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DoD photo by Tech. Sgt. Cherie A. Thurlby

The soldiers they targeted were often young and broke or needed money for drugs, Wilson said, so “there were a lot of items and good money to be made.”

Wilson and Roberts shared a warehouse in Clarksville where they stored the equipment, but Roberts said they were not sharing funds. Roberts said the two just had a shared interest in selling things on eBay.

Wilson said Roberts set up multiple accounts to sell the equipment on eBay. They removed packaging that identified it as government property and used fake descriptions on shipping labels to avoid suspicion, he said. Under questioning from Roberts’ defense attorney, David Cooper, Wilson acknowledged that he initially lied to investigators about knowing the equipment wasn’t allowed to be shipped overseas.

In 2014, the US Customs and Border Protection agency notified Roberts that it had seized a military flight helmet he tried to ship overseas. The Customs letter noted that he was required to have a license to export that item. Roberts said he didn’t remember reading that paragraph. Roberts also testified that he changed descriptions and values on shipping labels to minimize the risk of customs theft in other countries and to lower import taxes for the overseas buyers.

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton
USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Zeski.

Michael Barlow, a former Fort Campbell platoon sergeant who pleaded guilty to theft of government property and conspiracy, testified that they started small, but eventually escalated to truckloads of military equipment. He said Roberts even gave him a “Christmas list” of items he wanted the soldiers to steal in Afghanistan and bring back to the United States.

“They wanted more and more, mostly weapons parts,” Barlow testified.

Barlow said his company came home with five large cargo containers filled with equipment as the US military drew down troops and closed bases in Afghanistan. Barlow said he and other soldiers sometimes got $1,000 to $2,000 per truckload.

One non-commissioned officer was even charging civilian buyers $500 to come onto Fort Campbell to select items for purchase, Barlow said.

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M16 assault rifles. DoD photo by Capt. Raymond Geoffroy

Roberts said he was invited to come on the Fort Campbell military post to look at cargo containers belonging to Barlow’s unit. Roberts said he was told the containers needed to be cleaned out of “pretty used stuff,” and that he took some items. He said the transaction occurred in broad daylight in front of other soldiers.

The conspiracy allegedly continued from 2013 into 2016. Text messages between the soldiers and the civilians pointed to regular meet-ups to swap cash for ballistic plates, helmets, scopes, and gun sights, according to Chief Warrant Officer 2 Sarah Perry, an agent with the Army Criminal Investigation Command.

One sergeant, identified in court as “E5 Rick,” texted Roberts about going “hunting” while on duty, which meant he was breaking into cars to steal equipment, Perry testified on Aug. 29.

The Army identified about five surplus stores around Fort Campbell that were selling military equipment through backdoor deals, she said.

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton
USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Paul Villanueva II.

Roberts’ defense attorney David Cooper asked Perry if she could prove that the equipment offered on eBay, or that Roberts had pictures of on his phone, was stolen from Fort Campbell. Perry said that in many cases she could not, because many of the stolen items did not have serial numbers, but were similar to items reported stolen.

Another former Fort Campbell soldier, Jonathan Wolford, testified on Aug. 30 that he and another soldier, Dustin Nelson, took about 70 boxes of weapons parts and other gear, some of it labeled with the name of their company, to Wilson and Roberts, who paid them $1,200. Wolford plead guilty to conspiracy to steal government property.

They were both in charge of their company’s arms supply room at the time, Wolford said, and started selling equipment that wasn’t listed in the company’s property books, including machine gun barrels, M4 rifle parts, pistol grips, buttstocks, and other items typically used to repair weapons.

Asked in court why he didn’t ask for more money, Wolford said, “I was making a little bit of money. I didn’t pay anything for it.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time the Marines dropped helicopters in the ocean to save families

Few feats of engineering are as impressive as a military-grade helicopter. Today worth millions of dollars each, these high-tech birds are a formidable military asset, including, among many other uses, for rescue operations — all a fact US military personnel helpfully chose to ignore during Operation Frequent Wind when they pushed several dozen of them into the sea, in one case for no other reason than to save a mother, a father, and their five children.


For anyone unfamiliar with it, Operation Frequent Wind was the name give to the final phase of evacuations during the Fall of Saigon — effectively the final days of the Vietnam War. Noted as being one of the largest military evacuations in history and the largest involving helicopters as the primary means of evacuation, Operation Frequent Wind is celebrated as a logistical success for the US due to the fact that a few dozen helicopter pilots were somehow able to evacuate over 7,000 people in around 18 hours. This is made all the more impressive when you realize that the mass evacuation was never supposed to involve helicopters much at all.

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton

A South Vietnamese helicopter is pushed over the side of the USS Okinawa during Operation Frequent Wind, April 1975.

(US Marine Corps photo)

You see, while Operation Frequent Wind is now famous for being the most successful mass helicopter evacuation ever organised, using helicopters as the primary means of evacuation was never the original plan — it wasn’t even the backup plan. It turns out that it was the backup to the backup to the backup plan.

Known initially as Operation Talon Vise until North Vietnamese spies heard whispers of it, the plans for a mass evacuation of Vietnam had been in place for several years and were originally supposed to involve the primary use of both commercial and military aircraft which would evacuate at-risk citizens and military personnel, with the total slated to be evacuated estimated to be about 2 million people.

Failing or in addition to this, the idea was to dock ships at Saigon port and load them with as many people as possible. In the event none of these options were possible, the final, Hail Mary plan was to instead use military helicopters to transport people to ships off shore.

Of course, evacuating the original estimate of 2 million people was never an option for the helicopter plan alone, nor even the extremely whittled down number of about 100,000-200,000 that military brass eventually reduced that figure to. Instead, at this point it was just as many people as they could as fast as they could.

So why did the US have to fall back to literally their least effective option if they’d been planning the evacuation for years? Well, much of the blame falls somewhat unbelievably to the actions of a single man — Graham Anderson Martin, the American ambassador to South Vietnam at the time who steadfastly refused to agree to start an evacuation for fear of mass panic and given his unshakable faith in the notion that the threat of the “superior American firepower” would keep the enemy at bay.

Despite this, recommendations did go out in advance of Operation Frequent Wind that at risk people should leave the country, resulting in a total of around 50,000 people, including a few thousand orphans, leaving via various planes in the months leading up to an actual evacuation being started. This was mostly done via supply aircraft who would bring supplies in, and then load up as many people as they could for the trip home. Yet an official full scale evacuation, which would have seen these efforts massively ramped up, was continually stalled by Martin.

Military brass tried and failed to persuade Martin to change his mind, with Brigadier General Richard E. Carey going as far as to travel to Saigon to plead personally with with the ambassador. This was a meeting Carey would later diplomatically call “cold and non productive” and should be noted took place on April 13th, 2 weeks after preparations were already supposed to have begun for the mass evacuation.

This back and forth continued until April 28th when North Vietnamese forces bombed the Tan Son Nhut Air Base, effectively eliminating any possibility of getting people out via large aircraft capable of mass evacuation. When this was pointed out to the Martin, he still refused to call for the evacuation, deciding to wait until the next day so he could drive out to the base and confirm the damage for himself.

Upon confirming that North Vietnamese forces had indeed destroyed the air base and the best option for a mass evacuation, he finally relented.

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton

South Vietnamese refugees arrive on a U.S. Navy vessel during Operation Frequent Wind.

This was an order that was relayed to soldiers on the ground via the official Armed Forces Radio station by the words “The temperature in Saigon is 105 degrees and rising,” followed by the playing the song I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas by Bing Crosby.

As a direct result of Martin’s stubbornness, the military had no choice but to rely on the least effective means of mass evacuation — via helicopter, with the operation officially commencing later that afternoon at 14:00.

Even as the operation began, Martin’s bullheaded refusal to prepare in anyway for an evacuation caused problems for certain helicopter pilots, most notably the ones trying to evacuate him and his staff.

How?

Well there was a large tree in the embassy courtyard that military brass had “strongly advised” Martin cut down so as to better allow helicopters to land there should the worst happen. Martin, believing that doing so would be as good as admitting the war had already been lost, absolutely refused to do this. As Henry Kissinger would later note, “Faced with imminent disaster, Martin decided to go down with the ship.”

On that note, to his credit, Martin refused to leave once the evacuation had begun, though this was much to the annoyance of the pilot, Colonel Gerry Berry, sent to fetch him. Instead, Martin continually had refugees boarded while he simply waited with his staff in his office, knowing that as long as he was there, the helicopter would keep coming back allowing more lives to be saved.

It wasn’t until the 14th trip that an exhausted Berry finally reached his wits’ end. Said Berry, “I called the sergeant over. And he got up in the cockpit. And I said, ‘This is it. Get all these people off. This helicopter’s not leaving the roof until the ambassador’s on board. The President sends.'”

With an order supposedly from the President himself, though not actually in reality, Martin finally relented and allowed Berry to complete his mission by transporting Martin and his entourage.

Of course, what the military brass had failed to remember after this supposed last flight was that they’d accidentally left almost a dozen soldiers behind at the compound… This wouldn’t be realized for many hours, but all 11 Marines were rescued after being forced to barricade themselves on the rooftop for the night in case of an attack.

Leaving the evacuations as late as Martin did understandably resulted in mass panic across Saigon with many thousands of South Vietnamese citizens fleeing in everything from cars to stolen planes and helicopters.

In addition, lack of time meant that helicopter pilots had a laughable number of people to rescue, resulting in many ignoring the “recommended” weight limit of their craft and massively overloading them to the very extremes of what they could handle given the pilot’s assessments and weather conditions. In one case, one pilot noted he was overweight to the point that he could only hover inches off the ground, but no one was willing to get off as for many it would mean their life if they could not get out of the country.

He then stated he thought if he could get some forward speed he could get the additional lift needed, so simply pitched the craft forward and took a dive off the rooftop he was on, barely recovering before hitting the rooftops below and then managing to very slowly climb from there.

As for these pilots, they were instructed to ferry evacuees to waiting ships in the South China Sea, many of which quickly began to run out of space resulting in people sleeping double in the small bunks, as well as just anywhere on the ships there was available space for someone to sit or lie down on.

On top of that, any South Vietnamese pilots that could manage to get a hold of their own helicopters and flee to sea were also crowding the decks as they arrived. This resulted in the order to push some of these South Vietnamese helicopters overboard to make more space, or orders for some pilots to simply crash their helicopters into the ocean and await rescue after they’d dropped off any passengers.

This all brings us around to the incredible story of Major Buang Lee. Knowing he and his family — a wife and five children — would in all likelihood be executed if they couldn’t find a way out of the country immediately, the Major managed to commandeer a small Cessna O-1 spotter plane. Under heavy fire, he managed to take off and flee the country with two adults and five children jam packed aboard the tiny, slow moving aircraft.

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton

A South Vietnamese UH-1H is pushed overboard to make room for a Cessna O-1 landing.

He then headed out to sea in search of a ship to land on or ditch the plane next to. About an hour and a half off the coast and with only about an hour of fuel left, he finally found one in the USS Midway.

The issue now was there was not sufficient room to land on the ship, owing to the number of helicopters on the deck. Unable to find the right frequency on the radio to talk to those on the Midway, Buang resorted to dropping notes.

The first two notes, unfortunately blew away before anyone aboard could grab them. Buang tied the third to his gun and dropped it. When the crew aboard retrieved it, they saw it read: “Can you move the helicopters to the other side, I can land on your runway, I can fly 1 hour more, we have enough time to move. Please rescue me. -Major Buang, Wife and 5 child.”

The captain of the vessel, one Lawrence Chambers then had a decision to make. While it was possible to move some of the helicopters out of the way, there was no room to move them all. The young captain, only appointed to that post some five weeks before, decided that there was little chance the family would all survive if they tried to ditch in the sea next to the Midway and be rescued that way.

Said Lawrence of the event, “When a man has the courage to put his family in a plane and make a daring escape like that, you have to have the heart to let him in.”

So, thinking he’d likely be court-martialed for it, he made the call to move what helicopters could be moved and dump the rest in the ocean after stripping them of any valuable gear that could be removed quickly. In total, some million (about million today) worth of helicopters were ditched in this way.

There was another problem, however. The plane in question typically needs a minimum of a little over 600 feet of runway to land and come to a full stop. The Midway itself in total was about 1,000 feet long, but the runway deck was only about 2/3 of that, meaning there was zero margin for error here.

Thus, in order to land such a craft on the deck with enough margin of safety, the ship really needed to be moving as fast as possible to make the plane’s relative speed slow enough that it could stop in time before falling off the end. Using the cable system to stop the craft faster wasn’t deemed a good option as in all likelihood it would have just resulted in the landing gear ripping off and/or the plane flipping over in a spectacular crash.

Unfortunately, Chambers had previously granted the ship’s engineers permission to take the Midway’s engines partially offline for routine maintenance. After all, helicopters did not need nor want that relative wind, especially when landing on such a crowded deck.

Said Chambers, “When I told the chief engineer that I needed 25 knots, he informed me that we didn’t have enough steam. I ordered him to shift the hotel load to the emergency diesels.”

With this, the ship was able to achieve the requested speed and Buang’s landing was also helped by another 15 knots of headwind, further reducing his needed stopping distance.

With that done and deck cleared as it could be, Buang was given the greenlight to land, ultimately doing so with textbook precision and with plenty of deck to spare, becoming a rare individual in relatively modern times to land such an aircraft aboard a military carrier.

And, thankfully for Captain Lawrence, he was not court-martialed for ditching rather valuable military hardware to save Major Buang and his family, and instead enjoyed a continuance of his successful career, eventually retiring as a Rear Admiral.

In the aftermath of Operation Frequent Wind, the U.S. ships continued to hang around for a few days off the coast, trying to pick up as many refugees from the water as they could. Finally, the order was given to head home, forcing the commanders to leave many thousands of people that had been promised evacuation behind.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.