Former Marine officer Elliot Ackerman is now an accomplished author living in Istanbul, but prior to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he considered himself a “fortunate son” of privilege who chose to serve while many of his peers did not.
“The best and the brightest didn’t show up for Vietnam. And I understand. I get that it was an unpopular war,” he told photographer Brandon Stanton for his popular Humans of New York project. “But they chose to not show up and there was a consequence for that. There were leadership failures. Standards were lowered and people were killed because of bad decisions.”
He graduated from Tufts University in 2003 and decided to join the Marine Corps as an infantry officer. He was assigned as a platoon commander in 1st Battalion, 8th Marines.
“I was a fortunate son of this country,” Ackerman told Stanton. “I went to a private school. I graduated from a great college. A lot of the guys who served under me didn’t have those advantages. They relied on me to make tough decisions in dangerous situations. And I’m glad I was there to make those decisions.”
One of those tough decisions came in Nov. 2004, during the bloody second Battle of Fallujah during the Iraq War. He and his platoon of 45 men moved across a highway in the middle of the night on Nov. 10 to establish a fighting position in what they called “the candy store.”
It was only about 150 meters away from the rest of his company.
“The guys were excited at first because the place was filled with chips and soda,” he said. “And we were starving and thirsty. But all hell broke loose when the sun came up.”
At dawn, the insurgents had figured out where they were and surrounded them, while opening fire on the platoon with everything they had. The Marines were getting razed by AK-47 and RPG fire from all sides, with every exit blocked.
“You couldn’t even poke your head out,” he said. “We were pinned down all day. And suddenly my company commander is on the radio saying that we’ve got to advance. And I’m shouting into the radio over the gunfire that we’re probably going to die if we leave the store. I’m shouting so loud and for so long that I lost my voice for four days. But he’s saying that we have no choice.”
He repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire while trying to pull wounded Marines to safety, and coordinated four separate medical evacuations, despite being wounded by shrapnel himself.
In order to get out, he ordered his men to set up explosives on a back wall. Once it blew, he and his men — with nearly half the platoon having been wounded — were able to escape, alive.
“Twenty-five guys were wounded, but everyone survived,” he said. “A lot of that was luck. And a lot of that was our platoon and how good those guys were. But I also feel that my decisions mattered that day. And if I had decided not to serve, and stayed home, it could’ve ended much worse. So no, I don’t have any regrets about going to Iraq.”
Humans of New York is featuring a number of stories from veterans on its page, in partnership with non-profit The Headstrong Project (Full disclosure: The author is a friend of the executive director).
There are a lot of choice for veterans to leverage their time in the military to get great financial services at a competitive cost. The fact that so many businesses and bank are geared towards veterans is a blessing but one institution stands out among the rest – and has for nearly a century.
The financial institution was founded in 1922 after a group of Army veterans took it upon themselves to secure their own need for auto insurance. In doing so, they provided for their fellow veterans. The USAA of today carries that tradition on, with 12.4 million members and offering auto insurance, along with insurance for homeowners and renters, retirement planning, and, of course, banking services. When other banks were teetering on the edge of failure during the financial crisis, USAA actually grew. This is an institution that is as solid as a dollar.
USAA’s original purpose is still one of its best offerings – and one of the best offerings. Even in competition with the civilian world’s best insurers, going with USAA can save its membership at least 0 on their premiums, even for high risk drivers who may have a DUI or more on their records. JD Power even gave USAA a 5/5 rating on their customer service and satisfaction records.
They also offer a car buying service that can sometimes save their members money in buying any kind of vehicle.
Everyone knows too much credit debt is not a good thing, but having a card open with a low balance enlarges your purchasing power and is actually good for your credit report. Still, it’s important to be responsible with your credit. That being said, that kind of responsibility includes deciding which card is right for you. USAA offers a few credit cards designed to fit the lives of military members, veterans, and their families. The USAA Rewards American Express Card and Reward Visa offers the best cashback bonuses a military member can find. USAA’s credit cards also offer some of the lowest interest rates and APRs found anywhere.
Easy banking services
Any bank or financial institution who says they offer the best interest rates on savings accounts may have a bridge to sell you. Most savings accounts can offer two percent at the most. While USAA doesn’t offer quite that much, its banking services are stellar. Since they have few physical locations or ATMs, the bank offers reimbursements on ATM fees and no monthly service fees. On top of that, there’s no minimum balance and their rates are still competitive. They also offer free funds transfers between accounts.
If you’re planning for retirement and want a low-risk security, you could hardly do better than some of USAA’s mutual fund offerings. USAA manages its own mutual funds and, in the face of the 2008 financial crisis, the USAA Income Fund (USAIX) posted a 19 percent return while much of the rest of the market struggled to break even or even minimize their expected losses. The reason? While USAIX invests heavily in corporate debt, the fund’s mantra is still about minimizing risk.
TV doctor pose!
Other services and support
There are a couple of life insurance options, including one for military members only if SGLI isn’t enough. On top of that, they can get great rates for health, dental, and vision insurance as well as umbrella insurance for protection against things not covered by other kinds of insurance, like legal judgements. For per month you can be protected from lawsuits up to id=”listicle-2640236181″ million. But this veteran-oriented financial institution does so much more
USAA sponsors amazing veteran-oriented events and organizations – like the Military Influencer Conference, a three-day conference of service members, veterans, and spouses who work to elevate the military veteran community. The 2019 Military Influencer Conference is sponsored by USAA and brings together the brightest stars in the military-veteran entrepreneurial community to learn and share their business-building knowledge.
Two Islamic State leaders behind the terrorist attacks in Paris last year were killed in a U.S.-led drone strike Dec. 4 in Raqqa, Syria, the Pentagon confirmed Tuesday.
The two targets, Salah Gourmat and Sammy Djedou, worked with external terror operations and recruitment of foreign fighters in Europe. They were directly involved in facilitating the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, which killed 130 people.
Gourmat and Djedou were close associates of Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, ISIS’s former chief spokesman who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in August.
Walid Hamman, the third terrorist killed in the drone strike, was a suicide attack planner, Hamman was convicted in absentia by a Belgian court for a terror plot foiled in 2015.
“The three were working together to plot and facilitate attacks against Western targets at the time of the strike,” Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook told reporters.
All three were part of a terror network led by Boubaker Al-Hakim, who died in another U.S.-led airstrike Nov. 26.
“Since mid-November, the coalition has now successfully targeted five top ISIL external plotters, further disrupting ISIL’s ability to carry out terrorist operations beyond Syria and Iraq,” Cook said.
A Navy chaplain who comforted sailors whose ship was torpedoed in 1945, leaving them stranded in shark-infested waters, has been posthumously awarded his service’s second-highest award for heroism.
Lt. Thomas M. Conway, a Catholic priest who died on Aug. 2, 1945, three days after a Japanese sub took out the heavy-cruiser Indianapolis, was recognized for his bravery during a Navy Cross ceremony Jan. 8 in his Connecticut hometown. Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite apologized that it took more than 75 years since World War II ended to honor the fallen chaplain.
“My mother taught me that it’s never too late to say you’re sorry,” Braithwaite said. “Today, the Navy is sorry for not recognizing Chaplain Conway’s heroism, dedication and courage sooner.”
The Indianapolis was heading to the Philippine island of Leyte from Guam when it sank in the early hours of July 30, 1945. More than 800 crew members were forced into the ocean, some of whom were badly injured.Advertisement
They were left in the water for three days, where they faced dehydration and shark attacks. They were spotted by a Navy aircraft on Aug. 2. Only 316 survived.
Conway is credited with repeatedly swimming through the shark-infested waters to console clusters of sailors, according to the Navy. He encouraged them, prayed for them, and administered sacraments.
“After three days of tireless exertion to aid his shipmates, Conway finally succumbed to exhaustion and died,” a Navy news release about his posthumous award states. “His efforts were credited as a major reason 67 of his shipmates in his group were ultimately rescued.”
The chaplain stood by his men when they needed spiritual guidance most, Braithwaite said, as he presented the award to retired Navy Capt. John Bevins, a former pastor, during the private ceremony.
Conway, who grew up in Waterbury, Connecticut, before attending Niagara University in New York, joined the Navy in September 1942. He served at several East Coast naval stations before transferring to the Pacific Fleet, where he was assigned to the repair ship Medusa before joining the Indianapolis in 1944.
Braithwaite called Conway a beacon of putting service above self for all serving in the Navy and Marine Corps.
“His actions will inspire others who at dark and challenging moments in their lives must follow their heart to do their duty. For me personally, this has never been more relevant than during the very events of this week,” Braithwaite said last week, referencing the violent Jan. 6 siege of the U.S. Capitol.
“When you are entrusted to serve the men and women of the Navy and Marine Corps, you must always choose as Father Conway did, to do what you must do — your duty — rather than what you could do for yourself.”
Army Emergency Relief (AER) was formed in 1942 with the mission to alleviate financial stress on the force. Since they opened their doors they’ve given out $2 billion dollars in aid. They remain a part of the Army, and assistance is coordinated by mission and garrison commanders at Army bases throughout the world. With the continual threat of the coronavirus looming, AER is ready and not just to serve soldiers – but all branches of the military.
Lieutenant General Raymond Mason (ret.) has been the Director of AER since 2016 and feels passionate about his role at AER and what the organization can do for military families. He shared that the one thing that keeps him up at night is the soldier or military member that doesn’t know about AER.
“If a soldier, airman, sailor, marine or coast guardsman is distracted by something in their life…. like finances, they probably aren’t focused on their individual training. They aren’t focused on their unit mission and if we send them into a combat zone with those distractions they are a danger to themselves and their buddies on their left and right,” said Mason. That’s where AER comes in.
AER is a 501c3 non-profit and receives no federal funding; instead they rely on the generous donations of others to make their mission a reality. Mason also shared that AER has close relationships with all of the other services relief organizations, with them often working together to serve those in need. For example, a coastie can walk into an AER office on post and get the same help as a soldier, although the representative they work with has to follow the guidelines of their branch’s relief organization.
Their biggest concern right now is information. “I want to make sure everyone from private to general knows about our program,” said Mason. He touched on the new environment of social media and the exploding availability of aid to military families. While he shared that it can be a good thing that there are so many organizations devoted to supporting the military; there are also some really bad agencies out there. Mason shared that AER is working hard on more strategic communication and marketing of their relief program to prevent that.
“This isn’t a giveaway program, it’s a help up. You get back on your feet and get back in the fight,” said Mason. AER is also open to all ranks, knowing that anyone can need assistance at any time. They can walk into AER and know that they’ll have their back. AER maintains a 4 out of 4 star rating with Charity Navigator, shared Mason, and it’s something they are very proud of.
There are military members who are reluctant to request help through relief agencies out of fear of reprimand or negative impacts to their career. While AER encourages members to go to their chain of command with their needs, even granting approval for first sergeants to sign checks up to 00 – Mason understands it isn’t always easy. As long as they are outside of their initial trainings and have been serving over twelve months, they can go through direct access to get help without involving command.
As the military orders a stand down on travel due to the coronavirus, guard families are concerned. Many of them are unable to hold civilian jobs due to the frequent schools, trainings, TDYs and deployments. With orders being canceled or held, this means financial ruin could be just a paycheck away. AER will be there for those families and stands ready to serve them.
But all of this costs money, something that AER will always need to continue to support military members and their families. They are stepping up their donation requests by engaging with American citizens and corporations. “We’ve never done that throughout our history and we are doing it for the first time,” said Mason. He continued by sharing although they’ve received support from them in the past, they’ve never asked. Now they are asking.
AER just began its annual fundraising campaign, which kicked off on March 1 and will run through May 15, 2020. For the first time, they are really involving the bases and have turned it into a fun event that each group can make their own, Mason shared. There will be an awards ceremony later on in the year to celebrate those who went the extra mile.
He also shared that AER and most relief societies receive a very low percentage of donations that are actually received from active duty, which is concerning. Mason stated that it isn’t about the amount that they give, but that they do give. “Military members fight for each other. When in combat you fight for your buddy on your left or right. If you aren’t willing to reach in your back pocket to help your buddy on your left and right, we have a problem,” said Mason.
“Leave no comrade behind” is the army’s creed – it is a motto that all should take to heart, especially at home.
To learn more about AER and how you can help their mission, click here.
Whether you’ve served or not, you know the difficulty of leaving a job and moving away. For all you civilians out there, take the struggles and anxieties that come with moving away from a place, a people, and a function you know and amplify them ten-fold. In the military, you spend all day, every day getting to know your coworkers and becoming a family. When you finally leave that family and return to civilian life, it sucks — all of your best friends are now thousands of miles away.
Thanks to the age of the internet and social media, that gap is easily closed — but one thing us veterans (especially us grunts) miss the most is playing soldier with our brothers and sisters. Strangely enough, we’ve found that there is a way to reconnect with our veteran friends in the way we prefer, which is getting into gunfights.
If you’re a veteran and you’ve been looking to reconnect with your buddies, here’s why you should do it over a few rounds of a battle royale game:
Just like the old days, eh?
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tommy Bellegarde)
Teamwork is essential
By playing with your friends, you’ll have a distinct advantage in a battle royale game. You already know how to work together and function in combat scenarios and that chemistry takes you far. You also know how to communicate with each other because you speak the same military language.
If you’re like us, this is the part you miss the most.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ricardo Hurtado)
You spend time with your veteran friends
While it may not be an in-person visit, you still get to hang out with your friends. In a way, the settings are surprisingly similar — you never really know what lies ahead.
Winner, winner, chicken dinner.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Ryan Carpenter)
Your knowledge can help you dominate
In games like PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS, employment of real-world tactics is crucial. You didn’t know it at the time, but all that time you spent in training wasn’t just preparing you for real war — it was preparing you to dominate the digital domain, too.
The fact that you and your buddies have training and experience with each other gives you a distinct advantage — and we all love winning, so why not use everything you know? You’ve already done the hard part — once you get the controls down, it’s smooth sailing.
You’ll enjoy it.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Katherine M. Solano)
It’s just plain fun
Hanging out with your buddies and sh*t talking each other is the world’s greatest pastime. Even if you’re not dominating other teams, you’re still having fun reminiscing and joking with each other. So, why not take a crack at it?
Afghans are slightly more optimistic about the future than they were last year, despite a stagnant economy and near-constant attacks by a revitalized Taliban, according to the results of a nationwide poll released Nov. 14.
The annual survey by the San Francisco-based Asia Foundation, released in Kabul, found that 32.8 percent of Afghans believe their country is moving in the right direction, up from 29.3 percent in 2016. Another 61.2 percent said the country is heading in the wrong direction, down from 65.9 percent — a record high — in 2016.
The foundation acknowledged that the slight increase in optimism is “difficult to explain.”
The country has been mired in war since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion. The Taliban have regrouped and driven the Afghanistan’s beleaguered security forces from a number of districts across the country. An upstart Islamic State group affiliate has meanwhile carried out several attacks targeting civilians.
The foundation polled 10,012 Afghan men and women in face-to-face interviews conducted between July 5 and July 23 in all 34 provinces. The poll has a 1.4 percent margin of error.
“The main finding for this year’s survey, if you look at overall the public perception, it is starting to stabilize in term of how people view the future of Afghanistan and public optimism is increasing in a variety of areas although there are issues around people’s desire to leave the country and live abroad if provided with an opportunity,” Abdullah Ahmadzai, country representative for The Asia Foundation said after announcing the study in Kabul.
The findings marked the reversal of a decade-long downward trajectory, the foundation said. However, most respondents expressed concern about the security and future of the country, and 38.8 percent said they would leave Afghanistan if they had the opportunity, the second-highest number recorded since the survey began in 2004.
“So overall 2017 compared to 2016 shows a trend that is more positive and optimistic compared to last year, where we had the public pessimism at its highest and public optimism at its lowest levels,” Ahmadzai said.
Reactions to the survey from residents in the capital differed. While some didn’t agree with the results, university student Mir Hussain said it makes sense to him that most Afghans are hopeful for the future.
“If we think that our country is not moving forward it is not going to help us, we are not willing to move backward,” he said. “We are optimistic and our country has to move forward.”
Ahmadzai said there are specific reasons why some Afghans are not hopeful for the future.
“When it comes to public pessimism in terms of where they see the country is heading, the main issues are around security, unemployment, or the economic situation and the fact that the unemployment rate is reported to be quite high in the reporting year.”
Ahmadzai said confidence in public institutions has slightly improved, though nearly all Afghans say the country’s rampant corruption affects their lives, consistent with last year’s findings.
The United States of America has sued Black Nights Wine Spirits to stop the Highland Falls liquor store from using a name confusingly similar to the Black Knights nickname used by the academy’s athletic teams as far back as the 1940s. After four cease-and-desist letters and the filing of the lawsuit on Aug. 8, the store has seemingly conceded.
“We’ve changed the name to Good Nights,” said a man who answered the phone at the store recently. He said Frank Carpentieri, the owner of Frasiekenjes, LLC, the company that runs the store, would not be available for a few days.
The lawsuit, filed by acting US Attorney Joon H. Kim, accuses the liquor merchant of tarnishing the academy’s brands.
The Department of the Army holds several trademarks for “Black Knights” and the West Point crest, so it did not escape its attention when Black Nights Wine and Spirits opened last September on Main Street in Highland Falls, just beyond the West Point gates. The store’s name, the Army says, falsely suggests that the enterprise is “associated with or endorsed and approved by the US Military Academy at West Point.”
The Army drew a line in the sand within weeks of the store opening, mailing a cease-and-desist letter that alleges trademark infringement.
The store then installed a more permanent “Black Nights” sign and placed several items in and around the store that highlight West Point themes.
Besides the alleged abuse of West Point’s goodwill and brand reputation, the lawsuit states that the liquor store defies military policies.
“The Department of the Army is highly concerned with the use of alcohol among its soldiers and is committed to de-glamorizing its use,” the complaint states.
The Air Force is expected to rapidly increase its fleet of small drones to blanket enemy areas with Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance assets, jam enemy air defenses and potentially use drones as small explosives designed to overwhelm enemy targets with fire power.
The Air Force recently unveiled a Small UAS Road Map which, among other things, calls for the increased use of smaller drones to accomplish missions now performed by larger ones. This includes initiatives to explore algorithms which allow for swarms of mini-drones to perform a range of key ISR and combat functions without running into each other, Brig. Gen. John Rauch, Air Force Director of Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Having numerous drones operating in tandem creates a redundancy which is significant as it increases the likelihood that a mission can still succeed if one or two drones are shot down by enemy fire.
A small class of mini-drone weapons already exist, such as AeroVironment’s Switchblade drone designed to deliver precision weapons effects. The weapon, which can reach distances up to 10 kilometers, is engineered as a low-cost expendable munition loaded with sensors and munitions.
Air Force strategy also calls for greater manned-unmanned teaming between drones and manned aircraft such as F-35s. This kind of effort could help facilitate what Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has said about mini-drones launching from a high-speed fighter jet.
Along these lines, Rauch talked about a “loyal wingman” concept wherein larger platforms such as an F-35 or F-22 will be able to control a fleet of nearby drones, drawing upon rapid advances in autonomy and computer technology.
“Teaming is where you might put a couple of different platforms and use them together to perform something. The loyal wingman concept will make an extension of the same aircraft,” he explained.
Part of the progression of this technology incorporates a transition from the current circumstance wherein multiple operators control a single drone to a situation where one human is performing command and control functions for a number of drones simultaneously.
For instance, the Air Force is now advancing a new drone Block 50 Ground Control Station wherein a single operator will perform functions now done by multiple operators.
The new Block 50 will also include auto take-off-and land, within and beyond line of sight capability and an ability to use “open architecture” to integrate new software as technologies emerge, Rauch said.
The Air Force is advancing plans to retire the Predator drone by transitioning pilots to the operation of its larger Reaper drone – all while developing small drone technology and expanding technology and mission scope for the Reaper itself, service officials said.
“As we sundown Predator, we will train people from one system to the next to focus on Reaper. The current members that are flying Predators will transition from Predator to Reaper,” Rauch said.
This trajectory for the Reaper is evolving alongside a separate effort to harness increasingly smaller, lighter-weight sensors, transmitters and receivers.
In addition, as technology continues to progress and lead to the miniaturization of sensors, receivers and transmitter and lighter materials, smaller drones are increasingly expected to perform those larger missions currently reserved to large drone platforms.
However, this developmental phenomenon is not likely to lead to a replacement for the larger, weaponized Reaper anytime soon – given its importance to strike and reconnaissance missions.
At the same time, Rauch did say the evolution of drone technology will likely lead, ultimately, to a new platform which will replace the Reaper over time.
Over time, the Air Force plans to upgrade the software as well as the arsenal for the Reaper, giving it a wider range of weapons and mission sets.
The idea is to further engineer the Reaper with what’s called “open architecture” such that it can easily and quickly integrate new weapons and technologies as they emerge.
“There are some composites that allow for lighter weight engines that are coming along for power and thrust output. Also, what they might burn can save a lot of fuel – and offer the hope of something miniature able to do theater wide ISR and not just over the next hill,” Rauch said.
Rauch added that the Air Force is now working through various kinds of sensor developments from the largest drones to the smallest ones, analyzing weight, power and sensor fidelity issues.
The Air Force Adds Weapons, Fuel Tanks to Reaper
The Reaper currently fires the AGM-114 Hellfire missile, a 500-pound laser-guided weapon called the GBU-12 Paveway II, and Joint Direct Attack Munitions or JDAMs which are free-fall bombs engineered with a GPS and Inertial Navigation Systems guidance kit, Air Force acquisition officials told Scout Warrior. JDAM technology allows the weapons to drop in adverse weather conditions and pinpoint targets with “smart” accuracy.
“Weight starts causing an issue. We will give it an arsenal that rounds out that will be done as test time is available. JDAM is something that is within that realm and AIM-120 changes air to air engagements,” Rausch added.
The Air Force Military Deputy for Acquisition told Scout Warrior in an interview that the service has begun the process of adding new weapons to the Reaper, a process which will likely involve engineering a universal weapons interface.
“We are looking at what kind of weapons do we need to integrate in. We’re looking at anything that is in our inventory, including the small diameter bomb. We’re working to get universal armament interface with an open mission systems architecture,” Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch told Scout Warrior several months ago.
A universal interface would allow the Reaper to more quickly integrate new weapons technology as it emerges and efficiently swap or replace bombs on the drone without much difficulty, Bunch explained.
“If I can design to that interface, then it costs me less money and takes me less time to integrate a new weapon – I don’t want to go in and open up the software of the airplane. As long as I get the interface right, I can integrate that new weapon much sooner,” he added.
There are many potential advantages to adding to the arsenal of weapons able to fire from the Reaper. These include an ability to strike smaller targets, mobile targets or terrorists, such as groups of enemy fighters on-the-move in pick-up trucks as well as enemies at further ranges, among other things.
Drone attacks from further ranges could reduce risk to the platform and help strikes against Al Qaeda or ISIS targets to better achieve an element of surprise. Furthermore, an ability to hit smaller and mobile targets could enable the Reaper drone to have more success with attacks against groups of ISIS or other enemy fighters that reduce the risk of hurting nearby civilians. Both ISIS and Al Qaeda are known for deliberately seeking to blend in with civilian populations to better protect themselves from U.S. drone strikes.
Also, at some point in the future it may not be beyond the realm of possibility to arm the Reaper for air-to-air engagements as well.
One new possibility for the Reaper drone could be the addition for the GBU-39B or Small Diameter Bomb, Bunch said.
The Small Diameter Bomb uses a smart weapons carrier able to include four 250-pound bombs with a range of 40 nautical miles. The bomb’s small size reduces collateral damage and would allow the Reaper to achieve more kills or attack strikes per mission, Air Force officials said.
The Small Diameter Bomb, which can strike single or multiple targets, uses GPS precision. It is currently fired from the F-15E, F-16, F-117, B-1, B-2, F-22 and F-35, Air Force officials stated.
The Air Force currently operates 104 Reaper drones and has recently begun configuring the platform with additional fuel tanks to increase range. The Reaper Extended Range, or ER as it’s called, is intended to substantially increase and build upon the current 4,000-pound fuel capacity of the drone with a range of 1,150 miles.
The upgrades to Reaper, would add two 1,350-pound fuel tanks engineered to increase the drones endurance from 16 hours to more than 22 hours, service officials said.
Do you have that buddy who scratches messages into his M4 rounds? Or maybe you’re the sailor who Sharpies “This one’s for you” onto JDAMs destined for a flight over the Gulf. Regardless, it turns out that you’re part of a tradition that dates back to a few hundred years before Jesus.
Yeah, we’re all comedians.
(Air Force Master Sgt. Dave Nolan)
Writing messages on bombs, missiles, and other munitions is a common and long-standing tradition. After the 9/11 Attacks, messages of solidarity for New York and vengeance against al Qaeda and the Taliban started popping up on bombs headed for Afghanistan. Hussein and the Ba’ath party were favorite targets for graffiti over Iraq in the early 2000s.
More recently, bombs headed for Iraq and Syria have had messages for ISIS and Baghdadi, and messages supporting Paris were popular after the attacks in 2015.
Obviously, there’s about zero chance in Hell that anyone on the receiving end will actually read the messages. After all, the bomb casings will get obliterated when they go off. But it’s fun for the troops and lets them get a little steam out. Most service members will never fire a weapon, drop a bomb, or throw a grenade in anger.
(Imperial War Museum)
So it can sometimes be hard for support troops to connect their actions to dismantling ISIS, defeating Saddam, or destroying al Qaeda. It helps the ordnance crews reinforce their part of the mission, and they can imagine their Sharpie-soaked pieces of shrapnel shredding enemy fighters.
But this tradition really dates back. In World War II, British troops designated bombs to destroy the German battleship Tirpitz. And these Americans were hoping their bombs would be great party favors for the Third Reich.
As most of you are aware, in the last several months the US Navy has suffered two collisions at sea. On 17 June the USS Fitzgerald lost 7 Sailors and on 21 August, the USS McCain lost 10 Sailors. The Surface Warfare community has not experienced such a loss in nearly 30 years since the explosion on the USS Iowa that killed 47 sailors.
After the collisions, I have quietly tried to make sense of what happened. I have just recently returned to the Surface Warfare community after spending the majority of my career working in the world of Naval Special Warfare. At this point, I am an outsider looking in and trying to learn about my new environment, and to make sure I am pulling more than my weight of the work load.
While trying to understand what happened, I have made the mistake of reading comments posted on Social Media of what people think happened. Comments from people from all walks of life and most who seem to have never served a day in their life in the Navy or on a Warship. One comment has particularly bothered me. After the Navy announced the firing of several Admirals, including a Command Master Chief, one podcaster stated the collisions happened because the “Navy has gone soft.”
I want to assure anyone reading this: The United States Navy has never been stronger than it is today.
I know it’s hard for most of us to remember a time that the US has not been engaged in war. We have been in Afghanistan for 16 years and Iraq for 13 years. No one knows that better than pre 9/11 service members, especially given there are very few of us still on Active Duty. But before Operation Enduring and Operation Iraqi Freedom, during the time that most Army units were running training evolutions, the Navy was steadily deploying around the world to carry the Big Stick. Before Bosnia, before the Gulf War, before Panama, before Vietnam, before the Korean War….The Navy has quietly and steadily deployed during War Time and during Peace time since its inception 241 years ago.
No one does it better than we do.
As I have stepped back into the Surface Navy, I have done so with very little experience and official Surface Warfare qualifications. So I have started at the bottom of the training pipeline with 18 and 19 year old Seaman and brand new Junior Officers.
Classes are typically taught by senior 1st Class Petty Officers and Chiefs, and some are taught by trusted 2nd Class Petty Officers. Most of the training has been done “in house” and the instructors still have a day job. Some of the Instructors are Gunners Mates and are responsible for any and all aspects of ammunition on board the ship, whether its 9mm rounds, 5 inch rounds, or highly precise, multimillion dollar missiles.
In addition to teaching, managing their daily tasks and subordinates, most of the instructors are also balancing Duty. Duty is not their day job. It’s the 24 hours a day, 7 days a week job of ensuring proper security is being maintained on the ship and making sure the ship is ready to start to get underway if needed. Duty is broken down into sections and each Sailor essentially works for 24 hours a day once or twice a week. A sailor may work a normal work day and then stand watch in the middle of the night, and is expected to work a full day the next work day, only running on a few hours of sleep and lots of caffeine.
The overwhelming amount of hours spent working on the ship each week is more than anything I have seen during my time in NSW. Like most jobs in the military, it’s a thankless job that most Sailors never truly see the results of their labors. And to my astonishment over the last few months, the Sailors don’t complain about the work on the ship. They complain about the food. They complain when the coffee grounds run low. The Junior Enlisted complain about the Junior Officers. The Junior Officers quietly complain about the Senior Officers, And the Chiefs complain about everyone.
But when the bells ring, everyone is beside each other backing up the other one so the ship can get the attention it needs. They are a family. And like any family, there are of course some dysfunctional members, but as a whole, it’s an amazing thing watching these crews breathing life into Warships.
I can’t speak to high level policy decisions that happen in the beltway, or even administrative orders from Millington, but I can speak to the level of dedication at the lower levels. Sailors are hardworking. They are unruly at times, but will back each other up when its time. They are professional, and know their jobs because that’s what Sailors do. They work long hours, more than most will ever know, and they do it when Wars end and people forget ships are still required at Sea. At times, they work in terrible conditions covered in grease and smelling of Jet fuel and only a few hours of sleep, and often for weeks or months with no days off.
They are the hardest Sailors in the world.
While recent events are heartbreaking, I want to assure everyone that the United States Navy is still the strongest Naval force this earth has ever seen. Horrendous mistakes were made on the USS Fitzgerald and the USS McCain, but these ships were good ships and had good crews. These were also extremely hard worked ships ported in foreign piers.
And as of right now, the Navy has acknowledged that training in specific areas fell short. With that in mind, remember the Navy has kept ships out to Sea for 241 years. Even as you read this, there are 10’s of thousands of Sailors somewhere in the world, fiercely carrying the Navy’s Honor wherever they go. The Navy will correct the course and continue to provide diplomacy wherever is needed.
A coronavirus outbreak aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt has the Navy scrambling to test the entire crew. At the current testing pace, it could be stuck in port for almost a month, but the Navy is trying to cut that time down.
Three cases were reported aboard the TR on Tuesday. By Friday morning, more than 30 sailors aboard the carrier had reportedly tested positive for the coronavirus, according to Fox News.
In response to the outbreak, the Navy, as acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly said Tuesday, is testing 100 percent of the crew for the virus. The ship is at port in Guam, and it is unclear exactly when the ship will head to sea again on its deployment.
The ship has the ability to test about 200 people per day, Modly told radio show host Hugh Hewitt Friday. The aircraft carrier has roughly 5,000 people on board including its crew, aviation squadrons and onboard staffs.
“At a pace of 200 a day, that could take 25 days,” the acting secretary said. “Obviously, that’s not acceptable, so we’re driving towards a quicker ability to do that.”
“We’re flying in more test kits from other large deck ships that we have,” he said, adding that the Navy is “also sending certain number of samples off the ship so that we can get responses more quickly.”
The TR is one of two US carriers in the Pacific, the other being the USS Ronald Reagan, which is currently in port at Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan. Fox News reported Friday that at least two cases have been reported aboard the Reagan.
Modly has repeatedly insisted that the TR remains ready to fulfill its mission if it was ordered to do so in an extreme situation, like the US entering a war.
“If there were a reason for her to go into action, she could easily go do that. We would just go,” he said Friday.
Modly told Hewitt that he does not have a date on when the TR will return to its assigned mission. “We’re just working through this as quickly as we possibly can,” he said.
On June 7, 1942, the Battle of Midway ended, turning the tide of the war for the Americans against the Japanese in the Pacific.
It had been six months since the attack on Pearl Harbor and during that time, the Japanese Navy had been nearly invincible. The United States, however, had become an increasing threat, and Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto decided to strike a blow against the U.S. Navy before the States could become a serious rival.
He set an intricate trap near the strategic island of Midway. Unfortunately for the Japanese, U.S. codebreakers uncovered the plot and responded in force. On June 3, the Japanese fleet was spotted right where the Americans expected them to be. What followed was four days of fighting one of the most decisive battles in the Pacific.
After crippling the Japanese fleet by destroying four of its carriers, the Americans were able to finally defeat Yamamoto and level the playing field in the Pacific theater, but the naval counteroffensive would continue until Japan’s surrender three years later.
The Battle of Midway is arguably one of the greatest moments in the history of the United States Navy. American heroism was put on display during that battle by personnel both in the air and on the sea, but only one man received the Medal of Honor during the multiple-day campaign: Marine Captain Richard E. Fleming. Fleming was assigned to Marine Scout Bomber Squadron 241. Also known as the “Sons of Satan,” the squadron was equipped with 16 Douglas SBD-2 Dauntless and 11 Vought SB2U-3 Vindicator dive bombers.
On June 4, the squadron took part in attacks on Japanese carriers, losing a number of planes. During the initial attacks, Fleming dove dangerously low in order to get a better angle of attack on the ships. The next day, Fleming led an attack on a pair of Japanese cruisers that were damaged in a collision caused by the submarine USS Tambor. During this attack, too, Fleming dove, closing in on the enemy ship.
Fleming was shot down while pressing his attack on the heavy cruiser HIJMS Mikuma. His bravery, and the bravery of those around him, helped turn the tide for the Allies at Midway.
Featured Image: USS Yorktown (CV-5) is hit on the port side, amidships, by a Japanese Type 91 aerial torpedo during the mid-afternoon attack by planes from the carrier Hiryu, in the Battle of Midway, on June, 4, 1942. Yorktown is heeling to port and is seen at a different aspect than in other views taken by USS Pensacola (CA-24), indicating that this is the second of the two torpedo hits she received. Note very heavy anti-aircraft fire. (U.S. National Archives image)