A former SecDef dispels myths about the Tet Offensive - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

A former SecDef dispels myths about the Tet Offensive

Around midnight on Jan. 30, 1968, Vietcong and North Vietnamese Army troops began a massive surprise attack on U.S., South Vietnamese, and allied forces across South Vietnam.


The Tet Offensive, as it came to be known, was actually a three-phase campaign, lasting from Jan. 30 – March 28, May 5 – June 15, and Aug. 17 – Sept. 23.

“The event really defined the course of the rest of the [Vietnam] war and how it ended, which was a pretty inglorious ending,” said former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.

Hagel, who was with the 47th Infantry Regiment in Vietnam during Tet, spoke at the “Vietnam: The Tet Offensive” panel discussion, Jan. 25, at the National Archives.

Then a 21-year-old private first class, Hagel, just two months in country, said his mechanized infantry unit sustained heavy casualties in the vicinity of Long Binh.

The attack was a complete surprise, he said. What happened in Long Binh was typical of what was happening across the country.

The U.S. had completely underestimated the strength of the North Vietnamese Army and Vietcong guerrilla forces from South Vietnam, he said. It came as a shock to the American public and turned public opinion against the war.

A former SecDef dispels myths about the Tet Offensive

One of the myths of Tet, he said, is that it was a big enemy military victory, he added. It wasn’t. “Our military actually did very well considering.”

Erik B. Villard, a historian with the U.S. Army Center of Military History, said there were other myths about Tet, some of which he wrote about in his Center for Military History book, “Combat Operations: Staying the Course, October 1967 to September 1968.”

One myth, he said, was that the North Vietnamese orchestrated a number of major battles prior to Tet in the autumn of 1967 to draw U.S. forces away from the cities so they would be in a better position to succeed in capturing the urban areas.

The real story is more interesting, he said. The 1967 battles were local and regional campaigns, planned over the spring and summer of that year.

The idea for the Tet Offensive did not even occur to the enemy at the time, as their strategic planning process tended to be short-term and, at times, very chaotic, he said.

Also, why would they want to launch a major battle in November 1967, just months before Tet when full strength would be needed? There wouldn’t be adequate recovery time, he said, noting that the National Archives provided some key documents he used in his research.

Also Read: 17 wild facts about the Vietnam War

A second myth, Villard said, was that Gen. William Westmoreland, the commander of American forces in Vietnam, “was wedded to this notion of victory through attrition; that the way to succeed was to kill enough of the enemy that you crossed this imaginary threshold and you could just kind of grind your way toward success.

“Westmoreland deserves far more credit than he’s gotten in my view,” he added.

He was a shrewd person who understood the value of pacification and cutting enemy supply lines, as he was doing in secret operations to cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail, Villard noted.

A third myth, he said, is that U.S. military policy changed when Westmoreland was replaced by Gen. Creighton Williams Abrams Jr. in June 1968, in the middle of the Tet Offensive.

Abrams and Westmoreland saw mostly eye-to-eye on strategy, he said. The mission continued to be defending bases and lines of communication, as well as air interdiction operations and supporting pacification.

Pacification was a term used at the time to denote counterinsurgency operations, which included advise and assist missions and winning over the loyalty of the local population.

A former SecDef dispels myths about the Tet Offensive
Group of Soldiers from ARVN with SFC Norman A. Doney, 5th S.F. Group Abn., 1st S.F., Vietnam, Sept. 1968.

Policy didn’t actually change until after mid-1969 when Vietnamization took hold, he said. Vietnamization consisted of drawing down U.S. forces and transferring responsibility to the South Vietnamese forces.

The buildup of forces into 1968 and the draw down a year later had already been planned on Westmoreland’s watch, he said.

Merle L. Pribbenow II, an author specializing in the Vietnam War, with five years of service in Vietnam during the war as a CIA operative, said that a widespread myth was that the Tet Offensive was a well planned and executed enemy attack.

That’s completely false, he said, referencing documents and interviews of NVA and VC commanders after the war.

Many of those generals became bitter with the way they and their units were treated by their own military and political leaders and the high numbers of casualties that resulted, he said.

“We focus on how we felt Army commanders screwed up and were unprepared. [The North Vietnamese] were saying the exact same things again and again,” he said.

After the war, the Vietnamese did tactical reviews and battle studies, just as the U.S. Army did, to learn lessons and assess strengths and weaknesses, he noted.

The takeaway from that assessment, he said, was that the communists acknowledged that a lot of the poor decision-making during Tet resulted from underestimating U.S. military response, as well as the loyalty of the South Vietnamese people.

Like the Americans, the communists also inflated their own body counts, minimized their failures, and exaggerated their accomplishments, he said.

A former SecDef dispels myths about the Tet Offensive
The 47th Infantry Regiment takes the offensive May 1968 in South Saigon. Former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel was with the 47th Infantry in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive and he spoke about it at the National Archives Jan. 25, 2018. (Photo from Kenneth Pollard)

The biggest problem, he added, was that shortcomings were not reported up the chain of command and authorities refused to listen to subordinates.

As a result of the assessment, he said the military leadership of Vietnam decided on a new approach. From then on, leaders were instructed to encourage subordinates to tell the truth, even if it wasn’t something they wanted to hear or went against their own thinking.

Gregory Daddis, an associate professor of history and director of Chapman University’s Master of Arts program in War and Society, said another myth was that the U.S. media was to blame for the lack of political will after the Tet Offensive.

There’s a tendency, he said, to find someone to blame when a bad outcome occurs.

Looking back 50 years ago to the Tet Offensive gives everyone an opportunity to gain a better perspective on everything that took place, he said.

An important takeaway from Tet, he said, is that sometimes military action might not be the best tool in all situations to achieve the desired political effect.

Hagel added that “in the end, war is determined not by military might but by the support of the people. We found ourselves on the wrong side of that.”

He concluded: “The sacrifices made by over 56,000 Americans who lost their lives and hundreds of thousands of individuals who were wounded, and all who served, were never really given much recognition for an assignment they didn’t choose. But they served and they served honorably, and did what their country asked them to do. And I think that’s a part of this story that needs to be told more often.”

Articles

Does the U.S. Navy Need a 21st Century F-14 Tomcat?

A former SecDef dispels myths about the Tet Offensive
A US Navy F-14D Tomcat aircraft flies a combat mission in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom | U.S. Air Force photo by SSgt. Lee O. Tucker


While the requirement for a carrier-based long-range strike capability is a frequent subject of discussion around Washington, the U.S. Navy’s need for improved air superiority capabilities is often neglected.

The service has not had a dedicated air-to-air combat aircraft since it retired the Grumman F-14 Tomcat in 2006. But even the Tomcat was adapted into a strike aircraft during its last years in service after the Soviet threat evaporated.

Now, as new threats to the carrier emerge and adversaries start to field new fighters that can challenge the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and Lockheed Martin F-35C Joint Strike Fighter, attention is starting to shift back to this oft-neglected Navy mission — especially in the Western Pacific.

“Another type of new aircraft required is an air superiority fighter,” states a recent Hudson Institute report titled Sharpening the Spear: The Carrier, the Joint Force, and High-End Conflict, which is written by The National Interest contributors Seth Cropsey, Bryan McGrath and Timothy A. Walton. “Given the projection of the Joint Force’s increased demand for carrier-based fighter support, this capability is critical.”

The report notes that both the Super Hornet and the F-35C are severely challenged by new enemy fifth-generation fighter aircraft such as the Russian-built Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA and Chengdu J-20.

Indeed, certain current adversary aircraft such as the Russian Su-30SM, Su-35S and the Chinese J-11D and J-15 pose a serious threat to the Super Hornet fleet. It’s a view that shared by many industry officials, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force and even U.S. Marine Corps aviators.

A former SecDef dispels myths about the Tet Offensive
US Navy photo

“Both F/A-18E/Fs and F-35Cs will face significant deficiencies against supercruising, long-range, high-altitude, stealthy, large missile capacity adversary aircraft, such as the T-50, J-20, and follow-on aircraft,” the authors note.

“These aircraft will be capable of effectively engaging current and projected U.S. carrier aircraft and penetrating defenses to engage high value units, such as AEW aircraft, ASW aircraft, and tankers. Already, the F/A-18E/F faces a severe speed disadvantage against Chinese J-11 aircraft, which can fire longer range missiles at a higher kinematic advantage outside of the range of U.S. AIM-120 missiles.

Nor does the F-35C—which suffers from severely reduced acceleration compared to even the less than stellar performance of other JSF variants — help matters. “Similarly, the F-35C is optimized as an attack fighter, resulting in a medium-altitude flight profile, and its current ability to only carry two AIM- 120 missiles internally [until Block 3] limits its capability under complex electromagnetic conditions,” the authors wrote.

“As an interim measure, the Navy and Air Force should significantly accelerate the F-35C’s Block 5 upgrade to enable the aircraft to carry six AIM-120 missiles internally.”

The F-35C was never designed to be an air superiority fighter. Indeed, naval planners in the mid-1990s wanted the JSF to be a strike-oriented aircraft with only a 6.5G airframe load limit with very limited air-to-air capability, according to one retired U.S. Navy official. Indeed, some naval planners at the time had discussed retiring the F-14 in favor of keeping the Grumman A-6 Intruder in service.

During this period, many officials believed air combat to be a relic of the past in the post-Cold War era. They anticipated most future conflicts to be air-to-ground oriented in those years immediately following the Soviet collapse. Together with a lack of funding, that’s probably why the Navy never proceeded with its Naval Advanced Tactical Fighter or A/F-Xfollow-on program.

The Navy’s F/A-XX program could be used to fill the service’s air superiority gap — which has essentially been left open since the F-14’s retirement and the demise of the NATF and A/F-X programs. But the problem is that the Navy is pursuing the F/A-XX as a multirole Super Hornet replacement rather than an air superiority-oriented machine.

“The danger in its development is that it suboptimizes the fighter role in the quest for a hybrid fighter/attack jet,” the Hudson Institute report notes. “This would leave the Joint Force without a carrier-based sixth generation air superiority fighter.”

A former SecDef dispels myths about the Tet Offensive
US Air Force photo

As the Navy’s current director of air warfare, Rear Adm. Mike Manazir, has stated in the past, the authors also note that such “an aircraft could feature large passive and active sensor arrays, relatively high cruising speed (albeit not necessarily acceleration), could hold a large internal weapons bay capable of launching numerous missiles, and could have space to adopt future technologies, such as HPM [high-powered microwaves] and lasers.”

“This air superiority asset would contribute to Outer Air Battle integrated air and missile defense requirements and would be capable of countering enemy weapons, aircraft, and sensor and targeting nodes at a distance.”

Outer Air Battle, of course, refers to a Navy concept from the 1980s to fend off a concerted attack by hordes of Soviet Tupolev Tu-22M Backfire bombers, Oscar-class nuclear-powered guided missile submarines and surface action groups lead by warships like the Kirov-class nuclear-powered battlecruisers — as now deputy defense secretary Bob Work [he was the CEO of the Center for a New American Security at the time] described to me in 2013.

A former SecDef dispels myths about the Tet Offensive
A former SecDef dispels myths about the Tet Offensive
These Soviet assets would have launched their arsenals of anti-ship cruise missiles from multiple points of the compass.

As Work described it, the Navy was relatively confident it could sink the Oscarsand surface ships before they could launch their missiles. They were far less confident about their ability to take out the Tu-22Ms before they could get into launch position.

The Tomcats, under Outer Air Battle, would try to “kill the archers” — the Backfires — before they could shoot and attempt to eliminate any cruise missiles that they launched. But, Work notes, no one knows how well it would have worked during a shooting war with the Soviet Union — and it’s a good thing we never got to find out. But with China’s emerging anti-access/area denial strategy, the threat is back.

While the F/A-XX and the Air Force’s F-X are in their infancy, it has become clear that they will be different aircraft designs that will probably share common technologies. The Navy does seem to be focusing on a more defensive F-14 like concept while the Air Force is looking for a more offensively oriented air superiority platform that could replace the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor.

“As you’ll see over the coming years, the differences between the primary mission and the likely threats will drive significant differences between the F/A-XX and F-X programs as well as legacy systems like the F-22 and F-35,” one senior defense official told me.

 

MIGHTY HISTORY

The world wants China to own up to the Tiananmen Square Massacre

The United States has added its voice to international calls for China’s communist-led government to give a full public accounting of those who were killed, detained or went missing during the violent suppression of peaceful demonstrations in and around Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.

In a bold statement from Washington to mark the 29th anniversary of a bloody crackdown that left hundreds — some say thousands — dead, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Chinese authorities to release “those who have been jailed for striving to keep the memory of Tiananmen Square alive; and to end the continued harassment of demonstration participants and their families.”


To this day, open discussion of the topic remains forbidden in China and the families of those who lost loved ones continue to face oppression. Chinese authorities have labeled the protests a counter-revolutionary rebellion and repeatedly argued that a clear conclusion of the events was reached long ago.

In an annual statement on the tragedy, the group Tiananmen Mothers urged President Xi Jinping in an open letter to “re-evaluate the June 4th massacre” and called for an end to their harassment.

A former SecDef dispels myths about the Tet Offensive
President Xi Jinping
(Photo by Michel Temer)

“Each year when we would commemorate our loved ones, we are all monitored, put under surveillance, or forced to travel” to places outside of China’s capital, the letter said. The advocacy group Human Rights in China released the open letter from the Tiananmen Mothers ahead of the anniversary.

“No one from the successive governments over the past 29 years has ever asked after us, and not one word of apology has been spoken from anyone, as if the massacre that shocked the world never happened,” the letter said.

In his statement, Pompeo also said that on the anniversary “we remember the tragic loss of innocent lives,” adding that as Liu Xiaobo wrote in his 2010 Nobel Peace Prize speech, “the ghosts of June 4th have not yet been laid to rest.”

Liu was unable to receive his Nobel prize in person in 2010 and died in custody in 2017. The dissident writer played an influential role in the Tiananmen protests and was serving an 11-year sentence for inciting subversion of state power when he passed.

A former SecDef dispels myths about the Tet Offensive
Liu Xiaobo

At a regular press briefing on June 4, 2018, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China had lodged “stern representations” with the United States over the statement on Tiananmen.

“The United States year in, year out issues statements making ‘gratuitous criticism’ of China and interfering in China’s internal affairs,” Hua said. “The U.S. Secretary of State has absolutely no qualifications to demand the Chinese government do anything,” she added.

In a statement on Twitter, which is blocked in China like many websites, Hu Xijin, the editor of the party-backed Global Times, called the statement a “meaningless stunt.”

In another post he said: “what wasn’t achieved through a movement that year will be even more impossible to be realized by holding whiny commemorations today.”

Commemorations for Tiananmen are being held across the globe to mark the anniversary and tens of thousands are expected to gather in Hong Kong, the only place in China such large-scale public rallies to mark the incident can be held.

Exiled Tiananmen student protest leader Wu’Er Kaixi welcomed the statement from Pompeo.

A former SecDef dispels myths about the Tet Offensive
Wu’Er Kaixi

However, he added that over the past 29 years western democracies appeasement of China has nurtured the regime into an imminent threat to freedom and democracy.

“The world bears a responsibility to urge China, to press on the Chinese regime to admit their wrongdoing, to restore the facts and then to console the dead,” he said. “And ultimately to answer the demands of the protesters 29 years ago and put China on the right track to freedom and democracy.”

Wu’er Kaixi fled China after the crackdown and now resides in Taiwan where he is the founder of Friends of Liu Xiaobo. The group recently joined hands with several other non-profit organizations and plans to unveil a sculpture in July 2018 — on the anniversary of his death — to commemorate the late Nobel laureate. The sculpture will be located near Taiwan’s iconic Taipei 101 skyscraper.

In Taiwan, the self-ruled democracy that China claims is a part of its territory, political leaders from both sides of the isle have also urged China’s communist leaders to face the past.

On Facebook, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen noted that it was only by facing up to its history that Taiwan has been able to move beyond the tragedies of the past.

“If authorities in Beijing can face up to the June 4th incident and acknowledge that at its roots it was a state atrocity, the unfortunate history of June 4th could become a cornerstone for China to move toward freedom and democracy,” Tsai said.

Tsai’s predecessor, Ma Ying-jeou, a member of the opposition Nationalist Party or KMT, who saw close ties with China while in office, also urged Beijing to face up to history and help heal families’ wounds.

“Only by doing this can the Chinese communists bridge the psychological gap between the people on both sides of the [Taiwan] Strait and be seen by the world as a real great power,” Ma said.

This article originally appeared on The Voice of America News. Follow @VOANews on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The B-1 bomber’s anti-ship missile can slay multiple targets

The U.S. military is prepping for anti-surface warfare to make a comeback, and it’s moved one step closer with another successful test of the latest air-launched, Long Range Anti-Ship Missile.

Lockheed Martin Corp., the missile’s manufacturer, recently launched the AGM-158C LRASM from a B-1B Lancer at Point Mugu Sea Range, California, the company said.

The aircrew “simultaneously launched two LRASMs against multiple maritime targets, meeting the primary test objectives, including target impact,” Lockheed said in a release.


A former SecDef dispels myths about the Tet Offensive

Once launched from the aircraft, the missile — based on the, Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range, or JASSM-ER — will be able to autonomously sensor-locate and track targets while avoiding friendly forces.

The estimated $1.5 billion Navy program is also being tested on the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.

Also Read: The Marines are looking for a few good ship-killing missiles

“This continued success with LRASM provides confidence in its upcoming early operational capability milestone, putting a proven, unmatched munition into the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force inventories,” said David Helsel, LRASM program director at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control.

“The successful flight demonstrates LRASM’s continued ability to strengthen sea control for our forces,” he said in the release.

The precision-guided, anti-ship standoff missile was first tested on a B-1B in August.

A former SecDef dispels myths about the Tet Offensive

“The B-1 is the only Air Force platform scheduled to receive this, and we are the threshold platform for [it],” Maj. Jeremy Stover, B-1 program element monitor and instructor weapons systems officer, told Military.com in July.

The weapon will enhance not just the B-1, but the U.S. military’s targeting capabilities while protecting at-risk assets in a high-threat environment, Stover said. The B-1 may be capable of carrying more than 20 LRASMs at a time.

The Air Force is scheduled to integrate LRASM onboard the B-1B in 2018 and the Navy on its F/A-18E/F in 2019, the release said.

Articles

DARPA’s parasails make submarine hunters more lethal

A former SecDef dispels myths about the Tet Offensive
Photo: YouTube/DARPA


The Defense Advanced Research Projects agency’s drone submarine hunter — more properly known as the Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel or ACTUV — just successfully tested a new piece of equipment that dramatically increases the range of its sensors and communications gear.

The ACTUV is designed to patrol the oceans without a human crew, searching for potentially hostile submarines and then following them. But the small vessels have a limited sensor range since all of their antennas are relatively close to the water’s surface. Getting these antennas and sensors higher would give the ship a larger detection radius.

The TALONS — Towed Airborne Lift of Naval Systems — is basically a parachute towed behind a vessel like what would carry a tourist on a parasailing trip. But instead of flying your drunk Uncle Greg, the TALONS sports a sensor and antenna payload of up to 150 pounds. This raises those sensors to altitudes between 500 and 1,000 feet above sea level.

A DARPA press release detailed the gains in sensor range:

While aloft, TALONS demonstrated significant improvements to the range of the sensors and radios it carried compared to mounting them directly on a surface vessel. For example, TALONS’ surface-track radar extended its range by 500 percent—six times—compared to its range at sea level. Its electro-optical/infrared scanner doubled its observed discrimination range. The TALONS team plugged in a commercial handheld omnidirectional radio; that radio’s range more than tripled.

Ships besides the ACTUV could use the TALONS to extend their sensor ranges as well. Even carrier islands sit just a few hundred feet above the waterline, meaning that carriers could get greater range for their sensors by towing the lighter ones on the TALONS — provided that engineers could find a setup that wouldn’t interfere with aircraft traffic.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Kurdish forces strike a deal with Syrian army

The Kurdish-led administration in northeastern Syria announced on Oct. 13, 2019, that it had struck a deal with the Syrian army in order to combat an intensifying attack by Turkish forces in the region.

Turkey has embarked on major air and land offensives against The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) who control a sizeable area of land in Syria’s northeast which runs along the Turkish border. The move comes just days after Trump announced that he would soon be pulling out US troops still stationed in the region.

On Oct. 13, 2019, the Kurdish-led administration announced that it had reached a deal with Syrian President Bashar al Assad, and that Syrian government troops would be deployed in the north in order to fend off the Turkish incursion.


“In order to prevent and confront this aggression, an agreement has been reached with the Syrian government… so that the Syrian army can deploy along the Syrian-Turkish border to assist the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF),” the statement said, according to Al Jazeera.

A former SecDef dispels myths about the Tet Offensive

Syrian President Bashar al Assad

The statement added that the Syrian deployment would also help “liberate” areas held by Turkish-backed Syrian rebel groups like Afrin, a city which was occupied as a result of the Turkish military operation in 2018.

Syria’s state-run SANA news agency reported that Syria’s army had begun moving north “to confront Turkish aggression on Syrian territory.” The agency also condemned Turkish “massacres” against locals in the north.

The move represents a shift in alliance for the Kurds after US ‘stab in the back’

The surprise move represents a major shift in alliance for Kurdish forces, who were once the United States’ main allies in the region and had been fending off Islamic State militants alongside US troops for years.

The SDF has called Trump’s sudden decision to withdraw troops a “stab in the back” and has vowed to “defend our land at all costs.”

A former SecDef dispels myths about the Tet Offensive

U.S. and Turkish military forces in northeast Syria.

(Photo by Spc. Alec Dionne)

Turkey’s assault on Kurdish-held areas stems from the group’s ties to the Kurdistan Workers Party, also known as the PKK, which has long fought an armed conflict for Kurdish independence against Turkey. Turkey and other allies have labeled the PKK a terrorist organization, and Turkey has expressed concern that Kurdish forces along its southern border could pose a security threat in the future.

Videos have surfaced online which appear to show Turkish-backed rebel groups slaughtering Kurdish fighters. The US State Department also confirmed on Sunday that Havrin Khalaf, the civilian secretary-general of the Kurdish movement called the Future Syria Party, was captured and killed by Turkish forces.

On Oct. 13, 2019, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that the US was officially preparing to withdraw its remaining 1,000 troops. The hasty pullout has reportedly left dozens of “high value” ISIS prisoners behind in the area gripped by chaos.

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

Articles

Nate Boyer climbing Kilimanjaro with wounded warrior to help thousands get clean water

Just one day after Nate Boyer entered the Guinness World Record book for the longest football long snap, former Texas Longhorn, Seattle Seahawk, and U.S. Army Green Beret Nate Boyer embarks on a mission to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with disabled veteran Blake Watson to help 10,000 people gain access to clean water.


A former SecDef dispels myths about the Tet Offensive
Nate Boyer

The charity is called Waterboys. It was started by Chris Long, a former defensive end for the Rams who rallied NFL players to digging clean water wells in Tanzania,” Boyer says. “His initial goal was to find thirty-two players from thirty-two teams and to have thirty-two wells dug.”

The effort now has 21 NFL players involved, including the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson, the Steelers’ Lawrence Timmons, and the Eagles’ Sam Bradford, who currently has raised the most money for the campaign.

“Chris went out there a couple years ago and did Kilimanjaro himself,” Boyer recalls. “But he was leaving and he felt like he wanted to do more for those people. They walk five miles a day for clean water for their villages; they can cook and drink water and try to live healthy.”

Tanzania is currently suffering from a devastating water crisis. In a country where one-third of the land is semi-arid, access to clean, sanitary water is a daily struggle. Many of the country’s current wells are dug near toxic drainage systems and are contaminated by runoff. Water-borne illnesses, such as malaria and cholera, account for over half of the diseases affecting the population.

A former SecDef dispels myths about the Tet Offensive
Aid agencies struggle to build clean water wells like this UN-built well in Tanzania. (UN photo)

“Long went out there last year and dedicated the first clean water well” says Boyer. “It’s pretty cool because the people, they come out of the woodwork for this thing. It’s a huge deal to them.”

That’s what brings Boyer to Kilimanjaro. When Long recruited him for the charity, Boyer was at the gym, working a stair climber machine, on the “Kilimanjaro” setting. Boyer spoke with Dave Vobora, who runs Dallas, Texas’ Performance Vault Inc., a sports performance training center for elite athletes and U.S. Special Forces.

“I told him I’m doing this climb and asked if he had anybody in mind that would be a good counterpart,” Boyer said. “I wanted to go with a guy who was going to spend the next four months working towards this goal and grinding. He’s like, ‘I got just the guy.'”

Vobora linked Boyer up with Marine veteran Blake Watson, a single leg amputee. During Watson’s first deployment he accidentally knelt down onto an IED. Watson lost his leg and his pulse rate went to zero on the helicopter during the flight to the hospital, but the medics were able to resuscitate him.

“I approached Blake and started explaining what we were doing, what I wanted to do with him and why,” Boyer remembers. “I talked about the clean water wells and before I could even finish my pitch he was like, ‘I’m in, dude. I’m in.’ He was excited about was not only the challenge and the climb and all that but what we would be doing for those people.”

A former SecDef dispels myths about the Tet Offensive
Watson training for Kilimanjaro

Blake struggled for three years with dependency, depression, and thoughts of suicide. With the help of others and his Marine mindset, he pulled himself out of a rut, started training again, and got back in shape. Got involved at this gym called Adaptive Training Foundation in Dallas, also run by Vobora. A gym for adaptive athletes, many of them amputees. They all have a goal they’re pursuing.

“It’s not just, ‘I want to work out. I want to get in shape,'” Boyer says. “It’s like, ‘I want to go climb Kilimanjaro,’ or ‘I want to be on the Paralympic bobsled team.’

Those wounded warriors led Boyer to another goal. The clean water initiative is important, but for Nate Boyer and Blake Watson, it’s also about inspiring veterans and current service members who might be struggling back home.

“We’re people of service. Whether we joined because we had no other options or because we wanted to serve our country, at the end of the day, we became men and women of service. If we don’t have that element in our life moving forward, working towards a mission, something bigger than us, then it’s really easy to get lost and feel like you’re never going to do anything as important as what you did when you served. That’s the impetus behind this whole thing.”

To help Boyer and Watson raise money and awareness for the people of Tanzania and American wounded warriors donate here. Donations will go toward digging more clean water wells for the people of an important U.S. friend and ally.

Articles

The most important battlefield innovation is not a weapon

Great aircraft and vehicles aren’t very useful without somewhere to park them, and troops need good cover to keep them safe from attacks. So, for all the innovations coming out of DARPA and the weapons being developed by the military, it’s the humble Hesco barrier that became an icon of security in Iraq and Afghanistan.


The barriers are a staple of deployed-life where they formed many of the outer perimeters and interior walls for NATO installations.

A former SecDef dispels myths about the Tet Offensive
Photo: US Navy Chief Mass Communication Specialist Michael B. Watkins

Originally invented by a former British miner to shore up loose earth in his backyard, the Hesco was first used for military defense in the Gulf War. The basic Hesco design is a wire mesh crate with fabric liner that can be folded flat for storage and transportation. To deploy them, engineers simply open them up and fill them with dirt and rocks. When they want to get fancy about a permanent wall, they can then apply a concrete slurry to the sides and top to seal them.

Even without a slurry added, the walls provided impressive protection. A group of engineers in Afghanistan in 2005 had a limited space to build their wall and so modified the barriers to be thinner. They then tested the modified version against static explosives, RPGs, and 40mm grenades. This thinner version was heavily damaged but still standing at the end of the test. In the video below, go to the 0:45 mark to skip straight to the tests.

Hescos even provide concealment from the enemy while troops are putting them in.

The famous Restrepo Outpost was constructed by soldiers who slipped up to a summit they needed to capture at night and began building fortifications around themselves. They dug shallow trenches for immediate cover and then began to fill Hescos with dirt and rocks for greater protection. When the enemy fired on them to stop construction, some troops would fire back while others would get down and keep pitching rocks into the barriers.

A similar method of construction under fire was used by soldiers in the Battle of Shal Mountain.

Though the original Hesco were great, the company still updates the design. When the military complained that breaking down Hesco walls took too long, the company created a recoverable design with a removable pin that would allow the dirt to fall out. Later, they developed an apparatus that could be attached to a crane to remove multiple units at once.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0SATy-mzum8

To rapidly build new perimeter walls like those needed to expand Bagram Airfield as the NATO footprint grew, a trailer was developed that could deploy the barriers in a long line. Each trailer can deploy a barrier wall over 1,000 feet long.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EIqDEO7Z7DM

The barriers were so popular with troops that multiple people named animals rescued from Afghanistan after them.

NOW: Here’s how the military takes civilian tech and makes it more awesome

OR: Boeing has patented a ‘Star Wars’-style force field

MIGHTY TRENDING

The new Marine Corps Commandant hates slow amphibious ships

“It would be illogical to continue to concentrate our forces on a few large ships. The adversary will quickly recognize that striking while concentrated (aboard ship) is the preferred option. We need to change this calculus with a new fleet design of smaller, more lethal, and more risk-worthy platforms.”


Basically, the old ways of landing Marines are really old and need to be updated – because even the most poorly armed insurgents can take down one of those old amphibs.

Gen. Berger sees

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David H. Berger’s first big move in his new post is to offer a stinging critique of the way Marines operate in amphibious landings. He issued a 26-page document to his lower commanders that calls the current method of moving Marines to shore aboard slow-moving amphibious vehicles and helicopters “impractical and unreasonable” and “not organized, trained, or equipped to support the naval force” in combat.

The Navy’s requirement for Marines to make their way to the shore uses 38 lumbering amphibious ships that are waiting offshore once the fighting begins. The new Commandant thinks that modern defenses such as China’s anti-air and anti-ship net in the South China Sea make this strategy impractical and risky.

“We must divest of legacy capabilities that do not meet our future requirements, regardless of their past operational efficacy,” Berger wrote.

A former SecDef dispels myths about the Tet Offensive

Gen. Robert Neller passes the Marine Corps flag to the 38th Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. David H. Berger

General Berger earlier called for Marines to have long-range fires that can operate from a ship or shore-based batteries that can fight other sea or shore-based batteries while giving amphibious ships time and room to maneuver. The Commandant is concerned that the way the Corps operates now will be detected and contested by any potential enemy waiting to kill a few thousand Marines before they can land on its beaches.

The entire ethos is outlined in the 38th Commandant’s Planning Guidance (CPG) document and focuses on his five priority areas: force design, warfighting, education and training, core values, and command and leadership. In the CPG, Gen. Berger sums up his vision in bold letters:

“The Marine Corps will be trained and equipped as a naval expeditionary force-in-readiness and prepared to operate inside actively contested maritime spaces in support of fleet operations.”
Articles

What You’ll Miss When You Get Out

military_transition


Military service ends for everyone at some point.  Regardless of how rewarding and enjoyable it has been, regardless of rank attained or awards earned, eventually it’s time to start the next chapter of a working life – a time to transition to a civilian career.

Also Read: This Project Is A Real And Raw Look At How Military Service Affected Veterans 

For me the time came at the 20-year mark.  I spent the majority of my time in uniform stationed at an air base in Virginia Beach attached to various F-14 squadrons.  When I received orders to teach at the Naval Academy in Annapolis I knew my flying days were most likely over, so I started considering what life on the outside might look like for me once I became retirement eligible.

Nothing really jumped out at me.  Because I’d been a Naval Flight Officer – a backseater – and not a pilot, the airlines weren’t an option (not to mention the airline industry has had a major employment downturn in the last decade or so).  I had a bachelor’s degree but it was in political science . . . pretty useless in terms of determining a viable civilian career field.

In spite of the fact that for decades I had assumed that there would be all kinds of jobs waiting to be blessed by my presence when I elected to get out, only when I actually started looking for one did I realize my options were limited.  And when I say “limited” I’m not necessarily speaking about limited in terms of income potential.  I’m talking about limited in terms of job satisfaction potential.

You see, like most of us who stay in the military past our initial obligations, I enjoyed what I was doing.  Of course there were bad days and the challenges of long periods of family separation, but I was living a life of consequence, working a job that Hollywood makes movies about.  I’d flown from aircraft carriers sailing in hostile waters and worked with incredible professionals.  We had carried out the important missions we’d been given.

So among my fears as I transitioned to my first civilian job – that of a civil servant working one of the aircraft programs at a systems command – was that my day-to-day efforts wouldn’t amount to anything important.

And they didn’t . . . at first.

As I traded my flight suit for khakis and a golf shirt I was thrust into a world of grey areas.  Sure, there were job titles and GS pay scales, but those didn’t replicate the structure I’d known during my time on active duty.  Who was I relative to my co-workers?  Absent rank on my collar or warfare devices and ribbons on my chest what did they know (or care) about my years of service?

Nothing, or so it seemed.  I was suddenly just the new guy.  I had no track record.  I’d never done anything that mattered.  Instead of flying fighters and leading troops I was now tasked with, among other minutiae, updating the program’s social roster.  I felt like I was stuck in that Bruce Springsteen song “Glory Days”:

“Glory days, they’ll pass you by; glory days, like the wink in a young girl’s eye . . .”

I had no flight schedule to comply with.  I had no detailer to call for my next set of orders.  I had no master chiefs to keep me out of trouble.  I had no uniforms to wear.  Nobody was going to be filming any movies about the action-packed life of a civil servant.

In spite of all my “prep” for the transition (including mandatory TAP, of course) I wasn’t prepared for the subjective part of the move – the “spiritual” side, if you will.  I was more lost (and depressed) than I ever thought I would be.  And the scary part is I wasn’t even fully in the private sector; I was working for the Department of Defense.

Fortunately by the end of the first year of my transition, I’d found my footing, job-wise.  I switched programs to one that actually needed what I had to offer in terms of talent, outlook, and enthusiasm.  In time I was a trusted member of a team again, one with a seat at the decision-making table, and the position was rewarding in its own way.  And that job ultimately gave me the confidence and experience to make the move to the private sector into a role that fully leverages my military career and creativity.

Change is hard; transitioning out of the military is harder.  Part of making it easier is thorough prep work research and networking-wise.  The rest is understanding that it won’t be easy and fighting the notion that the best years are behind you.  Sometimes you might need patience.  Sometimes you might need to go after it in a hurry.  But the same elements that made you an effective warfighter will ultimately serve you well during the civilian chapter of your working life.

NOW: The Mighty 25: Veterans Poised To Make A Difference In 2015 

OR: The Vice President Just Pulled A ‘Jody’ Move At The Defense Secretary’s Swearing-In 

Articles

US commandos just took out a bunch more terrorists in Somalia

Several al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Shabaab members were killed in a joint US-Somalian raid July 13, the Associated Press reports.


US Africa Command confirmed a “advise and assist” mission took place but offered no details to the AP. The raid is the latest in a series of escalating actions against the terrorist group under new authorities provided by President Donald Trump.

Trump declared Somalia an “area of active hostilities” in late March, giving the US military greater autonomy in green-lighting airstrikes.

A former SecDef dispels myths about the Tet Offensive
Photo from AMISOM Public Information

A US Navy SEAL was killed in Somalia in May during a similar raid, marking the first US combat death in the country since the 1993 Black Hawk Down incident that killed 18 service-members. Pentagon Spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters July 5 the US keeps approximately 50 troops in Somalia to advise and assist the Somalian army.

Al-Shabaab famously carried out a 2013 attack on Westgate Mall in Kenya’s capital of Nairobi. The US joined a coalition of several African nations after the attack in an attempt to curtail the terrorist group.

Al-Shabaab continues to remain active in Somalia’s rural areas despite nearly four years of combined US coalition efforts. The terrorist group’s stated mission is to take the Somali capital of Mogadishu and impose its interpretation of Islamic law on the population writ large.

Articles

Marine pilot killed in California Hornet crash

A Marine Corps pilot was killed Thursday when an F/A-18C Hornet went down during training near Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California, Marine officials announced today.


The pilot and aircraft were attached to 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, out of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Marine spokesman Maj. Christian Devine said.

The identity of the pilot has not been released, pending a 24-hour period following notification of family members.

A former SecDef dispels myths about the Tet Offensive
F/A-18C Hornets with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 314, stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, taxi down the runway at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, during Red Flag-Alaska 16-2, June 7, 2016. | US Marine Corps photo by Donato Maffin

Officials said the cause of the crash is under investigation.

Speaking at a think tank event in Washington, D.C., on Friday, the Corps’ top aviation officer, Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, offered thoughts and prayers for the families of the pilot, adding that he didn’t have all the details about the incident.

While Marine officials have testified this year that readiness challenges have resulted in significant reductions in flight hours for Marine pilots across nearly every aviation platform, Davis said he did not believe that was a contributing factor in the tragedy.

“I track [flight hours] each week. This particular unit was doing OK,” he said. He said he did not believe that reduced flight hours had made squadrons less safe, but he said the Corps was “not as proficient as we should be” in its aviation component.

This is the second fatal Hornet crash for the Marine Corps in the last 12 months. In October 2015, a Marine pilot was killed when a 3rd MAW F/A-18C aircraft attached to Marine Attack Fighter Squadron 232 crashed near Royal Air Force airfield Lakenheath in England during a flight from Miramar to Bahrain.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This therapy dog is a hero to veterans

Hercules, in classical mythology, is a hero and god famous for his strength, travels, and adventures.

At the James A. Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa, a black lab, appropriately named Hercules, is a hero to veterans, visitors, and VA staff. He’s their resident rock star and therapy dog, and he’s about to celebrate his third birthday.

Robert Lynch is a Marine, the Tampa VA Veterans Experience Officer, and proud dad to Hercules. As a service-connected veteran, Lynch is upfront and open discussing his physical and mental health needs, including mobility, depression and anxiety.


In 2017, Lynch applied for a therapy dog to help with his own overall health, but after further thought wanted to expand the role of his potential new best friend. He talked with Tampa VA Director Joe Battle about having a therapy dog as a VA staff member.

A former SecDef dispels myths about the Tet Offensive

Battle loved the idea of a full-time canine on staff, as did other leadership and they created a hospital policy defining what would be the role of their new employee.

Southeastern Guide Dogs, a non-profit group that trains guide and service and therapy dogs, brought a few furry friends to meet Robert. Once Lynch met Hercules, he knew they had a special bond. The trainer from Southeastern saw it too, saying they were “surprised at how fast the two connected.”

To this day, Hercules doesn’t want Lynch out of his sight. While working at the Tampa VA, Hercules and Lynch do spend some time apart as Hercules goes with other trained handlers to visit different areas of the hospital. Hercules puts in about 50 hours a week, rotating visits to various clinics and care units.

A work day for Hercules can range from playing fetch with veterans in physical therapy, painting with veterans in a creative arts class, or playing a role in a Final Salute–a ceremony held inside the VA to honor a veteran who has passed. Hercules carries the flag and seeks out those who may need some emotional support.

Hercules Saves the Day

www.youtube.com

Lynch received a call one day with a special request. A veteran in the hospice unit wanted to visit with Hercules again. Hercules was not scheduled to visit that part of the hospital that day, so Lynch made arrangements and took the intuitive black lab to see the patient as quickly as possible.

Hercules got in bed and snuggled the gentleman as he reminisced about his boyhood pup named Shadow and how Hercules reminded him of his beloved dog.

Lynch and Hercules spent about 45 minutes with the patient and then went back to their regular schedule. A short time later, Lynch received a call. “It was for a Final Salute. The same man that wanted to see Hercules in hospice had passed and they wanted us to be a part of the Final Salute.”

Director Joe Battle consoled Lynch by telling him, “You gave that man, that veteran, his last wish, there’s no better way to honor him.”

A former SecDef dispels myths about the Tet Offensive

Hercules shakes with Medal of Honor recipient Woody Williams at the VA Patient Experience Symposium.

As VA staff come in to start their day, several make sure to stop by Lynch’s office and get a hug from Hercules. Lynch knows the importance of this seemingly small gesture. “It’s just as important to enhance the staff experience as it is the veteran experience when they come to VA,” he said. “Something positive sets the tone for the work day and happier employees means happier customers.”

What does Hercules do to unwind and have fun? He takes breaks during the day and will lay at Lynch’s feet to rest and recharge. On the weekends, Lynch and his family take Hercules fishing and to his favorite spot–the dog beach.

“Sometimes I think he’s kinda bummed out that he’s not at the hospital every day. He likes to play with other dogs, but he really loves to be around people,” Lynch said. “He’s so devoted. I still have my own issues. I love to see him make others happy.”

Tampa VA will be celebrating Hercules’ 3rd birthday with a Barkday party, June 26, 2019, at 1pm. For details, visit the James A. Haley VA Medical Center’s Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/VATampa/.

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

Do Not Sell My Personal Information