In a recent scandal, the Air Force came under fire for reportedly spending over $300,000 on specialized, fragile coffee cups. That’s right — the Air Force has been buying, breaking, and replacing cups that reheat liquids in air refueling tankers mid-flight at the low, low price of $1,280 a pop.
But one of the most peculiar things about this scandal is how civilians are shocked and outraged, while those in the military aren’t batting an eye. Why? Because of course the Air Force has that kind of money to blow on stupid crap. And of course they’d be spending exorbitant amounts of money on coffee cups. In fact, it’s probably the most Air Force thing on the planet.
To be fair to the airmen, we get that it’s important for your KC-10 Extender to have nice, warm coffee to keep you alert on long flights. We get it — but, seriously? You guys get to toss out broken, four-figure coffee mugs while we’re training with sticks and tape?
You guys should just give us the money. The other branches would find a better use for that much-needed cash.
Judging from the sailors I know and work with, that may only be enough to get the party started…
Every branch likes to talk about how much they consume, but the expression is “drink like a sailor” — not “drink like a soldier.” A fact that, as a soldier, I am sour about. Nearly every single time sailors get shore liberty, they’re out proving this stereotype true. But beer costs money.
Let’s say it costs around 0 for a keg of beer. That means, rounding down, we’d be able to get 12 kegs for the price of one Air Force coffee mug. At 15.5 gallons of beer per keg, that gives us a grand total of 186 gallons of beer, which would mean one hell of a Friday night for the 340 enlisted sailors aboard a Ticonderoga-class Guided Missile Cruiser.
It’s funny how all the Marines will get to shoot but those 4000+ rounds will all be police called by six or so lance corporals.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tommy Bellegarde)
If there’s one thing Marines love more than talking about how bad they have it compared to other branches, it’s shooting. So, it should come as no surprise that, given some extra cash, they’d buy some ammunition to hit the range and prove that every Marine is, indeed, a rifleman.
At 30 cents per round, the cost of one specialized cup means roughly 4,266 rounds — which would give a platoon of Marines a single afternoon of fun.
You do what you gotta do downrange — even if it means weekly kidney stones.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jb Jaso)
The Army is a hodgepodge of different people, professions, and missions, so it’s kind of hard to find one unifying thing that connects all soldiers together — except for an undying love for the one thing that gets the specialists ready for war: energy drinks.
At the cost of about dollar per full-sized can, you’d be able to get an entire brigade’s E-4 mafia a round of the “official soft drink of war!” (trademark pending).
Or it could be used to post bail for the Coastie who started a fight at the local bar with someone who mocked their branch. Personally, I believe this would be more effective at proving their “realness.”
(Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class David R. Marin)
The Coast Guard is a branch of the United States Armed Forces, despite being under Homeland Security and not the Department of Defense. And, despite the fact that they’re generally seen as the smartest branch (considering their high ASVAB score requirements), we’re sure that Coasties are also debilitating alcoholics who try to pick up strippers in the Mustang they’re paying for at a 28% interest rate. That’s the true test of a troop’s “realness.”
So, if there’s one thing that pisses off Coasties more than anything, it’s having their branch status brought into question.
For the bulk price of 9.99 per 500 copies, the Coast Guard could buy 4,000 single-sided pieces of paper that simply read, “the Coast Guard is a real branch. Change my mind” and drop that sh*t from a MH-65 Dolphin like they’re on a PsyOps mission.
Jack Murphy is no stranger to controversy. In fact, you might even say that the former Army Ranger-turned-Green Beret-turned-journalist has sought it out, or at least had a laissez-faire attitude toward it over the course of his tenure as an investigative journalist. With the release of his memoir, he has given both fans and haters alike an inside look at how he sees the world — whether they like it or not.
Murphy has penned multiple fiction novels in the past, as well as a New York Times best-selling nonfiction report on the Benghazi consulate attack. But he’s gained the most notoriety as editor-in-chief of NEWSREP.com, formerly SOFREP.com. He’s established himself as a serious journalist by breaking stories that have made international news, but has also faced accusations of operational security violations and betraying the special operations community. Most recently, the release of helmet-cam footage from U.S. Army Special Forces operators killed during an ambush in Niger stoked the heated controversy swirling around the publication.
“Murphy’s Law” was released on April 23.
(Photo courtesy of Jack Murphy)
Despite that, Simon and Schuster’s conservative nonfiction imprint, Threshold Editions, published “Murphy’s Law” on April 23. The memoir contains a brief background of Murphy’s upbringing in New York before diving into his military career and, later, the reporting exploits that took him around the world — often to arguably more dangerous corners than he faced while in uniform.
Writing a memoir wasn’t something he was interested in, despite the onslaught of special operations veterans who were publishing books around him. It wasn’t for lack of opportunity though; Murphy had made a habit of avoiding editors trying to convince him to pen his life story. At a book signing for “13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi,” Kris Paranto’s editor approached him, and he once again politely declined.
Murphy in Iraq as a Special Forces NCO training Iraqi SWAT forces.
(Photo courtesy of Jack Murphy)
But the offer stuck with him, and he brought it up to his friend and mentor, Special Forces veteran Jim West. “I told him that I’ve written all these articles, in-depth pieces — that I’ve basically told everyone’s story but my own,” Murphy said in a phone interview. “He told me that I’m avoiding my past. That was the moment I said, ‘F*ck it, maybe I should confront some of these things.'”
And so he did. The book doesn’t paint a picture of the stereotypical war hero, nor does it show him as a PTSD-riddled veteran who struggles to cope with life after combat. His self-examination is as brutally honest as he aims to be in his reporting, often taking shots at himself in one paragraph before dispelling rumors in the next.
Murphy preparing for an aerial overwatch mission as a Ranger sniper in Afghanistan.
(Photo courtesy of Jack Murphy)
He doesn’t expect that the context this book provides will help quiet his detractors though. “I don’t really give a sh*t at the end of the day,” Murphy said, noting that he hopes the book tells the truth while cutting through rumors. “I said what I had to say, and I think the criticism and anger is part and parcel with the job, and if you can’t handle it, you need to find a different profession. I don’t think anyone is going to change their mind after reading this book.”
Indeed, the last chapter of the book is titled “Controversy and Upsets” and directly addresses many of the accusations that have been leveled in his direction. It comes after 100-some pages detailing years of doing a job that many misunderstand or flat-out disdain. For that reason alone, the book is worth the read: more Americans need to understand the great lengths and risk many journalists put themselves through in order to report the news.
Murphy in Kurdistan while working as an embedded journalist with Peshmerga forces during an offensive.
(Photo courtesy of Jack Murphy)
And that’s what Murphy will continue to do, which will likely continue ruffling feathers in the process. “Unfortunately, the military sexual trauma story has been something I’ve continued to work on,” Murphy said, before noting that he also plans to finish his fifth novel, which was pushed aside while writing his memoir. “I have a passion for writing, and I don’t think that’s something I’m ever going to stop doing.”
Capt. Todd Marzano, commanding officer, Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) John F. Kennedy (CVN 79) and his crew officially unveiled the seal of the US Navy’s second Ford-class aircraft carrier currently under construction at Newport News Shipbuilding on Nov. 6, 2019.
The seal is crafted to integrate elements that honor President John F. Kennedy, his service to the Navy, and his vision for space exploration.
It features 35 stars located around the outer ring that represent John F. Kennedy as our nation’s 35th president. The 35th star is positioned after his middle initial and the two gold stars placed between CVN and the number 79 symbolize the fact that this is the second aircraft carrier bearing his name and legacy.
The Roman numeral “CIX” or 109, is a tribute to President Kennedy’s heroic naval service as commander of Patrol Boat 109 in the South Pacific. Additionally, the moon backdrop represents President Kennedy’s instrumental role in the nation’s space program.
The ship’s crest for the Ford-class aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CVN 79).
(US Navy graphic)
“No nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in the race for space,” said President Kennedy during a Sept. 12, 1962, speech at Rice University on the nation’s space effort. “For the eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and space.”
Anchoring these and other elements on the seal is the ship’s motto — “Serve with Courage.”
“Our motto exemplifies President Kennedy’s life,” said Marzano. “From the first day of his presidency, he challenged every American during his inauguration speech to ‘ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.’ He regarded serving one’s nation as an honor and held the utmost respect for those who did so with courage, especially when faced with adversity.”
Pre-Commissioning Unit John F. Kennedy reaches another milestone in its construction as its dry dock area is flooded three months ahead of its slated production schedule, Oct. 29, 2019.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Adam Ferrero)
“John F. Kennedy displayed extraordinary courage, both in combat as a naval officer, and as president of the United States,” said Marzano. “The seal design and ship’s motto are a very powerful and fitting way to honor his legacy.”
Most recently, on Oct. 29, 2019, the ship’s dry dock was flooded officially launching the aircraft carrier approximately three months early to the original schedule. PCU John F. Kennedy will be christened at Newport News Shipbuilding-Huntington Hills Industries in Newport News on Dec. 7, 2019.
In addition to the unveiling of the seal, and the flooding of the ship’s dry dock, other milestones have been completed to include laying of the ship’s keel on Aug. 22, 2015, and placement of the 588-metric ton island superstructure on May 29, 2019.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
“I was inspired as I learned about their food traditions and offered them comfort through food,” Lidia said in her PBS video Lidia Celebrates America.
One of her stops included a visit with some of We Are The Mighty’s veterans who shared some of their fondest food memories while serving in the military.
For Edith Casas (U.S. Navy), it was missing her mother’s meals during deployments. For Bryan Anderson (U.S. Army), it was the meals he prepared in the barracks. For Mike Dowling (U.S. Marine Corps), it was sharing his last meal with Rex, his military working dog.
A year-round resolution that many people make is to have healthier eating habits. Whether that means eating more fruits and veggies or cutting down on portions, changing your eating habits is a good start to having a healthier lifestyle. One of the first steps you can take to help is to cut down the amount of sugar you intake on a daily.
Though it wasn’t easy at first, Paddy Spence, CEO of Zevia— a line of zero-calorie, naturally sweetened beverages — cut sugar out of his diet 18 years ago.
“My wife and I cut sugar out of our diets in an effort to improve the way we felt every day. Through that process, I realized that with all of the supposedly ‘healthy’ products I had incorporated into my routine – items like protein smoothies, energy bars, and juice-based spritzers – I had been consuming 250 grams per day of sugar, totaling approximately 1,000 calories per day.”
Though cutting sugar completely out of your diet may take a little time, here are eight ways that you can curb your cravings to set you off on the right track.
1. Start a sugar budget.
(Photo by Matthew Kang)
When you think of budgets, finances are the first things that probably come to mind. Spence told INSIDER though, that you can actually create a budget to watch your sugar intake.
“A sugar budget, much like a financial one, allows you to use numbers to track how much sugar you’re actually consuming, and can help you limit the amount you eat,” Spence said. “It would be almost impossible to have zero sugar in your diet, so we want to be realistic. I suggest keeping it to 50 grams a day. That counts for ALL sugars, too, not just added sugars. 50 grams comes to about 10% of your 2000 calorie-a-day diet (sugar has 4 calories per gram).”
2. Keep an eye on your cereal.
(Photo by wsilver / Flickr)
It’s always been said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and according to Spence, it’s for more reasons than one.
“Most people these days know that colorful kids’ cereals are going to have a sizeable serving of sugar,” he said. “Other choices that may appear ‘healthy,’ however — like a granola-based cereal for instance — could also be packing major sugar content. Be diligent and don’t be fooled!”
Try having some fresh fruit and always remember to check your labels.
3. Watch your condiments.
Do you think of sugar when you add ketchup to your hotdog? Or how about when you drench your fries in it? Spence told INSIDER that sugar is in some of the most unexpected products.
“Many condiments, ketchup included, contain ‘hidden sugars.’ That’s why kids love ketchup so much,” he said. “Barbeque sauce is also a major culprit. One of the sneakiest sources of ‘hidden sugar,’ however, is salad dressing. Always keep an eye on the sugar content of your salad dressing. You’ll be glad you did.”
4. Check your labels.
Just because a product is marketed as being healthy, Paul Searles and Sean Kuechenmeister of NY Sports Science Lab told INSIDER that it may not always necessarily be true.
“Check the nutrition labels of the products you are consuming to see how much sugar is actually present in your products,” they said. “Even some health products have high-levels of sugar. You might be better off eating a Snickers bar chemically speaking because there are more nutritional benefits and less sugar in it.”
It may take a little extra time during your next trip to the store, but it will be worth it.
5. Get active after you eat.
(Photo by Dave Rosenblum)
It’s very easy for you to want to get comfy on the couch or head straight to bed after dinner every night, but Spence said the best way to keep the late-night sugar cravings at bay is to actually get active.
Ketogenic diets have become quite popular as of late and according to Searles and Kuechenmeister, that’s for a good reason.
“This diet is a low carb diet that lessens the amount of glucose and insulin your body is producing and doesn’t use glucose as the main form of the energy for the body.”
The diet isn’t for everyone, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be for you.
7. Create a culture of wellness at work.
Since we spend most of our time at work, ensuring that your work environment reflects your health choices can be a lot of help.
“Switch out the office candy jar for fresh fruit and think about catering office celebrations differently,” Nicole Feneli, director of wellness for FLIK Hospitality, told INSIDER. “Order ‘build your own’ salads instead of heavy sandwich platters or try frozen yogurt bars instead of cake. Start small until you create a culture of wellness in your office.”
It might take some time before you adjust, but once you do, you might be able to have a good influence on others around you.
8. Start questioning your motives.
(Photo by ccharmon)
According to physician nutrition specialist Dr. Nancy Rahnama, anyone looking to curb their sugar cravings should start questioning exactly why sugar is on their mind.
“Ask yourself why you are craving the carbohydrates. Most often carb cravings are emotional or stress-related,” she said. “You may want to ask yourself if you are craving carbs because of emotional reasons. If so, find something else to do — like go for a walk or talk to a friend.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Everyone knows about John Glenn, either as an astronaut (the last survivor of the “Mercury Seven”) or politician (he was a United States Senator from 1975 to 1999).
Few know, however, that John Glenn had a lengthy combat career as a Marine aviator in both World War II and the Korean War. His decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross with three gold stars and two oak leaf clusters and 18 Air Medals.
After Pearl Harbor, Glenn first tried to sign up with the Army Air Force – but instead ended up as a Naval Aviation Cadet. He transitioned to the Marine Corps, though, and was sent to the South Pacific.
The first plane he flew after graduating training, though, was a far cry from a fighter or a rocket – it was the R4D, the Navy’s version of the classic C-47 Skytrain, accoridng to Paul Kuppenberg’s 2003 biography of Glenn.
Glenn wouldn’t be a trash-hauler forever, though.
Soon, he was flying the F4U Corsair, and took part in combat missions around the Marshall Islands — notably attacking anti-aircraft batteries on Maloelap Atoll.
After a stateside assignment, he was later assigned to VMF-218 in China, where he flew some patrols.
Between World War II and Korea, Glenn was both a flight instructor and a student at the Amphibious Warfare School. When the Korean War broke out, Glenn sought a combat assignment.
According to AcePilots.com, he would serve two tours in Korea — the first with VMF-311, flying the F9F Panther. One famous squadron mate – and wingman – was Boston Red Sox legend Ted Williams.
Glenn often had his plane shot up, on one occasion bringing it back with 250 holes in it. He’d been hit five times in World War II, each time nursing his damaged plane home, according to Light This Candle, a 2005 biography of Alan Shepard.
Glenn’s second tour was with the Air Force’s 51st Fighter Wing. Glenn would get his only three confirmed kills, MiG-15s, in a grand total of 27 missions.
After the Korean War, Glenn became a test pilot, making a mark in Project Bullet, using a F8U-1P Crusader (the Navy’s pre-1962 designation for the RF-8A version of the Crusader) to cross the United States faster than the speed of sound – despite the fact he had to slow three times to refuel.
In 1959, Glenn was assigned to NASA, and from there, he went into space – and history. But his combat career is something that also deserves to be remembered.
The U.S. military hasn’t executed a prisoner since the 1961 hanging of Pvt. John Bennett at Fort Leavenworth. Prior to 1959, prisoners sent to the gallows by the U.S. military were afforded certain last rights demanded by regulations that included an escort, a chaplain, a last meal, unlimited letters to loved ones, and a military band.
Listeners might be familiar with aa few bars of legendary Polish composer Frederic Chopin’s Funeral March, either through military film or television – or through the WWE’s Undertaker entrance music. The Army’s regulations called for every execution (or series of executions) have a military band accompany the prisoner(s) to the gallows playing the classical tune.
The updated guidance for military executions as of 1959 did not call for the band, but still included the meal, letters, and religious paraphernalia. Only ten military members have been executed for crimes outside of wartime, and only two of those were executed after Apr. 7, 1959, and they did not walk to the gallows to the “Dead March.” Private Bennett and John E. Day, both convicted killers, were hanged in the boiler room of the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth to no fanfare.
How Chopin’s “Funeral March” became the official U.S. military death march is another story. The song comes from the composer’s Sonata No. 2 in B Flat Minor. Chopin was celebrated for his piano miniatures, and the Funeral March (the sonata’s third movement) was written much earlier than any of his sonatas. Chopin is said to have penned the work commemorating the 1830-1831 November Uprising, where ethnic Poles attempted to shake off the yoke of the Russian Empire.
The hopeful uprising was soon put down by the Russian Army, and the Tsar tightened Russia’s grip on Poland. Chopin’s original manuscript featured the date of the uprising’s start, Nov. 28, 1830. The piece’s dark tone and minor keys immediately associated it with death and it was played at the composer’s funeral – as well as those of John F. Kennedy, Winston Churchill, and even Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev.
The song would come to ingratiate itself in pop culture around the world as a song (rightly) associated with death and dying, from Saturday morning cartoons to Deadmau5.
The U.S. military’s (and many other armed forces around the world) bands, drums, and buglers all played an important battlefield communications function for centuries. Troops, unable to hear the orders of their officers over the din of fighting, would hear and could respond to general orders as played through songs.
In the years following Chopin’s Sonata No. 2, it became increasingly popular. The Funeral March was the most popular part of an already-popular musical hit. Soon after, the song’s popularity took on a life of its own and the song came full-circle from one of seriousness and piety toward the dead to one of parody. The music that called to mind death and the fragility of life was now being used to make fun of the same concepts.
The piece hasn’t always been just for executions. It accompanied the American Unknown Soldier from World War I as he made his way aboard ship to cross the Atlantic Ocean one night in Le Havre, France. It has been used for many a prominent U.S. official as they lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda.
No matter how parodied it was or why it was used, the Funeral March would endure as a powerful piece of music, not just for the U.S. military, but for the world at large. Even to this day, it evokes the foreboding we associate with death and dying.
And that could be why it didn’t endure in military execution regulations. At this point, it just seems overly macabre and slightly cruel.
The final trailer for Joker debuted online Aug. 28, 2019, giving viewers more information about the plot, introducing several new characters (including Robert De Niro as a talk show host), and taking a deeper look into the mind of Arthur Fleck as he transforms into the titular villain. The trailer is already drumming up Oscar buzz for Joaquin Phoenix and is getting a positive response across the board. But there is still one thing fans may be asking after watching: Where is Batman?
Since the movie was first announced, people have wondered if it would be connected to the Batman universe or function as a standalone film just focusing on the Joker. Based on the final trailer, it initially seems Joker may be the latter, as there is no sign of the caped crusader.
However, while Bruce Wayne may be nowhere to be found, we do meet a character who has a clear connection to the crime-fighting billionaire: Bruce’s dad Thomas (played by Edward Cullen). He is only in the trailer for a brief moment but his screen time is memorable.
“Is this a joke to you?” Thomas asks a laughing Fleck before punching him in the face.
It’s an interesting choice to potentially have the Joker exist long before Batman because, in the comics and movies, the Joker is often depicted as a direct reaction to Batman. A destructive force of chaos that fights against Bruce Wayne’s never-ending fight for order and justice. Instead, the trailer implies that this version of the character emerges as a response to the bitter, cruel world that laughs at his miserable existence.
Or maybe the real twist will be that when Fleck finally reaches the point of no return, his first act as the Joker will be killing Thomas and Martha Wayne, unknowingly creating his future nemesis. It would be a clever callback to Tim Burton’s Batman movie and a nice way to set up a potential larger cinematic universe.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Five days after Hitler ate a bullet in his bunker in Berlin and two days before Germany would ultimately surrender, American and German troops were fighting together side by side in what has been dubbed World War II’s “strangest battle.”
It was the last days of the war on May 5, 1945 when French prisoners, Austrian resistance fighters, German soldiers, and American tankers all fought in defense of Itter Castle in Austria.
In 1943, the German military turned the small castle into a prison for “high value” prisoners, such as French prime ministers, generals, sports stars, and politicians. By May 4, 1945, with Germany and its military quickly collapsing, the commander of the prison and his guards abandoned their post.
The prisoners were now running the asylum, but they couldn’t just walk out the front door and enjoy their freedom. The Waffen SS, the fanatical paramilitary unit commanded by Heinrich Himmler, had plans to recapture the castle and execute all of the prisoners.
That’s when the prisoners enlisted the help of nearby American troops led by Capt. John ‘Jack’ Lee, local resistance fighters, and yes, even soldiers of the Wehrmacht to defend the castle through the night and early morning of May 5. The book “The Last Battle” by Stephen Harding tells the true tale of what happened next.
There are two primary heroes of this—as I must reiterate, entirely factual—story, both of them straight out of central casting. Jack Lee was the quintessential warrior: smart, aggressive, innovative—and, of course, a cigar-chewing, hard-drinking man who watched out for his troops and was willing to think way, way outside the box when the tactical situation demanded it, as it certainly did once the Waffen-SS started to assault the castle. The other was the much-decorated Wehrmacht officer Major Josef ‘Sepp’ Gangl, who died helping the Americans protect the VIPs. This is the first time that Gangl’s story has been told in English, though he is rightly honored in present-day Austria and Germany as a hero of the anti-Nazi resistance.
As the New York Journal of Books notes in its review of Harding’s work, Army Capt. Lee immediately assumed command of the fight for the castle over its leaders — Capt. Schrader and Maj. Gangl — and they fought against a force of 100 to 150 SS troops in a confusing battle, to say the least.
Over the six-hour battle, the SS managed to destroy the sole American tank of the vastly outnumbered defenders, and Allied ammunition ran extremely low. Fortunately, the Americans were able to call for reinforcements, and once they showed up the SS backed off, according to Donald Lateiner in his review.
Approximately 100 SS troops were taken prisoner, according to the BBC. The only friendly casualty of the battle was Maj. Gangl, who was shot by a sniper. The nearby town of Wörgl later named a street after him in his honor, while Capt. Lee received the Distinguished Service Cross for his bravery in the battle.
With the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon Project, the days of the M4 Carbine and M249 SAW may be numbered. The prototypes from General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems Inc., Textron Systems, and Sig Sauer are vying to replace both 5.56mm weapon systems in infantry and close-combat units. All three NGSW candidates utilize a 6.8mm round, though their designs and mechanics vary greatly. While the NGSW Project is a departure from the M4/M16 family, it is certainly not the first time that the Army or military in general has attempted to find a new rifle.
The prototypes for the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon (U.S. Army)
The SPIW on display at the Aberdeen Proving Ground Museum (Public Domain)
1. Special Purpose Individual Weapon
The Special Purpose Individual Weapon was an Army program that began in 1951 to develop a flechette-firing rifle. I know what you’re thinking: the M16 wasn’t even adopted until 1964. So how can the SPIW have been a potential replacement for the M16?
Well, Project SALVO was the Army’s first attempt to create the SPIW with the intent of arming soldiers with a weapon that fired small projectiles in large volumes at a high rate of fire, hence its name. Though flechette rounds were tested, the conclusion of Project SALVO was to adopt the Armalite AR-15 as the M16 rifle. However, research and development of the SPIW continued with Project NIBLICK. Now trying to replace the newly adopted M16, the Project NIBLICK also aimed to develop a grenade launcher to complement the flechette-firing rifle. AAI, Springfield Armory, Winchester Arms, and Harrington Richardson all submitted their own unique entries for the SPIW. T
hough none of the submissions were deemed to be effective combat weapons, the grenade launcher from the AAI design was further developed and was eventually as the M203 40mm grenade launcher.
Top to bottom: AAI, HK, Steyr, and Colt ACR prototypes (Public Domain)
2. Advanced Combat Rifle
Started in 1986, the Advanced Combat Rifle program aimed to replace the M16 with a more accurate rifle. AAI, Colt, HK, Steyr, Ares Inc., and McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Systems all received development contracts, but only the first four companies advanced to the weapon testing phase. The AAI entry utilized a flechette round which, despite the addition of a sound suppressor, created a louder muzzle blast than the M16.
The HK entry was the innovative caseless ammunition G11 which many people will remember from the video game Call of Duty: Black Ops. Steyr submitted a flechette-firing bullpup design that bore a superficial resemblance to the AUG. Colt’s ACR prototype was the most conventional, as it was a highly modified version of the existing M16 design with the addition of a new sight, a hydraulic buffer, and a collapsing buttstock. The Colt ACR also utilized an experimental “duplex round”, a single cartridge with two small bullets in it, to increase the rifle’s volume of fire. However, the “duplex rounds” resulted in decreased accuracy at long range, defeating the purpose of the ACR. In the end, none of the ACR prototypes met or even approached the 100% improvement over the M16 that the program aimed for.
A soldier with the XM29 Block 3 prototype (U.S. Army)
3. Objective Individual Combat Weapon/XM29
In the aftermath of the ACR program, the Army started the Objective Individual Combat Weapon program. The central idea of the OICW program was to develop an infantry rifle that allowed the user to engage targets behind hard cover with the use of airburst munitions. This idea was refined to combine the airburst, low-velocity cannon with an assault rifle.
The kinetic rounds of the rifle could engage a target directly and, if the target retreated behind cover, the airburst munition could be employed instead. By the early 2000s, contract winner Heckler Koch had resigned the XM29, which featured a 20mm High Explosive Air Bursting launcher and a short-barrel 5.56x45mm NATO rifle. However, the 20mm HEAB was found to be inadequately lethal and the short barrel of the rifle did not generate enough muzzle velocity to be as effective as a standard infantry rifle. The XM29 was also too large and heavy to be carried by a rifleman on the frontlines. The XM29 was shelved in 2004.
Army Chief of Staff, General Peter J. Shoomaker, and Sergeant Major of the Army Kenneth O. Preston fire the compact variant of the XM8 at Fort Benning, August 2004 (U.S. Army)
Designed by Heckler Koch, the XM8 was an offshoot of the shelved XM29. The grenade launcher part of the project went on to be developed into the XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement System. The XM8 was a configurable weapon system that allowed the user to set it up as an infantry rifle, a short-barreled personal defense weapon, and even a bipod-equipped support weapon.
The XM8 also featured an integrated sight and IR laser aiming module/illuminator. Over 200 developmental prototypes were delivered to the military. However, testing yielded numerous complaints including the short battery life of the integrated sight and IR module, ergonomic issues, heavy weight, and a hand guard that would melt after firing too many rounds. Following this first phase of testing, the military requested funding for a large field test, which Congress denied. The project was put on hold in April 2005 and formally canceled on October 31 later that year.
Soldiers fire the HK HK416 (U.S. Army)
5. Individual Carbine
The Individual Carbine competition began in 2010 and sought to replace the M4 carbine in the US Army. The Army solicited manufacturers to submit rifles that provided accurate and reliable firepower, could be fired semi or fully-automatic, possessed integrated Picatinny rails, and was fully ambidextrous. Though the competition did not specify a caliber, any submissions not chambered in 5.56x45mm NATO or 7.62x54mm NATO had to be supplied with ammunition by the manufacturer.
Submissions for the competition included Robinson Armament Co.’s XCR, LWRC’s M6A4, Remington’s ACR (not to be confused with the ACR program), FN Herstal’s FN SCAR, Colt’s CM901, Beretta’s ARX-160, Adcor Defense’s A-556, and HK’s HK416, among others. Over the course of testing, some companies backed out after the Army announced that the winner would have to turn over technical data rights to the Army; others dropped out for financial reasons. By Phase II testing, only FN, HK, Remington, Adcor Defense, Beretta, and Colt remained in the running.
Though Phase II was completed, Phase III was halted in 2013 by questions regarding the program’s cost and necessity. With M4A1 carbines set to be purchased through 2018, the Army began to rethink carbine acquisition. On June 13, 2013, the Individual Carbine competition was formally cancelled on the grounds that none of the submissions met the minimum scores to continue to the next phase of the evaluation.
A Marine armed with an M27 IAR covers his team in Afghanistan (U.S. Marine Corps)
6. M27 Infantry Assault Rifle
The Marines pride themselves on their ingenuity. Their ability to improvise, adapt, and overcome us part of what makes them such a lethal fighting force. The Corps demonstrated this ability with their acquisition and fielding of the M27 Infantry Assault Rifle. In 2006, the Marine Corps issued contracts to manufacturers to replace the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon with a more mobile Infantry Assault Rifle. Submissions included IAR variants of the FN SCAR and HK416 as well as the Colt IAR6940. In 2009, the HK416 won the competition and began a five-month final testing period before it was formally designated as the M27 IAR in the summer of 2010.
In May 2011, General James Amos ordered the replacement of the M249 SAW by the M27 IAR and limited fielding began. Though the 30round magazine-fed M27 could not provide the sustained suppressive fire that the belt-fed M249 SAW could, the M27’s increased accuracy and reliability offset the rate of fire. In early 2017, Commandant of the Marine Corps General Robert Neller announced that he wanted to equip every 0311 Marine rifleman with the M27 IAR. To meet this demand, the Corps issued a request for 11,000 M27 IARs from HK. Chris Woodburn, deputy of the Maneuver Branch, Fires and Maneuver Integration at Marine Corps Combat Development Command, said, “The new order will replace all M4s in every infantry squad with an M27, except for the squad leader.”
The change would also include Marine infantry training battalions. The deal was finalized in 2018, with the Marines purchasing just over 14,000 M27 IARs. In 2019, the Marine Corps reported that the last of the M27s would be delivered and issued to every infantryman from platoon commander and below by mid-2021. While the M27 will replace the M4 as the standard-issue rifle for the Marine Corps infantry, non-infantry Marines will continue to field the M4 for the foreseeable future. Still, it could be argued that the Marine Corps succeeded in replacing the M4 in a short period of time where the Army failed over a period of decades of programs and competitions. If anything, the NGSW goal of replacing the M4 and M249 with a single weapon system appears to have been lifted from the Marine Corps acquisition and fielding of the M27 IAR.
Only time will tell if the Army will succeed in replacing the M4 through the NGSW Project, or if it be the latest in a long line of failed attempts.
The Vietnam war gave us a lot of things: Zippos, M16s, and the list goes on. Before it popped off, there hadn’t been a war like it; it was highly televised, deeply protested, and involved heavy use of special operations units. From this war came tons of stories of heroism and courage in the face of extreme danger. One such story that stands out from the rest is that of U.S. Army Captain William Albracht.
Albracht graduated from Alleman Catholic High School in Illinois in 1966 and found himself in Vietnam just three years later. He wasn’t just a Green Beret captain, he was the youngest Green Beret captain in the entire country. He took command of a hilltop outpost known as Firebase Kate with a total of 27 American Soldiers and 156 Montagnard militiamen. This is where Captain Albracht earned his place in history and solidified his status as an American badass.
This is the story of the youngest Green Beret captain in Vietnam:
Landing Zone Kate in 1969.
Landing Zone Kate, also referred to as Firebase White, was built in 1969 on a hilltop northwest of Quang Dug Province in Southern Vietnam. It was near the Cambodian border. It was also the first command for Captain Albracht, who was just 21 at the time.
The young captain saw the hilltop location as problematic, primarily because the North Vietnamese Army controlled the nearby road and could freely fire from Cambodia. To make matters worse, supplying the base was also a very tricky.
Army Special Forces and Rangers in Vietnam.
Supplies & discipline
Since the NVA controlled the road, supplies and personnel for LZ Kate could only be delivered via helicopter. Despite each delivery being protected by a wide range of aircraft, Captain Albracht felt it wasn’t enough support for their location.
On top of that, Sergeant Daniel Pierelli arrived ahead of Captain Albracht to find the troops located there playing volleyball and lounging around instead of preparing to defend the place. He and Captain Albracht made sure to address this before increasing patrols in an effort to gain more intelligence on the NVA. Unfortunately, fate had other plans.
Army artillerymen in Vietnam.
Siege at LZ Kate
On the morning of October 29th, the NVA launched the first assault on the Firebase, outnumbering the defenders 40 to 1. For the next few days, the men there sustained heavy casualties from small-arms gunfire, mortars, rockets, and artillery.
The wounded included Captain Albracht, who sustained a shrapnel wound in his arm on October 29th while he directed a medevac helicopter. He was given the opportunity to leave, but instead decided to stay at Kate and continue to lead his men.
Members of Mike force on the left and a member of the Montagnard militia on the right.
A great escape
Supplies dwindled fast, and the situation wasn’t getting any better. Eventually, on November 1st, Captain Albracht realized Kate could not be saved and decided they needed to escape. They destroyed their gun tubes, artillery ammo, and anything that could be considered intelligence before slipping away.
He, along with around 150 men, eventually arrived at another Special Forces camp, only losing one American soldier in the jungle. In the early hours of November 2nd, they linked up with SF Mike Force, their closest allies. To do so, Captain Albracht had to cross an open field three times, putting himself at risk of being spotted by the enemy, to ensure the safety of his men.
Due to his heroics, the men safely escaped.
Captain William Albracht in 2016.
(Photo by Kevin E. Schmidt)
Captain William Albracht
For his service and actions during the war, he earned three Silver Stars, three Purple Hearts, and five Bronze Stars. After the war, he continued serving his country in the Secret Service, guarding five presidents during his time. He then went on to manage security for the Ford Motor Company.
He returned home to Illinois in 2005 and, in 2012, he ran for Senator for Illinois’ 36th district. He co-wrote the book, Abandoned in Hell: The Fight for Vietnam’s Firebase Kate, and his story is featured in a documentary entitled Escape from Firebase Kate.
Special ops have earned their prestige. There is no denying that these men are absolute badasses; relentless warriors with no room for quit.
SOF teams are often described as surgical tools for the Department of Defense to use when a less overt maneuver is required. Conversely, America’s infantry is used when the U.S. wants to figuratively and literally kick down the enemies’ front door and punch them in the face.
But I digress. Here’s how infantry and special operations teams are alike.
Special operations are known for being extremely fit — the reputation is well deserved. However, the military, in general, is expected to maintain a high level of fitness and the infantry holds their personnel to an exceptional standard.
2. Attending advanced training
Infantry units are trained to excel in the most austere environments. All units send their troops to advanced schools and, depending on their upcoming area of operations, soldiers and Marines will receive advanced, specialized training to expand the capabilities of the unit as a whole.
3. Showcasing tactical prowess in combat
Locate, close with, and destroy the enemy using fire and maneuver.
No matter your status, the tactics for room clearing, close-quarters combat, fire, and maneuver are all about mastering the basics. There is no shortage of expertise among the U.S. infantry who are winning America’s battles.
Amphibious landings en masse? No problem. (Photo by Phan Shannon Garcia)
4. Utilizing inter-service augmentation
A major component of SOF’s arsenal comes from calling in accurate fire from Army/Marine artillery, Navy guns, and Air Force strikes.
Coincidentally, forward observers within infantry units possess the same radios and they use them for communicating with the artisans of mass destruction from all branches.
5. Possessing the ability to f*ck sh*t up
SOF surely kicks the enemy’s ass. Infantry does as well — with way more guys, munitions, and, when Congress allows it, they don’t leave until all enemies are either dead or have surrendered.
Knock, knock, knocking — soon you’ll be at heaven’s door. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Stacy L. Pearsall)
The mission is number one for everyone in the military, regardless of job. It’s the reason we are here.
Infantry, just like SOF, has cultivated a culture dedicated to defending America’s interests, the country itself, and, most importantly, its people. Regardless of how they do it, all servicemen and women understand the priority: doing the hard job that needs to be done.
With heavily tattooed arms, a motorcycle vest, red bandana, and long goatee, Jay Dobyns fit the stereotype for the kind of person who would hang around the street-hardened bikers of the Hells Angels Skull Valley Charter. He would peddle T-shirts for the one-percenter motorcycle club, run errands at ungodly hours, and eventually break bread with individuals who wouldn’t think twice about taking a baseball bat to someone’s head.
Two years in, and the Hells Angels had no idea that Dobyns, who was close to getting his patch, was an undercover agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The patch is sacrosanct to the Hells Angels. After a shootout between the Hells Angels and the Mongols, a rival biker gang, “We found Mongols cuts in vents, stuffed in trash cans, and some were floating down the Colorado River,” Dobyns said. “As far as the Hells Angels and their patches, we didn’t find a single one. The Hells Angels don’t take off their patches for anyone.”
Becoming a patched member of the gang is no easy task — and Dobyns had already done a lot more than simply run errands for them in his attempt to be welcomed into the gang.
Dobyns undercover with the Hells Angels.
(Photo courtesy of Jay Dobyns)
At times, he even had to participate in assaults, getting a taste of the vicious world in which the Hells Angels reside.
“My reaction was to fight my way to the victim and take control of the victim, throw my punches, both maintain my cover and protect my persona, and protect the victim from any life-threatening battle damage,” Dobyns said. “It’s one of the elements of tradecraft.”
For the Hells Angels, it was hardly enough.
In 2002, the rift between the Hells Angels and their legendary rivals, the Mongols, hit a boiling point. The two gangs were involved in a big-time gunfight at the Harrah Casino Hotel in Laughlin, Nevada. It was the event that led to Dobyns going undercover.
Dobyns wanted to get a good idea of where the Hells Angels stood against the Mongols, especially with what had happened in Laughlin. “I asked the president of the Skull Valley Charter what I should do if I come across a Mongol,” Dobyns said. “And he said to me, ‘It’s your job to kill him.'”
As time passed, Dobyns sat on the incriminating information from the charter president, continuing to gain more trust with the gang members, all while a series of homicides happened in his wake. One of the murders was particularly brutal. The Hells Angels beat a woman to death in their clubhouse, wrapped her body in a piece of carpet, and cut her head off in the desert.
It was a pivotal moment in the investigation. Dobyns decided it was time for the Hells Angels to see how far he was willing to go to show his devotion and loyalty. If it worked, he was in. If it didn’t, he was dead.
“We took a living, breathing member of our task force, got a Mongols cut, dressed him up in the vest, and brought in a homicide detective to create a crime scene,” Dobyns said. “We used makeup, animal parts, animal blood, and dug a shallow grave. Then we duct taped his hands and feet and threw him in the grave.”
The elaborate ruse needed to be properly documented in order to convince the Hells Angels leadership that it was real.
The fake homicide Dobyns used to get patched into the Hells Angels.
(Photo courtesy of Jay Dobyns)
“I asked the homicide detective to make it look like the victim had been beaten with a baseball bat and shot in the head,” Dobyns said. “Almost Hollywood-style. We photographed it. We took pictures of the crime scene, and we took the bloody mongol vest back to the Hells Angels leadership.”
Dobyns showed the vest to the charter president, the vice president, the sergeant-at-arms and one another member of the gang. “They were either going to believe me, or I was going to get a baseball bat to the back of the head or razor wire to the throat,” he said.
Fortunately, the president didn’t have any plans to dispose of Dobyns. In fact, quite the opposite: They hugged him, kissed him, and welcomed him into the gang.
Convinced that Dobyns had just savagely murdered a Mongol, the gang wanted to immediately get rid of the fabricated proof. “We went out to the desert and burned all the evidence along with the Mongol cut. They helped destroy the evidence of the murder we exposed them to in order to cover up the crime.”
Dobyns now had his patch, but his time in the Hells Angels was coming to an end.
The investigation, code named “Operation Black Biscuit,” concluded with ATF executives citing that it was too dangerous to continue — even though Dobyns argued that they should let him stay and work the case. Regardless, he remains the first law enforcement officer to successfully infiltrate the cold and callous world of the Hells Angels.