The Army Combat Fitness Test is comprised of the deadlift, standing power throw, hand release push-up, sprint-drag-carry, leg tuck, and 2-mile run. When designing the test, they looked at the Marine Corps’ Physical Fitness Test and Combat Fitness Test, the Air Force TAC-P Operators Test, and physical performance assessments from 10-15 other sports programs and military/government tests.
All soldiers must be capable to deploy and fight. From the Army Vision: “The Army Mission – our purpose – remains constant: To deploy, fight, and win our nation’s wars by providing ready, prompt, and sustain land dominance by Army forces.” To accomplish that mission, the Army will “build readiness for high intensity conflict” with training that “will be tough, realistic, iterative and battled-focused.” The battlefields of today and tomorrow are increasingly complex, fluid, and uncertain; they demand that all Soldiers are physically fit and ready for full-spectrum operations. —U.S. Army Combat Fitness Test website
To help prepare soldiers, the Army really went above and beyond with educational materials about the test. From videos of the exercises to training techniques and safety tips to highlighting the muscles engaged, the page is an incredible resource.
If I sound surprised, it’s because I am.
The military does not have a good reputation of taking care of service members’ bodies. There’s an underlying “suck it up” mentality that tends to prevent troops from treating injuries in a timely manner. When they do finally seek medical care, it’s often too late and they’re added to the end of a too-long list of patients needing treatment.
U.S. troops deploy to combat zones and respond to missions that require physical strength, flexibility, and capability, so it’s important that they train hard — but it’s also critical that they learn how to prevent and treat injuries efficiently.
A minor training nuisance like a strained muscle or a shin splint can become a career-ending injury when ignored; instead it should be treated like a loose part on a weapon and it prioritized as such.
The effort the Army put into their website might seem like a small thing, but it actually communicates the importance of soldiers’ bodies — training them, honing them, and caring for them.
The mission of the Sports Medicine Injury Prevention (SMIP) Program is to reduce attrition and lost work-days associated with musculoskeletal injuries (MSKI) in order to increase operational readiness of individual Marine, Sailors, and their units. —U.S. Marine Corps SMIP website
I wish I had this kind of stuff when I was active duty.
The Army, on the other hand:
The government knows that injuries are a detriment to the military, but the Army has currently has a lead in educating its troops about how to train. Physical health should be prioritized as part of the military culture, not just physical strength. Troops can’t be strong if they’re not healthy.
Check out the website here — and then get your ass to the gym!
A policy developed more than a year ago that creates new distinctions for performance and valor awards has taken effect for the Department of the Navy.
According to an all-Navy message released in late August, Marines and sailors can begin to receive awards bearing new “C” and “R” devices, indicating the award was earned under combat conditions or for remote impact on a fight, a condition that would apply to drone operators, among others.
The policy also establishes more stringent criteria for the existing “V” device, stipulating that it applies only to awards for actions demonstrating valor above what is expected of a service member in combat.
The changes were first announced in January 2016, when then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced a Pentagon-wide review of high-level combat awards, a measure designed to ensure that troops serving since Sept. 11, 2001, had been appropriately honored.
Carter also approved the creation of the new devices as a way to distinguish clearly the conditions under which an award had been earned.
Development of the C device for awards earned under combat conditions enabled more selective use of the V device, giving it added weight and significance as an indicator of heroism.
“We’re raising the bar,” a Pentagon official told reporters at the time of the policy rollout. “What we’ve seen is, maybe it has been … a little too loose in the past.”
Notably, the ALNAV states, authorization of the C device does not entitle award recipients to wear the Combat Action Ribbon, which has more restrictive criteria.
The R device, meanwhile, is the product of conversations about how to recognize those who have direct impact on a fight from afar in a changing battlespace, such as unmanned aerial vehicle operators.
According to the all-Navy message, the sailors and Marines who might be eligible for this award are not just drone pilots. They also include:
Those who conduct ship-to-shore or surface-to-surface weapon system strikes.
Operators who remotely pilot aircraft that provide direct and real-time support that directly contributes to the success of ground forces in combat or engaged in a mission, such as a raid or hostage rescue.
Cyberwarfare that disrupts enemy capabilities or actions.
Surface-to-air engagement that disrupts an enemy attack or enemy surveillance of friendly forces.
Troops exercising real-time tactical control of a raid or combat mission from a remote location not exposed to hostile action.
For awards in which certain conduct or conditions is presupposed, the rules are not changing.
Bronze Stars, for example, are not eligible for the new C device, as combat conditions are inherent in the award.
Likewise, Silver Stars, Navy Crosses, and Medal of Honor awards are not eligible for the V device, as all these awards are presented for extraordinary valor or heroism.
For the Department of the Navy, processing of awards with the new devices began with the release of the ALNAV, Lt. Cmdr. Ryan De Vera, a service spokesman, told Military.com.
While the Navy will not retroactively remove V devices from any awards in keeping with the new rules, De Vera said Marines and sailors who believe they merit one of the new devices for awards earned since Jan. 7, 2016 can contact their command to initiate a review of the relevant award.
“The onus is on the sailor or the Marine to do that,” he said.
Awards given before the new policy was announced will not receive any additional scrutiny.
“All previous decorations that had a V device remain valid,” De Vera said. “It’s important to note that they are in no way diminished or called into question by the new policy.”
The FBI field office in Honolulu stated that the 34-year-old active-duty soldier is stationed at the Schofield Barracks and appeared in court July 10 regarding allegations of terror links, USA Today reports.
According to the criminal complaint filed in the US District Court of Hawaii, Kang, part of the 25th Infantry Division, pledged allegiance to ISIS. Kang also attempted to provide military documents to ISIS contacts, authorities allege.
Unlike other service members apprehended due to terror connections, Sgt. 1st Class Kang was highly decorated, having been awarded the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, and the Iraq Campaign Medal, among others. He deployed to Iraq in 2010 and Afghanistan in 2014.
“Terrorism is the FBI’s number one priority,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Paul D. Delacourt said in a statement. “In fighting this threat, the Honolulu Division of the FBI works with its law enforcement partners and the Joint Terrorism Task Force. In this case, the FBI worked closely with the US Army to protect the citizens of Hawaii.”
Prior to his arrest, Kang worked as an air traffic control operator.
The Army and FBI had been investigating Kang for more than a year. They believe he was a lone actor.
In a recent interview with Business Insider, Justin Bronk, a research fellow specializing in combat airpower at the Royal United Services Institute, revealed why the F-15, originally introduced four decades ago, is still more useful than either the F-22 or the F-35 in certain situations.
The F-15 is a traditional air-superiority fighter of the fourth generation. It’s big, fast, agile, and carriers lots of weapons under the wing where everyone can see them. For that last reason, it’s terrible at stealth, but the other side of the coin is that it’s perfect for intercepting enemy aircraft.
Bronk says that when it comes to interception, a plane must “get up right next to the aircraft, fly alongside, show weapons, go on guard frequency, tell them they’re being intercepted, that they’re on course to violate airspace, and to turn back immediately.”
An F-22 or F-35 shouldn’t, and in some cases, can’t do that.
The major advantage of fifth-generation aircraft is their stealth abilities and situational awareness. Even the best aircraft in the world would be lucky to lay eyes on any fifth-generation fighter, which means they can set up and control the engagement entirely on their terms.
But while this paradigm lends itself ideally to fighting and killing, interception is a different beast.
The advantages of the F-22, and particularly of the F-35, diminish greatly once planes get within visual range of one another. Also, fifth-gens usually carry their munitions inside internal bomb bays, which is great for stealth but doesn’t really strike the same note that staring down an AIM-9 Sidewinder missile on the side of an F-15 would.
Simply put, a fifth-gen revealing itself to a legacy fighter would be akin to a hunter laying down his gun before confronting a wild beast.
“Fifth-gen fighters are not really necessary for that … other, cheaper interceptors can do the job,” Bronk said.
Furthermore, interception happens way more frequently than air-to-air combat. A US Air Force fighter most recently shot down an enemy plane in 2009 — and it was the Air Force’s own wayward drone over Afghanistan. Interceptionshappenallthetime, with the Baltics and the South China Sea being particular hot spots.
The fifth-gens, however, make sense for entering contested airspace. If the US wanted to enter North Korean or Iranian airspace, it wouldn’t just be to show off, and according to Bronk, the aircraft’s stealth and situational awareness would afford them the opportunity to slip in, hit their marks, and slip out undetected, unlike an F-15.
In interception situations, it makes no sense to offer up an F-22 or an F-35 as a handicapped target to an older legacy plane. F-15s are more than capable of delivering the message themselves, and whoever they intercept will know that the full force of the US Air Force, including fifth-gens, stands behind them.
Recently, I had the honor of sitting with five Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) from VA Sierra Nevada Health Care System in a quiet private airport in Reno, Nevada. We were waiting for their jet, courtesy of the U.S. Air Force, to arrive and whisk these heroes away to New Jersey. They were on their way to provide relief to the weary practitioners fighting the pandemic.
These LPNs volunteered to go to New Jersey to assist medical staff in nursing homes, where staff has been stretched to the breaking point caring for their high-risk senior population.
As I sat with them, I realized that I had an honest admiration not only for these five individuals, but also for my entire VA health care team.
Not one of them expressed regret with their decision to volunteer. Each would be working nonstop, 12-hour shifts (maybe longer) with complete strangers, caring for senior citizens on the East Coast. They spoke with compassion and used phrases like, “This is what I was born to do.”
Nurses on their way to help in New Jersey.
We need nurses now more than ever
One even stated she has no family here in Nevada and if requested to extend her short tour in New Jersey, she gladly would. She said she hoped she would inspire someone to consider a career in health care. “We need more nurses,” she said, “now more than ever.”
The small Air Force C-21 jet arrived and three young crew members stepped down onto the tarmac. Through the waiting lounge window, the six of us made comments about the crew’s appearance in their military issued olive green flight suits.
We started making Top Gun references. “That one looks like Maverick,” said one. “If there’s a Goose, we are screwed!” said another. We all burst into laughter, which increased even more as the three young service members entered the airport with looks of bewilderment at our good humor. Their faces quickly transformed into comforting smiles. They understood that this moment was necessary.
“God speed and safe travels”
The pilot assured everyone that once the plane is fueled, loaded, and pre-flight checks done, they would be on their way. The flight crew graciously humored me with pictures of them with our nurses and the plane.
I assisted with loading the LPN’s bags onto the jet and bid everyone a safe journey. I remained in the small airport to watch through the window until the wheels were off the ground.
“God speed and safe travels,” I said aloud. I heard an “Amen” from behind me and turned to see a baggage handler had come to watch as well.
To the nurse who claimed to have no family here in Nevada, I beg to differ. You have VA. Together we are strong, and together we are a family.
The nuclear blasts over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan were extraordinarily powerful explosions. Their combined power yielded an equivalent of about 36,000 tons of TNT.
Only sixteen years later, the Soviets designed a bomb 3,000 times more powerful at 100,000,000 tons of TNT. Fearing devastation beyond control, they toned it down a bit and tested the bomb at 50,000,000 of TNT. Till this day, the “Tsar Bomba”is the largest man-made explosion, ever.
The bomb detonated at an altitude of 4,2000 meters. The unprecedented explosion was expected to measure 51.5 megatons. In reality, its power was estimated at between 57 and 58.6 megatons, according to the video below.
About 2,000 nuclear tests and 125,000 weapons were made since the first nuclear detonation on July 16, 1945. This video tracks their evolution.
Not every President of the United States has a memorable administration. And, for some of these presidents, it’s probably best that people forget their time in office. That being said, no president is trying to be remembered as the worst president of all time. They might not even be thinking about being the best of all time – many are just playing the hands they were dealt, for better or for worse. How they play that hand determines their legacy.
Some are just better players than others.
No matter what their legacy ends up being in the annals of American History, each Presidency had its high points, whether it be a moment of patriotism, like James Madison’s administration, or a moment of love of country, like Andrew Jackson’s. They might even have, simply, the less-celebrated “holding it together and not freaking out while keeping a straight face,” like John Tyler’s administration.
The point is, they all have their moments that truly embody the American spirit — and these are those moments.
Fat-president jokes are so 1880s.
Grover Cleveland #2
Cleveland is the only President of the United States to serve two non-consecutive terms. This would be like George H.W. Bush coming back and taking the White House from Bill Clinton in 1996 — unthinkable in our day and age, but technically possible. It wasn’t so improbable in Grover Cleveland’s era. The Democrat’s first term saw him get badly-needed upgrades to coastal defenses and the U.S. Navy through a Republican Congress, which was no small feat, even back in 1885. But it was his skill as Commander-In-Chief that got him re-elected in 1892.
This time, he wasn’t just thinking about the defense of the United States. He wanted American ships that could take the U.S. Navy on the offensive and commissioned five battleships and 16 torpedo boats, effectively doubling the battleship capability of the U.S. Navy. These ships would later be used to defeat Spain in the Spanish-American War.
Every photo of William McKinley makes him look like he’s disappointed in you.
The president that built the bridge to the 20th Century, William McKinley was the last Civil War veteran — and the only enlisted Civil War veteran — to ride his military service to the White House. He was elected to two terms in the nation’s highest office but was assassinated just six months into his second. It was a tragic end to a good career but, fortunately, he was able to start the American Century with a bang.
Actually, it’s more like a lot of bangs. McKinley sent the USS Maine into Havana harbor to protect U.S. interests in the middle of a Cuban slave revolt against Spanish rule. When the Maine exploded in Havana harbor, he commissioned a court of inquiry to determine if the Spanish were at fault. Even though modern evidence later revealed that an onboard accident destroyed the American ship, McKinley’s court determined a Spanish mine was at fault. McKinley asked Congress for a declaration of war against Spain, which the United States won in less than a year, capturing Guam, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and for a while, Cuba as American territories.
It’s difficult to choose the most American moment from the presidency of the most American man who ever lived.
President McKinley is more often than not overlooked by history, not because he was inconsequential (he wasn’t) but rather because he’s in the shadow of one of the giants of history. In the U.S., there was only one man who could do what TR did – regulate monopolies while taking on big business, preserve national parks, and clean up our food and drugs while instituting the income tax and the inheritance tax — aka the “Death Tax.” These ideas seem counter to today’s right-left politics, but Roosevelt could do it and if you called him a flip-flopper, Teddy would have words (and probably fists) with you.
Roosevelt’s most American moment came as part of his “Big Stick” foreign policy and was an addendum — corollary, actually — to the Monroe Doctrine. When Venezuela refused to pay its foreign debt in 1902, Italy, Germany, and Britain blockaded its ports and tried to force payment through an international court. Where the Monroe Doctrine warned Europe to stay out of the United States’ backyard, the Roosevelt Corollary warned Europeans that the United States military would be the guard dog keeping them out.
At Roosevelt’s order, the U.S. Navy met the blockade around Venezuela and forced them to back down. The parties then settled into arbitration.
You see, this cat Taft is one bad mother.
William Howard Taft
Taft and Roosevelt were close friends and saw eye-to-eye on most issues facing the United States at the time of Taft’s election. Taft was pretty much Roosevelt’s hand-picked successor to the office and, even though the two men were different in tone and constitution, much of what Roosevelt started was picked up under Taft. One of the first uses of the Roosevelt Corollary was in Nicaragua, under Taft’s orders.
Nicaragua was quickly falling into total chaos. The government was facing a powerful rebellion backed by American diplomats. Meanwhile, the elected government was heavily indebted to Europeans. When the government executed two Americans, the U.S. cut ties and aided rebel forces in the capture the capital of Managua. The U.S.then forced Nicaragua to take a loan so Europeans couldn’t get their hands on a potential new canal site (the Panama Canal was under construction at the time). American troops essentially took control of the entire country for the next 20 years.
“He kept us out of war.” Lolz
As the first professor elected to the U.S. Presidency, Wilson was a far departure from the days of Roosevelt and Taft. History is beginning to question some of Wilson’s decisions regarding domestic policy, but one thing we can’t question is his resolve to protect Americans and American interests. When Pancho Villa killed Americans while raiding new Mexico, he ordered America’s premiere military man to follow him into Mexico. Then, Germany started messing with the U.S.
In the ultimate series of boneheaded provocations, Germany, in the middle of World War I kept poking the United States. After British spies intercepted a telegram from the German Ambassador to the leaders of Mexico promising an alliance if the United States entered the European War and the torpedoing of the Lusitania liner that killed hundreds of Americans, Germany sunk a number of American ships. Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war and the United States entered World War I.
He wasn’t nicknamed “The Regulator,” but it would’ve been cool.
Warren G. Harding
The United States helped win the war in Europe but was left with many, many questions in its wake. Harding’s administration was determined to get the United States back in order in the post-WWI years. Beyond the drawdown of American troops from Europe and Cuba, a reduction in the overall military, and arms reduction agreements with major world powers, Hardings most American moment has to be the rejection of the League of Nations.
The United States did not sign the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I because of the agreement to the creation of the League of Nations. Instead it conducted separate agreements with Germany, Austria, and Hungary. Harding was elected on a platform of opposing the League. In the end, the League was a failed body — but was it because of the lack of U.S presence or despite it?
Meanwhile, nothing about Calvin Coolidge’s look is all that cool… but stick around.
“Silent Cal” really believed that most things, from flood control to business, would work itself out and the Federal government wasn’t there to handle every single problem faced by the states. What Coolidge did believe in was the rights of Americans, regardless of race — a big deal for 1923. The 30th President didn’t care what color anyone was and let it be known that Americans were Americans. Period.
He granted Native Americans citizenship and used his first inaugural address to remind the government of the rights of African-Americans and that the government had a public and private duty to defend those rights. He even thanked immigrants for making the United States what it was and called for the U.S. to welcome and protect immigrants.
One of the few presidents whose major life achievements came before and after being president.
Everything great about Herbert Hoover (and there’s a lot. Seriously, look it up) happened outside of his Presidency. Hoover was a tireless, dedicated public servant who spent much of his life in service to others both before and after taking office. Unfortunately for Hoover, history will forget everything but his response to the Great Depression, which was abysmal and engulfed most of his time in office. His critics had a point.
Internationally, Hoover was the last U.S. President who didn’t really need to pay close attention to the rest of the world. His most American moment was winding down the interventionist wars in Latin America which began at the turn of the century. Troops from Nicaragua and Haiti were finally coming home.
Franklin Roosevelt ran his Presidency like he had the Konami codes to the White House.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
If only every leader could as capable as FDR, the only President to serve more than two terms. If there’s one President that had the biggest effect in shaping the United States to look like the country it is today, it would be Franklin Roosevelt. The reason new administrations are judged on their first 100 days in office is because the Roosevelt Administration implemented New Deal reforms to end the Great Depression while ending Prohibition within its first few months.
It wasn’t just his oversight of World War II that made for a great patriotic moment. There are so many moments to choose from throughout his four terms in office. The most exciting moment came in 1943 at the Casablanca Conference where he told Winston Churchill he would only accept the unconditional surrender of each Axis power. In hindsight, it doesn’t seem so powerful a statement, but in 1943, victory for the Allies was far from assured.
If you f*cked with America while Truman was in charge, he probably sent some guys after you.
Harry S. Truman
Truman prosecuted the end of World War II, the reduction in size of the U.S. Armed Forces, the rebuilding of post-war Europe, the formation of the United Nations, the integration of armed forces, and so much more. It’s hard to believe people thought so little of Truman after he left office given everything we know his administration really did.
His most American moment was the highly-unpopular move of firing General Douglas MacArthur during the Korean War, asserting civilian control of the military and his status as Commander-In-Chief, telling Time Magazine later,
“I fired him because he wouldn’t respect the authority of the President … I didn’t fire him because he was a dumb son of a b*tch, although he was, but that’s not against the law for generals. If it was, half to three-quarters of them would be in jail.”
The face when someone who already oversaw the destruction of global fascism threatens the Communist way of life.
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Of course the man who presided over victory in Europe during World War II is going to ascend to the presidency. But when Ike took office as Chief Executive, the United States was in the middle of a bloody stalemate, leading United Nations forces against the communists in Korea. His solution wasn’t to make a speech at the UN General Assembly or take advice from others. The onetime Supreme Allied Commander would go see for himself.
Eisenhower was barely President-elect when he arrived in Korea after two brutal years of fighting there. He immediately concluded that it would forever be a stalemate no one would really win and then threatened the Chinese Communists with nuclear war if they didn’t hammer out an agreement. The Communists, rattled by Ike’s WWII reputation, believed him and concluded an agreement within 8 months.
“Bond. James Bond.” These are Sir Sean Connery’s first lines in 1962’s Dr. No as he brought Ian Fleming’s spy of mystique to life on the silver screen. Ironically, Fleming didn’t want the working-class, bodybuilding Scotsman to portray his suave and dapper British super-spy. However, Connery went on to play the role a total of seven times, and each time was met with critical acclaim. In 1964, Fleming even wrote Connery’s heritage into the Bond character, saying that his father was from Glencoe in Scotland. On August 25, 2020, the veteran actor celebrated his 90th birthday. What many people don’t know about him is that before he played Commander James Bond, Connery was a sailor himself.
“Bond. James Bond.” (United Artists)
In 1946, at the age of 16, Connery enlisted in His Majesty’s Royal Navy. He received training at the naval gunnery school in Portsmouth and was assigned to an anti-aircraft artillery crew. His first and only ship assignment was the Illustrious-class aircraft carrier HMS Formidable. After three years of naval service, Connery was medically discharged due to a duodenal ulcer.
After leaving the Navy, Connery went into bodybuilding and football (the European sort). Though he was offered a contract with Manchester United, the short-lived career of a footballer deterred him. “I realized that a top-class footballer could be over the hill by the age of 30, and I was already 23,” Connery recalled. “I decided to become an actor and it turned out to be one of my more intelligent moves.”
Connery started his acting career onstage in the 1953 production of South Pacific. Back in uniform, albeit a costume, Connery played a Seabee chorus boy before he was given the part of Marine Cpl. Hamilton Steeves. The next year, the production returned out of popular demand and Connery was promoted to the featured role of Lt. Buzz Adams.
When Connery made the transition to motion pictures, it wasn’t long before he was portraying military men again. Less than two weeks after Dr. No was released in the UK, The Longest Day hit theaters with Connery playing the role of Pte. Flanagan. After six Bond films, Connery traded his onscreen Naval rank for an Army one. The 1974 film Murder on the Orient Express featured Connery as British Indian Army Officer Colonel John Arbuthnot. Three years later, Connery took on one of his most iconic military roles in 1977’s A Bridge Too Far, portraying Major General Roy Urquhart and his command of the British 1st Airborne Division as they attempted to hold a bridge in Arnhem during the ill-fated Operation Market Garden.
Connery wearing the iconic paratrooper’s red beret (United Artists)
The 1980s would see Connery reprise the role of Commander James Bond one last time in 1983’s Never Say Never Again. The Scotsman also donned an American uniform, playing Lt. Col. Alan Caldwell in the 1988 film The Presidio. Serving as the Post Provost Marshal, Caldwell clashes with maverick SFPD detective and former Army MP Jay Austin, played by Mark Harmon.
Exploring the uniforms of other nations, Connery then went behind the Iron Curtain as Soviet Submarine Captain Marko Ramius in 1990’s The Hunt for Red October. If I have to explain this one, your weekend assignment is to watch it.
“One ping only” (Paramount Pictures)
1996 saw Connery play the role of a military man one last time in The Rock. As former British SAS Captain John Mason, Connery starred alongside Nicholas Cage and Ed Harris in this action thriller directed by Michael Bay and produced by Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, the production duo that brought us Top Gun.
Connery was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh on July 5, 2000. He also received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute when he announced his retirement from acting on June 8, 2006. When asked if he would return to acting to appear in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Connery announced that he would not, saying, “Retirement is just too much damned fun.”
A distant, flashing image of blue sky, rolling mountains and snowy rivers visited itself upon an injured soldier flying away from a violent firefight on the ground below – just barely beyond view from the naked eye.
This vivid, yet paradoxical scene is what former Green Beret Dillon Behr recalls seeing when looking down in a weary, half-conscious state from a Black Hawk helicopter while being evacuated from a near-death combat encounter in the mountains of Afghanistan.
“I was able to look back in the valley below and see a lot of my teammates still there fighting. It was a beautiful scene from a distance, yet what had just happened down below was basically hell on earth,” Behr explained.
This violence, heroism and near death for Behr is now known as the famous battle of Shok Valley in Afghanistan, 2008; the mission on that April day was called “Operation Commando Wrath.”
Behr was part of a 12-man US Special Forces A-team tasked with taking out a high-value enemy target up in the mountains; his unit was joined by another supporting 12-man Green Beret A-team and about 100 Afghan Commandos. Behr was part of the 3rd Special Forces Group, ODA 3336.
While Green Berets are, among other things, experienced with helicopter rope drops and various kinds of airborne attack raids typically employed in assaults of this kind, Behr’s unit was forced to climb the side of a mountain and attack on foot, due to the rugged terrain and relative inexperience of supporting Afghan Commando partners.
Behr recalled the combat scene on the mountain, at an elevation of about 1,000 feet, as dreary with gray rocks, some small trees and not much vegetation. The uneven terrain was accompanied by some snow on the ground and a partially iced-over river. Concrete-like looking mud huts and small villages were scattered in rows and villages along ridges of the mountainside.
Having completed Special Forces training, selection, and preparation, Behr had spent years preparing for the life-and-death combat scenario he knew he was about to encounter.
He was a trained fighter, trainer and teacher working as part of a close-knit group focused on a specific attack mission. Behr was an intelligence and communications specialist, yet like all Green Berets, he was first and foremost a fighter, equipped and ready to respond to fast-evolving combat situations.
“As we started climbing, we encountered insurgents… around 200 enemy combatants. They had the high ground and had us surrounded,” he recalled.
During a subsequent, fast-ensuing firefight, Behr and his fellow Green Berets used what rocks, small trees and ditches they could find to both avert enemy gunfire and launch counterattacks.
“We had intelligence that a high value target was going to be there, someone traditionally hard to track down. We did not know there would be so many fighters and enemy forces there. We happened upon a much larger meeting of enemy combatants than we had expected,” he said.
At one point during the unfolding 7-hour firefight, Behr was abruptly thrown to the ground by a larger caliber bullet cutting through the side of his pelvis. The bullet blew out the ball and socket of his hip.
“It was like being struck by a car or baseball bat and being electrocuted at the same time,” he said.
This near-fatal strike, unfortunately, was only the beginning of Behr’s effort to stay alive. While fellow A-Team Green Beret intelligence specialist Luis Morales was tending to his injury, a second bullet ripped through Behr’s bicep and continued on to hit Morales in the thigh.
Behr described the painful sensation of feeling a bullet cut through the muscle in his bicep as minor compared to the initial hit to his pelvis… a scenario which can make it seemingly impossible to imaging the magnitude of pain he experienced upon first being shot.
As he fought to stay conscious and his teammates scrambled to stop the bleeding, Behr himself was focused on the survival and safety of his fellow Green Berets under attack.
“I have vivid memories of laying there almost helpless and being concerned about a building across the valley that had direct access to our team. If someone was to shoot from there, we were pretty exposed. I remember directing some people on the team and having them take that out with a large bomb,” he said.
US air support then arrived to destroy attacking insurgents; shrapnel from a bomb mistakenly struck Behr, perforating his intestines.
When confronting what he thought was certain death, Behr thought of his fellow Soldiers and family back home in Illinois.
“There was a point where I thought I was going to leave this world. At one point I thought I was not going to make it, so I said a prayer to myself and felt a calm come over me. Then, all of a sudden, Ron Shurer, the medic on our team, slapped me across the face and said ‘wake up you are not going to die today,'” he said.
The intensity of the firefight, volume of enemy bullets and massive scale of the attacks are still difficult for Behr to recall and describe, the sharpness of certain powerful and violent memories have found a permanent resting place in his mind. Then, at the very moment Behr thought he might have an opportunity to live, the attacks worsened.
Just after telling Behr he would not die, Shurer himself took a bullet in the helmet right above his face. Fortunately, the bullet bounced off his helmet.
“It could have been much worse,” Behr said.
Four Americans were critically injured and MEDEVAC’ed to Landstuhl Army Medical Center and then Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Two Afghan Commandos were killed, including an interpreter.
In total, 11 Silver Stars and one Air Force Cross were awarded for the events of that day.
“The heroic part is what my team did and how they kept it together under heavy enemy gunfire. They risked their lives to get me and the other injured guys on the team off of that mountain. They were dragging and dropping me over the ledges and trying to catch me off of the ledges,” Behr explained.
Life After Near-Death in Combat
Despite this accumulation of combat trauma and near death experience, Behr has made an astounding recovery. Following medical treatment, Behr went on to earn a Masters degree in Security Studies at Georgetown University before starting a non-profit gym for injured Soldiers at Walter Reed.
When asked how he was able to go on after his combat experience, Behr said “I don’t know what else to do. We’re given abilities and skills and it is a shame to waste them. Even after we leave the military, we have a responsibility to become leaders in our communities.”
These days, after working for a period as a cyber security threat intelligence analyst at Discover, Behr now works as a professional liability and cyber liability broker for Risk Placement Services, a Washington D.C.-area firm.
In a manner quite similar to his fellow Green Berets, known as “Quiet Professionals” often reluctant to discuss the perils of combat, Behr does not wish to highlight his war zone activities. He does, however, say the experience has changed him forever.
Behr is now married to a former Red Cross volunteer who helped him recover from his injuries.
“I value relationships more than I ever did previously,” Behr said.
Behr is also involved with the Green Beret Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping Green Berets and their families. You can visit the Green Beret Foundation website here.
Since its official field debut in 1983, the MRE has come a long, long way. Today’s current iteration seems like veritable fine dining compared with previous versions, but they’re still widely considered “Meals Rejected by Everyone,” and “Meals Rarely Edible.” Take a look at how MREs have evolved over time and what the DoD is doing to make them more palatable.
1907: The Iron Ration becomes the first individual combat ration issued to military personnel and included three 3-ounce cakes made from beef bouillon powder and cooked wheat, three 1-ounce bars of chocolate, and salt and pepper.
1917: Reserve Rations are issued to soldiers during the end of WWI. These included 12 ounces of fresh bacon or one pound of canned meat, two 8-ounce cans of hardtack biscuits, 1.16 ounces of ground coffee, 2.4 ounces of sugar, and .16 ounces of salt—no pepper in sight.
1938’s C-Ration is closest to what many now think of as the MRE. It consisted of an individually canned, wet, pre-cooked meal. Service members had three choices: meat and beans, meat and vegetable stew, or meat and potato hash.
Just four years later, the 1942 K-Ration saw an increase in both calories and options. This MRE included meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but the choices (canned ham and eggs, bacon and cheese for lunch, and a beef and pork loaf for dinner) weren’t that appetizing.
By 1958, the Meal, Combat, Individual (MCI) included canned wet rations averaging about 1,200 calories each. The majority of all service members disliked the MCI, but this remained the only field option available for almost twenty years.
Adopted as the official DoD combat ration in 1975, large scale production of Meals Ready to Eat began in 1978, and the first delivery went out just three years later. The 25th ID ate nothing but MREs for 34 days, and service members rated the food “acceptable,” but only about half of the meals were consumed. Translation: the food was super gross, and the soldiers only ate them out of necessity. Three years later, the same experiment was performed … with the same results.
(U.S. Air Force Photo)
So, starting in 1988, the DoD made some changes. Entrée size was changed from 5 ounces to 8 ounces, and nine of the 12 entrée options were replaced. Candies were added to four choices, as was hot sauce, and for all 12 menus, cold beverage choices were made available.
But the MREs were still pretty gross.
Field testing and early feedback from Operation Desert Storm (ODS) brought another round of changes. This time, the DoD replaced old mil-spec spray-dried coffee with commercially freeze-dried coffee. Hot sauce was made available to all 12 menus, dehydrated fruits were swapped out for wet-pack fruit, and candy was made available to an additional four menus choices.
During ODS, service personnel ate MREs for as many as 60 days in a row, which resulted in another round of changes. Shelf-stable bread inside an MRE pouch was created, a chocolate bar able to withstand high heat was developed, and flameless ration heaters were developed as an easy method for service members to heat their entrees since the only thing grosser than eating MREs for two months is eating cold MREs for two months.
In 1994, more changes were field-tested. The DoD decided that commercial-like graphics should be added to increase consumption and acceptance. MRE bags became easier to open, and biodegradable spoons were added.
1996 saw MREs available for special diets to help increase calorie intake for service members in the field. Menu counts increased to 16 items and included ham slices and chili. One year later, there were 20 entrée items, including cheese tortellini and boneless pork chops with noodles.
Current menu offerings include southwest style beef and black beans, pepperoni pizza, creamy spinach fettuccine, and vegetable crumbles with pasta in taco style sauce. While none of those sound exceptionally appealing, they’re far better than beef bouillon cakes of 1907.
Ranked as the best MRE available, the chili mac menu comes with pound cake, crackers, a jalapeno cheese spread, and candy. The worst choices tie between the veggie burger (which includes a knockoff Gatorade powder, two slices of snack bread, and a chocolate banana muffin) and the Chicken a la King, which sounds yummy but is, in fact, just a gelatinous goo of shred of “chicken.”
MREs are useful for FTXs and good to have on hand in case of natural disasters. They’re convenient and shelf-stable, so they’re a good addition to emergency preparations. But don’t count on them tasting that great.
A recent overhaul of the defense commissary program aboard military installations will result in higher costs for its customers, according to a recent MilitaryTimes report.
New rules, which were put in place as part of the latest annual defense authorization act allow the defense commissaries, or DeCA, to up the prices on about 1,000 products in 10 stores. Additionally, all 238 commissaries were authorized to raise prices on national brand products.
According to MilitaryTimes, this will allow officials to explore how the overall impact of raising these prices might help them to reduce operating costs that taxpayers cover, which currently sits at about $1.3 billion annually.
Before the rollout of the overhaul, DeCA was able to sell items at the commissaries at cost plus 5 percent. Under the new system, DeCA is able to purchase items at a reduced rate, but sell them at their previous rates or higher.
For example, if DeCA purchases a product at $.10 cheaper than before, it might not sell that product for the reduced price at the commissary, MilitaryTimes explains.
That extra cash might go, instead, toward operating costs or toward lowering the price of a different product, or both.
One of the issues with this new system, according to MilitaryTimes, is that the consulting company who designed it may be benefitting financially. MilitaryTimes claims that “unofficial reports from members of industry” say that Boston Consulting Group (or BCG) stands to make between 50 and 60 percent of the amount prices are reduced.
So that dime savings per sale of a particular item might net BCG between a nickel and 6 cents per unit sold.
DeCA officials are unable to confirm those claims, saying instead that the details of extra awards, fees or incentives for BCG won’t be available until they are “determined at a later date”, MilitaryTimes says.
Chris Burns, the executive director of business transformation at DeCA, told MilitaryTimes that the money DeCA saves is going toward reducing product prices or toward operating costs, but MilitaryTimes could not determine if consulting fees were included in those operating costs.
The effects of the overhaul are being felt elsewhere, as well. Some national brands who are pressured to lower prices below cost are pulling their items from the commissary altogether, MilitaryTimes reports. They claim that “multiple sources” are saying that other programs, like scholarship donations, could be cut.
Some good news does come out of the overhaul, however. DeCA will begin rolling out store brand items later this month that should be cheaper than national name brands.
While Congress approved the Department of Defense’s DeCA program, they are keeping a close eye on it and on whether it actually saves anyone money, MilitaryTimes says.
When Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the studios of state-owned media outlet Russia Today in 2013, he reportedly instructed them to break “the Anglo-Saxon monopoly on global information streams.”
It appears he has not forgotten that goal.
Politico reported on Monday that Russian hackers have been posing as attractive women and friending US troops on Facebook to gather intelligence about the military.
These actions are part of a larger Russian strategy aimed at manipulating and extracting intelligence from the US military.
The U.S. military’s online behavior campaign is used to highlight the importance of appropriate conduct online and social media behavior to help eradicate bullying, exploitation and degradation of fellow service members. (Graphic Illustration by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kegan E. Kay/Released)
Russia seems to be infiltrating the social media accounts of US troops for at least two reasons, according to Politico.
One, it allows Russia to better glean the activities of the US military through what its troops post online. “Spies understand that a great deal can be discerned about what militaries are up to based on the unclassified behavior of soldiers,” John Bambenek, of Fidelis Cybersecurity, told Politico.
Two, it gives them the chance to make US troops sympathize with Russia by inserting propaganda into their news feeds.
For example, former military contractor Serena Moring told Politico she noticed US service members sharing a link about a Russian soldier who heroically died while fighting ISIS in Syria.
According to the Pravda report, the Russian soldier supposedly called in an airstrike on himself while surrounded by ISIS militants, telling his command, “I don’t want them to take me and parade me, conduct the airstrike, they will make a mockery of me and this uniform. I want to die with dignity and take all these bastards with me.”
While the veracity of the story is unknown, Moring told Politico that US soldiers were sharing it with admiration.
“All of the response from the military guys was like, ‘That is awesome. That’s an epic way to die,'” she told Politico. “It was a very soldier-to-soldier bond that was created through social media.”
Russia is employing these hybrid warfare tactics against many Baltic states as well.
According to the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, hybrid warfare are “activities conducted to enable a resistance movement or insurgency to coerce, disrupt, or overthrow a government or occupying power by operating through or with an underground, auxiliary, or guerrilla force in a denied area.”
In fact, Kyiv recently outlawed Russian social media sites, which Ukrainian officials said were being used to spread propaganda. Human Rights Watch, however, accused Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko of trying to curb freedom of expression.
The Air Force awarded The Boeing Company a contract worth up to $9.2 billion for the Air Force’s new training aircraft Sept. 27, 2018.
The Air Force currently plans to purchase 351 T-X aircraft, 46 simulators, and associated ground equipment to replace the Air Education and Training Command’s 57-year-old fleet of T-38C Talons.
The indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract allows the Air Force to purchase up to 475 aircraft and 120 simulators. The contract is designed to offer taxpayers the best value both today and in the future should requirements change.
“This new aircraft will provide the advanced training capabilities we need to increase the lethality and effectiveness of future Air Force pilots,” Secretary of the Air Force Heather A. Wilson said. “Through competition we will save at least billion on the T-X program.”
The original service cost estimate was .7 billion for 351 aircraft.
The T-X program is expected to provide student pilots in undergraduate- and graduate-level training courses with the skills and competencies required to transition to 4th- and 5th-generation fighter and bomber aircraft.
“This is all about joint warfighting excellence; we need the T-X to optimize training for pilots heading into our growing fleet of fifth-generation aircraft,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein. “This aircraft will enable pilot training in a system similar to our fielded fighters, ultimately enhancing joint lethality.”
The first T-X aircraft and simulators are scheduled to arrive at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, in 2023. All undergraduate pilot training bases will eventually transition from the T-38 to the T-X. Those bases include: Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi; Laughlin AFB, Texas; Sheppard AFB, Texas and Vance AFB, Oklahoma.
An initial delivery order for 3 million provides for the engineering and manufacturing development of the first five aircraft and seven simulators.
The contract supports the Air Force’s objective of an initial operational capability by 2024 and full operational capability by 2034.
“This outcome is the result of a well-conceived strategy leveraging full and open competition,” said Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics. “It’s acquisition’s silver bullet.”