The Army will spend $500 million training to fight underground - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army will spend $500 million training to fight underground

U.S. Army leaders say the next war will be fought in mega-cities, but the service has embarked on an ambitious effort to prepare most of its combat brigades to fight, not inside, but beneath them.

Late 2017, the Army launched an accelerated effort that funnels some $572 million into training and equipping 26 of its 31 active combat brigades to fight in large-scale subterranean facilities that exist beneath dense urban areas around the world.

For this new type of warfare, infantry units will need to know how to effectively navigate, communicate, breach heavy obstacles, and attack enemy forces in underground mazes ranging from confined corridors to tunnels as wide as residential streets. Soldiers will need new equipment and training to operate in conditions such as complete darkness, bad air, and lack of cover from enemy fire in areas that challenge standard Army communications equipment.


Senior leaders have mentioned small parts of the effort in public speeches, but Army officials at Fort Benning, Georgia’s Maneuver Center of Excellence — the organization leading the subterranean effort — have been reluctant to discuss the scale of the endeavor.

(U.S. Army photo by John Lytle)

“We did recognize, in a megacity that has underground facilities — sewers and subways and some of the things we would encounter … we have to look at ourselves and say ‘ok, how does our current set of equipment and our tactics stack up?'” Col. Townley Hedrick, commandant of the Infantry School at the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Georgia, told Military.com in an interview. “What are the aspects of megacities that we have paid the least attention to lately, and every megacity has got sewers and subways and stuff that you can encounter, so let’s brush it up a little bit.”

Left unmentioned were the recent studies the Army has undertaken to shore up this effort. The Army completed a four-month review in 2017 of its outdated approach to underground combat, and published a new training manual dedicated to this environment.

“This training circular is published to provide urgently needed guidance to plan and execute training for units operating in subterranean environments, according to TC 3-20.50 “Small Unit Training in Subterranean Environments,” published in November 2017. “Though prepared through an ‘urgent’ development process, it is authorized for immediate implementation.”

A New Priority

The Army has always been aware that it might have to clear and secure underground facilities such as sewers and subway systems beneath densely-populated cities. In the past, tactics and procedures were covered in manuals on urban combat such as FM 90-10-1, “An Infantryman’s Guide to Combat in Built-up Areas,” dated 1993.

Before the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the mission for taking large, underground military complexes was given to tier-one special operations units such as Army Delta Force and the Navy‘s SEAL Team 6, as well as the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment.

But the Pentagon’s new focus on preparing to fight peer militaries such as North Korea, Russia and China changed all that.

An assessment last year estimates that there are about 10,000 large-scale underground military facilities around the world that are intended to serve as subterranean cities, an Army source, who is not cleared to talk to the press, told Military.com.

The Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group — an outfit often tasked with looking ahead to identify future threats — told U.S. military leaders that special operations forces will not be able to deal with the subterranean problem alone and that large numbers of conventional forces must be trained and equipped to fight underground, the source said.

The endeavor became an urgent priority because more than 4,800 of these underground facilities are located in North Korea, the source said.

Relations now seem to be warming between Washington and Pyongyang after the recent meeting between U.S. President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. But in addition to its underground nuclear missile facilities, North Korea has the capability to move thousands of troops through deep tunnels beneath the border into South Korea, according to the Army’s new subterranean manual.

“North Korea could accommodate the transfer of 30,000 heavily armed troops per hour,” the manual states. “North Korea had planned to construct five southern exits and the tunnel was designed for both conventional warfare and guerrilla infiltration. Among other things, North Korea built a regimental airbase into a granite mountain.”

For its part, Russia inherited a vast underground facilities program from the Soviet Union, designed to ensure the survival of government leadership and military command and control in wartime, the manual states. Underground bunkers, tunnels, secret subway lines, and other facilities still beneath Moscow, other major Russian cities, and the sites of major military commands.

More recently, U.S. and coalition forces operating in Iraq and Syria have had to deal with fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria operating in tunnel systems.

Learning to Fight Underground

To prepare combat units, the Army has activated mobile teams to train the leadership of 26 brigade combat teams on how prepare units for underground warfare and plan and execute large-scale combat operations in the subterranean environment.

So far, the effort has trained five BCTs based at Fort Wainwright, Alaska; Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; Camp Casey, Korea; and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. Army trainers have a January deadline to finish training 21 more BCTs located at bases including Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Fort Drum, New York; Fort Bliss and Fort Hood, Texas, and Fort Richardson, Alaska, the source said.

The 3rd BCT, 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colorado is next in line for the training.

Army officials confirmed to Military.com that there is an approved plan to dedicate $572 million to the effort. That works out to $22 million for each BCT, according to an Army spokeswoman who did not want to be named for this article. The Army did not say where the money is coming from or when it will be given to units.

Army leaders launched the subterranean effort in 2017, tasking the AWG with developing a training program. The unit spent October-January at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia, developing the tactics, techniques and procedures, or TTPs, units will need to fight in this environment.

“Everything that you can do above ground, you can do below ground; there are just tactics and techniques that are particular,” the source said, adding that tactics used in a subterranean space are much like those used in clearing buildings.

(U.S. Army photo by Erick Warren)

“The principles are exactly the same, but now do it without light, now do it in a confined space … now try to breach a door using a thermal cutting torch when you don’t have air.”

Three training teams focus on heavy breaching, TTPs and planning and a third to train the brigade leadership on intelligence priorities and how to prepare for brigade-size operations in subterranean facilities.

“The whole brigade will be learning the operation,” the source said.

Army combat units train in mock-up towns known as military operations in urban terrain, or MOUT, sites. These training centers often have sewers to deal with rain water, but are too small to use for realistic training, the source said.

The Defense Department has a half-dozen locations that feature subterranean networks. They’re located at Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Story, Virginia; Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; Camp Atterbury-Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, Indiana; Tunnel Warfare Center, China Lake, California and Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona, according to the new subterranean training manual.

Rather sending infrastructure to these locations, units will build specially designed, modular subterranean trainers, created by the AWG in 2014. The completed maze-like structure is fashioned from 15 to 20 shipping containers, or conexes, and sits above ground.

Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of Army Training and Doctrine Command, talked about these new training structures at the Association of the United States Army’s LANPAC 2018 symposium in Hawaii.

“I was just at the Asymmetric Warfare Group recently; they had built a model subterranean training center that now the Army is in the process of exporting to the combat training centers and home stations,” Townsend said.

“I was thinking to myself before I went and saw it, ‘how are we going to be able to afford to build all these underground training facilities?’ Well, they took me into one that wasn’t underground at all. It actually looked like you went underground at the entrance, but the facility was actually built above ground.But you couldn’t tell that once you went inside of it.”

Shipping containers are commonplace around the Army, so units won’t have to buy special materials to build the trainers, Hedrick said.

“Every post has old, empty conexes … and those are easily used to simulate working underground,” Hedrick said.

Specialized Equipment

Training is only part of the subterranean operations effort. A good portion of the $22 million going to each BCT will be needed buy special equipment so combat units can operate safety underground.

“You can’t go more than one floor deep underground without losing comms with everybody who is up on the surface,” Townsend said. “Our capabilities need some work.”

The Army is looking at the handheld MPU-5 smart radio, made by Persistent Systems LLC, which features a new technology and relies on a “mobile ad hoc network” that will allow units to talk to each other and to the surface as well.

“It sends out a signal that combines with the one next to it, and the one next to it … it just keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger,” the source said.

Off the shelf, MPU-5s coast approximately $10,000 each.

Toxic air, or a drop in oxygen, are other challenges soldiers will be likely to face operating deep underground. The Army is evaluating off-the-shelf self-contained breathing equipment for units to purchase.

“Protective masks without a self-contained breathing apparatus provide no protection against the absence of oxygen,” the subterranean manual states. “Having breathing apparatus equipment available is the primary protection element against the absence of oxygen, in the presence of hazardous gases, or in the event of a cave-in.”

Soldiers can find themselves exposed to smoke, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, methane natural gas underground, according to the manual.

Breathing gear is expensive; some apparatus cost as much as $13,000 apiece, the source said.

Underground tunnels and facilities are often lighted, but when the lights go out, soldiers will be in total darkness. The Army announced in February 2018 that it has money in its fiscal 2019 budget to buy dual-tubed, binocular-style night vision goggles to give soldiers greater depth perception than offered by the current single-tubed Enhanced Night Vision Goggles and AN/PVS 14s.

The Enhanced Night Vision Goggle B uses a traditional infrared image intensifier similar to the PVS-14 along with a thermal camera. The system fuses the IR with the thermal capability into one display. The Army is considering equipping units trained in subterranean ops with ENVG Bs, the source said.

Units will also need special, hand-carried ballistic shields, at least two per squad, since tunnels provide little to no cover from enemy fire.

Weapon suppressors are useful to cut down on noise that’s significantly amplified in confined spaces, the manual states.

Some of the heavy equipment such as torches and large power saws needed for breaching are available in brigade engineer units, Hedrick said.

“We definitely did put some effort into trying to identify a list of normal equipment that may not work and what equipment that we might have to look at procuring,” Hedrick said.

Jason Dempsey, an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for new American Security, was skeptical about the scale of the program.

Dempsey, a former Army infantry officer with two tours in Afghanistan and one in Iraq, told Military.com that such training “wasn’t relevant” to fights in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He questions spending such a large amount of money training and equipping so many of the Army’s combat brigades in a type of combat that they might never need.

“I can totally understand taking every brigade in Korea, Alaska, some of the Hawaii units — any units on tap for first response for something going on in Korea,” said Dempsey, who served in the combat units such as the 75th Ranger Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division and the 10th Mountain Division.

“Conceptually I don’t knock it. The only reason I would question it is if it comes with a giant bill and new buys of a bunch of specialized gear. … It’s a whole new business line for folks whose business tapered off after Afghanistan.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

US soldiers seen as more trustworthy than judges, new poll finds

Almost 70% of Americans surveyed in a recent online poll said soldiers are more trustworthy than judges, police and Transportation Security Administration agents.

SafeHome.org, a company that researches and reviews security products and services, conducted the survey of more than 1,000 Americans through Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk), a virtual job outsourcing platform often used to conduct studies. Survey recipients were asked specifically about soldiers, but the word was intended to represent all U.S. troops.

Gesa Pannenborg, the survey’s project manager, said SafeHome.org wanted to study how people relate to those in authority or power positions during this “particularly divisive time” in American history.

“We were surprised by the extent to which our politics may influence how we interact with authority figures in our daily lives — perhaps more than we realize,” she wrote in an email.

Soldiers had the sixth-highest trustworthy rating by those surveyed, following top picks of paramedics, firefighters, doctors, teachers and professors, in that order.

“I think we as a country have always held soldiers in high regard, as the brave men and women who protect us and risk their lives for our freedom,” Pannenborg said. “It’s encouraging to see that, while politicians or wars can be unpopular, people, both left- and right-leaning, are pretty uniformly unwavering in their deference for those we entrust to carry on with the fighting.”

The study found 63% of Democrats surveyed thought of soldiers as trustworthy compared to 82% of Republicans. Professors had a similar 20% trustworthy disparity, though they rated higher with Democrats.

Republicans also had significantly more trust in police than Democrats did, but overall, the police fared worse than company supervisors and security guards.

“In recent years, there have been numerous highly publicized, controversial incidents involving police officers,” Pannenborg said. “Some of the results we found were likely a response to that press coverage, and it’s clear that Republicans and Democrats are more divided in their perception of the trustworthiness of police officers.”

Soldiers had the sixth-highest trustworthy rating by those surveyed, following top picks of paramedics, firefighters, doctors, teachers and professors, in that order.

Survey takers’ ages ranged from 19 to 83. Nearly 450 of them were Democrats, about 240 were Republicans and 264 Independents. They took about three minutes on average to complete the study and were paid .43 for their responses.

While widely used for studies, MTurk has been criticized within the last two years for taking advantage of rural workers, and there’s been skepticism about whether robots or people are filling out the surveys.

— Dorothy Mills-Gregg can be reached at dorothy.mills-gregg@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @DMillsGregg.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Their first battle: Truman rallies his men under artillery fire

Future-President Harry S. Truman was a hero in World War I who technically broke orders when, as a captain, he ordered his men to fire out of sector during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, eliminating German artillery batteries and observers in order to protect U.S. troops. But his first battle saw his men break ranks until Truman, shaking from fear, rallied them back to their guns.


Capt. Harry S. Truman’s ID card from the American Expeditionary Forces.

(Harry S. Truman Library and Museum)

The fight came in the Vosges Mountains in eastern France. Truman had recently been promoted to captain and given command of Battery D, 129th Field Artillery Regiment. His battery was known as a smart, athletic, but undisciplined lot. He managed to wrangle influence over them.

But he was still untested in battle when his battery moved into position Aug. 29, 1918, and began their bombardment of German positions. The battery’s four 75mm guns sent rounds downrange, and it was great—at first. As Pvt. Vere Leigh later said, “We were firing away and having a hell of a good time doing it until they began to fire back.”

Truman had been in command for less than two months, and his men began to melt away under the cover of rain and darkness. Rumors that the German shells contained gas agents sent the men scrambling to get masks on themselves and their horses.

Truman’s map of the roads through the Vosges Mountains.

(Courtesy Harry S. Truman Library Museum, Independence, Missouri, map number M625)

In all this chaos, it was easy for the artillerymen, especially the support troops, to run into the woods and rocks of the area. Truman was afraid himself and had to struggle to remain in place. He would later write to his wife, “My greatest satisfaction is that my legs didn’t succeed in carrying me away, although they were very anxious to do it.”

Truman was on his horse, trying to keep his unit organized and in place until he rode into a shell crater and tumbled with his horse to the ground. A soldier had to help get him out from under the horse, and Truman watched the fleeing men around him and had to decide whether to run as well.

But he did hold position, and he began insulting and cajoling his troops to get them back on the guns. “I got up and called them everything I knew,” he said. The language was surprising coming from the relatively small and bespectacled captain, but it worked. Gun crews began shifting back to their weapons, other troops got horses back in line in case the battery needed to move, and American rounds screeched through the air to thunder home in German positions.

“Truman’s Battery” depicts Battery D in battle in World War I.

(Dominic D’Andrea)

Most of his men, of course, refused to admit if they ran. So the men began referring to it as the “Battle of Who Ran.”

Truman’s poise under fire helped endear him to the men, even if he had secretly been terrified. This would later help them stick together in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive when Truman ordered them to kill German artillery batteries and observers that were technically out of the division’s sector. Truman got in trouble for firing out of sector, but he protected his men and the armored units of Lt. Col. George S. Patton Jr. that Battery D was supporting.

Seems like the behavior should’ve been expected from the guy who managed to wrangle Battery D into a unit that would stand and fight.

Articles

Top brass wants women to register for the draft

Now that women are cleared to join men in all U.S. military combat roles, the service chiefs of the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps think the rules for Selective Service registration should be changed to include women.


Gen. Robert Neller (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Shawn Valosin)

Current selective service rules say all male citizens of the United States and male immigrants (and bizarrely, illegal immigrants) have to register for the Selective Service System within 30 days of their 18th birthday. This is not joining the military but registering with the government to be available in a time where conscription would be necessary.

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley believe the provisions of Military Selective Service should reflect the new policies of the Department of Defense.

“Every American who’s physically qualified should register for the draft,” Neller told the Senate Armed Services Committee .

Gen. Mark Milley

The Supreme Court’s 1981 decision in Rostker v. Goldberg upheld Congress’ decision to exempt women from the draft, saying “training would be needlessly burdened by women recruits who could not be used in combat.”

In order for women to be drafted, Congress would have to update the provisions of the Selective Service Act of 1948.

If you’re an American male age 18 or older and forgot to register for Selective Service, there’s no time like the present.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Blind Army vet inspires as Summer Sports ambassador

“It was a long walk into darkness … “

That’s how Chuck Miller describes his maddening descent into blindness — something he refused to accept as his world slipped away, little by little.

The Army veteran, who gets care at the Gainesville VA Medical Center, is the first blind veteran sailor certified by the American Sailing Association. He’s also an ambassador at the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic, where he connects with others to help them adjust to different disabilities.

The clinic brings blind, amputee and paralyzed veterans, and those living with post-traumatic stress, to San Diego, Calif., Sept. 15 to 20, for adaptive surfing, sailing, cycling and kayaking.


“One of the most difficult things about being disabled is acceptance. That to me is one of the biggest struggles veterans have…”

Miller stops and cries for a moment.

“You know, something significant changes in their lives and they try to ignore it. That’s what I did. I was a proud soldier. Being a soldier was everything to me.”

Chuck Miller, a totally blind Army Veteran, has been an ambassador at the Summer Sports Clinic the last three years.

Going blind

Miller, a single dad with full custody of his son, was first diagnosed with spots on his retina in 1984.

“They just said, ‘You have something wrong with your eyes. They weren’t sure,” he said.

In 1990, his doctor diagnosed him with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a rare, genetic disorder that breaks down cells and creates scar tissue on the retinas.

“The retinas become so damaged, they’re basically dead,” Miller said. “The only problem I was having was night vision problems and some depth perception. It was difficult to accept. It went on for another 15 years and wasn’t at the point I couldn’t function. I was still driving, still doing normal work. It didn’t register at the time. I just thought, ‘Well, I got an eye problem.'”

By 2005, a doctor leveled with him. “You need to quit driving. You’re going to kill somebody if you don’t.”

“I still didn’t listen until I T-boned somebody in my car,” Miller said.

By 2009, he was blind, only seeing light but nothing else.

“I remember when I realized I was going blind, how terrified I was,” he said. “Just like every veteran, I went through a dark period. I drank, I did drugs, I wanted to kill myself. Thought I’m not worthy as a father, which is one of the most important things in my life. I literally pushed every single person away from me. I lost every friend I had as a sighted person.”

Fighting rehabilitation

Miller’s turning point came when he went to the Blind Rehabilitation Center at the Birmingham VA Medical Center.

“Don’t leave,” he told his friend who drove him there. “I’m not staying. I’m going back home. It’s not for me.”

His friend left anyway.

“That’s where you have to learn to be that disability,” he said. “You have to face it. That’s when you have to say, ‘Damn, I’m blind,’ or, “Damn, I’m this,’ or whatever,” Miller said.

He fought against instructors and struggled to learn skills needed to live in his sightless world. Instructors paired him with a roommate who was blinded at 18 in Vietnam, in hopes he could learn to accept it.

Chuck Miller chats with James Byrne, the deputy secretary of VA, while sailing with him at the Summer Sports Clinic.

“I was pretty angry,” Miller said. “The first couple of days, he’d lay in his bed, and he’d pray out loud to God, thanking him for his day, thanking God for being blind, and I’m thinking, ‘What the hell is wrong with you? How could you be so thankful for being disabled?'”

“Man, this is a gift, you just don’t know it yet,” his roommate said. “I get to see things different. I get to see how people are on the inside.”

Miller remembers one day in class, trying in frustration to put together a leather belt kit. The next day, his instructor gave him glasses that blocked out light.

“And I put that thing together in less than an hour,” he said. “I started to see through my fingers.”

Miller gave in, and his world without sight came into focus.

“They start taking me places. Up and down stairs, escalators, crossing four-lane roads. Before that, I wouldn’t go out without holding onto anybody. I learned braille. Found out I’m a natural. I’m sick, I actually took algebra in braille.”

Summer Sports Clinic

He put on a brave face at his first Summer Sports Clinic in 2015.

“I was talking all kinds of junk, but inside I was afraid,” he said. “It’s easy to picture doing this stuff in your mind, but doing it is scary. My first day was surfing, and I was pretty scared to go out there. I don’t know where the beach is at, I can’t see the water. At the end of the day, I was the last one out. I start thinking, ‘This is pretty freaking cool!’

“I had never sailed before in my life. You’re overwhelmed in that first year because there’s so much to take in, but from there I did a five-day sailing clinic in St. Petersburg, Florida, and they put me on a boat with a paraplegic in a wheelchair and a coach. And I’m thinking, ‘We’re screwed.’ But it’s all about exposure.”

Miller fell in love with sailing so much he got his American Sailing Certification with a score of 95 out of 100. He sails with a sighted coach, but does the work himself — untying ropes, hoisting the mast, trimming the sail to catch the wind, and steering.

“When I’m on the water,” he said, “I feel the wind blowing, the birds, the sounds of the ocean, the sun on my face. I enjoy it in a way that a sighted person can’t experience.”

Cory Kapes, who runs Warrior Sail at the clinic, said Miller sets the example. Kapes even let him steer the boat as he came into shore one day, where other boats were only 20 feet away.

Chuck Miller talks to a class of new sailing participants at this year’s Summer Sports Clinic.

“If these people knew I was blind, they’d have a heart attack,” Miller said.

“Just keep smiling and waving,” Kapes said with a laugh.

“It just shows you the impact this clinic can have,” Kapes said. “He never sailed a boat before he came here. He brought it home. That’s what we want other vets to do — bring it home, go kayaking, be committed, make it part of your active lifestyle.”

Ambassador

For the last three years as an ambassador, Miller traveled from Florida to San Diego by himself. When needed, he has a special pair of glasses with a built-in camera that connects him to a live agent to help him navigate. But more often than not, he uses his blind guiding cane.

Most veterans find Miller by his bright pink, volunteer T-shirt, cutting up and telling jokes.

“Hey nice to see you! Well, not really, but you get the idea … ” he tells one veteran.

“I’m Blind Chuck! Would it help if I take off my glasses?” he tells another. “Look, I take off my glasses, I don’t look blind. I put the glasses on, blind! I can look at you, but you know I can’t see you, right?”

He took the deputy secretary of Veterans Affairs on the water, making jokes and cutting up about everyone’s military branch while sailing.

Fellow veteran Michelle Marie Smith, who gets her care at the Sacramento VA, said listening to Miller at the sailing class was a highlight.

“Oh yeah,” she said. “It definitely puts everything in perspective. If I had any doubt, I don’t after listening to him.”

Miller said that’s what it’s all about.

“What I’ve learned from this clinic here – and this is important for veterans to understand – not only can you do things as a disabled person, get to know these volunteers, therapists and team leaders. The only thing they care about is teaching you how to do these sports. They want you to succeed and you just have to trust them.”

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

MIGHTY FIT

5 perfect fitness jobs for veterans

Do you still love fitness? Are you transitioning out of the military and thinking about what the next steps of your future career will be?

Think about a hobby you love. Can you make your hobby into a job or even just a part-time position for starters?

How about a job in the fitness industry? There are many veterans in the fitness industry, including myself, a tactical fitness writer. But writing is far from the only option in the multibillion-dollar fitness business. From personal trainers, gym owners, strength coaches, supplement affiliates, inventors and program developers to athletes who compete in all types of competitions, there are plenty of fitness-related career paths.


If fitness is part of your life or used to be, consider finding that love again. You might find something inside you that reconnects with the world you left behind when you first joined the military.

Here are some of the many fitness career paths that can help you get moving again, fine-tune your fitness knowledge and skills, and teach people who need your motivation, passion and example.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman David Carbajal)

​1. Group Trainer

One of the easier ways to get involved in training people is to lead a group at an established fitness center. Or you could build your own outdoor fitness boot camp program, especially if the weather permits most of the year. A group training instructor could be as basic as a boot camp fitness class or a learned training program on spin bikes, yoga, kickboxing, Zumba, barre, aquatic fitness or CrossFit. No matter what you pick, these are fun ways not only to teach others, but to get your own workout accomplished with a group of people who need your leadership. It can also be a good supplemental income if you can spare an hour or two a few days a week.

2. Personal Trainer

Like the title suggests, this business model is more personal, and you get to really know and develop training programs for the goals, needs and abilities of a client. Personal training is also better paying than group fitness. You can offer personal training as part of an existing fitness center or set up your own hustle and train people at their own homes or in an outdoor area.

3. Online Fitness Business

If you like to create content for people to read or view, you may find a promising business model with a website store and social media. Whether it is through your own products, articles and videos or using an affiliate model, you can make significant income online with just a little bit of technology skill.

(U.S. Marine Corps photos by Lance Cpl. Bridget M. Keane)

4. Invent a Fitness Device

Two friends of mine created companies around their inventions. Randy Hetrick of TRX and Alden Mill of Perfect Pushup fame both created products that fit into the fitness industry very nicely and maybe even revolutionized it to some degree.

5. Can You Still Compete?

Many veterans are still going hard-core after service and compete in professional racing and sports from CrossFit Games, to the Olympics and Paralympic Games, to becoming sponsored and professional athletes in the racing world. Moving that athletic fame into social media and internet fitness businesses is a great way to continue training and helping others, as well as earning a living.

Fitness is important for the transitioning veteran. Whether you decide to make fitness part of a way to make extra income, or you just get involved in volunteer coaching in your community, you will find that the physical activity you do and the coaching and teaching you provide are helpful to you and others.

Find the Right veteran Job

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 ways to strengthen your military marriage this year

A healthy and strong military marriage is at the top of many people’s priority list, but accomplishing this takes effort.

Typically, tasks that aide this goal are not included on our to-do list. We do not think we need to add, “Daily say I love you”, but maybe we should. Reaching big goals, such as a successful relationship, is about taking little steps to get there. So, along with your task of weight-lifting Wednesdays for your hot bod, consider adding the following to-dos for your relationship.


1. Go for a walk.

There are numerous benefits to walking, but the point here is spending intentional time together away from the distractions of home. Walking is an extremely easy and effective way to get out of a communication rut. Change the scenery and see how the extra oxygen to your brain fuels creative conversations.

(Photo by Ben Rosett)

2. Make a bucket list.

This is not another list of tasks, but a fun way to dream together. Think big and dream crazy dreams. Have fun imagining what you can accomplish/see/experience together. (Just keep your dates flexible!!)

3. Arm wrestle.

This was my husband’s response to things we could do to strengthen our relationship. Anyone who compared our size would know how ridiculous this is, but I’ve added it to my list. I’m not saying determining who has the most arm strength will improve your relationship, but adding something your significant other is interested in (or something just plain funny) is a good start! Find your version of arm wrestling!

(Photo by Sandy Millar)

4. See a counselor.

There is a common misconception that going to marriage counseling is only for those in trouble. It is not. If you owned a business, you would evaluate its performance; if you want to stay healthy you do a yearly physical; if you want your car to run well, you have a maintenance check. Marriage is no different. Taking time to talk with a counselor, a mentor couple, or a real friend who will encourage and help you to grow together is an important part of keeping your relationship strong.

5. Build your calendar together.

It is extremely easy to get into a habit of living two completely separate lives. Even if you digitally share your calendar, take at least 15 minutes each week to do a rundown of what is happening each day. Verbally reviewing each other’s calendar allows you to be connected with each other’s events even when you are apart. It also provides background knowledge to ask questions more specific than, “How was your day?”

(Photo by Will O)

6. Cheer each other on.

Words matter, and at some point in our military marriages, they are all we have to stay connected.Find ways to talk highly about your significant other when he/she is not around. Make a specific reminder to write encouraging notes, send messages listing their strengths or rent a billboard to highlight their accomplishments (to include choosing you). Your words count for something, make them count for your relationship’s good.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Green Beret is considered one of the most decorated soldiers of all time

Enlisted in the Army in 1956 at the age of 17, Robert Howard came from a very patriotic family. His father and four uncles all served as paratroopers and he elected to follow in their footsteps.


Soon after his training, Howard would be shipped off to Vietnam where would eventually complete five combat tours — all with the U.S. Army Special Forces.

Related: This sailor has one of the most impressive resumes you’ll ever see — and he’s not done yet

During one 13-month period, Howard was nominated for three Medals of Honor for three separate acts of heroism in combat.

Robert takes time out for a photo op with his men during one of his five combat tours in Vietnam. (Image from Pinterest)

 

Howard’s first two Medal of Honor nominations were downgraded to Distinguished Service Crosses due to the covert nature of his actions.

While serving as a sergeant of an American-Vietnamese platoon, Howard embarked on a rescue mission for a missing American soldiers thought to be deep in enemy territory.

During the mission, Howard’s platoon came under massive attack by a large enemy force. As allied forces were wounded all around him, Howard managed to rally his men and continue engaging the enemy for nearly four hours.

Eventually, their efforts would pay off as they successfully fought off the aggressive enemy.

Although severely injured himself, Howard oversaw and accounted for every man before leaving the battlespace.

Also Read: A stray dog named ‘Stubby’ was the most decorated dog of WWI

During his time “in-country,” Howard was wounded 14 times throughout his 54 months serving in the Vietnam War.

For his heroic actions on the rescue mission, Howard was awarded the Medal of Honor from President Richard Nixon on Mar. 2, 1971.

Howard’s military awards include two Distinguished Service Crosses, a Silver Star, the Defense Superior Service Medal, four awards of the Legion of Merit, four Bronze Star Medals, and eight Purple Hearts, making him one of the most decorated soldiers in American history.

Robert Howard receiving his Medal of Honor at the White House from former President Richard Nixon. (Image from Pinterest)

After 36 years of military service, Howard retired in 1992 at the well-respected rank of colonel. Sadly, he passed away in December of 2009, but his legacy will on forever.

Check out Medal of Honor Book‘s video below to hear the heroic story from the legend himself.

(Medal of Honor Book | YouTube)We salute you, sir!

MIGHTY TRENDING

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats

American planners looking at contending with North Korea, ISIS remnants and copycats, and fighting in megacities against near-peer enemies have identified a shortfall of current U.S. training and focus: our enemies are turning to tunnels more and more, but modern U.S. forces have no idea how to best fight there.


An Army infantryman is lowered into Vietnamese tunnels during a search-and-destroy mission in Vietnam, 1967.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Howard C. Breedlove)

This has triggered a look at new technology and old tactics that could make the difference in fighting underground. The Defense Intelligence Agency has even floated the idea of a new warfighting domain: subterranean.

First, to define the problem. Insurgent and terrorist cells — notably ISIS, but also many others — have turned to tunneling to hide their activities from the militaries sent to stop them. Some of this is to allow fighters and supplies to flow across the battlefield undetected and unchallenged, but some of it is to hide intelligence and weapons or to force security forces to move through dangerous tunnels during last-ditch fighting.

Meanwhile, North Korea has been tunneling for decades just like communist forces did in Vietnam. Their military assets, including ballistic missiles and warheads, have been stored and moved through tunnels for years, making it harder to ensure an aerial first strike gets them all in one go. Iran has entire missile factories underground.

An Iranian missile is fired during testing. Iran has built three underground missile factories. In a potential war with the country, expect that someone will have to secure all the subterranean sites.

(Tasnim News Agency)

Modern infrastructure is increasingly built underground, from cable networks and natural gas systems to, increasingly, power lines. This leaves both America and its enemies vulnerable to disruptions of modern water supplies, information sharing, and power supply of multiple types due to underground attacks.

But Americans haven’t fought underground on a large scale since Vietnam, and even the exploits of the heroic tunnel rats pale in comparison to what would be required to take and hold underground territory, especially under the cities and megacities that the bulk of human population will live in within a few decades.

So, the military has turned to DARPA and to long-term planners to figure out how American warfighters will maintain an advantage.

www.youtube.com

DARPA announced a new grand challenge last year called the DARPA Subterranean Challenge. The agency opened two research tracks: one for teams that wanted to compete in a physical challenge and one for those who would compete in a virtual challenge.

No matter the course selected, teams have to develop systems that will give American forces and first responders an advantage in human-made tunnel systems, the urban underground (think subways), and natural cave networks. The final event won’t happen until 2021, but the winner of the physical challenge will get million while the virtual track winner will get 0,000.

Meanwhile, the Army has invested 2 million in training soldiers to fight in subterranean networks with a focus on the sewers and other networks constructed either under large cities or as standalone bases. A 2017 assessment estimated that there are 10,000 military facilities constructed partially or entirely underground. Almost 5,000 of them are in North Korea.

“We did recognize, in a megacity that has underground facilities — sewers and subways and some of the things we would encounter … we have to look at ourselves and say ‘okay, how does our current set of equipment and our tactics stack up?'” Col. Townley Hedrick, commandant of the Infantry School at the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Georgia, told Military.com in an interview. “What are the aspects of megacities that we have paid the least attention to lately, and every megacity has got sewers and subways and stuff that you can encounter.”

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Daron Bush roleplays a simulated casualty at Camp Gonsalves, Okinawa, Japan, Feb. 16, 2018. Imagine having to get injured Marines through miles of caves to medevac within the golden hour.

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jamin M. Powell)

The military has been asking for new tunnel hardware for years. A 2016 wishlist from the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office asked for technology that would detect and possibly intrude into tunnels. In 2017, the Army got a new piece of equipment that allows them to map underground tunnels to an unknown extent from the surface.

Still, there’s a lot to be done. Troops will need less cumbersome armor or will be forced to fight bare in cramped quarters. Batteries will need to be light and compact, but even then it will be impossible to carry enough power to use many of the modern gadgets soldiers are used to. Many current technologies, like most radios and GPS, are useless with a few feet of rock disrupting signals, so special guidance and comms are essential.

Even with new gadgets and tactics, subterranean fighting will be horrible. Cramped quarters limit maneuverability, favoring a defender that can set up an ambush against an attacker who doesn’t have room to maneuver. Front-line medics will take on increased responsibility as it will be essentially impossible to evacuate patients from complex cave systems within the golden hour.

So, expect a call for modern tunnel rats within the next few years. But, good news for the infantrymen who will inevitably get this job: You’ll be equipped with a lot more than just a pistol and flashlight, and you might even have enough room to walk upright.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Legacy begun by U.S. Navy legend continues with Army Reserve pilot and beyond

RICHMOND, Va. — Every time he straps on the leather band of his watch in the morning, Phillip Brashear remembers his father.


“My dad’s famous saying is, ‘It’s not a sin to get knocked down. It’s a sin to stay down,'” Brashear said.

Those words are engraved on the back of a Swiss limited-edition wristwatch, surrounding the iconic image of a Mark V diver suit helmet. The watch was manufactured in honor of Carl Brashear, the first African-American master diver in U.S. Navy’s history who lost his leg during a tragic accident on a mission off the coast of Spain in 1966.

Two airplanes had collided, dropping a payload that included three nuclear warheads. One of them fell into the Atlantic Ocean. Carl Brashear was called to dive and recover the bomb, but during the mission a towline was pulled so tight that it ripped off a pole, dragging it across the deck with so much tension that it cut the bottom part of his leg, nearly ripping it off. Back in the United States, doctors decided to amputate the leg below the knee.

“My father is an American legend,” said Brashear. “He was the first amputee to return to active-duty service in one of the most challenging jobs in the Navy.”

His life story was depicted in the Hollywood movie “Men of Honor” which starred Cuba Gooding Jr. and Robert De Niro.

“My father overcame five barriers in his lifetime. He overcame racism. My father overcame poverty, being a poor sharecropper’s son. He overcame illiteracy. He lost the bottom part of his leg and was physically disabled. … He overcame his alcoholism, and in 1979 retired with honors,” Brashear said.

Today, Phillip Brashear is the command chief warrant officer for the 80th Training Command, which is responsible for military courses that train thousands of Army Reserve Soldiers around the country.

Brashear thanks service members like his father and the Tuskegee Airmen for the opportunities that men and women of every skin color and background have today.

“He opened the door for many others to come behind him,” he said.

Brashear has more than 38 years of military service, starting in the U.S. Navy Reserve, then the U.S. Army National Guard and now with the U.S. Army Reserve. He spent most of that time flying helicopters.

“I used to tease my dad all the time. … I scored higher than you on the ASVAB test,” he said, referring to the aptitude test used to assign military jobs. “I get to be a helicopter pilot. I go up, not down. My daddy said, ‘Aw, get the heck out of my face. … Remember son, there’s always divers looking for pilots. There’s never pilots looking for divers.”

That banter between father and son came close to becoming a dark premonition for Phillip in 2006 while deployed to Iraq. A flash flood washed away part of a convoy, and Brashear was involved in recovering the bodies.

“That’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life was to get out of that helicopter in a combat operation to retrieve dead Americans, bring them back to safety so their families could have closure,” he said.

Though the bodies were not Navy divers in the middle of the ocean, Brashear recovered Marines whose lives were taken by water.

The rest of his Iraq tour offered no relief. He was with the Virginia Army National Guard at the time, responsible for flying personnel and material across Iraqi deserts under constant gunfire and the threat of improvised explosive attacks. Even at night, he could see the barrage of tracer rounds piercing the sky like lasers.

“I remember the heat. Constant heat. Like a blow dryer in your face. I remember the constant thirst. The constant fear from getting in that helicopter in a combat zone,” Brashear said.

Then one day, he came home from deployment on a Red Cross message. His father was ill. However, Brasher didn’t think it was severe, and during his visit home, Phillip believed his father would recover. He thought his dad was invincible. This was the man who had endured a year of recovery wearing a 300-pound suit after losing a leg to become a master diver. As a master chief petty officer later in his career, Sailors scurried out of the way whenever this legend walked onto a ship.

“He’s gonna be fine,” the son thought, so he walked into his father’s hospital room complaining about Iraq.

“I’m like, Dad, man. I’m getting shot at. The food’s bad. It sucks over there. It’s hot,” he recalled.

“Son, what are you complaining about?” his father asked.

The calm in the old man’s voice took him by surprise. Something in his father’s presence caused the younger Brashear to pause.

“He was on his deathbed. He would have traded places with me in a heartbeat … to go fly helicopters in harm’s way, but I wouldn’t have traded places with him,” Brashear said.

“A few days after, he died in my arms. … His body just gave up. He’d been through so much. He just couldn’t suffer any more. So he – he left us,” he said.

After his deployment, Brashear decided to retire from the Army, but while going through his father’s belongings, he remembered his father’s fighting words.

“It’s not a sin to get knocked down. …”

He returned to service in the U.S. Army Reserve, which he said offered him opportunities even the National Guard couldn’t have given him, including the command-level position he holds now. He continued to fly helicopters for about a decade. Over the course of his career, he’s flown the UH-1 “Huey” – recognized as the Vietnam-era helicopter – the UH-60 Black Hawk and two different models of the CH-47 Chinook.

Then, in 2014, Brashear faced adversity of his own. During his annual flight physical, he was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, a heart arrhythmia that took him off flight status.

“It’s the worst feeling in the world to be denied your job because of something medical. That’s like someone taking away your livelihood. So, just like my dad, I said, ‘I’m not going to let this stop me. I’m going to get back up and get my job back,'” Brashear said.

He received a procedure known as cardioversion, a medical treatment that restores normal heart rhythm through electric shocks. As it turns out, his heart doctor, Michael Spooner, also treated Brashear’s father in the last 10 years of his life. The A-Fib kept Brashear off flight status for a year, but he continued his recovery until he passed his physical and returned to flying.

Now, Brashear is among the few dozen command chiefs in the U.S. Army Reserve. He serves as the top technical expert for his command and invests his time mentoring warrant officers and Soldiers wherever he goes.

With all four of his children grown, Brashear lives with his wife, Sandra, outside Richmond, Virginia. They have three daughters – Tia, Megan, Melanie – and a son, Tyler, who is an ROTC cadet studying biology at North Carolina AT University.

“It’s just a great legacy to have my father, who in the Navy was a great legend. Then myself a combat veteran in the Army. And now my son, who is going to be following our footsteps with leadership and service to our country,” he said.

This article originally appeared on DVIDS. Follow @DVIDShub on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The “White Feather Sniper,” Carlos Hathcock

At a young age, Carlos Norman Hathcock II would go into the woods with his dog and the Mauser his father brought back from World War II to pretend to be a soldier. Hathcock dreamed of being a Marine throughout his childhood, and on May 20, 1959, at the age of 17, he enlisted.

In 1966, Hathcock started his deployment in South Vietnam. He initially served as a military policeman and later, owing to his reputation as a skilled marksman, served as a sniper.


The Hathcock brothers and a friend, shooting as children.

USMC Photo

During the Vietnam War, Hathcock had 93 confirmed kills of North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and Viet Cong personnel. However, kills had to be confirmed by an acting third party, who had to be an officer, besides the sniper’s spotter. Hathcock estimated that he actually killed between 300 and 400 enemy soldiers.

In one instance, Hathcock saw a glint reflecting off an enemy sniper’s scope. He fired at it, sending a round through the enemy’s own rifle scope, hitting him in the eye and killing him.

Hathcock’s notoriety grew among the Viet Cong and NVA, who reportedly referred to him Du kích Lông Trắng (“White Feather Sniper”) because of the white feather he kept tucked in a band on his bush hat. The enemy placed a bounty on his head. After a platoon of Vietnamese snipers tried to hunt him down, many Marines donned white feathers to deceive the enemy. Hathcock successfully fought off numerous enemy snipers during the remainder of his deployment.

Hathcock did once remove the white feather from his bush hat during a volunteer mission. The mission was so risky he was not informed of its details until he accepted it. Transported to a field by helicopter, Hathcock crawled over 1,500 yards in a span of four days and three nights, without sleep, to assassinate an NVA general. At times, Hathcock was only a few feet away from patrolling enemy soldiers. He was also nearly bitten by a snake. Once in position, Hathcock waited for the general to exit his encampment before shooting. After completing this mission, Hathcock came back to the United States in 1967. However, missing the service, he returned to Vietnam in 1969, taking command of a sniper platoon.

On September 16, 1969, an AMTRAC Hathcock was riding on struck an anti-tank mine. He pulled seven Marines from the vehicle, suffering severe burns in the process. Hathcock received the Purple Heart while he was recuperating. Nearly 30 years later, he received a Silver Star for this action.

After returning to active duty, Hathcock helped establish the Marine Corps Scout Sniper School at the Marine base in Quantico, Virginia. However, he was in near constant pain due to his injuries, and in 1975, his health began to deteriorate. After diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, he medically discharged in 1979. Feeling forced out of the Marines, Hathcock fell into a state of depression. But with the help of his wife, and his newfound hobby of shark fishing, Hathcock eventually overcame his depression. Despite being retired from the military, Hathcock continued providing sniper instruction to police departments and select military units, such as SEAL Team Six.

Hathcock passed away Feb. 22, 1999, in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

We honor his service.

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

Articles

This U.S. Army artillery unit savaged 41 Iraqi battalions in 72 hours

During Desert Storm the 3rd Battalion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment provided artillery support to the 24th Infantry Division throughout the invasion of Iraq. During one phase of the war they took out 41 Iraqi battalion, two air defense sites, and a tank company in less than 72 hours.


Soldiers with the 3rd Battalion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment fire their Multiple Launch Rocket Systems during certification. Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class Jacob McDonald

3-27 entered Desert Storm with a new weapon that had never seen combat, the Multiple Launch Rocket System. Nearby soldiers took notice, to put it mildly, as the rockets screamed past the sound barrier on their way out of the launcher and then roared away from the firing point. A first sergeant from the 3-27 told The Fayetteville Observer that the first launch created panic in the American camp. Soldiers that had never seen an MLRS dove into cover and tried to dig hasty foxholes.

“It scared the pure hell out of everybody,” Sgt. Maj. Jon H. Cone said. But the Americans quickly came to love the MLRS.

“After that first time, it was showtime,” Cone said.

Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Carlos R. Davis

Like everyone else during the invasion, the 24th Infantry Division wanted to push deeper and seize more territory than anyone else. That meant their artillery support would be racing across the sand as well. 3-27 came through and actually spent a lot of time running ahead of the maneuver units, looking for enemy artillery and quickly engaging when any showed.

During a particularly daring move, the battalion’s Alpha battery moved through enemy lines and conducted a raid from inside enemy territory, engaging artillery and infantry while other U.S. forces advanced.

The largest single attack by the 3-27 was the assault on Objective Orange, two Iraqi airfields that sat right next to each other. 3-27 and other artillery units were assigned to destroy the Iraqi Army’s 2,000 soldiers, ten tanks, and two artillery battalions at the airfield so the infantry could assault it more easily.

The launchers timed their rockets to all reach the objective within seconds of each other, and used rockets that would drop bomblets on the unsuspecting Iraqi troops.

Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Duane Duimstra

A prisoner of war who survived the assault later told U.S. forces that the Iraqis were manning their guns when the rockets came in. When the rockets began exploding in mid-air, they cheered in the belief that the attack had failed. Instead, the bomblets formed a “steel rain” that killed most troops in the area and destroyed all exposed equipment.

By the time the infantry got to the airfields, the survivors were ready to surrender.

The battalion was awarded a Valorous Unit Citation after the war for extreme bravery under fire.

(h/t to The Fayetteville Observer‘s Drew Brooks and to “Steel Rain” by Staff Sgt. Charles W. Bissett)

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How Navajo code talkers saved Marines in WWII

Growing up on the Navajo reservation in New Mexico and Arizona, Chester Nez endured many indignities at the hands of the U.S. government.


During the Great Depression, the federal government slaughtered his family’s sheep herd, destroying their livelihood. Shipped off to Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding schools at the age of eight, he wasn’t even allowed to keep his Navajo name — administrators assigned him the name Chester in honor of President Chester A. Arthur. If teachers caught him speaking his native language, they beat him or washed his mouth out with a bar of soap.

Yet when U.S. Marine Corps recruiters arrived in Tuba City, Arizona in the spring of 1942, looking for young men fluent in Navajo and English, Nez volunteered for duty. It was less than six months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the Navy had suffered a string of defeats in the South Pacific.

“I thought about how my people were mistreated,” he later said. “But then I thought this would be my chance to do something for my country.”

Chester Nez during World War II

Nez’s amazing sense of patriotic duty was a perfect fit for the secret program he was about to enter. The program was the brainchild of Philip Johnston, a 50-year-old civil engineer and World War I veteran who had read about the military’s need for a fast and secure means of encoding battlefield communications. As a member of the American Expeditionary Force in France during WWI, Johnston knew that Native American soldiers had transmitted messages in their tribal languages by telephone. The dialects, including Choctaw, Comanche, and Cherokee, were completely unknown to any Germans who might be listening in, giving the army a crucial advantage. Choctaw soldiers even developed a code based on their language for extra security, although it was never used in battle.

Johnston believed that Navajo represented an even greater opportunity to develop an indecipherable code — especially since the Germans had studied Choctaw in the interwar period. The son of missionaries, Johnston had grown up on the Navajo reservation and was fluent in the language, whose syntax and tonality make it incredibly complex. Depending on inflection and pronunciation, a single word can have as many as four distinct meanings. At the time, there was no Navajo alphabet — it remained an unwritten language spoken only on the reservation. While German anthropologists and journalists, including the Nazi propagandist Dr. Colin Ross, had studied other Native American tribes in the years after WWI, they did not make a subject of the Navajo. Johnston estimated that less than thirty people outside of the tribe had any familiarity with the dialect.

A group of code talkers who took part in 1943’s Bougainville campaign

(USMC)

In February 1942, Johnston traveled to Camp Elliott in San Diego, California to present his idea to Lieutenant Colonel James E. Jones of the Signal Corps. Initially Jones was skeptical, but he gave Johnston the go-ahead to stage a demonstration for Major General Clayton B. Vogel, commander of the First Marine Division, Amphibious Corps of the Pacific Fleet. Johnston recruited four Navajos from the Los Angeles shipyards and brought them to San Diego for the test. They were divided into teams of two, sent to opposite ends of the building, and given six messages to encode and transmit via field telephones. After some quick word substitutions — “dive bomber” became “chicken hawk” (gini) — the Navajos were able to accurately translate the messages from English into Navajo and back again within seconds. Using standard cryptographic equipment of the day, the same task would have taken 30 minutes to complete.

Impressed by the demonstration, Vogel submitted a request to the Commandant of the Marine Corps to recruit and train 200 Navajos as communications specialists. The first 29 enlistees, Chester Nez among them, arrived at the San Diego Marine Corps Recruit Depot in May, 1942. Most had never been off the reservation before, and some had never even taken a bus or a train. Many had lied about their ages in order to sign up. After completing basic training, the members of 382nd Platoon, nicknamed “The Navajo School,” were sent to Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, California, and tasked with developing a code that was simple, fast, and reliable enough to be used in battlefield conditions.

The code they developed with the help of Signal Corps officers had two parts. First, hundreds of common military terms were assigned Navajo synonyms. “Submarine” became “iron fish” (besh-lo). “Colonel” became “silver eagle” (atsah-besh-le-gai). “Battleship” was “whale” (lo-tso); “fighter plane” was “hummingbird” (da-he-tih-hi); “America” was “our mother” (ne-he-mah); and so on. Next, each letter of the Roman alphabet was given up to three corresponding Navajo words. For example, “A” could be encoded as wol-la-chee (“ant”), be-la-sana (“apple”), or tse-nill (“axe”). “N” was tsah (“needle”) or a-chin (“nose”). Using this system, the Navajos could spell any English word while minimizing the repetitions that might allow enemy listeners to break the code.

In August 1942, the first group of Navajo code talkers completed their training and reported for duty at Guadalcanal. They were assigned to combat units and given field telephones and radios to transmit bombing coordinates, tactical orders, troop movements, etc. Messages written in English were encrypted by a code talker and radioed to a compatriot who had committed the entire code to memory. He would render the message back into English and pass it along; the written copies were destroyed immediately. In his memoir, Code Talker, Chester Nez recounted his first transmission: Beh-na-ali-tsosie a-knah-as-donih ah-toh nish-na-jih-goh dah-di-kad ah-deel-tahi (“Enemy machine gun nest on your right flank. Destroy”).

Three of the original code talkers being honored by President George Bush in 2001

All told, more than 400 Navajo code talkers served in WWII. They played key roles in every major Marine engagement in the Pacific, including Okinawa, Tarawa, Bougainville, Saipan, Guam, and Peleliu. At Iwo Jima, six code talkers worked round the clock for the first two days of the battle, relaying more than 800 messages without error. According to Major Howard Connor, a signal officer in the 5th Marine Division, “were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima.”

The Japanese were skilled code breakers, yet they never managed to decipher the Navajo code. Even a Navajo soldier captured at Bataan (who was untrained as a code talker) could make neither heads nor tails of the encrypted messages he was forced to listen to–the strings of unrelated words sounded like gibberish to him. After the war, he told his Navajo comrades, “I never figured out what you guys who got me into all that trouble were saying.”

In addition to storming beaches, hunkering down in foxholes, and enduring the stifling heat and humidity of jungle combat, the code talkers faced an unexpected danger: U.S. soldiers who mistook them for the enemy. At Guadalcanal, a Navajo named William McCabe was in a chow line when someone yelled, “Halt, or I’m gonna shoot!” and dragged him off to be interrogated. Chester Nez was “captured” by US troops on the island of Anguar. They put a .45 pistol to his head and accused him of being a Japanese soldier impersonating a Marine. A superior officer had to step in to defuse the situation.

Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton hosts a commemoration ceremony for the Navajo Code Talkers at 1st Marine Division Headquarters, Sept. 28, 2015.

(USMC photo by Cpl. Asia J. Sorenson)

After the war, Nez and his fellow code talkers returned to face the hardships of life on the reservation. New Mexico did not grant Navajos the right to vote until 1948. Jobs were scarce, and although the G.I. Bill provided veterans with financing for a home loan, many banks refused to grant loans to Navajos because they held reservation land parcels in trust and had no proof of title. When he went to a federal building in his USMC uniform to register for an identity card, Nez was told that he wasn’t a “full citizen” of the United States. To make matters even more difficult, the Navajo code was so valuable that the program remained classified for more than two decades after the war. The code talkers weren’t allowed to discuss the details of their service, and their incredible skill and bravery went unrecognized.

Thankfully, all that changed in 1968, when the code program was finally declassified. In 1971, President Richard M. Nixon presented the code talkers with a certificate of appreciation for their “patriotism, courage, and resourcefulness.” In 2001, the original members of The Navajo School were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President George W. Bush. Theirs is one of the most incredible stories of WWII: As boys, they were forbidden to speak their native language. As young men, they used that same language to save thousands of American lives, help to turn the tide of the war in the Pacific, and create one of the only unbroken codes in the history of modern warfare.

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.