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US Army celebrates women in combat

Observed on August 26, Women’s Equality Day commemorates the adoption of the 19th Amendment in 1920, guaranteeing women the right to vote. While the change to the Constitution was significant toward shaping gender equality, it highlights the complicated journey women had to gain equal rights.

“Commemorating the adoption of the 19th Amendment on Women’s Equality Day is so very significant,” said Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, the adjutant general of Texas. Norris and Lt. Gen. Gwen Bingham recently spoke about women who paved the way for today’s equality.

For instance, Abigail Adams wrote to the Continental Congress in 1776, asking them to, “Remember the ladies,” when making critical decisions to shape the country. Later in 1848, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott led the first women’s rights convention in New York.


The convention sparked decades of activism through the Women’s Suffrage Movement, which helped lay a foundation for the 19th Amendment and paved the way for women to serve and fight alongside men in combat today.

US Army celebrates women in combat

Staff Sgt. Amanda F. Kelley gets her Ranger tab pinned on by a family member during her Ranger School graduation at Fort Benning, Ga., Aug. 31, 2018. Kelley was the first enlisted woman to earn the Ranger tab.

(Photo by Patrick A. Albright)

Later the civil rights movement of the 1950s generated the Equal Pay Act in 1963, followed by the Civil Rights Act in 1964. And in 1972, Title IX of the Education Amendments was signed into law.

However, “women have been serving their nation through military service for far longer than we have had the right to vote,” Norris said.

During the Revolutionary War, women followed their husbands into combat out of necessity. They would often receive permission to serve in military camps as laundresses, cooks, and nurses. Some women even disguised themselves as men to serve in combat.

“One of the more famous women to do this was Deborah Samson Gannett, who enlisted in 1782 under her brother’s name and served for 17 months,” Norris said. “Wounded by musket ball fire, she cut it out of her thigh so that a doctor wouldn’t discover she was a woman.”

The Army later discovered Gannett’s gender, and she was discharged honorably. She later received a military pension for her service.

Countless examples exist of women serving in various roles to support military operations during the Civil and Spanish-American Wars and beyond.

Notably during World War I, upwards of 25,000 American women between the ages of 21 and 69 served overseas. While the most significant percentage of women served as nurses, some were lucky enough to assist as administrators, secretaries, telephone operators, and architects.

These women helped propel the passage of the 19th Amendment through their hard work and dedication to service.

US Army celebrates women in combat

Now Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, the adjutant general of Texas, visits Soldiers at Camp Bullis, Texas, on June 21, 2018.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Scovell)

From the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act in 1948 to the day the Defense Department opened all combat career fields to women in 2016, the role of women in the Army has steadily increased.

“Women are tough,” Norris said.

“We have been proving it for a long time now, and we have a knack for forcing change,” Norris added. “As Col. Oveta Hobby, a fellow Texan and the first director of the Women’s Army Corps, put it so well: ‘Women who step up want to be measured as citizens of the nation — not as women.'”

Inclusion

These are exciting times, said Lt. Gen. Gwen Bingham, the Army’s outgoing assistant chief of staff for Installation Management. Women are now on the forefront, serving in military occupational specialties they haven’t seen in Army history.

“Quite frankly, the Army is not [solely] a man’s job,” she said.

After a 38-year career, Bingham is now enjoying her last days in service, as she waits for her official retirement in September. During her career, she served as the first female quartermaster general, the first woman to serve as garrison commander of Fort Lee, Virginia. She was also the first female to serve in commanding general roles at White Sands Missile Range and Tank-automotive and Armaments Command in Warren, Michigan.

“There is no way that I would’ve stayed in the Army 38 years if I didn’t feel a sense of inclusion. I will never downplay the word ‘inclusion’ — ever,” she said. “It is one thing to have a seat at the table. However, it is another to feel included in the decisions being made at the table.”

Considered to be a trailblazer by others, Bingham acknowledges the historical significance of her stepping into each position. However, recognizing the “trailblazer moniker” brings to light all the areas that women have yet to serve, she said.

“We will get there, as women continually distinguish themselves in roles that they haven’t typically [served],” she said. “The way I see it, you can choose to spotlight [trailblazers] but progress is having … more [women serving] than what we had before.”

US Army celebrates women in combat

Lt. Gen. Gwen Bingham talks with Maj. Gen. Donna Martin, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood commanding general, after promoting her to major general Aug. 28, 2018.

(Photo by Michael Curtis)

Similar to Bingham, Norris is the first woman to serve as the Texas adjutant general. As the senior military officer, she is responsible for the overall health, wellbeing, training, and readiness of Texas’ soldiers, airmen, civilian employees, and volunteers.

“I am simply another individual in a long line of leaders of Texas military forces,” she said.

“The fact that I am the first woman is secondary to me. What truly matters is that we have a leader of the Texas Military Department who is ready to command and take care of those who serve. I believe I fulfill that role based on qualifications and experience, not by being a woman.”

When it comes to women’s equality, the Army is doing a great job, Norris added. Based on her experience, the military is often the leader when it comes to opening up roles for women to serve.

Managing talent will be critical to the Army’s way ahead. It is about getting the right person, to the right place, at the right time, regardless of their race or gender, she explained.

And to all the women out there that are considering the Army as a future career, “I would tell them — join! Your nation needs you,” Norris said. In 2015, Capt. Kristen

Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver became the first female soldiers to earn the Ranger tab, she noted.

“They are following a long line of powerful women who have forced change in our culture and by their actions opened doors for the generations that follow them,” she said.

“I challenge you to join and be the first one to break [a] barrier down,” Norris added. “The Army opened more doors for me than I could ever have imagined possible. It has been the honor and privilege of a lifetime to serve our state and nation, and I encourage others to do the same.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

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The odd and beautiful art form of the Afghan war rug

As troops walk through the bazaars of Afghanistan, they’ll always see the same collection of things for sale. Bootleg DVDs of shows that weren’t even interesting during their time, horrible knockoffs of brand-name clothing, souvenirs with the names of neighboring countries (mostly) scraped off, and gorgeous, handcrafted rugs depicting the mujahedin fighting the Soviets.


It’s almost surreal. Among the piles of junk are these masterpieces marred with spelling errors.

Afghanistan has a history filled with constant warfare. So, it makes sense that their cultural art reflects this. Afghan carpets have been a staple of the culture’s art for hundreds of years, but it was during the 1979 Soviet invasion that the rugs were used as a form of quiet protest.

US Army celebrates women in combat
To every other vet who’s been to Afghanistan, it’s nice knowing their most common design has barely changed. (Courtesy Photo)

Their AK-47s and tanks were woven into the rugs next to geometric shapes and flowers. The Baluch or Tup-e-Tung (or just “war rugs”) began appearing all over the country. The tradition continued well into America’s intervention in 2001. Contemporary war rugs now include the attack on the World Trade Center and drones.

US Army celebrates women in combat
The rugs are often so well made and sell for such a high price, a single rug sale could bring a family out of poverty. (Photo by Sgt. Heidi Agostini)

 

Funnily enough, the Afghan people prefer not having a constant reminder of the warfare that has plagued their homeland for generations. However, Westerners go crazy for them. War rugs almost exclusively sold to foreigners can fetch up to $25,000 at auction — but are often bartered for much less.

While it’s true that they’re very well-crafted and are the cause for much employment in the country, it still needs to be said that the U.S. Department of Labor recognizes that some are created using child labor. The rugs sold on U.S. and NATO military bases in Afghanistan are carefully vetted to avoid the exploitation of children.

 

US Army celebrates women in combat
Still a worthwhile addition to any vet’s collection. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade)
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Dogfighting in an F-35 is ‘like having a knife fight in a telephone booth’

Civilian pilot Adam Alpert of the Vermont Air National Guard wrote an interesting and enjoyable article on his training experience with the vaunted F-35 in a mock mission to take out nuclear facilities in North Korea.


Chief among the interesting points in the article is a quote from Alpert’s instructor pilot, Lt. Col. John Rahill, about the F-35’s dogfighting ability.

Also read: Beyond the F-35: Air Force and Navy already working on 6th generation fighter

Speaking about the nuanced technical and tactical differences between the F-35, the future plane of the VANG, and the F-16, the VANG’s current plane, Rahill said this:

“If you get into a dogfight with the F-35, somebody made a mistake. It’s like having a knife fight in a telephone booth — very unpredictable.”

The F-35 has been criticized for its dogfighting abilities. But as more information comes to light about the F-35’s mission and purpose, it becomes clearer that measuring the F-35 by its ability to dogfight doesn’t make much more sense than measuring a rifle by its capability as a melee weapon.

“The pilot uses onboard long-range sensors and weapons to destroy the enemy aircraft before ever being seen. The combination of stealth and superior electronic warfare systems makes the F-35 both more lethal and safer,” said Rahill, according to Alpert.

US Army celebrates women in combat
Mission planners could risk four airmen in fifth-generation planes or up to 75 in legacy aircraft when embarking on dangerous missions. US Air Force

In Alpert’s mock mission to North Korea, planners sent only four planes, two F-35s and two F-22s, instead of the older formation of F-18s for electronic attacks, F-15s for air dominance, and F-16s for bombing and airborne early warning. Altogether, the older formation totals about 75 lives at risk versus four pilots at risk with the F-35 version.

Alpert’s piece highlights many of the ways in which the F-35 outclasses the F-16 with an easier, more intuitive interface that allows pilots to focus more on the mission and less on the machine. In fact, Alpert compares the F-35’s controls to an “elaborate video game” with a variety of apps he can call up seamlessly to access any relevant information — including an indicator that tells him how stealthy he is.

US Army celebrates women in combat

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The Marine Corps was just bailed out by ‘the Boneyard’

US Army celebrates women in combat


The United States Marine Corps recently announced plans to refurbish 23 F/A-18C Hornets from “the boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base to address a shortage of usable airframes. Seven more will be transferred from the Navy’s inventory to help address the shortage.

How short were the Flying Leathernecks? On average, a typical Marine squadron of 12 Hornets had only four operational planes. The shortage has had some serious effects on Marine Corps aviation, notably in deeply cutting training hours for pilots. Such a cut is bad news. A rusty pilot can make mistakes – mistakes that could result in a mishap that leaves the plane totaled, and a pilot killed or injured.

While some media reports paint this as a response to a very bad situation (and let’s face facts, the state of Marine Corps aviation – and naval aviation overall, for that matter – could be a lot better than it is), the fact remains that this is a highly-public case of a major investment paying off. This is because the “boneyard” is not really a boneyard. In fact, it is, if you will, comparable to an NFL’ team’s practice squad.

Officially, the boneyard is called the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, or AMARG, formerly known as the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center (AMARC). In essence, it is a place where the United States military puts its extra aircraft for safekeeping. Davis-Monthan Air Force Base is very suited for this purpose. Located near Tucson, Arizona, the low humidity, and the fact that the soil doesn’t contain a lot of acid makes it a good place for the long-term storage of aircraft. There are a lot of planes there currently – over 3,800 as of June 15 of this year.

Here are a few highlights of the inventory that the 309th AMARG has on hand in addition to the 30 F/A-18C Hornets (of which 23 will be refurbished): 95 B-52G Stratofortresses, 12 B-52H Stratofortresses, 18 B-1B Lancers, 101 A-10 Thunderbolts, 47 A-6 Intruders, 50 Harrier GR.7 and GR.9 jump jets, 107 F-4 Phantoms, 166 F-15s, 484 F-16s, 64 F/A-18As, 31 E-2 Hawkeyes, 147 P-3 Orions, and 170 KC-135s. That is a lot of planes, to put it mildly.

To put it in terms of squadrons, this is a total of about seven bomber squadrons, eleven attack squadrons, 41 fighter squadrons, five airborne early warning squadrons, a dozen maritime patrol squadrons, and 14 squadrons of tankers. It’s almost a whole `nother Air Force! And this is what the investment in AMARG buys. In a major war, it would take time to ramp up production of fighters, bombers, attack planes, transports, and other planes. AMARG’s plane, while older than the ones on the front line, can still prove to be very valuable assets in buying time to get new planes built.

In the case of what the Marines are doing now, the 30 F/A-18Cs are doing just that. In essence, the Marines get two and a half more squadrons of their primary multi-role fighter to buy time for the F-35B to become operational. It is a stop-gap measure that, in essence, is being taken because the Marines made a pair of bad decisions in the past – to wit, putting all their eggs in the F-35B basket, and not buying into the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet as the Navy did.

This wasn’t the first time that AMARG has helped the Marines. During the War on Terror, the Marines pulled heavy-lift helicopters from AMARG to meet needs in Iraq and Afghanistan, a classic example of the type of situation AMARG was intended to address. In the case of the F/A-18s being pulled out, this is more a case of mitigating the consequences for the Marine Corps decision to not buy into the Super Hornet and buying more time to get the F-35 operational. In essence, AMARG has bought time for the military to get new planes on-line. Again, it has fulfilled the measure of its creation.

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‘The West Wing’ cast reunites in new PSA supporting Veterans Treatment Courts

Martin Sheen, Allison Janney, and other former cast members of NBC’s The West Wing reunited to produce an advocacy video on behalf of Justice For Vets, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the creation of a nationwide network of Veterans Treatment Courts in the U.S. criminal justice system.


Half of the U.S. military’s returning service members experiencing some form of mental health issues, one in five have some form of post-traumatic stress, and one in six struggle with substance abuse, both related to experiences in their service. Many of the 700,000 veterans in the criminal justice system are there because of their service-related trauma, addiction, or mental illness. This is not limited to the veterans of the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 2008, Judge Robert T. Russell of Buffalo, New York noticed many of the returning faces in his courtroom were veterans. The rising number of veterans in the city’s treatment courts led to the creation of the country’s first Veterans Treatment Court. The idea was to create a support group among the niche population of veterans adopting, with slight modifications, ten key components as described in the U.S. Department of Justice Publication entitled Defining Drug Courts: The Key Components, combining those with the ten essential elements of Mental Health Courts.

These courts allow veterans to appear before judges who understand the unique challenges facing them. More than that, Veterans Treatment Courts give vets the the chance to participate in recovery with fellow veterans, to re-establish the esprit de corps kindled by their military service. The court becomes their new unit with the judge in the role of commanding officer. The new team members support each other and are mentored through their rehabilitation period.

US Army celebrates women in combat
Veterans Service Officers share a unique bond with particpants and help them access their claims. (Photo: Justice For Vets)

The Department of Veterans Affairs plays an important role in guiding recovery of the veteran. The courts area “one-stop shop,” linking veterans with the programs, benefits and services.  A Veterans Justice Outreach Specialist, or VJO, is present during hearing to give the courts on the spot information about health records, treatment options, disability benefits, and to make appointments. The VJO is not a member of the court, but plays a critical advisory role.

And there is a lot of evidence showing Veterans Treatment Courts work.

“The concept is creating a community,” Judge Marc Carter of Harris County, Texas told a crowd gathered to watch the Justice For Vets public service announcement in Los Angeles. “It’s not only important in Veterans Courts but in the entire criminal justice system. While they’re in treatment they have success, but when they’re back to their homes they face the same triggers that sent them to me in the first place. In the Veterans Courts we create that community. It can change their lives forever.”

There are now 264 Veterans Treatment Courts in 37 states, and one in Guam. 13,200 veterans are in the care of the courts and their community instead of behind bars, with 3,000 more veterans serving those courts as volunteer mentors. The structure, rigorous treatment and peer mentoring of Veterans Treatment Courts are producing more permanent positive treatment outcomes, returning more veterans to their communities, and saving the American taxpayer the cost of incarceration.

“Vets courts will continue to grow as they do in Texas,” Judge Carter said. “The value of bringing people back healthy to their communities as opposed to putting them in prison and returning them in the same conditions is immeasurable.”

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Navy investigating SEALs over Trump flag

The United States Navy is investigating how a Trump flag ended up being flown while a SEAL unit was convoying between training locations.


US Army celebrates women in combat
A Trump flag flying from the lead vehicle as SEALs convoy between two training locations. (Video screenshot)

According to reports by the Daily Caller and ABCNews.com, the convoy was spotted outside Louisville, Kentucky this past Sunday. The Lexington Herald Leader reported that the lead vehicle of the convoy flew a blue Trump flag. A Navy spokeswoman told ABC that the flying of the flag was not authorized.

A Department of Defense document titled “Guidance on Political Activity and DoD Support” and dated July 6, 2016, states, “Per longstanding DoD policy, active duty personnel may not engage in partisan political activities and all military personnel should avoid the inference that their political activities imply or appear to imply DoD sponsorship, approval, or endorsement of a political candidate, campaign, or cause. Members on active duty may not campaign for a partisan candidate, engage in partisan fundraising activities, serve as an officer of a partisan club, or speak before a partisan gathering.”

US Army celebrates women in combat
First Navy Jack of the United States (U.S. Navy image)

This is not the first time that SEALs have run afoul of potential political minefields. In November of 2013, the Daily Caller reported that SEALs were ordered to remove patches based on the First Navy Jack, which featured a rattlesnake and the words “Don’t Tread on Me” due to the fact that the very similar Gadsden Flag was used by the Tea Party. The major difference is that the First Navy Jack has red and white stripes as a background, while that of the Gadsden Flag is solid yellow. The rattlesnakes are also posed differently.

A 2002 U.S. Navy release noted that President George W. Bush ordered that all ships would fly the First Navy Jack for the duration of the Global War on Terrorism. The Naval History and Heritage Command website notes that the use of a rattlesnake and the words “Don’t Tread on Me” dated back to the Revolutionary War.

US Army celebrates women in combat
Gadsden Flag (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

A June 2014 report from the Washington Post noted that the orders came about due to a misinterpretation — and that the patches were okay. It also noted the military was ordering more of the patches based on the First Navy Jack.

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What it takes for Navy SEALs to turn on bad leadership

If you’re not in the military, you probably think soldiers blindly follow the orders of their leaders, since that’s all movies and books have lead us to believe.

But according to former Navy SEAL commander Jocko Willink, that blind obedience is a “complete fallacy,” he told Business Insider’s Rich Feloni on an episode of the podcast “Success! How I Did It.”

Before retiring in 2010, Willink trained and served as a leader for 20 years and led SEAL Team 3, Task Unit Bruiser, the most highly decorated US special operations unit of the Iraq War. Achieving that success did not come from blind obedience, Willink said.


To become a SEAL leader and move up in ranks, you need to learn from a good leader, something Willink did not have in his second SEAL platoon. Willink said the officer in charge of his platoon was “tyrannical” with little experience and a lack of confidence.

Willink and his platoon would confront their leader if they did not agree with an order. “If you’re a bad leader, you’re not going to be able to maintain that leadership position,” Willink said.

He gave an example of how orders are typically followed and what happens when they are challenged:

“That bad leader that we had, we did what he said. He said, ‘We’re going to do this like that,’ and we went, ‘That doesn’t make sense.’

US Army celebrates women in combat
Jocko Willink

He said, ‘Do it anyways.’ ‘OK.’ But that only lasts so long. So that’s another thing that in leadership positions, sometimes people feel like they need to force people to do things. And it’ll work once. It’ll work twice. But it doesn’t work forever, and it actually doesn’t work as effectively even right away as someone else saying, ‘Hey, here’s how I think we should do it.’ ‘OK, well, I like your plan. Go ahead and do it.'”

And so Willink and his team rebelled.

“[We] went before our commanding officer and said, ‘We don’t want to work for this guy.’ Which is amazing, right? You don’t hear about very much of this happening. But it’s also something that you deal with in the SEAL Teams. It’s something that you deal with in the military,” Willink said.

The mutiny was successful and the platoon’s leader was fired. A new leader who Willink described as experienced, capable, intelligent, and “great to work for” immediately took his place.

“When I saw that difference between those two leaders, I said to myself, ‘Wow, that’s important, and I need to pay attention to that,'” he said. “And that was what sort of got me thinking about moving to the officers’ side and becoming a leader in the SEAL Teams.”

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

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MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch these airborne veterans sing a paratrooper classic

Our veterans have done a lot for the country over the years. They keep us safe from terror organizations and dictators who would use weapons of mass destruction for selfish politics. They took down Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. They’ve led singalongs of somewhat inappropriate songs. Wait… what?


That’s right! Recently, a video went viral on Facebook showing Vince Speranza, a World War II paratrooper, leading others along in singing the paratrooper classic, Blood on the Risers, a parody of immortal Battle Hymn of the Republic.

US Army celebrates women in combat
Paratroops from the 173rd Airborne Brigade jump from a C-130 transport. They use static lines to ensure their main chutes open. (DOD photo)

Blood on the Risers is probably most famous from its rendition in the award-winning HBO miniseries, Band of Brothers. This morbidly funny tune is a cautionary tale about what happens when one fails to follow proper exit procedures during an airborne jump. The grim lyrics follow a young, rookie paratrooper who, after his chute fails to deploy, plummets to his death. The extended version, however, goes on to reveal that the singer has a son who would later join the 101st Airborne Division, serve in Iraq and Afghanistan, and be killed in action.

US Army celebrates women in combat
Later versions of Blood on the Risers depict the son of the song’s hero serving with the 101st Airborne, pictured above during the operation that took out Uday and Qusay Hussein, during the War on Terror. (US Army photo)

In some ways, it’s very much like the Navy’s Friday Funnies — a way to use humor to get important safety information through to the troops. This is especially important for something so routine as hooking into a static line.

Watch the video below and feel free to join in on the singalong! Don’t worry, the Screaming Eagles have a pretty dark sense of humor — it’s all in good fun.

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Lost Purple Hearts returned to families of dead soldiers

The families of seven dead US servicemen gathered August 7 to receive lost Purple Heart medals their loved ones had earned in four wars.


An eighth veteran was present for the ceremony at the historic Federal Hall on Wall Street on August 7, which was National Purple Heart Day.

The group Purple Hearts Reunited, based in Georgia, Vermont, has made it its mission to track down misplaced medals. Founder Zachariah Fike said as many as five are found each week across the country.

Seven of those medals returned August 7 went to men who served in World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. The eighth was presented to Army Specialist Daniel Swift, a firefighter injured by a roadside bomb in 2004 in Iraq as a member of the National Guard. In his honor, the ceremony opened to the sound of the Fire Department of New York’s bagpipe band.

US Army celebrates women in combat

Rebecca Crofts, 72, was 10 when her dad, WWII Staff Sgt. Bernard Eldon Snow, of Santa Barbara, California, misplaced his medal.

“‘Little Becky, have you seen my medal?'” Crofts, of Superior, Wisconsin, quoted him as saying. “I began hunting for it and never found it.”

Snow’s medal was eventually recovered in a California jewelry shop and returned to the Purple Heart Foundation.

A tearful Crofts was handed a folded American flag honoring her father.

US Army celebrates women in combat
US Air National Guard Photo by Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot 185th ARW Wing PA

The Purple Hearts were presented framed, next to each recipient’s military rank.

Besides Snow and Swift, the Purple Hearts went to: Army Pvt. Frank Lyman Dunnell Jr., of Buffalo; Staff Sgt. George Wesley Roles, of Edna, Kansas; 1st Lt. Brian Woolley Flavelle, of North Caldwell, New Jersey; Pvt. Dan Lawrence Feragen, of Carlyle, Montana; Pvt. 1st Class Jack Carl Kightlinger, of Franklin, Pennsylvania; and Pvt. 1st Class Andrew Thomas Calhoun, of Great Bridge, Virginia.

The first Purple Heart was created by George Washington when he commanded the army serving the colonies that became the United States. Washington was sworn in as the first US president at Federal Hall, then the nation’s capital building.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marine dog is honored for combat valor

Bass, a Belgian Malinois, served more than six years in Marine Corps special operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia. During his time in Iraq, Bass conducted more than 350 explosive detections with his handler, Staff Sgt. Alex Schnell.

On Nov. 14, 2019, Bass was awarded the Medal of Bravery on Capitol Hill for his work with the Marines. The award, the first of its kind, was issued by Angels Without Wings, a nonprofit aiming to formally acknowledge valor of working animals at home and abroad. The Medal of Bravery was inspired by the Dickin Medal, a British award introduced in WWII to honor brave animals who served in combat.


The efforts of dogs in the military has received greater attention in recent weeks since Conan, another Belgian Malinois, helped hunt down Islamic State leader Abū Bakr al-Baghdadi — the most wanted terrorist in the world. But Bass and Conan are two of many military working dogs who sniff out bombs, track down bad guys and assist troops on a wide range of missions overseas. Dogs and other animals have always supported troops in combat.

US Army celebrates women in combat

Staff Sgt. Alex Schnell, with Bass on patrol in Somalia.

(Courtesy photo)

Bass was joined Thursday by Bucca, a dog that served with the New York City Fire Department. Bucca also received the Medal of Bravery and six posthumous medals were awarded to Cher Ami, a pigeon [WWI]; Chips, a dog, and GI Joe, a pigeon [WWII]; Sgt. Reckless, a horse [Korean War]; Stormy, a dog [Vietnam War], and Lucca, a dog [Iraq and Afghanistan wars].

In Somalia, Bass was involved in at least a dozen operations for high-value targets. Special operations units relied heavily on Bass to detect explosives. In Afghanistan, Bass was used to conduct 34 raids for high-profile individuals and lead troops during dangerous building clearings. Through Bass’ four deployments across three countries, there were no Marine fatalities on his missions, according to the dog’s award citation.

When special operators clear a building, the dog can be the first one through the door to attack and make it safer for troops to enter quickly to kill or detain enemies.

US Army celebrates women in combat

Staff Sgt. Alex Schnell kneels next to Bass, after the dog was awarded the Medal of Bravery for valor in combat.

(Steve Beynon/Stars and Stripes)

“The dog is often used like a flashbang,” Schnell said. “The dog will enter first because a lot of times it’ll distract the enemy. Especially if it’s dark, it’s hard for them [the enemy] to pick up on the dog. It gives you those seconds that are really valuable in that dangerous situation.”

Beyond attacking terrorists, Bass has also routed out enemy fighters from hiding spots.

“His nose isn’t just for finding stuff [explosives, drugs], it’s for finding personnel,” Schnell said. “They [enemies] have hiding holes and tunnels in these buildings. It’s an awesome capability.”

Bass retired from active duty in October 2019 and was adopted by Schnell. However, bringing a military working dog home isn’t for everyone, and Belgian Malinois is a tough high energy breed that Schnell doesn’t recommend as a family pet.

“They are definitely not chihuahuas,” he said. “They are not for your average homeowners, especially for those that don’t know anything about dog training. If you’re going to buy one of these animals definitely research fully trained ones and that you know a bit about dog training yourself, or these dogs will control your whole life and possibly lead you to euthanize or get rid of them. That isn’t good for anyone or the dog.”

Here are some of the efforts of the military animals who received awards other than dogs:

  • During World War I, hundreds of American troops were trapped behind enemy lines without food or ammunition and were beginning to receive friendly fire from artillery units that didn’t know their location. A pigeon named Cher Ami was able to carry a message to stop the artillery despite being shot by German troops. The bird was blinded in one eye and lost a leg.
  • During World War II, another pigeon known as GI Joe carried a message that prevented a potentially devastating friendly fire tragedy. Allied forces planned a bombing campaign on an Italian town. However, it was occupied by British troops. GI Joe flew 20 miles in about 20 minutes to rely the message friendly forces occupied the town just before bombing planes took off.
  • Staff Sgt. Reckless, a pack horse for Marines during the Korean War, quickly became as well treated as the troops. She roamed freely around camp and would even sleep in tents with Marines on cold nights. In one battle, the horse made 51 solo trips, covering more than 30 miles, to resupply front-line units with ammunition. Reckless was wounded twice by shrapnel.

This article originally appeared on Stars and Stripes. Follow @starsandstripes on Twitter.

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These were the terrifying dangers of being a ‘Tunnel Rat’ in Vietnam

If fighting the well-defended Viet Cong on their home turf wasn’t dangerous enough, imagine having to crawl your way through a series of extremely tight and narrow underground tunnels to capture or kill them.


Armed with only a flashlight, a single pistol, or maybe just a knife, a “Tunnel Rat” didn’t have much in the way of defense.

“The most dangerous part would be psyching up to get into the tunnel,” Carl Cory says, a former 25th Infantry Div Tunnel Rat. “That was the part that was most frightening because you didn’t what you were getting into.”

Related: This video shows the ingenuity behind the Viet Cong tunnel systems

US Army celebrates women in combat
Sgt. Ronald H. Payne, a Tunnel Rat, bravely searches a tunnel’s entrance during Vietnam War. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

In 1946, the Viet Minh were the Viet Cong resistance fighters who began digging the tunnels and bunkers to combat the French, whom they would eventually defeat.

By the time the Vietnam War broke out, the Viet Cong had over 100-miles of tunnels with which to spring deadly ambushes on American and South Vietnamese forces before vanishing.

The numerous spider holes (as the tunnel entrances were sometimes called) were conveniently located and well camouflaged — nearly impossible to detect.

Also Read: American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods

It was the duty of the brave Tunnel Rat to slide alone into the tunnel’s entrance then search for the enemy and other valuable intelligence. Due to the intense and dangerous nature of the job, many Tunnel Rats became so emotionally desensitized that entering a spider hole was just another day at the office — no big deal.

US Army celebrates women in combat
Sgt. Ronald A. Payne searches a Vietnamese tunnel armed with only a flashlight and a pistol. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

With danger lurking around every corner, the Tunnel Rat not only had to dodge the various savage booby traps set by the Viet Cong, but typically only carried 6-7 rounds of ammunition with him even though the tunnels were commonly used to house up to a few dozen enemy combatants.

With all those physical dangers to consider, the courageous troop still needed to maintain a clear and precise mental state of mind and not let the fear get the best of him.

After completing a search, many American and South Vietnamese units would rig the tunnels with C-4 explosives or bring in the always productive flamethrowers to flush out or kill any remaining hostiles.

Jobs

This is how military linguists get fluent in just 64 weeks

The job title “military linguist” sounds pretty impressive, right? It should, since linguists work around the world to translate highly classified documents and connect with troops and allied forces.

You don’t have to know anything but English to go into that career, either. That’s where the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center comes in. It’s one of the world’s foremost language schools that can make you fluent quickly, whether you’re learning Arabic, Farsi, Pashto or Mandarin Chinese.


The DLIFLC teaches 17 foreign languages in Monterey, California. Most enlisted students take its immersion courses to go into military intelligence jobs, while federal employees from other agencies, such as the FBI and National Security Agency, also go there.

It’s no cake walk

The courses are intense. They’re six to seven hours a day (NOT including homework), five days a week, and they last for 64 weeks over three semesters.

“Usually starting from the second month of their study, the teachers – we already use almost all of the target language in the classroom,” said Zhenshuai Liu, one of the DLI’s many native Chinese-language instructors.

Utah Army National Guard Pfc. Logan Jensen and Air Force Airman 1st Class Joseph Rutledge are two of the school’s current students. Both loved language and culture going into it, but neither knew a word of Mandarin. Rutledge said he was nearly panicked when his class began having days without using any English.

US Army celebrates women in combat
A student works with a teacher at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center Asian School on calligraphy of Chinese letters as part of activities to celebrate the Chinese New Year, Feb. 15, 2018.
(Army photo by Patrick Bray)

“You definitely realize how much you do and don’t know all at the same time,” he said. “They do it in such a way that it’s manageable … but you’re definitely out of your comfort zone.”

Air Force Tech Sgt. Benjamin Walton, the school’s chief military language instructor, knows all about that. Walton was a DLI student a decade ago. He was trained in Chinese, too.

“It kicked my butt, but I was able to survive it,” he said. “None of the students are prepared for the amounts of information and the pace of the course and what they’re going to have to go through when they come here.”

That’s not a knock on the students, though, who are very bright.

“Students who coasted through high school and those who even may have coasted through college – they really didn’t have to study much,” Walton said. “They all come here … and think they’re going to jump into this and ace it, despite our repeated warnings.”

US Army celebrates women in combat
Students at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center play Chinese games as they immerse themselves in the culture during the Chinese New Year, Feb. 15, 2018.
(Army photo by Patrick Bray)

But they’re still fast learners. Liu said DLI students only need about one week to learn basic syllables and phonetic sequences to the level of greeting people.

“In a civilian school, this can usually take one semester,” Liu said.

Jensen and Rutledge were about a third of the way through the course when we spoke, and they were learning 25-30 words a day, as well as how to distinguish them – an often confusing task.

“A lot of them sound alike. So, you could say one thing, and depending on the context or tone you say it in, it could have up to five different meanings,” said Jensen, who spent the first few months drinking a lot of coffee and doing pushups to stay awake. “You’re spending so much brain power just trying to understand what you need to do.”

The keys to learning

Liu said the key is to link your interests with the language so you can stay motivated and keep up with the pace. The school incorporates extracurricular activities such as cooking days, storytelling of legendary warriors and heroes, and there are immersion trips to places like a local Chinese market to get the students to appreciate the culture.

US Army celebrates women in combat
A Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center instructors shows Chinese language students a tea-tasking ceremony as a way to immerse them in the culture.
(Army photo by Patrick Bray)

“You have to be interested in it in order for it to be successful,” Rutledge said.

And that’s not guaranteed. In general, the success rate for students at DLI is 75 percent. Some can’t keep up academically, while others fail out due to disciplinary reasons. Walton said the students who make it to the end of the Chinese course have one of the highest passing rates – 95 percent – which makes students’ “ah-ha moments” so satisfying.

“To actually be able to get through to somebody – that’s the reason why we [instructors] came back here … to try to impart our wisdom to the students now,” Walton said.

Most of the students who do succeed reach the college level of understanding within a year and a half, which requires a lot of studying. Some students listen to the language in the shower, while others review flashcards whenever they have the chance. Liu calls them “super students.”

“They don’t only take care of their study, they actually have military duty after class hours. They have to go to training and pass all the tests,” he said.

If the students do well, they get the chance to go to Taiwan or mainland China to do a month of immersive language study.

US Army celebrates women in combat
A student at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center Asian School practices calligraphy of Chinese letters as part of activities to celebrate the Chinese New Year, Feb. 15, 2018.
(Army photo by Patrick Bray)

Jensen and Rutledge still have a way to go before they finish the course. But they’re getting there.

“In some ways, the grammar is similar, even sometimes easier,” Rutledge said. “Sometimes you can express rather complex ideas in very few words or written characters.”

One thing’s for sure: it takes a lot of focus, especially as a military student.

“If you slip up on a test or opt to go out and have drinks with friends instead of study, that can really come back to bite you,” Rutledge said, who will be a cryptologic language analyst when he’s finished at DLI. He isn’t sure if he’ll stay in the military long term, but either way, he’d like to be a translator or do international business, both of which will make the course worth it.

The DLI’s headquarters is in California, but it has the ability to instruct another 65 languages through its Washington, D.C., branch. There are also several language training detachments at sites in the U.S., Europe, Hawaii and Korea.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

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