Operation Supply Drop (OSD) is the kind of organization that sounds very simple at first. They collect donated video games, console systems, and cash to send gaming care packages to troops overseas and here in the United States. The nonprofit calls these care packages “supply drops.”
As anyone who’s been deployed can attest, the periods of excitement and fear are interspersed with long periods of monotony. OSD began in a garage with an Iraq War vet boxing up donations to help his peers enjoy the same hobby he loved: gaming.
From those humble roots, OSD has now grown into a charity that does a lot more. While they still generate care packages for deployed service members, they’ve expanded into creating unique experiences for veterans, fighting veteran joblessness, and other causes which affect warriors.
The expansion had some growing pains. The founder publicly split and created his own new organization. But the CEO, Glen Banton, is excited for all the ways OSD’s expanded mission has let them serve veterans.
“We’re in the business of helping veterans,” he said in an interview with WATM. “Unfortunately, the video game thing sometimes overshadows the other things we do. But essentially, it needs to be about putting veterans first. How can we keep supporting as many vets as possible. That’s while you’re deployed and need something to spend your time with, or when you get home and have other needs.”
OSD began by enlarging the supply drop program, and then adding on new programs.
“The supply drops increased in size and scope. We started going to bases themselves, rec centers, mess halls, day rooms, hospitals, events, Halloween and Christmas parties… Anywhere we can impact a lot of troops per day and have fun.”
In a recent supply drop at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, OSD worked with Army occupational therapist Maj. Eric Johnson who has used video games to help wounded warriors progress in their therapy. But the center had just an old Nintendo Wii with which to work.
Johnson gave a wish list to OSD who was able to get the medical center six new video game consoles and almost 100 games plus peripherals like steering wheels. It was OSD’s largest supply drop yet.
“Glen and his team, they came with OSD last week and, blew me away,” Johnson said. “Way more than I had asked for, way more than I anticipated.”
Wounded warriors play video games at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas after a the Operation Supply Drops largest drop. Photo: Courtesy Operation Supply Drop
Then there are “Thank You Deployments,” where a veteran or a small group of veterans get to participate in a special event or outing, usually by working with corporate or non-profit partners.
“There are VIP outings, genuinely relevant to the veteran,” Banton said. “So, we might take them to a gaming conference or on a trip to a studio. But there might be other stuff.
“We’ve had race car experiences. We met a driver who worked for Forza and is a vet. He helps get them full access, a ride in the pace car, access to the lounge. It’s really amazing.
“And as the community grows, it continues to get broader and broader. It doesn’t take us away from gaming. It takes us to people who are gamers and do other stuff.”
OSD also has a “Teams” program. The teams encourage people to get locally connected with active duty service members and veterans so everyone can engage at the local level on big issues like veteran suicide, depression, homelessness, and unemployment.
“The Teams Program is the action arm of OSD,” Banton said. “They’re local chapters with veteran and civilian members who address things like veteran suicide or homelessness. Really, what we look at with the teams is, how do we create within Seattle, L.A., Muncie, Indiana, how do we engage in a way that helps?”
While it may seem like this is OSD straying from their roots as a gamer-veteran focused charity, Banton and his team don’t see it that way.
Glenn explained, “If someone asks, ‘Hey, OSD, I need some help and don’t know where to go. I think I can get this job but I don’t have the clothes,’ or ‘I don’t have the home base to do the interview,’ we can help with that.
“So we can, for a thousand dollars, get them housed for six months and get them help through this community, then they become a big part of the community.
“That individual doesn’t have space to enjoy an XBox if he wanted to. to us, it’s very clear and it’s easy. We know exactly what we’re supposed to be doing: Inspiring veterans and other civilian supporters to give back to those around them.”
For those interested in getting involved helping veterans through OSD, head to “The Teams” page, make a donation, or learn about the 8-bit Salute where gamers can play to raise money for future supply drops and other events.
Marine Special Operations Command is the most junior of America’s elite commando units and while they have plenty of door kickers and shooters, they’re hurting for Leathernecks with specialized training to work in its support units.
To help source Marines for the needed support units, special operations leaders are putting on a week-long course to introduce interested Leathernecks to life as a special operations Marine and the missions they could be a part of.
The MARSOC Combat Support Orientation Course is scheduled for late March and commanders hope to not only introduce the command to interested Marines but also to get a better idea of what’s out there for the specialized units to pick from.
“Combat support Marines should consider MCSOC an opportunity to ‘look before you leap.,’ ” said Col. J.D. Duke, commanding officer of the Marine Raider Support Group. “MCSOC will give interested Marines the chance to learn what a tour might look like, understand the training pipeline upon assignment, and dialogue together with MARSOC senior combat support leaders and MMEA if the career and personal/family timing is right for them.”
Any interested Marines should bring their A Game, though, as part of the intro course will include interviews, PT tests and “mental performance discussions.”
Specifically, Marine special operators are looking for people to serve as fire support specialists, communications experts; canine handlers; explosive ordnance disposal technicians; signals intelligence specialists; geospatial intelligence specialists; counterintelligence and human intelligence specialists; and all-source intelligence specialists.
The release notes that these Marines will deploy with MARSOC companies, creating a unique combination of capabilities across the entire spectrum of special operations and missions.
“Special Operations Capability Specialists deploy with Marine special operations companies and their teams, filling vital roles as the organic SOF fire support specialists, fused intelligence sections, the robust communications capability built into each company headquarters and as SOF multipurpose canine handlers,” the Corps says. “This combination of specialists and their capabilities is unique within the special operations community and allows the MSOC to conduct the full spectrum of special operations in a wide variety of operating environments.”
To be able to attend the MARSOC Combat Support Orientation Course, interested Marines must meet a number of requirements, including holding the rank of corporal, being free of any pending legal or administrative proceedings and be eligible for the security clearance appropriate to their MOS.
Mexican senators on Dec. 13 approved an Internal Security Law, which would formalize the military’s role in the country’s domestic security.
Their votes came despite protests from their Senate counterparts, international organizations, and Mexican citizens. The bill faces further discussion but could get final approval by Dec. 15. It was first approved by Mexico’s lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, during a contentious session on Nov. 30, and throughout deliberations, opponents inside and outside congress have railed against it.
Mexico’s constitution limits the military’s domestic actions during peacetime, but the armed forces have been deployed to combat drug trafficking and organized crime since the first days of 2007, when then-President Felipe Calderon sent troops into his home state of Michoacan just a few weeks after taking office.
The bill — proposed by members of the governing Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI — would create a legal framework for the public-security functions the military has been carrying out on an ad hoc basis for more than a decade, like manning highway checkpoints and pursuing and arresting suspects.
Supporters say it would address legal issues around those deployments. The bill would set guidelines for the president’s ability to authorize military action, but critics have said it makes it too easy to send the armed forces into the streets and opens the possibility they could be used against protests. They’ve also said the bill could allow deployments to be extended indefinitely.
A new initiative proposed by the bill would have the military provide intelligence to the government and its security agencies. The measure would also establish a group of government officials who would make decisions about the implementation of new measures the president could then, if needed, invoke to restore “internal order.”
“The thing that I hear from a lot of people is, ‘Yeah, but aren’t they already doing it? And isn’t this just sort of bringing that under code of law?’ And that’s a reasonable point,” Everard Meade, the director of the Trans Border Institute at the University of San Diego, told Business Insider.
“Creating some more law and clarifying the legal framework is not a terrible idea, even if you think, as I do … that it’s not a good idea,” Meade said. “The broader point is they’re already doing it, and they’re often doing it under really shady jurisdiction.”
‘Mexico without war!’
Criticism has come from all sides. Opposition legislators have called for calm, detailed discussion about the bill, rather than the previous fast push through the Chamber of Deputies that apparently left no time to read or debate it.
Lawmakers and civil-society groups inside and outside of Mexico have also charged the bill gives the military too much leeway in its domestic actions. Legislators have also criticized measures within the bill regarding the use of force as “cosmetic” and said that changes made by Senate committees are “insufficient” or “superficial.”
Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission has said the law is vague and doesn’t include objective definitions of “internal security” and opens the possibility for it to be applied in “any” situation.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have criticized the premise of the law, saying it provides no exit strategy for the military and is “ill-conceived.”
The Allée des Nations in front of the Palace of Nations (United Nations Office at Geneva). (Photo by MadGeographer)
The UN’s high commissioner for human rights said formalizing the military’s role in domestic security was “not the answer” and that doing so reduces incentives for civilian authorities to act in their traditional roles.
The Washington Office on Latin America — which noted that the military was still operating in 23 of Mexico’s 32 states a decade after its first “temporary” deployment — has cautioned that the measure as is would likely lead to more abuses and hinder transparency.
Mexican protesters took to the streets of Mexico City during the Senate’s deliberations on Dec. 13, chanting “Mexico without war!” and calling for the law to be rejected.
‘We still need the army in the streets’
The PRI and parties allied with it have touted the necessity of the bill, dismissing international criticism and stressing the importance of a legal framework for the military’s domestic operations.
“The issue of human rights is covered, and covered well” in the law, PRI congressman Cesar Dominguez said at the end of November. “But we cannot guarantee liberties and the full exercise of rights if there isn’t a climate of public safety and peace.”
“Blah, blah, blah. The truth is you always vote against everything,” said Arturo Alvarez, a congressman from the Green Party, a PRI ally. “The fact is we still need the army in the streets.”
The military’s activities “have been limited by the lack of a normative framework that regulates actions they can perform during times of peace,” Cristina Diaz, a PRI senator who heads the Senate’s governance commission, said Dec. 13.
Mexican army soldier at the Independence Day Parade, September 16, 2013 in León, Guanajuato, Mexico. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Tomas Castelazo, www.tomascastelazo.com)
The continuing threat posed by powerful criminal organizations and their often more violent offspring undergirds many arguments in favor of the bill. But most admit the military’s training is incompatible with policing.
Mike Vigil, former chief of international operations for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, called the measure a “double-edge sword,” because while the military had the capability to confront heavily armed criminal groups, it is not trained or equipped to carry out law-enforcement jobs, like gathering evidence or interrogating suspects.
“If you use the military, the allegations and the issues of human-rights violations are probably going to continue,” Vigil told Business Insider. “But at the same time, if you don’t use them, then Mexico is really sticking its neck out in terms of being able to provide nationwide security against these complex drug-trafficking consortiums.”
David Shirk, the director of the Justice in Mexico program at the University of San Diego, differed, saying that lack of investigative capacity was disqualifying.
The military “can’t identify, track, and … they don’t have the necessary intelligence and, importantly, the evidentiary basis on which to bring people to justice that a part of a vast criminal conspiracy,” Shirk told Business Insider. “The problem is neither does the Mexican police force.”
Shirk noted that the Mexican military has been involved in domestic operations for decades, with some arguing its role extends back the middle of the 20th century. By 1995, he said, there were calls to include the armed forces on the national public safety council.
But the expanded deployment in 2007 — rising from 20,000 to 50,000 soldiers — was intended as a short-term solution until criminal groups could be suppressed and police forces could be better trained.
Those troops are still in the streets. In places like Guerrero, riven by drug-related violence, they remain deployed to augment or replace local police. Tamaulipas, the northeast Mexican state that is the home turf of the Gulf and Zetas cartels, depends entirely on the military for order, after all the state’s city and town police forces were dissolved because officers were linked to cartels fighting in the state.
Mexico’s military remains one of the country’s most trusted institutions, and the army is its most trusted security branch. But many see these prolonged deployments as directly responsible for more human-rights abuses and for increased violence throughout Mexico.
The Washington Office on Latin America found that, between 2012 and 2016, there have been 505 criminal investigations by the Mexican attorney general into crimes and abuses by soldiers but just 16 convictions.
Researchers have foundthat between 2007 and 2010, there was “a causal effect between the deployment of joint military operations and the rise in the murder rate” in states where those joint operations took place, with data indicating there could have been nearly 7,000 fewer homicides in 2008 and 2009 had the military not been deployed.
The military has been implicated in abuses in recent years, like the killing of 22 suspects in central Mexico in 2014 and the disappearance of 43 student-teachers from Ayotzinapa, Guerrero state, also in 2014. Between 2015 and September 2017, the Mexican government reportedly paid out more than $6 million in compensation for human-rights violations by federal authorities, including defense forces.
“So to me, it’s absolutely clear that if we see this government or another government that comes next turn to even more military involvement or start deploying the military more, we’re going to see more people get hurt,” Shirk told Business Insider.
‘A very long-term project’
The Mexican military currently operates domestically under a vague clause allowing it to “aid” civilian law enforcement when asked to do so.
Military leaders have expressed “unease” about domestic operations, and the Mexican government has taken steps to hold military personnel accountable for abuses committed while acting in a public-security capacity.
Under a law approved in 2014, soldiers accused of violating civilians’ rights are tried in civilian courts.
“That’s a big deal” and an important part of making sure abuses are dealt with transparently, Shirk said, though he doubted there had been enough time to assess whether that policy was being used well and had been effective in protecting against violations. (The Washington Office on Latin America has said that reform has not been fully implemented.)
Mexico has made little progress in reforming and reconstituting local and state police forces, which were often ineffective or infiltrated by criminal elements, and has shown little interest in doing so. Critics of the bill have charged that it removes incentives to carry out those reforms, but even a sincere effort to effect them would “be a very long-term project,” Vigil said.
“It’s going to take decades before they’re up to speed,” he told Business Insider, “and in the meantime they’re going to have to use … the military to conduct a lot of those [law-enforcement] operations.”
Counter-terrorism operations outside of active war zones under President Donald Trump are outpacing the Obama administration by nearly five times, Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow Micah Zenko said July 31.
The US has launched at least 100 counter-terrorism operations since Trump took office. Zenko compared this number to the mere 21 operations launched under former President Barack Obama in his last six months in office. These operations include raids by US special operators, drone strikes, and other lethal actions.
The majority of the operations listed in Zenko’s analysis occurred in Yemen where the US is actively battling an al-Qaeda insurgency. Trump declared Yemen an “area of active hostilities” after taking office, which allows the military to carry out counter-terrorism strikes without going through a White House-led approval process.
Zenko’s previous April analysis revealed that the US averaged approximately one counter-terrorism strike per day in the first 74 days of Trump’s presidency. “There is a sense among these commanders that they are able to do a bit more — and so they are,” a senior US defense official said of the Trump administration in April.
Trump has also considered changing the way the US targets terrorists in drone strikes. The new rules would instead target terrorists under military protocols which allow for some civilian casualties, as long as they weighed proportionally by the commander responsible for approving the operation. The loosening of drone strike protocol couples with broader counter-terrorism policy changes by the administration, including a change in rules of engagement in the fight against ISIS, more leeway for Pentagon commanders considering ground raids, and increased willingness to use military force.
The Trump administration on July 5 renewed an offer to cooperate with Russia in the Syrian conflict, including on military matters, ahead of President Donald Trump’s meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin later this week.
In a statement, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the US is open to establishing no-fly zones in Syria in coordination with Russia as well as jointly setting up a truce monitoring and humanitarian aid delivery mechanism. The statement came as Trump prepared to meet with Putin on July 7 in Germany and as the US seeks to consolidate gains made against the Islamic State in recent weeks and prepare for a post-IS group future.
Tillerson noted that the US and Russia have a variety of unresolved differences but said Syria is an opportunity for the two countries to create stability in Syria. He said that the Islamic State had been “badly wounded” and may be on the “brink of complete defeat” as US-backed forces continue their assault on the self-proclaimed IS capital of Raqqa. But he stressed that Russia has to play a constructive role.
“While there are no perfect options for guaranteeing stability, we must explore all possibilities for holding the line against the resurgence of ISIS or other terrorist groups,” Tillerson said. ” The United States and Russia certainly have unresolved differences on a number of issues, but we have the potential to appropriately coordinate in Syria in order to produce stability and serve our mutual security interests.”
He said that Russia, as an ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad and a participant in the conflict, “has a responsibility to ensure that the needs of the Syrian people are met and that no faction in Syria illegitimately re-takes or occupies areas liberated from ISIS’ or other terrorist groups’ control.” Tillerson added that Russia has “an obligation to prevent any further use of chemical weapons of any kind by the Assad regime.”
The appeal echoed similar entreaties made to Putin by the Obama administration that were largely ignored by Moscow, but they came just two days ahead of Trump’s first face-to-face meeting with the Russian leader that is set to take place on July 7 on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany.
And, the offer went beyond the Obama administration’s offers, suggesting that cooperation in establishing no-fly zones was possible. Tillerson noted that despite differences, the US and Russia are having success in avoiding accidents between American and Russian planes flying over an extremely complex conflict zone. Minor incidents, he said, had been dealt with “quickly and peacefully.”
“This cooperation over de-confliction zones process is evidence that our two nations are capable of further progress,” Tillerson said. ” The United States is prepared to explore the possibility of establishing with Russia joint mechanisms for ensuring stability, including no-fly zones, on the ground ceasefire observers, and coordinated delivery of humanitarian assistance.”
“If our two countries work together to establish stability on the ground, it will lay a foundation for progress on the settlement of Syria’s political future,” he said.
In 2001, communities near Hill Air Force Base in Utah showed a high risk of developing brain cancer, while Fallon Naval Air Station was investigated for acute childhood leukemia incidents, and Kelly Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas, was revealed to have contributed to water and air pollution when clusters of cancer and leukemia popped up.
At the time, however, officials kept to a firm statement: Correlation does not equate causation.
In other words, it was clear that military bases were contaminating the water, air, and environment. It was clear that there were higher-than-expected cases of severe illness. It was not clear that one caused the other.
Air Force bases, in particular, show high cases of contamination for a few reasons: jet fuel is extremely toxic by itself, but it is also highly flammable, requiring toxic flame retardants. These leak into the ground and contaminate water supplies; jet fuel is also known to pollute the air, especially in areas like airports or flight lines, where there are high volumes of active engines.
So, while it has been clear since the first World War that the United States and its military has a global impact, and therefore an imperative to maintain military superiority so we may continue to defend not only our way of life, but the livelihoods of our friends and allies, the question remains: at what cost?
The Army has announced new body armor, helmets, combat shirts, and pelvic protectors that weigh less, allow soldiers to move more easily, and provide better protection from blasts and bullets than the current kit.
The Army’s current body armor, the Improved Outer Tactical Vest, was originally fielded in 2007 and many vests are reaching the end of their service life. Rather than replace them with identical units, the soldiers who oversee procurement for the Army at the Program Executive Office Soldier wanted new vest designs that would provide better protection.
What they came up with is the Torso and Extremities Protection system, which is expected to reach soldiers in 2019. The TEP armor features greater protection for soldiers’ torsos while reducing weight from an average of 31 pounds to only 23. The armor can be further lightened by removing certain elements when greater mobility is essential, like for troops scouting enemy positions or sneaking through dangerous areas.
An effort to develop new ballistic plates could reduce the weight even further. The new materials being tested perform at the same level or higher than IOTV plates and weigh 7 percent less.
Soldiers will also be getting new protection for the pelvic areas. IEDs greatly increased the threat to soldiers from wounds to the genitals and femoral arteries, and the Army developed ballistic undergarments and overgarments, often jokingly referred to as “combat diapers,” to protect troops.
“Combat diapers” reduce injuries to soldiers but are uncomfortable on long patrols and chafe the skin in sensitive areas. The new Blast Pelvic Protector is a sleeker outer garment that connects directly to the body armor does not rub as badly against troops.
One of the biggest changes for soldiers is the Army’s new Ballistic Combat Shirt. The current combat shirt is basically a relatively comfortable T-shirt for wear under the IOTV. The new BCS provides ballistic protection to troops’ arms, necks, and upper torsos without sacrificing mobility. It also eliminates the need for the bulky and uncomfortable DAPS and ballistic collars that made it hard to shoot and move.
The Army’s helmet is also undergoing redesign, though the program is still in the research and development stage. The new helmet aims to increase protection and reduce weight, and may include add-ons like jaw protection, incorporated eye protection, and improved night vision setups.
Col. Dean Hoffman IV at PEO Soldier told Military.com that the new helmet may even include armor add-ons like special protection for turret gunners exposed to sniper fire or a facemask to stop sharpnel.
But cyber weapons reportedly give Britain the best chance of deterring Russia because the West no longer has small battlefield nuclear weapons.
The Sunday Times reported that the test to “turn out the lights” in Moscow – which will give Britain more time to act in the event of war – happened during the UK’s biggest military exercise for a decade.
5,500 British troops took part in the desert exercise in Oman, where troops also practiced other war games to combat Russia’s ground forces.
British troops practice section attack drills in Oman, 2001.
The £100m (0.5 million) exercise in the Omani desert reportedly involved 200 armoured vehicles, six naval ships, and eight Typhoon warplanes.
Sources told the Sunday Times that in a series of mock battles, the Household Cavalry played the role of an enemy using Russian T-72 tanks.
Since World War II, flat-topped aircraft carriers have been the backbone of US power projection and military might at sea, but a new generation of long-range missiles being developed by the US’s adversaries could push these mechanical marvels off the frontlines.
The US’s massive aircraft carriers have a problem. The F-18s aboard US aircraft carriers have a range of about 500 nautical miles, as noted by Ben Ho Wan Beng at the US Naval Institute.
The incoming F-35Cs are expected to have a marginally better range of about 550 nautical miles.
Aircraft carriers, which have been the star of the show since their emergence during World War II, may therefore end up taking a back seat to smaller vessels.
The US Navy has long been working toward achieving “distributed lethality,” or a strategy that entails arming even the smallest ship with missiles capable of knocking out enemy defenses from far away. Engaging enemies with smaller ships also helps to keep extraordinarily valuable targets like carriers out of harm’s way.
So instead of putting a carrier in harm’s way, the Navy will most likely look to use longer-range platforms, like cruiser-destroyers that carry the Tomahawk land-attack cruise missile, which have a range of about 900 nautical miles.
In the end, a carrier strike group would no longer lead with the carrier.
Instead, destroyers firing Tomahawk missiles would initiate the attacks, softening up enemy anti-access/area-denial capabilities before the big carriers moved in closer to shore.
When you think of airborne troops, there’s one unit that comes to mind because of its place in both history books and pop culture: the 101st Airborne Division. Nearly every major World War II film features — or at least mentions — the bravery and tenacity of the Screaming Eagles that jumped into action on D-Day.
Even after the triumphant stand of Easy Company at Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest, the 101st Airborne kept performing heroics that would land them in history books. This happened in the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, and again in the Global War on Terrorism.
Today, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t immediately recognize the iconic 101st patch — the Screaming Eagle. And when civilians see that patch, they immediately think of elite paratroopers. Here’s the thing: we technically haven’t been an airborne unit since 1968, but you’ll still find the words “AIRBORNE” above Old Abe — here’s why.
Yes, you read that correctly. The Screaming Eagles have largely been re-designated away from the airborne world since their reactivation following Post-WWII restructuring. Fun fact: During the Korean War, the 101st was actually a training unit out of Camp Breckenridge, Kentucky, until 1953.
The unit bounced around a little before landing at Fort Campbell and being made into a “pentomic” division — meaning it was structured to fight with atomic warfare in mind. As the possibility of nuclear war grew, the role of the paratrooper in war shrank. The airborne infantrymen of the 101st were still needed — mostly involved in rapid deployment strategies — but the training was shifting with the times, and the times were changing indeed.
Then, on July 29th, 1965, the 1st Brigade landed at Cam Ranh Bay, South Vietnam, and the 101st adapted to their new role in the jungle. Now, we’re not saying that combat jumps into Vietnam didn’t happen — they definitely did — but the 101st wasn’t conducting them.
In case you’re wondering. Yes. It did have a loudspeaker to blast Ride of the Valkyries or Fortunate Son for Charlie to hear.
The Screaming Eagles were tasked with one of the largest areas of operations during the early days of the Vietnam War. Given the terrain and the nature of the enemy, airborne insertion at one point and moving from town to town just didn’t make good sense. They needed an alternative. They needed a way to get from place to place faster, efficiently, and safely. Enter the helicopter.
Helicopters saw use in the Korean War, but it was fairly rare — mostly just for medical evacuations. In the jungles of Vietnam, however, The UH-1 (or “Huey”) Iroquois and the 101st Airborne Division were like a match made in military heaven. The division designated itself as an airmobile division in mid-1968 and became the Air Assault division it is today in 1974.
If you really want to be technical, the airborne tab itself isn’t isn’t given to the troops. That still has to be earned individually. Think of the tab in the same vein as a unit citation.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kevin Doheny)
That leaves the 101st Airborne Division legs in everything but name. The air assault capabilities of the 101st are the contemporary evolution of the paratroopers of old. Now, don’t get this wrong: There are still several units on Fort Campbell that are still very much on airborne status, such as the 101st Pathfinders
Today, the Screaming Eagles are the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) — with “Air Assault” in parentheses. It’s a more accurate description of the unit, since we’re still involved with airborne operations — just not the paratrooper, jump-out-of-planes-and-into-combat type. Screaming Eagles just fast-rope from a helicopter or wait for it to make a solid landing for insertions.
The reason “airborne” is still in the name (and on a tab above Old Abe) is because it’s difficult as hell to change a division’s name while it’s still active. Go ahead and ask the 1st Cavalry Division about the last time they rode horses into combat or the 10th Mountain Division about when they last fought on an arctic mountaintop.
The names and insignia are historic. They’re part of a legacy that still lives on within the troops.
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.”
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.
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.
Sgt. Henry Johnson received the Medal of Honor for his actions taken on May 15, 1918, when he beat off a German attack with grenades, his rifle, a knife and, finally, his bare hands to protect a fellow soldier and his unit, the “Harlem Hellfighters.”
The Harlem Hellfighters were a “colored unit” attached to French forces because segregationist policies at the time discouraged allowing black and white U.S. forces to serve side by side. Pvt. Henry Johnson was assigned to sentry duty on the night of Feb. 12 with his fellow soldier, Pvt. Needham Roberts. The pair were attacked by a raiding party of at least 12 Germans. The attackers quickly gained the upper hand against the two soldiers.
This directly threatened not only Johnson and his friend but the Harlem Hellfighters and the French soldiers they were with.
Johnson fought bitterly to protect himself and his friends even after he and Roberts were wounded. Roberts fed Johnson hand grenades as Johnson made it rain on the enemy fighters. Johnson also used his rifle to hold the enemy off until he ran out of both grenades and rifle rounds.
The Germans even tried to abduct Roberts and Johnson protected him with just a knife and personal grit. Johnson was eventually wounded 21 times in the fight but still managed to bring down a few Germans and stab one of them through the head with a bolo knife.
Yeah, even severely wounded he had the strength to shove a knife through a man’s head.
Still, his actions were a big deal when they happened. Johnson’s deeds inspired a lithograph depicting his bravery and Gen. John “Black Jack” Pershing, the head of the American Expeditionary Force and one of America’s highest-ranked generals, personally praised him and Roberts:
Pte. Henry Johnson and Pte. Roberts, while on sentry duty at some distance from one another, were attacked by a German raiding party estimated at twenty men who advanced in two groups, attacking at once from flank and rear.
Both men fought bravely in hand-to-hand encounters, one resorting to the use of a bolo knife after his rifle jammed and further fighting with bayonet and butt became impossible.
President Theodore Roosevelt was a fan of Johnson as well, calling him “one of the five bravest American soldiers in the war.”
After the war, the Winston-Salem, North Carolina native returned to New York where he had been living since his teens. He lived there until his death in Jul. 1929 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Author’s note: This story originally stated that Henry Johnson’s valorous actions took place on Feb. 12, 1919. Johnson actually saved his unit on May 15, 1918. He received France’s highest valor award, the French Croix de Guerre, on Feb. 12, 1919. We regret the error.
The United States formally withdrew on November 22 from the Open Skies Treaty, an 18-year-old arms control and verification agreement that Washington repeatedly accused Moscow of violating.
The withdrawal is the latest blow to the system of international arms control that U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly scorned, complaining that Washington was being either deceived or unfairly restrained in its military capabilities.
The U.S. State Department confirmed the move, noting six months had expired since notice of the pending exit had been issued and saying “the U.S. withdrawal took effect on November 22, 2020, and the United States is no longer a State Party to the Treaty on Open Skies.”
The National Security Council confirmed the withdrawal and added that “Russia flagrantly violated [the treaty] for years.”
It quoted national-security adviser Robert O’Brien as saying the move was part of an effort to “put America first by withdrawing us from outdated treaties and agreements that have benefited our adversaries at the expense of our national security.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on May 21 announced the U.S. intention to withdraw and gave the six-month notification to Open Skies’ 34 other members, as required under the treaty’s rules.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry condemned the U.S. decision.
“Washington has made its move. Neither European security nor the security of the United States and its allies themselves have benefited from it. Now many in the West are wondering what Russia’s reaction will be. The answer is simple. We have repeatedly emphasized that all options are open to us,” the ministry said in a statement on November 22.
Signed in 1992, the treaty, which entered into force in 2002, allows its 34 members to conduct short-notice, unarmed observation and surveillance flights over one another’s territories, to collect data on military forces and activities. More than 1,500 flights have taken place under the agreement.
The treaty’s proponents say the flights help build confidence by showing that, for example, adversaries are not secretly deploying forces or preparing to launch attacks.
But its critics, particularly among U.S. Republicans, have asserted the treaty has been violated repeatedly, first and foremost by Moscow.
In his May statement, Pompeo charged that Russian violations included restrictions on flights near breakaway regions over Georgia, along Russia’s southern borders, and limits on the lengths of flights over the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.
“Russia has consistently acted as if it were free to turn its obligations off and on at will,” he said.
Arms control experts have said while some of the U.S. complaints have merit, others are misleading. And U.S. military and intelligence agencies will lose an important source of data by not being party to the treaty, they said, and NATO allies support the agreement.
“While Russia has violated the treaty, the United States has reciprocated. NATO allies support the treaty — which focuses first and foremost on enhancing European security — and wish the United States to remain a party,” Steven Pifer, a former U.S. ambassador and arms control expert, said in commentary published last week.
The Trump administration has targeted several international treaties over the past four years, most notably the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a key Cold War agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union.
After years of complaining that Russia had secretly designed, then deployed, a treaty-violating missile, Washington withdrew in 2019 and the treaty collapsed.
Another more consequential treaty, the New START agreement, is also set to expire in February 2021, and U.S. and Russian officials have been struggling to find a way to keep it intact.
But Trump administration officials want to expand the treaty to include China. And they have also sent mixed signals about new conditions for extending New START, something Moscow has rejected.
Adding to the uncertainty is Trump’s expected departure from the White House on January 21, 2021, when Democrat Joe Biden is scheduled to be inaugurated and take office.
Biden has signaled support for extending New START and preserving other treaties.
“Instead of tearing up treaties that make us and our allies more secure, President Trump…should remain in the Open Skies Treaty and work with allies to confront and resolve problems regarding Russia’s compliance,” Biden said in a statement in May.