This Civil War vet's grave is Underground Railroad site - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This Civil War vet’s grave is Underground Railroad site

Former slave and Civil War veteran Reddy Gray died on Sep. 4, 1922, when he was 79 years old. He was buried in Baltimore’s Loudon Park National Cemetery — the first VA burial site included in the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.

Gray’s experience is representative of African Americans who risked travel through the Underground Railroad to find freedom, but his story is significant for the wealth of information gleaned from public records. His life is a reminder of the fight for civil rights that began in the 1860s to continues today.


This Civil War vet’s grave is Underground Railroad site

Deed of Manumission and Release of Service,” 1865.

Gray went by Reddy, short for Redmond, Redman or Reverdy. Born at Loch Raven, Maryland, to John and Lydia Talbott Gray, he was enslaved by the Thomas Cradock Risteau family in Baltimore County from birth to until the middle of the Civil War. Likely a field worker or carriage driver, he resisted servitude by escaping in March 1863. It is not clear what happened, but Gray’s “Deed of Manumission and Release of Service” retroactively corresponds with his enlistment. President Abraham Lincoln had already issued the Emancipation Proclamation, and the U.S. Army was recruiting black soldiers.

This Civil War vet’s grave is Underground Railroad site

U.S. Army, Gray Muster-Out record, 1865.

Gray enlisted in the U.S. Colored Troops at Baltimore City on March 23, 1864. His Company B, 39th U.S. Colored Infantry, fought in Virginia at the Sieges of Petersburg and Richmond, and in the expeditions and capture of Fort Fisher and Wilmington in North Carolina. Reddy mustered out in Wilmington on Dec. 4, 1865, and that record remarks, “slave when enlisted.”

His life after the Civil War shows personal accomplishment and community involvement. He learned to read and write. He returned to Baltimore and had four children, including son Redmond, with second wife Susan Gray, who worked as a laundress. In the army he suffered from rheumatism, for which he received a disability pension in 1890; however, he worked as a manual laborer doing light work like trimming lawns or gathering rags and as a carriage driver.


This Civil War vet’s grave is Underground Railroad site

Reddy Gray Burial Site Certificate of Acceptance, NPS 2018.

As “Redmond” Gray, he appears in the Baltimore Sun, Sep. 15, 1894, as judge for a running race at the “Colored People’s Fair” in Timonium, Maryland; and a few years later as a member of the Colored-Odd Fellows. Reddy (also Reverdy) Gray is honored with his name on the African American Civil War Memorial in Washington, D.C. Other black soldiers who found their freedom through the Underground Railroad are buried at Loudon Park National Cemetery along with Gray, but their stories are not so easily documented.

The Network to Freedom program is managed by the National Park Service, per the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Act of 1998. Loudon Park National Cemetery was one of the 14 original national cemeteries established under the National Cemetery Act of July 17, 1862; it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This Israeli plane was so good the Marines used it as an aggressor

Israel faced a problem in the 1970s. The Yom Kippur War had seen them take heavy aircraft losses. They needed more planes – and they wanted to get some better performance as well. After all, Syria was acquiring advanced MiG-23s (the Flogger was advanced at the time).


The Israelis had been forced to steal the plans for the Mirage 5 from France after an arms embargo. Mossad had managed to get the Mirage 5 plans in a very brilliant operation, but it was just an interim solution. Israel built 50 Neshers, which correlated to the number of aircraft it had ordered from France. The Nesher was flown by Giora Epstein when he took on 11 MiGs by himself.

This Civil War vet’s grave is Underground Railroad site
An air-to-air right side view of an F-21A Kfir (young lion) aircraft. The Israeli-built delta-wing tactical fighter is being used as part of the Navy’s aggressor training. (US Navy photo)

Israel did get lucky when they acquired a license to produce the J79 engine most commonly known as the powerplant of the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II. While Mossad was trying to swipe the plans for the Mirage 5, Israel had a backup plan: figuring out how to make the J79 work with the Mirage airframe.

Israel had been hoping to pull off one of those ideas, but they soon were in a pleasant quandry after both of their plans succeeded. MilitaryFactory.com notes that the first Kfirs entered service in 1974, just missing the Yom Kippur War. The planes, though, proved to be excellent – and so good that the United States Navy borrowed a number of them to serve as aggressors at schools like Top Gun.

This Civil War vet’s grave is Underground Railroad site
Three F-21 Kfirs in flight. (USMC photo)

The Kfir saw action with the Israelis, mostly in ground attack roles. The Ecuadorian Air Force planes did rack up three air-to-air kills in the 1990s while fighting the Peruvians. Sri Lanka’s Kfirs fought the Tamil Tigers. You can see more about this Israeli lion of the skies in the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tnNbNAyrrY
MIGHTY HISTORY

A Korean War POW escaped from captivity after 55 years

In June 2008, a 74-year-old North Korean farmer and former coal miner was swimming across the Tumen River, where it makes the border between the reclusive North Korean regime and Communist China. He was escaping the Hermit Kingdom like many North Koreans before him, except Kim Jin-Soo wasn’t North Korean.


The onetime South Korean Army soldier was born in the South, but enlisted in the Republic of Korea Army during the 1950-1953 Korean War. That’s how he ended up in the North.

This Civil War vet’s grave is Underground Railroad site

Suwon Airfield being evacuated by South Korean troops as North Korea advances in 1950.

The young South Korean was just 17 years old when he signed up to fight the Communist advance in 1950 but was wounded in action by small arms fire. That’s how the young soldier was captured. He was taken by his captors North to recover from the wounds, but his own army, believing him dead, stopped looking for him. When prisoners were exchanged after fighting stopped, no one thought to look for a dead man.

The definitely not dead Kim Jin-Soo did eventually recover from his wounds, only now he was trapped in the North’s Stalinist “utopia.” Unfortunately for him, he was still a prisoner and was sent to work in the coal mines in North Korea’s North Pyeongan Province for nearly 40 years.

This Civil War vet’s grave is Underground Railroad site

North Korean troops prepare for battle in 1950.

In the time that passed, the captive’s parents in the South both passed away. He even had four daughters and one son while living in the North. His surviving brothers in the South had no idea he was alive, let alone that they now had a nephew and a handful of nieces.

In the early 1990s, around the time of North Korea’s deadly and disastrous famine, Soo was sent to another province to work as a farmer. The harsh life of a North Korean POW had taken its toll on his body. He shrunk by nearly six inches over 55 years of captivity and weighed barely 105 pounds when he escaped to China.

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‘The White Rose of Stalingrad’ was a female pilot who terrorized the Nazis

The actual translation of Lydia Vladimirovna Litvyak’s epic nickname might be “The White Lily of Stalingrad,” depending on the language you speak. Considering the Lily’s association with death and funerals, it’s rather fitting for such an incredible pilot.


Litvyak was only 20 years old when Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa, the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. The young girl rushed to the recruiter and tried to join to be a fighter pilot. The recruiters sent her packing. In their minds, she was just a small, young girl.

In truth, she was flying solo at 15 and was an experienced pilot. A biographer estimated she trained more than 45 pilots on her own. She knew she could do this. So instead of giving up, she went to another recruiter and lied about her flying experience, by more than a hundred hours. That did the trick.

This Civil War vet’s grave is Underground Railroad site
Good for Russia.

The Soviets, probably realizing that this fight was going to kill a lot of Soviet people (and it did, to the tune of 27 million), were foresighted enough to consider gender equality when it came to their military units. Where American women pilots were only allowed to transport planes, Stalin was forming three fighter regiments of all-female pilots.

This Civil War vet’s grave is Underground Railroad site
Seriously though, good for Russia.

During her two years of wartime service, she racked up 12 solo kills and four shared kills over 66 combat missions.  She scored her first two kills over Stalingrad three days after her arrival in the area.

Young Lydia Litvyak flew a few missions with the all-female unit before transferring to a mixed-gender unit — over Stalingrad. It was here she earned her illustrious moniker, “The White Rose of Stalingrad.” She flew around a hail of anti-aircraft fire to engage an artillery observation balloon from the rear. She shot it down in a blaze of hydrogen-fueled mayhem — a notoriously difficult task for any pilot.

This Civil War vet’s grave is Underground Railroad site
Good thing Lydia Litvyak wasn’t just any pilot.

Litvyak wasn’t finished; she later became one of two women to be crowned “first female fighter ace” as well. She wasn’t flawless — she was shot down more than once and bled more than her share over Russian soil.

But even when forced to make belly landings, she hopped right back into the closest cockpit.

She was so good, the Russian command chose her to be Okhotniki, — or  “free hunter” — a new tactic that involved two experienced pilots who were free to hunt the skies on seek and destroy missions. She terrorized German pilots all over the Eastern Front.

This Civil War vet’s grave is Underground Railroad site
The Yakovlev Yak-1, a plane flown by Soviet fighters, including Lydia Litvyak.

“The White Rose of Stalingrad” was last seen being chased by eight Nazi ME-109 fighters on an escort mission south of Moscow. Her body was lost until 1989 when historians discovered the unmarked grave of a female pilot in the Russian village of Dmytrivka.

The next year, Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev awarded Lydia Vladimirovna Litvyak the title “Hero of the Soviet Union,” the USSR’s highest military honor.

popular

35 years ago, the Challenger exploded. Could it happen again?

In January 1986, the country was buzzing with excitement. Seven astronauts were heading to space, including a civilian. An ordinary teacher, Christa McAuliffe, would be the first average Joe in space. The Challenger shuttle had already completed nine successful missions. This one should have been no different. 

The crew of the Challenger shuttle
The crew of the ill-fated Challenger space shuttle.

Tragically, it was. Viewers looked on in horror as steam and fire began streaming from the shuttle just minutes after launch. The Challenger exploded, killing everyone aboard. So what happened, exactly? More importantly, could it happen again? 

By 1986, NASA had plenty of experience with space flight.

NASA announced the first manned, reusable spacecraft in 1976. They named it a space shuttle. Just five years later, they took the Columbia shuttle for a test spin. It went without a hitch. The Challenger came along in 1983, and again the mission went swimmingly. The shuttle went on to make eight more voyages before 1986.

The 10th voyage included something unique: an average high school social studies teacher. 37-year-old Christa McAuliffe won a spot through NASA’s new Teacher in Space initiative, which aimed to motivate students to set their sights on future careers in technology, science, and space flight. As it turns out, the mission may have had the opposite effect.

The Challenger’s 10th expedition should have been a slam dunk.

The mission was intended to launch on January 22nd from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The launch was pushed back because of bad weather and technical issues. On the 28th, NASA pushed ahead with the launch. Engineers on the project were uneasy. They spoke up, telling their superiors that some of the shuttle’s components weren’t intended to function in cold weather. The rubber O-rings, in particular, were prone to failure at low temps. The Challenger launched anyway. 

After just 73 seconds, the shuttle exploded over hundreds of onlookers. The families of the astronauts on board watched in horror from the ground, while the rest of the country watched it live on the news. The shuttle landed in the ocean, in pieces. Among a crew of seven, there wasn’t a single survivor. 

The challenger shuttle exploding
The Space Shuttle Challenger explodes 73 seconds after liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center.

It was an ordinary expedition. And that was the problem. 

The nation was understandably put off by future space travel. President Reagan launched a commission to find the cause of the explosion in hopes of correcting the issue for future space missions. After analysis by a team of experts that included the famous Neil Armstrong, the commission concluded that the engineers were right. The rubber O-rings that were intended to seal the Challenger’s rocket booster had cracked from the cold. Flames were able to escape the booster, damaging a fuel tank and destroying the shuttle’s integrity. 

The company that designed the boosters, Morton Thiokol, was aware of potential issues. Managers at NASA were also aware of the risks, but after several successful missions, they didn’t take them seriously. 

And that was the problem. The mission was so routine, that the details were largely ignored; even details that spelled out the difference between a historic success and a crushing tragedy.

Could another explosion like the Challenger’s happen? Absolutely.

Have we learned from our own hubris? Hopefully. 

After the Challenger explosion, NASA was taken down a few pegs. They spent two years refining their design before launching a new shuttle, the Discovery. That shuttle went on to carry out several successful missions, which included the construction of the International Space Station, or ISI. 

But in 2003, a second shuttle exploded. The Columbia failed to reenter the atmosphere, disintegrating in mid-air. Once again, all seven passengers were killed. Missions resumed in 2005, but in 2011, the space shuttle program was officially ended. The risk of space shuttle travel was simply too high for the potential reward. 

Knowing human beings, and American human beings, in particular, it’s doubtful that our future in space is over. Space shuttles were risky and experimental, but the astronauts on board knew that. Much like the mountaineers who climb Everest or Lindbergh’s first transatlantic flight, those who explore space are powerfully driven to do so- no matter the cost. 

While Christa McAuliffe paid the ultimate price, her backup, a fellow educator named Barbara Morgan, made it safely to space and back in 2007. The Challenger disaster taught us that when lives are on the line, there’s no room for arrogance. Just a sliver of impatience can be deadly. Teachers in space taught us to keep trying anyway.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Video shows Iran launching missiles on US forces in Iraq

Iranian state TV has aired a clip that it says shows the moment its military launched ballistic missiles toward US bases in Iraq on Wednesday, in apparent retaliation for the US drone strike that killed top military commander Qassem Soleimani last week.

The US Department of Defense confirmed the missile strike, saying it was “clear” that the missiles were launched from Iran and targeted two military bases at Al-Assad and Irbil that host US and Iraq troops. No injuries have been reported.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has also claimed responsibility for the attack.


The video, aired on Islamic Republic of Iran News Network (IRINN) at 1:40 p.m. local time, showed footage of multiple missiles being launched from their bases amid bright orange fire and smoke into the dark sky.

Watch it here:

An Iranian flag can be seen in the top left corner of the state-TV report — an apparent show of national unity after days of showing a black strip to mourn Soleimani’s death, according to BBC Monitoring journalist Kian Sharifi.

Hours after the missile strike President Donald Trump tweeted that “all is well,” while Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javid Zarif tweeted that the strikes were “proportionate measures of self-defense” against the US’ “cowardly armed attack” against Soleimani.

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

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MIGHTY TRENDING

How Prince Harry’s military career makes him a hardcore noble

Many veterans chose the military life in search of something bigger than themselves. This rings true even for British royalty. Just like his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, his father, Prince Charles, and his brother, Prince William, Prince Harry served in the British military — except his war stories from Afghanistan are far more impressive than most royals.


Prince Harry entered military service in September 2004 and went to The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in May 2005. During his 44-week intensive training, he went under the name “Officer Cadet Wales” since royal British surnames don’t work like regular folk and he didn’t want any special treatment — despite the fact that everyone at the academy swore loyalty to his badass grandmother.

This Civil War vet’s grave is Underground Railroad site

In case you didn’t know, he’s got badassery in his blood.

(War Archives)

After graduating in April 2006, he became an armored reconnaissance troop leader in a unit scheduled to deploy to Iraq. When Defense Secretary John Reid stopped him from deploying, Prince Harry is quoted as saying

“If they said ‘no, you can’t go front line’ then I wouldn’t drag my sorry ass through Sandhurst and I wouldn’t be where I am now.”

Prince Harry didn’t just accept this order. He was determined to fight with his brothers and lead his troops. He finally got that chance in June 2007 when he was secretly allowed to deploy to Helmond Province, Afghanistan as a forward air controller — similar to the American joint terminal attack controller.

This Civil War vet’s grave is Underground Railroad site

Even his living conditions were on par with his fellow soldiers.

(The Royal Family YouTube)

When his unit and his Gurkha allies were attacked by the Taliban, Prince Harry himself jumped on the .50 cal to hold the line. He successfully repelled the attack all while the Britons back home knew nothing.

Prince Harry returned to England in May 2008 and began his training as an Apache pilot — as is an unofficial tradition among the House of Windsor — and he was damn good. He returned to Afghanistan, now as “Captain Wales.” The Taliban leaders got wind of his return and called for his head. That didn’t scare this badass and his missions were more ramped up.

This Civil War vet’s grave is Underground Railroad site

In true veteran fashion, he was straight out of f*cks to give.

(The Royal Family YouTube)

He returned to England with an untold number of combat missions under his belt (but, supposedly, there were a lot). He left active military service in 2015 but he continues to champion the military and veteran community through his countless organizations. He launched the Invictus Games in 2014 and has been a key figure of Walk With the Wounded, HALO Trust, and London Marathon Charitable Trust.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Coastie crossed the English Channel 10 times on D-Day

Gordon Lease was 17-years-old and living in California when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The next day Lease was queued up to join the Navy, but the line was so long, the recruiters told him he wouldn’t be able to join that day. Lease joined the Coast Guard instead. But he ended up with the Navy . . . in an unexpected way.


Lease, now in his nineties, told SDPB how he ended up as an amphibious sailor on Navy Landing Ship Tanks (LST), designed to land men and material on beaches.

“The Navy found out we were good in small boats,” Gordon said. “And they needed amphibious sailors … that’s where we went.”

After a few years of guarding the West Coast against another Japanese attack and conducting search and rescue operations, the Navy exercised its authority to appropriate Coast Guard assets. In 1943, Gordon learned LST operations, driving the boats onto the shores of Maryland.

This Civil War vet’s grave is Underground Railroad site
Gordon Lease enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard after Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941. (Courtesy Gordon Lease)

Soldiers, sailors, and Coast Guardsmen trained for amphibious operations in the Chesapeake Bay and then boarded troop convoys bound for Europe and elsewhere. In Britain, Navy and Coast Guard personnel continued training to land men on beaches. LSTs like Lease’s were specially trained to land at certain places at certain times.

It wasn’t long before he was in the fight. Lease trained in February, and, by July 1943, he would land men and tanks on Sicily. He also piloted an LST during the landings at Salerno, Anzio, and Normandy.

This Civil War vet’s grave is Underground Railroad site
A photo by CPHOM Robert F. Sargent, USCG. A Coast Guard-manned LCVP from the U.S.S. Samuel Chase disembarks troops on the morning of 6 June 1944 at Omaha Beach. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Operation Neptune, the naval assault portion of Overlord, remains the largest single combat operation in Coast Guard history. It was more than just landing on the beaches; the Coast Guard managed boat handling, loading and discharging cargo at sea and ashore,  and directing vessel traffic. These landing craft carried up to 30 men and were also charged with taking the dead and wounded off the beaches under fire.

This Civil War vet’s grave is Underground Railroad site
A Sherman Tank makes its way ashore during the invasion of Salerno, Italy in September 1943. Gordon Lease describes this assault as worse than what he experienced at Normandy on D-Day. (Courtesy Gordon Lease)

“It doesn’t do you any good to be scared,” Gordon said. “I’m serious about that. If you want to do your job, forget getting hurt, forget being scared, forget about that aircraft, forget about the guy shooting at you. Just do your job.”

At Normandy, the Coast Guard ran a rescue flotilla, suggested by President Roosevelt himself. Coast Guard Vice Adm. Russell R. Waesche collected dozens of landing craft, small boats, and patrol ships to do the job. Sixty 83-foot USCG cutters made up “Rescue Flotilla One.” This flotilla saved more than 400 men on D-Day and more than a thousand more by the end of 1944.

Lease took his LST to the beaches of France 10 times throughout D-Day, trips that included picking up wounded men for treatment in England. For his efforts, he received the Coast Guard Commendation Medal and the French Legion of Honor.

The Coast Guard helped to develop the Mulberry; the artificial harbors used to offload cargo in recently captured ports. Coast Guard Cmdr. Quentin R. Walsh also helped plan the occupation of Cherbourg, assessing the condition of the ports there and accepting the surrender of a German-held fortress.

More Coast Guard ships were lost in the days following D-Day than any time in its history. Four landing craft were destroyed on the beaches while another 85 sank offshore. Their losses were not in vain, however. The wrecks of the Coast Guard vessels served as navigation markers, guiding other incoming ships and landing craft. The Coast Guard also lost 15 among the ranks during the invasion. Six of them are buried at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.

“I was operating a landing craft. And someone kept count,” Lease recalled. “I brought a-hundred-and-ten people off the beach at Normandy back to our ship to evacuate them to England for treatment.”

Gordon Lease left the Coast Guard after the war and enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve, where he would remain until 1951. Now 92 years old, Lease still fits into the Coast Guard uniform he wore on LST-381 on D-Day.

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This fundraiser for the widow of a soldier who died in a suicide bombing attack is going viral

When a Taliban murder-suicide bomber killed two American troops with the 82nd Airborne Division, it particularly hit hard for one family. According to an Army Times report, the solider, Specialist Chris Harris, 25, of Jackson Springs, North Carolina, left behind a wife, Britt, who was expecting their first child.


The Defense Department reported that the August 2 attack that killed Spc. Harris also killed Sgt. Sgt. Jonathon Hunter, 23, of Columbus, Indiana ,and wounded four other troops. Both Harris and Hunter were with the 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment based at Fort Bragg.

This Civil War vet’s grave is Underground Railroad site
Specialist Chris Harris and his wife Britt in happier times. (GoFundMe.com)

An online fund-raiser was launched on Aug. 3 on the crowd-funding site GoFundMe.com to help Britt keep a handle on bills and other expenses. As of 9:53 AM Eastern time on Aug. 4, the online fundraiser for Mrs. Harris had raised $35,570 from 782 donors.

The online fundraiser is not the only fundraiser on the way for Britt and her unborn child. According to the VA website, Serviceman’s Group Life Insurance offers a $400,000 death benefit for a monthly premium of $29.00.

This Civil War vet’s grave is Underground Railroad site
Waves of paratroopers fill the skies during a combat exercise. (U.S. Army)

The pentagon also offers a death gratuity benefit of $100,000. Military.com notes that numerous other benefits are available for the surviving family members of a serviceman (or woman) killed in action, including continued eligibility for Tricare, Basic Housing Allowance, and the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation.

While those benefits will kick in, words from the GoFundMe page still apply: “During this time, money should be the absolute least important thing on [Britt’s] mind. If you feel it in your heart to donate to this cause, it would be kindly appreciated.”

 

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DoD to deliver counter-ISIS review to White House next week

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis yesterday completed his first trip to the Middle East, where he gained valuable insight as he prepares to make key policy decisions, including submitting the results of a review of the department’s strategy to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria to the White House, Pentagon press operations director Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters this morning.


This Civil War vet’s grave is Underground Railroad site
Iraqi forces practice traveling in tactical formations at Besmaya Range Complex, Iraq, Jan. 20, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Joshua Wooten)

In a memorandum signed Jan. 28, President Donald Trump ordered the Defense Department to come up with a new plan within 30 days to defeat ISIS. Davis said the review is due early next week, and added, “we’re on track to deliver it on time.”

Whole-of-Government Plan

The captain called the review a comprehensive, whole-of-government plan.

“It will address ISIS globally, and it is not just a DoD plan,” he said. “We’re charged with leading the development of the plan, but it absolutely calls upon the capabilities of other departments.”

Davis said the White House memorandum “puts the bull’s eye of the target squarely on DoD to lead it, but it is absolutely being done with the input of other agencies. We chair it. We’re developing the strategy, but we’re doing it together with other departments.”

Review Involves Many Countries

The review will be an outline of a strategy that encompasses numerous issues surrounding the defeat of ISIS, he said. “We have been working diligently with our interagency partners to develop it with the intelligence community, our military commanders on the ground, the Joint Staff and our policy team here, and it represents the input of a number of other departments.”

Related: Mattis’ ISIS plan could mean more US troops in Syria and Iraq

The captain said that the proposed plan will go to the president, who will make decisions based on the recommendations contained in the review.

Countries such as Afghanistan, Yemen, and Libya and others in the Southeast Asia region are included in the review, he said, “in the sense that this is going to explore the strategy for how we combat ISIS outside of Iraq and Syria, where we’ve seen ISIS spring up in other places.”

(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 tips for training your dog from a Marine who trained dogs to sniff out bombs

As a Military Working Dog handler in the US Marine Corps, I got to work with some of the best trained dogs in the world.

These dogs can sniff out bombs that have been buried underground, sniff out drugs that are hidden in ceiling tiles, take down a man three times their size, and track a person long after they’re gone to find criminal suspects or lost kids.

As a handler paired up with an explosive detection dog, my job was to train him, maintain his skills, keep him healthy, make sure he got exercise, and make sure he was healthy. After graduating from dog handling school, I was paired with my first dog, Kuko.

As a new handler with an experienced dog, I had to get up to his level before we could be an effective team. Once I got there, I could start teaching him new things to take our team to the next level.

While you may not be training your dog to find bombs buried in mud or drugs hidden in a car bumper, there are some keys to training dogs that will apply no matter what skills you are trying to teach.


This Civil War vet’s grave is Underground Railroad site

Airman 1st Class John Fountain, a military working dog handler, with MWD Deny on the Obedience Obstacle course at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, April 24, 2019.

(Air Force photo by Airman Jesse Jenny)

1. You have to build a relationship.

The first thing you do upon meeting your new MWD is begin to build rapport. If you take home a brand-new puppy, you begin training by establishing a relationship with the dog. With so many dogs in a unit’s kennel, handlers take turns dropping food pans for the dogs twice a day.

However, when a handler partners with a new dog, it’s a good idea to let that handler drop their dog’s food for a few days to establish a good bond. The dog begins to associate the handler with good things.

This was particularly important with our, shall we say, “crankier” dogs. While our dogs weren’t trained to be mean, they aren’t the friendliest dogs either. They have a serious job to do, and they are serious dogs.

I’ve seen handlers get bit by their own dogs more than a few times. Two of the best dog teams in my first unit had scars from their dogs. Training too hard, too fast with a dog that doesn’t trust you yet can lead to frustration on both sides and usually doesn’t lead to good results.

This Civil War vet’s grave is Underground Railroad site

US Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Eliot Fiaschi takes a moment to brush his partner Meky’s teeth during a break while on duty at the Djibouti Pier, April 23, 2009.

(Photo by Tech Sgt. Dawn Price)

2. Groom your dog every day.

Grooming your dog helps build the relationship, keeps the dog clean and healthy, and lets you check them over from the tip of their nose to the tip of their tail for any problems. With hair covering most of them, dogs can have serious issues developing that you can’t see until you brush them.

If your dog is running around in wooded areas, check in their ears, their paws, and in between their paw pads for ticks. Even with preventative medication, ticks can bite dogs and infect them with multiple diseases that can be devastating or deadly. Even a small cut on the paw can turn into something bigger if not treated properly, and dogs that don’t feel good aren’t good students.

One of our dogs contracted a tick-borne disease that nearly killed him. While we never found the tick, the dog tested positive for Babesia. He only survived because his handler had noted that he seemed more and more lethargic over the course of about three days.

Because she was watching him closely, she noticed when his gums and tongue went pale, indicating a serious problem. He was rushed to the vet, where aggressive treatment saved his life. His recovery was long and difficult and led to his retirement, but the vets and vet techs care about the dogs and will save them if possible.

This Civil War vet’s grave is Underground Railroad site

Airman 1st Class John Fountain, a military working dog handler, with MWD Deny on the Obedience Obstacle course at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, April 24, 2019.

(Air Force photo by Airman Jesse Jenny)

3. Consistency is key.

During this rapport-building time, start laying the foundations for the training that you want to do with your dog.

Don’t let them get away with things that you won’t accept later. Reward good behavior with praise, attention, play, or treats. Once training begins, consistency is going to be key to getting good results.

If you are training the dog to sit, set the dog up to succeed by training in the same area every time. Keep your voice the same. Don’t change the way you say the command. Don’t give the command unless you are prepared to reward.

This Civil War vet’s grave is Underground Railroad site

A military working dog team completes a detection training scenario in Southwest Asia, Jan. 10, 2017.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tyler Woodward)

4. Training takes time.

You can’t rush dog training. Some dogs pick things up faster than others. MWDs are trained for four to seven months in basic skills before they are officially called an MWD. If your dog isn’t grasping basic tasks, you can’t move on to the more advanced. Basic obedience, (the sit, down, and stay) is the foundation of all further training.

Take your time to master the basics, and refresh them from time to time. MWDs are professionals with years of experience, and they get obedience refresher training almost every day. It’s much easier to maintain proficiency than it is to fix a problem that you have let slide for too long.

This Civil War vet’s grave is Underground Railroad site

US Air Force Staff Sgt. Brandon Stone, a military working dog handler, braces for impact as military working dog, Cola, attempts to detain him during a K-9 demonstration exercise, Aug. 17, 2017.

(US Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Bradly A. Schneider)

5. Dogs have bad days too.

Say you’ve been training your dog for weeks. He’s performing well, and then one day he just refuses to work for you. He won’t sit. He seems bored, antsy, tired, or just lazy.

Don’t get mad, and don’t continue to correct the dog if it isn’t working. Dogs have their bad days too. Sometimes they just don’t want to work. If you try to force it, you will become frustrated and angry, which hardly ever leads to good results. Recognize that there might be a medical issue at play. Sick dogs aren’t usually enthusiastic students.

During an evaluation at my last base, a dog wouldn’t stay in the sit. The handler couldn’t get the dog to stay after multiple corrections. The evaluator took a close look and saw that the dog was positioned on an ant hill and had fire ants biting his legs. Continuing to correct the dog in that situation would be ineffective and would harm the good rapport between dog and handler.

Recognize that your dog is a living, breathing creature that has feelings and emotions.

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US Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Victor Longoria shares a playful moment with his partner, Timmy, after a training session, April 16, 2009.

(Photo by Tech Sgt. Dawn Price)

6. Dogs need to have fun.

Recognizing that dogs are living, breathing creatures, they need to have fun. If the dog only ever sees you for training, you are missing a big part of the relationship.

Take your dog out and let him run, play with toys, lay in the sun, take a break, and just be a dog. It will make for a happy dog that wants to please you by doing the right thing when training. In a strong dog team, the dog’s desire to please the handler provides as much motivation as the toy or the treat.

My first dog was not especially affectionate, and I wouldn’t say that he ever loved me in the way that a pet loves its owner. He had handlers before me, and he would have more after me, but we still had a strong bond, which made us an effective team.

I took him out, let him play, tossed a ball for him, let him lay in the sun, and took him for long walks with no commands. He knew when it was time to work and when it was time to play, and he trusted that if he did what I asked and made me happy, good things would come to him.

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Staff Sgt. Cody Nickell, a military working dog handler, works with Topa to get him accustomed to being in a Huey helicopter, at Yokota Air Base, Japan, July 26, 2018.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Donald Hudson)

7. Not every dog is going to be able to learn every task.

Between buying carefully selected dogs from Europe and breeding their own at Lackland Air Force Base, the military goes through a lot of dogs. Not every dog makes it as an MWD. They fail out for a variety of reasons, from health issues to behavioral issues. Some dogs just aren’t cut out for the type of work that MWDs do.

We had a dog that didn’t want to bite people. She was sent after a decoy wearing the bite sleeve, and she faked a leg injury instead of chasing him down. The vet determined that nothing was wrong with her, she just didn’t want to bite.

If your dog just isn’t getting it, it might be the dog.

While you probably (hopefully) aren’t training your dog to bite people, you might find that your dog won’t sit, won’t drop the ball, or won’t stay for longer than a second. Keep in mind that some breeds of dogs are known for their willingness to learn, and others are not.

Don’t adopt a working dog breed and keep it inside all day without exercise. That’s how houses get destroyed. Do your research and adopt a dog that is going to fit in with your lifestyle and not a dog that you saw in a movie and you think looks cool.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Of course ‘Murphy’s Law’ was created by a veteran

The axiom we know as “Murphy’s Law” today has been kicking around for centuries. Instances of similar phrases can be found as early as 1877, and even George Orwell (himself a veteran of the Spanish Civil War) used it in his diaries. But when something truly catches on, it’s kept alive for posterity – and that’s how “Murphy’s Law” is remembered nowadays.


What was once quoted as, “It is found that anything that can go wrong at sea generally does go wrong sooner or later.” Is now – forever – the much snappier “Whatever can go wrong, will.” But who was the Murphy whose name is now synonymous with accidents and mishaps?

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A strapping young man, that’s who.

Edward Aloysius Murphy was a West Point graduate, Army Air Forces veteran of World War II and an Air Force officer. Later in life, he would continue his work with the Air Force in testing experimental vehicles. This, of course, required a degree of delicacy; not only because building rocket sleds is as incredibly dangerous as testing them, but also because testing them requires exact parameters to record exact results.

That’s science.

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*Rocket* Science. DAB.

Seriously, after World War II, Murphy became the research and development officer at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base’s Air Development Center, where they conducted rocket sled tests. A rocket sled is exactly what it sounds like: a chair, a rocket, all on a sled-like slab on which someone sits. And is then propelled forward. In order to remind his crews to plan for the worst-case scenario in every experiment, he began telling them “whatever can go wrong, will.”

This was especially true when they decided that 18 Gs was probably not the most a human could withstand and set out to test the limitations of G-forces on the human body. One Air Force officer, John Stapp, proved that humans could take at least 35 Gs and that anyone who passed out after 18 probably shouldn’t be in his Air Force. Murphy was designing new sensor setups to measure everything that would happen on these sled runs. One day, something went wrong.

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Here’s Stapp’s face as he becomes the fastest man ever, in what is essentially an open-top rocket convertible. Man, the Air Force used to be fun.

The details of the snafu that caused Murphy to remind his crews to check every detail are disputed. All we need to know is that something went wrong and Stapp’s test run did not acquire any sensor data. Basically, Stapp put his life on the line for funsies, because other than a rocket boom, nothing else was recorded. Upon realizing this, Murphy apparently yelled at an assistant, “whatever can go wrong, will.”

And it became their mantra. Then it became everyone’s mantra when Stapp told a group of reporters at a press conference that they keep fatalities at zero because everyone on their team repeats “Murphy’s Law” to prevent any oversights or mishaps. Once the press got hold of it, that was it. Murphy’s Law is now enshrined in everyone’s lexicon, not just the military’s.

Lists

9 reasons you should have joined the Air Force instead

You had choices when you showed up at the recruiting offices at your local strip mall. If you didn’t pick USAF you missed out, and here are 9 reasons why:


1. We call each other by our first names and don’t get hung up on rank. (It helps us prepare for not working as a grocery store bagger when we separate.)

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2. Because Chuck Norris.

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3. The Air Force coined the term “counterspace operations” because it couldn’t be contained to just this planet.

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4. The Air Force has the best and the most expensive toys. This is why the Air Force budget is the largest. You’ve only seen the B-2 because we wanted you to see the B-2. The other ones are the //redacted//, the //redacted//, and best of all the //redacted//.

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5. The Air Force ages gracefully. (The SR-71 Blackbird is still the coolest thing ever made for the US military.)

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6. Iron Man and the War Machine are stationed at Nellis Air Force Base.

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Photo: Wikimedia

7. The enlisted have the same or better operational survival rate than the officers.

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8. No service delivers more freedom in one serving.

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9. We have more female general officers than any other branch.

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That’s four more stars than you’ll ever have.

NOW: 6 tips for being the perfect wingman

OR: 79 cringeworthy technical errors in the movie ‘Top Gun’

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