A few years ago, there was a viral Facebook post about a woman getting a haircut before Memorial Day weekend. She had lost her husband in a Navy helicopter crash months prior. He died on deployment, never having met their youngest son. So, when the smiling receptionist wished her a “Happy Memorial Day” after she had buried her spouse, the words cut extra deep.
Before you tag every veteran and service member on Facebook and wish them a Happy Memorial Day, remember that, in this community, Memorial Day means something much, much bigger than the start of summer. The day feels fraught with memories of those we’ve lost, mixed with gratitude for the times we’ve had.
While it is true that every day is Memorial Day for the families of the fallen, they aren’t asking that you stay inside and wallow.
But we do owe it to them to pause. Reflect. Remember. Honor.
Gold Star wife Krista Simpson Anderson, who lost her husband, Army Staff Sgt. Michael Harrison Simpson, in Afghanistan in 2013, said, “I get upset when people scold others for enjoying the weekend or having BBQs. What do you think our service members did before they died? Mike sure did enjoy his family and friends. What better way to honor them than to be surrounded by family and friends living. But we are also so grateful for your pause and reflection as you celebrate our heroes and the lives that they lived.”
Krista Anderson and her sons pose for a photo in 2014.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Marcus Butler)
Memorial Day and Veterans Day are different holidays with unique purposes — and unique ways to honor each.
How to honor Veterans Day
Veterans Day is the day to tag all your people, posting photos with your brother in uniform or the selfie with your bestie before he or she deployed. Veterans Day celebrates the living who served our country. Offer veterans a discount at your business. Call your favorite vet on the phone and thank him or her for their service. Attend a parade. Celebrate a veteran.
How to honor Memorial Day
Memorial Day is about remembering and honoring every single man and woman who has died for our freedoms — men and women who were mommies and daddies, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, patriots, incredible Americans and really, really great friends.
The United States Marine Band on Memorial Day.
(Photo by Spc. Cody W. Torkelson)
You want to honor and celebrate patriotism and the military this Memorial Day? Then you have to honor the complicated feelings surrounding it. Express your knowledge that this day is about remembrance.
Authorities say unexploded bombs from what was known as the “Highway of Death” in the 1991 Gulf War have been uncovered in Kuwait.
On July 5, Kuwait’s Public Authority of Housing Welfare said a military bomb squad would defuse the ordinance found along Kuwait’s Highway 80, which connects Kuwait City to the Iraqi border.
Construction crews working on a $950 million housing project in the area found the bombs. The state-run Kuwait News Agency said “finding explosives on the site is not surprising” and contractors had been warned they could be there.
The “Highway of Death” got its name when U.S.-led coalition aircraft bombed a convoy of fleeing Iraqi forces, killing hundreds and leaving behind hundreds of burned-out vehicles.
Congressman John Lewis lost his battle to pancreatic cancer on July 17, 2020. He was an icon for the civil rights movement but more than that, he was a continuous beacon of hope for peace and social justice.
On Lewis’ passing, President Donald Trump ordered flags to be flown half-staff. In a White House proclamation, the president stated, “As a mark of respect for the memory and longstanding public service of Representative John Lewis, of Georgia, I hereby order, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions through July 18, 2020. I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half‑staff for the same period at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.”
Born in 1940 to sharecroppers in rural Alabama, Lewis would go on to become a prominent and iconic figure in the fight for equality. He was one of the speakers at the March on Washington during Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Lewis was one of the original Freedom Riders during this time. He was beaten and arrested multiple times during these nonviolent protests.
Lewis marched with King from Selma to Montgomery, on what became known as “Bloody Sunday.” Lewis and others were assaulted with nightsticks by Alabama State Troopers while the protestors were kneeling and praying. Lewis’ skull was fractured from the beating. This incident is what pushed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to come to pass. Lewis was a witness when it was signed into law.
Lewis bore the scars from all of these events for the remainder of his life.
After the civil rights movement, Lewis became a congressman and served Georgia for over 30 years. He fought for the Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C., which took 15 years. President Obama awarded Lewis the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011 for his life’s work.
In December of 2019, he announced that he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He released a statement, saying, “I have been in some kind of fight – for freedom, equality, basic human rights – for nearly my entire life. I have never faced a fight quite like the one I have now…So I have decided to do what I know to do and do what I have always done: I am going to fight it and keep fighting for the Beloved Community. We still have many bridges to cross.”
Lewis’ passing comes just a year after the U.S. Navy celebrated his legacy by naming one of their newest fleet of ships after him. He was a humble man and in one interview, shared his disbelief that the honor was being bestowed upon him. While attending the ceremony to celebrate one of the new ships Lewis said, “We need great ships, like this one, to carry our men and women in our continued work for peace, because we are one world.”
In those words, hope resonates. Following his passing, the spirit of his legacy will continue to live on and the world will remember this icon by continuing his work for justice – and peace.
With Confederate statues coming down across the nation, it’s time to ask: Should we change the name of Army bases named after Confederate Generals?
I think it’s a good discussion for us to have as a nation and an Army. When we can assess the problem and make rational decisions, I trust the Army leadership to make the best decision for our force and nation. We may not all agree on that or those decisions, but one of the greatest parts of America is civil discourse. It’s not difficult to see the pain these names may cause or why the current names don’t matter.
I’ve been to countries where they’ve torn down statues and changed names, erasing history without dialogue. There were many more significant issues, but none of those places have peace and prosperity. A statue or name change alone will not change society or bring a land of opportunity. When not done correctly, it divides people. However, this is an opportunity to do something right for the current and future generations.
We can have discussions and study our Civil War for years. There are a few undeniable conclusions. The Confederates attempted to succeed from the Union and the score was Union – 1, Confederates – 0. The Confederates implicitly or tacitly endorsed slavery of people based upon the color of their skin. We can learn from these difficult times in our nation’s history, so as not to repeat them. We should not honor these generals that fought against their country and therefore the right to own slaves.
In my 20-plus year military career, I never once cared about a base’s name, let alone whether the name of a general inspired me. What motivated me were the units that called those bases home. The famed 82nd Airborne, 101st Airborne, 10th Mountain Division and United States Army Special Forces — these and other storied units are what inspired me. We stand on the shoulders of giants. I’d read about these units in books and watched them in movies. The unit lineage is what mattered to me, and I’m willing to bet most of those I served with would agree.
I also didn’t care that they were named after famous generals. They didn’t inspire me or give me a sense of pride. Truthfully no generals, living or dead, ever inspired me. I had the privilege to work with some of the finest generals of our time. I have immense respect for these men and what I learned from them is invaluable. However, I wouldn’t say I was inspired. Why, you might ask? These generals are so removed from the fight that I find it hard to gain inspiration. Those that inspired me were leaders closer to us out conducting missions in the dirt, and my brothers and sisters that I served with.
I will not lose sleep if we change the names of our bases to Fort Tomato or Fort Pine Tree. I hope that we make these decisions with a thorough process. If Army leadership is considering such a process, I do have some excellent suggestions. Medal of Honor recipient, MSG Roy P. Benavidez, Fort Benavidez. Commander of the Tuskegee airmen, General Benjamin O. Davis, Fort Davis. The list of worthy American soldiers is much longer than the number of bases.
The truth is, we are hurting as a country. If this can help our nation heal, I’m all for it. It’s absurd not to have the discussion. Let’s reinvigorate patriotism and pride in our Army. We can run major marketing campaigns sharing the stories of these worthy soldiers. We can all be proud to say “I’m reporting to” or “served at” Fort (insert great American name).
I leave you with only one question: Will you be part of the discussion with me?
The female midshipman voluntarily decided to not continue participating in a summer course that’s required of officers who want to be selected for SEAL training, Lt. Cmdr. Mark Walton, a Naval special warfare spokesman, told The Associated Press. The Navy has not released the woman’s name, part of a policy against publicly identifying SEALs or candidates for the force.
No other woman has started the long process required to become a Navy SEAL, Walton said.
Another woman has set her sights on becoming a Special Warfare Combatant Crewman, another job that recently opened to women. They often support the SEALs but also conduct missions of their own using state-of-the art, high-performance boats. She has started the various evaluations and standard Navy training.
Officials have said it would be premature to speculate when the Navy will see its first female SEAL or Special Warfare Combatant Crewman.
The entry of women in one of the military’s most elite fighting forces is part of ongoing efforts to comply with then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s directive in December 2015 to open all military jobs to women, including the most dangerous commando posts.
That decision was formal recognition of the thousands of female servicewomen who fought in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars in recent years, including those who were killed or wounded.
The woman dropped out of the SEAL Officer Assessment and Selection program. It is open to Naval academy and Navy ROTC midshipmen and cadets during the summer before their senior year.
The three-week-long program in Coronado, across the bay from San Diego, tests participants’ physical and psychological strength along with water competency and leadership skills. The program is the first in-person evaluation of a candidate who desires to become a Navy SEAL officer, and it allows sailors to compete against peers in an equitable training environment.
All sailors must go through the program before being selected to take part in SEAL basic training, a six-month program so grueling that 75 percent of candidates drop out by the end of the first month.
The services have been slowly integrating women into previously male-only roles. Those in special operations are among the most demanding jobs in the military. Two women in 2015 graduated from the Army’s grueling Ranger course.
Lieutenants never get much respect. What do you expect, though? You send a 22-year-old new college grad to officer candidates school for a few weeks and expect him to be in charge of a platoon of grizzled combat veterans… What could possibly go wrong? It’s the brain-damaged leading the blind. Every rank has some major archetypes, and lieutenants are no different. Here are six types you’re probably already familiar with.
1. Lt. Clueless
Quote: “If that’s not how we’re supposed to use a compass, then why did they teach it at The Basic School?”
The conventional view is that ALL lieutenants are clueless, but that can’t really be the case, or else the service would be even more screwed than it already is. All LTs take a while to get up to speed, but Lt. Clueless seems to be coming more undone every day, not less.
He’s smart enough to graduate college in basketweaving, phys ed, criminal justice, or some similar bullsh*t degree, but not smart enough to keep track of his own rifle. The upside is that stealing his firing pin will be easier.
Everyone under Clueless is counting the hours until the company commander finally figures out that one of his platoon commanders spends his free time chewing crayons. They just hope it comes before deployment, when some of them might have to patrol with him.
Quote: “I got this kickass rig online at Brigade Quartermaster. Yeah, it’s Kydex.”
One of the best things about the military is that it lets you play with cool toys. Don’t tell Lt. Tacticool that the gear he’s issued is really all he needs, because that’s not the point. The point is to be just a little better equipped than anyone else. He spends his entire paycheck shopping online for the same gear used by Delta Force. Lt. Tacticool works in admin or in logistics or as a pilot. That doesn’t stop him from needing dumbass items, like a drop holster that can’t be worn on a walk longer than 100 meters but looks absolutely badass.
If the gun doesn’t work, though, he’s got three concealed punch knives as backup. Don’t worry. He’ll make up for all the extra weight with $200 custom gel boot inserts.
That isn’t to say that there aren’t Tacticools in the infantry, but the laughter of their fellow lieutenants usually shames them into relative normalcy before too many enlisted grunts join in on the ribbing. These LTs live in closeted gear-queerness, wasting their paychecks in more subtle ways, like snatching up $1,000 GPS altimeter watches.
3. Lt. Beast
Quote: “I can’t believe they pay me to do this sh*t! Hells yeah!“
The Beast, on the other hand, does reside disproportionately in the combat arms. It’s just as well because if he were in logistics, all his troops would be hiding under their desks by the end of the day. Everyone else groans when a unit hump is announced. The Beast adds extra weight to his pack. He says, “If it ain’t rainin’, we ain’t trainin’!” unironically.
The Beast honestly can’t figure why others don’t enjoy it when things suck. He thinks “embrace the suck” is a religion, not a sarcastic comment. He’s into Crossfit because of course he is. He’s also signed up for Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, and some obscure event involving dragging one’s testicles through broken glass for 26.2 miles in the Sierra Nevadas.
The Beast is absolutely the perfect individual to have around in the middle of a close-quarters battle. Unfortunately, he’s also the last individual you want anywhere that isn’t in the middle of an active firefight.
Quote: “My paper on military organization based on fractal principles is getting published in Joint Forces Quarterly next month!”
Lt. Nerd is, on paper, the perfect military officer. He went to a good school and was near the top of his class in all of his training. He’s read the Professional Military Education reading list through colonel. He’s working on his master’s degree. He’s even starting a new podcast next week, called Tactics Talk, so he can share his hard-earned wisdom with upwards of half a dozen people.
He is doing great, at least in his own mind. Unfortunately, the military is basically high school. The jocks run the school. Even though he has bars on his collar, the Nerd gets no respect.
5. Lt. Mustang
Quote: “Gunny, really? What. The. F*ck.”
The prior-enlisted officer, or “Mustang,” is definitely a little different than the typical lieutenant, not least because he’s nearly a decade years older than most of his peers. He has a few more tattoos than them, too.
Knowing the ropes is his superpower. PT, usually not so much. He’s gained a few pounds and lost a few steps compared to his new, young friends in the officer corps.
Most of the enlisted think it’s great that their lieutenant was once one of them. The platoon sergeant isn’t necessarily so thrilled. He’s pleased to get a lieutenant that he doesn’t need to hide sharp objects from. On the other hand, he can’t get rid of his lieutenant for a whole day by asking him to pick up a box of grid squares.
Military life naturally attracts those with attention to detail and a desire for order. Unfortunately, there can always be too much of a good thing.
You can generally find Lt. Niedermeyer in the parking lot, trolling for salutes — or, rather, for those missing salutes — so he can joyfully berate them. Of course, a true Niedermeyer counsels like a drill instructor — loudly, yet sans profanity, because profanity would be contrary to regulations. Doggone it, Devil Dog!
The good thing about Niedermeyer is that he always follows the rules. The bad thing about Niedermeyer is that he always follows the rules. The worst thing is that if you want to know who your commanding general will be in 20 years or so, look no further because Niedermeyer is going places.
In December of 2017, The New York Times published a stunning front-page exposé about the Pentagon’s mysterious UFO program, the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP). Featuring an interview with a former military intelligence official and Special Agent In-Charge, Luis Elizondo, who confirmed the existence of the hidden government program, the controversial story was the focus of worldwide attention.
Previously run by Elizondo, AATIP was created to research and investigate Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) including numerous videos of reported encounters, three of which were released to a shocked public in 2017. Elizondo resigned after expressing to the government that these UAPs could pose a major threat to our national security, and not enough was being done to deal with them or address our potential vulnerabilities.
Now, as a part of HISTORY’s groundbreaking new six-part, one-hour limited series “Unidentified: Inside America’s UFO Investigation,” Elizondo is speaking out for the first time with Tom DeLonge, co-founder and President of To The Stars Academy of Arts & Science, and Chris Mellon, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense and Intelligence, to expose a series of startling encounters and embark on fascinating new investigations that will urge the public to ask questions and look for answers. From A+E Originals, DeLonge serves as executive producer.
In collaboration with We Are The Mighty and HISTORY, I had the opportunity to sit down with this warrior for an interview.
Series premieres Friday, May 31, at 10/9c on HISTORY.
Unidentified: Inside America’s UFO Investigation | Premieres Friday May 31st 10/9c | HISTORY
Luis Elizondo – Director of Global Security & Special Programs
Luis Elizondo is a career intelligence officer whose experience includes working with the U.S. Army, the Department of Defense, the National Counterintelligence Executive, and the Director of National Intelligence. As a former Special Agent In-Charge, Elizondo conducted and supervised highly sensitive espionage and terrorism investigations around the world. As an intelligence Case Officer, he ran clandestine source operations throughout Latin America and the Middle East.
Most recently, Elizondo managed the security for certain sensitive portfolios for the U.S. Government as the Director for the National Programs Special Management Staff. For nearly the last decade, Elizondo also ran a sensitive aerospace threat identification program focusing on unidentified aerial technologies. Elizondo’s academic background includes Microbiology, Immunology, and Parasitology, with research experience in tropical diseases.
Elizondo is also an inventor who holds several patents.
What was it like operating under high levels of secrecy regarding AATIP?
I think in my position as a career intelligence officer in the department of defense, I am used to working discreetly on programs of a national security nature. I think the very role of intelligence tends to be secretive, obviously for the purposes of Operational Security (OPSEC), you don’t want to inadvertently compromise your activities or efforts and have those fall into the hands of a foreign adversary. You know, it was just another day at the office.
UFO spotted by US fighter jet pilots, new footage reveals – BBC News
Well, what I think AATIP was successful in identifying signatures and performance characteristics that go beyond the typical profile of adversarial type technologies. I know from that perspective AATIP was very helpful because you’re looking at performance characteristics including; extreme acceleration, hypersonic velocities, low observability, multi-median or trans-median travel and, frankly, positive hits without any type of propulsion or flight surfaces or wings.
Put that into context of what you’re observing electro-optically on radar and what’s being reported by the military eyewitnesses. I think you have to pause for a minute and scratch your head thinking ‘you’re not looking at a conventional technology.’
What kind of repercussions are there with providing the public with this type of information?
Well, I can’t answer on behalf of the government. Obviously, there are some individuals that remained in the department that may not appreciate what I did or how I did it. At the end of the day, if the information is unclassified and is of potential national security concern, I think the public has a right to know. Keep in mind that at no point in time were [any] sources or methods compromised, vocational data or any other type of data, [that] we try to keep out of the hands of foreign adversaries.
Keep in mind, had the system worked [from] the beginning I wouldn’t have had to resign. I resigned out of a sense of loyalty and duty to the department of defense. I tried to work within the system to inform my boss, General Mattis at the time. This is the man who was the secretary of defense, and my experience with him in combat was he was a man who wants more information, not less. We didn’t have the ability to report certain information or aspects of AATIP up the chain of command to the boss — that was a problem.
Sometimes if you want to fix something, you have to go outside of the system to fix it. That’s my perspective anyway.
Let’s not forget that secretary Mattis did almost the exact same thing almost a year later, he had to resign for reasons that he thought were important to him.
UFO spotted by US fighter jet pilots, new footage reveals – BBC News
Project Blue Book insisted that UFOs were not a threat to national security, however, decades later your findings tell otherwise. What is responsible for this shift?
Do I think they’re a threat? They could be if they wanted to be.
Let me give you a very succinct analogy: Let’s say at night you go to lock your front door, you don’t expect any problems, but you lock it anyways just to be extra safe. You lock your windows, and you turn on your alarm system, and you go to bed. You do this every morning, and let’s say one morning after you wake up, you’re walking downstairs, and you find muddy footprints in your living room.
Nothing has been taken, no one is hurt, but despite you locking the front doors, the windows, and turning on the alarm system — there are muddy footprints in your living room. The question is: is that a threat?
Well, I don’t know, but it could be if it wanted to be.
For that reason, it’s imperative from a national security perspective that we better understand what it is we’re seeing.
My job at AATIP was very simple: [identify] what it is and how it works, not to determine who is behind the wheel or where they’re from or what their intentions are. What I’m saying is that other people who are smarter than me should figure out those answers.
To me, a threat is a threat, until I know something isn’t a threat, in the Department of Defense, we have to assume it is a threat. The primary function of the Department of Defense is to fight and win wars, we’re not police officers, we don’t go to places to protect and serve. I hate to say it but our job is to kill as many bad guys as possible, so from that perspective, if this was not potentially a threat it would be something someone else should look at — There are different agencies out there such as Health and Human Services, DHS, FAA, and State Department.
This is something that is flying in our skies with impunity. It has the ability to fly over our combat air space and control overall combat theaters, potentially over all of our cities and there is not much we can do about it.
I have to assume it’s a threat.
Keeping in mind that if a Russian or Chinese aircraft entered out airspace the first thing we’d do is scramble F-22s and go intercept it and it would be front page on CNN. [These things, however,] because they don’t have tail numbers, insignia on their wings or tails — they don’t even have wings or tails [at all], it’s crickets. This is occurring, and no one wants to have a conversation about it. That, to me is a greater threat than the threat itself because we can’t allow ourselves [to talk about it] despite the mounting evidence that is there.
Is there anything the public can do to put pressure on our leaders to have a more appropriate response?
First of all, in defense of the Department of Defense, people like to blame DoD “oh, these guys said it was weather balloons or swamp gas” but the reason why there is a stigma is because we made it an issue and made it taboo as American citizens and therefore the Department of Defense is simply responding to the stigma we placed on it. The DoD, for many years, wanted to look at this but the social stigma and taboo, put a lot of pressure on the DoD not to report these things. It’s a shame because of a laundry list of secondary, tertiary issues that ensue if you ignore a potential problem.
I think DoD, in defense of our national security apparatus, nobody wanted to own this portfolio because it was fraught with so much stigma. million of taxpayer dollars were used to support this and it’s problematic because how do you, as a DoD official, go to your boss and say “there’s something in our skies, we don’t know what it is, we don’t know how it works, and by the way, there is not a damned thing we can do about it.” That’s not a conversation that’s easy to have.
Now imagine having that conversation with a man named “Mad Dog Mattis.”
You want to have answers.
In this particular case, we didn’t have enough data. We need more data.
The only way you’re going to get more data is by letting the Department of Defense and Congress know that the American people support this endeavor. The reason they’re not going to respond to it is if they’re [only] getting calls from their constituents saying “what are you doing wasting my taxpayer money?”
I think that once the American people decide this is an issue that should be a priority, then I think the national security apparatus would respond accordingly.
Do you have any advice for service members that may witness strange events? How would you advise them to come forward?
I would advise them [by] letting them know that there are efforts underway in looking at this and they should report this. The Navy and the Air Force are changing their policies to be able to report this information to a cognoscente authority without the fear of repercussions.
What could the readers of We Are The Mighty expect from your work in the future?
That’s it, the truth.
By the way, there are areas which are classified, and I can’t talk about, but I only say that to you off caveat. I don’t like to speculate, I prefer to just keep it to the facts. As a former special agent, for me, it’s always just about the facts. Let’s collect as much data as we can and let the American people decide what this information means to them.
Series premieres Friday, May 31, at 10/9c on HISTORY.
During its development in the late 1960s, the C-5 Galaxy was more than $2 billion over budget – more than $7 billion in today’s dollars, and well more than the cost of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The troubled program nearly broke the back of its developer, the Lockheed Corporation, and was the subject of House and Senate investigations once Congress found out about it. Enter A. Ernest Fitzgerald, once Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Management Systems, suddenly reduced to managing a bowling alley in Thailand before being dismissed altogether.
The reason for his dismissal was the disclosure of secret material… to the U.S. Congress. Eventually, he would be reinstated and, for the rest of his tenure in the Defense Department, he would be known as the “Most Hated Person in the Air Force.”
The C-5 Galaxy carries almost anything in the world but almost sunk Lockheed and the US Air Force.
Fitzgerald not only divulged the information to Congress, but he also testified before a Senate subcommittee on the subject of government waste, specifically targeting the C-5A program. He knew that just by testifying before the committee, he would be the subject of reprisals by his peers and his superiors. The program was years behind schedule and costing the government billions in its development. Lockheed, the civilian agency working on the program, even needed a bailout from the government to keep the C-5 program from taking the company down with it.
The expected reprisal was swift and harsh. Fitzgerald, a civil servant since 1965, lost his tenure, then lost his Pentagon position. He was transferred to managing chow halls and bowling alleys in Thailand before his job was eliminated completely. The entire process took less than a year and was approved by President Nixon himself.
“Get rid of that son of a b*tch.” – President Richard Nixon on Ernest Fitzgerald. No joke.
The C-5 Galaxy program was just the beginning for the man who preferred the term “truth teller” to “whistleblower.” His testimony to Congress was repaid in full by the Civil Service Commission when they forced the Pentagon to restore Fitzgerald. The man was shut out from oversight of weapons development, but secrets are hard to keep in the Pentagon. He continued to inform Congress about cost overruns and inefficiencies.
When Boeing overcharged the government for cruise missiles, Fitzgerald was there. When the Air Force paid 6.55 for plastic stool caps that cost 34 cents to produce, Fitzgerald told the world. He was even invited to show the American taxpayers on Late Night With David Letterman. Eventually, he was the go-to guy for whistleblowers in the Pentagon who wanted to leak info about fraud, waste, and abuse.
When Lt. Colonel Richard J. Shaw arrived in Vietnam, he had already proven himself a valorous Soldier by fighting the Germans in WWII, going toe-to-toe with the Chinese in Korea, and now he was looking to go up against the Viet Cong.
Once he had made it to the jungle, Shaw was assigned as an advisor to a Vietnamese regiment consisting of around 3,000 troops. Shaw had his work cut out for him — his troops were spread out across three different locations within his area of observation.
After getting embedded with his Vietnamese counterparts, Shaw adapted the local lifestyle and ate the indigenous foods. His daily diet consisted of three cold rice bowls, wrapped in leaves and served with some fried fish. He did this every day for 11 straight months… holy sh*t.
Nearly a year later, Shaw’s weight had dropped dramatically due to light diet and all the physical activity required by fighting the enemy. The determined colonel was eventually pulled out of the jungle by his superiors and sent back to the rear to “fatten him up.”
Before taking time off for R&R, Shaw had sent a letter home asking his wife to send him some popcorn. Soon enough, a railroad cart arrived at Da Nang, where he was currently stationed — the goods had arrived. Shaw divided the popcorn kernels up between the three regiments and had them shipped to his friendly counterparts to be enjoyed.
Before Shaw headed back home for some much-earned time off, he befriended one of the regimental commanders, Capt. Tang. Shaw saved him three smaller bags of popcorn so he could take it back and share it with his family.
Eventually, Shaw returned to his troops and was surprised to meet a pissed-off Capt. Tang.
Apparently, the regimental commander took the popcorn kernels home and boiled them in water instead of cooking them in oil. Shaw just laughed at what he heard from his counterpart, who was still fuming in anger.
On that day, Shaw taught the loyal captain the proper way of cooking popcorn. The event earned Shaw the nickname of “popcorn colonel.”
Later, Lt. Colonel Shaw returned home from his Vietnam deployment and retired from honorable service in 1968.
The mortar is an indirect fire weapon that rains freedom down from high angles onto an enemy within a (relatively) short range. But the compact and mobile mortar systems we have today are the result of a long history of indirect fire systems in the American military. Decades of effectively marking, lighting, and destroying targets has earned the mortar many friends — and many more enemies — on the battlefield. In short, a well-trained mortar team often means the difference between victory and defeat for infantry troops in contact.
When nature creates a successful apex predator, she rarely deviates from her original design. Warfare evolves in a similar fashion — the most successful systems are tweaked and perfected to guarantee effectiveness, preserving our way of life.
This is an ode to the mortar, and all of its beautifully complex inner-workings.
Preparation and Firing Stokes Mortars 1 Min 12 Sec
The mortar was born in the fires of conquest at the Siege of Constantinople in 1453. In that engagement, the new weapon proved just how effective firing explosives over short distances across an extremely high arc could be. Since that day, more than 500 years and countless wars ago, the general concept hasn’t changed.
One of the biggest evolutions in the mortar design was put forth by the British in World War I: the Stokes Mortar. It had 3 sections: a 51-inch tube, a base plate, and a bi-pod. This new type of mortar system fired twenty-two 10-pound pieces of ordinance a maximum of 1,000 yards. Mortars today still use the bi-pod and base-plate improvements that were first deployed in the trenches of the Western Front.
COMBAT FOOTAGE Marines in firefight beat Taliban ambush with 60mm Mortar Fire
A mortar crew consists of at least three members: the squad leader, gunner, and the assistant gunner. More members could be attached depending on manpower available.
The mortar system has a large tube closed at the the bottom and attached to a base plate. Within the barrel of the tube is a firing pin used to ignite a mortar shell’s primer. Some models have a moving firing pin that can be fired via a trigger mechanism.
The controlled explosion fills the chamber with gas and propels the shell out of the tube. A set of bi-pods add stability and allow on-the-fly adjustments. It can be fired from defilade (a fighting position that does not expose the crew to direct fire weapons) onto entrenched enemy not protected from overhead fire.
Sometimes referred to as a ‘bomb’, the shell and its components consist of the impact fuse, high explosive filler, a primary charge, fins, and augmenting charges. Illumination and smoke rounds differ depending on the model of the weapon system. Augmentation charges on the outside ‘neck’ near the fin can be added or removed to manipulate firing range as needed.
The gun is aimed, the round is half loaded until the ‘fire’ command is given and freedom rings.
Steel drizzle vs steel rain
The differences between artillery and mortars are night and day. Artillery fires on a horizontal trajectory, at faster speeds, and at longer ranges. The cost of these advantages are sacrificed in mobility.
Mortars, however, are light enough that they can be carried across difficult terrain and quickly assembled to take control of the battle space. Ammunition can be dispersed to individual troops to carry and then dropped off at the gun crew rally point.
Investigators with France’s Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety, who published their report in early April, found that once the man was in the air, he became so stressed by the ride that he pressed the ejector button in panic and was thrown from the aircraft, where he then parachuted down to the ground.
According to the investigation, the man, whose name has been withheld in the report, had no experience with military aircraft and had no interest in flying in a Dassault Rafale B jet before his company surprised him with the ride.
He was wearing a smartwatch at the time of the flight, which allowed investigators to record him having a heart rate between 136 to 142 beats per minute just before taking flight. A normal heart rate for an adult is between 60 and 100 beats per minute.
US Special Operations Command is weighing the use of nutritional supplements or even performance-enhancing drugs to push the abilities and endurance of its forces beyond current human limits, according to a report from Defense News.
While special-operations forces already have access to specialized resources, like dietitians and physical therapists, SOCOM is looking to increase their ability to tolerate pain, recover from injuries, and remain physically able in challenging environments.
“If there are … different ways of training, different ways of acquiring performance that are non-material, that’s preferred but in a lot of cases we’ve exhausted those areas,” Ben Chitty, the senior project manager for biomedical, human performance, and canine portfolios at US SOCOM’s Science and Technology office, told Defense News.
While Chitty said SOCOM was exploring nutritional supplements, other substances were in consideration as well.
“For performance enhancing drugs, we’ll have to look at the makeup and safety in consultation with our surgeon and the medical folks before making any decisions on it,” he told Defense News.
One goal of the research to develop what Defense News referred to as “super soldiers” would be to expand troops’ ability to operate in places not well suited for humans — high altitudes or underwater in particular.
While the evaluation process would emphasize safety — “We’re not cutting any corners,” Chitty said — any proposal to deploy pharmaceutical substances among special-operations troops is likely to draw scrutiny, especially in light of recent revelations about a what Capt. Jamie Sands, the commander of 900 Navy SEALs on the East Coast, called a “staggering” number of drug cases among Navy Special Operations units.
Three active and retired SEALs spoke to CBS in April, with their faces masked and voices disguised, telling the network that illicit drug use among SEAL units was increasing.
“People that we know of, that we hear about have tested positive for cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana, ecstasy,” one of them said.
Another active-duty SEAL described by the CBS report tested positive once in the past for cocaine, and, during a new round of testing prompted by a drug-related safety stand-down in December, tested positive againfor prescription drugs. He was being removed from SEAL teams.
While Navy SEALs are supposed to undergo regular drug tests, that doesn’t always apply when they are away from their home bases. As demand for SEALs in operations around the world has grown, they have spent an increasing amount of time deployed.
Three active-duty SEALs told CBS they hadn’t been tested in years. Sands, for his part, announced in December that SEALs would start undergoing tests while deployed.
While Chitty did not mention the frequency of operations — and the physical and emotional wear and tear related to it — as a reason for pursuing nutritional and pharmaceutical supplements, other special-operations officials have warned that their forces are being depleted by an overreliance on them.
“We’ve been operating at such a high [operational] tempo for the last decade plus, and with budgets going down, what we’ve had to do is essentially … eat our young, so to speak,” Theresa Whelan, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for special operations, said during a House Armed Services Committee session this month.
Special-operations commanders, while acknowledging the strain increased operations have put on their units, have emphasized that they are still capable of addressing threats emerging around the world. But, Whelan told Congress, constant readiness has had and will have consequences.
“We’ve mortgaged the future in order to facilitate current operations that has impacted readiness and it’s also impacted development of force for the future,” she said. “And as the threats grow, this is only going to get worse.”
Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin told a group of veteran advocates that he was cutting funding to a program that addresses veteran homelessness, according to a Dec. 6 report from Politico.
The conversation reportedly happened over the phone, with “advocates for veterans, state officials, and even officials from HUD” reacting to the news from Shulkin in outright anger.
The program, co-sponsored by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), allocates $460 million a year to housing homeless veterans. It seems to have been working, too, as veteran homelessness is down 46 percent from 2010.
Nevertheless, Shulkin determined that nearly $1 billion should be moved from “specific purpose” funds to “general purpose” funds. This means moving all of the funding used specifically to ameliorate veterans homelessness.
According to a Sept. 2 memo, the VA believes that money designated to specific programs, like addressing veteran homelessness, transplant programs, amputation care, and women’s health, would be better used in a general fund, leaving veterans hospitals to decide for themselves how to use the money. The memo states that the move is designed to support “the Secretary’s five priorities” and could be used for administrative things, like hiring more VA employees.
The memo does not state how each individual hospital must use its newfound funds. Rather, it simply notes that network directors will have control over how much (if any) to give to specific programs.
The Senate Committee on Appropriations responded to Shulkin’s plans to move the funds with a bipartisan, strongly worded letter signed by every member. In it, the committee reminded the Secretary of Veterans Affairs that his department had previously been extended the privilege of flexibility to move money without review because of its willingness to be transparent. That transparency, the letter argued, would all but disappear should Shulkin divert the specific purpose funds.
The letter closed with what seemed like a warning in the form of a suggestion: Stop, think, and before you do anything, submit to us a detailed “funding allocation plan” in the future.
It didn’t take long for Shulkin to shift gears and reverse his earlier statements. “There will be absolutely no change in the funding to support our homeless programs,” Shulkin wrote in a statement released Dec. 6.
However, Shulkin added, “we will not be shifting any homeless program money to the Choice program.” It is not immediately clear whether the Choice program is where Shulkin suggested the funds would go in his Dec. 1 phone call.
Upon further review of the VA’s budget brief, the department does, in fact, plan to cut funding from “certain Veterans’ benefit programs” to offset the cost of money borrowed from the nearly bankrupt Veterans Choice Program, a program designed to offer veterans medical care closer to where they reside.
The brief does not specify which programs will be cut.