MIGHTY TRENDING

The differences between America’s top special operators

The US military’s special operators are the most elite in the world.

Depending on the unit, special operators are charged with a variety of missions: counterterrorism, direct action (small raids and ambushes), unconventional warfare (supporting resistance against a government), hostage rescue and recovery, special reconnaissance (reconnaissance that avoids contact behind enemy lines), and more.

They’re also very secretive.

As such, it can be difficult to tell certain operators apart, especially since most units wear the standard fatigues within their military branch — and sometimes they don’t wear uniforms at all to disguise themselves.

So, we found out how to tell six of the most elite special operators apart.

Check them out below.


The yellow Ranger tab can be seen above.

(US Army photo)

1. Army Rangers.

The 75th Ranger Regiment “is the Army’s premier direct-action raid force,” according to the Rangers.

Consisting of four battalions, their “capabilities include conducting airborne and air assault operations, seizing key terrain such as airfields, destroying strategic facilities, and capturing or killing enemies of the nation.”

They wear the same fatigues as regular soldiers, but there’s some ways to distinguish them.

The first sign is the yellow Ranger tab on the shoulder (seen above), which they receive after graduating from Ranger school. But this tab alone does not mean they’re a member of the Army’s special operations regiment.

The black Ranger scroll can be seen on the left arm of the Ranger, right.

(75th Ranger Regiment documentation specialist)

Soldiers don’t actually become 75th Ranger Regiment special operators until they finish the eight-week Ranger Assessment and Selection Program.

After finishing the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program, they receive a tan beret and black Ranger scroll (seen on the Rangers left arm above) and are now official members of the 75th Ranger Regiment.

Read more about Ranger school here and Ranger Assessment and Selection Program here.

The Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command emblem.

2. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC).

Founded in February 2006, MARSOC operators are rather new.

Consisting of three battalions, MARSOC operators conduct “foreign internal defense, special reconnaissance, and direct action,” according to MARSOC.

Foreign internal defense means training and equipping foreign allied military forces against internal threats, such as terrorism.

MARSOC operators wear the same fatigues as Marine infantrymen, and therefore, the only way to tell them apart is the MARSOC emblem seen above, which is worn on their chest.

Unveiled in 2016, the emblem is an eagle clutching a knife.

You can read more about the emblem here.

A PJ patch can be seen on the operator’s shoulder.

(US Air Force photo)

3. Air Force Pararescue specialists (PJs).

PJs “rescue and recover downed aircrews from hostile or otherwise unreachable areas,” according to the Air Force.

Consisting of about 500 airmen, these “highly trained experts perform rescues in every type of terrain and partake in every part of the mission, from search and rescue, to combat support to providing emergency medical treatment, in order to ensure that every mission is a successful one.”

And there’s three ways to distinguish PJs from other airmen.

The first, is the PJ patch seen on the shoulder of the operator above.

(US Air Force photo)

(US Air Force photo)

The Army’s Special Forces only wear their green berets at military installations in the US.

(US Army photo)

To be clear, the US Army’s Special Forces are the only special forces. Rangers, PJs, MARSOC — these are special operators, not special forces.

The US Army’s Special Forces are known to the public as Green Berets — but they call themselves the quiet professionals.

Green Berets, which work in 12-man teams, can perform a variety of missions, including unconventional warfare, special reconnaissance, direct action, foreign internal defense, and more.

Like many operator units, they wear the same Army fatigues as regular soldiers (you can read more about the current and past Army uniforms here), but there are three ways in which you can distinguish them.

One, is the green beret seen above, which they only wear at military installations in the US, and never while deployed abroad.

(US Army photo)

The two patches below are the other ways to distinguish them.

The patch that reads “Special Forces,” known as the “Long Tab,” is given to operators after finishing the 61-week long Special Forces Qualification Course.

Green Berets also wear patches of a dagger going through lightning bolts, but the colors vary depending on the unit.

Read more about Army Special Forces here.

The SEAL trident is an indicator of Navy SEALs.

(US Navy photo)

5. Navy SEALs.

The Navy’s Sea, Air and Land Forces, or SEALs, were established by President John F. Kennedy in 1962.

Working in small, tightly knit units, SEAL missions vary from direct-action warfare, special reconnaissance, counterterrorism, and foreign-internal defense, according to the Navy.

SEALs also go through more than 12 months of initial training at Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL school and SEAL Qualification Training, as well as roughly 18 months of pre-deployment training.

And there are two ways to tell SEALs apart from other sailors.

The first is the SEAL trident seen above, which is an eagle clutching an anchor, trident, and pistol. The insignia is worn on the breast of their uniform.

Only SEALs and Special Warfare Combatant Craft Crewman wear the Type II Navy Working Uniform.

(US Navy photo)

The other is their uniforms.

Only SEALs and Special Warfare Combatant Craft Crewman wear the Type II Navy Working Uniform.

A Type II uniform is a “desert digital camouflage uniform of four colors … worn by Special Warfare Operators, sailors who support them, and select NECC units,” according to the Navy.

Delta Force operators in Afghanistan, their faces censored to protect their privacy.

(Courtesy of Dalton Fury.)

6. Delta Force.

The Army’s 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, or Delta Force, is perhaps the US military’s most secretive unit.

A United States Special Operations Command public affairs officer told Business Insider that they do not discuss Delta Force operators, despite providing information about other special operator units.

“We are very strict with our quiet professionalism,” a former Delta operator previously told We Are The Mighty. “If someone talks, you will probably be blacklisted.”

Formed in 1977, Delta operators perform a variety of missions, including counterterrorism (specifically to kill or capture high-value targets), direct action, hostage rescues, covert missions with the CIA, and more.

In general, Delta and SEAL Team 6 operators are the most highly trained operators in the US military.

Both units have the most sophisticated equipment and are highly trained in Close Quarters Combat (CQB), hostage rescue, high-value-target extraction, and other specialized operations. The difference is the extensive training SEALs receive in specialized maritime operations, given their naval heritage.

“Each unit has strengths and weaknesses, neither is better or worse,” the former Delta operator said.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to tell where US veteran served based on their medals

The US military has a host of awards and medals for its service members.

Some awards, like the Medal of Honor and the Silver and Bronze Star awards, are given to service members who display bravery in combat.

Others are given for serving in specific operations or even missions — these are known as campaign awards.

Depending on the medals a service member or veteran wears, it’s typically possible to determine which wars or regions of the world they have served in.

Scroll through to see campaign awards for operations and missions since the Korean War.


The National Defense Service Medal is automatically awarded to anyone who signs up to serve during wartime.

The medal awarded for support of Operation Inherent Resolve was authorized for service starting in 2014.

(Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Lyle Wilkie)

The ISIS fight

Service members who have supported Operation Inherent Resolve, the US mission in Syria to combat the Islamic State, are now eligible for a medal.

The medal was approved in 2016 — prior to that, service members who supported OIR were awarded the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary (GWOT-E) medal.

Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

Global war on terror

There are two different campaign awards for service in the US’s war against terror.

The GWOT Service medal is awarded to service members who serve in either a direct or indirect role in support of operations during the global war on terror, including personnel stateside who process paperwork for deployed troops.

The GWOT Expeditionary Medal, seen on the left, is more specific — service members must deploy for service in an anti-terrorism operation. Ground troops deployed to Somalia for over 30 days, for example, would qualify for this medal.

A service member who qualifies for the GWOT-E typically also qualifies for the service medal.

The Afghanistan Campaign Medal and the Global War on Terror Expeditionary medal are not authorized for the same period or action.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)

Afghanistan

The Afghanistan Campaign award is given to service members who complete at least 30 days in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The Iraq Campaign Medal.

(Army Institute of Heraldry)

Iraq

The Iraq Campaign Medal is awarded to service members who deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

For both the Afghanistan and Iraq campaign awards, service members are only eligible for one of each, regardless of how many times they deployed to the country.

Stars may be worn on the ribbons as indicators of participation in specific, designated missions during the operation.

The Antarctica Service Medal and ribbon are awarded to people who spend at least 30 consecutive days in the Antarctic or fly 15 missions into or out of the continent.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)

Antarctica

The Coast Guard and Navy have Arctic equivalents, which differ slightly but both reverse the color scheme of the Antarctic ribbon and medal, with black or dark blue in the center and white on the outer edges.

The Kosovo campaign medal was awarded to service members who served during the Kosovo Defense Campaign, which began in 1999.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. John Valceanu)

Kosovo

The NATO bombing campaign led to the retreat of Yugoslav forces from Kosovo. A peace-keeping force remains there to this day.

The Kuwaiti Liberation Medal, government of Kuwait.

Liberation of Kuwait

Depending on their specific mission and location, service members who participated in the liberation of Kuwait may have qualified for awards presented by the governments of Saudi Arabia or Kuwait.

The Kuwaiti Liberation Medal, government of Kuwait.

Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm

The government of Kuwait authorized US personnel to wear this award if they served in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in the early 1990s.

Southwest Asia Service Medal.

An arrangement of medals made during a military ceremony honoring Vietnam veterans.

(Photo by Jonathan Steffen)

Vietnam service

The Vietnam service ribbon has a yellow background with three red lines in the center and a green line on each side.

The award was given to service members who served in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, or air or water space in that region between 1965 and 1973.

Other medals depicted here are the Bronze Star, Army Commendation Medal, and Purple Heart.

Republic of Vietnam Campaign medal.

South Vietnam

This medal was awarded to service members who provided direct combat support to South Vietnam’s Armed Forces during the war.

Criteria included those who served for six months or more in South Vietnam or who were injured, captured, or killed in the line of duty.

The Republic of Korea Korean War Service Medal.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)

Korean war

The Republic of Korea Korean War Service Medal was authorized in 1999 to honor the sacrifices of Korean War veterans.

This award specifically designates veterans who served in the country of Korea during the war.

The Korean Defense Service Medal is awarded to any US service member who has served in the Republic of Korea after July 1954.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)

South Korea

Recognizing that the Korean War never ended, the Defense Department authorized the Korean Defense Service Medal for service members who deployed to or served in the Republic of Korea after July 1954.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Blue Angels cockpit video is terrifying and amazing

This cockpit video footage of Blue Angel 4 in the “slot” position shows F/A-18 Hornets flying INCHES from each other — even as they do advanced aerial acrobatics.

Oh, and it’s a 360 degree video, so you can get the full picture of what these maneuvers are like (minus the 8’s pulled during the demonstration).


The U.S. Navy Blue Angels showcase the pride and badassery of the United States Navy and Marine Corps. Each year, they perform more than 50 flight demonstrations at more than 25 air show sites.

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I was lucky enough to fly a JET-O (Jet Orientation) flight as a cadet in a T-37, and while my pilot was generous enough to take me on some thrilling barrel rolls (I did *not* throw up, thank you very much), that sortie was nothing compared to this aerial demonstration.

Anyone with VR sets can take this video to awesome heights, but even without, it’s pretty breathtaking.

Look at that precision. I’ve seen troops that can’t even walk in formation, let alone fly a supersonic jet three feet away from another supersonic jet.
(Photo by Dirk HansenFlickr)

Also read: This WWII ace scored kills from every Axis country — and the US

Blue Angels fly fighter aircraft that are maintained to near combat-ready status — except for the paint scheme and the removal of weapons. More specific modifications include the use of a specific smoke-oil for demonstrations and a more precise control stick.

“Precise” is the operative word here. Check out the video below to see for yourself — butt clenching begins around 2:10. You can drag your mouse or move your phone to look around.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea abruptly pulled out of DMZ liaison office

North Korea abruptly withdrew from a liaison office that allowed it to communicate with South Korea, marking a major setback to the ongoing peace talks between the historic rivals.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry announced Pyongyang’s decision on March 22, 2019, citing “instructions from the superior authority” in the North, The Associated Press (AP) reported.

The two countries set up the joint office in Kaesong, near the demilitarized zone (DMZ), after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in met for the first time April 2018.


North Korea’s withdrawal comes shortly after the US imposed fresh sanctions on Chinese companies that allegedly helped North Korea evade international sanctions.

In this image made from video provided by Korea Broadcasting System (KBS), South Korean President Moon Jae-in, left, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pose after signing documents in Pyongyang, North Korea Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018.

International sanctions have proven to be a sore point for North Korea.

Talks between Kim and President Donald Trump in Hanoi, Vietnam, abruptly broke down in February 2019 over disagreements over sanctions.

Trump said Kim had demanded a full relaxation of international sanctions on his country in exchange for only a few nuclear site closures.

But North Korea’s foreign minister, Ri Yong Ho, said Pyongyang had only asked for a partial — not full — lifting of sanctions. Ri added that North Korea offered to dismantle its primary nuclear facility and to permanently halt the testing of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles, but the US asked for more.

President Donald Trump meets North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Feb. 27, 2019, in Hanoi.

The North blames the South for strained relations with Trump

The site of the liaison office had been a symbol of the improving collaboration between the two Koreas, which technically remain at war.

North Korean media have been criticizing South Korea’s limited influence in improving US-North Korea relations since the failed Hanoi summit, NK News reported.

The state-run Meari news outlet said on March 22, 2019, according to NK News: “How can the South Korean authorities, which cannot do anything without the US’s approval and instruction, play the role of mediator and facilitator?”

Meari added that the Moon administration had not taken any “practical measures to fundamentally improve inter-Korean relations,” and is “walking on eggshells around its master, the US.”

Chad O’Carroll, the founder of NK News and chief executive of the Korea Risk Group, said that North Korea’s withdrawal also sent the message: “What’s the point of [inter-Korean] talks when sanctions prevent practical cooperation?”

‘Sad and unfortunate’

South Korea’s vice minister of unification, Chun Hae-sung, told reporters that the withdrawal was “sad and unfortunate,” and that Seoul will need time to figure out next steps, according to CNN.

“We regard such a withdrawal as very sad and unfortunate [and] we hope that the North will return shortly and hope that the liaison contact office will operate normally as soon as possible,” Chun said.

A statement by Seoul’s Unification Ministry also called the decision “regrettable,” but ensured that South Korea would continue staffing the office, the AP reported.

The two Koreas had been hoping to revive a joint industrial complex in Kaesong that combined the South’s capital and technical knowledge with the North’s cheap labor, the AP reported.

But a reopening would require the US to make exceptions on its stiff sanctions on Pyongyang because the factory is near the Korean DMZ.

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

popular

This is what we know about Area 51

Area 51 is a restricted site in Nevada with an almost cult-like mythology surrounding it. Some people claim it’s a standard military operation site, but others swear that it within its gated walls exists proof about extraterrestrial life.

Before we get into public knowledge, I want to throw in my thoughts on this. I was an intelligence officer in the Air Force and I maybe shouldn’t post this on the internet but my final assignment was in a place that rhymes with Rational Maturity Agency, and while the government definitely does some cool classified work there, I can say with high confidence that no one would be able to keep aliens a secret. At least not the kinds of aliens we tell stories about. Maybe Area 51 has some petri dishes of extraterrestrial amoebas…but I really doubt it.


What’s more likely is that the government tests advanced technology out in the desert. The flight pattern of an aircraft like the Harrier could totally be interpreted as a UFO at night.

As the video below states, “No doubt aircraft are still being secretly built and tested there today.”

You can check declassified documents to learn about what has been tested on site in the past. In fact, because of the Freedom Of Information Act, U.S. citizens have the right to request access to federal agency records; there are limitations, of course, but it’s a fun pastime to ask the “Rational Maturity Agency” for documents concerning things like aliens or Elvis or other conspiracies.

Check out this fascinating video to get a no-nonsense re-cap of what we know about Area 51 — then let me know what you think is going on out there!

Articles

Actor Joe Mantegna Is Pushing Hard For Veterans’ Issues On ‘Criminal Minds’


If not for a high draft number, Joe Mantegna might have chosen a career in the military instead of a forty-year career in entertainment. On Criminal Minds, Mantegna portrays David Rossi, an ex-FBI agent who was also once a Marine veteran of the Vietnam War. This aspect of his character is especially important to Mantegna, who comes from a military family and is very passionate about military and veterans’ issues.

Also Read: Bob Ross Was An Air Force Drill Instructor Before Becoming Television’s Most Beloved Painter 

In the video above, Mantegna talks about his experiences with the military and why veterans mean so much to him. He and freelance writer Danny Ramm also talk about how and why they decided to highlight the plight of homeless veterans in multiple episodes of one of the biggest shows on television.

The CBS procedural is the second highest rated drama on the network. In its tenth season, its ratings are actually rising. The Hollywood Reporter says it is “aging most gracefully” as one of the top ten shows of the Fall of 2014. Mantegna and Ramm decided to use Rossi’s background as a Vietnam veteran to highlight the struggles of homeless veterans.

The Department of Veteran’s Affairs estimates there more than 8,000 homeless veterans living on the streets of Los Angeles. This is the largest population in the United States. They struggle with substance abuse problems, post-traumatic stress, and many chronic health issues.

Two past episodes of Criminal Minds feature subplots about the man who was Rossi and Mantegna’s commanding officer in Vietnam, Harrison Scott, played by the late Meshach Taylor. On the show, Scott is a homeless veteran who transitions with help from the New Directions shelter in Los Angeles. Through Rossi, we get to know Scott, his issues, and the every day problems he and those like him face, living on the streets. Mantegna and Ramm also wanted to bring attention to the New Directions shelter.

New Directions was founded in 1992 to provide services to help these homeless veterans. These services include substance abuse treatment, counseling, education, job training and placement, and parenting classes. Veterans leave New Directions with a savings account, housing, a job, and most importantly, a sense of confidence in the future and a support system to see them through.

A third episode of Criminal Minds will air Wednesday, January 21st with another story about Harrison Scott. In this episode, Rossi discovers his friend has died. He flies to Los Angeles to make funeral arrangements and lay his friend to rest with the honor he deserves. It is also a tribute to actor Meshach Taylor, who died of cancer last year. The episode also feature two real-life three-star generals as well as real veterans instead of extras, with an emphasis on Vietnam-era vets.

Mantegna is also the national spokesman for the campaign to build the National Museum of the United States Army (museums for the Air Force, Marines, and Navy already exist).

Criminal Minds airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on CBS and can be watched at CBS.com.

NOW: The Crazy Time When Soldiers Stopped Fighting Each Other In WWI To Celebrate Christmas Together 

OR: How Jane Fonda Became The Most-Hated Woman Among Vietnam Veterans 

MIGHTY HISTORY

The little cruiser with a battleship’s guns

It first entered Navy service in February, 1895, with some doubters mocking its excessive armament while Americans hoped that its speed, steel, and guns would allow it to survive while outnumbered if under heavy attack. Instead, the small but mighty USS Olympia slaughtered an enemy fleet, bombarded shores, and escorted convoys during its 27-year career.


The USS Olympia, a fast cruiser with heavy armament.

(U.S. Navy)

In the late 1800s, the U.S. Navy wrestled with what the service should do and what ships it needed for the 1900s. The battle of the Merrimack and Monitor decisively proved that wooden ships were on their way out, but the rise of steel ships showed that the iron vessels made in earnest during and after the Civil War wouldn’t survive either.

Meanwhile, sails were the efficient and cheap method of propelling a ship, but it was clear that steam gave commanders more flexibility and more options in combat.

And the Navy needed ships to secure American shores even as a constrained budgets made ship-building tough. Some presidents were already looking at using the Navy for power projection as well.

So, the Navy had to decide whether it should have lots of cheap ships, lots of coastal defenses, steam or sail power, all while keeping power projection a feasible option.

USS OLYMPIA “The Ship”

www.youtube.com

The Navy figured out a plan address all the changes and requirements: A new fleet of steel vessels that relied on steam power but still had masts for sails for long voyages when the winds were favorable. Because the U.S. couldn’t spend as much on ship hulls as potential European attackers, each ship would be heavily armed and as fast as possible.

This resulted in cruisers that could hopefully run ahead of enemy fleets, pelting the lead of the enemy ship with shot after shot while staying out of range of the rest of the enemy fleet. (Video game players do this today against powerful enemies and call it, “kiting.”)

A jewel of this new fleet was C-6, an armored cruiser scheduled to first float in 1892 and commission a few years later. This ship would become the USS Olympia, named for the capital of America’s newest state at the time, Washington.

The USS Olympia in front of a column of cruisers circa 1900.

(Francis Christian Muller)

The Olympia fit all the qualifications of the new naval plan. It could steam at over 21 knots while most of its potential enemies topped out at 18. It had four 8-inch guns, two in a single turret forward and two in a turret aft. These big guns were the primary armament, but the ship also had ten 5-inch guns. A few years after launch, it also got Gatling guns and sidearms for potential boarding parties.

Some naval observers around the world critiqued the design, saying that it was either an overarmed cruiser or a too-tiny battleship. But these heavily armed cruisers were designed for their own mission, and they could outrun attackers while picking them off with their larger guns.

The defensive war Olympia was ostensibly designed for never came, though. Instead, it was sent to the Pacific where it became the flagship of Commodore George Dewey before the USS Maine, a larger and even better armed ship, blew up in Havana Harbor. While the explosion was later found to have likely been caused by an ammo handling accident or an overheated bulkhead that touched gunpowder stores, the U.S. blamed it on a Spanish attack at the time.

In response to the Maine’s destruction, Dewey and his squadron were sent to Manila Bay to attack the Spanish fleet there. The hope was that the ships, protected by steel and heavily armed, could rush past the guns of the Spanish coastal defenses and engage the Spanish fleet with the large guns.

The USS Olympia leads the attack against the Spanish fleet at the Battle of Manila.

(Murat Halstead, 1898)

Dewey sent his fleet towards the bay in two columns steaming behind the USS Olympia. Dewey was holding his fire until sunlight and reconnaissance revealed the enemy fleet, even though this allowed shore gunners to try to spot and hit the American ships in the darkness. A sudden fire on the revenue cutter exposed it, and a cruiser and the cutter were forced to return fire.

But the rest of the fleet held its fire until Dewey saw the fleet, crept in range, and got the angles right. Spanish rounds were raining against the steel hulls of the American ships, and gunners crouched behind the paltry armor and prayed for safety until Dewey, on the Olympia, calmly told the ship’s captain, “You may fire when ready, Mr. Gridley.”

The American fleet opened up and slaughtered the decrepit Spanish fleet, sinking all vessels and capturing the port in mere hours. America now owned the capital of the Philippines and would get the islands in the peace treaty that came later. Nine Americans had been wounded while the fleet had killed 161 Spanish fighters and wounded 210.

The Olympia and Dewey became famous, and the ship went on to serve in World War I as a convoy escort. And, in 1918, Olympia bombarded the shore during an amphibious assault at Murmansk in the Russian Civil War.

But the era of the Dreadnought had come, and in the years following World War I, it became clear that the Olympia was no longer enough ship to compete with enemy combatants. And America, flush with prestige after World War I and possessing overseas colonies from the Spanish-American War, had the money to build a larger, more powerful fleet.

In 1922, Olympia was decommissioned, and the hull was slated for the scrap heap, but activists pushed for the ship to be turned into a museum. It took decades of wrangling before Philadelphia donors got the money to return Olympia to the 1898 configuration and moored the ship in the city’s waterfront in 1958.

Since then, the ship has hosted visitors who wanted to walk the weathered boards of its deck or see the steam engines that made its speed possible. The Flagship Olympia Foundation is trying to raise the money necessary to dry dock and overhaul the ship. It’s already been on the water since 1892, and could have decades more in it after repairs.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Learn about the French Foreign Legion from an American enlistee

How many military branches make you surrender your passport, catalog everything you brought to the recruitment center and give you a new identity, all before you sign your enlistment contract?

That’s the French Foreign Legion and that’s exactly how it works… at least according to a Reddit user with the handle FFLGuy, who did an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit in 2011. On other responses on Reddit he mentions serving as “a former légionnaire in the Légion étrangère,” as the French saying goes.


For anyone unaware, the French Foreign Legion is a highly-trained, highly capable fighting force fighting for France – but is open to anyone from any nation. What makes serving in the unit unique is that after three years, members can apply for French citizenship. They are also immediately eligible for citizenship if wounded in combat, a provision known as “Français par le sang versé” – or “French by spilled blood.”

Also unique to the Legion is being able to serve under an assumed identity and then retain that identity after serving. While the Legion used to force everyone to use a pseudonym, these days, enlistees have a choice of identities, real or assumed.

For the first week of your enlistment, you sign contracts and wait to find out if Interpol has any outstanding warrants for you. Once selected, you go right to training in Aubagne, in the Cote-d’Azur region of Southern France. You are stripped of everything, as the Legion now provides you with everything you need.

You are now wearing a blue Legion track suit and are working all day long. Cleaning, painting and cooking are the primary preoccupations, but members are taken away for physical and psychological testing. Also, the hazing begins. While that may not fly in America, this is the Legion, and there’s a 80 percent attrition rate. When would-be Legionnaires give up, it’s called “going civil.”

After two weeks of this “rouge” (red) period, you’re whisked away by train to Castelnaudary, where trainees spend the bulk of their basic training time. In total, the training is four months. Three of it will be spent here. It is from here you transition from engagé volontaire (voluntary enlistee), to actual légionnaire. The groups are split up into four groups of 25-45 would-be légionnaires.

Castelnaudary is where the foreign légionnaires learn French, work out, train, ruck, learn to use weapons and basically all the rudimentary things infantrymen do while in the infantry.Once at Castelnaudary, getting out of the Legion is very difficult. They will find a way to make you stay, the author writes: “Trust me when I tell you that it isn’t a wise choice.”

“Hazing at this point is constant,” the author wrote. “There will be many nights without sleep, and many meals missed. You are never alone and are constantly watched for even the tiniest mistakes. The consequences for mistakes are severe and painful; physically, psychologically or both. The environment is initially set up to ensure failure. You are broken down individually – both mentally and physically – slowly being built back up with larger and larger successes as a group.”

Hazing includes food and sleep deprivation, physical abuse and the like. As the author writes, “If you made it through Castelnaudary without being hit at least once, you weren’t there. “

Ten percent of the group who make it to Castelnaudary will go civil before they earn the coveted Kepi Blanc. It’s when your ceremony for earning the Kepi Blanc is when you officially are a Légionnaire. But the training is not complete. For three more months, you go through basic infantry training.

Those that quit or are not chosen to continue their training are given back their possessions, passports, a small amount of money for every day spent working, and a train ticket to the city in which they entered the Legion. They also have to resume their old identity.

With their old identity in hand, they must return to their country of origin.

Articles

This is how the Special Forces turn North Carolina into Afghanistan

Welcome to Pineland, the fictional country made up of more than 20 North and South Carolina counties — including Alamance — that US Army Special Forces students will infiltrate to overthrow its oppressive government.


Students at the US Army’s John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, based out of Fort Bragg, and role-players will conduct training missions during the exercise, dubbed “Robin Sage,” such as controlled assaults, but also live, eat, and sleep in civilian areas, according to a Fort Bragg news release.

The Army notified local law enforcement agencies, said Randy Jones, spokesman for the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office. This is something the Army has done several times a year for many years,” Jones said.

Army photo by Sgt. Derek Kuhn, 40th Public Affairs Detachment

“We just know they’re in the area and how they’re flagged,” he said.

Students will wear civilian clothes only if instructors determine the situation warrants it and then will wear distinctive armbands, according to Fort Bragg, and training areas and vehicles used during exercises will be clearly labeled.

Service members from other units at Fort Bragg will support the exercise by acting as opposing forces and guerrilla freedom fighters — Pineland’s resistance movement. Civilian volunteers throughout the state also act as role-players.

Residents may hear blank gunfire and see occasional flares, according to the release. Controls are in place to ensure there is no risk to people or property.

A US solider treats a role-player while another watches for the use of proper procedures, during the Robin Sage exercise. Photo from public domain.

The Army has been conducting Robin Sage since 1974, but it has not always gone smoothly.

In August 2002 a Moore County deputy, who didn’t know Robin Sage troops were in his area, shot and killed one army trainee and wounded another. The soldiers, who were dressed in civilian clothes, were shot after they tried to disarm the deputy, who they thought also was part of the exercise.

US Army officials have since modified the exercises to make the public and law enforcement aware of what is happening, and to make sure troops know how to deal with civilians and civilian authorities.

Residents with concerns should contact local law enforcement officials, who can contact officials in charge of the exercise.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why Nazis dubbed these paratroopers ‘devils in baggy pants’

Few units receive their nicknames from their exploits in combat. Even fewer derive their moniker from what the enemy calls them. But for the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment that is exactly what happened in Italy in 1944.


The 504th first met the Germans in Sicily, along with the rest of the 82nd Airborne Division, during Operation Husky. It was there that the Germans and Italians first discovered that the American Paratrooper was a uniquely dangerous man.

The 504th next took part in the invasion of mainland Sicily.

Initial elements of the regiment to go into action were from the 3rd Battalion, who landed by sea with the Rangers at Maiori in the opening move of Operation Avalanche. Two days later the balance of the 3rd Battalion, along with the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment, were diverted to the Salerno beachhead itself when the situation there became tenuous.

The 504th patrolling Sicily in 1943.

As the situation continued to deteriorate, the remaining two battalions of the 504th conducted a jump into the collapsing perimeter, guided by flaming oil drums full of gasoline-soaked sand.

Resisting a strong German counterattack on the high ground near Altavilla, Col. Tucker, the regimental commander, exemplified the unit’s fighting spirit.

Facing the prospect of being overrun, Gen. Dawley, the VI Corps commander, called Tucker and told him to retreat. Tucker was having none of it and sternly replied “Retreat, Hell! Send me my other battalion!”

Joined by the 3rd Battalion, the 504th held the line and helped to save the beachhead. The 504th would fight on through Central Italy while the remainder of the division returned to England in preparation of the upcoming Normandy landings. The regiment was finally pulled back from the lines on Jan. 4, 1944 in anticipation of another parachute mission.

Their next mission would be part of Operation Shingle in late January 1944. This was another Allied amphibious assault on the Italian coast, this time at the port of Anzio, aimed at getting behind the formidable German defensive lines there were impeding progress from the south.

The 504th PIR at Anzio as part of Operation Shingle.

Initial planning had the 504th jumping ahead of the invasion force to seize the Anzio-Albano road near Aprilia. This plan was scrapped at the last minute as prior experience, and the likelihood of tipped-off Germans, said it was too risky. Instead the 504th, now a Regimental Combat Team, would land abreast the 3rd Infantry Division to the south of Anzio. The initial landing seemed to have caught the Germans completely off guard and the Allies went ashore nearly uncontested. The easy advance would not last long.

Soon the 504th found itself engaged all across the lines as its battalions were sent to augment other units. As German counterattacks looked to drive the Allies back into the sea, the casualties rose.

The 3rd Battalion found itself fighting alongside the British 1st Infantry Division in some of the heaviest fighting at Anzio. The paratroopers took a beating from the Germans but kept up the fight. Most companies could only muster the equivalent of an understrength platoon – some 20 to 30 men.

When a British general was captured by the Germans, H Company’s few remaining men drove forward to rescue him. They were promptly cut off. Seeing their brothers-in-arms in distress, the final sixteen men of I Company joined the fray and broke through to the trapped men.

Men of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment prepare to fire an 81mm mortar during the battle for Italy.

For their part in the heavy fighting of Feb. 8 – 12, the 3rd Battalion was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. The men of the 504th weren’t out of the fight yet, though. They continued to hold the line and harass the Germans.

The situation turned into one of static warfare with trenches, barbed wire, and minefields between the two sides. The paratroopers though were loath to fight a defensive battle and maintained a strong presence of patrols in their sector.

When the paratroopers found the journal of a German officer killed at Anzio, they knew their hard-charging, hard-fighting spirit had made a lasting impact on the Germans.

“American paratroopers – devils in baggy pants – are less than 100 meters from my outpost line. I can’t sleep at night; they pop up from nowhere and we never know when or how they will strike next. Seems like the black-hearted devils are everywhere…”

The baggy pants referred to the paratroopers’ uniforms, which differed greatly from the regular infantry whose pants were “straight legged.”

The men of the 504th were so enthralled with the German officer’s words that they christened themselves the Devils in Baggy Pants – a nickname they carry to this day.

The Devils in Baggy Pants would eventually be pulled off the line in Italy towards the end of March 1944. However, when they arrived in England to rejoin the 82nd Airborne Division for the jump into Normandy, they were saddened by the news. Due to the high level of casualties and insufficient replacements they would not be making the jump.

The Devils would next meet the Germans in Holland, then at the Bulge, before making it all the way to Berlin.

While digging in near Bra, soldiers of Company H of the 3rd Battalion, 504th, met SS troopers on reconnaissance. Several Germans were killed and one captured. Dec. 25, 1944.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Everyone is preparing for a devastating all-out war in Korea

As tensions rise to historic heights on the Korean Peninsula, both the U.S. and China have begun taking unprecedented steps to prepare for the worst-case scenario.


Across North Korea’s border in China’s Jilin province, state-run media ran a full-page instructional package on how to survive a nuclear blast. The page doesn’t mention North Korea, but it doesn’t need to.

Also new in Jilin are five new refugee camps built “because the situation on the China-North Korea border has intensified lately,” a leaked document seen by The New York Times said. The camps could accommodate thousands of North Koreans who might pour across the border in a time of war.

China not just worried about refugees

The Yalu River is a natural and political border between North Korea and China. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

But China’s preparations don’t just indicate a defensive, wait-and-see approach. China’s air force engaged in exercises along “routes and areas it has never flown before” earlier this month, with surveillance aircraft over the Yellow and East seas near the Korean Peninsula, according to the South China Morning Post.

“The timing of this high-profile announcement by the PLA is also a warning to Washington and Seoul not to provoke Pyongyang any further,” Li Jie, a military expert based in Beijing, told the Post, using the abbreviation for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.

In addition to flexing its military muscle against the U.S., China has been increasingly assertive in the South China Sea. It has also dispatched military spy planes to encircle Taiwan and provide up-to-date info, which the Macau-based military observer Antony Wong Dong told the Post was “very unusual.”

U.S. preparing to denuclearize North Korea, possibly by force

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and South Korean Minister of Defense Song Young-moo visit the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea during a visit to the Joint Security Area in South Korea, Oct. 27, 2017. (DoD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith.)

The U.S. appears resolutely determined to put the pressure on North Korea.

South Korean officials have been talking up a pause in military drills in hopes that it will lead to a peaceful Winter Olympics in February, but the U.S. has yet to agree to that pause.

Though December is normally rather quiet for military drills, the U.S. this month brought in a record number of stealth aircraft to train up on an air war against North Korea.

Immediately after the drill, which featured a marked increase in simulated bomb runs on North Korean targets, the U.S. and South Korea reportedly engaged in drills to infiltrate North Korea and neutralize its weapons of mass destruction.

Also Read: Mattis shows his ‘no worse enemy’ side in warning to North Korea

At a speech at the Atlantic Council last week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. was preparing plans to seize loose nuclear weapons, should North Korea somehow collapse or become unstable.

President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, also flatly rejected the clearest path to peace by saying the U.S. would never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea. He recommitted the U.S. to using force if necessary.

“We’re not committed to a peaceful resolution — we’re committed to a resolution,” McMaster told the BBC. “We have to be prepared, if necessary, to compel the denuclearization of North Korea without the cooperation of that regime.”

Maximum pressure

Soldiers from Bravo Company, 8th Brigade Engineer Battalion conduct a tactical road march during demolition training on July 9. The Army released an revised version of the Army Field Manual 3-0 Oct. 6, providing doctrine focused on large scale ground combat. The manual will help prepare the Army to transition from facing insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan to potential adversaries and nation-states like North Korea, Russia and China. (Army photo by Sgt. Patrick Eakin.)

The Trump administration’s approach to North Korea explicitly calls for every means of pressure to bear down on the country. Threats of war, military deployments, increased drills, stealthier and more lethal weapons systems, sanctions, and even a possible shipping blockade could become a daily fact of life for Pyongyang under Trump.

But North Korea is not the only one to have noticed the U.S.’s new approach. China has closely watched the U.S. ratchet up tensions along its border, and its recent military movements reflect a country that is considering all-out war a possibility.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Old Ironsides and Operation Torch: The Army’s 1st Armored Division

They’re the oldest and the most recognized armored division in the Army. The first division to see combat in Germany during WWII and the first mash-up of reconnaissance and cavalry units in all of Army history. Here’s everything you thought you knew but didn’t about America’s Tank Division.


Kentucky Wonders, Fire and Brimstone or Old Ironsides?

After the division was organized in 1940, commanding general Maj. Gen. Bruce Magruder was the division’s first commander. His friend, Gen. George Patton, had just named the 2nd Armored Division “Hell on Wheels,” and Magruder didn’t want to be left behind. So, he held a contest to find an appropriate nickname for the new division.

Over two hundred names were submitted, including “Kentucky Wonders” and “Fire and Brimstone.” Gen. Magruder hated all the names submitted and decided to take the weekend to find the best one. It just so happened he’d recently purchased a painting of the USS Constitution, whose nickname was, wait for it, Old Ironsides. It’s said that Magruder was impressed by the correlation between the Navy’s unwavering spirit during the war and his new division’s. It was then that he landed on the nickname Old Ironsides, and the name’s been the same ever since.

The first enemy contact was in North Africa, and it was rough.

Contrary to what many think, the Old Ironsides didn’t engage with the Germans as their first combat experience. Instead, they traveled to North Africa and participated in Operation Torch, part of the Allied Invasion.

Operation Torch was intended to draw Axis forces away from the Eastern Front and relieve pressure on the Soviet Union. It was a compromise between the US and British planners. The mission was planned as a pincer movement with the Old Ironsides landing on Morocco’s Atlantic coast. The primary objective for the Old Ironsides was to work toward securing bridgeheads for opening a second front to the rear of German and Italian forces. Allied soldiers experienced unexpected resistance from Vichy-French units, but the Old Ironsides helped suppress all resistance and were heading toward Tunisia within three days.

The invasion of Africa helped win the war

The invasion of North Africa accomplished a great deal for the Allies since American and British forces finally had the offensive against the Germans and Italians. For the first time, US and UK directives were able to dictate the tempo of events. Forced to fight on both the western and eastern fronts, the German-Italian forces had the additional burden of having to plan and prepare for attacks in North Africa.

However, the harsh conditions of North Africa were quick teachers for the new Old Ironsides soldiers. In February 1943, the Old Ironsides met a better trained German armored force at Kasserine Pass, and the division sustained heavy losses in both service members and equipment.

The division was forced to withdraw, but the Old Ironsides used their retreat time to review the battle and prepare for the next one. After three more months of hard fighting, the Allies claimed victory in North Africa.

The Old Ironsides were recognized publicly for their efforts and then moved to Naples to support Allied forces there.

The Infamous Winter Line Attack

As part of the 5th Army, the 1st Armored Division took part in the attack on the Winter Line in November 1943. Old Ironsides flanked Axis forces in the landings at Anzio and then participated in the liberation of Rome in June. The unit continued to serve in the Italian Campaign until German forces surrendered in May 1945. One month later, Old Ironsides was moved to Germany as part of the US occupation forces stationed there.

WWII to present 

In the drawdown after WWII, the 1st Armored Division was deactivated in 1946 but was then reactivated in 1951 at Fort Hood, where it was the first Army unit to field the new M48 Patton tank. Currently, the unit home is Fort Bliss, Texas, but it previously was housed at Baumholder, Germany. With the relocation, the unit went from roughly 9,000 soldiers to more than 34,000.

In 2019, the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team turned its smaller vehicles in for Abrams tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Celebrities and veterans teamed up to raise millions to fund mental healthcare for post-9/11 vets

On October 19, 2018, a crowd of over 700 guests gathered at Pier Sixty at Manhattan’s Chelsea Piers for one reason: to help provide mental healthcare to the men and women who fight for our freedoms. During their 6th annual gala, Headstrong, an organization that provides cost-free, stigma-free, and bureaucracy-free mental healthcare to post-9/11 military veterans, put on a fun-filled event — and raised over $2 million in the process.


Headstrong is making a huge impact on the veteran community.

“We have served over 750 veterans over 16,000 therapy sessions by 150 best-in-class clinicians in 23 cities across the country. All through private donations. Simply incredible,” said Army veteran and Headstrong Executive Director Joe Quinn.

During the event, three veterans seeking treatment through Headstrong, Amanda Burrill, Derek Coy and James Byler, opened up about their struggles and successes in finding effective mental healthcare. Their stories inspired the hundreds in attendance.

Left to Right: Joe Quinn, Executive Director of the Headstrong Project; Derek Coy; Amanda Burrill; James Byler

Despite the seriousness of the organization’s goals, the night wasn’t without a good dose of levity — after all, it was more than a fundraiser, it was a celebration. World War II veteran and former POW, Ewing Miller, was celebrating his 95th birthday — and he did so by being served cake by actor Jake Gyllenhaal and late night host Seth Meyers.

Left to Right: Seth Meyers, Host of ‘Late night with Seth Meyers’; Jake Gyllenhaal, Actor; Ewing Miller, WWII veteran; CNBC’s Kenny Polcari

Ewing Miller served from 1942 to 1945. On February 5, 1945, his aircraft was shot down — he was the sole survivor. He endured capture by the Germans until he was eventually freed by legendary military leader, General George S. Patton. Ewing earned several decorations during his time in service, including the Purple Heart, the Air Medal with two clusters, the POW Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, and the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign medal.

When the lights finally dimmed on the evening’s celebrations, Headstrong had raised over million, which will be used to directly improve the lives of many post-9/11 veterans that are struggling with mental health — and it’s a cause worth championing. Marine veteran and Founder of Headstrong, Zach Iscol, said,

“When you put goal-oriented veterans together with top mental healthcare providers, they get better. The panic attacks go away, the anxiety goes away, the anger goes away, the self-medicating goes away…they blossom,”

To learn more about Headstrong, their initiatives, and what you can do to support veteran mental healthcare, visit their website.