'Ask a Marine': The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters

When I frequented my Marine Corps recruiting office from 1999 until I enlisted in 2003, Staff Sgt. Molina used to welcome me with a familiar, “Ey devil,” and Staff Sgt. Ciccarreli would echo with “Eyyyyyyy.” Vintage recruiting posters were sprinkled among more modern propaganda. The message they consistently reinforced was that the Corps’ values—especially service above self—are timeless.

In one of the old posters, a strong, black Marine standing tall in his dress blue uniform with gold jump wings stared back at me. I couldn’t tell whether he was grinning or scowling—welcoming a potential recruit or warning me. Scrawled in bold typeface across the bottom third of the poster were the words “Ask a Marine.” My reaction was visceral. Where do I sign?


‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters

The iconic Marine recruitment ad campaign featuring Capers. He was the first black man to be featured in such a campaign.

The man in the poster was James Capers Jr., a now retired major whose 23-year career was defined by breaking barriers and blazing a path of excellence in the Marine Corps special operations community. Capers recently published “Faith Through the Storm: Memoirs of James Capers, Jr.,” and the book is a powerful portrait of an extraordinary life.

As the son of a sharecropper in South Carolina, Capers had to flee the Jim Crow South for Baltimore after his father committed some petty offense, which he feared might get him lynched. Capers describes his flight in the back of an old pickup driven by a white person as a sort of “Underground Railroad.” His trip to Baltimore is reminiscent of Frederick Douglass’ escape north because not much had changed for black people in the South since 1830.

We get a vivid picture of Capers’ early years and family life in Baltimore before he joins the Marine Corps. In the Marines, Capers finds an organization where men are judged by their actions, and he excels. He polishes his boots, cleans his weapons and learns what he can from the old salts, who mostly respect his effort. Early on, Capers commits himself to a standard of excellence that distinguishes him above his peers. That struggle is a consistent theme throughout his career.

When applying for special operations swim qualification, an instructor cites pseudo-science to explain that black people can’t swim. Capers has to beg to be let into the class. When a white student fails the test required to graduate, Capers pleads with the cadre to allow the student to swim it again. Then he swims with the Marine, motivating him to muster up the fortitude and faith in himself to pass.

At one point, Capers can’t find an apartment in Baltimore even though the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had recently passed and was promoted to end housing discrimination based on race. While assigned the temporary lowly duty of a barracks NCO, a white Marine flicks a cigarette butt at Capers—already trained as an elite Force Reconnaissance Marine—and tells him to pick it up. The slight weighs heavily on Capers until he tracks the Marine down and does something about it.

As Vietnam approaches, Capers is eager to get in the fight. A seasoned veteran of more than 10 years, he volunteers to return to special operations, and in the spring of 1966, he deploys with 3rd Force Reconnaissance Company.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters

Capers (bottom right) with his Marine Corps 3rd Force Reconnaissance Company in Vietnam.

The section about Capers’ Vietnam tour is harrowing and crushing. He survives and thrives as a warrior and leader through several months of brutal combat in the jungle. Eventually, he receives a battlefield commission to 2nd Lieutenant and becomes the first black officer in Marine special operations. By the heart-pounding final mission in Vietnam, I couldn’t help but feel like the book is a 400-page summary of action for a Medal of Honor.

Heart is the book’s central theme. Its most moving parts focus on overcoming adversity and heartbreak. In one chapter, Capers leads his men through two minefields to avoid the enemy. His inspiring leadership carries them through alive against all odds.

Characters frequently appear only briefly enough to become attached to before they die. Capers recalls fondly an old black first sergeant who had fought on Iwo Jima in World War II and saved Capers from some trouble. He dies in Vietnam.

In another scene, a Marine hollers a cadence on a medevac transport out of Vietnam to raise the spirits of wounded Marines who join the sing-song before the Marine dies somewhere along the way.

These wrenching memories reminded me of returning to the recruiting office after my first combat deployment and asking Staff Sgt. Alvarado whatever happened to Staff Sgt. Molina, whose son had fallen under my supervision when I was an assistant karate instructor before I enlisted. Alvarado’s eyes looked to the ground, “You didn’t hear?” I’d seen enough death on my deployment to suddenly know without having to be told, and a mental image of his cherub-faced child still tugs my heart because that kid had an especially wonderful dad.

The death surrounding Capers takes its toll on him, and though he is a hard charger and maybe the best Marine in Vietnam, he is not a machine. His pain is complicated. The book’s strength is in Capers’ brutal honesty about his emotional state, which deteriorates as the death toll mounts and the misuse of his recon team by new out-of-touch officers costs more than he can bear.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters

Retired Marine Corps Maj. James Capers II.

(Photo by Ethan E. Rocke)

This memoir may not break into the mainstream like a Matterhorn or Jarhead because it’s steeped in Marine culture that may not translate to readers outside of those bounds. It deserves a mini-series due to its dramatic story arc and relevance regarding the unique historical experience of a black U.S. Marine who is able to achieve in the Marine Corps what most likely would not have been accessible to him in the society of his time.

“Faith Through the Storm” should be required reading for Marine infantry officers. It’s the perfect book for The Commandant’s Professional Reading List. This book ultimately adds another dimension to one of the Corps’ most famous recruiting posters.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Thousands of Russian private contractors are fighting in Syria

Ivan Slyshkin was killed by a sniper in Syria at age 23, but his name won’t be found among the Russian Defense Ministry’s official casualties in the fight against Islamic State extremists.


That’s because he was one of thousands of Russians deployed to Syria by a shadowy, private military contractor known as Wagner, which the government doesn’t talk about.

Also Read: Ukrainian sniper killed, husband injured, in ambush

The St. Petersburg-based website Fontanka reported that about 3,000 Russians under contract to the Wagner group have fought in Syria since 2015. When Putin went to a Russian air base in Syria on Dec. 11 and told Russian troops that “you are coming back home with victory,” he did not mention the private contractors.

The Russian Defense Ministry has said 41 of its troops have died in Syria, but according to Fontanka, another 73 private contractors have been killed there.

Articles

It’s official — the US Air Force has no idea what it’s doing trying to retire the A-10

On Wednesday, the Government Accountability Office released a scathing report about the US Air Force’s half-baked plan to replace the A-10, essentially concluding that the Air Force had no good end game in sight.


“The Department of Defense (DOD) and Air Force do not have quality information on the full implications of A-10 divestment, including gaps that could be created by A-10 divestment and mitigation options,” the report from GAO, a nonpartisan entity, states.

The A-10, a relic of the Cold War-era, flies cheap, effective sorties and is well suited to most of the US’s current operations. But surprisingly, it’s not really the plane itself that’s indispensable to the Air Force — it’s the community.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
U.S. A-10s and F-16s take part in an Elephant Walk in South Korea | US Air Force photo

Ground forces know A-10 pilots as undisputed kings of close air support, which is especially useful in today’s combat zones where ground troops often don’t have an artillery presence on the ground.

But there are other planes for close air support when it comes down to it. The B-1 Lancer has superior loiter time and bomb capacity compared to the A-10, but it turns out, close air support is only one area where the A-10s excel.

The report finds that A-10 pilots undergo many times more close air support, search and rescue, and forward air control training than any other community of pilots in the force.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
GAO

While the Air Force seems determined to replace this community, and reallocate their resources elsewhere, the report finds that the cost estimates used to justify the retirement of the A-10 just don’t make the grade.

According to the GAO, “a reliable cost estimate is comprehensive, well-documented, accurate, and credible.”

The report finds that the Air Force’s cost estimates for replacing the A-10 are almost comprehensive, minimally documented, and just plain not credible.

Indeed we have seen some pivots on the Air Force’s official position on the A-10. At one point, they wanted to retire it stating that the F-35 would take over those capabilities, but then the Senate told them to prove it.

More recently, we heard that the Air Force wants to replace the A-10 with not one, but two new planes, one of which would be developed specifically for the role.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
US Air Force members troubleshoot an electronic error on an A-10 Thunderbolt II on April 25, 2007, on the flightline at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq. | US Air Force

What the GAO recommends, however, is that the Air Force come up with a better, more concrete plan to mitigate the losses in capability caused by the A-10’s mothballing.

Lawmakers were not shy about the relief the report brought to the complicated question. Perhaps the best testimony came from Congresswoman Martha McSally, a former A-10 pilot herself:

“Today’s report confirms what I’ve argued continuously — the Air Force’s flawed and shifting plan to prematurely retire the A-10 is dangerous and would put lives in danger… I’ve fought for and won full funding for our entire A-10 fleet and to make the retirement of any A-10 condition-based, not-time based.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

This Super Bowl salute to Pat Tillman will have you in tears

Just as the Super Bowl was about to kick off this Sunday, viewers were treated to an amazing commercial celebrating the 100th anniversary of the NFL. Last season, the NFL broke out its first 100 year celebration commercial which featured an astounding amount of NFL legends playing a black-tie version of “kill the man with the ball.”

This year, the NFL took it outside and showed a kid fielding a kick and running across several NFL stadiums and cities, juking and avoiding tacklers and getting encouragement from various NFL legends telling him to, “Take it to the House Kid!”


www.youtube.com

We see Jim Brown, Joe Montana, Christian McCaffrey, Drew Brees, Payton Manning, Jerry Rice, and Barry Sanders, among others, as the kid takes the ball and (in an amazing, cool, interactive moment) runs onto the live Super Bowl field to deliver the game ball to the referees.

But there is one part of the vignette which really tugs at the heartstrings. One of the many stadiums the kid runs by is in Phoenix. As he nears, he stops at the statue honoring the late Pat Tillman.

Tillman was a safety for the Arizona Cardinals who famously turned down a .6 million dollar contract shortly after 9/11, so he could serve in the military. He and his brother enlisted in the Army, and Tillman became an Army Ranger. After serving one tour in Iraq, Tillman deployed to Afghanistan, where he was killed on April 24, 2004, in a friendly fire incident.

The homage to Tillman is an emotional moment and an integral part of American history.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This Airborne sergeant major is a Vietnamese refugee

Full of fear and anxiety, a 10-year-old Vietnamese boy sailed across the South China Sea for 10 days, in 1986, with the expectation that a better life awaited him across the ocean.

In his mind, the only way he could live a full and prosperous life was by coming to the United States.

“If it was not for America, I probably would be dead long ago,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Thinh Huynh, the senior enlisted advisor of 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. “If I didn’t escape, my life wouldn’t be like this.”


Born in a small village in Southern Vietnam, Huynh and his siblings lived most of their youth in poverty fighting for survival daily.

“We were so poor that we used to watch people eat,” he said. “We were barely eating. We would eat only two or three times a week.”

While recalling the struggles he faced growing up during post-Vietnam War conditions, the infantryman relates to images of children suffering from chronic malnutrition.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters

Command Sgt. Maj. Thinh Huynh, the senior enlisted advisor of 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, prepares to conduct pre-jump training during Operation Devil Storm at Green Ramp, Fort Bragg, N.C., July 17, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Alleea Oliver)

“When I see those TV commercials where they show the kids that have bloated bellies, to me, that was how I grew up in Vietnam at that time,” he said.

Huynh believes the Vietnam War, along with other wars, determined the outcome of his family’s future. Before the war, they were rice farmers and after the war they were forced to share their harvest with the communists, he said.

“Not only that, but they took away our home,” he said.

It was then that his family decided to escape Vietnam in hopes of a better life. Packed like sardines in a tiny fishing boat, Huynh and his family sailed across the South China Sea.

“I looked at old slave-boat drawings and I would compare us to that,” he said. “We were all packed in tight with no space to spare.”

Being hungry, thirsty and tired for an extensive amount of time altered the other passengers’ character.

“When people think they are about to die, they will do just about anything to survive,” Huynh said. “This brought out some of the worse behavior from people that I ever witnessed.”

Huynh said he observed a lot of things that kids shouldn’t have seen. “I saw greed, fear and anger,” he said. “Some people were so greedy they would drink as much water as they could while the rest of us had about a shot glass per day.”

After ten days of sharing the small space with 86 others, they arrived at a refugee camp on Pulau Bidong Island. Huynh’s hope finally had became his reality.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters

Command Sgt. Maj. Thinh Huynh, the senior enlisted advisor of 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, holds a static line while conducting pre-jump training during Operation Devil Storm at Green Ramp, Fort Bragg, N.C., July 17, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Alleea Oliver)

“One of the happiest days of my life was the day I escaped out of Vietnam,” he said. “I didn’t know if I was going to make it or not, but I was happy and very excited.”

Huynh and his family lived in the camp for nearly two years before coming to the United States, where he learned how to read and write, and studied America’s culture.

On Sept. 28, 1989, Huynh and his family moved from the refugee camp to a small town in Iowa.

Being interested in the military throughout grade school, he chose to focus his first American homework project on the U.S. Army.

At the age of 22, Huynh joined the U.S. Army in 1996, but waited to tell his loved ones because of his fear of disappointing his mother.

“When I joined the Army, I didn’t tell my parents until two days before I went to basic,” he said.

“My mom was really upset, because I was in college at the time. Nobody wanted their kid to escape out of Vietnam and go through all that just to join the military. “

In spite of their fears, he believed there wasn’t anything better than serving the country he now calls home.

“Ever since I was in the refugee camp, I wanted to be a U.S soldier,” he said. “Every day I would say, I need to be in the Army. So that’s what I did. I joined the Army. I don’t have any regrets.”

Twenty one years and six combat deployments later, the paratrooper says he’s gained resilience, honor and a profound love for the United States.

Although he has led many soldiers, Huynh never predicted he would become a command sergeant major within the 82nd Airborne Division.

“I never had the goal of being a command sergeant major,” he said. “My goals were to always take care of my soldiers. Now that I’m a command sergeant major of an Airborne Infantry battalion in the 82nd, I’m enjoying every minute of it. It is such an honor to be in a unit that is filled with so much history, pride, tradition and some of the best soldiers and leaders in the Army.”

According to his youngest sister, Thanh Huynh, he always possessed the qualities and had the desire to be a soldier.

“The characteristics that helped him become a command sergeant major are leadership, loyalty, initiative and courageousness,” she said. “Growing up, that’s all he ever wanted to be.”

At a young age, he demonstrated selfless service by putting Thanh first in every situation. “When we would come across a river while going fishing, he would always make sure I got across safely by finding anything that would float because I can’t swim,” she said.

Huynh believes his experiences in Vietnam developed his gratitude toward the freedoms he has as a U.S. citizen.

“I would never take America, or the freedom I have here, for granted,” he said. “I know what it’s like growing up without freedom [and] fearing for your life on a daily basis.”

Nearly 30 years ago, Huynh left Vietnam and found a place he could call home.

“I realized once I set foot in this country, that this was now my country,” he said. “I was born in
Vietnam, but I escaped. America is now my country.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

With ISIS on the run, Iraqi guns turn toward each other

Nothing united Iraq’s Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds like the mortal threat posed by the Islamic State. But with the terrorist group now in full retreat on the battlefield, it didn’t take long for Iraq’s old sectarian animosities to resurface — presenting a major new headache for the Pentagon and the Trump administration.


With Islamic State now driven out of its major bastions in Iraq and Syria and on the verge of being wiped out as a military force in the Middle East, those deep-seated cleavages within the region are re-emerging in fresh rounds of political and sectarian infighting.

Washington’s remarkable feat of uniting lifelong enemies in the region into a military coalition formidable enough to defeat Islamic State in Iraq and Syria appears to be coming apart at the seams. Since September’s referendum by Iraqi Kurds — a vote aimed at charting a path toward an independent Kurdish state — US-backed forces in the fight against Islamic State have quickly turned their guns on one another.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
A Kurdish peshmerga soldier takes the lead during urban combat maneuvering training held near Irbil, Iraq, Oct. 29, 2015. Army photo by Spc. Tristan Bolden.

Iraqi government forces, backed by Shiite militias trained and equipped by elite troops from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, rapidly and violently recaptured critical territories in northern Iraq’s Kirkuk and Sinjar governorates this month.

Kurdish peshmerga, who claimed the contested territories after driving out Islamic State fighters in 2014, were quickly outgunned by Baghdad’s troops and the Iranian militias known as Popular Mobilization Units — which only months before had fought alongside the peshmerga in the battle for Islamic State’s Iraqi stronghold of Mosul.

Meanwhile, defense officials in the White House and the Pentagon continue to tout the cohesiveness of the anti-Islamic State coalition, brushing off concerns that the politically, ethnically, and religiously diverse factions will undermine efforts to build a united Iraq.

That rosy assessment, said one former US ambassador to the region, puts the coalition’s entire victory at risk.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson participates in the Saudi Arabia-Iraq Coordination Committee Meeting, along with Saudi King Salman and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, at the Saudi Royal Court in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on October 22, 2017. Photo from US State Department.

“The ISIS fight is over, and the new fight for the region is unwinding now,” former US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey said. With the fall of Mosul in July and the collapse of Islamic State’s self-styled capital of Raqqa this month in Syria, regional players are reverting to their sectarian loyalties in an attempt to secure their holds on power, he said.

“Nobody in Irbil is thinking of the ISIS threat [anymore]. No one in Baghdad is thinking about it,” said Mr. Jeffrey, now a distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “The US government has not gotten its head around that yet.”

Related: This is SecState’s plan to welcome Taliban into Afghan government

But remarks by Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson seem to indicate that mentality is shifting, at least among the US diplomatic corps. In his harshest rebuke yet of Iranian military influence in the coalition, Mr. Tillerson demanded that Tehran pull back its paramilitary forces from Iraq. “Certainly, Iranian militias that are in Iraq, now that the fight against Daesh and ISIS is coming to a close, those militias need to go home,” he said alongside Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir during a joint press conference in Doha.

“Any foreign fighters in Iraq need to go home and allow the Iraqi people to rebuild their lives with the help of their neighbors,” the top US diplomat said. Pentagon officials reiterated their faith in all members of the coalition days earlier, telling reporters that the US-led coalition remains as robust as it was since the early days of the war.

“The coalition is very strong. And again … I think the relationship is very strong,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White told reporters at the Defense Department on Oct. 20.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (left) and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. Photo from US State Department.

Referendum fallout

While underlying ethnic and sectarian tensions were a constant threat to unravel the US-backed coalition, Irbil’s decision to press ahead with its independence referendum vote was the trigger that brought tensions to the fore, Mr. Jeffrey said.

“I do not know what they were doing, but they missed this one,” he said regarding Irbil’s inability or unwillingness to anticipate the regional fallout from the referendum vote, which Iraq, Iran, Turkey and the United States all opposed.

The decision unleashed a new round of violence in northern Iraq over the past several weeks. The result was the Kurdistan Regional Government’s secession of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and handing over Sinjar to the Iranian-backed militias federalized by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi during the height of the war against Islamic State.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
Kurdish pershmerga soldiers securing an oil field in Kirkuk, Iraq. Photo from Voice Of America.

The referendum vote stirred decades-old conflicts suppressed during the Islamic State fight, a former top Iraqi diplomat said. The referendum vote in Iraqi Kurdistan and ensuing aftermath “is a clear example where the political leadership have not been able to resolve some of the core challenges they have been facing since 2003,” former Iraqi Ambassador to the US Lukman Faily said Oct. 23.

“Even if the government can find some solutions to these new crises, the underlying challenges in relation to political and social harmony requires much more soul searching by all stakeholders who instigated a needless referendum in which [Iraq] will feel its consequences for some time to come,” he said in a statement.

Outside players

Besides fueling internal strife, the referendum created openings for world powers aside from the US to expand their influence in the country. Baghdad’s reliance on the Shiite militias armed by the IRGC, which the Trump administration placed on the official list of recognized terrorist groups this month, has further cemented Tehran’s sphere of influence in the country.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Photo from CounterExtremism.com

“The US has been sidelined in this crisis, [and] that is a dangerous precedent,” Jennifer Cafarella, the senior intelligence planner at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War, told The Washington Times shortly after the recapture of Kirkuk by Iraqi forces.

“Mr. al-Abadi does get to claim this as a win,” Ms. Cafarella said, but she noted the armed support from Iran undermines the legitimacy of that victory in Kirkuk. “This was not a unilateral operation by Iran” in Kirkuk, but the thinly veiled presence of military advisers from Iran only shows Tehran’s reach into Iraq, she added at the time.

Tehran is not the only US adversary wading into the growing problem of Iraqi Kurdistan. On Oct. 23, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow would maintain economic and diplomatic ties with the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, but urged Irbil to continue dialogue with Baghdad.

Also Read: Iran commands a secret 25,000-man ‘foreign legion’ in Syria

“We understand the hopes of the Kurdish people as it concerns their striving to strengthen their identity, their self-awareness,” Mr. Lavrov told reporters during a joint briefing with Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jafari.

“However, we believe it is correct to realize those desires, those hopes exclusively via the Iraqi government and taking fully into account the significance the Kurdish question has on a regional scale, and taking into account the need to avoid additional sources of instability in the region,” he added, according to Reuters.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

However, analysts say Russia’s overtures and seeming support for Kurdistan’s referendum effort is Moscow’s attempt to fill the vacuum of support left behind by Washington. Moscow is reportedly attempting a similar effort to persuade US-backed forces in Syria to abandon their American patrons and side with Russia.

Turning support of American proxy fighters in Syria to Russia has always been part of Moscow’s regional strategy for the country, said Christopher Kozak, a research analyst specializing in Syria at the Institute for the Study of War.

“Russia’s role is to co-opt our US-[backed] forces on the ground” once Islamic State is defeated in Syria, Mr. Kozak said in a September interview. “They see the best option is to have some kind of regime rapprochement [with the SDF] and remove the US. That would be the best position from the Russian perspective.”

While it remains unclear what Moscow’s strategy for Iraqi Kurdistan may be, a robust Russian presence in northern Iraq coupled with its already formidable military presence in Syria, would give Moscow the opportunity to press its interests deeper into the Middle East as the US military posture in post-Islamic State Iraq begins to wane.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

NICS checks up 80% as Americans want guns

This month has been a great month to own a gun store. For many, it was black Friday every day of the week, just without the crazy deals. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, NICS background checks are up 80.4% compared to March 2019. NICS is the National Instant Criminal Background Check System and is maintained by the FBI for the purpose of background checks during gun sales. March 2020 has seen the highest volume of NICS checks for the month of March in over 21 years.

March 2020 saw 2,375,525 background checks. That’s over 76,000 a day. The raw NICS numbers are different from the NSSF numbers, but there is a valid reason why. The NSSF adjusts their number to exclude NICS checks used for concealed carry permits. This results in more accurate information for tracking gun sales.


With the end of March also being the end of the first quarter, the NSSF released the first-quarter NICS numbers that showed a 41.8 percent increase from the first quarter of March 2019. That’s a radical increase in background checks, and according to many retailers, a big chunk of these buyers are new gun owners.

This sharp increase in gun sales is evident that American’s want their guns. The more new owners we can welcome to the fold, the better chance we have at preserving our right to keep and bear arms.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters

Painting a Clearer Picture with NICS

It’s important to contextualize the NICS numbers and to understand they do not represent all gun sales. What makes the picture a little muddier is that multiple firearms can be purchased with a single NICS check. On top of that, 25 states allow people to skip background checks by having a permit of some type. These purchasers with a permit who purchase firearms do not contribute to the NICS numbers.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation provides monthly NICS numbers and tracks and accumulates the data yearly. The National Shooting Sports Foundation is the trade association for the firearms industry. Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports.

This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The spies who helped win the Revolutionary War

“I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”

So wrote 21-year old Nathan Hale before being hanged for espionage by the British on Sept. 22, 1776. Hale had originally been encouraged to join the revolution by an old Yale classmate, Benjamin Tallmadge.

Tallmadge and Hale had been close during their time at Yale and often exchanged letters. Three years after their graduation, Tallmadge wrote to Hale, newly an officer in the American forces, saying, “Was I in your condition, I think the more extensive service would be my choice. Our holy Religion, the honor of our God, a glorious country and a happy constitution is what we have to defend.”


Hale agreed with Tallmadge’s sentiment and soon accepted an assignment to do more than just fight–he would spy from behind enemy lines. Although Hale’s venture into espionage ended rather poorly, Tallmadge’s revolutionary feelings did not subside. Soon, he would find himself at the center of the American Revolution’s most important spy ring.

The Culper Ring, founded and supervised by Tallmadge, operated from late October in 1778 until the British evacuated New York in 1783. Although the ring was active for all five of these years, its most productive period was between 1778 and 1781.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters

Benjamin Tallmadge with his son, William.

After Tallmadge brought the ring together, it was led by Abraham Woodhull and Robert Townsend, codenamed “Samuel Culper, Sr.” and “Samuel Culper, Jr.” respectively. The codename “Culper” came straight from George Washington himself, a slight alteration of Culpeper County, Virginia where Washington had worked as a surveyor in his youth.

The ring was highly sophisticated, using methods still familiar today. Couriers, invisible ink. and dead drops were the norm. Some messages were hidden in plain sight, coded within newspaper advertisements and personal messages. Supposedly, one woman, Anna Strong, was even able to use the clothes she hung to dry to send messages to other members of the ring. Codes and ciphers were standard practice. These methods enabled agents to send Tallmadge apparently innocent letters. Tallmadge could pick out individual words to decode messages.

While Woodhull and Townsend ran the show, many agents, couriers, and sub-agents were also involved. Caleb Brewster, Austin Roe, Anna Strong and the still-unidentified ‘Agent 355’ all played vital roles. Other members included Hercules Mulligan and his slave Cato. Mulligan warned in January, 1779 of British plans to kidnap or kill senior American leaders including Washington himself. Cato delivered the vital message.

Other agents included Joseph Lawrence, Nathan Woodhull (Abraham’s cousin), Nathaniel Ruggles, William Robinson and James Rivington. So solid was the ring’s security that its very existence remained unconfirmed until the 20th century. Even Washington himself couldn’t identify every Culper agent. Its strict security preserved both the ring and the lives of individual members, boosting their confidence in themselves and each other.

The Culper Ring’s successes, what spies call coups, were many. They warned of a surprise attack on newly arrived French troops at Newport, Rhode Island. The forces, properly warned, were able to foil British plans to devastate their men while they recovered from their transatlantic voyage. The Culper spies uncovered British plans to destroy America’s nascent economy by forging huge amount of Continental dollars. Continental dollars were soon withdrawn from circulation, replaced with coins by 1783.

Without the Culper Ring, Washington may have fallen for a raiding operation meant to divide his forces. In 1779, General William Tryon raided three main ports of Connecticut, destroying homes, goods in storage, and a number of public buildings. Tryon was attempting to split off a portion of Washington’s forces to allow British forces to rout the Americans.

Washington did not ride out to meet Tryon. Instead, Tryon’s forces rampaged through civilian land and the general was criticized by both American rebels and those who supported the British as barbarous.

By far the Culper Ring’s most important coup was exposing General Benedict Arnold. Arnold, whose name has entered the American language as a metonym for treachery, was in contact with British spy Major John André and planned to surrender West Point to the British. The Culper Ring warned Tallmadge of a high-ranking American traitor, but lacked his identity. Tallmadge identified Arnold when André was captured and later hanged for his treason. Although Arnold escaped with his life, West Point remained safe from the British.

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Benedict Arnold in 1776

Abraham Woodhull’s sister Mary is sometimes credited with exposing Major André and thus Benedict Arnold. André (alias John Anderson) fled when he realized he was under suspicion. Unlike the Culper Ring’s, André’s security was lax. That cost André his life, Arnold his reputation, and ultimately helped cost the British Empire its American colony.

Stopped by three soldiers, André first tried to bribe them to let him go. Instead of taking the bribe, the soldier, now actively suspicious rather than idly curious, searched him and found incriminating papers. The letters proved conclusively that André was a British spy. The information contained in André’s letters was almost useless to the British; their commander General Clinton already had it. They were, however, extremely valuable to Tallmadge.

André’s captured messages were in Benedict Arnold’s handwriting, making it suddenly clear who was leaking high-level information. Arnold fled for his life, going to England, then Canada. After alienating a number of business partners in New Brunswick, Arnold returned to England. André was not so lucky to escape the American forces–he would make a useful reprisal for the hanging of Tallmadge’s dear friend, Nathan Hale. Caught dead to rights by the Culper Ring, André would soon be dead, period.

Hale had been hanged on Sept. 22, 1776 at the tender age of 21. He died bravely, with composure, courage and dignity. André faced the gallows equally bravely on Oct. 2, 1780. Before his death he received a visitor: Colonel Tallmadge.

The two spent part of their time together talking. At one point André asked Tallmadge whether his capture and Hale’s were similar. Tallmadge, remembering his dead friend and perhaps feeling guilty at encouraging him to take a more active revolutionary role, replied, “Yes, precisely similar, and similar shall be your fate…”.

The British evacuated New York in mid-August, 1783. On Nov. 16 of the same year, Washington himself visited to mark the seventh anniversary of the American retreat from Manhattan. While there he met someone to whom he and his new nation owed a personal and national debt: Culper agent Hercules Mulligan.

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

How to work out with your spouse (and not hate each other forever)

If you’re hoping to facilitate a healthy, loving, and lasting relationship, it’s a great idea to workout with your spouse! Also, if you’re hoping to ensure that you’re forever trapped in an endless Mobius strip of resentment, one-upmanship, and inventive new levels of searing joint pain, it’s a great idea to workout with your spouse! Yeah, exercising with your spouse can really go either way, sorry.

Be honest: You’ve seen couples working out together, and your reaction is generally either “Why don’t we do that?” or “Who in the ruddy blue hell has time for this GOOP new-age Pitbull-obsessed-$750-for-Athleta-pants-nonsense?” And both reactions are valid! Couples who work out together share a valid interest that carries the side benefit of helping to keep both parties alive, and Athleta is seriously expensive, guys. It’s black yoga pants, calm down.


But if you want to work out with your wife, how do you ensure you remain in that first group, and stay free of both workout-relationship struggles and tank tops that cost 5 because they feel sort of fluffy? Read on! (Erm, read on separately, as we’re about to drop some serious samurai-level psychological trickery that won’t work if your spouse knows about it. Unless they already read this and they are doing it to you. *makes mind blown motion* Anyway, it’s something to think about when you’re on the treadmill for 45 minutes.)

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(Photo by Tomasz Woźniak)

DO: make it a joint effort

If you’re going to do this, do it together. No dropping each other off at the gym and reconnecting in an hour after you’re all blasting quads or crushing jacks or pulverizing obliques or whatever. Work out a way that it’s a couples’ venture. You don’t have to make her watch you on the lat pulldown machine, and you don’t have to watch every minute of her kickboxing workout (although those are awesome), but if you’re in this together, be in it together.

DO: be supportive

There are going to be about a dozen exceedingly hot people in your field of vision. Remind your spouse that he/she is easily the hottest thing in the room, regardless of how long the 5’4″ yoga-pants model can do a plank, which will sometimes be like two minutes, those people are like magical ab-crunching elves.

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(Photo by Victor Freitas)

DO NOT: grunt

Unless you are performing a workout that involves Mjolnir, keep the volume down. Unless you are lifting more than 1,400 lbs. from a standing position, shut up. Unless your spouse is deeply turned on by you making the kind noises that would indicate you’re singing a Korn song, shut up. Also, if your spouse is turned on by Korn, find a new spouse.

DO NOT: Instagram

Under no circumstances should you:

  1. Scroll through Instagram workout models together
  2. Scroll through Instagram workout models separately
  3. Scroll through Instagram workout models in the other room after she goes to sleep
  4. Literally anything involving a peach emoji
  5. Honestly the whole thing is just bad news, those people are almost certainly emotionally bankrupt empty vessels whose primary joy comes from anonymous like numbers*, and the more you two focus on your thing the happier you will all be.

* Except the Rock and Chris Hemsworth, who are both great.

DO NOT: tell your partner to stop doing “vanity exercises”

Unless, that is you want to have a fight at the dumbbell rack. We all have our annoying tendencies. Just turn up the “Sweat Mix” in your AirPods and let them feel better about their show-off zones.

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(Photo by Stage 7 Photography)

DO: go running together

In addition to being a quality exercise that will make your heart work better in your 70s, running offers many fringe benefits, like being outside, spending time together, possibly exploring new trails or paths or beaches, pushing each other, and possibly even doing literally nothing other than quietly enjoying each other’s company. It also might hurt your knees and cause you to trip over roots in the forest, but it’s worth a shot.

DO: try out new classes together

Chances are pretty good your gym offers a bunch of classes featuring words that sound totally made-up, like “aerial fitness” and “black light yoga.” And they might be terrible ideas born because some 20-year-old intern came across a workout content farm online! But unless you’re training together for a marathon or an Olympic discus competition or to launch a workout-couples Instagram (DON’T), you’re probably there to get a little healthier and spend time together. So, pick one or three of the dumbest-sounding classes, and try them out (If you don’t want to hate one another immediately, avoid any class with “Boot Camp” in the title)

Worst-case scenario, you try something new and get a little better at pole dancing. Best-case scenario, you can make merciless fun of those idiots when you’re home later. See, you’re bonding already.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

Articles

Dogfighting in an F-35 is ‘like having a knife fight in a telephone booth’

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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MIGHTY MOVIES

Marvel facial hair debate is raging just in time for ‘Mustache March’

Robert Downey Jr. just threw down the (infinity) gauntlet in front of his Avengers co-stars. Downey tweeted a picture of himself in between photos of Mark Ruffalo and Chris Evans. All three have mustaches, and Downey has a simple question: Who wore it best?

Ruffalo has a not quite pencil-thin, John Watters-esque lip sweater, Evans looks like he just pulled you over for doing 60 in a 55, and Downey looks just like Marc Maron, as one user pointed out. (Maron agreed.)


Marvel fans are nothing if not passionate, whether they’re coming up with mind-blowing, credible, elaborate Endgame theories, building detailed Lego recreations of pivotal scenes, or indoctrinating the next generation of MCU fanatics.

That’s to say that there were some strong opinions, but thankfully our world isn’t so dumb (yet) that people actually took this seriously. The Great Marvel Mustache debate was classic fun Twitter, so there were also plenty of animated gifs, memes, and general internet weirdness in the replies.

Even Ruffalo himself got in on the action. He whipped up a collage of himself rocking various ‘stache styles over the years. Or maybe he already had it ready to go, we honestly can’t say for sure.

Chris Evans has, sadly not yet weighed in, but we’re hoping to hear from him soon. Until then, he definitely has his defenders.

There are, at last count, a bajillion characters in the Marvel movies, and plenty of folks felt emphatically that Downey’s trio did not include the true Marvel mustache champion.

For our money, there is a correct answer, and we weren’t alone in making this selection. Several users replied with photos of the right guy, so without further ado, the greatest mustache in the Marvel Cinematic Universe obviously belongs to…

Now that we’ve settled that, it’s back to waiting to Endgame to finally hit theaters on April 26, 2019

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This WWII veteran played a song for the sniper trying to kill him

Just two weeks after American forces landed at Normandy on D-Day, Jack Leroy Tueller, one of those Americans, was taking sniper fire with the rest of his unit. Tueller played the sniper a beautiful song from his trumpet.

He was orphaned at age five, but before World War II, Jack Tueller would play first-chair trumpet in the Brigham Young University orchestra. After going to war as a pilot, his trumpet skills would serve him well, along with at least one German soldier and both their families.

Jack Tueller served in the Army Air Forces in the European Theater, flying more than 100 combat missions in a P-47 Thunderbolt. He earned the Silver Star and the Distinguished Flying Cross, among others. After the war, he became a missilier in the newly-formed U.S. Air Force and would serve in Korea and Vietnam as well. But his most memorable military moment would always be a night in Normandy when the power of music risked — and saved — his life.

It was a dark, rainy night in Northern France when then-Capt. Tueller decided to play his trumpet for everyone within earshot. The only problem was that not everyone in the area would be very receptive to a song in the dead of night — especially not the sniper trying to shoot him dead.


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Capt. Jack Tueller in 1943.

That wasn’t about to deter a man like Tueller, who took his trumpet on every combat mission. If he was ever shot down, he wanted to use it to play songs in the POW camps.

Tueller had been grounded for the night. His unit already cleared most of the area of snipers, but there was one left. Tueller’s commander told him not to play that night because at least one sniper was still operating in the area. The sniper had a sound aimer, which meant he didn’t have to to see his target, only hear it.

But the pilot insisted. He needed a way to relieve his own stress. His commander told him, “it’s your funeral.”

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(WeDoitfortheLoveofMusic.com)

Jack Tueller thought to himself that the sniper, suddenly being on the losing end of World War II in Europe, was probably as scared and lonely as he was. And so he decided to play a German love song on the trumpet, Lili Marlene, and let the melody flow through Normandy’s apple orchards and into the European night.

The airman played the song all the way through and nothing happened.

Listen to Tueller, who would live on to be a Colonel in the Air Force after the war, play his version of the tune in the video below (58 seconds in).

The very next morning a U.S. Army Jeep leading a group of captured Wehrmacht soldiers approached Tueller and his cohorts. The military policemen told Capt. Tueller that one of the POWs, who was on their way to England, wanted to know who was playing the trumpet the night before.

The captured German, just 19 years old, burst into tears and into the song Tueller played the night before. In broken English, the man told Tueller he thought about his fiancée and his entire family when he heard his trumpet — and he couldn’t fire. It was the song he and his fiancée loved and sang together. The man stuck out his hand.

Captain Jack Tueller shook the hand of his captured enemy.

“He was no enemy,” Tueller says, looking back. “He was scared kid, like me. We were both doing what we were told to do. I had no hatred for him.”

Jack Tueller died in 2016 in his native state of Utah at age 95, still playing the same trumpet he carried on all of his World War II air sorties.

Articles

The US is considering ‘all options’ to stop North Korea

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made waves on Friday when he expressed his dissatisfaction with decades of failed diplomacy towards North Korea and mentioned that the US would consider “all options,” including military strikes.


To be fair, the US has always considered all options.

If any nation in the world threatens another, the US, with its global reach, considers a range of diplomatic, economic, and even kinetic options to shape the situation.

Related: Here’s what would happen in a war between North and South Korea

But defense experts say a military strike against North Korea is unlikely for a number of reasons.

“There is no plausible military option,” Jeffrey Lewis, founding publisher of Arms Control Wonk told Business Insider. “To remove the North Korean government is general war.”

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North Korea has a large amount of massive fixed guns trained on South Korea. | KCNA

Because North Korea has missiles hidden all across the country, there’s simply no way to quickly and cleanly remove the Kim regime from power or even neutralize the nuclear threat, according to Lewis.

“This is not a case where you’re striking a nuclear program in its early stages,” said Lewis, who noted that North Korea has been testing nuclear weapons for more than a decade. “The time to do a preemptive attack was like 20 years ago.”

Last month, North Korea tested a land-based nuclear-capable ballistic missile that could be launched off a tank-like truck in a matter of minutes. And though the country’s nuclear arsenal is still in its early phases, the country reportedly commands 100 missile launchers with several missiles for each.

Last September, the country tested a nuclear weapon some estimates suggest was more powerful than the bomb the US dropped on Hiroshima.

While North Korea’s nuclear threat has grown, according to Lewis, massive artillery installations hidden in the hills and trained on South Korea’s capital and most populous city, Seoul have long been a problem.

But artillery and shelling is nowhere near as destructive as nuclear weapons. If North Korean artillery fired on Seoul, South Korea would counter attack and suppress fire.

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KM-101 105mm artillery firing exercise of Republic of Korea Army 6th Division (ROK photo)

“It would kill a lot of people and be a humanitarian disaster,” Lewis said of a North Korean artillery strike on Seoul. “But that’s nothing like putting a nuclear weapon on Seoul, Busan, or Tokyo. North Korea’s ability to inflict damage has gone way up.”

As Tillerson accurately stated, diplomatic efforts to quash North Korea’s nuclear ambitions have failed for decades. The US’s patience has been understandably tried by the recent missile launches clearly intended as a saturation attack, where a large volume of missiles would overwhelm US and allied missile defenses.

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Stratfor

However, there is a way out. China recently floated a North Korean-backed proposal for the US to end their annual military drills with South Korea and, in return, North Korea would stop working on nukes. The US flat out rejected the offer, as they have in the past.

Related: How China could potentially stop a US strike on North Korea — without starting World War III

“The onus is on North Korea to take meaningful actions toward denuclearization and refrain from provocations,” Mark Toner, the acting spokesman for the State Department, said at a press briefing on Wednesday.

Toner suggested that comparing the US’s transparent, planned, defensive, and 40-year-old military drills in South Korea with North Korea’s 24 ballistic missile launches in 2016 was a case of “apples to oranges.”

North Korea’s position is “not crazy,” according to Lewis. There is a long history of serious military conflicts beginning under the pretense of military exercises, as Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia did.

“The reality is that the US forces are there, we say they’re there for an exercise, but you can’t take that as a promise, you have to treat it as an invasion,” said Lewis.

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Marines wait for the command to advance after rushing out of a Republic of Korea Marine amphibious assault vehicle March 31, 2014, during Ssang Yong 2014 at Dokseok-ri beach in Pohang, Republic of Korea. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Cedric R. Haller II

Instead, Lewis suggested that part of the purpose of the military exercises has always been to make sure the US and South Korea can capably execute their war plans, but the other purpose has always been political — to reassure South Korea.

Meanwhile, each year the Foal Eagle exercises, where the US and South Korea rehearse their war plan for conflict with North Korea, grow in size. Lewis said that reducing the exercises could go a long way towards calming down North Korea.

Related: New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult

If diplomacy and sanctions continue to fail, the consequences could be disastrous.

“North Korea wants an ICBM with a thermonuclear weapon. They’re not going to stop cause they get bored,” Lewis said.

The US and North Korea are currently locked in strategies to “maximize pain” on the other party, according to Lewis. The US holds massive drills in part to scare North Korea, while North Korea tests nukes to scare the west.

Without some form of cooperation between the two sides soon, diplomacy will continue to fail until it fails catastrophically. And that makes military confrontations, though unlikely, more viable every day.

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