'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.

Articles

Here’s what you need to know about China’s new light tank

China has long history of using light tanks – many of which have been discarded. Light tanks have become rarer as people have discovered that they need the same crew as a main battle tank, while offering said crew less protection.


China’s primary light tanks have been the Type 62 light tank and the Type 63 amphibious light tank. Both feature 85mm main guns (the Soviet/Russian T-34 used a main gun of this caliber as well), and each hold 47 rounds for that gun. But like many light tanks today, they are light in the protection department.

The Type 62 has about two inches of armor at most.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
Type 63 amphibious light tank. (Wikimedia Commons)

China has now pushed the light tank to the VT-5. This is a much more powerful system. It is centered on a 105mm rifled gun with up to 38 rounds. This gun is pretty much what was used on the early models of the M1 Abrams, and prior to that, on the M60 Patton main battle tanks. ArmyRecognition.com notes that this tank will weigh between 33 and 36 tons. Secondary armament is a 12.7mm heavy machine gun and a 40mm automatic grenade launcher.

The last light tank in United States service was the M551 Sheridan. This vehicle saw action in the Vietnam War, Operation Just Cause, and Desert Storm before being retired in the mid-1990s. Called the Buford by some sources, the Army had the XM8 Armored Gun System ready to roll out, but it was cancelled as well.

Today, the United States Army uses the M1128 Stryker Mobile Gun System. It has the same 105mm rifled gun as the VT-5, but only holds 18 rounds.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
Armor Soldiers assigned to 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, fire their Main Gun Systems (MGS) Stryker’s 105 mm main gun during a live fire range 28 March 2011, at Yakima Training Center, Wash. (U.S. Army photo)

Below, you can see video of the VT-5 as it is put through some live-fire paces in Inner Mongolia. A number of military attaches witnessed this performance. Did China build the light tank that units like the 82nd Airborne Division need?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQtH4L0LsDM
MIGHTY TRENDING

Reporter almost decapitated by a helicopter during a segment

A reporter with the Russian The Caucasus Post media outlet risked being decapitated while filming a news segment featuring some low-flying Mi-24 helicopters in anticipation of the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces.

The scene speaks for itself: you can clearly see the journalist presenting her report from the runway as several Hind gunships fly close to her. As many as 14 Mi-24s can be seen in the footage with the second one literally buzzing the journalist with the stub wing endplate missile pylon missing her head by a few inches…


Take a look:

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes of the week

Don’t let meme withdrawal happen to you. Check out these 13 gems from around the Facebooks:


1. Finally, a new soldier that won’t fall out of a run (via The Salty Soldier).

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
Wait, why can’t the dog do PT?

2. It’ll be alright, Eli (via Coast Guard Memes).

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
We’ll bring you back something nice.

SEE ALSO: That time a Navy squadron bombed North Vietnam with a toilet

3. When security forces get distracted:

(via Air Force Nation)

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
Seriously, your one job was keeping those planes safe.

4. Branch differences personified (via Pop Smoke).

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
But hey, that’s what the F-35 will do to you.

5. “I need two!”

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
If you had paid your protection money to the E-4 mafia, you wouldn’t be in this mess.

6. Play it cool (via Pop Smoke).

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
If sergeant sees you panicking, he’s going to realize what’s wrong. Act. Casual.

7. Wanna go run in the waves?

(via The Salty Soldier)

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
Nah. Wanna burn piss and sh-t?

8. When all of you work together …

(via Coast Guard Memes)

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
… maybe you can get a job done.

9. Battalion needs bodies for a working party (via Team Non-Rec).

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
The Hunger Games would be more exciting if it were all Marines.

10. “I just wanna thank my wife and kids. Without them, none of this would be possible.”

(via Team Non-Rec)

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

11. “Gotta break the plane, bro.”

(via Air Force Nation)

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
Don’t worry, the blue falcons get their comeuppance.

12. The only thing you need for a guaranteed safe airborne op:

(via The Fit Soldier).

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
The PT Belt actually collects solar energy to slow the soldier’s fall. Fact.

13. It’s like Hollywood doesn’t even know how to do a Google search (via Sh-t My LPO Says).

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
There are literally dozens of books and movies about SEALs that show the real uniform. Use any of them as a model.

popular

This is why Army officers aren’t allowed to carry umbrellas

The United States Military is full of bizarre rules that, at some point, probably served some obscure purpose before being ingrained in tradition. For example, you’re not allowed to keep your hands in your pockets. It all began because, apparently, putting your hands in your pockets “detracts from military smartness.” I don’t know about you, but in my lifetime, I’ve never equated pocketed hands with being aloof — but the rules are rules. Quit asking questions. But if you’re looking for an antiquated rule that’s really nonsensical, look no further than the (now) unwritten rule that states officers of the United States Army cannot carry an umbrella. 


It might not be an official regulation anymore, but all Army officers generally adhere to the rule regardless, for tradition’s sake.

 
‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
Soldiers on the other hand? Nah. We enjoy the rain.
(U.S. Army photo)

This was once a hard-standing regulation, put into effect under Army Regulation 670-1: Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia, Chapter 20-27: Umbrellas. The regulated stated,

“Females may carry and use an umbrella, only during inclement weather, when wearing the service (class A and B), dress, and mess uniforms. Umbrellas are not authorized in formations or when wearing field or utility uniforms.”

This rule forbade the use of umbrellas by male officers entirely, from the fresh-out-of-OCS second lieutenant all the way up to the Chief of Staff of the United States Army. As you can see, it didn’t stop female officers from carrying or using an umbrella, nor was it implemented for any other branch or applied to the Army’s enlisted. It affected male Army officers exclusively. The regulation wasn’t amended to allow for umbrellas until 2013.

It’s worth noting that the U.S. Air Force kept this regulation when it split from the Army in 1947, but in just 32 short years, they realized it was pointless and authorized their officers to carry and use umbrellas in 1979.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
I’ll give you a little hint. It has everything to do with this photograph here and who the back of that head belongs to.
(Imperial War Museum)
 

So, why was the rule put in place to begin with? It certainly wasn’t for appearances’ sake. In the rain, ribbons would sometimes start to bleed ink, which would potentially stain and ruin an officer’s otherwise pristine uniform. These stains were surely more unsightly than an officer holding an umbrella.

Furthermore, the regulation didn’t outright forbid officers from standing under an umbrella or having an enlisted soldier carry one for them – though most junior officers likely wouldn’t dare ask a salty NCO to shield them from the big, scary rain drops for fear of eternal mockery.

The regulation clearly says not to carry an umbrella, whether it was in use or not. In fact, holding a closed umbrella is what started all of this to begin with.

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

Leave it to one spineless politician to forever make umbrellas uncool.

To those who don’t recognize the men in the photo above, that’s disgraced British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain shaking hands with Adolf Hitler, infamously appeasing him just before his 1938 occupation of the Sudetenland, a region of today’s Czech Republic, despite his government’s clear promise to do everything in its power to protect Poland.

Chamberlain went behind his peoples’ and parliament’s backs in a deal that gave the Nazis the power they needed to arm a full-scale invasion of Poland, thus, in a way, kicking off World War II. When it turned out that the Nazis didn’t give a sh*t about peace treaties, Chamberlain again tried to appease Hitler in 1939. The invasion of Poland followed soon after.

Though Chamberlain’s actions may have been done with the best intentions for the UK, he will forever be seen as weak and enabling for them.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
(U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Henry Chan, 16th Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs, 21st Theater Sustainment Command)

To this day, umbrellas are highly discouraged, but that may just be a “we’re too cool for umbrellas” kind of mentality.

All things Neville Chamberlain have been tainted by his appeasement policy – including his signature style of always carrying a black umbrella and his hat in his hand. Just as Churchill was synonymous with his cigar and Lincoln with his stove pipe hat, Chamberlain was almost always seen with his umbrella.

Before the appeasement with Hitler, the umbrella was seen by the Britons as a symbol of endurance, as it allowed people to carry on despite the crummy weather the British Isles are known for. After the deal, it became a symbol of treachery.

Immediately, most of the British Military was discouraged from using umbrellas. They never implemented it as official policy for practical reasons – it’s the British Isles, after all. But the U.S. Army made their anti-Chamberlain stance into an actual regulation.

Guess that’s what happens when you stand by and give Hitler time to start a world war.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A new executive order will improve mental health resources for vets

Jan. 9, President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order titled, “Supporting Our Veterans During Their Transition From Uniformed Service to Civilian Life.” This executive order directs the Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security to develop a plan to ensure that all new Veterans receive mental health care for at least one year following their separation from service.


The three departments will work together and develop a joint action plan to ensure that the 60 percent of new Veterans who currently do not qualify for enrollment in health care — primarily due to lack of verified service connection related to the medical issue at hand — will receive treatment and access to services for mental health care for one year following their separation from service.

“As service members transition to Veteran status, they face higher risk of suicide and mental health difficulties,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. David Shulkin. “During this critical phase, many transitioning service members may not qualify for enrollment in health care. The focus of this executive order is to coordinate federal assets to close that gap.”

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. David Shulkin (right). (DoD Photo by Megan Garcia)

The Department of Defense, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security will work to expand mental health programs and other resources to new Veterans to the year following departure from uniformed service, including eliminating prior time limits and:

  • Expanding peer community outreach and group sessions in the VA whole health initiative from 18 whole health flagship facilities to all facilities. Whole health includes wellness and establishing individual health goals.
  • Extending the Department of Defense’s “Be There Peer Support Call and Outreach Center” services to provide peer support for Veterans in the year following separation from the uniformed service.
  • Expanding the Department of Defense’s Military One Source, which offers resources to active duty members, to include services to separating service members to one year beyond service separation.

“We look forward to continuing our partnership with the VA to ensure Veterans who have served our country continue to receive the important mental health care and services they need and deserve,” said Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis.

Also Read: This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans

“The Department of Homeland Security is where many Veterans find a second opportunity to serve their country — nearly 28 percent of our workforce has served in the armed forces, in addition to the 49,000 active duty members of the United States Coast Guard,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen.

“This critically important executive order will provide our service members with the support they need as they transition to civilian life. These dedicated men and women have put their lives on the line to protect our nation and our American way of life, and we owe them a debt we can never repay. We look forward to working with the VA and DOD to implement the President’s EO,” said Secretary Nielsen.

“In signing this executive order, President Trump has provided clear guidance to further ensure our Veterans and their families know that we are focusing on ways to improve their ability to move forward and achieve their goals in life after service,” said Secretary Shulkin.

 

(U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs | YouTube)
Articles

17 reasons why the M1 Abrams tank is still king of the battlefield

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
US Air Force photo by Tech Sgt John Houghton


Since first coming into service in 1980, the M1 Abrams tank has become a staple of US ground forces. The 67-ton behemoth has since made a name for itself as an incredibly tough, powerful tool that has successfully transitioned from a Cold War-era blunt instrument to a tactical modern weapon.

Also read: The US Army is testing a faster and more lethal variant of the Abrams tank

In the slides below, find out how the M1 Abrams became, and remains, the king of the battlefield.

Here is one of the first M1 Abrams in 1979. The Abrams entered service in 1980, but didn’t see heavy combat until Desert Storm in 1991.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
DoD photo by Eddie McCrossan

The Abrams was the first tank to incorporate British-developed Chobham composite armor, which includes ceramics and is incredibly dense.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
Ultimate Factories/National Geographic Television And Film

Despite the British-designed armor, the Abrams tanks were made in Ohio and Michigan.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
Ultimate Factories/National Geographic Television And Film

Source: GlobalSecurity.org

The Abrams is highly mobile, with a top speed of more than 40 mph and an impressive zero-turn radius.

via GIPHY

Source: Federation of American Scientists

Also, in special conditions like loose sand, dirt, or packed snow, the Abrams can actually drift.

via GIPHY

The M1 Abrams sports a 120 mm smooth-bore cannon capable of firing a variety of rounds.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
US Army photo by Maj. Adam Weece

Like with any armored unit, their success depends partly on the hardware and partly on the crew. Here, a loader expertly queues up a round capable of melting through an enemy tank’s armor.

via GIPHY

Source: YouTube

In addition to the main cannon, the Abrams sports a M2H Browning .50-caliber machine gun, a staple of the US military since World War II. In some cases, the guns can be remotely fired.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Cody Haas

The M1 Abrams is just plain tough. Watch it roll over a car bomb without even closing the hatch. This would tear a lesser tank to shreds.

via GIPHY

Source: YouTube

The US as well as Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Australia use the Abrams as their main battle tank.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
US Army photo by Sgt. Marcus Fichtl, 2nd ABCT PAO, 4th Inf. Div.

When the Abrams finally saw combat in 1991, it impressed operators with it’s effective rounds and virtual invulnerability to Iraqi tank fire. No Abrams was destroyed by Iraqi tank fire during the Persian Gulf War.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
PHC D. W. HOLMES II, US Navy

Source: US General Accounting Office

In fact, the only Abrams lost during the Persian Gulf War were destroyed by friendly fire, sometimes on purpose so they couldn’t be reclaimed by Iraqi forces.

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

The Abrams benefited from having superior range and night-vision abilities compared to their Soviet-made counterparts.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
Ultimate Factories/National Geographic Television And Film

During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Abrams became involved in urban warfare while clearing cities. Urban warfare is the worst situation for tanks, as their range is limited by buildings and they can be attacked from above, where their armor is weakest.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
US Army, Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon II

Source: USA Today

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

Source: USA Today

In his book “Heavy Metal: A Tank Company’s Battle to Baghdad” Maj. Jason Conroy reports a lopsided victory where an Abrams unit destroyed seven Soviet-made T-72 tanks at point-blank range with no losses on the US side.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
M1 Abrams tanks conduct a live fire range day. | U.S. Army photo

Today, the Abrams remains the US’s main battle tank, one of the most successful tanks of all time, and the king of the battlefield.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Justin T. Updegraff

Articles

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 16 edition)

Standby for news on our mark: three, two, one . . . news!


Now: Watch civilians mangle the official title of the Afghanistan War

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army Special Forces accused of lowering standards to meet quotas

The Army’s Special Warfare Center and School has launched an investigation into an anonymous email that accused its leaders of “moral cowardice” for ditching training standards and allowing undeserving soldiers to become members of elite Green Beret teams.


The sharply critical message was sent earlier this week to a wide swath of the Army’s Special Forces community. The nearly 6,300-word message declared that the school’s senior officers and enlisted leaders are primarily interested in advancing their careers by meeting demands for greater numbers of Green Berets and enforcing “political agendas.”

Maj. Gen. Kurt Sonntag, commanding general of the school located at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on Nov. 30 defended the process for selecting Green Berets and rejected a number of the claims in the email. He said he stands firmly behind the “quality of every soldier we are sending to the operational force,” in a statement delivered to “men and women” of the Special Warfare Center and School.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
U.S. Army Special Forces prepare to load a MH-60 Black Hawk after fast roping onto a target, during the Special Forces Advanced Reconnaissance, Target Analysis, and Exploitation Techniques Course, John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School on Fort Bragg, N.C., Aug. 28, 2012. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Justin P. Morelli)

Sonntag also said comments in the email “warrant further evaluation” and that is being done through “formal inquiries and a number of existing institutional forums.” He wasn’t more specific, however.

The anonymous email said the push to hit unrealistic quotas has led to a “dangerously less capable” force as dozens of flawed Green Beret candidates are nonetheless graduated. The message said instructors who’ve sought to hold students accountable for their academic, physical, and character performance have been instead muzzled or punished.

Also read: This Green Beret lived in a cave before receiving the Medal of Honor

But Sonntag denied that instructors have been sidelined. He said the school is consistently told its graduates “are well-trained, physically fit, and ready to join their teams from day one.”

Each of the five active-duty Special Forces groups consists of roughly 1,400 troops. The groups’ primary fighting units are 12-man “A Teams” that are led by captains.

The email also asserts that the officers and enlisted leaders in charge of Green Beret training want to enhance their prospects for promotion by ensuring female candidates are capable of completing the punishing qualification course. Women, the author said, should be outraged by the implication they need preferential treatment.

“The cruelty of the situation is that any woman with the fortitude to attempt this training would most definitely have wanted the standards to remain the same,” according to the message. “It is a point of pride to know you are every bit as capable as the best of the best, if you can do it. But they have been robbed of the ability to earn that achievement.”

Read Also: This classified American special ops unit has been recruiting females for decades

The author of the email is identified only as “A concerned Green Beret.” But the amount of detail in the message — the names of some Green Beret candidates are listed — suggested the author is a current or very recent instructor in the Special Forces qualification course.

The person who wrote the message aimed to be unknown. A copy of the message obtained by The Associated Press shows it was sent through ProtonMail, a secure service based in Switzerland that assures users their data is protected by strict Swiss privacy laws.

Green Beret units have been at the forefront in the fight against terrorist groups since the Sept. 11 attacks and their success has led Republican and Democratic administrations to conclude more of them would be better. So they’ve grown in size, putting pressure on the Special Warfare Center and School to turn out enough graduates to keep the ranks full.

But that’s triggered concerns quality is being sacrificed for quantity. A retired Green Beret officer who still works for the U.S. government used a sports analogy to make the point. No matter how popular Division 1 college football becomes, he said, there’s a finite number of people capable of playing at that level. The same holds for Special Forces. The former officer wasn’t authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
Green Berets, assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group-Airborne, exit the water during a beach infiltration training exercise, part of Combat Diver Requalification, in Key West, Fla., Jan. 20, 2016. (U.S. Army Photo)

The author of the message said the grueling Green Beret qualification course has been watered down so much that candidates are almost assured of graduation once they’re selected to go through the yearlong program.

“After passing a 19-ish day selection process, there are no physical barriers to earning the coveted Green Beret,” according to the message. “These all were standards for EVERY Green Beret in modern history prior to this month. To say that standards have not been eliminated would be laughable, were it not so tragic.”

But Sonntag said no fundamental standard for assessing future Green Berets has been removed or adjusted even as the qualification course has modified multiple times since the Sept. 11 attacks. And he said the training remains among the most difficult in the U.S. military. So far in 2017, 541 soldiers have completed the Green Beret qualification course out of more than 2,000 who sought to be selected for the program.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This timeline shows how the Niger operation went down

An attack in Niger that left four American Green Berets and five Nigerien soldiers dead earlier this month has sparked a nationwide debate over how the Trump administration has handled the incident.


During a condolence call with Myeshia Johnson, the widow of one of the men who was killed, President Donald Trump reportedly told her that her husband “knew what he signed up for.” Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson of Florida, a friend of Johnson’s family who listened to the call on speakerphone, called Trump’s remarks “insensitive.”

Also read: This is the general demanding answers for the families of the soldiers who died in Niger

In response, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly called Wilson an “empty barrel,” and said he was appalled that the congresswoman shared what she heard on that call. Trump fired off several tweets calling Wilson “wacky” and disagreeing with the widow’s impression of the call.

As the feuding continued, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford held a press conference at the Pentagon on Monday addressing reports that the Trump administration was withholding information about what really happened in Niger.

Here’s what we know about how the attack unfolded, according to Dunford’s timeline:

October 3: A reconnaissance mission

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
A U.S. Army Special Forces weapons sergeant observes as a Nigerien soldier bounds forward while practicing buddy team movement drills during Exercise Flintlock 2017 in Diffa, Niger, March 11, 2017. Flintlock is a Special Operations Forces exercise geared toward building interoperability between African and western partner nations. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Zayid Ballesteros)

Dunford said 12 members of the US Special Operations Task Force joined 30 Nigerien forces on a reconnaissance mission from Niamey, Niger’s capital city, to an area near the remote village of Tongo Tongo.

October 4: The day of the attack

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
Tongo Tongo in Niger. (image Google Maps)

US soldiers and the Nigerien troops met with local leaders to try to gather intelligence information, Dunford said. Some of the soldiers stayed behind to guard their vehicles, a US defense official told CNN.

As the meeting came to a close, the soldiers became suspicious when the village leadership started stalling and delaying their departure.

When US troops started walking back to their vehicles mid-morning, they were attacked by approximately 50 militants. Dunford said the enemy was likely from an ISIS-affiliated group of local tribal fighters.

The militants fired on the US-Nigerien patrol team with small arms, machine guns, and rocket-propelled grenades. This apparently caught the Americans and Nigeriens by surprise.

One hour later: US troops request reinforcements

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
A French Mirage fighter aircraft drops flares as it performs a high-speed pass during the French live fire demonstration near Arta Plage, Djibouti, Jan. 14, 2017. The Mirage and other fighter aircraft use flares as a countermeasure against incoming heat-seeking missiles. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by: Staff Sgt. Christian Jadot)

An hour into the firefight, the American soldiers asked for support to thwart the attack.

Dunford said a drone arrived overhead “within minutes,” although it was only sent to gather intelligence. French Mirage fighter jets capable of striking enemy targets arrived at the scene “within an hour.”

Later that afternoon, French attack helicopters arrived along with a Nigerien quick reaction force as well.

Sgt. La David Johnson was somehow separated from the rest of his unit. US military officials were not able to explain how or when exactly that happened.

“This [attack] was sophisticated,” an intelligence official told ABC News. “Our guys not only got hit hard, but got hit in-depth.”

Responding to questions about why the US troops didn’t request reinforcements sooner, Dunford said he wouldn’t judge why it took them an hour to ask for backup.

“I’ve been in these situations myself where you’re confronted with enemy contact, [and] your initial assessment is you can deal with that contact with the resources that you have,” he said. “At some point in the firefight, they concluded they then needed support, and so they called for additional support.”

That night: US soldiers evacuated

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Members of the 82nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron and French military board a French SA-330 Puma helicopter during air-to-water qualification training near Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, Oct. 17, 2013. The U.S. and French members conducted this operation to enhance communication and build a stronger relationship to ensure Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa members are continually ready to support military operations in East Africa to defeat violent extremist organizations.

French military Super Puma helicopters evacuated US soldiers who were wounded during the firefight to Niamey.

Three soldiers killed in action were also evacuated: Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright. One soldier, Sgt. Johnson, was still missing.

October 6: Johnson’s body is finally discovered

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Sergeant La David Johnson and three other soldiers were killed in action in Niger on Oct. 4, 2017.

Dunford said US officials continue to investigate how Johnson separated from the team and why it took 36 hours to recover his body.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis, meanwhile, has insisted that Johnson was not “left behind.”

“The US military does not leave our troops behind, and I would just ask you not question the actions of the troops who were caught in the firefight and question whether or not they did everything they could in order to bring everyone out at once,” he said.

An intelligence official told ABC News that Johnson’s locator beacon was giving unclear reports, and he seemed to be moving.

“Johnson’s equipment might have been taken,” the official said. “From what we now know, it didn’t seem like he was kidnapped and killed. He was somehow physically removed from where the combat took place.”

That same day, the Pentagon identified the three other soldiers who were killed.

October 7: Johnson’s body is returned to Dover Air Force Base in Maryland

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Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright (left), Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson (center), and Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black. Photos from US Army.

October 16: Trump first addresses the incident publicly

During a press conference at the White House, CNN asked Trump why it took so long for him to come out with a statement about what happened in Niger.

“If you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls,” Trump responded. “A lot of them didn’t make calls. I like to call when it’s appropriate.”

Obama administration officials pushed back hard on that claim, calling it false.

That exchange was the first time Trump addressed the Niger ambush publicly.

Tuesday, October 17 to Monday, October 23: The condolence call controversy

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Trump, Kelly, and Wilson exchanged barbs last week, disagreeing over what the president said during his condolence call with Myeshia Johnson, Sgt. Johnson’s widow.

The Gold Star widow broke her silence on Monday, saying that Trump had trouble remembering her husband’s name and told her that “he knew what he signed up for.” Johnson said she cried after she got off the phone.

After the interview aired, Trump tweeted, “I had a very respectful conversation with the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, and spoke his name from beginning, without hesitation!”

“If my husband is out here fighting for our country, and he risked his life for our country, why can’t you remember his name? That’s what made me upset and cry even more,” she told “Good Morning America.”

October 23: Dunford outlines key details in the attack

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Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks with reporters about recent military operations in Niger Oct. 23, 2017, at the Pentagon. DoD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley

In a 45-minute briefing on Monday, Dunford acknowledged that many looming questions about the attack are still unanswered.

Questions he’s hoping the military’s investigation can uncover include:

  1. “Did the mission of US forces change during the operation?”
  2. “Did our forces have adequate intelligence, equipment and training?”
  3. “Was there a pre-mission assessment of the threat in the area accurate?”
  4. “How did US forces become separated during the engagement, specifically Sgt. Johnson?”
  5. “And why did they take time to find and recover Sgt. Johnson?”

“These are all fair questions that the investigation is designed to identify,” he said.

(Featured image: Nigerian army soldiers shoot targets under 60mm illumination mortar rounds as a part of Exercise Flintlock 2017 in Diffa, Niger, March 9, 2017. Department of Defense photo.)

Articles

Vietnam War troops hated the M16 and called it a piece of garbage

Vietnam War troops hated the M16 and dubbed it the “Mattel 16” because it felt more like a toy than a battle rifle.


“We called it the Mattel 16 because it was made of plastic,” said Marine veteran Jim Wodecki in the video below. “At that time it was a piece of garbage.”

It weighed about half as much as the AK-47 Kalashnikov and fired a smaller bullet – the 5.56 mm round. In short, the troops didn’t have faith in the rifle’s stopping power.

Related: This is what happens when the rules of engagement are loosened

Compounding the M16’s troubles was its lack of a proper cleaning kit. It was supposed to be so advanced that it would never jam, so the manufacturer didn’t feel it needed to make them. But the M16 did jam.

“We hated it,” said Marine veteran John Culbertson. “Because if it got any grime or corruption or dirt in it, which you always get in any rifle out in the field, it’s going to malfunction.”

The troops started using cleaning kits from other weapons to unjam their rifles.

“The shells ruptured in the chambers and the only way to get the shell out was to put a cleaning rod in it,” said Wodecki. “So you can imagine in a firefight trying to clean your weapon after two or three rounds. It was a nightmare for Marines at the time.

Towards the end of 1965, journalists picked up on mounting reports of gross malfunctions. The American public became outraged over stories of troops dying face down in the mud because their rifles failed to fire, according to a story published by the Small Arms Review.

Thankfully, the reports did not fall on deaf ears. The manufacturer fixed the jamming problems and issued cleaning kits. The new and improved rifle became the M16A1.

This video features Vietnam Marines recounting their first-hand troubles with the M16:

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Articles

P-47 Thunderbolt versus P-51 Mustang: Which legend wins?

The P-47 Thunderbolt and the P-51 Mustang fought side-by-side with the Allies in World War II. They even divided the job of kicking Axis ass between them by the end of the war. The Mustang became known as an escort fighter, while the Thunderbolt took more of a role as a fighter-bomber.


That said, how would they have fared in a head-to-head fight? It might not be as fantastical as everyone thinks.

The Nazis captured several P-51s during World War II, usually by repairing planes that crash-landed. They also captured some P-47s. This means there was a chance (albeit small) that a P-47 and P-51 could have ended up fighting each other.

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The P-51 and P-47 sit side-by-side. (Photo by Alan Wilson via WikiMedia Commons)

Each plane has its strengths and weaknesses, of course. The P-51 had long range (especially with drop tanks), and its six M2 .50-caliber machine guns could take down just about any opposing fighter.

In fact, the P-51 was credited with 4,950 air-to-air kills in the European theater alone. During the Korean War, the P-51 also proved to be a decent ground-attack plane.

That said, the secret to the P-51’s success, the Rolls Royce Merlin engine, was also, in a sense, the plane’s greatest weakness. The liquid-cooled engine was far more vulnerable to damage; furthermore the P-51 itself was also somewhat fragile.

By contrast, the P-47 Thunderbolt was known for being very tough. In one sense, it was the A-10 of World War II, being able to carry a good payload, take a lot of damage, and make it home (it even shares its name with the A-10 Thunderbolt II).

In one incident on June 26, 1943, a P-47 flown by Robert S. Johnson was hit by hundreds of rounds of German fire, and still returned home. The P-47 carried eight M2 .50-caliber machine guns, arguably the most powerful armament on an American single-engine fighter.

The “Jug” shot down over 3700 enemy aircraft during World War II, proving itself a capable dogfighter.

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P-47 P-51 — Flying Legends 2012 — Duxford (Photo by Airwolfhound)

Which plane would come out on top in a dogfight? The P-51’s superior speed, range, and maneuverability might help in a dogfight, but the P-47 survived hits from weapons far more powerful than the M2 Browning — notably the 20mm and 30mm cannon on German fighters like the FW-190 or Me-109.

What is most likely to happen is that the P-51 would empty its guns into the P-47, but fail to score a fatal hit.

Worse, a mistake by the P-51 pilot would put it in the sights of the P-47’s guns, and the Mustang would likely be unable to survive that pounding.

All in all, we love ’em both, but we’d put money down on the Thunderbolt.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Marines wonder what to do next in the Middle East

In 2017, small American advisory elements here in Northern Iraq were operating at battle tempo as they mentored and assisted Iraqi units in a pitched fight to reclaim the city of Mosul from ISIS control.


That fight was won decisively, with an official Iraqi declaration of victory in Mosul in July 2017. And to further cement the advantage, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared complete victory over ISIS in Iraq on Dec. 9, 2017, just days before a Military.com visit to the country.

Among the Marine advisory units remaining at Al Asad and Al Taqaddum air bases in Anbar province, there is the satisfaction that comes with a mission accomplished.

But for some, victory brings its own unease: As the Marines endeavor to work themselves out of a job in Iraq, what lies beyond the current mission remains unclear.

When Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller paid visits to Al Asad, Al Taqaddum and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad during a December tour of deployed units, his tone was congratulatory.

“You’re part of history now, because you were in Iraq when ISIS was defeated, tactically,” he said. ” … You have been catastrophically successful. The way this thing has turned in the last year is pretty epic. So, you should be proud of what you’ve done and what you’ve contributed to.”

Neller’s parting words to the Marines amounted to an order to hold down the fort for the duration of the deployment.

“You will not get blown up. You will not get attacked. No one will let anyone come in here who is a bad person and do anything to anybody … Do your job, until the wheels of that airplane leave the ground to take you home,” he said.

Drawing down

While pockets of ISIS fighters remain in Iraq and military advisers continue to pay attention to the Syrian border and work to prevent more extremists from entering the country, planners are already discussing how and when to bring home the Marine elements deployed in support of the fight.

These discussions dovetail with those ongoing at the joint level and in diplomatic channels.

The Associated Press reported Feb. 5 2018, citing a senior Iraqi official close to al-Abadi, that an agreement with U.S. leaders stipulated 60 percent of troops in Iraq will come home, while about 4,000 will remain in an advisory capacity amid ongoing efforts to eradicate remaining ISIS elements and restore security.

Also read: Why some Marines in combat zones don’t get Combat Action Ribbons

Decisions regarding individual units can be made and executed rapidly, as was seen in late November 2017, when officials with the joint task force overseeing the fight against ISIS announced that a Marine artillery unit deployed to Syria would be coming home early. A replacement unit, which had already conducted specialized training ahead of a planned deployment, was told to stay put stateside.

In Iraq, the first Marine Corps element to leave will likely be the additional security presence at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, roughly 150 Marines who have been sourced from the Corps’ crisis response task force for the Middle East since 2015. During his tour, Neller told Marines he looked forward to bringing that contingent home soon.

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James Mattis, then a Marine general, speaks to Marines in Iraq. (USMC photo)

“I think we’re close,” Col. Christopher Gideons, commander of Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Central Command, told Military.com during a December interview in Baghdad.

While pulling the extra Marine Corps element out of Baghdad would signal improved confidence in the local security situation, Gideons pointed out that the embassy could be reinforced again within hours if conditions change.

“It’s not like if we pull the Marines out of there, we’re leaving the embassy, and State Department personnel, alone and unafraid,” he said. “That’s an hour-and-a-half flight from [an undisclosed task force hub in the Middle East] to here.”

Decisions about how and when to redeploy contingents of several hundred Marines at Al Taqaddum and Al Asad will likely be made in spring 2018. In addition to security elements at each base sourced from the crisis response force, the Marines maintain smaller colonel-led advisory elements in each location: Task Force Spartan at Al Taqaddum, and Task Force Lion at Al Asad.

Related: How the Marines ripped through the Iraqis in Operation Desert Storm

For the Marine Corps, the smallest and most junior in rank of the services, the cost of providing these senior advisory units is not insignificant.

“You all came from units, and nobody came to your unit and replaced you when you left,” Neller told the troops at Al Taqaddum. “I’m sure they’d love to get you back. I’m anxious to get you back too. But I also don’t want to do something that would be so risky that it would cause you to risk all the success you’ve gained.”

Decision-forcing point

In an interview with Military.com, Neller pointed to the Iraqi parliamentary elections as a possible decision-forcing point. Whether or not al-Abadi is re-elected, Iraqi leadership will then be best positioned to express what support they would like from the United States going forward.

“You’ve got two colonels … at Al Taqaddum and Al Asad, people slated to come in to replace both of them, what are they going to do?” Neller said. “So this happened pretty fast; so we’ll give everyone some time to figure it out.”

While Neller said the two elements represented a very senior capability for what has rapidly become a sustainment mission, he also expressed concern that a hasty decision based on ISIS’ apparent defeat could lead to instability.

“Right now, we’re sitting, kind of adjusting and let the situation kind of settle,” he said. “Because it’s not settled; It’s settling … the [ISIS] caliphate is technically gone, but there’s still other things moving.”

A new focus

For the Marines’ crisis response task force in the Middle East, which operates across a half-dozen countries, the turn the fight against ISIS has taken could mean an opportunity to focus majority efforts on non-combat operations for the first time in the unit’s history.

Created in late 2014 in the wake of the 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, the unit was designed to be a multi-purpose 911 force custom-built for the region.

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters
(image via Marines)

The unit wasn’t built specifically for the fight against ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria. But it was tasked with supporting Operation Inherent Resolve immediately. For its entire existence, the anti-ISIS fight has been the unit’s central focus.

Gideons, the task force commander, said roughly 500 Marines from the task force continued to operate in Iraq and Syria in support of efforts to defeat ISIS as of late December.

“But we still have a responsibility, day in and day out, to be a theater-wide crisis response force,” he said. “So I think it’s this juncture of, ‘OK, we’ve got a lot of capability in the [task force], let’s support OIR.’ But OIR is drawing down, do we want to keep that there … or take those things that we pushed into Iraq and Syria, make [the unit] kind of whole again and ready to respond across the region?”

There’s no lack of regional hot spots to vie for the unit’s time. Regions that may present missions for the task force, Gideons suggested, include Afghanistan, where U.S. troops advise local forces battling ISIS and the Taliban; Yemen, where Iran-backed Houthi rebels have attempted missile attacks on American ships; and the adjacent Bab el Mandeb strait, a key transit choke point between Yemen and the Horn of Africa.

“It’s an interesting crossroads,” he said. “There’s a tremendous amount of capability.”

Whether the unit will stay the same size in the transition process remains to be seen.

Read more: “Severe Clear” is the Iraqi War through the eyes of frontline Marines

Neller told Marines forward-deployed to Norway that he’d like to “pull back” from the Middle East slightly in favor of concentrating more manpower and resources on Russia and Europe.

The Marines’ 2,300-strong crisis response force, equipped with half a squadron each of MV-22 Ospreys and C-130 Hercules aircraft, is designed to be scalable, able to grow or shrink based on regional combatant commanders’ requirements.

But Gideons said he didn’t anticipate any change to the size of the unit in the near future.

“Just at my level, I think we’re probably about right; there’s an element of right-size,” he said.

Tasting victory

As senior leaders negotiate the way forward, Marines on the ground continue to ponder the implications of what they’ve accomplished.

Master Gunnery Sgt. Johnny Mendez, operations chief for Task Force Lion at Al Asad, is still marveling at how quickly and decisively the Iraqi troops he helped advise moved to defeat ISIS and reclaim their country.

Compared with what he observed during a deployment to Anbar province a decade ago in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Mendez said he’d seen a transformation in the soldiers’ attitude, drive and determination to win.

“Ten years ago, we were doing operations; we were doing full support,” he said. “Now, it’s nice to see, from the backseat, that they’re actually taking pride in what they’re doing. It’s different.”

Related: These photos show Marines fighting ISIS from their new base in Iraq

The change had less to do, he said, with the Marines’ assistance than it did with an elemental struggle, driven by ISIS’ wanton destruction and disregard for human life and dignity.

“Honestly, it was just the fight between good and evil,” Mendez said. “I think it was the local population and the local people were done seeing so much bad being done. They took pride in, this is their country. I couldn’t put my finger on it [before], but that was it.”

Col. Damian Spooner, the commanding officer of Task Force Spartan at Al Taqaddum, said he had observed a similar change.

During a Military.com visit to the base, Spooner said it had been more than a year since it had come under enemy fire, another indicator of how Iraqi troops, rather than Marines, were prosecuting the fight.

“Ten years ago, when we were here, I would have given anything to have the Iraqis doing the fighting, instead of Marines dying every day over here,” Spooner said. “And now, here we are, and the Iraqis are going out. I think what’s important about that is, they have earned this. They have liberated Iraq, they have defeated Daesh, and it gives me hope for the country that there’s something there that they have earned, and they’re not going to give it up easily. I think that’s very important.”

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel Carreon, current operations officer for the crisis response task force, cautioned that the fight isn’t over, and that ISIS, denied control of major cities, would move underground and mount an insurgency campaign.

But even in the current lull following a declaration of victory, Carreon said emotions are mixed among deployed Marines.

“I think Marines want to kill bad guys, right?” he said. “So if you take that out of the equation, I don’t know how that makes us feel. Probably not happy.”

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