On December 1st of 2020, Fort Benning launched a new type of platform. One where soldiers could bring their best ideas to the table and have them heard by the higher-ups. Known as the Maneuver Innovation Challenge, or MIC, the goal was to bring in great ideas that could help all involved, from soldiers, to the base as a whole, and the programs that help it run. It was put into action by Major General Patrick J. Donahoe, the commanding general of the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning.
Inspired in part by the TV show, Shark Tank, where budding entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to potential investors, the MIC created a way for small voices to be heard in a big way. Maj. Gen. Donahoe served as a judge, along with Col. Matthew Scalia, Sgt. 1st Class Kendall Willridge, Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph McAuliffe, Dr. Jay Brimstin and Capt. Joseph Barnes.
The project was announced through a series of videos and social media posts, alerting people to sign up with their idea.
“The best ideas are not going to come from some old, staid general. They’re gonna come from some young sergeant figuring out the next great solution. So join us in the Maneuver Innovation Program, and let’s figure out the next big idea,” – Donahoe said.
The MIP works like this: between Dec. 1st and Feb. 1, 2021, soldiers and civilians could pitch their ideas to the cause. Using an online platform, folks submitted their best ideas to the powers that be. A total of 23 ideas were collected online, ranging from functional apps, to improving tank camouflaging, to programs to help divorced, dual military couples.
The team narrowed the ideas to four finalists, which were pitched live to judges on Feb. 4th. Those making the cut earned prizes in their own right, including:
• A four-day pass.
• Sitting as Donahoe’s guest(s) for a luncheon at MCoE headquarters.
• Official backing for a training course of their choice at Fort Benning, if enrollment qualifications are met.
After the competition, a video was released on Twitter with the hashtag #shootmoveinnovate, announcing that the final four ideas would be put into action by integrating with facilities through TRADOC, Army Training and Doctrine Command, and innovation program resources.
The ideas included: streamlining policies for on-post housing, an app for maintaining digital accountability of soldiers during holiday block leave, and multiple variations for digital options for in/out-processing.
“They’re all winners, Donahoe said. “Clearly when you look at it, all good ideas.”
The Marines’ top officer has sent a “White Letter” to all senior leaders in the service ordering them to support self-identified victims of Facebook harassment and illicit photo sharing, and to educate troops on what is expected of them in their conduct online. Sent out March 10, nearly a week after news broke that Marines had been sharing nude and compromising photos of female colleagues on a 30,000-member Facebook page called Marines United, the message also promises new guidance to Marines concerning the boundaries of appropriate online behavior.
The two-page letter, sent by Commandant Gen. Robert Neller to all commanding generals, unit commanding officers, and senior enlisted leaders across the Corps and obtained by Military.com, does not mince words.
“In the past week, our core values have come under attack,” Neller wrote. “… This inappropriate, disrespectful, and in some cases criminal behavior has a corrosive and negative effect on our Marines and on the Marine Corps.”
To prevent future social media fallout, Neller said Marines must be educated, not only on the service’s expectations for their online behavior, but also on the dangers and vulnerabilities inherent in online activity. The Marine Corps will soon publish an update to its 2010 guidance governing Marines’ social media activity to further this goal, Neller said.
The current guidance dictates the Marines should use their “best judgment at all times and avoid inappropriate behavior” when using social media, adding that defamatory, libelous, abusive, threatening or hateful posts may result in disciplinary action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. While the White Letter does not make clear how the guidance will be updated and to what extent, the new guidance will likely provide additional specifics on what behavior is out-of-bounds and how violations will be addressed.
“Leaders should remind our Marines they are not anonymous in the virtual world and remain accountable for their actions,” Neller wrote. “Where we find criminal behavior, we will take appropriate action.”
For Marine victims of photo sharing and other online harassment, who, Neller noted, are primarily female, he gives an order to Marine leaders: support them at every level. Commanders and senior enlisted leaders are tasked with communicating with the Marines under them and encouraging victims of online attacks to come forward. Witnesses to online misconduct should report it as well, the letter states.
“When Marines do report, they must have the full support of their leadership, from NCOs up to the commanding officers and commanding general,” Neller wrote. “They must have a viable means to report and have immediate resources available to support them.”
These resources, the letter states, includes chaplains, attorneys through the victim legal counsel program, uniformed victim advocates, equal opportunity advisers and Sexual Assault Prevention and Response resources and personnel.
“Technical assistance is also available to help remedy or mitigate the harm they have suffered,” Neller notes.
An F-35 fighter pilot says he would be confident flying the Joint Strike Fighter against any enemy in the world, including Russian and Chinese 5th Generation stealth fighters.
An F-35 Joint Strike Fighter would be able to use its sensors, weapons, and computer technology to destroy Russian and Chinese 5th-Generation Stealth fighters in a high-end combat fight, service officials said.
“There is nothing that I have seen from maneuvering an F-35 in a tactical environment that leads me to assume that there is any other airplane I would rather be in. I feel completely comfortable and confident in taking that airplane into any combat environment,” Lt. Col. Matt Hayden, 56th Fighter Wing, Chief of Safety, Luke AFB, Arizona, told Warrior in a special pilot interview in 2015.
Furthermore, several F-35 pilots have been clear in their resolve that the multi-role fighter is able to outperform any other platform in existence.
Hayden was clear to point out he has not, as of yet, flown simulated combat missions against the emerging Russian Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA 5th-Generation stealth fighter now in development or the Chinese Shenyang J-31 5th Generation Stealth aircraft. While he said he did not personally know all of the technologies and capabilities of these Russian and Chinese aircraft, he was unambiguous in his assertion regarding confidence in the F-35.
U.S. Air Force F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)
Available information says the Russians have built at least 6 prototype T-50 PAK FAs for their Air Force and Navy; the Chinese conducted a maiden test flight of its J-31 in 2012. In addition, China is in pre-production with its J-20 5th-Generation stealth fighter. This fighter, called the Chengdu J-20, made its first flight in 2011.
While Hayden did not elaborate on aspects of the J-20, he did say he would be confident flying the F-35 against any aircraft in the world.
“All those other countries (Russia and China) are trying to develop airplanes that are technologically capable as well — from an F-35 perspective. We are no less capable than any airplane and any fighters out there,” Hayden described.
In addition to leveraging the best available technologies on a fighter jet, winning a dog-fight or combat engagement would depend just as much on the air-tactics and decisions made by a pilot, Hayden explained.
“I have not flown against some of those aircraft. When you fight against an airplane, it depends upon the airspeed. If I maximize the effectiveness of an F-35, I can exploit the weaknesses of any other aircraft,” he said.
Many analysts have made the assessment that the J-20 does appear to be closely modelled after the F-35.
In fact, a Defense Science Board report, cited in a 2014 Congressional assessment of the Chinese military, (US-China Economic Security and Review Commission) makes reference to specific developmental information and specs of numerous U.S. weapons systems believed to be stolen by Chinese computer hackers; design specs and technologies for the F-35 were among those compromised by Chinese cyber-theft, according to the report.
An AIN Online report from the Singapore Air Show catalogues a number of J-20 features and technologies — including those believed to be quite similar to the F-35.
“The J-20 is a large multi-role fighter with stealthy features similar to those found in the American F-22 and F-35. Although very little is known about its intended purpose, the aircraft appears to offer capability in a number of roles, including long-range interception and precision attack.
In terms of weapon carriage the J-20 has a similar arrangement to that of the Lockheed Martin F-22, comprising two lateral bays for small air-to-air missiles such as the agile, imaging-infrared PL-10, and a large under-fuselage bay for accommodating larger missiles and precision-guided surface attack weapons. The 607 Institute’s new PL-15 active-radar missile is thought to be the primary long-range air-to-air weapon, reportedly having been test-fired from a Shenyang J-16 platform last year. The PL-21, a ramjet-powered weapon in the same class as the MBDA Meteor, is another possibility for the J-20.
The sensor suite includes an electro-optical targeting system (EOTS) and a large-array AESA radar, which was developed by the 14th Institute at Nanjing Research Institute of Electronics Technology (NRIET, 14th Institute), and is possibly designated Type 1475/KLJ-5. Diamond-shaped windows around the fuselage suggest that a distributed aperture infrared vision system is installed.
In the cockpit, the J-20 sports three large color displays, plus other small screens, and a holographic wide-angle head-up display. An advanced datalink has been developed, and a retractable refueling probe is located on the starboard side of the forward fuselage. Much of the avionics suite has been tested by the CFTE (China flight test establishment) aboard a modified Tupolev Tu-204C, in much the same way as the systems of the F-22 were tested in a Boeing 757.”
Regarding the Russian T-50 PAK FA Stealth fighter, numerous reports suggest the aircraft has numerous technological problems and is a 5th generation plane “in name only.”
“Reporting from the Singapore Airshow 2016, IHS Jane’s reports that “Russian industry has consistently referred to the Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA as a fifth-generation aircraft, but a careful look at the program reveals that this is an ‘in name only’ designation.”
This is largely because of a lack of evolutionary technology aboard the plane compared with previous jets that Russia and the US have designed. Indeed, the PAK FA’s engines are the same as those aboard Russia’s 4++ generation (a bridging generation between fourth- and fifth-generation aircraft) Su-35. Additionally, the PAK FA and the Su-35 share many of the same onboard systems.
And even when the PAK FA’s systems are different from the Su-35’s, the plane’s specifications are still not up to true fifth-generation standards.
RealClearDefense, citing Indian media reports that are familiar with a PAK FA variant being constructed in India, notes that the plane has multiple technological problems. Among these problems are the plane’s “engine performance, the reliability of its AESA radar, and poor stealth engineering.”
F-35 sensor fusion
Despite various reports about technologies being engineered into the Russian and Chinese 5th-Generation Stealth Fighters, it is in no way clear that either aircraft is in any way comparable to the F-35. Most publicly available information seems to indicate that the F-35 is superior — however, to some extent, the issue remains an open question. More information is likely to emerge once the Russian and Chinese aircraft are operational and deployed.
For example, the Chinese J-20 is cited as having an Electro-Optical targeting system, stealth configuration, datalink, AESA radar, and precision weaponry quite similar to the F-35, according to the AIN report.
The computer algorithms woven into the F-35 architecture are designed to leverage early iterations of what could be described as early phases of “artificial intelligence.” Broadly speaking, artificial intelligence refers to fast-evolving computer technology and processors able to gather, assess and integrate information more autonomously in order to help humans make decisions more quickly and efficiently from a position of command-and-control.
“If there is some kind of threat that I need to respond to with the airplane, I don’t have to go look at multiple sensors and multiple displays from multiple locations which could take my time and attention away from something else,” Hayden added.
The F-35 software, which shows images on display screens in the cockpit as well as on a pilot’s helmet-mounted-display, is able to merge results from various radar capabilities onto a single screen for the pilot.
An F-35 Lightning II.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Brandon Shapiro)
“The F-35 takes from multiple sensors around the airplane and combines them together in a way that is much more manageable and accessible — while not detracting from the other tasks that the pilot is trying to accomplish,” Hayden said.
For instance, the F-35’s Electro-Optical Target System, or EOTS, is an infrared sensor able to assist pilots with air and ground targeting at increased standoff ranges while also performing laser designation, laser range-finding and other tasks.
In addition, the plane’s Distributed Aperture System, or DAS, is a series of six electro-optical sensors also able to give information to the pilot. The DAS includes precision tracking, fire control capabilities and the ability to warn the pilot of an approaching threat or missile.
The F-35 is also engineered with an Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar, which is able to track a host of electromagnetic signals, including returns from Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR. This paints a picture of the contours of the ground or surrounding terrain and, along with Ground Moving Target Indicator, or GMTI, locates something on the move on the ground and airborne objects or threats.
Hayden added that the F-35 has been training against other F-35s in simulated combat situations, testing basic fighter maneuvers. Having himself flown other fighter aircraft, he explained that many other F-35 pilots also fly the airplane after having experience flying an F-16, A-10 or other combat aircraft.
“The F-35’s low-observable technology can prevent detection. That is a strength that other airplanes do not have,” he said.
F-35 and F-22
At the same time, senior Air Force leaders have made the point that F-35 technological superiority is intended to be paired with the pure air-to-air dogfighting ability of the service’s F-22 – a stealth aircraft, with its speed, maneuverability, and thrust-to-weight ratio, is believed by many to be the most capable air-to-air platform in the world.
“Every airplane has flaws. When you design an airplane, you design an airplane with tradeoffs — give something else up. If I was flying against an adversary in actual combat, my job would be to exploit the enemy weakness and play to my strength. I can compensate for certain things,” Hayden explained. “There is a certain way to fly and fight in an airplane, using airspeed to maximize the turning performance of the airplane.”
An F-22 Raptor.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)
During a public speech in 2015, the Air Forces Air Combat Commander, Gen. Hawk Carlisle, said the F-22 is engineered such that it can complement the F-35.
“You will use the F-35 for air superiority, but you will need the raptors to do some things in a high-end fight to penetrate denied airspace,” he said. “The airplane is designed for multi-role capability, electronic warfare and sensors. The F-35 will win against any fourth-generation airplane — in a close-in fight, it will do exceedingly well. There will be a combination of F-22s and F-35s in the future.”
Hayden further elaborated upon these claims, arguing that the F-35 has another set of strategic advantages to include an ability to use internally built sensors. This prevents the need to use external pods on a fighter jet which can add drag, slowing down and restricting maneuverability for an aircraft.
“As an F-35 pilot, I can carry bombs to a target area where I can now take out air-to-ground threats. You have to look at the overall picture of the airplane. The airplane was designed to overwhelm the battlespace in a non-permissive threatening environment where 4th-gen fighters are not going to persist,” he added.
The F-35 is engineered with a 25-mm gun and has the ability to carry and fire a wide range of weapons. The aircraft has already demonstrated an ability to fire an AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile), JDADM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) or GBU 12 (laser-guided aerial bomb), and AIM 9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile.
So-called “Block 3F” software for the F-35 increases the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb and 500-pound JDAM.
As a multi-role fighter, the F-35 is also engineered to function as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform designed to apprehend and process video, data and information from long distances. Some F-35 developers have gone so far as to say the F-35 has ISR technologies comparable to many drones in service today that are able to beam a “soda straw” video view of tactically relevant combat locations in real time.
Finally, regarding dogfighting, it is pertinent to point out a “War is Boring” report from 2015 which cited an F-35 fighter pilot explaining how an F-16 was able to win a “mock dogfight” against an F-35; the F-35 Joint Program Office disputed this claim, saying the F-35 used in the scenario was in no way representative of today’s operational F-35s. The software, weapons and sensor technologies used in the mock dogfight were not comparable to the most evolved F-35.
Furthermore, F-35 proponents maintained that the aircraft’s advanced computer technology and sensors would enable it to see and destroy enemy fighters from much longer ranges — essentially destroying enemy fighters before they are seen.
The idea is to enable F-35 pilots to see and destroy enemies in the air, well in advance of a potential dogfight scenario. This can be explained in terms of a well-known Air Force strategic concept pioneered years ago by air theorist and pilot Col. John Boyd, referred to as the “OODA Loop,” — for observe, orient, decide and act. The concept is to complete this process quickly and make fast decisions while in an air-to-air dogfight — in order to get inside the enemy’s decision cycle, properly anticipate, and destroy an enemy before they can destroy you.
The F-35 is designed with long-range sensors and data fusion technologies such that, as a fifth-generation aircraft, it can complete the OODA Loop much more quickly than potential adversaries, F-35 advocates claim.
Mission data files
Described as the brains of the airplane, the mission data files are extensive on-board data systems compiling information on geography, air space and potential threats in known areas of the world where the F-35 might be expected to perform combat operations, Air Force officials explained.
Consisting of hardware and software, the mission data files are essentially a database of known threats and friendly aircraft in specific parts of the world. The files are being worked on at a reprogramming laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Air Force officials told Military.com. The mission data files are designed to work with the aircraft’s Radar Warning Receiver engineered to find and identify approaching enemy threats and hostile fire.
The mission data packages are loaded with a wide range of information to include commercial airliner information and specifics on Russian and Chinese fighter jets. For example, the mission data system would enable a pilot to quickly identify a Russian MiG-29 if it were detected by the F-35’s sensors.
The mission data files are being engineered to adjust to new threat and intelligence information as it emerges. For instance, the system is engineered to one day have all the details on a Chinese J-20 stealth fighter or Russian T-50 PAK FA stealth aircraft.
As a high-visibility, expensive acquisition program, the F-35 has many vocal detractors and advocates; the aircraft has, to be sure, had its share of developmental problems over the years. some of these problems include complications with its main computer system, called ALIS, and a now-corrected engine fire aboard the aircraft. Overall, most critics have pointed to the program’s growing costs, something program officials claim has vastly improved through various money-saving initiatives and bulk-buys.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
When a teenager became seriously ill on a cruise ship hundreds of miles off the California coast, the call arrived at the 129th Rescue Wing in Silicon Valley. Within hours, the California Air National Guard unit would tally its 1,105th rescue.
From their Moffett Federal Airfield home in Mountain View, Calif., the 129th’s rescue squadrons operate the MC-130P Combat Shadow airplane and the HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter. When paired with airmen highly-skilled in medical trauma and airborne ops — pararescuemen (fondly referred to as PJs) and combat rescue officers — these squadrons form “Guardian Angel” teams for peacetime or combat rescue at sea or on land.
Peacetime rescues, such as in remote mountainous terrain or vessels in treacherous sea conditions, can be just as high-risk as those in combat zones. Guardian Angel teams can venture 1,000 miles or more into the Pacific, rescues that require multiple aerial refuelings for helicopters and over-the-water parachute jumps into the Pacific to reach victims or stricken vessels.
That was the case in 2014, when Guardian Angels with the 129th were dispatched to rescue a 1-year-old toddler ill at sea; the child was on a 36-foot family sailboat that was sinking 900 miles west of the coast of Mexico due to damaged steering controls. PJs parachuted from an MC-130p turboprop with a raft they used to reach the sailboat.
The Navy joined in the mission, sending the USS Vandegrift to intercept the team, bring the toddler and her family to its medical department, and tow the sailboat to San Diego. The PJs got a ride back to shore, too.
The latest mission this week also was a rescue on the high seas. A 14-year-old passenger on the cruise ship Star Princess reportedly suffered seizures and required immediate but higher-level medical care. The ship was 450 miles off the coast.
The Coast Guard and the Air Force coordinated the rescue, sending two of the wing’s Pave Hawk helicopters — each with a two-person Guardian Angel team — to the cruise ship. But the long distance required those helicopters get refueled en route. A KC-130J Hercules refueler with the San Diego-based Marine Aerial Refueling Transport Squadron 352 launched from Miramar Marine Corps Air Station.
“What it takes to coordinate something like this is a massive undertaking, and it has to be done safely. Literally hundreds of people are involved,” Lt. Col. Kathryn Hodge, the mission medical director and flight surgeon, who flew on the mission, said in the news story.
When the Pave Hawks reached the cruise ship, the Guardian Angel PJs hoisted down to the deck, stabilized the teen, and hauled themselves back into the helicopter, along with the teen’s father. With refueling support from an MC-130P for the return flight, the rescue helicopter and team took the patient to Scripps Memorial Hospital in San Diego.
“It’s always good and you feel really rewarded at the end of the day. But that’s not why we do it. We do it so that others may live and to save lives however we can,” Master Sgt. Sean Kirsch, a PJ, said in the statement. “When you bring a 14-year-old American boy home to receive better medical care and he makes it there and he’s in stable shape or better than we you pick him up, is pretty rewarding.”
The 129th Rescue Wing took on the rescue mission in 1975. In September 2008, the 129th Wing was credited with rescuing 34 people (and 11 dogs) after Hurricane Ike struck the Gulf Coast. The following year, during a combat deployment to southern Afghanistan, the wing tallied more than 180 lives saved.
While its location, aircraft, and higher commands changed over the years, the 129th has maintained its role in rescue and personnel recovery for both state and federal missions.
GatGatCat asks: Is cooking grenades and pulling the pins with your teeth something people really do or just something in games?
We’ve all seen it — the protagonist of a film whips out a hand grenade, dashingly yanks the pin with his teeth as his hair flows in the wind, counts one-potato, two-potato, three and hucks it at nearby teeming hoards of enemy swarming on his location. But is this actually a thing in real life?
First thing’s first, yes, if you have hair, it is possible for it to flow in the wind… As for the grenade part, the generally recommended proper technique is — “proper grip, thumb to clip, twist pull pin, strike a pose, yell frag out, hit the dirt”.
On the first step of “proper grip” it is particularly important to make sure to NEVER adjust your grip on the lever (called “milking”) once the pin is pulled. Doing so may let up enough on said lever to allow the striker to do its thing to the percussion cap, which in turn creates a spark, thereby causing a slow burn of the fuse materials lasting approximately 2-6 seconds for most types of grenade, after which the main charge will ignite, sending shrapnel in all directions. So should you adjust your grip, you could potentially have a really bad time, even should you re-squeeze the lever after. Such a thing has caused the deaths of many a soldier, for example thought to have been the cause of the death of Specialist David G Rubic who had an M67 grenade explode in his hand as he was about to throw it during a training exercise.
As you can see from these steps, at no point is taking your sweet time getting rid of the grenade after you release the lever, called “cooking”, mentioned. Nevertheless, cooking the grenade is not without its virtues, with the general idea to minimise the window of opportunity the enemy has to react to said grenade — potentially throwing it back or diving for cover.
That said, while in film throwing the grenade back is a common trope, this is an incredibly difficult thing to pull off in real life. Consider that when the grenade is thrown, it is likely going to be in the air or bouncing around on the ground for a couple seconds in most scenarios, and thus about the only chance of someone actually picking it up and throwing it back successfully is if they Omar Vizquel’d it and caught it in the air and immediately hucked it back. But even then, whether it would get back to the thrower before exploding is anybody’s guess — quite literally given, if you were paying attention, that rather variable estimate of 2-6 seconds from lever release to explosion, depending on model of grenade.
For example, the US Army’s own field manual on the use of grenades and pyrotechnic signals states the fuse time tends to vary by as much as 2 whole seconds with, for example, the M67 grenade then having an estimated “3-5 second delay fuze”. So counting one-potato, two-potato potentially only gives you one potato to go through the throwing motion, then take cover. And if you happen to be on the 3 potato end of things to boom, that grenade is going to be extremely close to your position when it sings the song of its people.
It’s at this point we should point out that in many common grenade designs the potential lethal area is approximately 15-30 metres (50-100 feet), with the risk of injury from shrapnel extending to a couple hundred metres with some types of grenades. As you can imagine from this, potentially under one-potato just isn’t a good enough safety margin in most scenarios.
For this reason, both the US Army and the Marines Corp strongly advise against cooking grenades with the latter referring to it as the “least preferred technique” to throw a grenade. As for the most preferred technique, to quote the Marine Corps manual on Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain:
The preferred technique involves throwing the grenade hard enough that it bounces or skips around, making it difficult to pick up. The hard-throw, skip/bounce technique may be used by Marines in training and combat.
That said, there are edge cases where cooking a grenade may be beneficial where the reward outweighs the risks and potentially environmental factors make it a safer prospect. As such, the same manual notes that cooking a grenade is a technique that can be used “as appropriate” based on the discretion of an individual Marine, but should never be used during training. Likewise, the US Army notes in its field manual on the use of grenades that the act of cooking off grenades should be reserved for a combat environment only.
As for situations where cooking a grenade is deemed potentially appropriate, the most common are clearing rooms and bunkers where there are nice thick barriers between you and the impending blast. (Although, it’s always worth pointing out that while many a Hollywood hero has taken cover on one side of a drywall wall, this isn’t exactly an awesome barrier and shrapnel and bullets easily go through the gypsum and paper. Likewise as a brief aside, any such hero ever trapped in a room in many homes and buildings can quite easily just smash a hole in the drywall to escape if they so chose. It’s not that difficult. Just make sure not to try to punch or kick through the part with a 2×4 behind it…)
In any event, beyond urban environments, hitting very close enemies behind heavy cover is another common scenario cited in field manuals we consulted for cooking a grenade.
As for the amount of time it is advised to cook a grenade before throwing it, every official source we consulted notes that 2 seconds is the absolute maximum amount of time a soldier is advised to hold onto a live grenade before throwing it, with emphasis on MAXIMUM.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)
All this said, technology has improved this situation in some newer designs of grenades that use electronic timer components, rather than unpredictable burning fuses. In these grenades, you can be absolutely sure that from the moment you release the lever, you have exactly the amount of time the designers intended, making cooking these grenades a much safer prospect in the right circumstances. Further, there are also new grenade designs coming out with position sensors as an added safety mechanism, via ensuring they cannot detonate unless the sensor detects the grenade has been thrown first.
But to sum up on the matter of cooking grenades, soldiers can and do, though rarely, “cook” grenades to minimise the time an enemy has to react to them, although doing so isn’t advised and requires, to quote a book literally titled Grenades, “great confidence in the manufacturer’s quality control”. And, of course, similarly a soldier with balls or ovaries of solid steel and compatriots who are extremely trusting of their ability to count potatoes accurately — when literally a one second margin of error may be the difference between you dying or not, a sloppy seconds counter is not to be trusted.
Now on to the matter of pulling a pin with your teeth… While designs of grenades differ, from accounts of various soldiers familiar with a variety of grenades, as well as looking at the manufacturers’ stated pull power needed — it would seem trying to pull a grenade pin with your teeth is a great way to put your dentist’s kids through college.
For example, the relatively common M67 grenade takes about 3-5 kg (about 7 to 11 pounds) of force to pull free stock. The Russian F1 grenade takes about 8 kg (17 pounds) of pull power to get the pin out. Or as one soldier, referring to the Singapore SFG87 grenade, notes, “The pin was actually partially wrapped around the spoon(handle) of the grenade and was extremely stiff. You had to literally twist and yank the pin out, which made your fingers red and hurt a little.”
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Staci Miller)
Even without bent pins, to illustrate just how hard it can be to pull these pins in some cases, we have this account from Eleven Charlie One Papa by James Mallen. In it, he states,
[The] new guy had entered the hooch and hung up his gear, apparently from the canvas web gearing of his LBG but actually hanging on the pull pin of an HE fragmentation grenade, and then decided to go off somewhere. Worse still, the guy had not bent the cotter pin of the grenade over, so that at any moment…the gear would fall, the pin would be pulled out, the grenades’ primer would ignite, and give seconds later everyone in the hooch at the time would be killed or horribly wounded.I had a mini heart attack and turned immediately to jump out but a soldier behind me was blocking my way, whereupon I mostly violently pushed him out of the way, up the stairs and outside, to escape a quick and violent end… I learned that the guy who was responsible for it would return soon. I decided that he would have to take care of it… After about ten minutes that soldier … returned…He went back down, seemingly unconcerned, and rearranged his LBG so that it was hanging by the suspender strap instead of the pull-pin of a hand grenade….
Going back to bent pins, while many grenades don’t come stock with the pins bent, this is a common practice done by soldiers the world over anyway, making it even more difficult to pull the pin. The primary purpose behind this is to ensure that the pin doesn’t accidentally get pulled when you’d rather it not, like catching on a stray tree branch as you’re trotting through the jungle, or even in combat when you might be hitting the deck or scrambling around haphazardly with little thought to your grenade pins.
Illustrating this, in Eleven Charlie One Papa, Mallen states, “I pointed out to him that the grenade cotter pin wasn’t even bent over and he said that he was completely unaware that he should have them bent over. So for the last week or so we had been humping the bush with this guy whose grenades could have easily been set off by having the pin catch in a big thorn or spike. I guess it was our fault for not telling the guy things like that, things that were never taught in basic or advanced infantry training back in the states.”
This practice, although widely utilised by soldiers is sometimes discouraged by some in the military precisely because it makes it extremely difficult to pull the pin if one doesn’t first take the time to bend the metal back. This not only makes the grenade potentially take a little longer to be deployed in a pinch, but is also thought to contribute to soldiers unintentionally milking the grenade directly after the pin has finally been pulled with extreme force. This is what is speculated to have happened in the aforementioned death of Specialist David G Rubic, as noted by Colonel Raymond Mason who was in charge of figuring out what went wrong. In the investigation, it was discovered that Rubic had, according to witnesses, both previously bent the pin and been holding the lever down at the time it exploded in his hand.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Dengrier Baez)
Of course, if one throws the grenade immediately upon pin removal, whether you milk the grenade or not makes little difference — with it only being extra risky if you choose to hold onto it for some number of potatos. On top of this, regardless of what superiors say, many soldiers are unwilling to entrust their and their compatriots’ lives to a mere 3-8 kg worth of pull force, which a tree branch or the like while jogging can potentially exert.
That said, a tree branch is not your teeth and whether bending the pins or not, as Sergeant Osman Sipahi of the Turkish Armed forces states, you can pull the pin this way, “but there is a high probability of you fucking up your teeth. It’s the same as biting the top of a beer bottle off; it’s doable but not recommended.”
Or as Lieutenant Colonel Bill Quigley, author of Passage Through A Hell of Fire And Ice, sums up: “The business in the movies of the guy grabbing the grenade ring in his teeth and pulling out the pin is a load; it does not happen unless he is prepared to throw out a few teeth with it as well. We have all commented how we would like to get some of those Hollywood grenades that allow you to bite off the pin, throw the grenade a few hundred yards, and never miss your target, going off with the blast effect of a 500-pound bomb…”
Any article on the discussion of grenade usage would be remiss in not answering the additional question often posed of whether you can put the pin back in after you’ve pulled it and still have it be safe to let go of the lever — the answer is yes, but this must be done VERY carefully, as letting up even a little on the lever before the pin is fully-re-inserted can cause the striker to do its thing, potentially without you knowing it, as illustrated in the death of one Alexander Chechik of Russia. Mr. Chechik decided it would be a good idea to pull the pin on a grenade he had, take a picture, then send it to his friends. The last text he ever received was from a friend stating, “Listen, don’t f*** around… Where are you?” Not responding, reportedly Chechik attempted to put the pin back in, but unsuccessfully. The grenade ultimately exploded in his hand, killing him instantly, while also no doubt making him a strong candidate for a Darwin award.
(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Justin J. Shemanski)
Next up, as occasionally happens to all of us, if you happen to find a grenade thrown at you or drop the one you’re holding with the pin already pulled, if no readily available cover is nearby the general recommendation is to lay flat on the ground with, assuming you remembered to wear your Kevlar helmet like a good soldier, your head towards the grenade. These helmets are designed to be an effective barrier against such shrapnel. This position also ensures minimal odds of any shrapnel hitting you in the first place via reducing the cross section of you exposed to the grenade’s blast.
Now, you might at this point be thinking as you have your shrapnel proof Kevlar helmet, why not just put it on the the grenade? Genius, right? Well, no. While these helmets can take a barrage of quite a bit of high speed shrapnel, they cannot contain the full force of the blast of a typical grenade, as was tragically proven by Medal of Honor winner, Jason Dunham. In his case, not trusting his helmet to contain the blast, he also put his body on top of the helmet to make sure nobody else would be hurt by the dropped grenade. He did not survive, but those around him did.
In yet another case of a soldier jumping on a grenade to save his fellow soldiers, but this time with a reasonably happy ending, we have the case of Lance Corporal William Kyle Carpenter. On November 21, 2010 while in Afghanistan, a grenade was thrown into his sandbagged position. Rather than run, he used his own body to shield the other soldier with him from the blast. Miraculously, though severely injured, Carpenter lived and was awarded the Medal of Honor in June of 2014.
In a similar case, during a battle on Feb. 20, 1945, one Jack H Lewis and his comrades were advancing toward a Japanese airstrip near Mount Suribachi. Taking cover in a trench under heavy fire, Jack realized they were only feet away from enemy soldiers in a neighboring trench. He managed to shoot two of the soldiers before two live grenades landed in his trench. Thinking quickly, Jack threw himself on the first grenade, shoving it into volcanic ash and used his body and rifle to shield the others with him from the pending blast. When another grenade appeared directly after the first, he reached out and pulled it under himself as well. His body took the brunt of the two blasts and the massive amount of shrapnel. His companions were all saved, but his injuries were so serious they thought he had died. Only after a second company moved through did anyone realize he was somehow still alive. Jack endured nearly two dozen surgeries and extensive therapy and convalescence. Despite the surgeries, over 200 pieces of shrapnel remained in his body for the rest of his life which lasted an additional six decades. He died at the ripe old age of 80, on June 5, 2008 from leukemia.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
U.S. military disaster relief assistance to Puerto Rico is delaying the deployment of additional troops to Afghanistan, Joint Staff Director Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. told Pentagon reporters October 5th.
McKenzie cited the logistical challenge of moving large amounts of supplies and personnel to Puerto Rico and the requirement for transport aircraft. The Pentagon only has a limited amount of transport aircraft, which are also used to move U.S. troops to Afghanistan.
The U.S. has approximately 11,000 military personnel on Puerto Rico but still faces a dire recovery effort. Only 8.6 percent of the island now has electricity and 47 percent of the population has drinking water, the Pentagon noted in a statement October 5.
Pentagon Chief Spokesman Dana White clarified that the delay was only “slight,” adding that “there are still troops flowing in.” Secretary of Defense James Mattis ordered approximately 3,000 troops to Afghanistan in late August after President Donald Trump green-lit a new strategy for the U.S. in Afghanistan.
Mattis previewed the new strategy before Congress on Tuesday calling it “R4+S” which stands for “regionalize, realign, reinforce, reconcile, and sustain.” The strategy hits upon larger themes of President Donald Trump’s Aug. 21 address to the American people in which he pledged to adopt a conditions-based approach for withdrawal from Afghanistan — one that focuses on pressuring Pakistan to crack down on terror safe havens.
The ultimate goal of the strategy is “reconciliation,” which entails “convincing our foes that the coalition is committed to a conditions-based outcome, we intend to drive fence-sitters and those who will see that we’re not quitting this fight to reconcile with the Afghan National Government.”
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.
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.”
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.
“It is again with our deepest sadness, our heartbreak that we inform you that National Guardsman SPC. Angel Candelario-Padro was among the victims we have lost,” said Matt Thorn, executive director of OutServe-Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that represents the U.S. lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
Candelario-Padro had been a member of the Puerto Rico National Guard and was assigned to the Army band, Thorn said in a statement. He also played clarinet with his hometown band and had just moved to Orlando from Chicago, he said.
Candelario-Padro served in the Guard from Jan. 12, 2006, until Jan. 11, 2012, at which point he transferred to the U.S. Army Reserve, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Houk, a spokesman for the National Guard Bureau, confirmed in an email to Military.com.
Additional information about his service history wasn’t immediately available from the U.S. Army Reserve.
“Very painful to mention this but we have to recognize and do a tribute to one of our own,” it stated. “With great sadness I want to report the loss of who was in life the SPC ANGEL CANDELARIO. The Band 248 joins the sadness that overwhelms your family and we wish you much peace and resignation. Spc Candelario, rest in peace.”
Candelario-Padro for two years prior lived in Chicago, where he worked at the Illinois Eye Institute and had side jobs at Old Navy and as a Zumba instructor, according to an article in The Chicago Tribune.
He was at the Pulse nightclub frequented by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community when the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history occurred.
Authorities say 29-year-old Omar Mateen, who reportedly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in 911 calls, killed 49 people and injured another 53 before being killed in a shootout with police.
Army Reserve Capt. Antonio Davon Brown was also killed in the attack and may be eligible to receive the Purple Heart, a Pentagon spokesman said on Thursday.
Meanwhile, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, Imran Yousuf, 24, is being recognized as a hero for helping between 60 and 70 people escape the mass shooting by unlatching a door near the back staff halfway of the building.
Candelario-Padro will be flown home to Puerto Rico to be buried in the Guanica Municipal Cemetery in a section reserved for service members, Thorn said.
Airmen from the 815th and 327th Airlift Squadrons provided airlift and airdrop support for the Army’s exercise Arctic Anvil, Oct. 1-6, 2019.
Arctic Anvil is a joint, multi-national, force-on-force culminating training exercise at Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center, Mississippi, that runs throughout the month of October.
“The 815th (AS), along with the 327th Airlift Squadron, had the pleasure of supporting the (4th Brigade Combat Team, Airborne, 25th Infantry Division) for the exercise Arctic Anvil by providing personnel and equipment airdrop as well as short-field, air-land operations,” said Lt. Col. Mark Suckow, 815th AS pilot. “We were able to airdrop 400 paratroopers and equipment Wednesday night and 20 bundles of supplies Sunday into Camp Shelby.”
The 815th AS is an Air Force Reserve Command tactical airlift unit assigned to the 403rd Wing. The unit transports supplies, equipment and personnel into a theater of operation. The 403rd Wing maintains 20 C-130J Super Hercules aircraft, 10 of which are flown by the 815th AS.
Maj. Nick Foreman (left) and Maj. Chris Bean, 815th Airlift Squadron pilots, fly a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft toward Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center, Miss., Oct. 2, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Carranza)
“We had the opportunity to provide three aircrews and two C-130Js to help execute the mass airlift and airdrop,” Col. Dan Collister, 913th Airlift Group deputy commander said. The 327th AS is a unit of the 913th AG based out of Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, and is an associate unit of the 19th Airlift Wing, an active duty unit equipped with C-130J aircraft.
Col. Daniel Collister, 913th Airlift Group deputy commander and pilot, conducts a pre-mission brief with loadmasters, Army jumpmasters and Army safety crew prior to takeoff during the joint forces exercise Arctic Anvil at Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center, Miss., Oct. 1-6, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Jessica L. Kendziorek)
“Our primary mission at the 913th is to provide combat-ready airmen, tactical airlift and agile combat support. Participating in a joint exercise such as this is a great way for our Reserve Citizen airmen to hone their skills and get experience working hand-in-hand with partner units and sister services,” Collister said.
More than 3,000 soldiers of the 4/25th ICBT (ABN), based out of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, are participating in the exercise.
4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, Soldiers stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, board a C-130J flown by the 327th Airlift Squadron during the joint forces training exercise Arctic Anvil at Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center, Miss., Oct. 1-6, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Jessica L. Kendziorek)
“At Camp Shelby, our paratroopers have completed a mass tactical airborne operation followed by force-on-force exercises culminating with combined live-fire training that will prepare us for the brigade’s upcoming joint readiness training exercise in January,” said Army Col. Christopher Landers, 4/25th IBCT (ABN) commander. “Camp Shelby and the state of Mississippi have provided a remarkable training opportunity, that without their significant support, would not have been possible.”
A C-130J Super Hercules aircraft sits on the flightline at Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center, Miss. Oct. 1, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Carranza)
In addition to the 4/25th ICBT (ABN), soldiers from the 177th Combat Sustainment Support Brigade, the 3rd Royal Canadian Regiment and airmen from various units collaborated for the exercise.
Airmen from the 403rd Wing, 319th Airlift Group, 321st Contingency Response Squadron and 81st Training Wing supported the Air Force’s role in Arctic Anvil. Airmen from the 81st Logistics Readiness Squadron and Operations Support Flight contributed to the exercise with ground vehicle transportation and airspace support for the soldiers who were rigging their supplies for airdrop.
The 815th Airlift Squadron completes an airdrop of container delivery systems during the Army joint forces exercise Arctic Anvil.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jessica L. Kendziorek)
“I am proud of our crews for this exercise,” Suckow said. “They executed the mission as planned and helped us to meet our objectives. Time over target for airdrop and air-land operations were executed flawlessly. The air-land portion into the (landing zone) was completed in less than minimal time from landing to takeoff. Having the opportunity to work with thousands of soldiers in a large scale exercise like this is very beneficial training for us, it prepares us for real world operations.”
Dec. 26, 1872, the day after Christmas — the weather in Norfolk was bitter cold, with sleet and a gale-force wind. Aboard USS Powhatan, a sidewheel steamer commissioned in 1852, it was particularly unpleasant, with a wet, slippery deck and a dangerous pitch.
Then came a cry of, “man overboard!” Boatswain Jack Walton had fallen from the fo’c’sle into the choppy, freezing water below. He had minutes — maybe seconds — before he either drowned or succumbed to hypothermia.
Seaman Joseph Noil didn’t hesitate, didn’t stop to think of the danger or the risk to his own life. He came running from below deck, “took the end of a rope, went overboard, under the bow, and caught Mr. Walton — and held him until he was hauled into the boat sent to his rescue,” his commanding officer, Capt. Peirce Crosby, wrote. “Mr. Walton, when brought on board, was almost insensible, and would have perished but for the noble conduct of Noil.”
Noil received the Medal of Honor the following month.
Then, he slowly faded from history.
Coming to America
Noil was black and was probably from Liverpool, Nova Scotia, although various records also mention Halifax, the West Indies, New York, and Pennsylvania, said Bart Armstrong, a Canadian researcher dedicated to finding some 113 Medal of Honor recipients connected to that country.
The distinguished Medal of Honor — Navy version. (Image from U.S. Navy)
“During the early days, it was not uncommon for a Soldier or Sailor to fake their residence or place of birth, date of birth or marital status.”
No one knows just what brought Noil to the U.S. or what inspired him to enlist in the Union Navy, Oct. 7, 1864. According to Armstrong, many Canadian black men who traveled south to fight in the Civil War did so to help free the slaves.
Canada was the terminus for the Underground Railroad, and many citizens, particularly in the black community, would have seen or heard of the pitiful, dehumanizing conditions escaped slaves endured.
Noil was from a coastal area, and the Navy may have been a natural fit. Enlistment papers indicate his occupation was carpenter. Dr. Regina Akers, a historian who specializes in diversity at the Navy’s History and Heritage Command, noted that he also served as a caulker and would have helped keep his ship watertight – “a very important job.”
Many free black Sailors had some type of ship or shipyard experience, whether it was as a crewmember on a merchant or whaling ship, as a fisherman or as a dockyard worker, Joseph P. Reidy, a history professor at Howard University in D.C. and the director of the African-American Sailors Project, wrote in “Prologue,” a publication of the National Archives.
According to Akers and Reidy, African-American Sailors had always been, if not precisely welcome in the Navy, at least not institutionally discriminated against. They had served honorably in the Revolution and in the War of 1812, and some 18,000 black Civil War Navy veterans have been identified by name.
Unlike the Army, the Navy in the 19th century did not segregate black servicemen. They pulled the same watches, slept in the same bunks — hammocks in those days — and ate in the same galleys as their white counterparts.
Although their ranks were limited to enlisted, there were few, if any, rating restrictions for skilled, experienced men of any color, said Akers. They served in almost every billet, from fireman to gunner, although Reidy wrote that service ratings, such as cook or steward, were the most common.
“If they could qualify or were able to learn that skill set and fill that rating, just like today, many commanding officers would allow them to do so,” Akers said, noting that the background of the ship’s commander and crew could affect the treatment African-American Sailors received.
Noil eventually became captain of the hold, a petty officer in charge of the men assigned to a storage area. He would probably have been responsible for ensuring barrels and containers were properly stowed and locating the appropriate barrels when needed, according to the Navy History and Heritage Command. However, he wouldn’t have had any authority over white Sailors.
Conditions were worse for escaped slaves, Reidy pointed out. By classifying escaped or captured slaves as contraband, the Union could legally consider them spoils of war and put them to work. Contrabands served in the Navy. They fought in the Army. They built fortifications. They cooked. They did laundry. Both men and women served in various capacities. In fact, nearly three men born into slavery served for every black man born free.
Contrabands’ naval ratings and pay tended to be the lowest and least skilled, with most classified as boy or landsman, Reidy explained. They scrubbed, painted, and polished ships. They also served in large numbers on supply and ordnance ships, where they provided manual labor. By the late 1800s, the ratings available to all African-American Sailors became extremely restricted.
Noil, who had given his age as 25 when he enlisted in 1864 and his height at 5 feet, 6 inches, transferred to USS Nyack, a wooden-hulled screw gunboat, in January 1865. Nyack was then part of the blockade off of Wilmington, North Carolina, and Noil was likely present for her involvement in the capture of nearby Fort Anderson the following month.
His next posting is listed as the steam sloop USS Dacotah in March 1866, although Navy records indicate the ship put out to sea that January on a tour that took her to Funchal, Maderia, Portugal; Rio de Janerio, Brazil; Montevideo, Uruguay, the Strait of Magellan, and Valparaiso, Chili.
Noil was discharged, March 18, 1867. Perhaps he found it difficult to make a living or perhaps he simply missed the sea, for he re-enlisted, Dec. 18, 1871, giving his age as 30. Presumably, he went straight to Norfolk and USS Powhatan, then part of the North Atlantic Squadron and one of the Navy’s last, and largest, paddle frigates.
The ship’s conduct book noted Noil was “always 1st class and on time.” Upon receiving the Medal of Honor, Noil followed in the footsteps of eight African-American Sailors who received the medal during the Civil War. Akers noted that no African-American Sailor has received the Medal of Honor since the Spanish-American War.
For Noil and the others, their actions showed that valor transcended color, that black, brown, white, it didn’t matter — shipmates came first.
Shipmate comes without definition. It’s not because you’re white, because you’re black, because we come from the same state, because you’re in the same rating — It doesn’t stop when the orders stop. Your shipmates are your shipmates. I mean, that’s your family.” – Dr. Regina Akers
Noil’s story, Akers continued, also “reminds us of – the importance of Sailors’ readiness, their physical and mental fitness, the training. Drill, drill, drill. Drill them down to the point where they can think almost unconsciously about what to do. So, man overboard. – There’s just certain procedures that pop into place. Now, the environment makes it that much worse. But it doesn’t change the routine or the requirements or the plan for what to do if someone falls overboard.”
Over the next few years, Noil was discharged and re-enlisted twice. His next ship was USS Wyoming, a wooden-hulled, 198-foot screw sloop of war. The Wyoming arrived in Villefranche, France, near Nice, Christmas Eve 1878, and spent the next two years in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.
She returned to Hampton Roads, Virginia, May 21, 1881. It was her final cruise. It was Noil’s as well. It must have been a difficult one, for that month, he was admitted to the naval hospital in Norfolk and quickly transferred to the Government Hospital for the Insane in Washington, D.C.
“For many months,” his admission paperwork reads, “it has been noticed that the patient’s mind was failing, that he was losing his locomotive powers. … Early in April last, he had an epileptic attack, and another on the 13th of May. For two days after latter attack he was speechless, though able to walk and eat. As he has been in the U.S. Naval service for the last seventeen years, it is natural to infer the disease originated in the line of duty.”
No one knows exactly what condition Noil suffered from, whether it was what is now known as post-traumatic stress disorder, some form of depression, or something else, said Jogues Prandoni, Ph.D., a volunteer historian and former director of forensic services at the hospital, now called St. Elizabeth’s.
“There could be so many reasons. Back in that era, so little was known about mental illness that sometimes certain disorders that were clearly neurological and brain-based were attributed to other causes.” – Jogues Prandoni, Ph.D.
There also wasn’t much 19th-century medicine could do for Noil, Prandoni continued, noting that although the hospital was the premier treatment facility for servicemen and veterans – as well as local civilians – only six medical doctors were on staff to treat roughly a thousand patients.
“What you had, basically, was moral therapy,” he explained. “The concept was that if you could remove people from the stresses of day-to-day living, put them in a homelike atmosphere with beautiful surroundings and caring individuals that would assist them in recovering.”
Noil’s wife, Sarah Jane, was terribly worried about her husband. With two daughters to support, she couldn’t afford to visit him, but she wrote to his doctor regularly: “I was sorry to hear that my husband was so sick and out of his mind. – Doctor do you think that I had better come on and see him? I am very poor with two children to look after,” she wrote in July 1881, later telling the doctor that her “poor little children are always talking about their papa and it makes me feel bad to hear them.”
“Doctor I am glad to think he has had good care. … Doctor if my husband should die I tell you I have not got the means to bury him,” she added that November.
Lost then found again
Her husband did pass away, March 21, 1882. “He was a relatively young man,” said Prandoni. “He died within nine months. That really raises questions about what kind of disease process was going on. It certainly sounds like more than just a psychiatric disorder.”
“The loss of my poor husband has been quite a shock to me. – My friends assure me that time will reconcile me to my great bereavement,” Sarah Jane wrote after learning of his death. “Yet time and the great consolation that I have in meeting in a better world where parting will be no more, will I trust enable me to bear my sorrow.”
Unfortunately, Noil’s name was misspelled on his death certificate and subsequently his headstone. For more than a century, he lay lost in Saint Elizabeth’s graveyard under the name Joseph Benjamin Noel until a group of historians and researchers connected with the Congressional Medal of Honor Society and the Medal of Honor Historical Society, including Armstrong, finally tracked him down.
Noil finally received a new headstone spring 2017, one with not only the correct spelling of his name but also recognizing him as a Medal of Honor recipient.
Your shipmate is not simply someone who happens to serve with you. He or she is someone who you know that you can trust and count on to stand by you in good times and bad and who will forever have your back. – We are [Noil’s] shipmates and 134 years after he passed, we have his back.” – Vice Adm. Robin Braun, Chief of Navy Reserve