The American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommends that we limit our kids’ screen time. But the screens powers can be used for GOOD! Especially when it comes to learning. And now that our country is in a national public emergency with COVID-19, parents are scrambling for ideas of how to keep kids stimulated educationally while schools are closed.
One solution is MORE screen time!
Kids nowadays have the world at their fingertips and they are a lot more tech savvy than we’d expect them to be. But military kids seem to have a head start on this tech because many of them are born miles away from extended family. Sometimes the only connection is putting an iPad in their face and letting the grandparents, aunt, uncles, cousins and friends fawn over them.
So if you’re looking for healthy, FREE ways to fill your kids day pull out the iPads and tablets…WE GOT YOU!
Here are 10 free educational websites for kids:
PBS Kids – In lieu of schools being closed, you can sign up to get daily activities for kids to play and learn at home.
Make Me Genius – K-7 students can click on their grade to get cool facts and watch educational videos on their level. You can also subscribe to their Youtube channel for more videos.
Cool Math – This can be a challenging subject, but this site has games and practice tools for 1st grade to high school.
Fun Fonix – Check this site out for free printable worksheets and workbooks. They also have games available.
ABCya – Complete with learning games and apps for kid’s grades k-6+.
Khan Academy – A nonprofit that has a mission to provide a free, world-class education to anyone. Receive free online courses, lessons and practice.
Funbrain – Get games, videos and books here for your kids
Fuel the Brain – Filled with educational games and resources. Including interactives and printables!
Smithsonian Learning Lab – Explore many resources here. You can also watch videos in history, art and culture, and the sciences.
Seussville – Who doesn’t want to play games and learn from the Cat in the Hat? The website also has a link specifically for parents! You have to put in your date of birth to verify. Then you have access to crafts, recipes, guides, printables and much more!
In 1980, Walter Banks Beacham enlisted in the United States Navy. He was excited for the signing bonus of $4,000, a cool $12,000 when adjusted for inflation in 2018. In 1984, Mark Richard Gerardi joined the U.S. Army Reserve. In 1986, Cedrick L. Houston joined the Navy. The next year, Chris Villanueva joined the Army. Zachary Pitt joined the Navy in 1989. And, finally, in 1992, George Perez joined the Army.
The trouble was that these were all the same person.
Beacham assumed the identities of six different individuals he came across through his life in coastal California. The Oakland native even somehow managed to enlist as himself, social security number and all, twice. The Los Angeles Times reported that Beacham was able to do this because he looked like he could be any of a number of ethnicities and he was able to procure fake drivers’ licenses, social security cards, and other identifying paperwork to support his claims.
Keep in mind, this was during the height of the Cold War and military recruiters have quotas to make. They relied a lot on personal integrity to make sure they put good — and real — people into the U.S. military. And there was a time when young Walter Beacham really did want to serve his country, but he failed to adapt to military life when it counted, and the rest is history.
*Note: Beacham is not in any of the photos below. I used photos that give an idea of how much time passes.
1. Walter Banks Beacham
The first time he enlisted, Beacham was drawn in by the guaranteed signing bonus and he really wanted to defend his country. When the recruiter came to his home, he saw Beacham and a few of his friends sitting, smoking, and drinking. He was able to recruit them all.
But the Navy wasn’t really for him. After six weeks and a few AWOL incidents at boot camp near San Diego, he was done.
“I put away my uniform, I got my money, I took a cab out of the front gate and then a Greyhound to L.A.,” he told the Los Angeles Times.
What graduating from Army basic training looked like in 1980.
2. Walter Banks Beacham, Jr.
Maybe it wasn’t the military that was the problem — maybe he just wasn’t cut out for the Navy. Six months after leaving the Navy, he was on a bus, headed for Army basic training. This time, he simply threw a “Jr.” on the end of his name. When the Army asked if he’d ever served before, he said no, and that was that.
For about six months.
The Army eventually realized his Social Security Number matched that used during his previous, Navy life and he was promptly discharged from the U.S. Army.
What graduating from the Navy’s boot camp looked like in 1980.
3. Walter Banks Beacham
When he got back to his native Oakland, it was only three months before he decided to give the life of a sailor another chance. He dreamed of foreign lands and exotic ports and was ready to forego the sign-on bonus (if necessary). He again used his real name and was shipped back to San Diego. He made it through five weeks this time.
“I would have made it through but, five weeks into it, they found drugs in my urine and one of the company commanders was still there from the time before and he saw my name on a list,” Beacham said. “I went AWOL.”
A U.S. Army Korean DMZ patrol in 1984.
4. Mark Richard Gerardi
In 1984, he joined the Army again, this time using an alias of his high-school friend. Beacham borrowed his friend’s diploma and birth certificate and was off to Fort Dix, New Jersey, for basic training — which he completed.
He was sent back to California, attached to a unit in San Francisco, and eventually sent over to Korea for three weeks. It was all for naught when he got a girl pregnant and then left her. She threatened to turn him in to the Army. Beacham tried to play it cool, but eventually bolted. He never heard from them again.
“I guess they just cut you loose after awhile. I don’t know,” Beacham told the Los Angeles Times.
Navy boot camp graduates in San Diego, 1986.
5. Cedrick L. Houston
In 1986, Beacham used the name of someone he met in Hollywood who was trying to be a dancer. He told the aspiring dancer he would get him work if he could use his identification papers… to join the Navy.
He actually finished Navy basic training this time around and was sent to learn to be a submariner on the East Coast of the United States. Of course, it didn’t last. He used a racial slur during the course of his duties and the Navy ended up booting him out for it.
“I was selling doughnuts on the base there until classes started and I called this sailor a silly-ass cracker,” Beacham said. “And they put me out of the Navy for that.”
6. Chris Villanueva
Back in California in 1987 and using the name Walter Banks Beacham again, he went down to Glendale, outside of Los Angeles, to join the Army as a truck driver, which is where he got his new name, Chris Villanueva. The real Villanueva was an unemployed truck driver Beacham ran into in the Valley one day. The born-again Villanueva (Beacham) was sent to basic training at Fort Sill, Okla. and was sent to Germany right after.
He survived another boot camp only to come under suspicion for some cocaine found in soldier’s duffel bags while in Germany. He was afraid he would get arrested for it, so he went AWOL again and headed for home.
7. Zachary Pitt
Beacham doesn’t even remember the real Zachary Pitt, but the new Zachary Pitt made it through Navy training in San Diego in 1989 and was inducted into the Navy as a Mess Management Specialist — better known as “a cook.” When his ship was set to leave for Japan, Zachary Pitt just walked out and disappeared.
“I met him in the Bay Area. I don’t even remember if he was white or Mexican,” Beacham said of the real Zachary Pitt.
Army basic training graduates in 1992.
8. George Perez
In his last enlistment in 1992, he left before he even received his signing bonus. Now George Perez, Beacham completed Army basic training at Fort Bliss in Texas and was back at Fort Sill for AIT, where he became an artillery unit’s forward observer. This time, he just couldn’t do it.
“Something happened,” he recalled later. “I couldn’t stick around. Time was choking up on me. I was in trouble for staying out late, and I was afraid I’d be busted right then.”
Eventually, he was caught by civilian police officers and turned over to the U.S. military, who court-martialed him on multiple counts of wrongful enlistment, AWOL charges, and desertion. At age 34, he pled guilty to all of them. The old U.S. military would have executed this guy. Luckily for Beacham, there was no war on and he spent just under eight months in an Army prison and was released with a dishonorable discharge.
As the use of surgical robotics increases, the Air Force Medical Service is training its surgical teams in the latest technology, ensuring patients have access to the most advanced surgical procedures and best possible outcomes.
To address the demand for training military healthcare providers, Maj. Joshua Tyler, director of robotics at Keesler Air Force Base, helped to establish the Institute for Defense Robotic Surgical Education (InDoRSE). The first of its kind in the Air Force, the facility trains Air Force, Army, Navy, and Department of Veterans Affairs surgical teams to use state-of-the-art medical robotics. Access to this type of training was previously only available through private industry.
“Robotic surgery is becoming the standard of care for many specialties and procedures, but Air Force surgeons had limited opportunities to train with surgical robots,” said Tyler. “We needed a way to get surgeons trained without relying solely on the private sector. With the creation of InDoRSE we are able to do just that by using existing facilities and personnel.”
The InDoRSE training site addresses challenges unique to military healthcare. The training also uses a team-based model, which helps overcome some of the challenges of implementing of robotic surgery in military hospitals.
“Between deployments, operational tempo, and varying surgical volumes at military facilities, it is important that whole teams are fully trained on surgical robotics,” explained Tyler. “Also training the nurses and medical technicians, in addition to the surgeon, ensures that everyone has tangible experience with the robot, and helps get surgical robotics up and running much quicker.”
Robotic surgeries have been shown to deliver better outcomes for patients than traditional surgery. Robotics offers increased mobility for the surgeon, allowing them to make smaller incisions, and gives them better visualization. This precision leads to more successful surgeries and quicker recovery times, which improves patient satisfaction and lowers costs.
“The best outcomes I’ve ever given my patients came using robotics”, explained Tyler. “We see significant decreases in post-surgery pain, surgical site infection rates, and length of hospital stay. That quicker recovery means patients get to return to their normal life more quickly.”
The InDoRSE facility at Keesler stood up in March 2017. There are already plans to double its training capacity soon. Soon after Keesler’s facility opened, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base set up their own surgical robotics program. Travis Air Force Base in California and Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada are currently working on their surgical robotics acquisition now.
“Use of robotics is increasing in many medical specialties,” said Tyler. “Providing opportunities for our whole surgical teams to receive training on this cutting-edge technology is vital to the AFMSs focus on continuously improving the patient experience.”
The U.S. military conducts mission-based training events year-round, but Arctic Edge 2018 is a unique opportunity that has brought more than 1,500 U.S. military personnel from 20-plus units together to train in arctic conditions throughout the Alaska range.
For Special Operations Command North, a component of U.S. Special Operations Command with headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, it is an ideal environment to test their ability to operate in extreme weather conditions.
“It’s a chance for us to get up here in these extreme conditions and conduct training to make sure the equipment is working, and we are keeping those skill sets sharp,” said the director of operations for Joint Special Operations Task Force Alaska.
Names, ranks, and service affiliations of special operations service members involved with the exercise are not included in this story for operational security and privacy reasons.
Conducting long-range movements in severe weather over treacherous terrain with limited visibility is challenging for even the most experienced operator. The teams have endured sub-zero temperatures and near whiteout conditions since the first team deployed March 7, 2018.
During the evolution, one advanced operating base team and two operational detachment alpha teams — which consist of both mobility- and mountain-trained personnel — were deployed to Alaska’s Utqiagvik and Anaktuvuk Pass. So far, the teams have completed long-range ground and air infiltration events, which included an airdrop of equipment as well as reconnaissance and direct-action operations. The teams also used new communication systems to enhance their capabilities in a cold-weather environment.
The company operations officer said the biggest obstacle the teams have overcome is identifying and, in some cases, developing new equipment needed for operations in such austere environments.
“We have guys in Anaktuvuk and we have guys in Barrow, two completely different terrains, and it requires two different load-outs,” he said. “So, [we’re] finding the solutions for equipment and getting people to understand that there is no one-size-fits-all [packing list].”
With the diverse terrains and cold weather, the company operations officer said, training events like Arctic Edge allow the teams to maintain perishable skills.
“It’s cold in Colorado,” the operations officer said, “but we don’t deal with the temperatures that they deal with up here. So, the ability to come up here and train in Alaska is phenomenal.”
As haunting images from Italy of overcrowded emergency rooms and horror stories of Coronavirus flood social media, the Italian Air Force flew with a message of strength for her people. It was a reminder of pride for the country, unity in the face of grave danger and a prayer of resilience for a country beleaguered by an enemy we haven’t seen before: COVID-19.
Set to the backdrop of Giacomo Puccini’s ‘Nessum Dorma,’ performed by Luciano Pavarotti, the flyover is beautiful, chilling and more than anything … full of hope. Translated to English, the last lyrics of the song are, “I will prevail. I will prevail. I will prevail.” You will, Italy. And America will, too.
Most Americans know the story of Pearl Harbor, how the Japanese planes descended from the clouds and attacked ship after ship in the harbor, hitting the floating fortresses of battleship row, damaging drydocks, and killing more than 2,300 Americans. But the most coveted targets of the attack were the aircraft carriers thankfully absent. Except one was supposed to be there that morning with a future fleet admiral on board, and they were both saved by a freak accident at sea.
The USS Shaw explodes on December 7, 1941, during the Pearl Harbor attack.
Vice Adm. William Halsey, Jr., was a tough and direct man. And in November 1941, he was given a top-secret mission to ferry 12 Marine F4F Hellcats to Wake Island under the cover of an exercise. Wake Island is closer to Japan than Hawaii, and Washington didn’t want Japan to know the Marines were being reinforced.
The mission was vital, but also dangerous. Halsey knew that Japan was considering war with the U.S., and he knew that Japan had a long history of beginning conflicts with sneak attacks. He was so certain that a war with Japan was coming, that he ordered his task force split into two pieces. The slower ships, including his three battleships, were sent to conduct the naval exercise.
Halsey took the carrier Enterprise, three heavy cruisers, and nine destroyers as “Task Force 8” to deliver the planes. And those 13 ships would proceed “under war conditions,” according to Battle Order No. 1, signed by the Enterprise captain but ordered by Halsey.
All torpedoes were given warheads, planes were armed with their full combat load, and gunners were prepared for combat. Halsey had checked, and there were no plans for allied or merchant shipping in his path, so he ordered his planes to sink any ship sighted and down any plane.
If Task Force 8 ran into a group of ships, they would assume they were Japanese and start the war themselves. That’s not hyperbole, according to Halsey after the war:
Comdr. William H. Buracker, brought [the orders] to me and asked incredulously, “Admiral, did you authorize this thing?” “Yes.” “Do you realize that this means war?” “Yes.” Bill protested, “Goddammit, Admiral, you can’t start a private war of your own! Who’s going to take the responsibility?” I replied, “I’ll take it! If anything gets in my way, we’ll shoot first and argue afterwards.”
The USS Enterprise sails in October 1941 with its scout planes overhead.
Equipped, prepared, and looking for a war, Halsey and his men sailed until they got within range of Wake Island on December 4, dispatched the Marines, and then headed for home.
There is an interesting question here about whether it would have been better if Task Force 8 had met with the Japanese force at sea. It would surely have been eradicated, sending all 13 ships to the bottom, likely with all hands. But it would have warned Pearl of the attack, and might have sunk a Japanese ship or two before going down. And, the Japanese fleet was ordered to return home if intercepted or spotted before December 5.
But the worst case scenario would’ve been if Task Force 8 returned to Pearl on its scheduled date, December 6. The plan was to send most of the sailors and pilots ashore for leave or pass, giving Japan one of its prime carrier targets as well as additional cruisers to sink during the December 7 attack.
Luckily, a fluke accident occurred at sea. A destroyer had split a seam in rough seas, delaying the Task Force 8 arrival until, at best, 7:30 on December 7. A further delay during refueling pushed the timeline further right to noon.
I peered intently through my binoculars at the ships riding peacefully at anchor. One by one I counted them. Yes, the battleships were there all right, eight of them! But our last lingering hope of finding any carriers present was now gone. Not one was to be seen.
USS Enterprise sailors watch as “scores” go up on a board detailing the ship and its pilots combat exploits.
And the Enterprise would go on to fight viciously for the U.S. in the war. Halsey spent December 7-8 looking for a fight. While it couldn’t make contact in those early moments of the war, it would find earn 20 battle stars in the fighting. It was instrumental to the victories at Midway, the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, the Philippine Sea, and Leyte Gulf.
It suffered numerous strikes, but always returned to the fight. Its crew earned the Presidential Unit Citation and the Navy Unit Commendation. The ship, and much of the crew, survived the war. But the Enterprise was decommissioned in 1947.
Two great articles, linked above, were instrumental in writing this article. But a hat tip also goes out to Walter R. Borneman whose book The Admirals inspired this piece.
A note from a 1955 Ballantine Book remarked about how one author – a former serviceman – arrived in their New York offices with his Stars and Stripes drawings and a story of a “brilliant military career, where he rose through the ranks to become a PFC.”
That newly-minted civilian was Shel Silverstein. And he did rise through the ranks to become one of the most celebrated American writers.
A quick perusal of the books on his website will show a body of work that uses all his many talents.
For decades, Silverstein entertained and delighted children with poetry like “Where the Sidewalk Ends” and stories like “Giraffe and a Half.” His children’s book “The Giving Tree” is widely considered one of the best, though to some divisive, of its genre.
But there is at least one book missing from that list.
It was during his time in the military that Silverstein began to draw cartoons, at times finding himself at odds with military censors. He later wrote enough cartoons to make a compendium of his best works.
“Drop Your Socks” was published in 1955 to the delight and entertainment of the new peacetime Army and the old war veterans alike.
The young artist was attending the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts when he was drafted into the Army in 1953. According to his biography in “Stars and Stripes,” the Army “without realizing its error, assigned him to the Pacific Stars and Stripes, read by thousands of Army men in Japan and Korea.”
But Shel Silverstein didn’t join the Army of WWII or Korea. It was a new Army, one not at war, but supposedly at the ready to fight for peace. Silverstein never knew the Army that “fought the wars with live ammo and read V-mail and liberated towns and kissed French girls and caught bouquets and wore baggy pants and a six-day growth of beard.”
Shel Silverstein’s Army was made up of “ordinary guys” who “dragged through two years [the amount of time a peacetime draftee normally spent in the service] cleaning grease traps, bugging out of details, and forgetting their general orders.”
As he wrote in the book’s introduction, “there’s no war now, no casualties, no rationing, and no immediate danger … people’s attitudes are bound to change.”
But legendary military cartoonist Bill Mauldin, in writing the book’s introduction said, “the thing about real military humor is that when a soldier says something funny, he is mainly trying to ventilate his innards … he expresses himself in a wisecrack because if he said it straight, he’d simply bust down.”
“Motives and methods of warfare change from generation to generation,” Mauldin continues. “But soldiering stays pretty much the same messy proposition. … I suspect Shel Silverstein would have amused the cootie-pickingest Roman centurion.”
It’s always going to be a tricky situation when the Russian Army and NATO allied armed forces are in the same fight. In the 1999 Kosovo War, such a situation could have sparked the all-out NATO-versus-Russia war the world had been hoping to avoid for 50-some years at that point. Good thing Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter James Blunt was there to stop all the madness from taking hold over everyone’s better judgement.
No time for Stalin when you’re racing the Russians.
To be fair, he wasn’t yet Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter James Blunt quite yet. In 1999, he was still James Hillier Blount, a Royal Military Academy-trained British Army officer, and he was leading a reconnaissance troop ahead of the coming NATO peacekeeping operation in Kosovo to the airport at Pristina.
He led his armored troop all the way to capital city of Kosovo, only to find Russian troops already already captured the airport.
No one told General Strangelove the Russians weren’t the enemy.
For Russia, the NATO intervention in Kosovo was a stark reminder of how far they had fallen since the end of the Soviet Union. The Balkans were firmly in Russia’s sphere of influence but there was little the Russians could do about the NATO meddling in their backyard — except maybe join them a little.
The Russians sent a small, token unit of peacekeepers to Kosovo and the first thing they did was a capture the airport. When Gen. Wesley Clark, then NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander, found out the Russians had beaten NATO to the punch, you might think his response would be mild, considering they essentially had the same mission and the Russians were no longer the Soviet Union.
He gave an order to retake the airport by force.
General Michael Jackson politely implored General Clark to beat it.
Think, for a moment, what would happen if a NATO armored column completely annihilated a 250-man Russian peacekeeping contingent with 30 armored vehicles over an airport in Kosovo. British General Mike Jackson, the commander of NATO’s Kosovo Force, knew exactly what would happen.
Instead, the British General flew in to Pristina and shared a flask of whiskey with the Russian general of the small force, even though Clark was also on his way into Pristina. Meanwhile, Russian airbases and paratroopers were getting ready for any escalation that might come next. Thousands of Russian troops were on standby to kick off World War III.
Jackson and Clark met at the NATO headquarters in the capital of neighboring Macedonia. He reminded the Supreme Allied Commander that the Russians helped broker the peace deal that ended the war and would be assisting the peacekeeping afterward.
The British, instead of murdering potential allies, simply used the armor to isolate the airfield but didn’t even block the runway. Blunt, the commanding officer of an armored troop, with a parachute regiment and some SAS in reserve, instead called for instructions and held the position while the generals decided what to do — and what not to do. After a few days without water or food, the Russians offered to share responsibility for the airport.
But even if Jackson wanted to carry out Clark’s orders, Blunt — from a military family with more than a thousand years of service — would rather have taken a court martial than carry them out, starting a world war.
In the end, no one carried out Clark’s orders to recapture the airfield from the Russians by force. In fact, Clark left his posting as NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander a little earlier than expected after the incident. Blunt served two more years in the British Army and recorded his first album just a few months later.
U.S. Navy SEALs — the elite Special Operations group with a name that has earned its reputation around the world. If people know the name of one elite unit, it’s probably the Navy SEALs.
U.S. Army Rangers — as old as American history itself, they have presented themselves as masters of both conventional and unconventional warfare time and time again. During the Global War on Terror (GWOT), they have evolved into a precision special operations force (SOF) and gained extensive combat experience, particularly in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Both are intensely involved in the GWOT, and both have had resounding successes and serious losses. As modern warfare continues to evolve, which one of these SOF units has delivered more impact in the War on Terror?
Navy SEALs train at the John C. Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.
(Photo by John Scorza, courtesy of U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command)
When discussing the U.S. Navy SEALs, it’s important to distinguish between the SEAL Teams and SEAL Team Six. SEAL Team Six (sometimes referred to as the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, or DEVGRU) belongs to the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and is tasked with executing a broad scope of special missions that often have a direct impact on the United States’ foreign policy and national security strategy. Most notably, they were responsible for killing Usama Bin Laden in 2011.
The other SEAL teams are under the purview of the Naval Special Warfare Command (NSWC) and conduct special operations, often against terrorists and insurgents. This can be confusing since the vast majority of U.S. troops in foreign engagements from Afghanistan to Syria are fighting “terrorists,” but SEAL Team Six specializes in it.
Navy SEALs conduct operations in Afghanistan alongside Afghan partners.
(U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command)
In short, SEAL Team Six is conducting complex missions like hostage rescue; high-level, low-visibility reconnaissance; and direct-action raids against high-value targets (more in the vein of Delta Force, their Army counterpart). The other SEAL Teams have a different overall mission, though overlap does exist. The clear-stated mission on paper is to conduct maritime-based missions, but that is certainly not the end of it. Special operations units are versatile, and today’s SEALs are often training friendly foreign forces, conducting direct-action raids in and outside of large American engagements, or performing their legacy mission of carrying out maritime missions.
SEALs are currently conducting operations in war zones around the world; not all of the teams are relegated to Afghanistan and Syria. They have recently worked in the Philippines, Djibouti, Central America, and South America, to name a few places. They are not necessarily running direct-action raids in all these places. For example, conducting FID (Foreign Internal Defense) with a host nation could mean accompanying local groups on missions, or it could simply mean training them on basic infantry tactics and calling it a day.
A Navy SEAL conducts training with a SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV).
(U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command)
Rangers, on the other hand, are more specific when it comes to geography. You’re not going to run into a Ranger platoon in the middle of Ethiopia, and Rangers aren’t going to be the ones tasked with hostage rescue missions off the Ivory Coast. For the most part, they go to places where there is a large American presence (or where the military wants there to be one), where the fighting is heavy and the missions are frequent, and they can roll up their sleeves and get busy. They are a precision strike force, but they are precise amid large military efforts.
While Rangers also conduct FID missions, especially in Afghanistan, their purpose revolves around kill/capture missions on a day-to-day basis.
Rangers from the 75th Ranger Regiment prepare to conduct an airfield seizure.
(75th Ranger Regiment)
Seizing an airfield is to Rangers as a maritime raid is to the SEALs. The 75th Ranger Regiment is known for its ability to take an airfield from enemy control, though this hasn’t actually been conducted for years. Most of the time, Rangers are conducting kill or capture raids in Afghanistan. In fact, they were credited with killing or capturing over 1,900 terrorists during a recent deployment to Afghanistan. They have had a presence in Syria as well.
As terrorism and insurgent-type tactics have been more common among the enemies of the United States (in contrast to conventional military tactics), the need for special operations units has skyrocketed. Rangers, SEALs, and other elite groups have found themselves bearing that weight, evolving rapidly, and fulfilling the needs of a constantly changing battlefield.
A Ranger from the 75th Ranger Regiment conducts close quarters combat training.
(75th Ranger Regiment)
These units are required to have a breadth of skillsets, intensive training, and a specific state of body and mind — however, that doesn’t mean that every deployment is rife with firefights and explosions. Many Ranger deployments to Afghanistan have ended with no shots fired; many SEALs will deploy to countries around the world without conducting any raids.
So, who has the greatest impact on the GWOT?
Rangers often use helicopters to get to their objective.
(75th Ranger Regiment)
Many of these conversations — Rangers versus SEALs versus MARSOC versus PJs versus Green Berets — devolve into a “which one is better” conversation. However, each has their task and function, and asking whether one is better than the other is like asking if a cardiac surgeon is “better” than a neurosurgeon — it depends on if you need heart surgery or brain surgery. The better informed find themselves asking: “Who is better at a maritime interdiction?” “Who can take this airport?” “Who has a presence in this area?” These are the practical questions that warrant practical answers, and those are the ones that matter on the practical battlefield.
This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.
Sitting in the driver’s seat with his foot on the gas, Major Gerald “Jerry” Johnson drove to the Alert Tent in the early morning hours of Oct. 13, 1943, as jeeps carrying other pilots from the 9th Fighter Squadron, 49th Fighter Group, Fifth Air Force trailed in a column behind. On his mind were the names of other pilots who were lost in a mission the night before, friends of his with whom he had shared pancakes in the mornings and gambled his valuables away in late-night poker games. They were briefed on the mission and sat around for hours in boredom at Horanda Air Field, a large stretch of land that was formerly just another patch in the New Guinea jungle.
When Johnson and his squadron of eight P-38 Lightnings were alerted, they took to the air to intercept a massive aerial convoy of 18 dive bombers supported by 20 agile fighters. They were outnumbered and outgunned, but Johnson wasn’t entirely concerned about that as all he could focus on was reaching the enemy before they dropped their payload over Oro Bay, an advanced military shipping installation.
9th Fighter Squadron, 49th Fighter Group. Squadron posing in front of a P-38 Lightning commemorating the first USAAF pilots to land and operate in the Philippines after the landing on Leyte, October 1944. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
As his plane climbed through the clouds, the bombers came closer into his sights. He maneuvered his aircraft and issued orders over the radio to communicate their approach. The Japanese were unaware that they were being trailed in the air when Johnson and his squadron ambushed the enemy, walking his rounds from the nose of the aircraft into one of the dive bombers, igniting the plane’s fuselage.
Black smoke and a flash of flames burst through the plane’s side as the bomber plummeted out of the sky. The Japanese zeros peeled off, and an all-out dogfight ensued. On numerous passes, Johnson evaded the tracers shot by Japanese fighters, diving and climbing, rolling and tilting before his rounds struck and downed a second enemy bomber. Their surprise attack netted him three aerial victories, two bombers and one enemy fighter, a solid day’s work that impeded the enemy formation from reaching its target.
A P-38 Lightning prepares to land after flying a heritage flight with the F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter April 3, 2016, during the Luke Air Force Base air show, 75 Years of Airpower. Photo by Staff Sgt. Staci Miller/U. S. Air Force, courtesy of DVIDS.
The large enemy force diverted away from their intended target as Johnson’s small but ferocious display of aerial finesse surprised and overwhelmed the Japanese. For his actions on this day he was awarded his first of two Distinguished Service Crosses. In his following tours, Johnson was a nightmare for the Japanese in the Pacific, earning 22 aerial victories with 21 probables to secure his status as a quadruple ace (five aerial victories are required to achieve “ace” status).
Sadly, while on a courier mission after the war, the B-17 or B-25 he was in entered severe weather, and a violent mixture of rain, lightning, and turbulence knocked out all radio communications. One of the passengers neglected to bring along a parachute, and knowing the consequences of giving up his own, Johnson handed it to the passenger, who then bailed out of the plane. Everyone with a parachute was rescued and survived, while Johnson fought with the controls until he perished. Accounts vary as to whether he was the pilot or a passenger on the plane.
Johnson’s remains were lost with the rest of the aircraft. Since he wasn’t on a combat mission, his heroic last act on Oct. 7, 1945, did not warrant a posthumous Purple Heart; however, he was awarded the Soldier’s Medal for heroism at the risk of life in a non-combat-related incident. A hero in the sky even on his final flight. Gerald R. Johnson is sometimes confused with Gerald W. Johnson, another ace pilot during World War II, but the latter’s aerial dominance was in the European Theater and not the Pacific.
Butch O’Hare: The Irish-American Who Became the US Navy’s First Combat Ace
Pirates have returned to the waters off Somalia, but the spike in attacks on commercial shipping does not yet constitute a trend, senior U.S. officials said Sunday.
The attacks follow about a five-year respite for the region, where piracy had grown to crisis proportions during the 2010-2012 period, drawing the navies of the United States and other nations into a lengthy campaign against the pirates.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters at a military base in the African nation of Djibouti, near the Gulf of Aden, that even if the piracy problem persists, he would not expect it to require significant involvement by the U.S. military.
At a news conference with Mattis, the commander of U.S. Africa Command said there have been about six pirate attacks on vulnerable commercial ships in the past several weeks.
“We’re not ready to say there’s a trend there yet,” Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser said, adding that he views the spurt of attacks as a response to the effects of drought and famine on the Horn of Africa.
He said he was focused on ensuring that the commercial shipping industry, which tightened security procedures in response to the earlier piracy crisis, has not become complacent.
Navy Capt. Richard A. Rodriguez, chief of staff for a specially designated U.S. military task force based in Djibouti, said piracy “certainly has increased” in recent weeks. But he said countering it is not a mission for his troops, who are focused on counterterrorism in the Horn of Africa and developing the capacities of national armies in Somalia and elsewhere in the region.
Several other countries have a military presence on or near that U.S. site, including France, Italy, Germany and Japan. This reflects Djibouti’s strategic location at the nexus of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.
Mattis made a point of spending several hours in Djibouti during a weeklong trip that has otherwise focused on the Mideast. As a measure of his concern for nurturing relations with the Djiboutian government, he flew four hours from Doha, Qatar, and then flew right back.
At his news conference, Mattis praised Djibouti for having offered U.S. access to Camp Lemonnier shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks.
“They have been with us every day and every month and every year since,” he said.
The U.S. rotates a range of forces through Lemonnier and flies drone aircraft from a separate airfield in the former French colony. U.S. special operations commandos are based at Lemonnier for counterterrorism missions in Somalia and elsewhere in the region.
During Mattis’ visit, elements of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, including V-22 Osprey aircraft and Harrier attack jets were visible on Lemonnier’s airfield.
The U.S. military presence has grown substantially in recent years, as reflected by construction of a new headquarters building, gym, enlisted barracks and other expanded infrastructure.
Djibouti has a highly prized port on the Gulf of Aden. The country is sandwiched between Somalia and Eritrea, and also shares a border with Ethiopia.
Mattis is using the early months as defense secretary to renew or strengthen relations with key defense allies and partners such as Djibouti, whose location makes it a strategic link in the network of overseas U.S. military bases.
Djibouti took on added importance to the U.S. military after 9/11, in part as a means of tracking and intercepting al-Qaida militants fleeing Afghanistan after the U.S. invaded that country in October 2001.
The U.S. has a long-term agreement with Djibouti for hosting American forces; that pact was renewed in 2014.
Over the past week Mattis has met with leaders in Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt and Qatar.
There are some people lucky enough to swim with dolphins — and then there are even luckier people who get to swim next to a nuclear submarine in the open ocean.
That’s exactly what the crew of the USS Olympia recently did.
After partaking in the world’s largest naval warfare exercise called Rim of the Pacific, or RIMPAC, where they helped sink the USS Racine with a Harpoon anti-ship cruise missile, the submariners aboard the Olympia got a chance to cool off in the ocean next to their sub.
The Royal Navy has spent a lot of money on the Queen Elizabeth-class carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth, which will enter service this year, and HMS Prince of Wales, slated to enter service in 2020. But these vessels, with the billions of pounds spent on their construction, may have a serious flaw that could have fatal consequences.
Let’s acknowledge some basic Aircraft Carrier 101: The primary weapon of an aircraft carrier is the aircraft on board. For the Queen Elizabeth class, this will likely be at least two dozen V/STOL version of the Joint Strike Fighter, what America calls the F-35B, along with Merlin HM.2 helicopters. This is a very potent air wing, arguably the most potent the Royal Navy has deployed on a carrier.
But take a look at America’s newest entry in that class: The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78). Yes, it has an air wing with four squadrons of multi-role fighters, plus others of helicopters, electronic warfare planes, and airborne radars. But it also has self-defense systems.
The Sixteenth Edition of the Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World reports that the Ford has RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles, RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missiles, and Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon Systems. This provides three layers of defense against incoming missiles that the escorts don’t shoot down first.
The Queen Elizabeth-class carriers will be equipped with three Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon Systems. There are four 30mm autocannon for use against small boats. That’s it. Only one layer of defense – and that one layer isn’t quite the state of the art. Naval-Technology.com reports that the Queen Elizabeth is fitted for the ASTER 15 missile (now called the Sea Viper), but actual installation depends on finds being made available.
This is a glaring omission. The United Kingdom lost eight aircraft carriers in World War II. Unless this armament issue is resolved, HMS Queen Elizabeth could be the ninth. You can see more about this potential Achilles Heel in the video below.