5 surprising facts you probably didn't know about the French Foreign Legion - We Are The Mighty
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5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

1. Legionnaires are instilled with a “fight to the death” attitude. Giving up is not really an option.

In April 1863, a battle between the French Foreign Legion and the Mexican army showed how effective and ballsy legionnaires really could be. With a total of just 65 men, the legionnaires fought back against a force of approximately 3,000 at the Battle of Camarón. Despite the overwhelming odds, the small patrol of legionnaires inflicted terrible losses on the Mexican forces and they refused to surrender.


Instead, their French officers actually called on the larger Mexican force to surrender multiple times. Holed up inside of a hacienda, only five men remained able to fight (most were killed or wounded) — and incredibly — mounted a bayonet charge against the opposing force, until they were ultimately surrounded and forced to surrender.

“Is this all of them? Is this all of the men who are left?” a Mexican Major said at the time, according to the book Camerone by James W. Ryan. “These are not men! They are demons!”

The Legion still celebrates and commemorates the battle today — and the wooden hand of their slain commander, Capt. Danjou, is the most prized possession at the Legion’s museum in Aubagne, writes Max Hastings.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

2. Legionnaires who are wounded are granted automatic French citizenship.

Though troops serving the Legion hail from 138 different countries, they can become French citizens eventually. After serving at least three years honorably, they can apply to be citizens. But they also have a much quicker path: If they are wounded on the battlefield, they can become citizens through a provision called “Français par le sang versé” (“French by spilled blood”), according to The Telegraph.

The French government allowed this automatic citizenship provision in 1999.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

3. More than 35,000 foreigners have been killed in action while serving with the Legion.

Throughout its history, the French Foreign Legion — and the fighters who make up its ranks — were seen as expendable. The foreigners who continue to join do so accepting the possibility of their death in a far-off place, in exchange for a new life with some sense of purpose. But meaningless sacrifice has gradually become a virtue in itself, according to a Vanity Fair article about the Legion.

“It’s like this,” an old legionnaire told William Langeweische of Vanity Fair. “There is no point in trying to understand. Time is unimportant. We are dust from the stars. We are nothing at all. Whether you die at age 15 or 79, in a thousand years there is no significance to it. So f–k off with your worries about war.”

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

4. The Legion used to accept anyone — criminals and misfits especially — with no questions, but now there is a thorough screening process.

Since its founding in 1831, the Legion has become the one place of escape for those with haunted pasts. Men with criminal records, shady business dealings, or deserters from their home country’s armies were accepted into the ranks, with no questions asked. Stripped of their old identity and given a new one, the new legionnaires are able to begin their new life with the slate wiped clean.

The legion will still accept deserters and other minor miscreants, but it’s not as easy as it once was. New recruits are given a battery of physical, intelligence, and psychological tests before they even get any kind of training. Later on in the process, recruits are screened for “motivation” in order to weed out those who don’t have the drive to make it in the ranks.

Some of the process was detailed by Simon Bennett at Vice:

Finally, after countless hours spent lingering in uncomfortable conditions, the only thing standing between us and a spot with the Legion was what was referred to as the “Gestapo.” Rumor had it that at this point, the Legion knew everything about you. The word Interpol is thrown around a lot—any financial, criminal, family, and employment background information is supposedly fair game. Call it a hunch, but I think that’s bullshit. Make no mistake, I believe someone, somewhere has access to all of that information. But a sweaty, apathetic French administration in a run-down, quasi-bureaucratic shithole in suburban Marseille isn’t that someone or somewhere. In any case, they called me in for an interrogation.

While they may not necessarily be running from their past when they join the Legion these days, all new legionnaires are still stripped of their old identities and given new ones, which they maintain for at least their first year of service.

“Legionnaires begin a new life when they join,” a legionnaire named Capt. Michel told NBC News. “Each and every one of them is allowed to keep his past a secret.”

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

5. The pay is terrible, and so are the benefits.

Legion recruiters could easily steal the infamous U.S. Marine Corps recruiting poster with the slogan, “We don’t promise you a rose garden.” The pay is terrible, as are the benefits, but that doesn’t seem to matter. Despite the promise of a very rough life and the possibility of being sent to fight anywhere, thousands continue to show up each year.

Legionnaires can expect deployments to austere environments and/or see plenty of combat. The Legion is currently in Afghanistan and Mali, for example.

Their starting pay is roughly $1450 per month for at least the first couple of years in. That’s a pretty small paycheck compared to the lowest-ranking U.S. Army soldier making $1546, which is guaranteed to go up to $1733 after being automatically promoted six months later (if they don’t get in trouble of course).

There is at least one bonus to the Legion if you fancy yourself a drinker: There’s plenty of booze. Even in a combat zone, legionnaires are drinking in their off time, and their culture of heavy drinking would make any frat-boy blush.

MIGHTY TRENDING

F-35 pilot describes A-10 as ‘Chewbacca with chainsaw arms’

The desert screams by below. The clouds scream by above. Both stretch on into the horizon. It’s deceptively calm in the cockpit. There’s a constant, seemingly discordant stream of chatter coming through his helmet. The digital screens in front of him, along with images projected onto his visor, provide enough information to save lives and take a few as well. In the sky ahead are more than 60 advanced enemy aircraft, flown by some of the best fighter pilots in the world. They are hunting — looking to kill him and his wingmen. He just graduated pilot training. Welcome to Red Flag.


“I haven’t been flying that long. There are things that stand out in my career. My first solo flight, my first F-35 flight and my first Red Flag mission. I don’t think I’ll ever forget those things,” said 1st Lt. Landon Moores, a 388th Fighter Wing, 4th Fighter Squadron, F-35A Lightning II pilot.

Moores is one of a handful of young F-35A pilots who recently graduated their initial training and are currently deployed to Nellis Air Force Base as part of exercise Red-Flag 19-1. Now they are being battle-tested.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

An F-35A Lightning II takes off at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Feb. 1, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

“Going from F-35 training a little over a month ago to a large force exercise with dozens of aircraft in the sky is pretty crazy,” Moores said. “For the initial part of the first mission, I was just kind of sitting there listening. I was nervous. I was excited. Then the training kicked in.”

Red Flag is the Air Force’s premier combat training exercise where units from across the Department of Defense join with allied nations in a “blue force” to combat a “red force” in a variety of challenging scenarios over three weeks.

“For us, the biggest difference between this Red Flag and our first with the F-35A two years ago is that we have a lot of pilots on their first assignment,” said Lt. Col. Yosef Morris, 4th FS commander. “Putting them alongside more experienced wingmen is what Red Flag was designed for.”

Combat training has changed dramatically over the years, Morris said.

“When I was a young pilot in the F-16, I had a couple of responsibilities in the cockpit. One, don’t lose sight of my flight lead. Two, keep track of a bunch of green blips on a small screen in front of me, and correlate the blips to what someone is telling me on the radio,” Morris said. “Now, we’re flying miles apart and interpreting and sharing information the jets gather, building a threat and target picture. We’re asking way more of young wingmen, but we’re able to do that because of their training and the capabilities of the jet.”

Capt. James Rosenau flew the A-10 in four previous Red Flags, but he’s brand new to flying the F-35. He graduated from the transition course in December 2018.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

Pilots from the 388th Fighter Wing’s 4th Fighter Squadron prepare for launch at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Jan. 31, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

“I loved the A-10 and its mission. It’s like a flying tank. Like Chewbacca with chainsaw arms. A very raw flying experience,” Rosenau said. “Obviously the F-35 is completely different. It’s more like a precision tool. After seeing the F-35 go up against the near-peer threats replicated here at Nellis (AFB), I’m a big believer.”

The two aircraft are similar in one way. They do very specific things other aircraft aren’t asked to do.

“In the A-10, I liked being the guy who was called upon to directly support troops on the ground. To bring that fight to the enemy,” Rosenau said. “Now I like being the guy who can support legacy fighters when they may be struggling to get into a target area because of the threat level. We have more freedom to operate. We have this big radar that can sniff out threats. We can gather all of that and pass it along or potentially take out those threats ourselves.”

The threat level is high at Red Flag. From the skill and size of the aggressor forces in the air to the complexity and diversity of the surface to air threats, there is a real sense of the ‘fog and friction’ of war. The adversary force also uses space and cyber warfare to take out or limit technology that modern warfighters rely on. Cutting through the clutter is a strength of the F-35A.

“One of the jet’s greatest assets is to see things that others can’t, take all the information it’s gathering from the sensors and present them to the pilot,” Moores said. “One of our biggest jobs is learning how to process and prioritize that. For the more experienced pilots it seems like it is second nature. … If we don’t, it’s not like we’re getting killed (in the F-35), but we could be doing more killing.”

The pilots say seeing the F-35A’s capabilities being put to use as part of a larger force has been invaluable.

“When we mission plan with other units, it’s not always about kicking down the door,” Rosenau said. “It may be about looking at what the enemy is presenting and ‘thinking skinny.’ With the F-35, we can think through a mission and choose how we want to attack it to make everyone more survivable.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia claims accused spies were on a routine trip

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has rejected accusations made by the Dutch authorities against suspected Russian spies.

In early October 2018, authorities in Netherlands said that four agents of Russian GRU military intelligence tried and failed to hack into the world’s chemical-weapons watchdog, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), whose headquarters are in The Hague.

Commenting on the Dutch allegations, Lavrov said the four Russians were on a “routine” trip to The Hague in April 2018 when they were arrested and deported by Dutch authorities.


“There was nothing secret in the Russian specialists’ trip to The Hague in April,” Lavrov said at a briefing in Moscow on Oct. 8, 2018, after talks with Italian counterpart Enzo Moavero Milanesi.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

“They weren’t hiding from anyone when they arrived at the airport, settled in a hotel and visited our embassy. They were detained without any explanations, denied a chance to contact our embassy in the Netherlands and then asked to leave. It all looked like a misunderstanding.”

Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it handed a note on Oct. 8, 2018, to the Netherlands’ ambassador protesting the detention and expulsion of Russian citizens, calling the incident a provocation.

Dutch defense officials released photos and a timeline of the GRU agents’ botched attempt to break into the OPCW.

The OPCW was investigating a nerve-agent attack on a former GRU spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter in Salisbury, England; Britain has blamed it on the Russian government. Moscow vehemently denies involvement.

Featured image: Four Russian citizens who allegedly attempted to hack the OPCW in The Hague are seen in this handout picture released on Oct. 4, 2018.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the Air Force knowingly left F-22s in the hurricane’s path

When Hurricane Michael hit Florida as a Category 4 storm, it was a historical record — and it just happened to land a direct hit on a major U.S. Air Force base, Tyndall. Unfortunately for American warfighters and taxpayers, some of the Air Force’s most-needed and most-expensive assets were stuck in hangars damaged by the storm, leading to losses that might total hundreds of millions of dollars.

So, why did the Air Force leave these highly mobile and expensive assets in the path of a predictable, easily-tracked storm?


5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor from the 95th Fighter Squadron retracts its landing gear during takeoff at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., June 14, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Isaiah J. Soliz)

Well, it’s not always as simple as people like to imagine — and commanders had to deal with a series of huge issues when the storm came barreling towards them. The numerous aircraft on base (including 55 F-22s) in their care was just one of many immediate problems.

F-22s are prized assets, but they can’t always fly. Pick your metaphor, whether it’s racehorses, racecars, boxers, or what-have-you, these are complex assets that require multiple maintenance hours for every single hour of flight. F-22’s have a readiness rate around 50 percent. You read it right — only about half of our F-22s can fly, fight, and win at any given moment.

So, while Tyndall hasn’t released their exact maintenance numbers at the time the storm was first projected to hit the base, it’s unlikely that even 30 of them were able to fly away at that moment. And the commanders had to look at the full picture — not just at their fifth-generation fighters.

A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor from the 95th Fighter Squadron retracts its landing gear during takeoff at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., June 14, 2018.

They couldn’t know exactly how strong the storm would be when it hit them, but they could clearly see it was a hurricane — and a big one. The hangars and barracks on base simply weren’t up to the task of safely housing airmen during a category-3 or -4 hurricane. Michael hit the base as a category 4, and there wasn’t a single housing structure on base that completely survived the storm. The damage was so severe that the base might be a complete loss.

Yeah. A complete loss. As in, the Air Force might shut down the base and sell off the land, though leadership has said they’re “optimistic” that it will be worth rebuilding.

So, yes, the Air Force needed to get as many F-22s flight-worthy and out as possible, but they also needed to evacuate their airmen, protect other aircraft, and get everything secured before the storm hit. That includes the massive amounts of classified materials on a base like Tyndall.

And so they juggled — and the F-22s were only one of the balls in the air.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

An F-22 Raptor from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., lands at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio for safe haven, Oct. 9, 2018. The F-22 is one of several planes taking safe haven at Wright-Patterson AFB as Hurricane Michael threatens their home station.

(U.S. Air Force Wesley Farnsworth)

The F-22s that were already flyaway-ready flew away, and parts were scavenged from some aircraft to get the others airborne. Anything that could be quickly bolted together was. That got somewhere between 37 and 52 of the 55 aircraft out.

That’s between 67 and 95 percent of the aircraft flown safely away — remember, the aircraft’s general readiness rate is 50 percent. That’s not failure, that’s a logistical and maintenance miracle.

But why didn’t they drive the other aircraft out? Or load them into C-5s with their wings removed?

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

U.S. Air Force maintenance Airmen from the 325th Maintenance Group prepare to marshal a 95th Fighter Squadron F-22 Raptor toward the taxiway at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., June 14, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Isaiah J. Soliz)

Well, taking the wings off of an airplane is actually a really difficult, time-consuming procedure and every minute that ticked by increased the difficulty of getting pilots and maintainers out ahead of the storm. Not to mention that removing the wings is guaranteed to damage the aircraft to some degree. Then, the plane needed to be loaded onto a C-5, risking that plane and crew should anything go wrong.

All of this would be done just to protect the aircraft from possible damages suffered in a storm. After all, it wasn’t guaranteed that Michael would break through the hangars.

But maybe you could throw a tarp over the plane, load it onto a truck, and drive it out?

Well, that would require a massive convoy with specialty trucks that would take up at least three lanes of a highway (usually four) at the exact same time that millions of people are trying to use the same roads to get to safety. F-22s are 44.5 feet wide, and most highway lanes are standardized at 12 feet wide.

That means protecting the planes would’ve risked the lives of Americans. You know, the exact same Americans that the planes are designed, purchased, maintained, and piloted to protect.

So, the commanders, likely unhappy with their options, got the remaining, unflyable weapons loaded into hangars and sent the rest of their personnel away.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor pilot with the 95th Fighter Squadron performs a preflight inspection prior to night flying operations at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., June 11, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Isaiah J. Soliz)

Zero Tyndall personnel were killed in the storm — and only 93 had to ride out the storm on base. The bulk of the F-22s and other aircraft were saved without damage — and that’s in a storm that damaged nearly every structure on the base, completely destroying some of them. Remember, this was a storm that removed some entire towns from the earth.

As for the damaged F-22s, initial reports from the base indicate that the damage to the airframes might not be severe. The leaders “assumed risk” by trusting the hangars, and it looks like the gamble worked.

So, sure, the military should take a look at what could have been done better. Maybe F-22s in need of maintenance should be flown to other bases during hurricane season in order to prevent a rush evacuation. Maybe we can increase investment in structures to deal with strengthening storms and rising seas, an initiative for which the Navy has requested money.

But we can’t place all the onus on base and wing commanders. Their job is to retain as much of their warfighting power as possible, and weathering such a big storm with all of their personnel and the bulk of their assets isn’t failure, it’s an accomplishment.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Marines celebrate successful assaults with British counterparts

Marines and sailors from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit participated in exercise Trident Juncture 18 in Iceland and Norway during October and November 2018. Trident Juncture is the largest NATO exercise held since 2002 and allowed for military forces to operate in a collective defense scenario.

Marines initiated the exercise in Iceland where they executed an air assault and conducted cold weather training to prepare for the live exercise in Norway. The cold weather training allowed Marines to rehearse establishing a bivouac location and familiarized them with their gear in Iceland’s high winds and driving rain.


“We need to exercise our capabilities in different locations so we can plan for different variables,” said Lt. Col. Misca Geter, the executive officer with the 24th MEU. “The weather and terrain of Iceland forces us to plan around those factors.”

After Iceland, the 24th MEU moved on to Norway who hosted the live exercise portion of Trident Juncture. Norway provided another challenging environment for Marines to train in that would not otherwise be possible in the United States. The unique climate and terrain allowed the Marines to demonstrate their proficiency in the cold weather, precipitation, and high altitude.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

Marines and sailors offload light armored vehicles from a landing craft air cushion on Alvund Beach, Norway during an amphibious landing in support of Trident Juncture 18, Oct. 30, 2018.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Margaret Gale)

The culminating event for the 24th MEU came Oct. 29-31, 2018, when they executed an amphibious landing and air assault in Alvund and Gjora, Norway, respectively. Eleven amphibious assault vehicles, more than 50 HMMWV’s, and six light armored vehicles were delivered ashore during the amphibious landing. More than 20 other vehicles were moved from ship to shore and approximately 1,000 Marines were transported ashore by surface or air connectors. The air assault saw a company of Marines from Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines insert into Gjora, secure the landing zone, and set the conditions for follow on operations. While ashore, Marines rehearsed tactics in conjunction with NATO allies to defeat the notional enemy forces.

“The training Trident Juncture 18 provided is important because we have Marines who have never deployed, been on ship or operated in the cold weather environment that Iceland and Norway have,” said Sgt. Maj. Chris Garza, the 24th MEU Sergeant Major. “We had the opportunity to operate with the United Kingdom Royal Marines, who are one of our NATO partners. The Royal Marines have a history much like ours and it has been a great opportunity to train with them. We now know our capabilities with the Royal Marines and look forward to working with them in the future.”

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

U.S. Marines secure a landing strip after disembarking from Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion during air assault training at Keflavik Air Base, Iceland, Oct. 17, 2018, during Exercise Trident Juncture 18.

(Photo by Sgt. Devin Andrews)

The large-scale exercise validated the 24th MEU’s ability to deploy with the Navy, rapidly generate combat power ashore, and set the conditions for offensive operations under challenging conditions. Trident Juncture strengthened the bond between the Navy-Marine Corps team and integrated NATO allies and partners, particularly the United Kingdom’s Royal Marines, who embarked with the 24th MEU in Iceland.

“It’s been interesting to integrate with U.S. Marines,” said Marine Declan Parker, a heavy weapons operator with anti-tanks 3 troop, 45 Commando. “We have had the opportunity to learn about their weapons systems and tactics. This exercise will aid the troops in future deployments”

The Royal Marines, with X-Ray Company, 45 Commando, worked in conjunction with the 24th MEU and assets from Marine Aircraft Group 29 to rehearse their tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel proficiency. During the TRAP, approximately 30 Royal Marines loaded into two CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 366 while two U.S. Marines served as isolated personnel to be recovered. The Royal Marines were attacked by the notional enemy multiple times which allowed them to maneuver on the enemy while a U.S. Marine called for close air support which was delivered by a UH-1Y Venom with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 269. The effective enemy suppression allowed the Royal Marines to deliver both isolated U.S. Marines safely to the awaiting CH-53.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

U.S. Navy pilots land the MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter during air assault training at Keflavik Air Base, Iceland, Oct. 17, 2018,.during Exercise Trident Juncture 18.

(Photo by Sgt. Devin Andrews)

“The fact that we were able to integrate [the Royal Marines] with Marine Corps aviation is a great training value for both of our forces,” said U.S. Marine Capt. Jacob Yeager, a member of the 24th MEU who was embedded with the Royal Marines during the TRAP. “U.S. Marine Corps aircraft delivered UK Royal Marines into a landing zone to recover two isolated U.S. Marines. That’s significant.”

As the exercise comes to a close, Marines are now more lethal and capable of operating in unique terrain and climate while exposed to the elements that the mountainous terrain presents.

“Trident Juncture has been an extremely beneficial training exercise,” said Cpl. Zachary Zupets, an anti-tank missile gunner with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines, 24th MEU. “The cold weather [in Norway and Iceland] is not the same back in North Carolina, it gets cold, but it isn’t the same kind of cold. This exercise has taken us out of our element and forced us to apply the things that we have learned and how to operate in this type of environment. We definitely had some fun out there. I think it was an amazing experience and my guys and I really enjoyed it.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy prepares to shock its largest-ever warship

The US Navy is planning to finalize weapons integration on its new USS Ford carrier and explode bombs in various sea conditions near the ship to prepare for major combat on the open seas, service officials said.

Service weapons testers will detonate a wide range of bombs, to include a variety of underwater sea mines to assess the carrier’s ability to withstand enemy attacks. “Shock Trials,” as they are called, are typically one of the final stages in the Navy process designed to bring warships from development to operational deployment.

“The USS Gerald R. Ford will conduct further trails and testing, culminating in full-ship shock trials. The ship will then work up for deployment in parallel with its initial operational testing and evaluation,” William Couch, an official with Naval Sea Systems Command, told Warrior Maven in early 2018.


Testing how the carrier can hold up to massive nearby explosions will follow what’s called a Post Shakedown Availability involving a final integration of various combat systems.

“The Post Shakedown Availability is planned for 12 months, with the critical path being Advanced Weapons Elevator construction and Advanced Arresting Gear water twister upgrades,” Couch added.

The Navy’s decision to have shock trials for its first Ford-Class carrier, scheduled for deployment in 2022, seems to be of particular relevance in today’s modern threat environment. In a manner far more threatening than most previously known threats to Navy aircraft carriers, potential adversaries have in recent years been designing and testing weapons specifically engineered to destroy US carriers.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

An F/A-18F Super Hornet approaches USS Gerald R. Ford for an arrested landing.

(U.S. Navy photo by Erik Hildebrandt)

One such threat is the Chinese built DF-21D “carrier killer” anti-ship missile. This weapon, now actively being developed and tested by the Chinese military, can reportedly hit moving carriers at ranges up to 900 nautical miles.

Accordingly, unlike the last 15 years of major US military counterinsurgency operations where carriers operated largely uncontested, potential future conflict will likely require much more advanced carrier defenses, service developers have explained.

A 2007 Department of Defense-directed Shock Trials analysis by the non-profit MITRE corporation explains that many of the expected or most probable threats to warships come from “non-contact explosions where a high-pressure wave is launched toward the ship.”

MITRE’s report, interestingly, also identifies the inspiration for Shock Trials as one originating from World War II.

“During World War II, it was discovered that although such “near miss” explosions do not cause serious hull or superstructure damage, the shock and vibrations associated with the blast nonetheless incapacitate the ship, by knocking out critical components and systems,” the MITRE assessment, called “Navy Ship Underwater Shock Prediction and Testing Capability Study” states.

The MITRE analysis further specifies that, following a nearby explosion, the bulkhead of a ship can oscillate, causing the ship to move upward.

“Strong localized deformations are seen in the deck modes, which different parts of the decks moving at different frequencies from each other,” MITRE writes.

The existence and timing of USS Ford Shock Trials has been the focus of much consideration. Given that post Shock Trial evaluations and damage assessments can result in a need to make modifications to the ship, some Navy developers wanted to save Shock Trials for the second Ford-class carrier, the USS Kennedy. The rationale, according to multiple reports, was to ensure the anticipated USS Ford deployment time frame was not delayed.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

Artist impression of the John F. Kennedy.

However, a directive from Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shannahan, following input from the Senate Armed Services Committee, ensured that shock trials will occur on schedule for the USS Ford.

Data analysis following shock trials has, over the years, shown that even small ship component failures can have large consequences.

“A component shock-qualification procedure which ensures the survivability of 99% of the critical components still is not good enough to ensure a ship’s continued operational capability in the aftermath of a nearby underwater explosion,” MITRE writes.

Also, given that the USS Ford is introducing a range of as-of-yet unprecedented carrier-technologies, testing the impact of nearby attacks on the ship may be of greater significance than previous shock trials conducted for other ships.

For instance, Ford-class carriers are built with a larger flight deck able to increase the sortie-generation rate by 33-percent, an electromagnetic catapult to replace the current steam system and much greater levels of automation or computer controls throughout the ship. The ship is also engineered to accommodate new sensors, software, weapons, and combat systems as they emerge, Navy officials have said.

The USS Ford is built with four 26-megawatt generators, bringing a total of 104 megawatts to the ship. This helps support the ship’s developing systems such as its Electro-Magnetic Aircraft Launch System, or EMALS, and provides power for future systems such as lasers and rail-guns, many Navy senior leaders have explained.

In addition, stealth fighter jets, carrier-launched drones, V-22 Ospreys, submarine-detecting helicopters, laser weapons, and electronic jamming are all deemed indispensable to the Navy’s now unfolding future vision of carrier-based air power, senior service leaders said.

Several years ago, the Navy announced that the V-22 Osprey will be taking on the Carrier On-Board Delivery mission wherein it will carry forces and equipment on and off carriers while at sea.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

A V-22 Osprey.

However, despite the emergence of weapons such as DF-21D, senior Navy leaders and some analysts have questioned the ability of the weapon like this to actually hit and destroy carriers on the move at 30-knots from 1,000 miles away.

Targeting, guidance on the move, fire control, ISR and other assets are necessary for these kinds of weapons to function as advertised. GPS, inertial measurement units, advanced sensors and dual-mode seekers are part of a handful of fast-developing technologies able to address some of these challenges, yet it does not seem clear that long-range anti-ship missiles such as the DF-21D will actually be able to destroy carriers on the move at the described distances.

Furthermore, the Navy is rapidly advancing ship-based defensive weapons, electronic warfare applications, lasers and technologies able to identify and destroy approaching anti-ship cruise missile from ranges beyond the horizon. One such example of this includes the now-deployed Naval Integrated Fire Control — Counter Air system, or NIFC-CA. This technology, which travels in carrier-strike groups, combines ship-based radar and fire control systems with an aerial sensor and dual-mode SM-6 missile to track and destroy approaching threats from beyond-the-horizon.

The Navy is also developing a new carrier-launched tanker, called the MQ-25A Stingray, to extend the combat range of key carrier air-wing assets such as F/A-18 Super Hornets and F-35C Joint Strike Fighters. The range or combat radius of carrier-based fighter jets, therefore, is fundamental to this equation. If an F-35C or F/A-18 can, for instance, only travel roughly 500 or 600 miles to attack an inland enemy target such as air-defenses, installations and infrastructure – how can it effectively project power if threats force it to operate 1,000-miles off shore?

Therein lies the challenge and the requisite need for a drone tanker able to refuel these carrier-launched aircraft mid-flight, giving them endurance sufficient to attack from longer distances.

As for a maiden deployment of the USS Ford slated for 2022, Navy officials tell Warrior Maven the ship will likely be sent to wherever it may most be in need, such as the Middle East or Pacific.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

I never went to Afghanistan. Iraq was my war, and when I think back about my deployments, there are very few things that I miss. I definitely don’t relish the sand storms or the dirt or the myriad of dangers lurking behind every piece of trash (and there is a sh#%load of trash).


Instead, I sometimes think back to those quiet moments of deployment, especially ones when I needed the rush of nicotine before stepping off on patrol or the pull of a long drag to settle down from one. Those frequent cigarette breaks with my fellow Marines were some of the most memorable moments of my life. I cherish them.

It’s been a decade since I was in the sandbox and I don’t smoke anymore, but as I unlock the door to We Are The Mighty, I have the crazy urge to light up. I’m nervous. Unlike other conflicts in our history, there isn’t a sacred place, a monument, for veterans of my generation to visit and reflect on our war and maybe even smoke a cigarette like old times. While that place may come someday, today we only have each other, and that’s why I’m nervous. I’m about to meet Staff Sgt. David Bellavia, the first and only living Medal of Honor recipient from the Iraq war.

The Medal of Honor is the nation’s highest award for valor, and it often comes at a significant price. Since WWII, 60% of all medals awarded for valor are posthumous and, for those who are able to receive the medal while living, the process is often long and arduous. Many are forced to relive and describe one of the worst days of their life — over and over again. As I prepare for the interview, I want to be sensitive to all Staff Sgt. Bellavia and his platoon in the 2-2 Ramrod faced during their war. But their story is special. They fought, and Staff Sgt. Bellavia earned his honor during hand-to-hand combat while clearing houses [Official Citation] in one of the most iconic battles: Fallujah.

Fallujah is a place that almost every Iraq war veteran has heard of. Like Iwo Jima or Hue, this battle defines an entire war. As I contemplate this idea, Staff Sgt. Bellavia and his full Army escort enter my office. As I reach out to shake Staff Sgt. Bellavia’s hand, I can’t help but think I am shaking the hand of a man who is the living monument to my war.

As I meet Staff Sgt. Bellavia, thankfully, he calms my nerves. First, he’s a very humble, open guy. He introduces himself as “Dave.” A modest father of three who’s been called back to service to tour the country in the wake of his medal ceremony. Second, he’s funny — like, really funny. He cracks a joke about how hard it is to put on a uniform after fifteen years, and I can relate; there’s no way I could wear my uniform now either. This is exactly the kind of guy who I would share a cigarette with. We laugh together as the cameras turn on.

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Staff Sgt. David Bellavia MOH Lincoln Memorial Visit.

Welcome to We Are The Mighty. So, we all have a crazy story of how we got in uniform… What’s yours?

DB: Sure. I joined the Army in 1999. My Army story’s a little bit crazy because my son was born with some birth defects. He’s good now, but the Army didn’t know what to do. So they put me on what’s called a “compassionate reassignment.” So right out of basic training, infantry cord, I go to a recruiting station for two and a half years, which is the worst gig because you’re not a recruiter, you’re not an infantryman. You’re just there telling the Army story, which you don’t know anything of because you don’t have an Army story. And when September 11th happened, the Army was like, “Hey, your son’s not officially healthy. You either get out or go on what’s called an ‘All Others Tour.'”

What’s an “All Other’s Tour”?

DB: So, I had a choice of basically getting out of the Army or just going for three years without my family… and I chose the Army. And so I went to Germany for three years. I didn’t see the family except for block leave, and that was really tough. But it was the best decision I made because of the relationships and the guys, it was really special.

Special? How so?

DB: Yeah. It’s always great to introduce young 18-year-old Americans to Bavarian beer.

Haha. Nice. Did you deploy from there?

DB: Yeah. I deployed to Kosovo in 2002, and then back-to-back from Kosovo to Iraq for 12 months, 2004 to 2005.

Kosovo? What was that like?

DB: It’s unbelievable. The one thing that I learned is that, for whatever reason, those kids in Kosovo could burn a DVD of a movie that is still in production. I don’t even know … they’re like, “Hey, have you seen X-Men 2?” I’m like, “It comes out in a month,” and like, “Here it is.” I’m like, “How is that possible? How do you have access to B-roll footage of a Marvel film before it’s made?” But these guys, [they] can’t figure out plumbing. [They] can’t get a mass transit system, but [they] can burn any movie within hours of Ron Howard saying, cut.” It’s done. It’s crazy.

Do you have a family history of military service?

DB: I grew up on Lake Ontario. Small little town. My dad was a dentist. I was the youngest of four kids. Every one of my brothers has like either multiple master’s degrees or like PhDs. I had two brothers who went to seminary. My grandad was in the Normandy campaign. [Not] D-Day. This was the 35 days after D-Day, but it was the hedgerows, ton of fighting. He would tell me his World War II stories at like … I’d be six years old just listening to this stuff. He’s still with us. He’s 99.

Was he your inspiration for joining the Army?

DB: The other thing was, I remember in high school, before the book came out, before there was a ‘Black Hawk Down’ movie, I watched the [bodies] being just dragged through the streets [of Mogadishu], that really affected me. I wanted to avenge that.

So before you got into the Army, what did courage mean to you?

DB: I had no idea what I was getting into. They told me 11 XRAY meant like extra special infantry. So courage to me was being able to endure rain and having wet socks because there was no thought of combat. Kosovo was the big war and no offense, but it wasn’t really much of a war. It was kind of a … when I got to Kosovo it was like, “Hey, take your helmets off. Soft cap.”

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Let’s jump ahead. So you end up in 2-2 from 1st Infantry Division, The Ramrods. And now we’re at war with Iraq. What does that feel like?

DB: Well, I mean, first of all, we’re watching the invasion of Iraq in like a chow hall with a potato bar in Kosovo. And so the 1st Infantry Division had such an incredible legacy of just always being first to fight. We had our own movie. I remember watching The Big Red One movie, if I’m going to join the Army, I want to be in The Big Red One. No one questioned why Lee Marvin was like a 62-year-old squad leader in D-Day. You know what I mean? He’s got all white hair.

Yeah, he must have been passed over a few times…

DB: Do you know what I’m saying? Like, why is he here? I love that movie. I loved just all the stories of what The Big Red One stood for. And the take away was that, we were a peacekeeping, forward-deployed division in Germany and a war was happening in Afghanistan. A war was happening in Iraq, and we were going to miss out on it. And so my chain of command took it upon themselves in nine months of Kosovo to just train us for what was coming down the road. And we hated that because we were doing 15-hour patrols and presence and yet we were doing bunker drills and clearing houses and my God, all that training ended up saving our life because we were so ready when the fight initially came.

A year later, you were in Iraq outside Fallujah. And it was also your birthday?

DB: Yeah, November 10th [2004] was my 29th birthday. And I just remember thinking … as a kid, I’d walk through a cemetery, and I would see people born and died on the same day on their tombstone. And I just thought, “Man, that’s gotta just be the worst.” I was just, “Get me to midnight. At least I can have something different on there.” There were a lot of times where you just give up.

And you were a squad leader at this point?

DB: Yeah.

How did you manage the stress maybe even fear that you were about to lead your soldiers in one of the most violent battles of the Iraq war?

DB: When I was on block leave from Iraq, I ran into a crusty Vietnam guy, and he told me … I was telling him everything I was going through. I was so mad. I saw like a UPS guy, and I couldn’t understand why people were normal. They had no connection to what the hell was happening. And I was looking at this UPS guy deliver packages and be so happy, and I’m like, “What the … how is this?” … and this Vietnam guy told me, he’s like, “You still believe that you’re coming home. And once you give that up, once you just acknowledge that you have no control over this, everything is far more manageable. You can compartmentalize everything.” It was the best advice that we had is that it’s not about you… don’t worry about your own survivability, worry about your subordinates, worry about them, put all your … anything that causes stress, put that below your young guys and then if you come home, that’s a bonus.

Is that what you were thinking when you got to a house full of insurgents in Fallujah? The house where you earned the Medal of Honor?

DB: So yeah, this is basically what happened in Fallujah. So [in] Anbar Province, 82nd Airborne leaves, Marine Corps comes in. This is their fight. It’s very awkward to be receiving anything for Fallujah when so many Marines… you got Brian Chontosh, Brad Kasal, and Rafael Peralta, legends in the Marine Corps, did so many incredible things. We were there just to supplement them.

You did much more than support.

DB: Fallujah was left basically unmolested for six months, and the Marine Corps had a very difficult time breaching through. So what ended up happening is everyone was on one side from the north pushing in, and the only real clear breach lane [was ours]. We got into the city expecting everyone to be on our shoulder. And when we pushed through, it took like two days for the rest of the task force to get into the city. In that 48-hour period, we had very little support, and we were pretty much the only game in town. And it developed this really odd way of, you got to your objective, you cleared it, and then you massaged back, started the invasion again, cleared it. Uh-oh, come back, do it again. And so you’re refighting in neighborhoods that you’ve been almost four times at that point. And so we got a report that there were six to eight, possibly 10 bad guys in a little neighborhood block. And we were clearing all these different buildings out and nothing. I mean, we’d get blood, or you’d see a weapons caches, but you just missed the guys, and we finally end up in the last house, and that’s when it all went down.

And then your soldiers get trapped inside?

DB: Yeah. So I’m on one side of the house, the other guys are on the other side, and basically, these guys are shooting belt-fed machine guns through a door. We have to break contact. My two guys outside with 240 Bravos that were John J. Rambo firing those things from the shoulder. Those rounds are coming in, the PKM rounds are coming out. No one can move. If anything that night that really took the most intestinal fortitude, it was standing in that door with that SAW because, again, I don’t know how many people there are. I just know that there’s fire coming out. And I got to be honest with you, you come up with a plan, and then you’re going to execute the plan, and then you just want to stall because your legs won’t walk, your body won’t move.

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So you grab a M-249 SAW and charge inside? What were you thinking? What was going through your head at this point?

DB: I remember thinking to myself, “I want to hook my finger around this trigger, not the way we’re trained to do, which is to three-second burst. But if I get hit, I want to just hold it down and just get enough fire.” And as soon as I get in that door frame, I’m looking at these guys [and] they’re not intimidated at all. The SAW was a runaway. On the range, you would break the links, point it to a safe direction. But here it’s just, “Well, I’ll just keep it on them.” I’m not hitting anything, I’m not hitting them, and I just clunk out on ammo. Those 200 rounds went like nanoseconds. It felt like far too quick. So I’m like, “could I have shot 200 rounds at like five feet and missed every single person?” I just found my body just running out of the house. And as I’m doing it, you hear, and you feel rounds everywhere, and you’re just like, “Man, that was worthless.” And so I was upset. I was angry.

And you traded the SAW for an M-4 and went back inside the house?

DB: Well, it was me, [and] Scott Lawson, who died in 2013, but he went in with me, and I had three SAW gunners. I was worried that these [insurgents] were going to run out of the house and we’re going to lose them and then they’re going to kill someone or we’re going to get killed by them down the road. So I set up the SAW gunners around the courtyard, and I was just going to run in there like an idiot and try to push them out. And again, I had no real idea how many were in there. I like my chances against wounded guys that we’ve been shooting at repeatedly. So I figured me and Lawson could at least ding them up and then the next wave of Americans could finish them off.

And you did finish them off. Five to be exact. I have one specific question. There’s a moment that I read about that. Did you smoke a cigarette during the fight?

DB: I did. I did. So, okay, understand that when you’re in [the house] … your night vision works like a cat’s eye, right? I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. I’ve never been in this building before. And after this guy jumps out of a wardrobe and I hit him five times, I was just like, “Man, I need a smoke.” I don’t have my helmet, my IBA is open, I don’t … my rifle is somewhere in the smoke. And I just am like, “You know, I need a smoke right now.”

With the enemy still in the house?

DB: I’m an infantryman. I know how to smoke at night. I’m well-rehearsed at cupping the hands and holding. And so my biggest fear was that my guys were going to come in the building and because I was just around the enemy, I was going to get popped. So I just tried to hug a wall where I knew I couldn’t be hit by anything and just have a quick smoke and that’s when this guy jumps off the roof right in front of me and breaks his leg or does something horrible to himself. But it was just, yeah, it was stress level … that’s the weird thing about that close quarter proximity. You’re super confident. “I’m Thor, I could do all of this, America.” And then you slip and fall and almost get your head blown off, and you’re like, “What am I thinking? I’m an idiot. This was a horrible idea.” And then you see fear in the [enemy’s] eyes, and you’re like, “Oh, they’re scared, I got this, everything’s great.”

That’s the most badass smoke break that I’ve ever heard of.

DB: In the moment, grab a smoke.

Let’s move into afterward. You got out of the Army. What have you been doing since you left?

DB: So I came home right during the whole political soccer ball of Iraq. So I started a group with a bunch of other Marines called Vets for Freedom, and we just went out there and said, “Hey, don’t send us to fight unless you want us to finish it. Right? I mean, we didn’t vote for this thing. We’re the ones adjudicating this fight. You want to defund it. I mean, we lost our buddies out there. This is more important than some political soccer ball.” And so in order to become apolitical, we became uber-political, and I just hated it. That’s not what we wanted to do. So I started focusing more on just veterans in normal life.

Do you think Veterans can find some kind of “normal” in civilian life?

DB: We’re not walking around with high and tights, we’re not wearing camouflage to work, but the type of men and women who served this country are special, and we’re volunteering to do it. And when we come home, we would like to make America as great as we did serving it in uniform and we want to be teachers and we want to be coaches, and we want to lead at home the way we did in battle.

What was it like taking off the uniform and leading in a different way?

DB: The first thing I learned right off the bat is that no civilian wants to know when you’re going to the bathroom. Right? Because I’m accustomed to being like, “Hey, I’m going to go to the bathroom. I’m going to go take a leak.” No civilian ever wants to hear that. So I learned some tough lessons right off the bat.

And now, as a business owner, what do you tell other veterans when you see them?

DB: When I wore the veteran thing on my sleeve, I found that I was a bigger spectacle. And so I just decided to just compartmentalize that. Let it go, move on with your life, tell them, “Oh yeah, I served too,” and most people, especially the Vietnam generation, they didn’t get any of this reflexive love. They didn’t get free tickets to Bush Gardens. They didn’t get applause when they walked through the airport. So I’ve been really appreciative of that Vietnam generation protecting us from what they went through, and also their ability to kind of do a victory lap for our generation when we come home. And these guys in the workplace, what they’ve been able to accomplish. I love that. When I find out someone’s a vet, it’s like a Christian in the Catacomb, a little wink. You do the secret handshake, and that resume goes right to the top. I want that … I don’t care what you did.

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You’re also a family man now, what do you tell your kids about courage and service?

DB: I tell them that the United States Army is the greatest … we’ve been fighting bullies since 1775 right? I’ve always told my kids, “I will never … if you come home with a fat lip because you were defending someone who couldn’t defend themselves, I don’t care what the school does, I don’t care what the law does. You will defend people who can’t defend themselves. That is why we’re on this earth.” We’re there to take care of our weaker brother. We’re there to take care of our weaker sister.

You also co-wrote a best selling memoir about your experience in Fallujah called House to House. Can you tell me briefly about the book?

DB: Well, yeah I’ve been going through that for a while. When I came out, there were very few memoirs written but, I don’t know if I would’ve made that choice again because I didn’t want to write [about me]. I wanted to write about my soldiers. My soldiers were the greatest men I’ve ever met in my life. They still are. And what we did together, we weren’t SEALs, we weren’t Green Berets [or] Recon. We were just knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathers. That’s what we were, just average soldiers doing above average things because we found ourselves in those situations.

One last question. Do you still smoke?

DB: I am a recovering smoker. I do some tobacco products here and there and nicotine lozenges, a little dip. But I’m trying to beat that. But now the smoking is definitely gone. I’ve graduated.

Dave, this has truly been an honor. Anything else I missed?

DB: No, you got it.

Click HERE to read more about Staff Sgt. David Bellavia’s actions which, earned him the distinguished role as the first and only living Medal of Honor recipient of the Iraq war.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Saudi Arabia might be killing off suspected assassins

Mashal Saad al-Bostani of the Saudi Royal Air Forces, who was named by pro-government Turkish media as one of 15 suspects in the alleged murder of Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi, has reportedly died in a car accident on return to the kingdom.

An article titled “Riyadh Silenced Someone” on Yeni Safak, a Turkish newspaper that strongly supports Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, cited anonymous sources as saying Bostani died in a car crash, without giving a specific time or location.

Yeni Safak has proven a major voice in coverage of Khashoggi’s disappearance, with daily scoops from unnamed Turkish officials giving gory details to what they allege was a murder within the Saudi consulate on Oct. 2, 2018.


Saudi Arabia flatly denies any knowledge of Khashoggi’s whereabouts or disappearance, but US intelligence officials have started to echo the view that the prominent Saudi critic, who recently took residence in the US, was murdered.

In particular, Yeni Safak has reported having a audio tape of Khashoggi’s murder, but Turkish intelligence has not turned over the tape to the US. The US and Turkey are NATO allies with extensive intelligence-sharing agreements.

“We have asked for it, if it exists,” Trump said of the tape on Oct. 17, 2018. “I’m not sure yet that it exists, probably does, possibly does.”

Turkey has also become possibly the world’s biggest jailer of journalists with few independent voices left in its media scene.

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Surveillance footage published by Turkish newspaper Hurriyet purports to show Jamal Khashoggi entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

(CCTV)

“Let’s be honest,” Democrat Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut told Business Insider on Oct. 17, 2018, “the Turks have leaked some pretty serious allegations through the press that they have not been willing to make public. There are not a lot of clean hands.”

“We should acknowledge that most of what we know is through leaks from the Turkish government,” he continued. “At some point the Turks have to give us exactly what they have instead of leaking all of this to the press.”

The Daily Beast on Oct. 16, 2018, cited “sources familiar with the version of events circulating throughout diplomatic circles in Washington” as saying Saudi Arabia would try to pin the murder of Khashoggi on “a Saudi two-star general new to intelligence work.”

This holds with President Donald Trump’s suggestion that “rogue killers” took out Khashoggi, and not the Saudi monarchy itself.

CNN and The New York Times on Oct. 15, 2018, also reported that Saudi Arabia was preparing an alibi that would acknowledge Khashoggi was killed.

But to date, no Saudi alibi has emerged. After a trip to Saudi Arabia, US Secretary of State said that the Saudis didn’t want to discuss the facts of the case, but that they would conduct an investigation and hold any guilty parties accountable.

Saudi Arabia is known for its exceptionally high rate of car accidents and fatalities.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

A sailor stuck on Puerto Rico delivered aid in his mom’s car

Joel Rivera rumbled down dirt roads in his mother’s Kia Forte weeks after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico — on a mission for the U.S. military that he never imagined when he joined the Navy 14 years ago as a submariner.


Dressed in civilian clothing, Rivera and his cousin drove through mountains searching for islanders needing food and water who were out of reach because large trucks couldn’t use debris-filled and washed-out roads. He’d drop off what little provisions he could carry in the four-door sedan and — whenever he could get a cell phone signal — report to military officials on the island about the hardest-hit areas.

“I’d really just pick a spot on a map that was secluded,” he said. “At this point the government was handing out food and water to the cities.”

“I wanted to take care of the places where they were overlooking.”

This was far from an ordinary assignment for Rivera, a machinist’s mate aboard the USS San Francisco as it transitions from a decommissioned attack submarine to a training vessel at Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth.

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Aerial view of part of Roseau, revealing widespread damage to roofs. (Photo from UK DFID)

While the Navy sent helicopters, ships and doctors from Hampton Roads to help, Rivera was simply on vacation. He managed to get to an Army Reserve Center base, secured orders to temporarily join a military police battalion there, then was given an incredible autonomy to help in a way few others could — all without ever wearing a uniform.

“It was a great experience doing that. At the same time you could see in their faces that this is not enough, and it’s always going to be like that I think,” Rivera said earlier this month at Submarine Forces Atlantic’s headquarters in Norfolk. “I could only give them a couple things here, a couple things there.”

Rivera’s unlikely role as a submariner delivering humanitarian aid ashore started out as rest and relaxation.

He was born in Puerto Rico and was visiting his parents for the first time in six years when Maria struck as a Category 4 storm in September, causing catastrophic damage to much of the American territory’s infrastructure and leaving residents like his parents without electricity or running water. He had chosen a two-week visit during what happened to be hurricane season because he has no family in Hampton Roads and volunteered to work over the holidays so others could spend time with loved ones.

He was set to fly back to Norfolk just four days after the hurricane made landfall, but it soon became clear that would be impossible. A few days after clearing debris in his parents’ neighborhood, helping neighbors repair roofs and generators, he hiked for five hours to get to his grandmother’s house and ride with his uncle to a nearby military base. He needed to tell his bosses in Virginia what happened, but even the base didn’t have telephone or internet service yet.

He didn’t try going to another base for several more days — gas for a vehicle was a precious commodity. But when the roads near his parents house became passable, he found an Army Reserve Center he heard might have communications.

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Petty Officer 2nd Class Joel Rivera, right, assigned to Deep Submergence Unit, directs members of the media down the hatch of the Submarine Rescue Diving and Recompression System during a submarine rescue exercise as part of exercise Bold Monarch 2011.  (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Ricardo J. Reyes)

There, he was able to use Facebook Messenger to let his superiors know he was safe. They told him to just keep helping out in his community and return to Virginia when he could.

On Day 28 in Puerto Rico, he got a cellphone signal and talked to his boss again. Rivera was told if he could find a base to take him in, he would be given temporary orders to join it so he didn’t have to use all his leave. The Army Reserve quickly said yes.

At first, Rivera mostly did clerical work at a base near his home. But after two days, he said he felt like he wasn’t doing enough to directly help.

So Rivera was given a unique assignment: Go to a commercial airport near his parents’ home in Ponce on the southern end of the island that was being used to fly in humanitarian supplies by JetBlue Airlines. There, JetBlue officials stuffed his mother’s car with boxes of bottled water, canned goods, breakfast bars, snacks, and other supplies.

“We went exploring and talked to the people, said, ‘Hey, I’m trying to find the people that really need this.’ They were really helpful. They weren’t greedy. They pointed us where to go,” Rivera said. “It’s mountainous areas, places I didn’t even know were there.

Read More: This is how the Army Corps of Engineers is helping Puerto Rico

“Dirt roads. Places I shouldn’t have been taking my mom’s car through.”

When he could, Rivera said, he’d wait in line for hours to get ice so that residents could have a cold sip of water during extremely hot and humid days. Rivera bought a cooler for the ice and paid for gas, although he said the Army base provided some fuel.

For two weeks, Rivera primarily operated on his own, occasionally texting his whereabouts to a contact at the police battalion. When he was able to get a flight home nearly two months after he arrived, he returned to the reserve center base one more time so he could thank everyone for the opportunity to work with them.

Rivera realizes it’s unusual for a submariner to do what he did, but the lessons he’s learned in the Navy about staying calm under pressure helped.

“When disaster strikes you try not freak out about it and try to see the bigger picture. We’ll eventually get this road clear, we’ll eventually get a little bit more stable with the water,” he said.

“I think that was one of the biggest things, is just realizing is that everything’s eventually going to be a little bit better throughout any situation.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Naval Air Station in Virginia on lockdown after active shooter incident

A major US Navy station in Virginia Beach, Virginia, was placed on lockdown April 5 after an active shooter incident on the base.

NAS Air Station Oceana confirmed the incident on Twitter, and said that the perpetrator was “contained.” One person was injured, the station confirmed. Local news anchor Kristen Crowley reported the victim had a minor leg wound.

The base added that the victim was transported to hospital.


NAS OCEANA experienced an Active Shooter incident. The shooter has been contained. The victim has been transported to the hospital. More information to follow.

twitter.com

Naval Air Station Oceana previously announced the lockdown at 7:18 a.m., noting an unspecified “security incident.” It lifted the lockdown one hour later.

All gates to the base are closed and nobody can access it at this time, the Virginia Beach fire Department tweeted.

Police also warned people not to go near the area, local WAVY-TV reporter Katie Collett reported.

Footage outside the base tweeted by local 13NewsNow reporter Chenue Her showed dozens of people in uniform gathered at the entrance. Some of them can be seen hugging each other as they were let out of the base, Her noted.

https://twitter.com/13ChenueHer/statuses/1114128695877410817
I’m on my way to Oceana to follow this lockdown. I’ll have more info as soon as I find out. #13NewsNowhttps://twitter.com/13brianfarrell/status/1114128185556459520 …

twitter.com

https://twitter.com/13ChenueHer/statuses/1114134523804098561
I drove by the main entrance and it was severely backed up with traffic. Here’s a look down Oceana Blvd near a utility entrance with security at the gate and people gathering. #13NewsNowpic.twitter.com/hd0y6Sr0BJ

twitter.com

NAS Oceana is one of the US Navy’s three “master jet bases” in the country, and houses 18 Hornet and Super Hornet fighter jet squadrons, according to the base’s website.

It is home to some 10,500 active Navy personnel, about 10,000 family members and 4,500 civilian personnel, the base said.

Representatives for neither NAS Oceana nor Virginia Beach were available for comment at time of publication. INSIDER has contacted the US Navy for comment.

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

Articles

These remarkable photos show the physical toll a war takes on the Commander-In-Chief

Statistically, the American Presidency is the deadliest job in the world. Over 18 percent of those who’ve held the job have died in office.  It’s also arguably the most stressful in the world. Don’t think so? Well, check out these paintings and photos of America’s wartime Presidents before and after their wars:


George Washington – Revolutionary War

Even in a painting, the toll a war takes on the Commander-In-Chief is evident. The first painting was made in 1772. The second was just after the Revolution in 1783. Wigs notwithstanding, the differences between the two men are stark.

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Thomas Jefferson – War with the Barbary Pirates

Sure Jefferson was already well-aged by the time he ran for president. He had to go against many of his core beliefs to defend the rights of Americans abroad and to rescue captured U.S. sailors.

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James Madison – War of 1812

Unlike earlier engravings of Madison, the portrait on the right was painted to highlight the toll the War of 1812 (then derisively called “Mr. Madison’s War”) took on the president.

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James K. Polk – Mexican-American War

The left painting of Polk was done in 1846, just before the start of the war. The daguerreotype on the right was taken just before the end of his presidency. Even though the war had been over for a year, President Polk’s health never recovered from the stress.

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Abraham Lincoln – Civil War

The 1860 photo on the left was taken just before Lincoln’s inauguration. On the right, an 1865 photo reveals the strain of leading the Union in the Civil War for four years.

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William McKinley – Spanish-American War

The Spanish-American War lasted just a few weeks of 1898. McKinley was President from 1897 until his assassination in 1901. Still, the two photos of the him before and toward the end of his term show that even in 1900, just being the American President takes its toll.

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Woodrow Wilson – World War I

President Wilson famously “kept us out of war” in his first term, but events in his second led to the formation of the American Expeditionary Force and U.S. entry into the Great War. Toward the end of his term, while pushing for the Treaty of Versailles, he became unresponsive and suffered a stroke. He was incapacitated for much of 1919.

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Franklin D. Roosevelt – World War II

FDR served four consecutive terms, guiding America through the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and World War II. It could be argued that he gave his life to the cause. The photo on the left shows Roosevelt as a presidential candidate in 1932, the one on the right was taken the day before his death in 1945.

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Harry S. Truman – Korean War

President Truman was 61 when he took office after Roosevelt’s death. He finished WWII and served as President for most of the Korean War, but except for a few more age lines (aka wrinkles), the job didn’t seem to take as much out of the Missouri native. He lived to be 88 and was present when LBJ signed Medicare into law.

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Lyndon B. Johnson – Vietnam War

LBJ was in his 60s when he took over for the assassinated President John F. Kennedy in 1963 but just like many before him, the wartime Presidency did a number on him. The photo on the left is from LBJ’s “midnight address,” where he discussed the Gulf of Tonkin incident that would lead America to war in Vietnam. The second is LBJ in 1972, five months before he died. After he left office in 1969, he went into a self-destructive spiral.

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Richard Nixon – Vietnam War

Granted, Nixon had a lot more to worry about than just Vietnam, but five years in the White House still aged the President considerably.

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Ronald Reagan – Cold War

President Reagan lived and worked the Cold War for every day of his 1981-1989 term. In his 1980 campaign poster, pictured left, he uses a slogan that is all too familiar for 2016’s presidential election. On the right, in a 1988 photo at the White House, the man who took office in his seventies is significantly more gray but sports the exact same smile.

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George H.W. Bush – Panama, Gulf War

Bush 41 came into the office past middle age as well. But the elder Bush had a lot of experience in Washington and in international affairs. He handled the invasion of Panama and the Gulf War so well, it seems like he’s the only one who actually looked better after the Presidency.

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George W. Bush – Global War on Terror

The present-day brings us to presidents who spent almost their entire terms at war. President Bush was in office only a few months before the September 11, 2001 attacks altered his plan to preside over the United States. The resulting War on Terror lasted until well after his successor took over. The photo below shows President-elect Bush in 2000 and former President Bush in 2009, after 8 years of war.

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Barack Obama – Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, War on ISIL

President Obama spent his entire presidency managing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He campaigned on ending the war in Iraq, then ended up having to send U.S. troops back to fight the Islamic State terrorist organization that rose up there. The War in Afghanistan will be inherited by his successor as well. The photos below show Obama on the campaign trail in late 2008 and at the March 2016 Chief of Missions conference.

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MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force identifies pilots involved in deadly T-38 crash

The Air Force has identified the pilots involved in Nov. 13, 2018’s T-38 Talon crash at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas.

Capt. John F. Graziano, 28, an instructor pilot with the 87th Flying Training Squadron, was killed in the crash, officials said. Graziano was from Elkridge, Maryland. The crash was the 5th involving a T-38 in just the last 12 months.

Capt. Mark S. Palyok, also an instructor pilot with the unit, was injured in the crash. Palyok was transported to Val Verde Regional Medical Center in Texas, where he was treated for his injuries. He was released Nov. 14, 2018, officials said in an announcement on the official Laughlin Facebook page.


“Knowing how everyone is affected by this tragedy, my immediate concern is making sure that every member of our Laughlin family is okay,” Col. Lee Gentile, 47th Flying Training Wing commander, said in the post. “Together, we are Laughlin and now is the time that we stand together to take care of one another.”

The Air Force T-38 Talon went down at 7:40 p.m. local time on Nov. 13, 2018, at the base, officials said. Emergency crews responded to the scene.

The cause of the incident is under investigation.

“Our investigators are doing everything possible to ensure they investigate this incident to the fullest,” Gentile said.

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Capt. John Graziano was killed Nov. 13, 2018, in a T-38 Talon crash.

(Air Force via Facebook)

The 87th is responsible for training student pilots and, to include specialized undergraduate pilot training for the active-duty, Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard as well as foreign allied air forces.

The latest crash comes as the Air Force is on the path to receive new trainer jets to replace its current Northrop Grumman-made T-38s.

There have been four previous crashes involving T-38s in the last 12 months, one of them deadly.

In September 2018, the service awarded Boeing Co. a .2 billion contract to build the service’s next aircraft for training future pilots.

The new trainer cannot come too soon for the service as it struggles to maintain its aging Talons, as well as its T-6 Texan II aircraft.

The Texan has had its share of problems as well.

The Air Force cleared its fleet of T-6 trainers to resume training operations at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph after a “brief pause” following a crash near the base Sept. 18, 2018.

Both pilots safely ejected from the aircraft. The Texan was also grounded in February 2018 after ongoing reports of pilots suffering breathing problems.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Articles

Today in military history: Truman orders US forces to Korea

On June 27, 1950, President Truman ordered U.S. forces to Korea.

Just two days prior, 90,000 communist troops of the North Korean People’s Army invaded their southern counterparts. This action prompted an emergency U.N. Security Council session to search for a resolution. 

The USSR was boycotting the council due to the U.N.’s rejection of North Korea’s participation and missed their opportunity to veto the vote.

On June 27, President Truman made his announcement to the world that the U.S. would get involved in the conflict. Truman believed that the Soviets may have been behind the North Korean invasion because of their utilization of Soviet built tanks. Truman’s decision to enter the conflict was met with overwhelming approval from Congress and more importantly, the American people. 

When the Korean War started, victory was far from assured. The North Korean attack on June 25, 1950 took the U.S. and South Korea by complete surprise and the Communists were able to make large gains in a very short amount of time.

The battle lines swung as wildly as the momentum of the war itself before grinding into months of stalemate as the two sides haggled at the negotiating table. Every time the pendulum shifted, more American and UN forces were captured by the North Korean and Chinese forces.  The first reports of enemy atrocities filtered into the UN headquarters as early as two days after the invasion started.

The report found the Communist forces in Korea “flagrantly violated virtually every provision of the Geneva Convention” as well as Article 6 of the Nuremberg Tribunal Charter.

After just over three years of brutal fighting, an armistice was signed on July 27, 1953. Even to this day, no peace treaty has been signed and the two Koreas are technically still at war.

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