How green troops became professional warriors during Vietnam - We Are The Mighty
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How green troops became professional warriors during Vietnam

For most soldiers in the Vietnam-era, the time between getting drafted or volunteering and their heading to war was short. The Army had each draftee for only two years. After they were shipped to basic, trained, shipped overseas, plus the time needed to ship home and use their two months of accrued leave, each draftee could expect a year of deployed time preceded by 4-6 months of training.


How green troops became professional warriors during Vietnam
Paratroopers with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team fighting on Hill 823 during the Battle of Dak To. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Volunteers, especially officers, had it a little better. They may train for up to a year before deploying — attending advanced training like Ranger School after basic and job training.

Either way, they were expected to grow from boys to men quickly. For the three men in this video, that growth would be harder than most. The veterans fought at the Battle of Dak To, one of the bloodiest American battles of the war. Hill 875, the single costliest terrain feature of the war, was captured there.

A recently recovered film of the Battle of Dak To shows two hours of fighting in and around Hill 724, another tough terrain feature captured. Bob Walkoviak, one of the veterans in the discussion above, fought on the hill and helped find the lost footage.
Articles

9 reasons mortarmen are so deadly

Mortars used to be considered artillery weapons because they lob hot metal shells, sometimes filled with explosives, down on the enemy’s heads.


But the mortar migrated to the infantry branch, and the frontline soldiers who crew the weapon maneuver into close ranges with the enemy and then rain hell down upon them. Here’s what makes the mortarman so lethal:

1. Mortarmen can emplace their system and fire it quickly

How green troops became professional warriors during Vietnam
Mortars are basically a tube, a site, and a baseplate, so they can be assembled at the front and placed into operation quickly. In some situations, the tube can even be sighted by hand and fired without the baseplate, though both of these things reduce the accuracy. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Sarah N. Petrock)

2. Mortars can maintain a relatively high rate of fire

How green troops became professional warriors during Vietnam
Because mortar rounds move at a lower rate than howitzer rounds, they require less propellant and generate less heat. This allows them to be fired more quickly. For instance, the M120 120mm mortar system can fire 16 rounds in its first minute and can sustain four rounds per minute. The M1911 howitzer can fire 12 rounds in two minutes and sustain three rounds per minute. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Patrick Kirby)

3. The mortar crew is located near the front, so it can observe and direct its own fire

How green troops became professional warriors during Vietnam
Mortars generally maneuver forward with the other infantrymen, meaning that they can see where their targets are and where they land. If necessary, the mortar can still fire from out of sight if a forward observer or other soldier provides targeting adjustments. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Joshua Petke)

4. Mortars are often in direct communication with battlefield leaders, allowing them to quickly react to changes in the combat situation

How green troops became professional warriors during Vietnam
Since the mortars are moving with the maneuver element, they can see friendly forces and are often within yelling distance of the battlefield leadership. This allows them to shift fire as friendly troops advance and hit changing target priorities in real time. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Danny Gonzalez)

5. Mortars can be equipped with different fuzes, allowing the weapon’s effects to be tailored to different situations

How green troops became professional warriors during Vietnam
A 120mm mortar shell airbursts. Mortars can be set to detonate a certain distance from the ground, after a certain time of flight, upon hitting the surface, or a certain amount of time after hitting the surface. It all depends on what fuzes are equipped and how they are set. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Gustavo Olgiati)

6. Most mortars are relatively light, allowing them to be jumped, driven, or even rucked into combat

How green troops became professional warriors during Vietnam
These paratroopers are carrying the M121 120mm mortar system. Mortars can be airdropped into combat and the mortar ammunition can be jumped to the battlefield in soldiers’ rucks, as bundles dropped from the plane doors, or as pallets from the rear. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Alejandro Pena)

7. This mobility allows them to “shoot and scoot” and to stay at the front as the battle lines shift

How green troops became professional warriors during Vietnam
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Timothy Valero)

8. Mortarmen are still infantry, and they can put their rifles into operation at any point

How green troops became professional warriors during Vietnam
If a mortar position comes under direct attack or if the battle shifts in a way that makes mortars less useful than rifles, the mortarmen can move into action as riflemen. After all, mortarmen are infantry. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Tia Nagle)

9. Also, machineguns

How green troops became professional warriors during Vietnam
A U.S. Marine Corps mortarman pulls security during a modern operations in urban terrain exercise. Mortarmen can even be equipped with machineguns, though we don’t envy the guy rucking a mortar baseplate and a machinegun. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Careaf L. Henson)

Articles

Kim Jong-un reveals its spec ops force in military parade

North Korea publicly unveiled a special operations unit for the first time during a military parade marking the Day of the Sun, the anniversary of the birth of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, reports Yonhap News Agency.


The soldiers were armed with grenade launchers and presented with night-vision goggles on their helmets.

“Once Supreme Commander Kim Jong-un issues the order, they will charge with resolve to thrust a sword through the enemy’s heart like lighting,” a North Korean broadcaster said.

The North Korean special operations forces marched across Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang behind the Navy, Air Force, and other strategic forces. The new unit is believed to be led by North Korean Col. Gen. Kim Yong-bok.

North Korea’s special operations forces could be used to counter allied pre-emptive strike plans. Special operations troops recently drilled in preparation for a possible strike on an enemy missile base, the Korean Central News Agency reported. The force also practiced combating enemy commandos.

U.S. and South Korean reports have suggested that allied war plans include the possibility of “decapitation strikes” designed to eliminate the North Korean leadership. South Korea reported that this year’s Key Resolve and Foal Eagle drills included exercises focused on “incapacitating North Korean leadership.”

“The KPA will deal deadly blows without prior warning any time as long as the operation means and troops of the U.S. and South Korean puppet forces involved in the ‘special operation’ and ‘preemptive attack’ targeting the [Democratic Republic of Korea] remain deployed in and around South Korea,” the North Korean military warned in late March.

The North also unveiled several new missiles, intercontinental ballistic missile models, during the parade.

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Articles

Almost every rifle recovered at Gettysburg was fully loaded and no one knows why

In the aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg, the Confederate Army was in full retreat, forced to abandon all of its dead and most of its wounded. The Union Army and citizens of Gettysburg had an ugly cleanup task ahead of them. Along with the numerous corpses littered about the battlefield, at least 27,574 rifles (I’ve also seen 37,574 listed) were recovered. Of the recovered weapons, a staggering 24,000 were found to be loaded, either 87% or 63%, depending on which number you accept for the total number of rifles. Of the loaded rifles, 12,000 were loaded more than once and half of these (6,000 total) had been loaded between three and ten times. One poor guy had reloaded his weapon twenty-three times without firing a single shot. At first glance, this doesn’t seem to make any sense whatsoever.


How green troops became professional warriors during Vietnam
Springfield 1861 rifle | Smithsonian

One could draw any number of conclusions from this data. But an obvious one might be that for some reason, large numbers of soldiers were not discharging their weapons during the battle but continued to reload anyway, perhaps to give off the appearance that they were participating in volleys. The thick smoke, mass confusion, and thunderous sounds of musket and cannon fire would probably prevent a neighbor on your line from definitively observing that you weren’t actually firing your weapon. You could even mimic the rifle’s kickback as you pretended to fire. In his book on the psychological impact of killing in war, On Killing, Dave Grossman argues this very point, coming to the conclusion that the discarded but loaded weapons recovered after Gettysburg mostly represent soldiers who were psychologically unable or unwilling to fire at the enemy.

How green troops became professional warriors during Vietnam
US National Archives

Paddy Griffin highlights a few other possibilities in her well regarded book, Battle Tactics of the Civil War. For one, Griffin argues that the high rate of misfire in Civil War era rifles combined with the inability of many soldiers to reload properly under hectic battle conditions would render a large number of rifles unusable in a short period of time. Loading a civil war rifle, such as the Springfield 1861, was a complex and time consuming process. In the heat of battle, it is to be expected that some number of soldiers will panic, lose focus, or act in fear, leading them to misload and thus misfire their weapon, rendering them useless.

The rifles of the era were prone to overheating and often malfunctioned on their own and the rate of misfire only increased with each successful shot. Inserting the percussion cap, the final step before firing, was easy to bungle or forget, potentially leading a soldier to think that he had discharged his weapon when he hadn’t. There is also the chance that a soldier accidentally fires his ramrod (essential for reloading), then begins to reload his weapon only to find he cannot complete the job. These weapons would likely be abandoned. A new weapon would be claimed but it too could be a discard. The soldier would reload the newly acquired weapon only to find that it cannot fire, and then immediately drop it. Now the rifle is double loaded. There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that in some instances the misfire rate could be as high as 25% during combat. We might believe then that many of the loaded rifles were discarded on the battlefield precisely because they couldn’t fire. Functioning rifles might be desirable enough to be claimed from the battlefield long before an official tally of leftover weapons was made.

How green troops became professional warriors during Vietnam
Wikimedia commons

Finally we must consider the high attrition rate of artillery fire, which could engage the enemy at much longer ranges than musket volleys. During Pickett’s Charge, the confederate army marched slowly towards the union lines and only began anything resembling a spirited jog once they had closed to a few hundred yards. Throughout the war, both sides were reluctant to fire until they had their intended target within their sights. By the time they reached volley range, cannon fire would have already decimated whole sections of the line, leaving behind dead or dying men clutching fully loaded rifles.

These factors probably all contributed. It’s certainly believable in light of other studies that some percentage of soldiers intentionally fired over the head of the enemy, or perhaps double, triple, or quadruple loaded their rifles to avoid firing them at all. But 90 or even 60%?  That seems ludicrous. The number of casualties at the battle alone (33,000 between the two sides), not all of which could have been caused by artillery, attests otherwise. Those who misloaded or misfired their weapons were among the lucky ones. Plenty were killed before they could fire off a single pre-loaded shot.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Did the Chinese Army get screwed by shoddy Chinese military vehicles?

On Aug. 10, 2020, a video surfaced on the internet of Indian Army troops using various tools to smash Chinese military vehicles made by state-owned manufacturer Dongfeng Motor Corporation.

The video was released on the internet at the height of tensions between China and India in the Ladakh region in June 2020.

A Chinese internet user alleged the vehicles produced by Dongfeng, which are one of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s version of humvees, are practically useless for military purposes. Dongfeng is the PLA’s largest vehicle supplier.

In the Galwan Valley, the site of skirmishes between Chinese and Indian troops that led to the deaths of 63 soldiers between both armies, the rumors say the Dongfeng vehicles failed to protect the lives of Chinese soldiers. 

To South Asia’s World Is One News, the representatives from the Chinese military say the reports are “rubbish” and that they forced the video leaker to apologize. According to a story on an official Chinese military website, the allegation all stem from a WeChat post from user Zhou Liying. He was arrested and reportedly confessed his whistleblowing “crime.” 

Zhou’s handwritten letter of apology was published on the same website while India’s news media called the Dongfeng “fragile.”

Did sub-standard vehicles take the lives of Chinese soldiers at Galwan?

A Chinese netizen was made to apologize for claiming that sub-standard vehicles led to the death of Chinese soldiers during the clash with Indian border troops. According to the PLA – the netizen was arrested for spreading rumours. But this story triggered a wave of fresh claims on Chinese internet.Palki S Upadhyay tells you more.Read: https://bit.ly/2DTVjFO

Posted by WION on Monday, August 10, 2020

The rumors of the vehicles’ low quality persisted on the Chinese internet, along with stories about corruption in the corporation and investigations into wrongdoing from the government in Beijing. Another rumor says a Dongfeng official was arrested for “violating Party discipline.”

A Hong Kong newspaper backed the claim, saying that low quality steel could have been used to build the vehicles. The owner of that newspaper was soon arrested under the new state security law implemented by the Chinese government. That law says “crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces” are punishable by a maximum sentence of life in prison.

WIO News’ Palki Sharma says the Dongfeng vehicle represents everything that is wrong with China and the Chinese government.

“First, this military vehicle is a copy of the Hummer,” the journalist says. “The second reason is Dongfeng has faced corruption charges before… in 2015 a Dongfeng executive was under investigation for what? For severe violation of discipline.”

Chinese military vehicle

Aside from the internet allegations and newspaper reports, there is no proof of the vehicles’ inferior quality. In the leaked video featuring the destruction of a Dongfeng vehicle, however, Indian soldiers are seen cracking the windshields using only a helmet.

The video reportedly caused widespread uproar in China. The Chinese government won’t acknowledge the authenticity of the video or if it was related to the border skirmishes, though India says it’s unrelated. 

Dongfeng’s Chinese military vehicles are used by Chinese border troops in the Ladakh region and were used in the Jun. 15, 2020 clashes that saw Chinese and Indian troops fight each other with makeshift clubs.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of May 4th

Still no news about Kim Jong Un – even after TMZ reported (yet didn’t confirm) his death on April 25 and everyone outside the Intelligence community has been coming up with their own theories, whether he died during a botched heart surgery to whatever because he missed two major holiday appearances.

I don’t know. The logical side of my brain says that he’s probably smart enough to know that being a dictator of the country with rampant malnutrition, horrid living conditions and legalized crystal meth is doing far worse when their only trading partner is the epicenter of a deadly pandemic. He’s probably been self-isolating like everyone else in the world (except his countrymen).

But I’m still hoping the methed-out cardiothoracic surgeon did him in. Anyways, here are some memes…


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(Meme via Army as F*ck)

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(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

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(Meme via US Army WTF Moments Memes)

How green troops became professional warriors during Vietnam

(Meme via Call for Fire)

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(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)

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(Meme via The Army’s Fckups)

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(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

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(Tweet via the Madlad himself, Gen. Jay Raymond)

How green troops became professional warriors during Vietnam

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

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(Meme via VET Tv)

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(Meme via Uniform Humor)

How green troops became professional warriors during Vietnam

(Meme via Private News Network)

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(Meme via Pop Smoke)

MIGHTY HISTORY

Group seeks to name Navy ship for Iwo Jima photographer

The iconic image of six Marines raising an American flag over Iwo Jima on Feb. 23, 1945, is recognized around the world, credited with boosting morale at a critical moment of World War II, and generating record fundraising for war relief at home.


It’s also the first photograph to win the Pulitzer Prize in the same year it was taken.

After 72 years, though, some worry that the man who made it, Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal, may fade from American memory. A group of veterans and photographers want to avoid that with their longshot petition to the US Navy asking that a warship be named for him.

Rosenthal had requested the dangerous wartime assignment after he was rejected for service because of poor eyesight.

How green troops became professional warriors during Vietnam
Joe Rosenthal in Dec. 1990. Photo by Nancy Wong.

After photographing the fighting on Guam, Peleliu, and Angaur, he nearly drowned en route to Iwo Jima as he transferred from the command ship El Dorado to an amphibious landing craft the day he took the photograph.

All accounts paint Rosenthal as a hands-on practitioner of his craft, not content to sit on a ship and take photos from afar.

“He was a 33-year-old man basically volunteering for combat and not carrying a weapon, but carrying his camera,” said Tom Graves, chapter historian of the USMC Combat Correspondents Association in the San Francisco Bay Area. “He was exposed to great danger and in fact, was nearly killed several times.”

After coming ashore in Iwo Jima, Rosenthal and others learned an American flag had made it to Mount Suribachi, a volcanic cone at the southwestern tip of the island and a key objective of the Marines. Unfortunately, another photographer had already captured that image.

How green troops became professional warriors during Vietnam
Eighteen young Marines stand atop Mt. Suribachi, Feb. 23, 1945. USMC photo by Joe Rosenthal.

“I wanted a flag going up on Iwo, and I want it badly,” Rosenthal later recalled.

When he learned that a second, much larger flag was on its way to the site, he began mentally composing what would become his iconic photo: Where would the men be? Where would the flag be? How tall would it be?

He built a platform of stones and sandbags to stand on, adjusted his shutter timing and tuned his aperture. It was about noon, with the sun directly overhead and a strong wind.

“I see what had to be gone through before those Marines, with that flag, or with any flag, got up to the top of that mountain and secured the highest point, the most important point, perhaps, in the entire battle, the most important ground to be taken by those Marines,” Rosenthal said in a 1997 interview.

How green troops became professional warriors during Vietnam
On Feb. 19, 1945, 30,000 Marines and sailors launched the first American assault against the Japanese on the island of Iwo Jima, resulting in some of the fiercest fighting of World War II. This moment of the battle was captured Feb. 23 by photographer Joe Rosenthal.

AP photo editor Jack Bodkin was the first to see Rosenthal’s picture of six Marines raising the American flag on Mount Suribachi.

“Here’s one for all time,” he declared as he sent the image by Navy radio to San Francisco. The image moved on Feb. 24 and appeared in newspapers on Sunday morning, 17½ hours after it was taken.

The accolades poured in.

“I think it’s the most significant photo of all time because of what it did. I think there’s more beautiful photos, I think there’s more dramatic photos,” said Graves, a commercial photographer. “You can’t glance at it and not be moved by it. Someone at the time said it captures the soul of a nation. And I think it still does today.”

Graves’ group is expected to submit its petition to the Navy on Oct. 9, which would have been Rosenthal’s 106th birthday. Graves knows it’s a longshot, but he and his group figured it was worth a try after the previous Navy secretary opened the door to naming ships for non-military people.

How green troops became professional warriors during Vietnam
The USS Gabrielle Giffords is one of few Navy ships named after non-military personnel. Photo courtesy of US Navy.

The legacy would be fitting, said Anne Rosenthal, the photographer’s daughter.

“There are awards and there are plaques and there are speeches, but this whole idea of the ship is so appealing, because a ship is like a living thing. It has people who spend their lives on it, or parts of their lives on it,” Anne Rosenthal said.

Her father wanted to contribute to the war and took his responsibilities seriously. And she said he was not a person who thought much about his own safety and security.

“He was good at his craft before he went to war,” his daughter said. “He wanted to tell the story. And he had very good timing … so in a certain way, he was well-skilled to capture the moment and he came through.”

How green troops became professional warriors during Vietnam
Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal poses on top of Mt. Suribachi in Iwo Jima in 1945. Photo courtesy of USMC.

Though his preference was to stay on and cover the next battles in the Pacific, Rosenthal was sent back to the United States to receive his Pulitzer and other commendations.

A tour followed for the Seventh War Loan Drive, a six-week effort that yielded a record $26 billion in sales of Treasury Department bonds. Posters featuring the Iwo Jima photo were sold for the effort. The image also appeared on U.S. stamps.

Rosenthal’s photo was so good that some believed it had been posed. Time and Life apologized to Rosenthal and the AP for its claims.

“If I had posed it, I would have ruined it. I would have fewer Marines in the picture and I would make sure that their faces were seen, and I would have their identifications so that their hometown papers would have the information,” Rosenthal said later. “I wish I could pose a picture that good, but I know that I never could.”

Articles

This is why the future of motocross is female

Pop quiz, hot shot:

What do gun enthusiasm, maritime rescues, and high-velocity dirt biking have in common?

? ? ? ? ? ? ?

Time’s up.


Those divergent interests all come together in Navy Vet and motocross racer, Jacqueline Carrizosa.

The former Navy gunner’s mate and rescue swimmer is, in post-military life, a rider on the rise in the Western U.S. amateur motocross circuit. And the time it took her to try to teach Oscar Mike host Ryan Curtis to stick one basic jump is, believe us, no reflection on her abilities.

Check out a side-by-side comparison, Ryan v. Jacqueline, leaping the same stretch of track.

How green troops became professional warriors during Vietnam
Ryan (top), floating like a tank. Jacqueline (bottom), flying Navy Air. (Go90 Oscar Mike screenshot)

Yeah. She’s awesome.

As a teenager, Carrizosa had trouble staying on the straight and narrow after her family moved from California to Las Vegas, but she thrived in the Navy, excelling at physically demanding and traditionally male-dominated disciplines.

When things got rocky again after she left active duty, the same approach helped her. She found structure and purpose in highly skilled action sports, specifically motocross. Her advice?

“Establish something that makes you money, you know what I mean? But also keep your soul alive. You gotta follow your heart. I would say 85% heart, 15% brain.”

Jacqueline Carrizosa. WISE.

But it all proved a little too much for Curtis. The motocross badassery, the beauty, the sheer volume of withering sass. A day at the track with Carrizosa hit him right in the feels (understandable).

And so, completely biffing the ratio, he went 100% heart, 0% brains.

How green troops became professional warriors during Vietnam

You don’t have to imagine how that went over. All you gotta do is watch as Curtis gets his motocross mojo crossed, in the video embedded at the top.

Watch more Oscar Mike:

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This Iraq vet kayaker will make you rethink PTSD

This is what happens when a Navy SEAL becomes an actor

This is what happens when a SEAL helps you with your lady problems

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why this Civil War vet marched across England with the US flag

Gilbert Bates knew what a lack of understanding between people could lead to: violence and war. Bates was a Civil War veteran of the Wisconsin artillery who knew that people were basically good, no matter what the rumors said. If there was an area that was supposed to be hostile and dangerous for Americans, Bates would set out to prove the rumors wrong.

And he did so on more than one occasion.


After the Civil War ended, Sgt. Bates returned to his Wisconsin farm. Tensions between North and South were still high, even though the war had resolved the major issues. Northerner and Southerner were still mistrustful of one another. But Bates knew the South was in the Union for good. The victory was hard-won, but won nonetheless. So when his Wisconsin neighbors began to circulate rumors that the South was rising once more in rebellion and that any Northerner was not safe down there, Bates set out to prove them wrong by marching across the South with the U.S. Flag in hand.

Bates’ march received so much notoriety at the time that even Mark Twain, the famous American author wrote of it, predicting that Bates would “get more black eyes, down there among those unreconstructed rebels than he can ever carry along with him without breaking his back.” But everyone who predicted his demise greatly exaggerated.

How green troops became professional warriors during Vietnam

Bates walked across the unreconstructed South, some 1,500 miles, through Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia to Washington, DC. He didn’t arrive on one leg and with an eye missing, as Twain predicted. The opposite was true, actually. Bates received genteel Southern Hospitality everywhere he went, even flying the American flag he carried over the former Confederate capital at Richmond. The only place he wasn’t allowed to fly it was over the U.S. Capitol building.

This march led to Bates taking on a bet. A wealthy friend of his bet the flag carrier that he could not do the same march across England without receiving a single insult. Bates, who had an incredible belief in the goodness of his fellow man took that bet.

How green troops became professional warriors during Vietnam

Relations with England at the time of the Civil War were much different from the “Special Relationship” we enjoy today. In the 1860s, the British were more interested in King Cotton than supporting the United States against its rebels. In many ways, the English Crown supported the Confederacy, if not openly, then as an open secret. Still undeterred, Bates marched on foot – in full Union uniform – across the country. He walked some 400 miles from the border of Scotland to London to great fanfare. The English could not support him enough. He never paid for a meal or a place to sleep. By the time he got to London, the crowds swelled so much he had to take a carriage to the raise the Stars and Stripes next to the Union Jack.

Upon arriving, he telegrammed his friend, canceling the bet. To Bates, the event was worth more than any sum.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This isn’t the Guard’s first pandemic response

The last time that the United States faced a national health crisis as deadly as the COVID-19 pandemic, antibiotics did not exist. 

Neither did the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When the first case of the Spanish flu arrived in the United States at an Army camp in Fort Riley, Kansas, in the spring of 1918, World War I dominated the headlines. 

That pandemic resulted in roughly 50 million deaths worldwide in 1918-19, and about 500 million people were infected. Approximately 675,000 Americans died.  

“The flu was a disaster,’’ said Carol Byerly, author of “Fever of War: The Influenza Epidemic in the U.S. Army during World War I.’’ “It killed more people in the military than the war did, and so they tried to understand it. They didn’t understand viruses at the time.’’ 

More than 1,400 National Guard Medical Services personnel were sent overseas, leaving only 222 NGMS officers at home to assist with controlling the spread of influenza and pneumonia, according to the National Guard Bureau. (By comparison, a high of 47,000 National Guard members supported the COVID-19 response in May.) In 1918, most of the National Guard’s members — more than 12,000 officers and nearly 367,000 soldiers — served in World War I. 

“[In] 1918, the pandemic hit, and most of the medical services were deployed overseas,’’ said Dr. Richard Clark, historian of the National Guard Bureau. “The National Guard mobilized its medical forces to augment stateside military forces to help with the military bases.’’ 

The National Guard previously had not assisted with such a widespread health emergency. For more than three months, beginning in September 1858, the New York National Guard helped alleviate a disturbance during a yellow-fever quarantine on Staten Island. In late 1910 and early 1911, the Michigan National Guard enforced a quarantine of smallpox patients at a state asylum. Those missions did not provide medical support, though.  

The thought of using [the National Guard] in a medical capacity to respond domestically had not really been thought about until that point,’’ Clark said. 

The military’s role in spreading the Spanish flu is undeniable. As soldiers moved between camps in the U.S. or were deployed to France, the number of infections increased. Some Army camps, such as Camp Devens near Boston, were particularly hard-hit. When ships carrying troops returned from overseas, more soldiers got sick.  

War-bond parades left citizens susceptible to infection, too, including one in Philadelphia, attended by 200,000 people, that resulted in a spike of cases. Despite the rising totals, the pandemic was downplayed. 

“Every day, you read the newspaper, and a couple of cases were developed in the city, and officers were saying, ‘It’s no big deal,’’’ Dr. Alex Navarro, the assistant director for the Center for the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan. “[Then] there would be hundreds and hundreds of cases, and this is something very serious. Very rapidly, they had to deal with the threat. 

How green troops became professional warriors during Vietnam

The one major issue was that there was a shortage of doctors and nurses, as well as some medical supplies like surgical gauze and masks, so the war effort definitely hindered that medical response.’’ 

Some preventive measures, including social distancing and mask laws, were put into place. The military tried quarantining camps and limiting troop mobilizations, but those restrictions were not sustainable during wartime, Navarro said. They even stopped the draft in October, a month before World War I ended, Byerly said.  

“They didn’t want to stop the draft,’’ Byerly said. “They didn’t want to reduce crowding on the ships and in the training camps. They didn’t want to send more nurses and doctors to the soldiers, but that is what you have to do in order to take care of your personnel.’’ 

A total of 43,000 U.S. service members died because of the pandemic. More than a quarter of the Army’s soldiers, about 1 million men, became infected, and at least 106,000 Navy sailors were hospitalized, according to Byerly. The National Guard has no records of how many of its members died or were infected. 

While the National Guard’s role in combating the Spanish flu a century ago was minimal, a valuable lesson came out of that pandemic, Clark said. Officials began preparing to offer more support during national health emergencies. The wisdom of that decision is being felt a century later. 

“We’re not going through something new,’’ Clark said.  

“History doesn’t necessarily repeat itself, but it rhymes, so the lessons of the past should not be taken as a one-for-one example or a guide to what we need to do today. Many of the details, much of the context is very, very different, but what you can use the past as a guide for is for critical thinking about the situation. … What is the same, and what is different?’’ 

This article originally appeared on Reserve + National Guard Magazine. Follow @ReserveGuardMag on Twitter.

Articles

That time the US stole a Soviet satellite

On an undisclosed night in 1959 or 1960, four CIA agents grabbed their cameras, stripped off their shoes, and climbed into the sexiest thing to ever come out of Soviet Russia during the Cold War: the Luna.


When the night was over, the Soviets were none the wiser and America was sitting on a trove of details about the Russian satellite program.

The opportunity came when the Soviet Union, hoping to tout its technological and economic might, planned a traveling road show that would show off its greatest achievements. Since it had launched the world’s first two satellites and was a pioneer in nuclear technology, people were willing to let the road show in.

How green troops became professional warriors during Vietnam
The Soviet space program was the pioneer in the first few years of the space race. After launching the first two man-made satellites, Russia began working on the Luna spacecraft, pictured, which were designed to impact the moon. (Photo: Russian Archives)

 

And America wanted a ticket. Agents went to one of the stops to see if maybe, just maybe, the satellite model was actually a real, production satellite. They managed to get to the Luna while it sat, alone and unguarded, in an undisclosed exhibition hall for 24 hours.

The agents learned that the Luna on tour was very much a real satellite; it just wasn’t carrying an engine or certain electronic parts. But it was still a production satellite with markings that would indicate what companies had manufactured parts, and studying it could give Americans a better idea of its capabilities.

And so the CIA wanted to get a better look. When they checked the upcoming tour dates, another visit in an exposition was ruled out because the Soviets were expected to man a 24-hour guard at most future locations. But, there was no guard scheduled while the displays were in transit.

The CIA first went for hijacking a train, hopefully by shunting it off the main tracks and onto a side lane with a warehouse, but the agency didn’t have adequate resources on the rail line to pull it off. That left the possibility of hijacking the truck that took the satellite to the rail yard.

Agents started by getting the Luna scheduled for the last truck out of the fairground after a display. Then, they kept an eye on the Russians in the rail yard and the fairground as well as vehicle traffic on the roads.

The vehicle checker in the rail yard had no way of talking to colleagues at the fairground, so he was unlikely to know how many trucks were supposed to be coming and going, and CIA cars shadowing the truck saw no signs of a Soviet escort.

And so the Americans pounced, forcing the truck to stop and sending the original driver to hang out overnight in a hotel (no word on how they kept him occupied, so we’re going to assume alcohol and other party favors were involved).

Then they used another driver to move the truck to a salvage yard rented for just this purpose. Cars from the CIA station patrolled the area around the yard to ensure no one came knocking.

Four agents went into the yard with portable lights, cameras, metric wrenches, and other tools. They quickly set to removing the roof of the massive crate, 20 feet long, 11 feet wide, and 14 feet tall at the peak.

Then, they lowered ladders into the crate and began photographing the satellite. They removed their shoes to prevent leaving scuff marks on the device. They photographed the payload, a large orb with an attached antenna, as well as all the present electronics and many of the attachments.

 

How green troops became professional warriors during Vietnam
Luna satellite schematic as drawn by the CIA. (Image: CIA)

A team opened the engine compartment by removing 130 bolts and then got into the payload basket by cutting a wire with a stamped plastic seal. As the main team photographed the items underneath, cars raced the wire and seal back to the station to get copies made.

In a short time, the agents copied down all relevant data from the engine compartment, nose section, and even the payload basket while taking detailed photos of the same. A roll of film was developed inside one of the cars to make sure that all photo equipment had worked properly.

By then, the replacement seal had arrived and the agents got the whole thing put back together inside its crate. A little after 4 a.m., the original driver was sent back to his truck and he delivered it to the rail yard where no Soviets were present. When the rail checker arrived at 7 a.m., he saw the waiting truck and had the Luna loaded on the train.

As far as the CIA could tell, the Soviets were none the wiser. America was able to identify the major company producing the Luna and at least three companies that produced components for it.

MIGHTY FIT

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties

The National Football League has been plagued by questions of patriotism in the last few years. But whether or not the NFL kneels or stands this year, it’s important to remember that some of the players and coaches have served, too.


How green troops became professional warriors during Vietnam

1. George Halas

Halas was instrumental in the creation of the NFL and responsible for founding the team that went on to be the Chicago Bears in 1920. Nicknamed “Papa Bear,” Halas coached the Bears for 40 seasons, leading them to six NFL titles. Halas served in the Navy during World War I and returned to Navy service from 1942-1945.

How green troops became professional warriors during Vietnam

2. Ralph Wilson, Jr.

Enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 2009, Wilson founded the Buffalo Bills following his service in the Navy during World War II. He was also instrumental in the merger between the AFL and the NFL in 1970.

How green troops became professional warriors during Vietnam

3. Kevin Greene

Greene retired from the NFL in 1999 and ranks third among all-time sack leaders. He led the NFL twice in that category with an impressive career playing for the Steelers, Rams, Panthers, and 49ers, with five appearances in the Pro Bowl. Greene was a member of ROTC at Auburn and served 16 years in the Army Reserves.

How green troops became professional warriors during Vietnam

4. Alejandro Villanueva Martínez

Villanueva is an offensive tackle for the Steelers. A veteran Army Ranger, Villanueva was a captain in the Army, served in Afghanistan, and was decorated with a Bronze Star.

How green troops became professional warriors during Vietnam

5. Tom Landry

Hall of Famer Tom Landry was a coaching phenom for the Dallas Cowboys. He led his team to two Super Bowl titles and had 20 straight winning seasons. Equally impressive was Landry’s service in the Army Air Corps during World War II. The B-17 co-pilot flew 30 missions and survived a crash in Belgium. He passed away in 2000 at age 75 as a legend and a hero.

How green troops became professional warriors during Vietnam

6. Dick “Night Train” Lane

The Hall of Famer had an incredible 68 career interceptions during his time with the Los Angeles Rams, Chicago Cardinals, and Detroit Lions. For nine straight years (1954-1963), Lane earned first or second-team All-NFL honors. He played in seven Pro Bowls and during his rookie season, had an unprecedented 14 interceptions – a record that still stands today. Lane served in the Army during both World War II and the Korean War.

How green troops became professional warriors during Vietnam

7. Roger Staubach

Staubach, nicknamed “Captain America,” won the 1963 Heisman Trophy during his time as quarterback at the U.S. Naval Academy. After graduation, Staubach served his commitment in the Navy, which included a tour in Vietnam. Following his service, Staubach joined the Cowboys and played in Dallas for all 11 seasons of his professional football career. During his tenure, the Cowboys won two of their five Super Bowl appearances.

The list of NFL greats who served their country continues with inspiring men like Pat Tillman, George McAfee, Mike Anderson, and so many more. But for every big name in the NFL, there are countless men that gave up their football dreams to serve their country.

You may not have heard of Jack Ankerson, but he only played three NFL exhibition games in 1964 before Uncle Sam called him up to serve his time. By the time his commitment was done, so was his chance to play in the NFL. But Jack, like so many others who chose service above self, is everything that’s right with America and the sports we love to watch.

Whether they’re a hometown hero or a household name, we salute all of our football playing and football-loving veterans.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A heroic JROTC student protected classmates in the Florida school shooting

On Feb. 14, 2018, a 19-year-old former student and one-time Army Junior ROTC member Nikolas Cruz sent students scrambling in terror when he opened fire on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Cruz, who killed 17 people before he was arrested, reportedly was obsessed with guns and aspired to join the military.


But he wasn’t the only JROTC student who sprang into action that day.

After 17-year-old Douglas High student, Colton Haab heard the first shots, he and his fellow JROTC members shepherded between 60 and 70 students into a JROTC classroom and shielded them with Kevlar sheets, normally used as backdrops for the military students’ civilian marksmanship training.

“We took those sheets and put them in front of everybody so they weren’t seen … behind a solid object, and the Kevlar would slow a bullet down,” Haab told CNN. “I didn’t think it was going to stop it, but it would definitely [take] it from a catastrophic to a life-saving” incident.

What was he thinking about in those uncertain moments? “I’m thinking about how I’m going to make sure everyone goes home to their parents safely,” he added. “I was destined to get home.”

 

First established in 1973, the Broward County Public High School system’s JROTC program boasts an average enrollment of 7,650 students in 28 of its 34 schools annually, mostly in Army and Navy programs.

But, like many JROTC programs, its focus is primarily on moral and ethical character-building: According to the BCPHS JROTC site, over 90% of its four-year members attend college, even though only 5% end up joining the U.S. armed forces.

Also read: US Army simulation will prep teachers for school shootings

Fellow JROTC members at Douglas High described the shooter as obviously troubled with a history of behavioral issues.

“When you are in JROTC, you follow a set of rules, you live by them, and you think that you’re a good person,” former JROTC classmate Jillian Davis told the Treasure Coast Palm Beach Post. “You’d think that anyone in this community would follow and abide by these rules.”

The shooter may have failed to embrace the tenets of JROTC, but at least Haab didn’t: In interviews, he described his willingness to put himself in harm’s way to keep his classmates safe.

Related: 7 times when heroic veterans saved the day

“We grabbed two pieces of two-by-four, a fire extinguisher and a chair,” Haab told Reuters. “We were going to try to stop him with whatever we had.”