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.
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.
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.
On October 25, 1983, the United States invaded the tiny island nation of Grenada. It was a “no-notice” invasion for the U.S. troops that deployed there. Here are eight facts about this small but potent combat operation.
1. Urgent Fury avenged the death of Grenada’s Marxist Prime Minister.
Maurice Bishop came to power after a coup in 1979. His revolutionary government banned other political parties and was led by a Marxist committee. When Bishop refused to share power four years later, he was arrested and executed.
2. The U.S. was invited to intervene.
The Governor-General of Grenada, Paul Scoon, was also arrested during the coup and held under house arrest. When Bishop was executed, Scoon understandably freaked out a little. As Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II’s appointed representative, he had little real authority, except for a constitutional provision that allowed him to appeal to other nations for help. He soon asked the U.S. to intervene. When the invasion began, Navy SEALs came to his aid.
3. It was a Coalition invasion force.
The invasion was led by the United States, of course, but other Eastern Caribbean countries were also in the invasion force. the Regional Security System was formed from the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States. Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines all assisted in the takeover of Grenada’s government. Grenada was also a member of the OECS before the 1983 coup.
4. Rangers led the way in Grenada.
The 1st and 2nd Ranger Battalions along with special operations troops and Air Force Combat Controllers captured Point Salines on Oct. 25, 1983 in a large-scale combat jump. By Nov. 3, the invasion was over and hostilities ended.
5. U.S. troops faced Cuban soldiers for the first time.
Cuban-American relations soured after Fidel Castro’s Communist takeover. Events like the 1962 Missile Crisis and Cuban support for Communist ventures abroad only exacerbated the relationship, but the two forces never engaged each other in direct combat – until Grenada. Of the 772 Cuban troops deployed there, Havana suffered 25 killed, 59 wounded, and 638 captured.
6. Only one military movie features Urgent Fury.
The story of surrounded U.S. troops on the island who called back to the States to get some artillery support was not only true, it was retold on the silver screen. In “Heartbreak Ridge” it was Gunnery Sgt. Highway’s Marines who called back. The SEALs say it was one of theirs, while others believe it was an Army officer.
7. The UH-60 saw action for the first time.
Three UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters prepare to touch down next to the Point Salines Airport runway during Operation Urgent Fury. (DoD photo)
It was a trial by fire for the UH-60, as the now-iconic Black Hawk helicopter was first introduced by the Army in 1979. Urgent Fury would be the first operation use of the aircraft against an enemy in combat. The new aircraft was “faster and quieter” than previous transports and was found to be a “more reliable platform than the UH-1.”
8. It was the first joint operation since Vietnam.
As the story of a U.S. troop calling for air support with a payphone demonstrates, the “joint” aspect of the operation did not go well. The operation was a success despite the failures of service interoperability. Failures in command and control highlighted the need for changes. The Goldwater-Nichols Act restructured the U.S. military based partly on the Grenada invasion’s “deficiencies in the planning and preparation for employment of U.S. military forces in times of crisis.”
Veterans of the United States Armed Forces have always played an important role at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Take CIA’s predecessor organization, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), for instance. Founded by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt at the outset of World War II — and in the aftermath of the Japanese attack on U.S. naval forces at Pearl Harbor — the OSS began its life as a wartime body tasked with mandates to collect and analyze strategic information and to conduct unconventional and paramilitary operations.
At its peak, OSS employed almost 13,000 people: Two-thirds of the workforce was U.S. Army and U.S. Army Air Forces personnel. Civilians made up another quarter, and the rest were from the U.S. Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard. At the helm of OSS was World War I hero, General William “Wild Bill” Donovan. The story of CIA begins — and continues — alongside those of the U.S. military and its veterans.
Today, veterans comprise nearly 15% of CIA’s workforce, and we continue to serve alongside our military partners across the globe. CIA, the broader Intelligence Community, and the American people benefit tremendously from the insight and impact of veterans who bring to their work a wealth of experience and knowledge. They are mission-focused from day one and equipped with the skills CIA is looking for in its officers. Veterans often come into the building with the overseas experiences, clearances, and foreign languages that allow them to dive right into the action. A rich history of close collaboration between the military and CIA makes for a smooth transition from military to civilian service. While CIA is not a military body, its officers share that same commitment to mission and service. Veterans will find a familiar enthusiasm in the air at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.
World War I hero, General William “Wild Bill” Donovan, helmed the pre-CIA OSS.
CIA is committed to the continued to developing relationships with veterans, and in May of 2013, it chartered the American Veterans Employee Resource Group (AVERG) to serve as a link between the veteran workforce and Agency leaders. The group is committed to goals that include the hiring and retention of veterans, education and engagement on veteran matters, continued career development and frequent community networking opportunities. AVERG offers veterans an important link to Agency leadership — one that ensures CIA’s continued investment in veterans and the unique perspectives they bring to an important mission.
Every day, but especially this week when we celebrate Veterans Day, CIA honors the commitment of its veterans who continue to serve and continue the fight in defense of freedom.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
The TX-21 was an experimental weapon that was supposed to create a 5-MT blast. An experimental fusion fuel caused the blast to increase to 15 megatons. While the U.S. ended up with a much stronger weapon than it expected, the experiment resulted in multiple deaths, untold numbers of birth defects, and the accidental contamination of 7,000 square miles of Pacific islands and ocean.
4. B-17 (10-15 Megatons)
The B-17 was America’s first thermonuclear bomb to be deployed. In a way, it was a tuned-down version of the TX-21. The TX-17 prototype created a 11-MT blast much larger than the expected 4-MT explosion because of an unexpected reaction in the fusion fuel.
5. B-24 (10-15 Megatons)
The B-24 was very similar to the B-17 but it used an enriched lithium fusion fuel instead of the natural lithium of the B-17. The experimental TX-24 produced a slightly larger explosion in testing than the B-17 (13.5 MT vs 11 MT), but the estimated yields in their weaponized forms were roughly the same.
6. B-36 (10 Megatons)
After the TX-21 “Shrimp” test, America fielded the B-21 with a yield of 4 MT. The military decided to convert the B-21 to B-36s, making each bomb about 2.5 times as strong.
7. B53 (9 Megatons)
The B-53 contained 300 pounds of high-explosive material that triggered a uranium pit. The pit would then create a nine-megaton explosion.
8. EC-16 (6-8 Megatons)
The EC-16 was an “emergency capability” nuclear device and the only thermonuclear device deployed that required a cooling system. Five devices were delivered to the U.S. arsenal in Jan. 1954, but they were quickly replaced when the more stable and easier to deploy B-14s and B-17s became operational later that year.
9. EC-14 (7 Megatons)
The EC-14 was the first solid-fuel thermonuclear weapon deployed by the U.S. It was only deployed as an emergency capability in Feb. 1954. The EC-14 was retired in Oct. 1954 and many of them were converted to B-17s.
The days following the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States were strange days for many of us. Not only here at home, where the American worldview changed literally overnight, but also in Afghanistan. For obvious reasons.
What might not be so obvious are the many ways which the United States systematically struck back against al-Qaeda and the Taliban who protected its members in Afghanistan. By now, many have heard of the U.S. Army Special Forces who assisted the Northern Alliance on horseback. The new movie 12 Strong depicts their mission.
But three days after the Green Berets and Northern Alliance leader Abdul Rashid Dostum teamed up for the fall of Mazar-e-Sharif, another joint American-Northern Alliance team was fighting to capture – and keep – the Afghan city of Herat.
According to reports from the open-source U.S. Foreign Broadcast Information Service, American air power had been conducting air strikes on the city since October 2001, destroying armored columns, tunnel complexes, and other support facilities. The city was ready by the time the joint assault took place.
American Special Forces, Northern Alliance fighters, and Shia militias moved on the city as the populace took arms against the Taliban with anything they could find. Defeated Taliban fighters fled the city within the same day.
The whole operation was overseen in Tehran by agents of the CIA working with Iranian intelligence officers. Shortly after the city fell, a Northern Alliance spokesperson said it was the first time Khan set foot in the city since it fell to the Taliban in 1995.
In 2005, an Iranian Presidential candidate alluded to the story via an interview with USA Today’s Barbara Slavin, who was able to confirm some parts of the story, while some sources alluded to further collaboration and denied other parts.
If you don’t think East-West relations have come very far in the past few centuries, consider the fact that James Puckle’s flintlock revolver fired two types of ammo: round shot for use against Christians, and square shot for use against Muslims. The square shot was supposed to hurt more, convincing Muslims of the superiority of Christian life.
Invented in 1718, his “Puckle Gun” is the first weapon to be called a “machine gun,” even if it doesn’t fit the modern definition of the word. The Puckle Gun was tripod mounted, intended for use on ships but had field uses as well. The cylinders revolved manually, firing 32mm shot through a 3-foot barrel and loaded while detached from the main gun.
The main problem was that instead of shooting a series of shots, the chamber had to be unscrewed before the handle could revolve the ammo, then screwed in again to seal the breech to the barrel. In demonstrations, the Puckle Gun could fire nine rounds per minute, tripling the output of disciplined troops, whose rate was three rounds per minute.
The armed forces of Britain didn’t respond favorably to the weapon. As a result, neither did the investors of the time. Only two models of the Puckle Gun exist today, at the homes of members of the Montagu family, the only people to ever buy Puckle Guns with the intention of using them.
Montagu, while acting as Britain’s Master-General of the Ordnance, purchased this first machine gun for use on a doomed expedition to capture St. Vincent and St. Lucia. It’s unknown if they were ever used in combat.
It’s a question that has lasted as long as the Selective Service debate: Should every American serve for a year or two before entering the work force or pursuing higher education?
Arguments have been made for both sides of the case since the last draft in 1973, though the pro-service cause may have just found their strongest and most vocal ally yet — former Joint Special Operations Command chief Stanley McChrystal. Though McChrystal has largely stayed out of the spotlight since his retirement in 2010, he has still been very vocal about this concept, recently penning an op-ed for Time Magazine on the value of national service.
In his article, McChrystal says that the time is ripe for the country to come together to institute a mandatory year of paid national service for young Americans aged 18-28 years. A yearlong commitment would not only instill the values of accountability and responsibility towards citizenship, but will also develop character and leadership traits, he argues.
The retired general does stress, however, that national service should not be directed entirely towards the military. He feels that an open choice between different service organizations needs to exist, allowing for hundreds of thousands of young Americans to have a positive impact beginning in their communities, and resulting in progress on a national level.
This is a view seemingly very common among military veterans, a number of whom have gone on record to discuss the merits of a year of service. It also isn’t the first time McChyrstal has promoted a year of compulsory national service. In 2016, he urged candidates participating in the 2016 presidential race to consider making this idea a reality, and in 2012, the former special operations chief gave a speech to Harvard University on the same topic.
McChyrstal himself is no stranger to service, having joined the Army in 1976 after graduating from West Point. Born into a military family, he rose through the ranks, serving with regular infantry units, on a Special Forces “A-Team”, and eventually the 75th Ranger Regiment, prior to taking command of JSOC in 2003.
Described by former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates as “perhaps the finest warrior and leader of men in combat [he] had ever met,” McChrystal is easily a soldier’s soldier, known for his willingness to be on the frontlines instead of an air conditioned office stateside. His career in the Army ended in 2010 with a truncated stint as the command of US and coalition forces in Afghanistan.
A national service commitment isn’t exactly anything new, especially with many European and Asian nations. Israel and Switzerland are two of the most notable examples, with both countries mandating by law that youth of a certain age are required to register with the military or with a civil service body for a predetermined term. In both countries, the commitment ranges from a year to two years, though some decide to stay around and build a career out of their service terms.
Switzerland, in particular, has utilized conscription to staff its military for decades by having conscripts report for a 260-day service period upon reaching the age of majority. Recruits can choose to serve their entire commitment in 300 continuous days, or train in periods throughout the year, somewhat similar to the National Guard and various branch reserves in the United Sates.
However, should a recruit decide that military service isn’t for them, they can elect to join the country’s civil service as a paid employee for a 390-day period.
Currently, the national year of service topic has yet to be brought up by the White House or Congress, though it still remains a talking point for many, including McChrystal and Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, a retired Navy attack pilot.
Until meaningful discourse on the subject arises, the retired general and the sitting Senator have worked together to sponsor efforts to afford military veterans and civilian volunteers more opportunities to voluntarily serve their countries in various civil organizations.
It’s an overcast, slightly rainy day in the South LA neighborhood of Watts. Twenty-five volunteers — veterans and civilians — show up to help The Mission Continues’ 3rd Platoon Los Angeles revamp the athletic areas of Samuel Gompers Middle School. This project is the third for Gompers. Allison Bailey, TMC’s Western Region City Impact Manager, is worried that some of those who signed up might be no-shows because of the rain.
“We definitely can’t paint the lines on the field,” she says.
Bailey is an Army veteran and reservist with a tour in Iraq and one in Afghanistan under her belt. She started as a Mission Continues volunteer and now works for TMC full time.
The Mission Continues doesn’t just go out and do random projects; they want to make a lasting impact with tangible results. To do that, they forge long-term relationships with local communities.
A “platoon” launches when The Mission Continues determines there are enough veteran volunteers to support one. Platoons are dedicated to one geographic area. That’s why 3rd Platoon LA is often at Gompers; they are devoted exclusively to Watts school. That’s part of its “operation.” An operation is a focused effort for a platoon.
In Watts, TMC works with the Partnership for LA Schools. 3rd Platoon has been in this operation for over a year. Bailey does a lot of prep work for the three platoons and two operations in the LA area.
“The goal is to feel dedicated,” she says. “We’ve done a lot of projects here at Gompers Middle School and we try to get the staff and students involved as much as possible so they take ownership of the projects we do.”
Elizabeth Pratt, the principal of Samuel Gompers Middle School, is here with the volunteers. She’s worked with the veterans of The Mission Continues before. Students from the school are usually present, but since school is now out for the summer, there aren’t any around today. Still, Pratt is eager for things that will benefit the next school year.
“My students will have the ability next year to have an actual baseball field and soccer field,” Pratt says. “So not only will it enhance after school play, but it will also enhance our current P.E. program.”
The first time Allison came to Gompers, she walked the grounds with Principal Pratt. They talked in depth about the possibilities for the school and the projects TMC could work on. Since then, the two have exchanged a few ideas for what to improve. The last time they cooperated, Gompers got a beautiful outdoor gardening area.
“The students were so excited,” Pratt recalls. “The students and their families all came out. It gave everyone a real sense of pride.”
When the veterans from 3rd Platoon first came to Gompers, they shared some of their experiences as veterans with the students. They shared a lunch and answered the children’s probing questions. The two groups shared a lot with each other. Curiosity became cooperation and the veterans from TMC have returned to Gompers three times (to much fanfare from the student body).
The volunteers spend much of this otherwise gloomy Saturday on the Gompers campus. No one notices the weather. They turn an open patch of grass and a mound of dirt into a baseball diamond and soccer field. They pull four large bags of garbage off the playground. They build benches, a basketball backboard, and two soccer goals from wood and PVC piping, then reline the courts. No one complains and everyone hungrily eats their well-earned pizza lunch. After only six hours, these twenty-five people have completely transformed the quality of the school grounds.
Daniel Hinojosa, an Army veteran and native of the LA area’s San Fernando Valley, now lives in downtown Los Angeles. This is his second visit to a TMC volunteer event.
“The progress is amazing,” he says. “It’s a neighborhood that definitely needs help and It feels good to help out. It gives me a sense of purpose. Everyone has a reason but for me, it’s not about money. Giving back to people is the most fulfilling goal I could possibly have.”
“It’s not about a connection to the school or the neighborhood,” Principal Pratt says. “People want to give to a place that needs the help. It brings people together in a very constructive way. It doesn’t just build up a part of the school; it builds school pride, neighborhood pride. It doesn’t matter if that neighborhood is Watts or Beverly Hills.”
‘Tis the season for the giving of gifts. ‘Tis also the season of FOMUG (Fear Of Messed Up Gifting). We get it. It’s hard out there for an elf. Team WATM would like to offer you some guidance.
For you, The Mighty:
~ Our top picks for veteran-positive holiday giving ~
12. Combat Flip Flops
For flip flops and sneakers handmade in international combat zones, talk to Combat Flip Flops. Everything they sell empowers local entrepreneurs seeking to resurrect their communities from the cycle of poverty-bred violence and extremism. Seems like a heavy burden for a humble thong sandal to bear, but founder Matthew Griffin has the humor and the heart to pull it off.
11. Heroes Vodka
For the most patriotic, pro-veteran martini you’ll ever have six of, you need a bottle of Heroes Vodka. Founder Travis McVey sought to make the clear spirit of America and hit it out of the park on his first try. A portion of his yearly profits goes directly to AMVETS. Try sipping. You’ll be shaken and stirred.
10. Down The Road Beer Co.
For a 4 pack of the most artfully brewed craft beer ever to emerge from the 3rd Armored Cav, seek out Down the Road Beer Co. Founder and veteran brewmaster, Donovan Bailey, has a winning formula at work in his Greater Boston brewery and now you can sample every variety he makes at his brand new taproom.
9. Alpha Outpost
For a tactical subscription box of uncommon design and curation, check out Alpha Outpost. Every box has a theme and every theme gives rise to a new cache of gear that will inspire you to get out there and use your free time for kicking ass.
8. Black Rifle Coffee Co.
For small batch, veteran-roasted coffee with three heaping teaspoons of patriotic sass, chase down a bag of Black Rifle Coffee Co. Their beans yield a cup of joe so black, a sip is like a sniper round to the dome. Lovely.
7. Ranger Up
For big-hearted, patriotic message tees and lighthearted youtube tomfoolery, look no further than Ranger Up. Founder Nick Palmisciano is a vocal advocate of remembering where you came from and the values for which you fought. And in his spare time, he dabbles in action cinema.
6. Stella Valle
For Modern Day Charm Jewelry made by and for #WomanWarriors, give Stella Valle a look. The Dellavalle sisters went to West Point, served tours in Afghanistan, and took Shark Tank by storm in their quest to forge a successful jewelry brand in their own image.
5. Sword & Plough
For fashionable bags made from military surplus by veteran manufacturers, check out Sword & Plough. The Nuñez sisters went to West Point, served with the 10th Special Forces Group, and took Kickstarter by storm in their quest to make an ethical, feminist, pro-veteran fashion accessories brand that gives back as much as it takes.
4. stubble & ‘stache
For the premium beard oils, mustache lotions and mutton chop tinctures favored by U.S. Special Forces, you need to track down stubble & ‘stache. Founder Nicholas Karnaze started the company in honor of a fallen brother and grooms a war beard for civilian application to this day.
For the best designed, most soundly equipped bug out bag on the market, seek out Uncharted Supply Co. Their seventy2 survival bag gives you everything you need to ace the first 72 hours of an emergency, all in one seriously svelte package.
2. Cappy’s Dry Rub
For a tactical array of spices that will 10x your flame-grilling game, load up on Cappy’s Dry Rub. LA-based Vietnam vet, Gene “Cappy” Holmon takes his meat seriously and so should you, especially considering how much cooking you’re likely to be doing this holiday season.
For all the operationally-perfected tactical wear you could ever need for deployment or rugged homeland applications, pay a visit to Propper. They’ve been supplying the U.S. military since 1967, including garments, tac bags and body armor. Their spill-proof tactical pants are a godsend around the WATM offices…
For the perfect, vet-sensitive stocking stuffer, optimize his beer with Bottle Breacher. Former Navy SEAL Eli Crane took his garage-mod ammo onto ABC’s Shark Tank and walked away with a deal. Almost two years later, there doesn’t appear to be a limit to Crane’s artistic inventiveness with the .50 caliber shell.
For a thorough schooling in the tactical skills and, more crucially, the head game of survival, enroll in a course at Fieldcraft Survival. Former Green Beret Mike Glover will guide you toward competence in the honorable art of self-reliance and you’ll probably only cry a little bit.
For a digital solution to the analog task of getting morale-boosting mail to your loved ones in the field, sign up for Sandboxx. The app-based communications platform transforms your 140 character missives and sentimental selfies into physical letters, and then sends them to servicemembers with a postage-paid, return envelope included.
The Mission Continues
For renewed purpose and service-oriented deployment on the homefront, volunteer with The Mission Continues. They take your hard-won leadership skills and put them to good use in the many American communities badly in need of rebuilding.
Speaking of Propper, they’re giving away twelve tactical packs filled with gear from our Holiday Gift Guide. Click this link to enter.
Apparently, someone at the Afghan Ministry of Defense figured a good means of accomplishing that goal would be to produce this fire mix tape/rap/recruiting video to target a younger, hipper generation of would-be Afghan warriors.
If the production value is any indication of what nearly 20 years of American influence can accomplish, it’s safe to say the Afghan military has its work cut out for them going forward. To quote the folks at Funker 530, “This is the track you play when you really wanna show the Taliban how serious you are.” Enjoy.
With a recent rash of close encounters and fast approaches by Iranian vessels in international waters prompting U.S. ship commanders to fire flares and warning shots, the Navy’s top officer is warning that the consequences of this harassment could be significant and is advocating for an agreed-upon rule set to govern these at-sea encounters.
During a discussion at the Center for American Progress on Monday in Washington, D.C., Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson told Military.com that individual ship commanders had broad autonomy to respond to these Iranian harassment incidents.
“There’s really nothing that limits the way they can respond,” Richardson said. “These things happen on a time scale that really doesn’t allow those commanders to sort of phone home for permission and then respond. They’ve got to know what their commander’s guidance is, they’ve got to be given the freedom to act, to take advantage of fleeting opportunities, and also to make sure that they can respond to these very fast moving opportunities.”
To date, these responses have been limited to warning measures and rebukes. But the Iranian ships’ behavior, Richardson suggested, could have grave consequences.
“From the standpoint of, is our Navy prepared to respond, I would say, yes in every respect,” Richardson said. “These are some of these potentially destabilizing things. A tactical miscalculation, the closer and closer you get to these kinds of things, the margin for error gets smaller, human error can play a bigger and bigger role. I think it’s very important that we eliminate this sort of activity when we can and nothing good can come from it.”
Richardson said he hopes to establish a dialogue with Iranian naval leaders in order to develop a code of conduct to govern encounters at sea. He added that such a rule set had been very effective in dictating behavior during maritime encounters with the Chinese Navy, even amid heightened tensions in the South China Sea.
“We’re working to sort of think our way through what are the possibilities there, both with the Iranians and I would say with the Russians who exhibit this behavior as well,” Richardson said, “so we can get up on the line and sort of have a conversation of, whether this would be helpful or hurtful, this is not in the helpful category.”
It remains unclear whether the leaders of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy would be interested in engaging in the sort of dialogue Richardson wants.
The deputy chief of staff for Iran’s armed forces, Brig. Gen. Masoud Jazayeri, told a state news agency this week that Iranian boats involved in the encounters with U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf were in keeping with international standards and norms.
“The claims [of harassment] are not only untrue, but stem from their fear of the power of Iran’s soldiers,” Jazayeri said, according to Agence France-Presse reports.
The Pentagon has reported at least five incidents of harassment by Iranian boats in the last month. In at least one of the encounters, an Iranian vessel came within 100 yards of a U.S. patrol ship.
Separately, Iran over the weekend threatened to shoot down two U.S. Navy aircraft — a P-8 Poseidon maritime surveillance plane and an EP-3 — that were flying in international airspace near the Strait of Hormuz, CNN reported.
U.S. Marines with Marine Rotational Force–Europe 19.1 and Norwegian Army soldiers conducted close-air-support drills during Exercise Northern Screen in Setermoen, Norway, Oct. 25, 2018.
Northern Screen is a bilateral exercise that includes cold-weather and mountain-warfare training between MRF-E Marines and the Norwegian military, Oct. 24 to Nov. 7, 2018.
“A lot of what we do as joint terminal attack controllers is structured off of a NATO standard and by us communicating with our Norwegian allies we’re overall increasing our ability both as Americans and a united force on how we do our procedures,” said Sgt. John C. Prairie II, a Joint Terminal Attack Controller for MRF-E. “It’s making us more tactically and technically proficient.”
The Marines practiced aircraft medical evacuations and discussed air-control tactics to ensure safety and success in extreme cold-weather environments.
U.S. Marines with Marine Rotational Force-Europe 19.1 and Norwegian Army soldiers conduct close-air support in Setermoen, Norway, Oct. 25, 2018.
(Photo by Cpl. Ashley McLaughlin)
“With cold-weather training and the gear, one of the biggest downfalls we have is that electronics drain a lot quicker,” said Prairie.
To mitigate such effects Marines cycle through gear more often to keep electronics charged and minimizing use to conserve energy.
“It’s good to work with the gear in a new environment,” said Prairie. “Setting it up, breaking it down, running through the processes, it gives you a new look on how to do it in a new environment.”
Arctic conditions not only affect gear, but also Marines. They must adapt and train to overcome environmental challenges and succeed in missions without injury.
U.S. Marines with Marine Rotational Force-Europe 19.1 and Norwegian Army soldiers prepare for close-air support drills in Setermoen, Norway, Oct. 25, 2018.
(Photo by Cpl. Ashley McLaughlin)
“The cold-weather predeployment training has really helped out the Marines and really prepared them for what we’re doing out here,” said Prairie. “I feel that everything has gone very smoothly, we’ve definitely improved our efficiency both with our gear setup, break down, our communications with the aircraft and the processes with the Norwegians. I think we’ve done a really good job of building up our ability here.”
This opportunity is a vital asset to train with other nations in environments unlike those in the U.S. This type of training improves NATO capabilities in a non-combative environment to be prepared for any challenges our Allies might face.
Since the dawn of humanity, people have been as competitive as hell. We want to be the best. The first. While most of the world has already been explored today, the tallest peaks, darkest caves, and iciest tundras were once undiscovered mysteries, and humans were obsessed with discovering every corner. Before the 1900s, the North Pole was one of those untouched corners. All early attempts failed, upping the allure of the so-called top of the world.
In 1909, that changed. First, US Navy engineer Robert Peary claimed to have reached the pole on April 6th of that year. But shortly after, an American explorer named Frederick Albert Cook declared he had actually reached the pole first, nearly a year prior. So who was right?
The Race for the North Pole Was Cutthroat and Controversial
The North Pole is both barely habitable and intensely difficult to reach. Situated in the moddle of the Arctic Ocean, accessing the pole is impossible without first traversing treacherous, unpredictable sea ice. Every attempt before the 20th century fell flat. William Edward Parry, a British Naval officer, tried but didn’t even get close. An American explorer named Charles Hall tried and failed in 1871. Over two decades later, a pair of Norwegian explorers, Fredrik Hjalmar Johansen and Fridtjof Nansen, got painfully close before having to return home defeated. An Italian explorer got marginally farther before giving up as well.
Then came Peary and Cook. They began as friends, but their differences were pointed. Peary was born in 1856, and he was deadset on achieving fame. His expeditions, like most, relied heavily on the assistance of the locals in each region he explored, but he treated them more like chess pieces than friends. He went as far as to dig up graves to sell to New York’s Museum of Natural History. Cook, born nearly a decade later in 1865, was an ambitious, young doctor with a more modern approach. He was genuinely interest in the lives of indigenous peoples, diving into their culture and learning their languages.
The two traveled together to Greenland once, but Cook turned down a second invitation. Peary wanted him to sign a contract preventing any accounts of the expidition from being published before Peary did it first. Left with a bad taste in his mouth, Cook broke contact with Peary for several years. They were reunited when Peary was lost in the Arctic and Cook was called upon to rescue him. Rescue him he did, treating him for scurvy and several other conditions. On a later expedition to Greenland, Peary badly broke his leg and Cook stepped in once again to treat his injury. Still, the two were very different men. Instead of colleagues, they were competitors.
Peary, one of the last imperialistic explorers, would have died for fame.
In a message to his mother about his longing to conquer the elusive North Pole, he wrote, “My last trip brought my name before the world; my next will give me a standing in the world….I will be foremost in the highest circles in the capital, and make powerful friends with whom I can shape my future instead of letting it come as it will….Remember, mother, I must have fame.”
Peary did travel to the Arctic once more, but whether or not he made it all the way to the pole is highly disputed. According to him, he made it to the North Pole on April 6th, 1909, but he straight up refused to share any definitive proof. According to a later review conducted in 1989 by the US National Geographic Society, the photos Peary took suggest that he did make it within eight kilometers of the official North Pole.
Even with this supposed endorsement, the truth of his claims remained controversial. Firstly, no one else on the expedition had the navigational skills to confirm or deny Peary’s reports. They did, however, mention multiple, agonizingly long detours, while Peary claimed to take a direct route. Secondly, even on his own expedition, he may not have been the first to arrive at the pole. He was joined by four Inuit men and his assistant, a black man named Matthew Henson. Henson was a skilled explorer of his own right, adventuring in the Arctic alongside Peary on seven different occasions.
Yet Peary considered himself to be superior to Henson, and was unwilling to share the credit with him. In fact, he intended to abandon Henson to reach the Pole first on his owe. He lost track of the distance, however, and according to Henson, he was livid that five others shared “his” glorious North Pole victory. He later took all the credit, and it wasn’t until Henson published a book in 1947 that he began receiving recognition for his achievements.
Whether they truly made it to the pole or not, their unopposed rule of polar discovery didn’t go unopposed for long.
Cook claimed that he reached the pole nearly a year earlier, but his evidence was unconvincing.
The daring Doctor Cook was just as keen on finding the far north as Peary was. After a Mount Denali expedition that was also shrouded in suspicion, Cook headed straight for the Arctic. He set off from Annoatok, a settlement in Greenland, February, 1908. He claimed to have arrived at the pole on April 21st, yet he didn’t make it back to Annoatok until the next spring, nearly starving along the way.
In total, they were gone for 14 months, and it remains unclear where they ended up. Cook was never able to produce convincing navigational records. According to him, he left the records in a box along with some of his other belongings at Annoatok. There, an American hunter, Harry Whitney, attempted to load the box onto Peary’s ship, the Roosevelt, Peary forbid it. The contents of that box were never seen again.
By December 1909, experts at the University of Copenhagen determined that Cook’s records were insufficient to prove he had reached the pole. Some researchers have noted that Cook’s account of the journey, which he tracked in a diary, describes the landscape with remarkable accuracy. If he didn’t reach the pole, how could he have known what it looked like?
Whoever got there first, both men were intrepid adventurers who paved the way for later, less disputable expeditions.
The true “first man to the North Pole” is nearly impossible to determine, but many have followed in their footsteps. About 60 years later, American Ralph Plaisted, along with three companions, were the first to reach the pole without a shred of controversy…by snowmobile, in 1968! Other adventurers have succeeded as well, by plane, submarine, and on their own two feet. I wonder which murderous wasteland will explorers fight over next.