How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive

The screams of a fellow soldier trapped inside his armored vehicle pierced through the radio.

Apparently surrounded by the enemy with no more ammunition, the soldier cried for help saying his crew had all been killed.

But with his radio keyed open and no one able to talk back to him, then-Spc. 4 Dave Garrod and others in Bravo Troop, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, could only listen to the desperate pleas.


“It was a knee knocker,” Garrod recalled as his 25th Infantry Division unit raced down to Tan Son Nhut Air Base, which was under siege by enemy forces. “I had no idea what we were driving into.”

Tet Offensive 

On Jan. 30, 1968, the Vietnam War escalated as enemy forces launched surprise attacks during the country’s New Year holiday.

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive

Then-Spc. 5 Dwight Birdwell, middle, seen on top of a tank during the Vietnam War. Birdwell and other Soldiers with the 25th Infantry Division’s 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment helped defend Tan Son Nhut Air Base in a Tet Offensive attack Jan. 31, 1968.

About 85,000 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese army fighters rushed across the border to attack over 100 cities and towns in southern Vietnam in an attempt to break a stalemate in the war.

Weeks of intense fighting ensued causing heavy losses on both sides.

Before they could repel many of the attacks, thousands of U.S. and South Vietnamese troops would die. Tens of thousands of enemy fighters were also killed.

While not largely deemed a victory for the enemy forces, which suffered a greater toll, the attacks did trigger many in America to rethink U.S. involvement in the protracted war.

Tan Son Nhut

One of the enemy’s main targets was Tan Son Nhut, a key airbase near Saigon where the Military Assistance Command Vietnam and the South Vietnamese air force were headquartered.

After reports of Viet Cong fighters attempting to invade the airbase on Jan. 31, 1968, soldiers with 3rd Squadron’s Charlie Troop responded to the call.

As they drove toward the airbase in the early morning hours, then-Spc. 5 Dwight Birdwell remembers seeing no civilians along the highway — typically a bad omen.

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive

Photos of Dwight Birdwell before he deployed to Vietnam.

Birdwell had seen attacks before during his tour, he said, but they were mainly mines or other small arms weapons fired by a hidden enemy. This day would be different.

When they arrived just outside the airbase, his unit’s column of tanks and armored personnel carriers suddenly stopped.

As if on cue, thousands of tracer rounds began to pepper the vehicles in front of his tank from both sides of the highway. Enemy fighters then jumped onto the vehicles, shooting inside of them.

“All hell broke loose,” Birdwell recalled.

A bullet then struck Birdwell’s tank commander right through the head and he collapsed inside the tank. Birdwell pulled him out, he said, and passed him over the side for medical treatment, which kept him alive.

Birdwell took command of the tank. By that time, all the vehicles ahead of him had been wiped out or were unable to return gunfire. Enemy fighters also set some ablaze after they failed to drive off with them.

“There was a lot of confusion and pandemonium,” he said.

His tank fired its 90 mm cannon toward the enemy while he shot off rounds from the .50-caliber machine gun to hold the enemy back.

Birdwell’s unit was stuck in the middle of an enemy invasion as hundreds of fighters had already crossed the highway and penetrated the airbase to his left. On his right side, even more fighters — some just 50 feet away — prepared to join the assault.

“They were getting close,” he recalled. “I could see their faces quite well.”

Around the same time he ran out of ammunition, a U.S. helicopter was hit and made an emergency landing behind his tank.

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive

Spc. 4 Dave Garrod, left, poses for a photo with Spc. 5 Ed McKenna and Spc. 4 Joe Carlton during their tour in the Vietnam War.

“I thought that this is unreal,” Birdwell said. “Somebody is filming a movie.”

He jumped down from the tank and ran toward the helicopter. Once there, he grabbed one of the helicopter’s M-60 machine guns the door gunners had been using and returned to his position.

After a few minutes of firing rounds at the enemy, something hit the machine gun — likely an enemy bullet. The impact, he said, sprayed shrapnel up into his face and chest.

With the M-60 now destroyed, Birdwell said he took cover in a nearby ditch. He and a few soldiers then grabbed some M-16 rifles and grenades and moved to a closer position behind a large tree.

There, they exchanged gunfire and tossed grenades over the road until the enemy started to fire a machine gun at them.

As the barrage of bullets cut into the tree, it sounded like a chainsaw chewing it down.

“We were in a very desperate situation,” he said.

Reinforcements

Around that time, Garrod’s Bravo Troop began to roll into the area.

Soldiers in a different platoon within Charlie Troop also arrived to suppress the attack from inside the base.

“After pulling on line we started laying down fire,” Garrod recalled, “and trying to keep it as low as possible so as not to fire on Charlie Troop on the road.”

Garrod and other soldiers were then pulled away to help wounded crewmen near a textile factory from which the enemy had been commanding its attack.

Once there, he ran over to a tank that had been hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. Inside, he could see the tank’s loader who could not move due to his legs being seriously wounded.

“Being a small, skinny guy, I jumped down in the hatch and without thinking put him on my shoulders and stuck him up through the hatch,” he said.

Later that day, the intensity of the battle hit home for Garrod as he rested in the shade of his vehicle.

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive

Dave Garrod, fifth from right, poses for a photo in front of a Vietnam War memorial near where the Tan Son Nhut Air Base attack occurred on Jan. 31, 1968.

He lifted his canteen up to take a drink when an awful smell overcame him.

“When I looked down on my flak jacket, there was a hunk of flesh from that loader,” he recalled. “It’s something that’s etched into your mind forever.”

Almost 20 soldiers from the squadron were killed and many more wounded as they defended the airbase that day. About two dozen South Vietnamese troops were also killed along with hundreds of enemy fighters.

Garrod earned an Army Commendation Medal with valor device for his actions and a Purple Heart in another mission a few days later. Birdwell earned a Silver Star and a Purple Heart.

The squadron was also awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.

Thirty years later, Garrod and other veterans traveled back to the site on the anniversary of the offensive as a way to find closure for what they saw that day.

They also visited a statue in a nearby park that honors those who were lost or suffered as a result of the battle.

Because of the devastation the war had caused, Garrod expected to see animosity on the faces of the Vietnamese people.

“Instead we found gracious, friendly people,” he said. “Even the veterans from the north whom we met … greeted us with hugs. It was very surprising. They had definitely moved on.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Back from the dead ISIS leader is calling on jihadists to ‘resist enemies’

The Islamic State group released a recording Sept. 28 of what it says is its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, calling on jihadists under pressure in Syria and Iraq to “resist” their enemies.


In his first alleged message in nearly a year, and following reports of his possible death, the elusive jihadist leader called on his supporters to target the “media centres” of countries fighting his group.

“The leaders of the Islamic State and its soldiers have realized that the path to… victory is to be patient and resist the infidels whatever their alliances,” the speaker said.

It was not clear when the message, released by the IS-affiliated Al-Furqan media group, was recorded.

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive
ISIS patrol the streets of Raqqa, Syria. Image from Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently.

In it, he lashed out at “infidel nations headed by America, Russia, and Iran” who, along with their allies, have inflicted losses on the jihadists during separate offensives against IS in Syria and Iraq.

“We will remain, we will resist and be patient… We will not give in,” he said, a day after Iraqi forces defeated IS fighters who had seized areas in a surprise offensive around Ramadi, west of Baghdad.

The apparent IS leader called on “soldiers of the caliphate” to pursue their “jihad,” or holy war, and attacks.

He urged his followers to “target the media centers of the infidels,” without providing further details.

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive
Under ISIS reign, the city of Raqqa has been turned into a veritable hell for its residents. Photo from Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently.

A US intelligence community source said they were examining the audio message.

“We are aware of the audio tape purported to be of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and are taking steps to examine it,” the source said in a statement.

Related: The US response to confirmation of ISIS leader’s death is priceless

“While we have no reason to doubt its authenticity, we do not have verification at this point.”

The Sept. 28 audio message is the first said to be of Baghdadi since November 2016, when he spoke in a defiant tone in urging his supporters to defend the city of Mosul against a massive operation by Iraqi forces.

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Still from an image released by Al-Furqan media group.

That recording, also released by Al-Furqan, was a rare sign of life from Baghdadi.

In July, Moscow said it was struggling to confirm if Baghdadi was dead or alive, a month after reporting his possible demise in a May air strike near the one-time IS stronghold of Raqqa in Syria.

With a $25 million US bounty on his head, Iraq-born Baghdadi has successfully avoided an intense effort to seek him out for six years or more.

Rumours have abounded about Baghdadi’s health and movements, but his whereabouts have largely remained unclear.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The luckiest duty stations worldwide

Luck has quite a diverse meaning within the military community. It’s sarcastically used to laugh at impossible situations, it can take years to ponder why it was on your side that day or is just used to define coveted situations or duty stations a few of us fall into. With Saint Patrick’s Day fast approaching, we’re looking at some of the luckiest duty stations worldwide through the many different definitions of the word.


How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive

Lucky to be a part of such a prestigious assignment

U.S. Army Garrison Benelux-Brussels-Schinnen is one post where you’ll feel you have a finger on the pulse of the world. That’s because NATO headquarters, located less than ten minutes away, is there. Special status cards, ID’s and privileges may apply to service members and their families depending upon the assignment. With Brussels being the administrative center for the European Union, it can be an exhilarating and fast-paced atmosphere.

The city boasts 14th-century architecture, and the opportunity to rub elbows with top business and government figures of today. As such a unique experience both culturally, and as an assignment within the military, lucky is exactly the feeling you’ll have if stationed here.

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive

Lucky to experience such a remote location

U.S. Army Garrison-Kwajalein Atoll‘s location requires several zooms in if you’re searching on Google Maps. Home to the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site, turquoise waters, and coral reefs for miles. With its ultra remote location, the cultural history of The Marshall Islands is something you’ll remember experiencing forever.

Ancient skills like “wave piloting” have been studied by anthropologists for some time now and are stories or skills families can see firsthand. Remote island life happiness hinges on acclimation. It’s important to remember you won’t be marooned forever and begin to embrace as much sailing, snorkeling or scuba diving as humanly possible between shifts.

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive

Lucky to stand on such historic ground

Hawaii tops many duty station lists for its beautiful location, but an assignment to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam is much more than a vacation. It’s the chance to stand at the center of one of history’s most iconic moments in time.

With the Pearl Harbor National Memorial essentially in your back yard, it’s time to take that deep dive into the pages of history. Those assigned here should feel lucky to inherit the legacy of this location and do their best to carry on the stories of those forever immortalized in her waters.

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive

Lucky to live in a vacation destination

The Naval Air Station Pensacola is located along the pristine shorelines of the Florida panhandle, a year-round tourist destination. What caught our eye was the opportunity to not just live in a beach town but living oceanfront is made possible via affordable condo living. Who needs a gym membership when your daily swim can be in the Gulf of Mexico?

Another appealing feature of an assignment here is the potential to dive into the military landlord market. Rental opportunities are expanded to include vacation renters in addition to the military crowd.

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive

Lucky to have a “home base” to experience Asia from

Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni is located on the main island of Japan, near the Yamaguchi Prefecture. If you’d have trouble pinpointing that on a map, you’re not alone. Cities like Hiroshima, Tokyo, Shanghai, and Seoul are all major metros within the geographic area. Flying from the United States to Asia is not cheap, making travel either costly, lengthy (to get it all done in one trip) or both. Being stationed halfway across the world has a major travel perk. What used to be a 12-hour plane ride is now two. Becoming conversationally fluent in the many Asian languages is also much easier while you’re completely immersed within it. We’re confident you’ll feel lucky to have such a unique and culturally rich experience in your life.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marines may get new tropical uniform in time for summer heat

The Marine Corps is preparing to select a maker for the service’s new tropical uniform for hot and humid climates.

The Marine Corps Tropical Combat Uniform is a rapid-dry, breathable uniform to be worn for prolonged periods in wet, jungle environments as an alternative to the current Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniform and the Marine Corps Combat Boot. This month, Marine Corps Systems Command (MCSC), published a request for proposals to industry to manufacture the uniforms, with plans to get them into troops’ hands by the final quarter of this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.


“This new tropical uniform allows Marines to be more comfortable and less fatigued while focusing on the mission at hand,” Lou Curcio, MCSC’s tropical uniform project officer, said in the release.

The tropical uniform effort is a result of the U.S. military’s increased emphasis on the Pacific region in an effort to prepare for a potential war with China. The Army finalized the design for its Improved Hot Weather Combat Uniform last year.

The trousers and blouse of the new uniform will be made of the same 50/50 cotton-nylon blend as the Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniform and features the same camouflage pattern, the release states. The fabric will also be treated with permethrin to provide protection from insects.

The difference is in the weave and weight, resulting in a lighter material that dries more quickly, according to the release.

Hundreds of Marines participated in various user evaluations from June to September 2017 to assess the fit and durability of a prototype tropical uniform that’s designed to dry faster and keep Marines cooler in warm climates, the release adds.

“Many Marines said the [uniform] feels like pajamas, appreciating how lightweight it is,” Curcio in the release. “They also noted how quickly the uniform dries upon getting wet.”

The boots, awarded on a separate contract, are also lightweight, with self-cleaning soles to improve mobility in a tropical environment, the release states. They are more than a pound lighter than the current Marine Corps boot.

Marine Corps Systems Command awarded two contracts in August for up to 140,000 total pairs of tropical boots, according to Monique Randolph, spokeswoman for MCSC.

One contract worth up to .1 million went to Atlantic Diving Supply Inc., for up to 70,000 pairs of Rocky brand tropical boots, and a contract worth up to .7 million went to Provengo LLC for up to 70,000 pairs of Danner brand tropical boots, Randolph said.

The Corps plans to purchase 70,000 sets of the new tropical uniforms to support the fleet training or operating in tropical climates, the release states, adding that the MCSC procured more than 10,000 sets of blouses and trousers under a manufacturing and development effort.

Based on January 2020 market research and responses to a November 2019 request for information, the Marine Corps estimates it should see a potential cost reduction of up to 60% per uniform, the release adds.

“[The tropical uniform] will bring many advantages during training and combat in tropical environments,” Curcio said in the release. “For all the sacrifices and challenges they endure, Marines deserve a uniform like this one.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

We have to talk about this week’s ‘SEAL Team’ death

WARNING: This post contains spoilers from Season 2 Episode 19.

This week, SEAL Team tackled one of the most dangerous threats to military veterans: suicide.

U.S. veterans have a higher suicide rate than civilians — and the number is staggeringly higher among female veterans. According to a 2016 study by the Department of Veterans Affairs, on average 20.8 service members commit suicide every day; of those, 16.8 were veterans and 3.8 were active duty, guardsmen, or reservists.

Since 2001, the total number of fatal casualties from Iraq and Afghanistan is 6,995.

There were more than 6000 veteran suicides each year from 2008-2016 alone.

It’s a critical threat, one that must be acknowledged and addressed — which is why it’s important that shows like SEAL Team tell their stories.

According to ‘former frogman’ and SEAL Team writer Mark Semos, the suicide in the episode ‘Medicate and Isolate’ was inspired by the death of a real U.S. Navy SEAL.


[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/Bwr-5VXnzA3/ expand=1]Mark Semos on Instagram: “For those of you who tuned into last night’s episode of @sealteamcbs: Brett Swann’s character was based on Ryan Larkin, a former SEAL who…”

www.instagram.com

In the episode, Brett Swann (played perfectly by Tony Curran) struggles with many issues that are common among veterans — and he’s lucky enough to have a buddy helping him navigate the labyrinth of the VA system: long waits, over-taxed doctors, and confusing procedures are among the basics of what can be expected.

Swann is certain he has an undiagnosed TBI (traumatic brain injury) but the VA doctor is unable to treat it because there’s no proof that it is service-connected. A 45-minute episode isn’t long enough to get into the details of Swann’s options, so the writers deftly cut to the finish: Swann wasn’t going to get the treatment he desperately needed. Certainly not right away.

I can’t communicate strongly enough how disorienting and discouraging it is to finally seek help only to be turned away, especially for veterans, who were trained by the military to “suck it up.”

Some get lucky and find advocates (I highly recommend the DAV, a non-profit that, among other initiatives, helps veterans with disability claims), some patiently wade through the murky system, but others…

…well, it’s becoming painfully clear that others give up hope.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/Bwp5pE8n0L0/ expand=1]Tyler Grey on Instagram: “It’s hard to promote tonight’s episode as it’s about a subject that is sadly more truth than fiction. Rather than entertain I hope that it…”

www.instagram.com

Just this month, two more veterans died by suicide at VA facilities. So while the Department of Veterans Affairs does provide treatment for millions of veterans, the truth is that it isn’t enough.

For a country that spends more on its defense budget than the next seven countries combined (China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, France, the United Kingdom, and Japan), it reflects the DOD’s priorities when VA hospitals and facilities don’t have the funds to meet the staffing and medical needs of its veterans.

There is hope

I have seen a trend where veterans are coming together to support each other, to maintain the strong community we had during service. As more and more veterans lose friends, the fear of talking about suicide is diminishing.

This is critical because veterans have to know where to turn for help.

There is a crisis hotline: 1-800-273-8255 (or anyone in need can send a text message to 838255)

There are organizations like 22KILL, which raises awareness and combats suicide by empowering veterans, first responders, and their families through traditional and non-traditional therapies.

And there are shows and films depicting these stories, raising awareness, and removing the stigma of unseen injuries and mental health.

There are many who are wary of sending the message that veterans are all traumatized or unstable; if anything, this episode is further proof of the opposite. SEAL Team employs a lot of veterans who are professionals in the entertainment industry.

Who better to tell the story of those among us who need our help?

MIGHTY HISTORY

These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission

Four Swedish air force pilots received U.S. Air Medals during a ceremony in Stockholm Nov. 28, 2018, recognizing their actions that took place over 31 years ago. Until 2017 the details of their mission remained classified.

During the 1980s, the height of the Cold War was still being felt. The U.S. was flying regular SR-71 aircraft reconnaissance missions in international waters over the Baltic Sea known as “Baltic Express” missions. But on June 29, 1987, during one of those missions, an SR-71 piloted by retired Lt. Cols. Duane Noll and Tom Veltri, experienced an inflight emergency.


Experiencing engine failure in one of their engines, they piloted the aircraft down to approximately 25,000 feet over Swedish airspace where they were intercepted by two different pairs of Swedish air force Viggens.

“We were performing an ordinary peace time operation exercise,” recalled retired Maj. Roger Moller, Swedish air force Viggen pilot. “Our fighter controller then asked me are you able to make an interception and identification of a certain interest. I thought immediately it must be an SR-71, otherwise he would have mentioned it. But at that time I didn’t know it was the Blackbird.”

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. John Williams, Mobilization Assistant to the commander, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Africa, salutes the Swedish pilots who are being awarded the U.S. Air Medal in Stockholm, Nov. 28, 2018.

U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Kelly O’Connor

According to the Air Medal citation, once the Swedish pilots intercepted the SR-71, they assessed the emergency situation and decided to render support to the aircraft by defending it from any potential third-party aircraft that might have tried to threaten it. The pilots then accompanied the aircraft beyond the territorial boundaries and ensured that it was safely recovered.

“I can’t say enough about these gentlemen,” said Veltri, who was at the ceremony. “I am so amazingly grateful for what they did, but also for the opportunity to recognize them in the fashion we are doing. What these guys did is truly monumental.”

Noll, who was not able to be at the ceremony, recorded a message which was played to those in attendance.

“Your obvious skills and judgement were definitely demonstrated on that faithful day many years ago. I want to thank you for your actions on that day,” said Noll. “We will never know what would or could have happened, but because of you, there was no international incident. The U.S. Air Force did not lose an irreplaceable aircraft, and two crew members’ lives were saved. Lt. Col. Veltri and I can’t thank you sufficiently for what you prevented. Thank you for being highly skilled and dedicated patriotic fellow aviators.”

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. John Williams, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa mobilization assistant to the commander, presented the Air Medals to Swedish air force Col. Lars-Eric Blad, Maj. Roger Moller, Maj. Krister Sjoberg and Lt. Bo Ignell.

“That day in 1987 showed us that we can always count on our Swedish partners in times of great peril,” said Williams. “Even when there was both political risk and great physical risk in the form of actual danger, there was no hesitation on your part to preserve the pilots on that day.”

The presentation of Air Medals to the Swedish pilots represented the gratitude from the U.S. and the continued longstanding partnership with Sweden.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

Articles

This documentary captures the Battle of Ia Drang with stunning 4K footage

U.S. Army Colonel (ret.) Tony Nadal fought with Hal Moore (of We Were Soldiers fame) at the Battle of Ia Drang in the Vietnam War. In a stunning new documentary short from the team at AARP, Nadal recalls the first heliborne assault against North Vietnamese Army, the battle he’ll never forget.


“I can forget a lot of things about life but I won’t forget the feel, the sense, the smell of LZ-XRAY,” Nadal says. “Colonel Moore immediately realized it was going to be a battle for survival.”

Over the course of three days, 3,500 U.S., South Vietnamese, and North Vietnamese soldiers fought for a contested victory, leaving 308 Americans and 660 NVA dead, with 544 U.S. and 670 NVA wounded. Then-Captain Tony Nadal lost 15 of his men in the first two days of fighting. Sleepless and battered, his command was ordered out before an Air Force bombardment could be launched.

“I feel the loss of all my soldiers,” Nadal recalls. “When you get through all of the bravado, what you’re left with is anguish. They fought for a cause… there was the expectation that when your country calls, you go.”

The soldiers who fought at LZ-XRAY have gathered for the last 22 years at an annual reunion. It’s a way for them all to come together, get to know one another, and heal each other’s invisible wounds.

The legendary battle was depicted in the book “We Were Soldiers Once… and Young” and the 2002 film “We Were Soldiers.” The advocacy group AARP went to the National Archives of the United States and pulled 16mm and 35mm film reels. The ran the reels through a 4K scanner and cleaned up the footage to produce this amazing piece (though it is presented in HD here).

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Russia might have turned its back on Iran in Syria

Russia on May 11, 2018, reportedly declined to export its advanced S-300 missile defense system to Syria despite a high tempo of international and Israeli airstrikes peppering the country over the last few months, in the latest sign that Moscow has turned its back on Iran in the country.

Russia is Syria’s ally. The US, UK, and France launched airstrikes on Syria in April 2018. Israel launched airstrikes on Syria in May 2018, and likely many others in April, March, and February 2018.


Israel maintains it will strike Iranian targets in Syria as long as they ally with Hezbollah and Hamas, both anti-Israel US-designated terror organizations that operate near Israel’s borders.

Despite the near constant stream of powerful countries bombing targets in Syria, and Syria’s weak attempts to defend against the attacks, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aide in charge of foreign military assistance said Syria had “everything it needs.”

On May 9, 2018, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Putin in Moscow. That same night, Israeli airstrikes reportedly wiped out the majority of Syrian air defenses in the southern part of the country. Russian-owned and operated air defenses in Syria, which include the S-300, did nothing to stop the attack.

Israel has long wanted Russia to withhold its more powerful defenses from Syria.

Israel is in charge now

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive
Video of an Israeli missile taking out a Russian-made air defense system.

Israel stomped on Russian-made Syrian air defenses on May 9, 2018, in the largest Israeli Air Force attack in Syria since the two countries went to war in 1973. The massive battle saw Syria’s older Russian-made air defenses outmatched — and obliterated.

Israel has carried out strikes with the express purpose of beating down Iranian forces in southern Syria. By all accounts, the attacks succeeded in taking out command posts, infrastructure, and munitions. Israel won’t tolerate a buildup of Iranian forces along its borders in Syria as Iran explicitly seeks to destroy Israel.

Though Israel has engaged in more than 100 airstrikes in Syria since 2012, mostly against Iranian-linked forces, it has treaded softly and attempted to avoid a larger war.

Without new reinforcements like Russia’s S-300, and with the former defenses laying in ruin, Iranian forces in Syria will be greatly exposed to Israeli air power.

Russia may continue to trade with Tehran after the US imposed sanctions following its withdraw from the Iran deal, and continue to be Iran’s ally on paper. But Russia, by denying Syria air defenses, looks to have turned its back on supporting the regional ambitions of Ayatollah Khamenei.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The 10 most important tank battles in history

The tank is one of the most important weapon systems on the battlefield. Few weapons strike enemy soldiers with the fear that a fully loaded tank rolling towards them does.

After their trial by fire on the fields of Europe in World War I, tanks have become a necessity for any army that wants to be considered a serious foe.

In the one hundred years since its invention, tanks have been the winning factor in a number of battles. Entire wars have depended on their successful use.


Take a look at how 10 of the biggest tank battles in history went:

Battle of Cambrai: November 20 – December 8, 1917

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive
A Mark IV (Male) tank of ‘H’ Battalion, ‘Hyacinth’, ditched in a German trench while supporting 1st Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment near Ribecourt during the Battle of Cambrai, 20 November 1917.

The Battle of Cambrai was the first time tanks were used on a large scale for a military offensive. The objective was to take the commune of Cambrai, an important supply point for the Germans at the heart of the Hindenburg Line, in order to reduce the pressure on the French.

Nineteen British divisions were assembled for the battle, including 476 tanks and five horsed cavalry divisions.

The initial attack on November 20th was met with huge success. The British had torn through four miles of German defenses and captured up to 7,500 prisoners with low casualties.

But by the end of the day, more than half of the tanks were out of action due to mechanical failure. The German Army launched a massive counterattack, and brutal trench warfare ensued.

By the end of the battle, almost all the British gains were lost, over 100 tanks were lost or destroyed, and both sides suffered around 40,000 casualties each.

Battle of Hannut: May 12 – 14, 1940

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive
Two destroyed French SOMUA S35s and an artillery piece being inspected by German soldiers, May, 1940.

The Battle of Hannut was fought during the Battle of Belgium, Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Low Countries. It was part of the Wehrmacht’s thrust into the Ardennes region, and was meant to tie down the French First Army.

It was both the largest tank battle of the campaign, and the largest battle in armored warfare history at the time. Over 600 German tanks and 25,000 soldiers squared off against 600 French and Dutch armored vehicles and around 20,000 soldiers.

The battle was technically inconclusive. Some of the French First Army was able to fight their way through the Germans to reunite with their British comrades at Dunkirk, but they had lost well over 100 of their tanks and armored vehicles.

German losses were much lighter, with only around 50 tanks lost. While the French SOMUA S35 tank was considered as one of the best at the time, German tactics and communication technology made the Wehrmacht better.

Battle of Raseiniai: June 23 – 27, 1941

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive
An abandoned Soviet A KV-2 tank, June, 1941.

The Battle of Raseiniai was a large tank battle fought at the beginning of Operation Barbarossa, Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union. The battle was fought in Lithuania, then part of the Soviet Union’s Northwestern Front.

Some 240 German tanks from the 4th Panzer Group were tasked with destroying almost 750 Soviet tanks of the 3rd and 12th Mechanized Corps.

Despite their numerical advantage over the Wehrmacht, the result of the battle was an utter catastrophe for the Soviets. Some 700 Soviet tanks and their crews — almost the entirety of the Soviet Union’s deployed mechanized units on the Northwestern Front — were destroyed, damaged, or captured.

A large part of the German victory was due to their use of airpower. The Luftwaffe was unchallenged during the battle, and the close tank formations of the Soviets were easy targets for Ju 88 aircraft.

Battle of Brody: June 23 – 30, 1941

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive
A German infantryman near a burning Soviet BT-5 tank, June, 1941.

The Battle of Brody is the largest tank battle in history, according to some historians.

Also fought during the beginning stages of Operation Barbarossa, the battle saw some 1,000 German panzers of the 1st Panzer Group’s III Army Corps smash into 3,000 Soviet tanks from the six mechanized corps of the Soviet 5th and 6th Armies.

Again outnumbered, the Wehrmacht proved that superior training, tactics, communication technology, and air support make all the difference.

The exact number of casualties is not known, but estimates put Soviet tank losses at somewhere between 800 to over 1,000. The Wehrmacht also suffered heavy casualties, with anywhere between 200 to 350 tanks destroyed.

“This, in fact, is the biggest tank battle in World War II, and sparsely a word has been written on it,” according to David Glantz, a historian of the Eastern Front and Soviet military.

Second Battle of El Alamein: October 23 – November 11, 1942

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive
A mine explodes close to a British artillery tractor as it advances through enemy minefields and wire to the new front line, October 1942.

The Second Battle of El Alamein saw two legendary generals, Britain’s Bernard Montgomery, and Germany’s Erwin Rommel — who was nicknamed the “Desert Fox” — fight for the fate of North Africa.

North Africa had been a battleground since Fascist Italy’s invasion of Egypt in 1940. Germany’s Afrikakorps had to step in to prevent their defeat in 1941, and were able to push the British all the way into Egypt.

They were stopped at the First Battle of El Alamein, which, though technically a stalemate, did prevent the Afrikakorps from rolling through the rest of Egypt, and by extension the Middle East.

Montgomery assembled a force for a counterattack, including around 190,000 men and over 1,000 tanks. Rommel commanded a force of 116,000 German and Italian soldiers, and 540 tanks.

After days of hard fighting in the Egyptian desert, Montgomery was victorious. Five hundred German and Italian tanks, almost all of Rommel’s force, were destroyed or captured.

With the Americans launching Operation Torch in November 1942, the tide against the Germans began to turn in North Africa.

Battle of Prokhorovka: July 12, 1943

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive
Panzer IIIs and IVs on the southern side of the Kursk salient at the start of Operation Citadel, July 1943.

The Battle of Prokhorovka took place during the larger Battle of Kursk. It was long thought to be the largest tank battle in history, but according to the book Demolishing the Myth: The Tank Battle at Prokhorovka, Kursk, July 1943 by Valeriy Zamulin, a Russian military historian, that is not the case.

But that is not to say it was small or insignificant. The battle saw over 600 Soviet tanks from the 5th Guards Tank Army smash head on into around 300 German tanks from the II SS-Panzer Corps.

The fighting was some of the most intense in the history of armored warfare. The Soviets lost around 400 tanks, more than half of their force. German tank losses were smaller by comparison, up to 80 tanks and assault guns destroyed.

The Germans were unable to take Prokhorovka, and although it was not destroyed (the original goal of the Soviets), the II SS-Panzer Corps was exhausted, and prevented from continuing their offensive.

Thus, the momentum swung to the side of the Soviets, who eventually won the Battle of Kursk

Operation Goodwood: July 18 – 20, 1944

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive
Sherman tanks carrying infantry wait for the order to advance at the start of Operation ‘Goodwood’, 18 July 1944.

Operation Goodwood was a British offensive that was part of the Battle for Caen, one of the main inland targets that was part of Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Normandy. The goal was to break through to Caen so that it could be liberated.

The British had mustered as many as 1,100 tanks for the battle. The Wehrmacht had only around 370 tanks at their disposal, but they included the fearsome Tiger and Tiger II tanks.

The battle did not go the way the British intended. Their casualties were 5,000 men and 250 to 300 tanks destroyed. German losses were 75 tanks destroyed, mostly by airstrikes.

Operation Goodwood did cause some controversy. Montgomery claimed that all the objectives were achieved and that the mission was a success. But the British had only managed to penetrate roughly seven miles or so East of Caen.

But Goodwood did draw valuable German tanks away from the Western part of Caen, where the Americans were making their push to the city.

Battle of Chawinda: September 17 – 22, 1965

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive
Indian soldiers in front of a destroyed Pakistani Sherman tank during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965.

The Battle of Chawinda was one of the largest tank battles fought since World War II. It was part of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, fought over control of Jammu and Kashmir.

After the Pakistani Army’s attempt to foment an insurgency (Operation Gibraltar) was discovered and subsequently foiled, India retaliated with an outright attack along the Pakistani border.

The Indian military had planned to take the city of Sialkot, an important railway hub and central part of the Grand Trunk Road, so that they could use it as a beachhead for further operations into Pakistan.

But the Indian force of 80,000 to 150,000 soldiers and 230 tanks was met outside of their objective at Chawinda by a Pakistani force of 30,000 to 50,000 men and 132 tanks.

After more than a day of intense fighting, a UNSC resolution was signed and an unconditional ceasefire was implemented. India lost anywhere between 29 to 129 tanks, whereas Pakistan lost up to 44 tanks.

Battle of the Valley of Tears: October 6 – 9, 1973

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive
Israeli troops fight off Syrian soldiers in the Golan Heights, the area was later named the Valley of Tears

The Battle of the Valley of Tears was fought between Israel and Syria during the Yom Kippur War of 1973. The war had started on the holiest day in Judaism, when Syrian soldiers supported by 1,400 tanks crossed the border and invaded the Jewish state.

Just one Israeli armored brigade, roughly 100 or so tanks and armored vehicles stood in the way of the Syrian 7th Division, a force of 1,400 tanks, including 400 T-62s, at the time the most modern Soviet tank in the field.

The Israelis were manning British and American-made Centurion tanks, known for their good gunner sights. Unable to call in effective air support, the Israeli defenders dug in and fought off wave after wave of Syrian tank attacks.

Some Syrian tanks broke through, causing the Israeli tanks to turn their turrets backwards to destroy them. But one by one, the Israeli Centurions were knocked out.

But on the fourth day of the fighting, Israeli reinforcements arrived, and the Syrians were forced to withdraw. Almost all of Israel’s tanks were destroyed, but they gave far more than they got — Syrian armored vehicle losses were around 500, around 250 of which were tanks.

Battle of 73 Easting: February 26 – 27, 1991

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive
An Iraqi Type 69 main battle tank burns after an attack by the 1st United Kingdom Armored Division during Operation Desert Storm, February 28, 1991.

The Battle of 73 Easting saw American and British tanks go up against Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Republican Guard Tawakalna Division. Saddam had been warning his people that the “mother of all battles” was on the horizon, and the battle of 73 Easting was certainly part of it.

The main part of the battle was fought between the US 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment and Iraq’s 18th Mechanized Brigade and 37th Armored Brigade.

The ensuing battle saw the Iraqi forces be completely decimated. Over 160 tanks and armored personnel carriers were destroyed, damaged, or captured by US forces. Up to 1,000 Iraqi soldiers were killed or wounded, and over 1,000 more were taken prisoner.

US losses were just six killed, 19 wounded, and one Bradley infantry fighting vehicle destroyed. Historian and author Rick Atkinson described the battle:

“Here could be seen, with almost flawless precision, the lethality of modern American weapons; the hegemony offered by AirLand Battle doctrine, with its brutal ballet of armor, artillery, and air power; and, not least, the élan of the American soldier, who fought with a competence worthy of his forefathers on more celebrated battlefields in more celebrated wars.”

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

MIGHTY FIT

The Back Squat: The full-body exercise king

The back squat is often referred to as the king of all exercises, especially by those who frequently squat — and those who like a nice booty. But does it live up to the hype? And, more importantly, should you be squatting to get you closer to your fitness goals?


How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive

That’s what I call full-body stimulation. Even the face gets a workout…

(Photo by Senior Airman Alyssa Van Hook)

Muscle recruitment

The squat is touted as that exercise which recruits the most muscle mass with the most weight possible.

You may immediately think of thrusters as an exercise that proves this previous statement false. The problem there is that, strength-wise, the upper body lags behind the lower body. So, a weight that may be difficult for you to press overhead will likely be very easy to squat to depth with.

The back squat, on the other hand, isometrically engages the upper body without impacting the work of the lower body.

The barbell back squat actively works just about every muscle from the ribs down if performed correctly, and it also works the shoulders and upper back isometrically.

If you’re one of my clients, you are familiar with the cue, bend the bar over your back. This cue engages the pulling muscles of your back and arms even more, since you are literally trying to bend the bar over your back with your hands. This cue also has the benefit of locking your core into a tighter contraction, so that you can transfer more force from your legs into the weight.

How To Squat: Low Bar

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This is the same concept as trying to push a button with a noodle vs a rod. If it’s a really light button, you may be able to do it with a noodle, but it’ll be a lot harder because much of the force is being lost. The rod directly transfers all your energy straight into the button efficiently.

There isn’t another exercise that allows you to move as much weight as the back squat with so many muscles. It can be considered a true test of total strength. Not only that, but it can save you time.

If you only have 45 minutes for a workout, you will be able to hit more muscle groups faster by chunking them into compound exercises like the back squat. Five sets of squats will always be faster than 5 sets of leg extension, 5 sets of leg curl, 5 sets of calf raises, and 5 sets of glute bridges.

For the average trainee, this efficiency approach is more than sufficient for satisfying your need for muscular stimulation. If you are a bodybuilder, a different more isolative approach may be required. Remember, everything is dependent on your goals.

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive

More muscle mass equals more testosterone. The squat is highly effective at building lower-body mass.

(Photo by Sgt. Roger Jackson)

Hormonal response

The typical bro-scientist states that the back squat is superior in raising anabolic hormones, like testosterone and growth hormone, which then act like a systemic steroid that boosts your muscle-gaining ability throughout your whole body. This is true to an extent, specifically when you are training at 90% intensity with heavy weights. The boost lasts for about 15-30 minutes.

A 15-30 minute spike of testosterone is enough to make you feel awesome, boost your mood (it has been shown to positively affect both anxiety and depression), and help you keep on gettin’ after it in the gym. 15-30 minutes isn’t enough to boost whole body muscle growth to any considerable degree though. Don’t worry, though — it still helps.

I’ll let that sink in…

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive

You don’t need growth hormone to get huge. You do need it to keep those muscles on the bone though.

(Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Joseph Rullo)

Growth hormone, despite its name, doesn’t help grow your muscles at all. Its name is super misleading and will probably continue to confuse people — at least until we start communicating via telepathy and no longer have a use for words.

Growth hormone actually grows connective tissue, like tendons and ligaments. It’s still super important, because without it, your huge muscles would tear right off the bone when you flex.

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive

350+ lbs on your back will stimulate growth and your desire to be strong.

(Photo by Airman BrieAnna Stillman)

The real benefit

This spike in testosterone that you experience from heavy squats is enough to make you hungry for more weight, more reps, and more gains, which will result in higher motivation to continue getting in the gym.

The more consistent you are with your lifting sessions, the more muscle mass you will put on. That increase in muscle mass directly correlates to an increase in overall testosterone throughout the entire day, not just during your workout. It raises your testosterone baseline. That means you will have more energy, feel stronger in general, and have a higher capacity to burn fat in general.

We discussed the fat burning effects of resistance training here.

Staying consistent with the barbell back squat will have a huge effect on your overall progression towards being a better, stronger, and sexier human.

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive
MIGHTY MONEY

Market takes a dive on news of Trump victory

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive
The DOW took a hit after Trump was declared the President-Elect, a slump that was felt around the world.


The stock market took a massive dive just before and moments after Donald Trump was declared the President-Elect around 0230 today.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that there was a moment of panic felt around the world as countries like Australia, Mexico, and Japan had market slumps in response to voting results showing Trump’s gradual climb.

Fortune reported that the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped almost 650 points during after hour trading; SP 500 was down 4 percent, the Nikkei was down 5 percent, and the Mexican peso had plummeted almost 12 percent. The drop in the Mexican peso was the largest the currency has seen in over 20 years.

The Economist reports that “vague and erratic” statements from Trump in regards to trade and foreign policy have the rest of the world worried.

This might motivate some service members and veterans to pull their funds out of Thrift Savings Plans, 401(k)s, and other investment tools. Before they do that, take note that the dive was temporary and seems to be recovering. According to The Guardian, U.S. yields (interest rates) on U.S. debt is on the rise.

That bounce, according to The Guardian, is due in part to Trump’s acceptance speech.

Alex Edwards of UKForex wrote “[Trump’s] appeasing tone has definitely helped” the market response.

Jeremy Cook of World First writes “It’s because he sounded more presidential.”

That said, Paul Krugman from the New York Times writes “If the question is when markets will recover, a first-pass answer is never.”

So how does this impact your investment and retirement dollars?

Most experts would say don’t panic just yet. Right now, it’s still unclear how exactly Trump’s election will impact the U.S. and global economies in the long run. It would be premature to pull funds out of the TSP and other market investments, but should you decide to do that, consult a financial advisor.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army astronaut holds Q&A from space

An Army astronaut on a six-month mission in space recently shared her experience, saying she still leans on her military training while aboard the International Space Station.

Lt. Col. Anne McClain, a former helicopter pilot who has flown over 200 combat missions, blasted into space on a Russian Soyuz rocket in early December 2018 to serve as a flight engineer for her crew.

“I spent my whole career working high-risk missions in small teams in remote areas, which is what we’re doing right now,” she said in an April 24, 2019 interview.


McClain, 39, is one of five soldiers in the Army Space and Missile Defense Command’s astronaut detachment. Its commander, Col. Andrew Morgan, is slated to launch July 20, 2019, the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing.

Spacewalker

During her stay, McClain has been able to complete two spacewalks — both about 6.5-hours long — for maintenance outside the space station, which is about the length of a football field.

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive

Astronaut Lt. Col. Anne McClain is pictured in the cupola holding biomedical gear for an experiment that measures fat changes in the bone marrow before and after exposure to microgravity.

(NASA)

On March 22, 2019, she and another American astronaut replaced batteries and performed upgrades to the station’s power system. Then on April 8, 2019, she and a Canadian astronaut routed cables that serve as a redundant power system for a large robotic arm that moves equipment and supports crews while outside the station.

When she first started to train for spacewalks back in Houston, McClain said it reminded her of being an OH-58 Kiowa helicopter pilot on a scout weapons team.

The spacesuits, she noted, are like small spacecraft that need to be constantly monitored in order for their occupants to stay alive against the extreme temperatures and vacuum of space. Suits have their own electronics, power and radio systems — similar to components helicopter pilots often cross-check while remaining focused on the mission.

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive

Astronaut Lt. Col. Anne McClain works in a laboratory inside the International Space Station Jan. 30, 2019.

(NASA)

Then there is the buddy team aspect of both operations.

“Up here on a spacewalk, that’s the other astronaut that’s outside with you,” she said. “On the ground, that was the other helicopter that I was flying with.

“Most importantly, you have to be able to work with that other person and their system — their spacesuit, their helicopter — in order to accomplish the mission,” she added. “It was actually amazing to me how many of the skills kind of carried over into that environment.”

Space research

Unique from her Army days has been her participation in scientific experiments on the station, the only research laboratory of its kind with over 200 ongoing experiments.

An upcoming experiment, she said, is for an in-space refabricator, a hybrid 3D printer that can recycle used plastic to create new parts.

“That’s a really exciting new technology to enable deep-space exploration,” she said.

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive

Astronaut Lt. Col. Anne McClain, wearing the spacesuit with red stripes, and Air Force Col. Nick Hague work to retrieve batteries and adapter plates from an external pallet during a spacewalk to upgrade the International Space Station’s power storage capacity March 22, 2019.

(NASA)

In December 2018, NASA announced plans to work with U.S. companies to develop reusable systems that can return astronauts to the Moon. Human-class landers are expected to be tested in 2024, with the goal to send a crew to the surface in 2028.

What’s learned in these missions could then help NASA send astronauts to Mars by the 2030s, according to a news release.

While currently in low Earth orbit, McClain explained that resupply vehicles can come and go. Beyond that, crews would need to be self-sustained for longer periods of time.

“We’re using the space station as a test bed for some of the technologies that are going to enable us to work autonomously in space,” she said, “and hit some of our deep-space exploration goals.”

As with other astronauts, McClain has also become a guinea pig of sorts in human research tests that study how the human body reacts to microgravity.

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive

Anne McClain, now an astronaut and lieutenant colonel, stands next to a OH-58 Kiowa helicopter.

(NASA)

One experiment she has been a part of is monitoring airway inflammation up in space.

With a lack of gravity, dust particles don’t fall to the ground and will often be inhaled by astronauts. The tests measure exhaled nitric oxide, which can indicate airway inflammation, she said.

This research could be important if astronauts are sent back to the Moon, which is covered with a fine dust similar to powdered sugar, she said.

“If that’s in the air and we’re breathing that for months on end, if we’re doing extended stays on the lunar’s surface,” she said, “we need to understand how that affects the human body.”

Overview effect

While there is no typical day in space, McClain said their 12-hour shifts normally start with a meeting between them and support centers in the U.S., Russia, Germany and Japan.

When not helping with an experiment, astronauts do upkeep inside the station that includes plumbing, electricity work, changing filters, checking computer systems, or even vacuuming.

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive

Astronaut Lt. Col. Anne McClain uses the robotics workstation inside the International Space Station to practice robotics maneuvers and spacecraft capture techniques April 16, 2019.

(NASA)

The best parts of her day, she said, are when she gets the chance to peer down on Earth. Every day, the station orbits around the planet 16 times, meaning astronauts see a sunrise or sunset every 45 minutes.

“One of the cool things about going to the window is if you’re not paying attention, you don’t even know if it’s night or day outside,” she said. “You could look out and see an aurora over the Antarctic or you could look out and see a beautiful sunrise over the Pacific.”

After seeing Earth from above with her own eyes, McClain has come to realize people there are more dependent on each other than they may think.

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive

Astronaut Lt. Col. Anne McClain poses for a photograph with her 4-year-old son before she launched to the International Space Station in early December 2018.

(NASA)

“You get this overview effect where you realize how small we are and how fragile our planet is and how we’re really all in it together,” she said. “You don’t see borders from space, you don’t see diversity and differences in people on Earth.”

Those back on Earth can also gaze up and enjoy a similar effect.

“Sometimes we focus too much on our differences, but when we all look up into space, we see the same stars and we see the same sun,” she said. “It really can be unifying.”

Whenever she glanced up at the stars as a young child, she said it was a magical experience and eventually sparked her interest in becoming an astronaut.

Her family supported her dream and told her she could do whatever she wanted as long as she put in the work.

Q&A with Army astronaut in space

www.youtube.com

“They didn’t tell me how much work it was going to be,” she said, laughing, “but it certainly was a lot more than I anticipated.”

Before she was selected to NASA’s human spaceflight program in 2013, McClain, of Spokane, Washington, attended the U.S. Military Academy and was commissioned in 2002.

She later became a Marshall scholar and earned two master’s degrees. She then flew over 2,000 flight hours on 20 different aircraft and became a Kiowa instructor pilot.

In June 2019, she is set to return back to Earth.

“No matter what your passion is, you really can find it within the Army,” she said. “The opportunities really are endless and the sky is not the limit.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is why Navy pilots prefer to be called ‘naval aviators’

At some time in our military careers, we come across pilots of all sorts, helicopter pilots, Air Force cargo pilots, Navy fighter pilots, etc. While the former two might allow you to refer to them as simply “pilots,” there’s a good chance the naval aviator will take the time to remind you that he or she is an “aviator,” not a pilot.

And there’s a very good, non-egotistical reason for that. We promise.


How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive

Insert obligatory “Top Gun” reference here.

During your military experience, you may have noticed the Navy has an entirely different vocabulary for so many things. Floors become decks, walls become bulkheads, beds become racks, etc. But the Navy’s tradition of a maritime language exists for a reason. It turns out the world they live in predates the United States Navy, the United States, and most navies, not to mention the concept of powered flight.

The maritime world is way, way old, man. And the terms used to describe that world are too. We can’t just change them overnight. Or ever, as it turns out. So while the aviation world refers to a pilot as someone who flies an aircraft, that term has a different meaning in the maritime world.

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive

No one aboard this ship called those boxes “toilets” but they had the same use.

For hundreds of years before navies around the world were flying jet-powered aircraft off the decks of massive floating cities, “pilots” were operating in navies long before ships had engines that weren’t powered by wind or slaves. In those terms, a pilot is specially qualified to drive a ship in and out of a specific port or a specific area. For large ships, this pilot is someone from outside, who literally comes in to your boat and drives it into the harbor because he or she knows the area better than anyone else.

The pilot will roll up next to your ship aboard a pilot boat, which carries the pilot in a boat, one marked “pilot boat.” And those poor guys have to climb up the side of your ship just to park it for you. Both naval aviators and maritime pilots have a hard job that allows for zero error – so call them whatever they want.