The top Marine Corps general is officially putting an end to the long-standing tradition of toughing out the rain without an umbrella, which has become a point of pride for the amphibious service.
“Umbrellas are good to go,” Gen. David Berger told reporters at the Pentagon — at least when Marines are wearing their service or dress uniforms.
Berger will make the move official in a new Marine Corps-wide administrative message to be released this week. Effective immediately, all Marines are authorized to use small, black umbrellas under certain conditions.
“Marines may carry an all-black, plain, standard or collapsible umbrella at their option during inclement weather with the service and dress uniforms,” the commandant’s message to Marines states.
Leathernecks in camouflage combat utility uniforms will still need to brave the rainfall.
The change follows an April survey on the matter from the Marine Corps’ uniform board. Officials declined to say how many Marines who answered the survey viewed the addition of umbrellas to the uniform lineup favorably.
When the survey was announced in April, some readers said umbrellas weren’t necessary since Marines are already issued raincoats and covers. Others argued that dress and service uniform items are too expensive to ruin in the rain, especially for lesser-paid junior Marines.
For others, the move came down to common sense.
“Using an umbrella looks more civilized and professional than standing outside getting drenched,” one reader said.
Until now, only female Marines have been allowed to use umbrellas in service and dress uniforms. They must carry the umbrellas in their left hands, so they can still salute.
Male Marines have for decades been some of the only service members barred from using umbrellas when in uniform.
The policy made headlines in 2013 when President Barack Obama was giving a speech in the rain outside the White House. Marines standing next to Obama and the Turkish president held umbrellas for the two men while they stood in the rain.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Yeoman 2nd Class Kenny Jones wears his pride for Virginia Beach — its culture, its beachfront, its military presence — on his sleeve.
He’ll soon be wearing that pride on his feet.
Jones, who last month celebrated six years of service for the Coast Guard, recently won an Instagram contest to design a Nike shoe. The contest, organized by the @nikesbornothing Instagram account (and not affiliated with Nike), encouraged fans of the Nike SB Dunk shoe to design a version to represent a city of their choice.
Jones, 28, picked Virginia Beach, the place where he grew up. His father, a Navy man who served on submarines, moved the family there when Jones was in first grade.
The shoe he designed is Navy blue, a nod to the region’s large Navy and Coast Guard populations, and the Nike swoosh is silver, a reference to the Navy’s steel ships.
On the side is a trident, representing the King Neptune statue that guards the Virginia Beach oceanfront. A musical symbol references some of the music superstars that hail from Virginia Beach, like Pharrell and Timbaland. Blue waves and a tan outsole evoke the sand and surf.
Sometimes Virginia Beach can be overlooked, Jones said, but it’s a place that people are proud of, and his design was a way to display this pride.
“I want them to continue to feel proud of the area that we’re from,” Jones said. “Everything about it, whether it’s the oceanfront that we have, or the military aspect, to be proud of those who serve in this area.”
For Coast Guard members, Hampton Roads, a coastal region that includes Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and Chesapeake, the city where Jones lives and works for the Coast Guard Communications Command, has special meaning, he added, since so many members have been stationed in the region.
When he posted his Virginia Beach design on his Instagram account, it attracted a boatload of likes. In late March, the @nikesbornothing account announced that Jones’ design had won its “Have a Nike SB Day” contest.
It wasn’t just fellow Nike enthusiasts that embraced Jones’ design. Posting on Twitter, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner congratulated Jones for his win, adding, “I cannot wait to wear the real thing.”
Jones also received a shout out from Jason M. Vanderhaden, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard, who tweeted his congratulations.
For Jones, who said he is naturally a quiet guy, the response, especially from prominent leaders like Warner and Vanderhaden, has been an overwhelming experience.
And he’s taking it as a sign.
Jones took the money he was saving for a new pair of Nikes and instead used it to buy a new iPad and Apple Pencil. He’s watching online videos to teach himself design, a way of “investing in myself.”
“I feel like I got an opportunity, so I don’t want to waste it,” he said.
He wants to pursue the dream he’s had for a long time: to design shoes and other apparel. These days, when he’s not at work or spending time with his wife and their three-year-old son, he’s working on making that dream come true.
And he’s waiting for a special custom pair of Virginia Beach-themed Nike SBs. As the contest winner, Jones’ custom design will be created by a company called ReverseLand.
When will the shoes be available? He says he’ll let his fans know on Instagram.
Who doesn’t love a bit of candy to lighten the mood? Today, troops opening up an MRE might find a bag of Skittles or some sweets in there to help boost morale a little bit. This isn’t anything new; troops have had some kind of candy in rations since WWII.
While the soldiers who were preparing to jump into the fight on D-Day likely had a few of their favorite chocolate bars on them, they had another specialty chocolate bar, one made exclusively made for the troops. It was called the U.S. Army Field Ration D and it tasted about as appetizing as the name suggests — a little bit better than a boiled potato.
Still better than the Veggie MRE.
(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jesse B. Awalt)
The Field Ration D, or “D-Bar,” was the brain child of Col. Paul Logan and the Hershey Chocolate Corporation. The idea was to stuff enough calories, vitamins, and nutrients inside of an easy-to-carry chocolate bar so that troops always had an emergency field ration if they needed it. It weighed 4 oz., packed 600 calories, and was mixed with raw oat flour to ensure that it wouldn’t melt easily.
The packaging of Field Ration D was made with aluminum wrapper, cardboard dipped in wax, and cellophane. There was no way that bugs, weather, or gas could reach the bar and contaminate it. There was also a safety measure put in place by Col. Logan to ensure troops didn’t just eat their emergency ration for a sweet fix — he reportedly asked Hershey to not focus on the taste.
The D-Bar was so full of cacao fat and oat flour that it could survive any condition, but it also made the bar extremely bitter. Since it was made to endure nearly any conditions, it was solid as a rock. Not exactly appetizing.
To make matters worse, if any troop didn’t read the tiny warning to eat the bar slowly, over a thirty minute time period, their bowels would suffer. This unfortunate side-effect earned it the nickname, “Hitler’s secret weapon.”
Word of how awful the D-Bar was (and its unofficial moniker) made it back to Hershey. They offered another chocolate bar instead — the Tropical Bar. Apparently, this was even worse and earned the name “Dysentery Bar,” because troops who already had dysentery were the only ones who could tolerate it.
In the end, the top brass at the Pentagon lavished Hershey with numerous awards for their “help” in WWII while the troops exchanged the D-Bars and Tropical Bars to unsuspecting civilians for better food.
To watch the bravest man on YouTube actually eat one of these, check out the video below by Steve1989 at MRE Info.
Editor’s Note: The original article appeared on Marine Corps Systems Command’s website Nov. 16, 2017. The following article provides an update to reflect the current status of the program.
The Marine Corps continues to upgrade the turret system for one of its longest-serving fighting vehicles — the Light Armored Vehicle-Anti-Tank.
In September 2017, Marine Corps Systems Command’s LAV-AT Modernization Program Team achieved initial operational capability by completing the fielding of its first four Anti-Tank Light Armored Vehicles with the upgraded Anti-Tank Weapon Systems to Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion Marines.
The ATWS fires the tube-launched, optically-tracked, wire-guided — or TOW — missiles. It provides long-range stand-off anti-armor fire support to maneuvering Light Armored Reconnaissance companies and platoons. The ATWS also provides an observational capability in all climates, as well as other environments of limited visibility, thanks to an improved thermal sight system that is similar to the Light Armored Vehicle 25mm variant fielded in 2007.
The Marine Corps continues to upgrade the turret system for the Light Armored Vehicle-Anti-Tank.
(US Marine Corps photo)
“Marines using the new ATWS are immediately noticing the changes, including a new far target location capability, a commander/gunner video sight display, a relocated gunner’s station, and an electric elevation and azimuth drive system, which replaced the previous noisy hydraulic system,” said Steve Myers, LAV program manager.
The ATWS also possesses a built-in test capability, allowing the operators and maintainers to conduct an automated basic systems check of the ATWS, he said.
The LAV-ATM Team continues to provide new equipment training to units receiving the ATWS upgrade, with the final two training evolutions scheduled for early 2019. Training consists of a 10-day evolution with three days devoted to the operator and seven days devoted to maintaining the weapon system. Follow-on training can be conducted by the unit using the embedded training mode within the ATWS.
“This vehicle equips anti-tank gunner Marines with a modern capability that helps them maintain readiness and lethality to complete their mission,” said Maj. Christopher Dell, LAV Operations officer.
Full operational capability for the ATWS is expected at the end of fiscal year 2019.
“Currently, there are 58 in service within the active fleet,” said Myers. “The original equipment manufacturer delivered 91 of the 106 contracted kits and is ahead of schedule. Now MCSC’s focus is directed at the Marine Corps Forces Reserve, ensuring they receive the same quality NET and support as their active counterparts.”
This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
The Naval Air Weapons Command has collected a lot of footage at their China Lake Ranges in California, and it released a new video that’s just five minutes of bombs hitting targets, piercing the ground, crushing towed vehicles, and creating massive light shows.
The video includes rockets, missiles, and bombs, and even has a little surface-to-air action at the start, with shoulder-fired missiles taking out aerial drones.
There are plenty of live weapons in the videos, as well as some inert ones. You can tell the inert ones because they’re blue, and also they’re the ones that don’t create a massive fireball after they explode. While the footage, from armored vehicles and tanks blowing up to trucks getting crushed, is exciting, that’s obviously not why the Navy does it.
The range has a crap-ton of cameras and sensors, allowing weapon designers and testers to see exactly how current and prototype weapons act when hitting a variety of targets. That’s why you see some munitions slam through a target just before flying across a wall with black and white grids.
Personnel rail launch an Integrator unmanned aerial vehicle at Naval Air Warfare Center China Lake, California.
The high-speed cameras capture the rotation, flight path, and speed of the round as it flies past the grid, either during normal flight or right after flying through a wall or two. That lets designers figure out the best way to tweak a weapon for stable flight or for performance after piercing a bunker wall or two.
And the large ranges and massive restricted airspace allows Navy and other pilots to train in realistic conditions. So, when you want to learn to nail a fast-moving Land Rover, come to China Lake!*
*Must bring your own jet and bombs.
The range can be used for surface-to-surface warfare, but that isn’t featured much in the video, so this one is mostly for the aviation geeks. Check out the video at top.
In September 2018, Russia kicked off its Vostok-18 military exercises, drills that defense officials claim involve some 300,000 troops, 36,000 tanks, 1,000 aircraft, and scores of warships and have touted as “unprecedented in scale.”
That’s roughly a third of the entire Russia military, much of which would have to be moved to the far east to participate in these large-scale maneuvers.
2018’s version of the Vostok, or East, exercise is billed as the largest ever, topping the 1981 Zapad, or West, military exercise, which took place in the Baltic Sea area and Eastern Europe amid heightened tension with the US after President Ronald Reagan took office.
Vostok is a no doubt a major undertaking for Russia’s armed forces — and a major geopolitical development, given the inclusion of Chinese forces for the first time — but there are a number of reasons to believe Moscow is overstating the forces it has mustered.
The logistical challenges of moving that many personnel and their equipment cast doubt on the stated numbers.
The 300,000 troops Russian officials have said would participate would be roughly one-third of the country’s military. Gathering such a force would be a considerable financial challenge in light of Russia’s decreasing defense spending and its standing military commitments elsewhere, according to The Diplomat. By comparison, that force would represent roughly two-thirds of the much better funded and equipped active-duty US Army.
Tanks rolling during the Vostok 2018 military exercises in Russia.
A conservative estimate of the vehicles in the Central and Eastern military districts is around 7,000 to 10,000. Bringing in roughly 25,000 more vehicles would clog railways and highways, and shuttling in that many troops would likely overwhelm Russia’s military logistics structure.
The size of the force involved is likely around 50,000 to 100,000, according to The Diplomat. Other estimates put it around 150,000 — about the size of the Vostok-81 exercise — which is still very massive force.
Inflating the number of military personnel involved in such exercises is nothing new for Russia. And there appear to be a number of types of legerdemain through which Russian officials carry it out.
The stated total — 297,000, to be precise — likely includes all units stationed in the Central and Eastern military districts, as well as those in the Northern and Eastern Fleets and in the airborne units that are taking part.
“For every battalion fielded they will likely count the entire brigade, and for a few regiments an entire division, etc.,” writes Michael Kofman, a Russian military expert at CNA and the Wilson Center.
Many of those are involved may not ever venture into the field, instead remaining at command posts. (The US has also counted geographically dispersed units as taking part in certain exercises, but typically at much smaller scales.)
Participation may go beyond uniformed troops and include civilian reserves, Jeffrey Edmonds, a former Russia director for the National Security Council, told Voice of America
Edmonds noted that other units, like those operating in western Russia, may be included in some tallies.
Moscow has also likely counted under-strength units at full strength and included units that have been alerted or are indirectly involved — like those that are taking over assignments from units that are redeploying to actually take part, according to The Diplomat.
Russian troops participating in Zapad-2017.
(Russian Ministry of Defense)
The figures presented by Moscow for these kinds of exercises could be called “true lies,” Kofman told Voice of America, “in that they’re statistical lies whereby the Russian army’s General Staff tallies every single unit-formation that either sends somebody to the exercise or has some tangential command component in it.”
“So these numbers are not entirely fictional, but you have to divide them by a substantial amount to get any sense of how big the exercise actually is,” Kofman added.
Such sleight of hand is not new — similar tactics were used during the Cold War — and using them now may also be meant to avoid adding to anger over reduced social spending and proposed hikes to pension-eligibility ages.
Russia faces economic and demographic challenges, and, as noted by Mark Galeotti, a Russia expert and fellow at the European University Institute, the government spends an outsize portion of its federal budget on security.
Overstating the number of forces involved also likely serves broader geopolitical purposes.
Over the past decade and a half, President Vladimir Putin has turned a weakened military into a capable force, but the Russian leader is aware that his country lags in objective measures of strength, Galeotti notes at The Atlantic.
“Instead, [Putin] relies on bluff and bluster, theater and shadow play,” Galeotti writes. “He wants to project an image of a dangerous yet confident country, one that should be placated, not challenged.”
China’s inclusion may also indicate a shift in Moscow’s thinking.
Previous iterations of the Vostok exercise were meant to send a message to Beijing, which Moscow long viewed as a rival. The relatively small Chinese contingent taking part this year has been interpreted as a message to the West that Russia is not isolated and could further embrace China.
Many doubt a formal military alliance between China and Russia is in the offing, instead seeing their cooperation on Vostok — they have carried out joint military exercises elsewhere — as an effort by both sides to balance against US and by Russia to allay Chinese concerns about the target of the exercises.
“Maybe the announcements of how big it’s going to be is a reaction to hostilities with the West, but the actual exercise itself is a pretty standard Russian military activity,” Edmonds, now a research scientist at CNA, told Voice of America.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
One of the things that often shocks new pilots is how brutally honest our debriefs can be. After nearly a full day of planning, briefing, and flying a mission, we’ll gather in a room and spend hours picking apart everything that went wrong. Even if all our objectives were met and the mission was a success, we’ll still comb through a “god’s eye view” of the flight, along with the various recordings from inside our cockpit.
Rank comes off in the debrief, meaning the most senior officer, or the most senior pilot, are open to just as much criticism as the newest wingman. I’ve been in debriefs where a young Captain held the Wing Commander’s feet to the fire over mistakes he made in the air. This usually comes as a shock to many in the military who are typically required to follow a strict hierarchy.
When is comes to mistakes, fighter pilots worry more about improvement than they do about rank. (USAF Photo)
As with all things related to flying, prioritization is key—we’ll start with the biggest things that went wrong and try to uncover their root causes. I was recently explaining to a civilian pilot that in the debrief we spend 90% of our time on the 10% that didn’t go according to plan. They were amazed that 10% doesn’t go according to plan. In reality though, it can often be much higher.
The type of flying we do has more in common with sports than a typical commercial flight. We are fighting a thinking adversary that is specifically targeting our weaknesses. We, in turn, are making decisions that are trying to exploit theirs. As we fight to seize the initiative inside this decision loop; dozens of potential outcomes can occur at each phase of the mission. A mission therefore almost never goes exactly according to plan. It’s a dynamic environment that forces the pilot to perceive, decide, and execute in a harsh environment, often with limited information and time.
A three-ship formation of Air National Guard F-16 Fighting Falcons flies over Kunsan City, South Korea. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Allen)
In training, if the bomber we were escorting was shot down, or if an enemy aircraft bombed the point we were defending, it’s usually multiple overlapping mistakes that led to the failure. In fact, everyone probably had an opportunity at some point to intervene and save the day. The fighter pilot debrief works because everyone is willing to take ownership of their mistakes.
Taking ownership is a skill. As fighter pilots, most of us are predisposed to win at all costs—within the rules and regulations. In the debrief though, with the mission already flown, the way to win is to accurately identify lessons that will make everyone better for the next flight. It’s a fragile environment that only works when everyone is willing to first look inward for failures to the mission.
U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors fly in formation with F-35A Lightning IIs (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo)
It only takes one person trying to pass the blame for the collaborative environment to fall apart. Because it’s not stable, it requires constant maintenance, especially by those who could use their status to get by. The mission commander must be the first person to call themselves out for a mistake they made. Likewise, the pilot with the most experience must be willing to say they made a basic error that even a new pilot shouldn’t have made. The officer with the highest rank must be willing to set the example that rank doesn’t shield mistakes.
By treating everyone equally in the debrief, the mission can be analyzed in a sterile environment. We can figure out what went wrong and capture those lessons for future flights. To the casual observer it’s a brutal environment, but to the pilots in the debrief it’s just a puzzle on how to get better.
The Sikorsky S-70 platform is one of the most popular and versatile medium-lift utility helicopters with the U.S. military and government agencies. As a result, it can be seen in a variety of color schemes. Air Force HH-60 Pave Hawks can be found sporting a dark gull gray scheme while Navy SH-60 Sea Hawks bear a lighter maritime gray. Army UH-60 Black Hawks are painted in a dark green while their Special Forces 160th SOAR MH-60 counterparts are completely blacked out. However, there is one color that can be seen on multiple S-70-based aircraft and many others besides.
When serious wildfires break out on the west coast, state and local firefighting teams are augmented by the National Guard. Ground forces are often employed cutting fire breaks while air assets are used to rescue fire victims and attack the fire directly. However, air operations in the middle of a fire are extremely dangerous. High winds, thick smoke, and extreme heat make for a difficult flying environment that can challenge even the most experienced aviators. The firefighting effort against the 2020 Creek Fire has already produced 7 Distinguished Flying Cross recipients who heroically braved the deadly conditions and ignored orders to abort their mission to save hundreds of people trapped by the flames.
A UH-60 Black Hawk of the CA National Guard 1-140th Aviation Battalion (Assault) (Army National Guard)
Although modern technology like night vision goggles and advanced sensor suites can assist pilots in navigating through the treacherous conditions that they face while fighting fires, one low-tech firefighting modification is applied to every military aircraft that flies against a fire. While their gray and green paint schemes help to reduce their visual signature in their respective combat environments, they can serve as a hazard in a firefighting situation where visibility is low and heavy air traffic results in increased risk of mid-air collisions. In order to mitigate this, military aircraft used to fight fires are painted with a fluorescent paint called shocking pink.
The result of an agreement between the California National Guard and CAL FIRE, shocking pink is the official color that is applied to aircraft from outside agencies that are assigned to battle fires. Aircraft identification numbers are repainted in the vivid color along with thick stripes on the tail and fuselage. “There can be a lot of aircraft fighting the fire in the fire lane,” said Chief Warrant Officer Bruce Pulgencio, a pilot with the California Guard’s 1-140th Aviation Battalion (Assault). “We need to see each other as well as ground forces need to see us.”
Spc. Nicholas Ehrenheim of the 351st Aviation Support Battalion applies pink paint to a Black Hawk (Army National Guard)
Although shocking pink is the official color, it is not always what is used. As a result of heavy firefighting focus in California, resources in surrounding states have been heavily reduced. During the 2018 wildfires in Washington State, Governor Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard to assist in the firefighting effort. National Guard units stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord quickly mustered and gathered their firefighting equipment. However, one resource that was lacking was the shocking pink paint for their aircraft. “They ran out of paint,” Black Hawk crew chief Spc. Noah Marshman said as he applied pink paint to his aircraft. “They just went to the craft store.” The use of craft store paint highlights both the necessity of the brilliant color and the resourcefulness and ingenuity of the soldiers.
If you ever see a military aircraft overhead with pink markings, know that it’s being crewed by service members on their way to fight a fire…not that you could miss it.
The day my dad left for deployment brought me hard feelings – feelings that were hard for me to process. The thought of him being in harms way made me afraid. Knowing how much I would miss him made be unbelievably sad. All that I knew for sure is that I did not want to take him to the drop off point.
I wanted him to stay.
Once we arrived at the squadron, I tried to convince myself to hold everything together, hiding how I was feeling and I put on a brave face. I certainly did not want to lose control of my emotions in front of a room full of strangers. But when I heard the loud slam of the van door closing and I realized that my Daddy was about to drive away, I stopped caring about who was around.
I sprinted toward the vehicle, wildly yanking at the door handle. “I just want you to stay. Please. Please stay.” I started to cry. The feeling of dread loomed over me. He opened the door and gave me one last hug. My Dad held me close and promised that everything would be okay.
But it wasn’t okay.
Living without my Dad was harder than I thought. I wanted to talk to him -to tell him about all the things I was learning and fun things I was doing. He missed a lot. He missed Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. It was awful. Christmas was not the same. I was glad we could open presents over video chat, but all I wanted for Christmas was to have him home.
Everything about life without him stressed me out and I began to be overly anxious. There were several times where my head felt like it was spinning. I was overwhelmed with worry. Many nights, I wouldn’t sleep. I cried a lot. Living life without my dad home just made me feel blue.
Nothing felt normal. When Dad is home, he takes me out to dinner and spends time with me. I can tell him all about what is happening and how I feel. I really missed these nights. We could really only talk for a few minutes because there was a seven-hour time difference. Night time was the worst. I feel safer when he is here.
It wasn’t all bad. We went on a few family vacations and even went to Great Wolf Lodge. I mean, we only went to Great Wolf because of the eight million delays for dad’s homecoming- making Dad miss my brother’s birthday. But it was fun.
If I had to do all over again (which I hope won’t be for a while), I would do a few things differently. Maybe, if you are a kid in the middle of a deployment -or getting ready for one – here are a few things I learned.
You can’t control everything. Don’t try. Stop trying to make everything perfect. You can’t. Recognize the things that you can control, like yourself or how clean your room is, and control what you can. I organized my books, made slime, and did things that made me feel comfortable.
Be patient with your family. Everyone is sad or stressed. Emotions are running hot and even the littlest things feel more annoying. Do your best to give people a break and stay calm. When I got overwhelmed, I would retreat to my room and count backwards from sixty. I would count colors or patterns in my room. Also, I bout “Pinch Me” dough, which smelled like the beach. Find something that brings you joy and peace.
Have lots of comfort food. (Oreos are always a good choice.) Nothing beats a snack. Snacks are wonderful, and sharing them with a friend is even better. When I was feeling sad or frustrated, I would invite my next-door neighbor over for a snack and a chat. It always made me feel better.
Lastly, call your friends. The beauty of military life is that you have friends everywhere. When I needed to, I would call my best friends, Talia and Aurea. They would cheer me up, help me think through what I feel, and give me encouragement. They know what this is like. Both of them, like me, are military kids.
Deployment seasons might not always be “okay,” but they are only temporary. They don’t last forever. I know that my dad does hard things, like being away, because he wants to serve our country. I can do hard things, too. He believes in freedom and he tells me that I can do my part too. I’m strong because he is strong. I love you, Daddy. Thank you for all you do.
The distance between Washington, D.C. and the former Confederate capital of Richmond, Va. is a scant 95 miles. They’re practically neighbors. Early in the Civil War, the Union Army attempted to capture the rebel capital but the forces led by Gen. George McClellan only made it as far as the suburbs before being beaten back. Richmond wouldn’t fall to the Union Army until 1865 – but it wasn’t through lack of trying.
Meanwhile, the District of Columbia sat precariously perched between rebel Virginia and border slave state Maryland. It was the heart and nerve center of the Union but aside from the threat of an advancing enemy, it wasn’t as constantly attacked as one might think.
Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia did have a plan to threaten the Union capital. Lee’s overall strategy was to take the fight to the Union, rather than fight on Confederate soil. His advances north did threaten Washington, but Lee didn’t attack DC directly. His best chance to hit the Union capital came after his surprising win at the first Battle of Bull Run (or First Manassas, for you Southerners). With the Union forces as stunned by their loss as the Confederates were stunned by their victory, the South was too disorganized to follow up. Once Washington realized the war was going to last much longer than anticipated, the District became one of the most fortified cities on Earth.
To make it more difficult for the Confederates to swing around and even conduct so much as a raid on Washington, Union Generals George G. Meade and Joseph Hooker kept their armies between the Confederates and Washington as Lee’s army advanced north toward Gettysburg in 1863.
(American Battlefield Trust)
As for the city itself, the Potomac acted as a formidable natural barrier but it wasn’t the only barrier. The city had a series of some 68 fortifications, 93 gun positions just waiting for cannon, 20 miles of trenches and 30 miles of military-use roads. It also 87 mounted guns and and 93 mortar positions and untold communications lines. These fortifications ringed the city, even in the Virginia areas. As much as the South would have liked to capture the District, it would have needed and army far beyond its capability. Still, there was one attempt.
In 1864, Confederate Gen. Jubal Early went north through the Shenandoah Valley while Lee’s army was under siege at Petersburg, Va. Early forces relieved Lee’s supply lines at Lynchburg before swinging north through the valley. He captured and ransomed Fredericksburg then moved on where he was met by a small Union defense force at Monocacy. Had it not been for this delaying action, Early might have taken Washington.
But giant cannons are kind of intimidating.
At this time the city was filled with refugees and troops of varying quality. Most of the battle-hardened Union troops were out in the field fighting the Confederates, so Washington’s defenders weren’t all the best of the best the Union could muster. The Confederate advance sent the city into a panic. Union General Lew Wallace didn’t know if Baltimore or Washington was Early’s target, but the citizens of both cities were freaking out, so Wallace knew he had to at least delay Early until reinforcements could arrive. The Marylanders held Early off for a full day at the cost of more than 1,200 lives. But it was enough to delay the advancing Confederates while inflicting some heavy casualties. Early rode on, though, and came across the northernmost fortification of Washington, Fort Stevens.
When he arrived, he had a strength roughly equal to that of the District’s defenders. The defenders were mostly raw recruits and untested reservists, but combined with reinforcements, the city had a fighting chance. Going against the Confederate Army was the blazing heat of the July sun and the fact that they’d been on the march and fighting for nearly a month.The further delay allowed for more reinforcements by the Union defenders.
“Mr. President, maybe you could duck. Or at least take off your hat.”
The attack began in the late afternoon on Jul. 11, 1864. Early’s men began skirmishing with the Union fortification to test its defenses. As President Lincoln watched on, it began in earnest at 5 p.m. when veteran Confederate cavalry stormed the Union picket lines and Union artillery opened up on rebel positions across the lines. Over the coming night, more Union reinforcement would arrive and Early realized time was not on his side. Had he immediately attacked Fort Stevens, he might have taken the capital but waiting only allowed for more reinforcements and for the Union troops chasing him to catch up.
Early used skirmishers to cover his nighttime withdrawal. Fort Stevens and Washington’s fortification had held but President Lincoln was almost hit by a bullet. Early was able to retreat back to the Army of Northern Virginia, where it’s said he told Lee and his own staff officers, “”We didn’t take Washington but we scared Abe Lincoln like Hell.”
Even if you do, regulations dictate you’re only authorized to wear one foreign badge with other decorations in order of presentation. The award also falls under the original nation’s regulations and some badges are purely honorary awards (meaning you can’t wear them).
Kuwait Liberation Medal (Kuwait) and Kuwait Liberation Medal (Saudi Arabia)
Ever wondered what was at the bottom right of the medals of your salty senior non-commissioned officer who has been in since the Persian Gulf War? Technically these two are the same medal and technically they’re foreign awards.
The Kuwait Liberation Medal was given by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to members of the armed forces who served in Operation Desert Storm between Jan. 17 and Feb. 28, 1991. It still holds the condition that the troop must have served 30 consecutive days (which gives you only 17 days of wiggle room), but given instantly if they saw combat
The Government of Kuwait awarded one to all members of the U.S. Armed Forces who deployed in support of Operation Desert Shield or Desert Storm between Aug. 2, 1990 and Aug. 31, 1993.
French Commando Badge
No matter what jokes people say about the French military, their commandos are beasts. This badge is adorned by those bad asses and their foreign graduates, and it’s a rare opportunity for American troops to get accepted into French Commando schools.
The training is a grueling three weeks that tests your survival skills in the field. If you can get in and graduate, the badge is one of the coolest designed badges of all American allies.
Any foreign jump wings
Foreign jump wings are awarded to U.S. parachutists when they complete training in a foreign country under a foreign commanding officer. In order to qualify, you must already have the U.S. Parachutist Basic Badge. Then it all depends on your unit to do a joint jump between American troops and their military.
A lot of the awards have a similar design to the U.S. badge. Hands down, the coolest design goes to Polish Parachute badge. First worn by the Cichociemni (WWII Special Operations paratrooper literally called “The Silent Unseen”) the diving eagle has several variations like those worn by Poland’s GROM and other troops.
These ones are more unit citations than personal awards. This has the easy benefit of just being lucky enough to be in a unit that was awarded a fourragère in the past but it also means that you won’t stand out against anyone who’s also in your unit. These are decorative cords with golden aglets (tips).
Awarded to units that served gallantly in the eyes of French, Belgian, Portuguese, and South Vietnamese armies (Luxembourg also has fourragères but they never authorized foreign units to wear one), the color denotes mentions and honors. Just like with normal unit citations, if you are in the unit when it was awarded, you keep it for life.
Don’t expect to see anyone wearing one outside of a designated unit, though, because these were last given in 1944.
I didn’t want to make this in a ranking order, but the Schützenschnur (Sharpshooter Rope) is by far the coolest and most sought after. I managed to earn one in gold when I was stationed in Baumholder, Germany.
In order to earn one, you need to perform a marksmanship qualification with German weapons. Round One is pistol, round two is rifle, and round three is heavy weapons. I was given the P8, G36, and MG3 for my qualification.
At the end, you are awarded the badge in bronze, silver, or gold. If you shoot gold with the pistol and rifle but botched the machine gun in bronze, you earn a bronze “Schütz”. You are awarded according to your lowest score. I pulled off gold in all of them.
I will openly admit that I have no idea how I made gold with the MG3 but hey! I’ll take it.
(Screen grab of video by Cpl. Clay Beyersdorfer)
(Bonus) Order of St. Gregory the Great
This one isn’t authorized to wear on a U.S. Military uniform because it goes with an entirely new uniform that comes with it.
The Order of St. Gregory the Great is bestowed upon a soldier by the Vatican and the Pope himself. You are knighted and given the title of Gonfalonier (Standard-bearer) of the Church.
A famous U.S. soldier to have been knighted by the pope was Brevet Lt. Col. Myles Keogh, when he rallied to the defense of Pope Pius IX against the Kingdom of Sardinia. Keogh held his own until his capture.
After release, he was awarded the Pro Petro Sede Medal and admitted into the Order.
Training for a demanding race like the Army 10-miler requires focus, determination, and solid nine to 10 hours of sleep every night, according to sleep experts at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and the Army Office of the Surgeon General. Sleep is one of the three pillars of the Performance Triad, which also includes nutrition and activity.
“Sleep allows our bodies to focus on recovery and restores both our mind and muscles,” said Army Lt. Col. T Scott Burch, Army System for Health Performance Triad sleep lead, OSTG. “Following a particularly strenuous training day, our body may need more time to recover and the good news is that our body will often give us signs that we need additional sleep, so plan go to bed a little earlier following high intensity workouts or post-race.”
Sleep is good recovery for the brain, said Dr. Tom Balkin, a sleep expert and senior scientist at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.
“Aim for as much sleep as you can possibly squeeze in,” said Balkin. “Seven to eight hours of sleep is average, but more is even better.”
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Castelan)
Both Balkin and Burch recommend using sleep banking as a strategy to reach peak performance before a strenuous event. Sleeping an extra one to two hours leading up to the race will “bank” extra energy, stamina, and focus.
“Consider this part of your training,” said Balkin. “It’s not something you would do every day in your normal life, but the week before you run a marathon, get all the sleep you can. Think of it like money. The more you get, it doesn’t matter when the money shows up in your bank account. The next day, the money is still in your account.”
It’s the goal of the Performance Triad to enable leaders to set conditions for soldiers to optimize their sleep, activity, and nutrition to improve the overall readiness of the Army, said Col. Hope Williamson-Younce, director of the Army System for Health and deputy chief of staff for public health, Army Office of the Surgeon General.
Failing to optimize sleep can lead to significant reductions in physical and cognitive performance.
“The Army has improved significantly in recognizing that sleep is a key component of a healthy lifestyle and healthy culture,” said Burch. “If your duties are precluding you from optimal sleep talk with your chain of command, encourage them talk to local subject matter experts at Army Wellness Centers and see how they cannot just improve your ability to obtain optimal sleep but how they improve the physical performance of the entire unit, while also reducing injuries and having a higher percentage of soldiers medically ready and prepared for battle.”
(Photo by Lt. Col. John Hall)
At Fort Riley, sleep banking was put into practice by an armored brigade combat unit, said Williamson-Younce. Prior to a weeklong FTX for gunnery tables, soldiers attended a sleep education session and participated in a “reverse PT schedule,” during which the soldiers arrived at 9 a.m. and conducted physical training at 4 p.m. This led to dramatic improvements in their Gunnery Table results. They went from an average score of 756 (qualified) without banking to an average score of 919 (distinguished) with sleep banking.
For people who have difficulty falling asleep, Burch recommends refining basic routines. Have a routine bedtime schedule, wind down the night in a calm manner by warm shower, reading and meditation. Turn off all “screens” at least an hour before bedtime and ensure the bedroom is a cool, relaxing sanctuary for a good night’s rest.
“There’s a great saying, make time for wellness, or you will be forced to make time for illness,” said Burch. “Sleep is a critical component of our wellness. Often individuals try to manage with reduced sleep; however it comes at the detriment of your physical and cognitive performance.”
The Performance Triad Website, https://p3.amedd.army.mil, has great resources for individuals, said Burch. He also encourages any soldier or family member to contact their local Army Wellness Center, which has excellent personnel and resources for sleep, stress management, nutrition and physical conditioning to help everyone perform their best and reduce risk for musculoskeletal injuries.