QUANTICO–In the Marine Corps’ rush to drop weight, one of the most beloved and storied pieces of gear could be left behind. At the service’s first Equipping the Infantry Challenge here Sept. 27, program managers said they’re looking for a lighter, more practical alternative to the iconic ammunition can.
Scott Rideout, program manager for ammunition at Marine Corps Systems Command, told industry leaders that the rectangular can, which today looks much the same as it did during World War II and Vietnam, may be overdue for an upgrade.
Marine Corps ammo comes to the warfighter, he said, “in the same metal can that it’s come in for 100 years. That metal can is one of those things that when the ammunition is brought to Marines, they take the ammunition out, distribute it however they’re going to distribute it, then throw [the can] away. The ammo can itself provides no value added to the Marine, except to help get the ammunition there.”
Some may disagree. The blog Shooter’s Log in 2013 listed 50 possible uses for the ammo can that range from improvised washing machine to anchor. Another website, Survival List Daily, topped that with 74 uses, including field toilet and cook pot.
The gear is even more central to Marine Corps identity: one of the elements of the Combat Fitness Test that all Marines must pass once a year is the ammunition can lift, in which troops are tested on the number of times they can lift a 30-pound can above their head and shoulders within two minutes.
But the calculus is simple, Rideout said: “Ounces equal pounds, and pounds equal pain.”
Emerging technology, such as logistics drones that might be able to carry resupply items to troops in the field, may also put limits on how much a new delivery of ammunition can weigh.
The cans, which weigh anywhere between three and seven pounds depending on their make and the caliber of ammunition, can amount to a quarter of the ammo weight that Marines are carrying, Rideout said.
“If we can get that weight out of the system, that’s more ammunition that can be resupplied to Marines to allow them to do their jobs,” he said. “So we need lighter-weight packaging. Ammo is what ammo is, but there are a couple areas out there where we can reduce weight to enable Marines to do their jobs better, especially against a near-peer type competitor or distributed ops.”
Ammo cans aren’t the only area getting a look.
Rideout and Mary Flower LeMaster, chief engineer for ammunition at SYSCOM, said the brass casing that houses bullets may also be ripe for improvement.
“The brass provides no value added to the weapons system; it’s just to enable the round and the propellant to interface with the weapon to provide effect downrange,” Rideout said. “That’s where we need to attack that weight. And there is technology out there that can do that and so we’re looking for industry to help us there.”
Rideout and LeMaster provided no alternatives to these key ammunition items, and it’s unclear how the Marine Corps might move forward with service-specific improvements to items used by multiple service branches, like ammo cans and brass. But this call-out to industry is in keeping with a broader service effort to solicit revolutionary ideas to improve the way Marines fight on the battlefield. During the same Infantry Equipping Challenge event, SYSCOM Commander Brig. Gen. Joseph Shrader said he wanted ideas for a meal, ready-to-eat optimized for Marine infantrymen in the field, with more efficient and practical packaging.
Currently, the ammunition managers said, they’re looking for ideas to improve five different calibers of ammo, as well as the cans: 9mm, 5.56, .762, .50-caliber, and .300 Winchester Magnum.
CAMP PENDLETON, California — US Marine Corps 60 mm mortar teams can drop explosive rounds on their enemies from over 1,000 meters away, and Insider recently had the opportunity to watch them do it.
During a visit to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Insider observed a mortar crew firing off multiple rounds using an M224 60 mm light mortar, which is a high-angle-of-fire weapon that can be drop- or trigger-fired.
The training was carried out as part of the latest iteration of Iron Fist, an exercise that involves various training evolutions leading up to a large amphibious assault.
Cpl. Kevin Rodriguez, an experienced mortarman who said he chose the mortar because he wanted to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps, walked Insider through the ins and outs of firing a mortar and what it takes.
60 mm mortars are typically handled by a crew of Marines.
Mortar crews have a gunner, an assisting gunner (squad leader), and an ammunition man. The crew is often supported by a forward observer and a fire direction center.
When they’re on the move, the three main crew members divide the weapon components, like the gun, the bipod, the sight, and the baseplate, among themselves with no one person carrying the entire weapon.
A crew can set up or tear down a mortar in two minutes.
In combat, the team works together to put fire down range. Standard operating procedure is that the fire direction center first passes range data to the gunner, who puts that into the sight and manipulates the weapon accordingly.
The ammo bearer then hands a prepared round to the assisting gunner, who drops the live round on command. Teams practice every day for months to develop a flawless rhythm.
The 60 mm mortar can be fired on the ground or in a handheld configuration.
A lot of different considerations go into firing this weapon.
There is the gun. “You can breathe on it the wrong way, and it will be completely off,” Rodriguez told Insider.
There is the round. Mortar crews can set it to burst in the air, explode on impact, or detonate a few seconds after impact, giving it the ability to penetrate a bunker.
Then there is figuring out exactly how to get the round to the target, and that involves different range calculations, as well as considerations like temperature, wind speed, and drift, among other things.
Weather is also an important factor. Rain, even light rain, for example, can result in wet charges, making a misfire or the firing of a short round more likely and risking a friendly-fire situation. There are covers to help protect the weapon and the rounds from the elements.
There are two different methods Marine mortar teams use to effectively target an enemy.
Range calculations are estimations at best. An experienced mortarman can eyeball the distance to his target, but it tends to take a few shots to get rounds falling in the right spot.
The quickest and most effective targeting approach is called bracketing. Mortar crews fire behind or in front of a target and then split the distance in half until rounds are coming down on the target.
Or, as Insider watched a crew do at Camp Pendleton, Marine mortar crews can use creeping fire to target an enemy, inching closer to the target with each round. This is not as fast as bracketing and requires more rounds, about five or six.
But creeping fire can be a pretty good option when you’re dealing with a lot of dead space, terrain features that make range estimates harder.
A mortar section usually has three guns delivering damage to a large area.
Mortars set the conditions for other units by keeping bigger threats at bay.
The mortar crews are tasked with “taking out the bigger targets, or at least keeping their heads down long enough for the machine guns to start suppressing enemies,” Rodriguez said. “The [other infantry units] are more the cleanup. They can move from one place to another.”
During the training at Camp Pendleton, the mortars practiced pinning down light armor while crews with M240 machine guns put fire on targets from a nearby ridge.
The mortars and the machine guns cleared the way for several infantry squads to maneuver into position. Each mortar round has a casualty radius of about 25 meters.
The bodies of the missing sailors “were located in the flooded berthing compartments” after rescue workers were able to gain access to areas of the Fitzgerald that were damaged in the collision with the ACX Crystal.
The sailors’ bodies are being transferred to the Hospital in Yokosuka, Japan, where the 7th Fleet is headquartered, to proceed with the identification process, the statement added.
The Fitzgerald and ACX Crystal collided on Saturday at 2.30 am local time in Japanese waters.
Two people injured during the incident, including the destroyer’s commander Bryce Benson, were evacuated.
Countries that border the Pacific are taking part in a massive exercise called “Rim of the Pacific” or “RIMPAC.” Dozens of ships, hundreds of aircraft, and thousands of people are practicing their warfighting skills in RIMPAC.
Military photographers and videographers have been sending out hundreds of excellent photos and videos from the exercise this year, and here are 19 of the best of what they’d captured:
1. Marines and U.S. allies attacked the beaches of Hawaii in a simulated amphibious assault
2. Once the Marines hit the sand, they flooded out of their vehicles and got to work
3. Marine attack helicopters flew overhead and provided support to the guys on the ground
5. Ashore, infantry Marines prepped for the hard fight to the island’s interior
6. At training areas past the sand, the Marines practiced assaulting buildings and bunkers
7. They even went to firing ranges to practice making stuff blow up
8. Out at sea, the Navy got in the action with a large formation of 40 ships that included some surprising participants …
BTW, if you want to see hundreds of photos of these 40 ships sailing next to each other, just click on this link. Literally hundreds. There are different angles and close-ups on dozens of the ships available.
9. … like the Coast Guard’s USCGC Stratton …
10. … and a Chinese hospital ship, the Peace Ark
11. Onboard the Peace Ark, doctors and other medical personnel practiced treating patients and responding to humanitarian crises
12. Another Chinese ship, the multirole frigate Hengshui, fired on targets to display its proficiency
13. Under the waves, a New Zealand dive unit had to locate an 18-foot shipping container and assist in its recovery
14. A Canadian team found and interrogated an underwater wreck during their training
15. Forces from four allied countries land on a “captured” beach on a Royal Australian Navy landing craft
16. Military vehicles laid down beach matting to prevent other vehicles from slipping on the loose sand. The matting can be laid down in combat to allow tanks and other heavy vehicles to assault towards their objectives quickly
17. Royal Australian combat engineers cleared the way inland for allied forces by searching out mines and other simulated explosives
18. Air Force F-22 Raptors and a tanker aircraft assisted with the exercise, allowing the Air Force to improve its interoperability with the U.S. Navy and foreign militaries
19. The Mexican Navy sent small craft to southern California to practice working with U.S. Navy riverine craft, the small boats that patrol rivers and other tight waterways
RIMPAC takes place on most even-numbered years and has been held 25 times since 1971. America’s traditional allies in the Pacific usually attend, but some rivals like Russia and China are common guests as well.
Chantae McMillian Langhorst is an Army spouse of two years, currently stationed in Georgia while her husband trains to be a helicopter pilot. She’s also a mama to one-year-old Otto, Olympic athlete and just won the coveted title of “Titan” for the central region on NBC’s the Titan Games, hosted by “The Rock” Dwayne Johnson.
She’s just a little busy.
Even before her husband decided to join the Army, Langhorst’s life was already deeply rooted in the military. Both of her parents were in the Army when they met, while stationed overseas in Germany. They would go on to serve and retire after 20 years each. Langhorst shared that she absolutely believes being a military kid helped her become more adaptable and independent. She knows those experiences served her well and helped mold her into the person and competitive athlete that she is today.
Langhorst graduated from Rolla High School in Missouri as a track and field athlete. She was also selected as a Nike All American. She received a scholarship to the University of Nebraska and began competing in the heptathlon. During her time in college, she received the coveted title of All-American five times while competing. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in art, she was approached by a coach who suggested she continue competing.
This time, in the Olympics.
“One of the best times of my life was learning about myself, how hard I could work and being able to dig deep and figure things out,” said Langhorst. In 2011 while training to compete in the Olympics, she suffered a devastating injury to her patellar-tendon in her knee during a high jump. Although she would never want to go back to that time in her life, Langhorst believes pushing through to heal from that injury to qualify for the Olympics made her a stronger athlete in the end.
Despite that injury, she made the U.S. Olympic team. Although Langhorst didn’t medal, she credits making it to the London 2012 Summer Olympics was one of the greatest achievements of her life.
In 2014, she found herself in Ohio training for the 2016 Olympics. Langhorst became a track and field coach at the University of Dayton. She also met her future husband, who was a sports trainer at the time. In 2015, she was selected for ESPN’s famous body issue. Although she didn’t make it past the trials for the 2016 Olympics, she didn’t give up. Langhorst began exploring the winter Olympics but stopped once she was faced with a surprise.
She was pregnant with little Otto.
Langhorst’s husband had begun the process of joining the Army and knowing that little Otto was on the way, they were even more excited for their new journey. They married in 2018 and he went off to Army training in 2019. After his graduation, they were stationed in Fort Rucker, Alabama, where he began helicopter pilot training. Then, Langhorst received an interesting phone call.
The Titan Games wanted her to try out.
They flew her out to Los Angeles in January of 2020 for a combine. A few days later, she was told she made the cut and would need to get to Atlanta to start filming. For 20 straight days she was involved in competitions twice a day and filming 12 hours a day. Langhorst describes it as an amazing experience but also exhausting. She also shared that there wasn’t much food. “I look so shredded on TV because I was eating like a bird,” she said laughing.
Langhorst became a Titan, swiftly eliminating her competition in the first episode.
“I hope I can inspire people,” she shared. Langhorst said that she understands how easy it is to get lost in being a military spouse and putting the service member’s career before your own. She found herself doing it before that call from The Titan Games. “Spouses need to know that they can still achieve a lot – even with a kid,” she explained. Langhorst said that having Otto gave her more purpose and the fuel to work even harder to make him proud.
These days, Langhorst is training for the Olympics again with the goal of medaling. Even with her super athletic abilities and tunnel vision goals, she’s absolutely human. She loves donuts, although she doesn’t indulge often. Fun fact: She loves training barefoot. Langhorst is also an artist who loves to paint and still searches for four-leaf clovers, something she always did with her dad who passed a few years ago. Now when she finds one, she feels him with her.
Langhorst has come a long way from the young girl who had her goals written on her bedroom ceiling. She hopes that her story of persistence and drive will encourage others to live their purpose. Langhorst has achieved so much in her life already, but she isn’t done yet. She’s just getting started.
To learn more about Langhorst, check out her website. You can also follow her on Instagram and Facebook as she takes you on her journey to the Olympic trials.
Edwards Air Force Base in California certainly has its fair share of oddball aircraft and eccentric pilots.
But a dude flying a top-secret airplane in a monkey suit?
In 1942, Bell aircraft was developing its P-59 Airacomet, the first jet engine fighter designed by the United States. And although it never saw action, it was an important step in the development of U.S. air power.
It was also a top-secret project at the time. The British had a jet fighter airframe in development since 1941 as did the Nazis.
It was so secret, in fact, that when the P-59 was taxiing, airmen put a fake wooden propeller on her nose so onlookers wouldn’t notice anything odd about the aircraft.
In the air, however, it was a different story. Pilots flying the usual piston-driven aviation engine would report back to base with sightings of a fast-moving plane without a propeller. They also said the plane was flown by a “gorilla, wearing a derby hat, waving a stogie at them.”
The Chief test pilot for Bell Aircraft was Jack Woolams. By the time Bell was testing its P-59 design, Woolams had already served 18 months in the Army Air Corps. He was the man behind the gorilla mask.
Other pilots who were exposed to Woolams’ prank were convinced by Air Force psychologists that they hadn’t really seen the gorilla flying the plane, “because everyone knows you can’t fly without a propeller.”
Woolams was also the first person to fly a fighter aircraft coast-to-coast nonstop and set an altitude record in 1943. Woolams died preparing for an air show in 1946, but he was a man ahead of his time — a harbinger of the nonstop, record-breaking, years of air power development to come for test pilots in the 1950s and 1960s.
Two U.S. military commands involved in buying and fielding new gear for special operators have released a list of what features they would like to see in future military vehicles — and the list shows some serious upgrades for warfighters.
The Joint Special Operations Command and the Program Executive Office Special Operations Forces Warrior released their wish list in a Federal Business Opportunities solicitation. While some of the upgrades they’re searching for are pretty standard — such as more reliable drivetrains and cheaper brakes — these five technologies could be game changing:
1. Invisible armor on civilian vehicles
The document calls for low visibility “Armor materials/panels, etc., that can be transferred and integrated from one commercial vehicle to another with minimal manpower and in a minimal timeframe.” This could allow operators to fortify a civilian vehicle for a mission. Then, if that car is compromised, quickly move the armor to a new ride for the next mission.
2. Transformer vehicles
Spec ops buyers are looking for a chassis that could survive after the car body wears out. In other words, operators would have a truck or SUV that they use for some operations, and after the vehicle gets banged up, worn out, or just stops looking cool, the troops could trade out the body for a new one for cheap.
3. Engine starters and batteries that work at -50 degrees
Batteries and starters that work at 50 degrees below zero would give soldiers confidence that they can always make a quick getaway, even in the Arctic Circle. In addition to delivering power in extremely frigid weather, the batteries should provide electricity for a longer time between charges. This would allow users to run the heat and electronic devices in the field for longer without turning on the engine.
4. Lighter, hidden armor
In addition to the transferability of the armor described in the first entry, JSOC and PEO-SOF are asking for the hidden armor for civilian vehicles to be lighter. This would reduce the low gas mileage and high rollover problems associated with current vehicles using hidden armor.
5. Hybrid military dune buggies
The solicitation calls for electric or hybrid electric vehicle technology for LTATVs. The Light Tactical All Terrain Vehicle is basically a souped-up ATV for light troops like special operators and paratroopers. Now, soldiers want an all-electric or hybrid version of the vehicle that would “increase range, reduce maintenance, and lower the audible signature.”
6. “Low Profile Antennas for Line of Sight, SATCOM, and ECMS”
This is exactly what it sounds like, a variety of antennas that work as well as current models while also being harder to detect. It would allow all vehicles — commercial and military — to be outfitted with more communications devices without drawing undue attention and enemy fire.
7. “Visual, Audible, and Thermal Signature Reduction”
The commandos want vehicles that are harder to detect, track, and target. Quieter vehicles are more difficult to hear, cooler vehicles are harder to see with IR, and better-camouflaged vehicles are challenging to pick out with the naked eye. Operators want all three upgrades.
Is Hillary Clinton that person at the bar who claims they almost joined the military?
In 1994, the then-First Lady claimed she tried to join the Marines in 1975, but the Marine recruiter in Arkansas suggested she try the Army because she was too old for the Corps. She reiterated this story in a breakfast in New Hampshire while on the 2016 campaign trail recently.
“He looks at me and goes, ‘Um, how old are you?’ And I said, ‘Well I am 26, I will be 27,'” Clinton said. “And he goes ‘Well, that is kind of old for us.'”
“And then he says to me, and this is what gets me, ‘maybe the dogs will take you,’ meaning the Army.”
She meant “dogfaces.” In another version of the story, Clinton, then wearing thick glasses, said the recruiter included bad eyesight as a reason for being dismissed.
Maureen Dowd, a reporter for the New York Times, was as skeptical of Clinton’s claim as the world is now of Maureen Dowd. She noted Clinton’s status as an Ivy League, anti-establishment, anti-war, “up-and-coming legal star” would probably not make the Marines a real consideration for Clinton.
The Washington Post asked Marines who were Judge Advocate recruiters at the time if it would be possible the Marines would turn away a prime recruit with credentials like Hillary Rodham’s. The answer was a resounding no. Some lawyers in the Marines at the time “had coke bottle glasses” or “weighed 200 pounds.”
Clinton’s friends at the time vouch for her story, saying that she was likely to press the military to see how far women could go and what kind of career access she would have.
She could take some almost training from Donald Trump, who feels like he was in the military because he went to a military boarding school.
Clinton isn’t the only candidate with a fuzzy recollection of almost serving. GOP candidate Dr. Ben Carson recently admitted he was never offered a “full scholarship” offer to West Point. Carson was found out when the world realized scholarships to West Point don’t exist and the dinner where Gen. William Westmoreland met Carson and would initiate the offer process didn’t happen because Westmoreland could not have been in Detroit as Carson claimed.
The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan vowed a new wave of helicopter strikes by the Afghan National Security Forces on Taliban insurgents after the delivery of dozens of UH-60 black hawk helicopters, in a joint Saturday appearance with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
Gen. John Nicholson pledged that “a tidal wave of air power is on the horizon” after the delivery of the helicopters, adding defiantly “terrorists will not triumph here.” The delivery of the Black Hawk helicopters aligns with President Donald Trump’s renewed push to settle the war in Afghanistan after 16 years of combat.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis previewed the strategy before Congress Wednesday noting that U.S. rules of engagement in Afghanistan would be adjusted in the months to come that allow airstrikes on Taliban militants anywhere in the country. Former President Barack Obama restricted U.S. strikes to targeting Taliban insurgents only when they were attacking U.S. or Afghan Security Forces. This allowed militants to maintain safe havens throughout the country, knowing they were free of danger of U.S. warplanes.
Rules of engagement are only a small part of the overall change to U.S. posture in the country. Trump pledged in an Aug. 21 address to leave U.S. troops in the country until conditions on the ground justified a reduction and allowed Mattis to deploy an additional 3,000 troops to the country. Mattis deployed the additional 3,000 troops under the guise of a broader U.S. strategy he called “R4+S” which stands for “regionalize, realign, reinforce, reconcile, and sustain,” in Wednesday testimony before Congress.
The first three R’s emphasize the regional approach the administration intends to take, providing additional U.S. military advisers at lower levels of the Afghan National Security Forces, and pledging to stay in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future. Mattis deployed an additional 3,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan shortly after Trump’s address to carry out this mission.
The ultimate goal of the strategy is “reconciliation,” which entails “convincing our foes that the coalition is committed to a conditions-based outcome, we intend to drive fence-sitters and those who will see that we’re not quitting this fight to reconcile with the Afghan National Government.”
The Russian defense ministry claims to have killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a May 28 airstrike in Raqqa, Syria.
Russian forces in Syria launched the airstrike after receiving intelligence that ISIS leaders were planning a meeting in the outskirts of Raqqa.
“According to the information that is being verified through various channels, IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi also attended the meeting and was killed in the airstrike,” the ministry said in a statement Friday, according to the Associated Press.
In addition to several senior ISIS leaders, Russia estimates around 30 field commanders and 300 personal guards were killed in the strike.
The ministry claims it informed the U.S. of the airstrike in advance. Air Force Col. John Dorrian, the spokesman of the U.S.-led coalition, said he could not confirm the Russian report of Baghdadi’s death.
Rami Abdulrahman, the director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, questions the report as intelligence indicates Baghdadi was in a different part of Syria at the time of the strike.
“The information is that as of the end of last month Baghdadi was in Deir al-Zor, in the area between Deir al-Zor and Iraq, in Syrian territory,” Abdulrahman told Reuters.
Other high-ranking ISIS leaders killed in the airstrike include Abu al-Khadji al-Mysri, Ibrahim al-Naef al-Khadj and Suleiman al-Shauah, according to Russia.
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The controversy surrounding Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl continues to mount as rumors of a possible desertion charge against him spread — rumors as cloudy as the stories that surround his 2009 disappearance and capture.
Despite the fact that the Pentagon concluded in a 2010 investigation that he had simply walked away from his unit while serving at Combat Outpost Mest-Lalak in Paktika Province, Afghanistan, the truth behind the circumstances of his capture remains murky.
Some of his fellow soldiers call him a deserter, saying he planned to walk away the whole time. They also blame him for the deaths of soldiers killed while looking for him in the days following his disappearance.
Bergdahl was freed by the Taliban in May 2014 in exchange for five Guantanamo Bay detainees, a swap that only added to the controversy in that the Obama administration seemed to be negotiating with terrorists and also seemed to be attempting to make a feel-good story out of something that had dubious elements.
A smattering of detail emerged – some of it courtesy of his parents who ended their silence at a high-profile Rose Garden ceremony heralding his release – including a notion that as Bowe Bergdahl’s enlistment went along, he increasingly viewed himself as a conscientious objector.
But there’s a big difference between a conscientious objector and a deserter. In fact, military history shows that true conscientious observers would never desert.
Earning valid conscientious objector status in the U.S. military has always been a tough thing to accomplish. During the Civil War, the first American war to introduce forced conscription, objectors, like anyone else, could pay a $300 fine to hire a substitute.
During World War One, objectors were able to serve in noncombat roles. Those who refused were imprisoned in military facilities. The World War Two-era United States military was slightly more accommodating, allowing conscientious objectors to serve in the numerous, various New Deal work programs that were still necessary to the war effort.
Most of these programs were gone by the time of the Vietnam War, but COs could still find other ways to serve without violating their religious or social beliefs.
And some have demonstrated that being a conscientious objector doesn’t make you a slacker or a coward. In their stories one can see that true followers of their consciences would never use CO status as an excuse to shirk their duties.
Here are four examples of conscientious objectors who made their way to the front and served with valor:
1. Sergeant Alvin York
Alvin C. York (aka “Sergeant York”) had to fight to get conscientious objector status. His subsequent acceptance of the Army’s decision is an integral part of the mythos of the man.
After a life of drinking and fighting, a religious experience led York to renounce his lifestyle and turn to fundamentalist Christianity. The doctrine of his newfound faith included a rejection of secular politics and a devout pacifism. He even began to lead the prayers of his local church.
Three years later, the United States would enter World War One and Alvin York would register for the draft, as any dutiful American did. He applied for conscientious objector status, even appealing after his first request was denied.
By the time he arrived in France, York had come to believe God meant for him to fight and to win and that God would protect him as long as was necessary. One night, he and three other NCOs led thirteen privates to infiltrate the German lines and take out the machine guns. Somewhere along the way, one machine gun opened up on York and his compatriots, killing or wounding nine of the sixteen men. York didn’t even have time to take cover. He stood his ground and picked off the whole crew.
While he was taking out the German gun, another six Germans went over the top of their trench and charged at the lone American with fixed bayonets. York, having exhausted his rifle’s ammunition, pulled his sidearm and dropped all six before they could reach him. The German commander surrendered his entire unit to York. 132 men in total were led back to the American lines by York and his six surviving privates. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for this action.
York became one of the most decorated doughboys of the Great War and returned home a hero. A movie was made about his exploits, for which Gary Cooper would win an Oscar for the title role of “Sergeant York.”
York attempted to re-enlist in World War Two, but was too old for combat duty, instead becoming a Major in the Army Signal Corps.
2. Desmond Doss
If ever there was an example more different from Sergeant York’s, it’s the story of Desmond Doss. Drafted as a medic during World War II, Doss was a devout Seventh Day Adventist.
In today’s military, he might not ever have made it past basic training. He refused to train or work on Saturdays. He wouldn’t eat meat. He wouldn’t carry a weapon. Even in the face of taunts and threats from other members of his unit, he stood fast to his beliefs. His commanding officer tried to get him a section eight discharge, meaning he was unsuitable for military service, but Doss refused to accept this discharge because it amounted to being called “crazy” due to his beliefs.
But Doss wasn’t useless. He wanted to serve; he just wasn’t willing to kill to do it. He even worked overtime hours to make up for his Saturday Sabbath. Still, his fellow soldiers threatened to kill him as soon as they got into action. It was Doss’ dedication to saving lives that would earn him the love and respect of his unit. Doss would do anything to save his men, from going into the open field, braving snipers, or dodging machine gun fire. From Guam to Leyte to Okinawa, Doss repeatedly braved anything the Japanese could muster to pull the injured to the rear.
It was at Okinawa where Doss entered Army history. As his unit climbed a vertical cliffside the Japanese opened up with artillery, mortars, and machine guns, turning his unit back and killing or wounding 75 men. Doss retrieved them one by one, loading them onto a litter and down the cliff.
A few days later, in the mouth of a cave, he braved a shower of grenades thrown from eight yards away, dressing wounds, and making four trips to pull his soldiers out. The last time, a grenade critically injured him. He treated his own wounds and waited five hours for a litter to carry him off.
On the way back, the three men had to take cover from a tank attack. While waiting, Doss crawled off his litter, treated a more injured man, and told the litter bearers to take the other man. While waiting for them to come back, he was hit in the arm by a sniper and crawled 300 yards to an aid station. He was the first true conscientious objector to earn the Medal of Honor.
3. Thomas Bennett
Bennett was a student at West Virginia University in the Fall of 1967 as the war in Vietnam was heating up. He was committed to his country but was also deeply religious. His Southern Baptist beliefs kept him from killing even in the name of patriotism. Still, Bennett enlisted as a combat medic in 1968 to save the lives of his countrymen who would fight as he couldn’t.
He arrived in South Vietnam in 1969. A month later, Bennett’s bravery earned him a recommendation for a Silver Star. Two days after that, his platoon was dispatched to assist an ambushed patrol. They immediately came under fire from an entrenched enemy column with automatic weapons, mortars, and rockets.
As the point men fell wounded, he ran toward them and tended their wounds as he pulled each of them to relative safety. For the rest of the night and into the following day, he ran from position to position, aiding the wounded and pulling them back to safety. He ran just a bit too far trying to get to a man wounded ahead of the unit and was killed by an enemy sniper.
He received the Medal of Honor, the second conscientious objector to receive the U.S. military’s highest level of recognition.
4. Joseph LaPointe, Jr.
Joseph LaPointe, Jr. was an average guy from Ohio, a mailman who got married at twenty years old. He was also a devout Baptist. Drafted in 1968, he declared himself a conscientious objector, but still opted to serve in the Army, taking the role of field medic with the 101st Airborne.
He arrived in Vietnam in June of 1968. By the next year, he was in the area of Quang Tin, having earned a Bronze Star and a Silver Star. On June 2, he landed on a cavalry patrol as they came under heavy fire from a nearby bunker. Two men in the lead were wounded immediately.
As the patrol took cover, LaPointe ran forward to help. He shielded the men with his body as he performed first aid. He was injured twice before dragging the men to cover. He continued to protect the two men with his own body until a grenade killed all three.
The drill took place as part of NATO’s Exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS), an annual exercise involving approximately 6,000 troops that runs from June 1 to 16. The drill, which took place on a beach in Latvia, is a key component of the exercise which aims to project NATO power from sea at a time when the Russian threat to the Baltics has taken a drastic increase.
“What we want to do is practice and demonstrate the ability to deliver sea control and power projection at and from the sea,” said U.S. Navy Adm. Christopher Grady, Joint Force Maritime Component Commander Europe.
Reserve Marines from Texas deployed from the the USS Arlington, an amphibious landing transport, onto the beach with various landing craft. The drill was conducted on the 73rd anniversary of the D-Day landings during World War II, the largest amphibious invasion in modern history.
The Latvian landing was significantly smaller in scope than the multiple landings on D-Day, but both operations involved a combination of air, maritime and land forces. BALTOPS, like D-Day, is also multinational, with 14 nations participating in various drills.
BALTOPS has been recurring since 1972, but this year’s event comes at a time when NATO’s tensions with Russia are at their highest since the end of the Cold War. The ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine and Russia’s aggressive rhetoric has Balkan countries concerned they could be the next target.
“They’re scared to death of Russia,” said Gen. Raymond Thomas, head of U.S. Special Operations Command in January. “They are very open about that. They’re desperate for our leadership.”
The U.S. sent a detachment of special operations forces to the Baltics in January in order to help train local forces.
Russian forces could reach the capitals of both Latvia and neighboring Estonia in less than 60 hours, according to an assessment by the RAND corporation, even with a week’s notice. Latvia has approximately 4,450 active ground troops, while all three Baltic countries (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) have only around 15,750 between them. Estonia can also activate the 16,000 paramilitary troops in the Estonian Defense League, while Lithuania has around 10,000 militia members in the Lithuanian Rifleman’s Union.
NATO also has rotating forces throughout the Baltic region, but RAND’s assessment noted that they may not be enough to stave off a Russian attack.
“Such a rapid defeat would leave NATO with a limited number of options, all bad,” noted the report.
Fortunately for the Baltics, President Donald Trump has noted he is “absolutely committed” to the collective defense of NATO, a stark change from his previously doubtful outlook on alliance.
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