Cargo containers of coronavirus tests being unloaded from a Korean Air flight.
Maryland has National Guard troops and state police guarding coronavirus tests at a secret location because of concerns that they might be seized, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan told The Washington Post Thursday.
“We spent about 22 days and nights dealing with this whole transaction with Korea. We dealt with the Korean embassy, folks at the State Department, and our scientists on both sides trying to figure out these tests,” Hogan said. “And then at the last moment, I think 24 hours before, we got the sign-off from the FDA and Border and Customs to try to make sure that we landed this plane safely.”
The Maryland governor said when the Korean Air jet carrying the 500,000 tests flew into Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, it was met by National Guard troops and state police.
Hogan said it landed there “with a large contingent of Maryland National Guard and Maryland state police because this was an enormously valuable payload. It was like Fort Knox to us because it’s going to save the lives of thousands of our citizens.”
Maryland @GovLarryHogan on whether he was concerned that the federal government would seize the tests the state procured from South Korea. He says the tests are being guarded by the National Guard at an undisclosed location. https://youtu.be/PjkMyHbyhro pic.twitter.com/15BhHmLzql
Hogan, who is a Republican, said he had heard reports from other states of the federal government confiscating supplies. He specifically pointed to an incident in Massachusetts.
After 3 million masks purchased for the state were confiscated in New York, state leaders in Massachusetts turned to New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft to help bring in coveted N95 masks from China on a private plane.
“There were a couple of other states that had similar stories,” Hogan said.
He said the tests were “so important to us that we wanted to make sure that plane took off from Korea safely, landed here in America safely, and that we guarded that cargo from whoever might interfere with us getting that to our folks that needed it.”
The governor added that the test protection was ongoing, saying that “the National Guard and state police are both guarding these tests at an undisclosed location.”
Maryland’s decision to purchase coronavirus tests from South Korea drew criticism from President Donald Trump, who said the governor could have made use of available labs to help boost testing capacity. “I don’t think he needed to go to South Korea. I think he needed to get a little knowledge, would have been helpful,” the president said at a recent briefing.
Hogan later responded on MSNBC, saying that if there had been “an easier way” to get the necessary tests, “we certainly would have taken it.”
Training away from home is part of the military way. Schools, deployments, overnight sessions — all of these and more are a regular occurrence for military members. And then, on the other side of things, are their families, left to hold down the fort at home.
Over time it’s a schedule that everyone becomes used to … that is, until young kids are involved. While older kids can certainly understand the logistics of a parent being away (even if they don’t like it), with toddlers or babies, it’s another story. They simply aren’t old enough to grasp what’s taking place. They cry, they act out, and they’re confused as to why mom or dad disappears for days, weeks, or even months at a time.
Teaching these training schedules to kids is certainly hard, but it’s also one that can leave them better emotionally equipped in years to come.
Talk about it
When parents are away at training, it’s ok to tell your kids — in fact, you should tell your kids that, “Daddy’s at work” or “Mommy had to go on a work trip.” These explanations might not make sense in the status quo, but they will teach them that sometimes parents are gone, but it’s nothing to worry about. We know they will come back, and in the meantime, it’s ok to miss them and talk about what they’re doing.
Adjust the conversation in a way that’s age-appropriate, so your kids can still remain informed without being confused or overwhelmed with military training schedules.
Keep it busy
When a parent is in the field, it’s a good time to bring out the fun distractions. Not only will this make it easier for the parent at home, but the kids will have an easier time with the transition. This is true for kids of all ages, not just the littles! Check out local family-friendly events. Get out the “messy” or “outside only” toys and share some new family fun. Make crafts, cook together, or try something new. It’ll give the kids something to talk about once the other parent comes home, and it will speed up everything else in the meantime.
Did we mention this helps the time go faster?
Learn about the process
What’s mom or dad off doing, anyway? Sounds like the perfect time for a lesson. Use this time to talk about what’s being accomplished during this time away. Talk about the history of the armed forces, look into camping gear to talk about field stays, and help your kids find your spouse’s location on a globe or map. When at a school, discuss new jobs and how the training will help mom or dad learn.
Sure, the kids might get bored (and probably will), but keeping this info handy will help them become smarter individuals.
Have them help
Technically, this takes place before your loved one ever leaves. Allow your kids to be involved in the getting-ready-to-leave process. Plan and wash laundry, fold clothes, get out the suitcase and start packing. Older kids can be in charge of a checklist and ensure everything has been added to the luggage.
No one likes training schedules or time away, but making your children a part of the process can ease their fears about mom or dad being away. Help your little ones add this coping mechanism to their toolbox of growing emotions.
When it’s time for travel or days away for your military member, don’t worry about the kids! They are smarter and more adaptable than we realize. Talking about what’s ahead and staying busy in the meantime will help the time pass in a way that’s healthy rather than taboo.
Troops serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere face plenty of hardships, from the threat of enemy fire to spending time far away from their loved ones.
While these can be serious problems for troops in harm’s way, there are also some other “first-world problems” that some of today’s military members are dealing with that their forefathers didn’t have time for. The keyword here is “some.”
Plenty of Post-9/11 troops have it rough on deployment and serve under extremely spartan conditions, while others live on sprawling bases with plenty of amenities. In Iraq and Afghanistan, experiences may vary. Your grandfather wasn’t complaining about the WiFi going down before he stormed the beach at Guadalcanal. Just sayin’.
If you find yourself complaining about the things below while overseas, you should stop, read the book “With the Old Breed,” then hang your head in shame. [Editor’s note: If you haven’t figured it out by now, this is lighthearted ribbing, all in good fun, and not to be taken too seriously.]
1. “The port-a-johns are too far away from my tent.”
Most forward operating bases (FOBs) in Iraq and Afghanistan are outfitted with plenty of general-purpose tents, Hesco barriers, and portable toilets. Unlike your old man having to dig a slit trench in Vietnam, you just have to walk to an outhouse that gets cleaned out every day.
The struggle is real.
2. “The guy at the DFAC won’t give me seconds.”
In the Post-9/11 era of war-fighting, the U.S. tried to bring all the creature comforts of home to Iraq and Afghanistan, including your base chow hall. Except this one is not just any chow hall. It’s a dining facility with a salad bar, and steak and lobster on Fridays.
World War II veterans want to throw their C-rations at your face right now.
3. “The bazaar doesn’t have the latest season of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ that I wanted.”
Plenty of FOBs have bazaars where locals sell everything from cheap TVs, rugs, and bootleg DVDs. Locals come on base and sell their wares and troops happily oblige, but not all is well in Afghan-land. You just got finished watching the last of your “Grey’s Anatomy” episodes and if the shopkeeper doesn’t have the latest, you’re going to be forced to watch some movie you’ve already watched ten times this deployment.
What? You watched a movie ten times this deployment? That old-timer at the VFW who served in Korea worried about more important things, like not freezing. How’s the A/C in your tent working, by the way?
4. “The internet is down.”
You are thousands of miles away from home — singularly focused on delivering 5.56 mm of freedom to the enemies of the United States — and working hard to serve that end, and, OH GOD, THE INTERNET IS DOWN.
While you are calling the S-6 shop to whine about not being able to access your Facebook account to instantly message your girlfriend, remember to think about your grandfather handwriting letters back home that would be delivered four months later.
5. “Is that incoming? No, that’s outgoing. That’s gotta be outgoing.”
I’ll be the first to admit I’ve actually said this one. When you’re sitting inside your nice tent watching a riveting episode of “The O.C.” you definitely don’t want to be interrupted. On heavily-protected FOBs, big attacks rarely happen, since the bad guys mostly harass with indirect fire from rockets and mortars. It’s usually ineffective.
6. “Ugh. We have to go sit in the bunker until IDF stops.”
When you finally figure out that yes, it is in fact, incoming. Those ineffective rockets need to be kept ineffective, so off to the concrete bunker you go. Yes, that’s right, you have a bunker made of concrete that some Seabee put there with a crane.
That’s almost the same as the grunts in Vietnam who built bunkers entirely with wood and thousands of sandbags, filled with their hands and e-tools. Almost.
7. “I’ve got blisters on my thumb from playing Playstation so much.”
Ok, fine. Pass me the damn controller. I want to learn what fighting in World War II was like by playing “Brothers in Arms.”
China reportedly wants to extend its surveillance state to the South China Sea by launching satellites to watch “every reef and ship” in the contested sea.
Beginning in 2019, China will begin launching satellites to monitor the region, as well as enforce “national sovereignty,” the South China Morning Post reported Aug. 16, 2018, citing China’s state-run China News Service. Six optical satellites, two hyerspectral satellites and two radar satellites will form the Hainan satellite constellation system, creating a real-time “CCTV network in space” controlled by operators in Hainan.
“Each reef and island as well as each vessel in the South China Sea will be under the watch of the ‘space eyes,'” Yang Tianliang, director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences Sanya Institute of Remote Sensing, told SCMP. “The system will [reinforce] national sovereignty, protection of fisheries, and marine search and rescue.”
The ten new surveillance satellites will allow China to keep a close watch on disputed territories, as well as the foreign ships entering the area. The project is expected to be completed by 2021, with three optical satellites going up in the second half of 2019.
The northeastern portion of the South China Sea.
The satellites, according to Asia Times, would be able to scan the entire 3.5-million-square-kilometer waterway and create an up-to-date satellite image database within a matter of days. Beijing has apparently promised transparency, stressing that it will share information with other countries.
Beijing’s efforts to alleviate the concerns of other claimant states are unlikely to result in a sign of relief, as China has been significantly increasing its military presence in the region this year by deploying point-defense systems, jamming technology, anti-ship cruise missiles, and surface-to-air missiles to Chinese occupied territories. China’s militarization of the South China Sea resulted in the country’s expulsion from the latest iteration of the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) naval exercises by the Pentagon.
In recent weeks, China has come under fire for issuing threats and warnings to foreign ships and planes operating in the South China Sea, an area largely upheld as international waters in a 2016 rebuke to China. “Philippine military aircraft, I’m warning you again: Leave immediately or you will bear responsibility for all the consequences,” a Chinese voice shouted over the radio recently when a Philippine aircraft flew past the Spratlys. China issued a similar warning to a US Navy plane on Aug. 10, 2018.
The incidents came just a few months after Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis accused China of “intimidation and coercion” at a security forum in Singapore.
“China has a right to take necessary steps to respond to foreign aircraft and ships that deliberately get close to or make incursions into the air and waters near China’s relevant islands and provocative actions that threaten the security of Chinese personnel stationed there,” the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement to Reuters on the matter.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
China is “on the verge of fielding some of the most modern weapon systems in the world,” a new US defense intelligence assessment warns, but that’s not what has officials most concerned.
China has been investing billions of dollars, possibly as much as $200 billion in 2018, into its military, which Chinese leadership is putting through a massive overhaul in hopes of building a modern, world-class fighting force capable of waging and winning wars.
“Indeed, China is building a robust, lethal force with capabilities spanning the air, maritime, space, and information domains which will enable China to impose its will in the region,” Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley asserted in the preface to the report, noting that Beijing will likely become more insistent as its confidence grows.
(DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley)
It is China’s growing self-confidence that has US officials most alarmed, not the development of various weapons platforms, be it unmatched anti-satellite capabilities, precision strike tools, or hypersonic weapons. There is a serious concern that China is moving closer to the point where it might be willing to use military force to achieve its ambitions.
“The biggest concern is that they are going to get to a point where the [Chinese military] leadership may actually tell [Chinese President] Xi Jinping that they are confident in their capabilities,” a senior defense intelligence official said on Jan. 15, 2019, just before the release of the DIA assessment, according to Defense News.
“As these technologies mature, as their reorganization of their military comes into effect, as they become more proficient with these capabilities, our concern is we’ll reach a point where internally, within their decision-making, they will decide that using military force for a regional conflict is something that is more imminent,” the senior official said.
That’s bad news for Taiwan, an autonomous, democratic territory that Beijing views as a rogue province.
The island is a top priority for Chinese leadership, according to the report on Chinese military power, the first-ever unclassified DIA assessment of China’s military might.
Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Senior Chinese military leadership made that point very clear in a recent meeting with US military leaders. “If anyone wants to separate Taiwan from China, the Chinese military will safeguard the national unity at all costs so as to protect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Gen. Li Zuocheng argued in a recent meeting with Adm. John Richardson, the South China Morning Post reported.
Chinese President Xi Jinping recently made clear that military action remains on the table as a possible reunification tool. Other potential flash points include the East and South China Seas.
Despite fears within the military intelligence community about the use of force by the Chinese military, it seems that there is also a consensus that China may not yet be there. “I think in a lot of ways, they have a lot that they need to do,” an official said Jan. 15, 2019, according to Stars and Stripes.
“We don’t have a real strong grasp on when they will think that they are confident in that capability,” the official added, referring to an assault on Taiwan. “They could order them to go today, but I don’t think they are particularly confident in that capability.”
China called the DIA report “unprofessional,” criticizing its findings.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Frontiers and Flight air show was held at McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas in early September 2018. The crowd was treated to demonstrations of 70 military and civilian aircraft, including B-2 stealth bombers, A-10 Warthogs, KC-135 Stratotankers, and more.
The air show also included a demonstration of six F-16 Thunderbirds.
After the show, the Thunderbirds flew back home to Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, soaring over Lake Powell reservoir near the Grand Canyon in Arizona along the way.
And the pictures are stunning.
Check them out below.
The Thunderbirds fly over the Glen Canyon Dam in Lake Powell on Sept. 10, 2018.
(US Air Force photo)
Thunderbirds fly in formation over Lake Powell on Sept. 10, 2018.
(US Air Force photo)
Thunderbirds soar over Lake Powell on Sept. 10, 2018.
(US Air Force photo)
The squadron flies F-16Cs and F-16Ds with unique red, white and blue paint jobs.
Read more about the specifications of F-16Cs and F-16Ds here
Thunderbirds leave contrails behind while flying over Lake Powell on Sept. 10, 2018.
(US Air Force photo)
But when the Thunderbirds were first activated, they flew F-84s. The squadron then switched to F-100s, and then several others, before adopting the F-16 in 1992.
More specifically, the Thunderbirds first flew F-84F Thunder jets, which were combat-fighter bombers that flew missions during the Korean War.
F-100 Super Sabres, which the Thunderbirds switched to in 1956, were the world’s first supersonic fighter jets.
Thunderbirds fly over a river in Lake Powell on Sept. 10, 2018.
(US Air Force photo)
US Air Force Thunderbirds conduct a photo op over Lake Powell while returning from McConnell Air Force Base, Sept. 10, 2018.
(US Air Force photo)
Thunderbird demonstrations involve about 30 different maneuvers using one or more F-16s.
New details have emerged about several Iranian women recently arrested in Iran for posting videos of themselves dancing on social media – arrests that have sparked an international social media backlash.
A person familiar with the situation told VOA Persian that authorities arrested Instagram star Maedeh Hojabri and two other young women who posted popular dancing videos.
Hojabri, a 19-year-old from Tehran, had built a large following on Instagram, posting clips of herself dancing at home to popular Western and Iranian music. Some reports said her account had attracted 600,000 followers before being suspended. In recent days, fans have used other Instagram accounts bearing Hojabri’s name to share her video clips. But she has not posted any clips herself since her arrest.
The source identified the other two women as Elnaz Ghasemi and Shadab, whose last name was not known. Videos of both women have attracted tens of thousands of views on YouTube.
The source said all three women were released on bail after three days, but also were required to appear on Iranian state TV as part of a public shaming. One of them, Ghasemi, has since left Iran, while Hojabri has been barred from doing so and Shadab’s whereabouts are unknown.
Aired early July 2018, a state TV program named “Wrong Path” showed images of several young woman whom it said had violated the moral norms of the Islamist-run state.
One of the women, whose face was obscured, answered an interviewer’s questions about why she posted dancing videos on social media. The woman, whom fans identified as Hojabri, said she made the videos for those fans, not intending to encourage them to do to the same.
Rights activists said Hojabri’s appearance in the program represented a forced confession of wrongdoing – a tactic that they say Iran often uses to stifle dissent.
There have been no reports in Iranian state media of the arrest of Hojabri and the other two women or the charges against them.
But the U.S.-based Center for Human Rights in Iran said the head of Tehran’s cyberpolice, Touraj Kazemi, made an announcement coinciding with the broadcast of “Wrong Path” that people who post “indecent” material online would be pursued for crimes against national security.
Since Hojabri’s arrest became apparent from her state TV appearance, Iranian women and men inside and outside the country have led a social media backlash, expressing support for the teenager by sharing videos of themselves dancing and using the hashtag #dancing_isnt_a_crime in Farsi.
Rights group Amnesty International joined the backlash on July 9, 2018, tweeting a video of its female campaigners doing a solidarity dance on a London street.
Iran’s Islamist laws only forbid women from dancing in public and in front of men who are not close relatives.
But the growing popularity of social media videos of Iranian woman dancing at home has prompted authorities in Iran to crack down on that phenomenon as well. In recent months, Iranian authorities have vowed to take action against Instagram celebrities they deem to have posted vulgar or obscene videos.
What Iran billed as a “100% indigenously made” fourth-generation fighter with “advanced avionics” immediately registered with aviation experts as a knockoff of the F-5 Tiger, a US jet that first flew in 1959.
Iran still has a few F-5s and even F-14s in its inventory from before the Islamic Revolution, when it maintained relations with the US.
Joseph Dempsey, a defense and military analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, tweeted a useful comparison.
But according to Justin Bronk, an aerial-combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute, the real Kowsar project isn’t the F-5 Tiger reboot, but a new system of avionics simply parked in the F-5 as a placeholder.
Bronk said the real Kowsar wasn’t a fighter at all, but a jet trainer and a light attack plane that could save Iran’s air force.
The state of Iran’s air force
“The Iranian air force is an interesting mix,” Bronk told Business Insider. “They’re, unquestionably, extremely good at making use of older equipment against endless predictions” that those systems will break down — for example, Iran still flies US-made F-14s and F-4s, while the US abandoned those airframes decades ago.
But somehow, Iran, even under intense sanctions designed to ensure it can’t get spare parts from the US, keeps them flying.
“Given the state of their economy and the embargoes, that is pretty impressive,” Bronk said.
Even with the impressive feat of workmanship that is an Iranian F-14 flying in 2018, when asked to describe Iran’s air force’s fighters against a regional foe like Saudi Arabia, Bronk said that “‘hopelessly quaint’ would not be too far off the mark.” Matched against Israel or the US in air power, Iran sees its chances sink from bad to much, much worse.
An Iranian F-4 Phantom II armed with an AGM-65 Maverick.
But besides quaint aircraft having no chance against upgraded Saudi F-15 gunships, Iran has another problem in its shortage of pilots and trainer aircraft, which is where the real Kowsar comes in.
“Iran has been relying for a long time on basically a bunch of increasingly old veteran pilots, a lot of whom were trained by — or were trained by those who were trained by — the US before the revolution,” Bronk said.
Therefore, Iran needs to drum up its own indigenous fighter-pilot training program — and that’s the real purpose of the Kowsar: to train the next generation of Iranian fighter pilots.
“It’s not a bad play,” Bronk said. “It makes the most of the limited technology options they have.” Meanwhile, according to Bronk, Iran’s Gulf Arab enemies have ignored domestic training and had to bring in mercenaries from other countries.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Although the nation remained devastated over the winter storm which severely impacted Texas in particular, it wasn’t just Americans in harms way. It was catastrophic for animals on land in the water, too.
The Washington Post caught up with Will Bellamy, a veteran of the Army and Marine Corps who is a resident of the Corpus Christi area in Texas. In his interview, he reported how he and his son saw some sea turtles in distress after rescuing a few injured birds. Bellamy immediately reached out to Captain Christopher Jason who is in command of Naval Air Station Corpus Christi.
Jason used his own paddleboard to rescue a few of the cold-shocked sea turtles, only able to fit three in his lap. Sadly, they weren’t the only ones. The next day, it was apparent to both Jason and Bellamy the situation was far more urgent than they originally thought. During his phone interview, Bellamy told the Washington Post, “It was like an apocalypse of turtles littered on the beach.”
When the water temperature goes below 50 degrees fahrenheit, green sea turtles become lethargic. This causes them to stop moving and float to the surface, leaving them vulnerable to being hit by boats or even washing ashore, like they did in Texas.
The green sea turtle is Texas’ most common sea turtle. The area along the gulf’s coast is where around 87% of them lay their nests during mating season each year. Sea Turtle Inc, based out of South Padre Island, has been working around the clock to save the cold-shocked green sea turtles washing up on the shores of Texas. In a statement the organization wrote, “Cold-stun events happen when the water gets too cold for sea turtles to maintain their body temperature.”
In an interview with Military Times, Jason said although he was aware of cold-stunning among sea turtles, this was unlike anything he’d ever seen since taking command in 2019. It truly was a military team effort. The Navy base community was also joined by Coast Guardsmen and soldiers. Flight students, military spouses, family members and veterans all dove in to support rescue efforts.
Between all of them, they’ve rescued around 1,100 sea turtles and the numbers continue to grow. Only 20 have perished.
According to National Geographic, nearly 5,000 green sea turtles have been rescued throughout the coast of Texas since the unprecedented winter storm hit. Texans and members of the military community have been bringing them in by the carload, banding together to save the threatened species. In a Facebook post, Sea Turtle Inc. wrote “This is the biggest sea turtle cold-stunned event in south Texas.”
Despite handling challenging times of their own with loss of power and water, these military members and their supporters went all in to save the turtles. Without their dedicated efforts, it’s apparent the Texas green sea turtle population would have been decimated. It’s a powerful reminder of how working together even during the hardest of times can truly make all the difference in the world.
When you’re asked what’s the most important tool for any U.S. service member who’s facing down a bad guy in battle, the most obvious response is his or her weapon.
When it comes down to it and the shots are flying, it’s the rifle or handgun that can make the difference between victory and defeat. But there’s a lot more to it than that, and oftentimes it’s what the trooper is actually wearing that can determine whether the bullets start flying in the first place.
Military uniform designers and suppliers over the last half century have been developing new ways to help soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines avoid fights if they want to and to survive them when things go loud. From things as simple as pocket placement and camouflage, to fabrics that won’t burn or show up in night vision goggles, the folks who build combat uniforms for America’s military have taken the best of material science and matched it with the conditions and operations troops are facing in increasingly complex and austere combat environments.
While the “modern” battle uniform traces much of its lineage to the Vietnam War, a lot has changed in the 50 years since that utilitarian design changed the course of what U.S. service members wear when they fight.
It was really the Korean war that introduced the pant-leg cargo pockets we all know today, according to an official Army history. But combat uniforms issued to troops in Vietnam took those to another level.
With bellowed pleats and secure flaps, there were few items the side cargo pocket couldn’t handle. Vietnam-era combat blouses also used an innovative angled chest pocket design that made it easier to reach items in the heat of battle.
In the 1980s, the U.S. military ditched the angled chest pockets for vertical ones, mostly for appearance, and the combat trousers maintained their six-pocket design until the 2000s.
But when America went to war after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, pocket placement and design took a quantum leap. Way more “utilitarian” than combat threads of Vietnam and the Cold War, the new battle rigs are like night and day — with everything from pen pockets near the wrist of a combat blouse, to ankle pockets on the trousers to bellowed shoulder pockets.
Interestingly, it was special operations troops that developed the shoulder pocket later adopted by both the Marine Corps and Army for their combat uniforms. During the opening days of the Global War on Terror, spec ops troops cut cargo pockets off their extra trousers and sewed them onto the arms of their combat jackets, giving them extra storage within an arm’s reach.
Modern combat uniforms now also incorporate internal pockets for knee pads and elbow pads, so when a trooper has to take a knee or go prone in a hurry, he’s not banging his joints on the dirt.
Marines in Iraq were issued fire-resistant flight suits to guard against burns from IED strikes.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
2. Combat uniform material
By Vietnam, the heavy cotton and polyester of the Korean War-era uniform were replaced with a tropical-weight cotton ripstop that was wind-resistant yet cooler for troops operating in the sweltering heat of Southeast Asian jungles.
Both trousers and jackets were made of this cotton-poplin material for years, until the Army adopted the so-called “Battle Dress Uniform” in the early 1980s. That uniform was made with a nylon-cotton blended material with was more durable and easier to launder than the Vietnam-era combat duds.
But the military was forced to offer a variation of the BDU in cotton ripstop after operations in Grenada proved the nylon-cotton blend material too hot in warmer climates.
Though today’s combat uniforms are made with similar materials to those of the BDU-era, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan proved that some front-line troops need kit that’s resistant to the flame and flash of roadside bombs and IEDs.
Early on, some troops — including Marines deployed to Iraq — wore flight suits manufactured with flame resistant Nomex during combat operations. But that fabric wasn’t durable enough for the rigors of battle on the ground. So companies developed new, more durable flame-resistant fabrics for combat uniforms like Defender-M and Drifire.
Now all the services offer variants of their standard combat uniforms in flame-resistant material that protects troops against burns from improvised bombs.
American Special Forces soldiers adopted the camouflage pattern of ARVN Rangers dubbed “tiger stripe” to blend into the Southeast Asian jungles.
(Image by Bettmann/CORBIS by Shunsuke Akatsuka via Flicker)
3. Combat uniform camouflage
It’s like the 1911 vs. (everything) debate, or the M-16 versus the AK-47 argument.
For decades, the question of camouflage patterns has been as much art as it was science. And over the last half century, the U.S. military has seen no fewer than 11 different patterns bedecking America’s warfighters.
The six-color Desert Combat Uniform is the iconic look of Operation Desert Storm.
Most Joes in the Vietnam War were clad in olive drab combat uniforms. But special operations troops began using camouflage garments in greater numbers during the war, and acted as the bleeding edge for pattern development within the wider military.
From ARVN Ranger “tiger stripes” to old-school duck hunter camo, the commandos in The ‘Nam proved that breaking up your outline saved lives. With the adoption of the BDU in 1981, the military locked into the service-wide “woodland” camouflage pattern.
The Marine Corps was the first service in the U.S. military to dramatically change its uniforms from the BDU design. The service also was the first to adopt a “digital” camo pattern.
In the early ’90s, the services developed desert combat uniform with a so-called “six-color desert” pattern (also known as “chocolate chips”). These uniforms were issued to troops conducting exercises and operations in arid climates and were more widely issued to service members deployed to Operation Desert Storm.
The woodland BDU dominated for more than 20 years until shortly after 9/11. And it was the Marine Corps that took the whole U.S. military in an entirely different direction.
Soldiers complained that the UCP didn’t really work in any environment
The Corps was the first to adopt a camouflage pattern with so-called “fractal geometry” — otherwise known as “digital camouflage” — that diverges from the curvy lines and solid colors of woodland to a more three-dimensional scheme designed to literally trick the brain. While the Marines adopted a digital woodland pattern and a desert version in 2003, the Army decided to try a single pattern that would work in a variety of environments a year later.
Dubbed the Universal Combat Pattern, or “UCP,” the green-grey pallet flopped, with most soldiers complaining that instead of working in a bunch of environments, it made Joes stand out in all of them. As in Vietnam, special operations troops engaged overseas adopted a commercial pattern dubbed “Multicam,” which harkened back to the analog patterns akin to woodland.
The Navy recently adopted a new camouflage uniform in a pattern developed by the SEALs.
Pressure mounted on the Army to ditch UCP and adopt Multicam, and by 2015, the service abandoned the one-size-fits all digital pattern and adopted Multicam for all its combat garments.
Likewise, the Air Force and Navy experimented with different patterns and pallets since the Army adopted UCP, with the Sea Service issuing a blue digital uniform for its sailors and the Air Force settling on a digital tiger stripe pattern in a UCP pallet. In 2016, the Navy ditched its so-called “blueberry” pattern for one developed by the SEALs — AOR 1 and AOR 2 — which looks similar to the Marine Corps “MARPAT” digital scheme.
The Air Force still issues its Airman Battle Uniform in the digital tiger stripe pattern to all airmen except those deploying to Afghanistan and on joint missions in the combat zone.
New uniforms incorporate innovative technology from the outdoor sports industry.
4. Combat uniform design
Aside from the rapid development and deployment of new camouflage patterns, some of the most impressive changes to U.S. military combat uniforms have been with their overall design.
Gone is the boxy, ill-fitting combat ensemble of troops slogging through the rice paddies and jungle paths of Southeast Asia. Today’s battle uniform traces its design to the high-tech construction of the extreme outdoor sports world, from high-altitude climbing to remote big game hunting.
Troops in the services now have uniforms that have pre-curved legs and arms, angled and bellowed pockets that stay flat when they’re empty, Velcro closures and adjustable waists. The services even use specially-designed combat shirts that ditch the jacket altogether and use built-in moisture-wicking fabric to keep a trooper’s torso cool under body armor yet provide durable sleeves and arm pockets for gear needed in the fight. With integrated pockets for knee pads and elbow pads, the new combat uniforms’ design takes “utilitarian” to a whole new level.
US Marines inside the Citadel in Hue City rescue the body of a dead Marine during the Tet Offensive.
(Photo via Flickr)
5. Combat armor
Aside from the actual clothing an American combat trooper wears, there are a host of new protective items that make up his or her battlefield loadout. These items have evolved exponentially over the last half century, and many uniform manufacturers have supplied protective accessories to integrate with their clothing.
Students from the Saint George’s University of Medicine pose with a member of the 82nd Airborne Division during Operation Urgent Fury.
(U.S. Military photo via Flickr)
Late in the war, the Vietnam-era soldier or Marine was issued a body armor vest that would protect him against grenade fragments and some pistol rounds. Made of ballistic nylon and fiberglass plates, the armor was best known as the “flak jacket.” It was heavy and didn’t protect against rifle rounds.
In the 1980s, the U.S. military developed a new body armor system using steel plates and Kevlar fabric that could stop a rifle round. First used in combat during Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada, the so-called Personnel Armor System for Ground Troops, or PASGT, was a revolution in personal protection.
Today’s armor and helmets are lighter, more protective and offer a host of methods to modify the loadout for specific missions.
Still heavy and bulky, armor evolved over the years since 9/11 to be lighter, with a slimmer profile and much more protective than the flaks of yore. Today’s vests can protect against multiple armor-piercing rifle rounds, shrapnel and pistol shots — all in a vest that weighs a fraction of its PASGT brethren.
Like the armor vest, the “steel pot” of Vietnam has changed dramatically in the last 50 years. The new Army Combat Helmet and Marine Corps Lightweight Helmet can take multiple bullet strikes and shrapnel hits, allow for greater mobility than the Vietnam-era one or the PASGT and now incorporate various attachment points for accessories like night vision goggles, IR strobes and cameras.
“You can’t spell ‘lost’ without ‘Lt'” is such an old joke in the military that Lieutenant George Washington probably had to halfheartedly chuckle at it to get his salty platoon sergeant off his ass. Yet, no matter how many times it’s repeated, we have to admit, it’s still kind of funny.
It stems from the idea that all lieutenants are inept at land navigation and, when the platoon goes off rucking in the woods, the platoon leader is going to get everyone lost — so they should follow the platoon sergeant instead. It doesn’t matter if the lieutenant actually knows their way around a land nav course, the stigma is still there.
Like all sweeping generalizations, it’s not entirely true. Maybe the lieutenant was prior enlisted and has retained that particular skill. Maybe they were in the Scouts as a teen and picked up a few things. Kudos to you, resourceful lieutenant! Prove that stereotype wrong for the betterment of your peers.
But as it stands, there are a few systemic reasons why lieutenants get lost, perpetuating the joke.
Knowing what the book says about crossing tricky terrain is much different than the NCO approach finding a way across.
(U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)
The difference between lieutenants and sergeants is basically the same as the difference between intelligence and wisdom. Now, we’re not saying that sergeants aren’t smart or that lieutenants aren’t wise, but they’re groomed with different emphases.
Lieutenants are trained to value institutional knowledge. Ask any officer a question and they’ll recite the book answer, verbatim — intelligence. Sergeants, on the other hand, are born from street smarts. They probably couldn’t tell you the exact, obscure regulation about God-knows-what, but they can tell you if it’s right or not based on context clues — wisdom.
They make a fine team together. It’s what keeps the military functioning. It’s that special balance of yin and yang in the unit. But land navigation is almost entirely based on wisdom, not intelligence. It’s a skill you learn over time and develop a gut feeling about.
The secret to land nav is to not think about it too hard.
(U.S. Army photo by Armando R. Limon)
Knowing the book answer (and only the book answer) to land navigation is where lieutenants shoot themselves in the foot. As odd as it sounds to enlisted, officers do conduct land nav training while at the academy, OCS, or ROTC. They probably tell you what the book says about putting a compass to your cheek to shoot a proper azimuth, they probably tell you about each topographical feature on a map, but that doesn’t always translate to the real world.
In practice, memorizing what the book says about land nav actually hurts you. Leading a platoon through the field requires you to juggle a few things — where you’re coming from, where you’re going, the direction in which to travel, and about how far between those points you should be at a given time.
All of the jokes can easily be avoided if the lieutenant keeps their pride in check and trusts in their NCOs.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. William Jones)
An NCO could look at the map and say, “I’m currently in this valley and I need to be at the second hill to the west. Seems to be about a quarter of a kilometer away. Compass says west is that way… Cool” and be on their way.
Officers would likely over-analyze the situation. They’ll stare at the compass until it reads precisely the right direction according to their starting point (and not readjust it as they move). They’ll measure the distance they’ve traveled based on step count, knowing that each stride is roughly one meter (and not account for terrain). They’ll follow what the book says to perfection — and it’ll put them way off course.
Land nav is not something you can learn in a book. Every location is different. Sure, mastering land nav requires a good dosage of the book stuff — but you also need to know when to toss it to the side in favor of following your wise, experienced gut.