Jocko Willink and Leif Babin have proven that the leadership principles they learned as Navy SEALs are just as effective in the business world.
Willink was the head of US Navy SEAL Team 3 Task Unit Bruiser, the most highly decorated US special operations unit of the Iraq War, and Babin was one of the two platoon leaders who reported to him. After their service, Willink and Babin founded Echelon Front in 2010 as a way to bring what they learned in the military to the business world.
They’ve spent the past eight years working with more than 400 businesses and putting on conferences.
The “laws of combat” that they developed in the military and passed on to other SEALs are straightforward, but also need to be implemented carefully, Willink and Babin told Business Insider in an interview about their new book, “The Dichotomy of Leadership.”
Below, Willink introduces a concept and, in keeping with the theme of their book, Babin explains how each principle could be taken too far.
1. Cover and move
“You’ve got to look out for other people on your team and you’ve got to look out for other teams within your unit,” Willink said. It’s about not getting so focused on your own responsibilities that you forget that you are part of a team depending on you, or that your team is one of many in an organization that gives these teams a shared mission.
Taken too far: Babin added that “you could spend so much time trying to help someone else on the team that you’re stepping on their toes and they get defensive. And you’re actually creating a worse relationship with them as a result.” Mutual respect, therefore, is crucial.
2. Keep things simple
As the leader of Task Unit Bruiser, Willink learned that a plan that may look impressive to his superiors, with its detail and complexity, would be meaningless if not every member of his team could follow along. A plan must be communicated to the team so that every member knows their responsibilities.
Taken too far: That said, Babin explained, keeping things simple does not mean omitting explanations. Leaders must recognize that the “why” behind a plan is as important as the “how.”
3. Prioritize and execute
“You’re going to have multiple problems and all those problems are going to occur at the same time,” Willink said. “And when that happens, instead of trying to handle all those problems at the same time, what you have to do is pick the biggest problem that you have and focus your efforts, your personnel, and your resources on that.”
Taken too far: Setting clear priorities is critical, Babin said, “yet you can get target fixated, and you get so focused on the highest priority task, that you’re not able to see when a new priority emerges and you have to re-adjust.” Therefore, leaders are in charge of determining what is most important but do not become so attached to the initial plan that they cannot adjust.
4. Decentralize command
Willink and Babin said that they found some readers of their first book, “Extreme Ownership,” misinterpreted the thesis as meaning that they must micromanage their team in addition to accepting responsibility for everything good and bad that happens under their watch.
“As a leader on a team, you want everyone on your team to lead,” Willink said. “And in order to make that happen, you’ve got to release some of that authority down to the lower ranks, so that they can make quick, decisive decisions out on the battlefield.”
Taken too far: With that in mind, Babin said, there are situations “where the leader doesn’t understand what’s going on in the front lines. And they’re too detached, they’re too far back, they’re not able to lead their team, and that results in failure.”
Leaders must set the pace for their team and fully own that role, but still learn to trust each of their team members to make their own decisions when the situation calls for it.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Rear Adm. Brian Fort, commander, Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific, announced that U.S. Navy ships and submarines based in Hawaii not currently undergoing maintenance availabilities have begun to sortie as Hurricane Lane travels toward the Hawaiian Islands.
Ships that sortie will be positioned to help respond after the storm, if needed.
“Based on the current track of the storm, we made the decision to begin to sortie the Pearl Harbor-based ships,” Fort said. “This allows the ships enough time to transit safely out of the path of the storm.”
Units will remain at sea until the threat from the storm subsides and Hawaii-based Navy aircraft will be secured in hangars or flown to other airfields to avoid the effects of the hurricane.
A satellite image of Hurricane Lane at 10:45 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time. At 11 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time, the category 4 hurricane, which was located about 350 miles south of Honolulu, Hawaii, was moving northwest at 7 mph with maximum sustained winds of 145 mph.
(US Navy photo)
The Navy orders a sortie during potentially extreme weather conditions to reduce the risk of significant damage to ships and piers during high winds and seas. Some ships will not get underway, due to various maintenance availabilities, and are taking extra precautions to avoid potential damage. Commanding officers have a number of options when staying in port, depending on the severity of the weather. Some of these options include adding additional mooring and storm lines, dropping the anchor, and disconnecting shore power cables.
Personnel in Navy Region Hawaii, including on Oahu and Kauai, should follow hurricane awareness and preparedness guidelines established by city/county and state government. Navy Region Hawaii and its installations provide updated information on Facebook sites:
At the beginning of hurricane season in early June 2018, Navy Region Hawaii provided detailed information in the region/base newspaper Ho’okele for service members, civilian workforce and families. Information included preparing a disaster supply kit, creating a family emergency communication plan and knowing where to go if ordered to evacuate:
Puddles of sweat begin to form as the sound of 50-ounce gloves hitting a punching bag echo throughout the gym.
A buzzer goes off. That’s the signal to the drenched-in-sweat Sgt. Larry Mays that the warmup has ended and the real workout is about to begin.
The unit supply NCO with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 704th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, used that warmup routine to help earn first place in the Colorado Golden Gloves heavyweight division in April 2019.
“It’s a prestigious tournament that the state of Colorado holds on a yearly basis,” explained Mays. “I’ve been training since October of last year and it’s exciting to see that all my hard work paid off.”
Even though the Lambert, Mississippi native began his training for the Colorado tournament in October 2018, his journey with the sport started much earlier.
U.S. Army Sgt. Larry Mays, a unit supply noncommissioned officer assigned to 704th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, hits a punching bag, May 11, 2019, at local boxing gym in Colorado Springs.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Neysa Canfield)
“I started fighting (when) I was in elementary school. I started with (mixed martial arts), taekwondo and Jiu-Jitsu,” said Mays. “I kept fighting as a way to stay in shape and relieve stress.”
While training in those combat sports, Mays’ coach recommended he try boxing as a way to help him with his MMA skills.
“I pretty much fell in love with (boxing) after that and never went back to MMA,” he explained. “It’s not an easy sport, but I love that there is always a challenge and something new to learn.”
Although boxing was a big part of his life, Mays said he found himself working odd jobs and bringing little income into his household.
With encouragement from his coaches, friends, and family members, Mays enlisted in the Army in 2012.
“I wanted to get out of Mississippi and I always wanted to join the military, so it was the perfect time to make that change,” said Mays.
He learned to adapt quickly to the military lifestyle.
“To me, my mindset with boxing and my military career are very similar,” he said. “You have to stay disciplined, have a clear and strong mind, and never back down from a fight.”
U.S. Army Sgt. Larry Mays, a unit supply noncommissioned officer assigned to 704th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, hits a speed bag May 11, 2019, at local boxing gym in Colorado Springs.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Neysa Canfield)
His ability to stay committed to his passion of boxing and effectively balance his career and family life began to inspire other soldiers in his unit.
“I would see him working long hours, helping his soldiers and then still see him going to the gym after work to train — that’s dedication,” said 1st Lt. Wilbert Paige, platoon leader, HHC, 704th BSB, 2nd IBCT. “He is a great example, not only to the junior soldiers in the company but to everyone, from top to bottom.”
Paige added that he hopes to see Mays in the “big leagues” in the future.
“He is a great example of what not quitting, putting in hard work and staying dedicated to your goals looks like,” said Paige. “He is the type of person who can do whatever he puts his mind to, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for him.”
With the support of his family and now his unit, Mays said he hopes to continue boxing and to ultimately do it professionally.
“This road of life I am on is kind of falling into place, I have come a long way,” said Mays. “I just want to be the guy who made it from nothing. I want to be the best soldier, best NCO and best boxer I can be.”
He hopes others see his journey as a way to encourage themselves to follow their dreams, Mays added.
“I want to be an inspiration to not only soldiers but to everyone,” he said. “You have to look at every day like a fight. Keep pushing even when you might be falling down because you can’t expect good things to happen if you don’t even try.”
Four spouses and two fiancées of veterans eligible for the Department of Veterans Affairs‘ family caregiver program have filed a lawsuit against the VA for denying or improperly revoking their benefits.
In a suit filed Jan. 22, 2018, in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, the plaintiffs, led by Florida resident Zamantha Tapia, fiancée of Army veteran Cesar Silva, allege that the VA did not follow the laws and regulations governing the department’s Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers program, which provides compensation and health benefits to those who provide care for seriously injured post-9/11 veterans.
According to the suit, Silva and Tapia’s application was denied, and the benefits of the other plaintiffs were inappropriately downgraded or terminated without proper investigation or determination.
In 2017, veterans and their caregivers enrolled in the program began seeing their benefits curtailed or terminated — often with no reason given, other than that their VA providers determined they no longer needed help with their daily activities.
In August 2018, the VA Office of Inspector General found that across the VA, facilities didn’t adequately manage the program, failing to provide consistent access to it, improperly accepting ineligible veterans and declining to monitor the health statuses of nearly half the veterans it discharged from the program.
The IG also learned that the department paid out .8 million to caregivers of veterans who weren’t eligible for the program, and the VA “failed to manage the program effectively because it did not establish governance that promoted accountability for program management,” staff members wrote in the report.
In 2015, plaintiff Jennifer Wilmot and her husband George Wilmot, an Army National Guard veteran who served from October 2007 to May 2013, were booted from the program.
The Wilmots were accepted into the caregiver program in 2013 but should have received the highest level of compensation rather than the level they were awarded, according to attorneys Jason Perry and Luke Miller.
Then came the dismissal.
“After completing a comprehensive review of your medical records, it appears that you have met the intention of the program and your participation will be discontinued,” VA officials wrote to the Wilmots.
The lawsuit calls the termination “arbitrary and capricious.”
Silva was deployed to Iraq from November 2003 to August 2004, sustaining shrapnel injuries in an attack. According to the lawsuit, he received a VA disability rating of 70 percent in 2009 for rotator cuff strain and impingement and suffers from chronic headaches, degenerative joint disease, back pain and neuropathy. He also has PTSD, TBI, memory loss, depression and irritable bowel syndrome.
Tapia and Silva applied for the family caregiver program in 2014 but were denied. According to the suit, the VA found that Silva did not need assistance for physical injuries and said his mental health conditions were not service-connected. They reapplied in 2017, but following a phone assessment, VA officials said that Silva was not “receiving medical treatment” — an error, the lawsuit alleges — and that Tapia was “an enabler.”
According to Perry, an attorney in Wellington, Florida, and Miller, of Military Disability Lawyer LLC in Salem, Oregon, the plaintiffs have asked the court to certify the suit as a class action, meaning that other affected caregivers could sign on if it is approved.
They estimate that the VA received more than 100,000 applications for the family caregiver program between May 2011 and September 2018 and, therefore, thousands may be able to sign on to the possible class action.
The plaintiffs also are requesting that the VA stop what they perceive as arbitrary dismissals from the program and are seeking monetary compensation in an amount “to be determined at trial,” according to the suit.
The federal government has until March 25, 2019, to file a response in the case, and a status conference is scheduled for March 29, 2019, according to court documents.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Under Secretary of the Navy, Thomas Modly, completed a three-day partnership-building visit to Norway, Dec. 12, 2018.
Modly met with senior military and civilian officials to discuss security and stability issues and efforts along with touring some of the Norwegian assets and facilities.
Meetings were held with the U.S. ambassador, State Secretary of Defense, Chief of Royal Norwegian Navy, Commander of Norwegian Defense Liaison Office, members from the Royal Norwegian Air Force, Army, Navy, and U.S. Marines on rotation to Norway.
“The U.S. and Norway share a very close military relationship and collaborate on many global, regional and bilateral issues,” said Modly. “Being able to see it first hand was impressive and helped underscore the enduring value of investing in cooperative security relationships.”
During his visit, Modly toured a Royal Norwegian Navy Skjold class Corvette and Fridtjof Nansen class frigate and the facilities at the Marine Corps Pre-Positioning Program-Norway (MCPP-N).
Royal Norwegian army Lt. Col. Stein-Arlid Ivarrud, left, commanding officer of the Norwegian Defence Logistics Organization-Marine Expeditionary Brigade, and Under Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly shake hands after a briefing on Norway’s continued support to the U.S. Marine Corps Pre-Positioning Program-Norway.
(U.S. Navy photo by Cmdr. Paul Macapagal)
“By working together with one of our closest allies, we create force multipliers that enhance our capabilities and build a better understanding of each other,” said Modly. “I look forward to fostering this relationship through our Navy and Marine Corps team.”
On his final day, Modly had the opportunity to have lunch and a discussion with some of the U.S. Marines from the Marine Rotational Force — Europe.
Royal Norwegian Navy Cmdr. (SG) Iris Fivelstad, right, commanding officer of the Fridtjof Nansen-class frigate HNoMS Otto Sverdrup (F312) explains bridge operations to Under Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly during a tour of the ship.
“Marine training in Norway improves cold weather and mountain readiness in Artic conditions,” said Modly. “It also enhances interoperability between U.S. And Norwegian forces. Our marines are getting great training and building enduring relationships with their Norwegian partners.”
Modly is on a multination visit to the European region focused on strengthening partnerships and cooperation in support of the second line of effort of the National Defense Strategy: Strengthening Partnerships and Alliances.
Though Thomas Edison is known for giving the world a number of fantastic inventions, you’ll always see an asterisk next to patents for which he’s credited. Sure, the history books give him praise for inventing the phonograph and the incandescent lightbulb, but not without mentioning that he had limited involvement with his other 1,093 patents — or worse, acquired them by dubious means.
Edison was no stranger to patent disputes during his lifetime. He’d quickly squash challenges that arose between himself and other inventors, mostly by leveraging his vast wealth and well-crafted public image — with one notable exception: a Navy veteran. Samuel O’Reilly gave Edison a taste of his own medicine and gave the world a device that’s now synonymous with the United States Navy: the electric tattoo machine.
Samuel O’Reilly was born to impoverished Irish immigrants in Connecticut in 1854. As a teenager, he and two friends were arrested and sentenced to two years of hard labor for burglary. He needed to do something better for himself when he was released, so he enlisted in the Navy.
His time in the Navy was brief, but it was there that he first got introduced to the rich legacy of tattoos. At this time, tattoos were highly stigmatized as being just for drunk and disorderly troops. It was uncommon to see someone who hadn’t served with any ink — but it was even rarer to find a sailor with bare skin. O’Reilly looked past the nonsense and recognized that the tattoos the sailors wore were beautiful pieces of art.
Some reports say he deserted the Navy after a few months; others say he served his time and learned the art of tattooing while in. While it’s unclear which is true, we’re skeptical about the desertion — he was never charged for it and he made a living tattooing other sailors.
O’Reilly’s life after service was far from stable. After serving time in prison for a robbery committed by his family members, he finally got around to starting his own tattoo parlor in New York City in 1888.
Meanwhile, Thomas Edison had created a new invention called the “Electric Pen.” The idea behind the machine was that it could punch a hole in multiple pieces of paper so a writer could write on each piece. Needless to say, it never really caught on or worked most of the time, so it was scrapped and forgotten about for around fifteen years.
Samuel O’Reilly saw the potential for this device in use as a quicker alternative to the “hammer and needle” method of tattooing. He adapted the basic idea with a stronger tubular shaft, an ink reservoir, and a fitting for multiple needles. It was patented on Dec. 8, 1891, as the “tattooing machine.” Suddenly, people from the around the world sought him out for new ink.
This understandably infuriated Edison, but the design was different enough that it didn’t constitute an infringement of patent. A former-friend-turned-rival of O’Reilly’s, Elmer E. Getchell, also claimed to have created the tattoo machine, and the case was brought to Federal Court.
Getchell backed Edison in the case, claiming that O’Reilly wasn’t responsible for the tattoo machine. The courts determined that since his patent included the ink reservoir, it was vastly different from Edison’s, effectively giving O’Reilly the undisputed claim on the device.
O’Reilly was open about his modification of Edison’s original electric pen, but he still managed to use Edison’s own game against him in the court of law and proved that the tattooing machine, indeed, belonged to him.
By now, many of us have seen the new Wonder Woman movie. If you haven’t, you probably know the basics anyway: Amazon warrior-princess who braves the battlefields of 1918 to save humanity from the depredations of Ares, God of War. It’s a fun movie, even if I had to set aside my critical military historian’s eye for a couple of hours (not like that’s a rare occurrence where Hollywood is concerned). You may also know that the title character is portrayed by one Gal Gadot, who served in the Israeli Defense Forces, so it has that going for it, too.
One thing I particularly liked about the movie was the theme that Diana (Wonder Woman’s real name, in case you haven’t seen the movie or ever read a comic book), though an elite, hard-ass warrior, only fought because she believed it was necessary. The Western Front in Belgium was represented fairly realistically as the muddy, bloody, ruinous Hell that it was. Diana fought not because she liked fighting, but to end that Hell once and for all.
I don’t want to spoil the plot, so I won’t go any further, but, like those who fought in the “War to End All Wars,” Diana’s outlook undergoes a change as the movie progresses. Significantly, though she is reluctant, Diana never loses her conviction that violence is sometimes necessary to prevent greater evil from wreaking havoc on the world.
One of the more humorous elements of the movie is the innate sexism Diana encounters as she moves forward. She is constantly forced to prove herself on and off the battlefield. Of course, being an immortal Amazon princess, with its attendant abilities, helps. But super powers are not required to be a warrior, whether one is male or female.
There’s a lot of controversy these days about the role of women in the US armed forces, specifically, whether women should serve in combat units. Recent months have witnessed the first two female graduates from Ranger School, and the nature of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have put females clearly in the line of fire for well over a decade.
Female warriors, however, are not a new phenomenon, nor are they only the stuff of legend or Hollywood fancy. They’ve been around for literally thousands of years. Without taking a position on the role of females in combat (other people here are far more qualified than I to speak on that subject), here’s a look at some women who fought, and fought well, from the American Revolution through the Global War on Terror. This list is by no means complete, or even close to being so. It’s merely intended to offer a glimpse of women in combat over the last 240-odd years.
The American Revolution
Records for female soldiers who fought in the Revolution are scarce. That many women, usually disguised as men, did fight is beyond question. Most of their names and deeds are lost to us thanks to their enforced anonymity, but a few records survive. The most common theme for the service of these women is that they followed their husbands to war, passing themselves as teenage boys, which were not uncommon in the ranks. Some women volunteered for the bounty paid to enlistees or just in the hope of steady meals. Some didn’t like sitting at home and wanted to fight for their country, like the first soldier on our list.
Deborah Samson enlisted on 20 May, 1782, at age 22, in Captain George Webb’s company of the 4th Massachusetts Regiment of Foot, a light infantry unit. She gave her name as Robert Shurtliff. Rising to the rank of corporal, she fought with the Continental Army in several engagements, including the Battle of White Plains.
Samson was wounded several times. In a skirmish near Tarrytown, she took a saber cut to the head. When her unit was ambushed by Loyalists near East Chester, Samson was hit by two musket balls in the thigh. Probably afraid of discovery if she sought medical aid, Samson crawled into the woods and removed one ball herself. The other was left in the leg while she soldiered on.
Samson was finally revealed as a female while serving as a clerk for General John Patterson in Philadelphia. She became sick and was treated by Dr. Barnabas Binney. Dr. Binney outed her to General Patterson, who recommended to General George Washington that Samson be discharged due to being a female. Deborah Samson was honorably discharged in October, 1783. In 1792, along with other veterans, Samson received back pay due her for her service. In 1805, Samson was awarded a veteran’s pension by the Massachusetts legislature, which stated “that the Said Deborah exhibited an extraordinary instance of female heroism by discharging the duties of a faithful, gallant soldier.” She received that pension until she died in 1827.
The legend of Molly Pitcher is hard to pin down. According to the story, she was carrying pitchers of water to the soldiers, one of whom was her husband, serving a cannon at the 1778 Battle of Monmouth. When her husband collapsed, Molly immediately took his place, swabbing the barrel and helping reload the gun.
It appears that “Molly Pitcher” is a composite figure built on the stories of Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley and Margaret Corbin. Mary Hays (as she was known at the time) was present at Monmouth and a witness claimed that a British cannonball bounced right between her legs while she was serving the American gun, ripping away part of her petticoat. She supposedly quipped that it was lucky the ball wasn’t aimed a little higher and went on with her work.
Hays remained with the Continental Army until the end of the war, though it seems that she served in a support role, as many women did. After her husband’s death, she married a former Continental soldier named John McCauley. She died in Carlisle, Pennsylvania in 1832, where a monument commemorates her valiant service.
Margaret Corbin’s story is similar to the better-known Mary Ludwig Hays. At the 1776 Battle of Fort Washington, Corbin was carrying water to her husband’s gun crew when he fell. She stepped into his place and helped keep the cannon operational by swabbing and helping to reload. During the battle, Margaret was hit by grapeshot in the arm and chest, disabling her for life.
Corbin was one of the first members of the Invalid Corps, created by Congress in 1777 to care for wounded and disabled soldiers. She was granted a pension in 1779, the first American woman to receive a disabled veteran’s pension.
Anna Maria Lane followed her husband to war in 1776, when he enlisted in the Connecticut Line under General Israel Putnam. Records of her service are sketchy, but it is known that she fought in the Battle of Germantown in October, 1777, where she was severely wounded. After the war, Anna and her husband John moved to Virginia, where they were both recognized for their service by the Virginia legislature and granted soldiers’ pensions.
The American Civil War
The story of female soldiers in the Civil War is akin to those who fought in the Revolution. Women disguised themselves as men and marched off to war for pretty much the same reasons as their forebears. Women served in both the Union and Confederate armies, and most seem to have gone undetected, but we do know the stories of a few.
Sarah Emma Edmonds was a Canadian by birth. To escape an abusive father and an arranged marriage, she disguised herself as a man and fled to the US, where she found work in Hartford, Connecticut as a travelling Bible salesman. When the war broke out in 1861, Edmonds was in Michigan and promptly volunteered for the 2nd Michigan Infantry Regiment on a three-year enlistment. She used the name Franklin Thompson, which had been her assumed name for the previous couple of years.
Sarah Emma Edmonds. Photo from Breach Bang Clear.
Edmonds was nearly captured at First Manassas when she stayed behind to care for the wounded when the Union Army retreated. In 1862, Edmonds served in the Peninsula Campaign, the Battle of Second Manassas, and the Battle of Fredericksburg as a courier, often braving long solo rides through contested territory. Her horse was shot from under her at Second Manassas, forcing her to ride a mule, which subsequently threw her, breaking her leg.
Edmonds’ memoirs claim that she performed espionage missions behind Confederate lines, disguised as a male Irish peddler, though there is no official record of those missions.
The 2nd Michigan was sent to Kentucky in the spring of 1863, where Edmonds came down with malaria. Afraid of discovery, she requested convalescent leave as opposed to seeing a military doctor. Her leave request was denied. Feeling she had no choice, Edmonds deserted and never returned. “Franklin Thompson” was charged with desertion, though no further action was taken. Following her recovery, Edmonds served as a female nurse until the end of the war.
Edmonds, now known as Sarah Edmonds Seelye, attended a reunion of the 2nd Michigan in 1876, where she was welcomed by her former comrades. They helped her have the charge of desertion expunged from her records and supported her pension application, which was approved in 1884. Seelye was the only female to receive a soldier’s pension from the Civil War. In 1897, a year before her death, she became the only female member of the Grand Army of the Republic. In 1901, she was reburied with full military honors in Houston’s Washington Cemetery.
Jennie Hodgers (a.k.a. Albert D.J. Cashier) is remarkable not only for her wartime service, but for the fact that she continued to live as a man for the rest of her life. Hodgers was born on aChristmas Day, 1843, in Ireland. Little is known about her life from then until she enlisted in the 95th Illinois Infantry under the name Albert D.J. Cashier.
Jennie-Hodgers AKA Albert-D.J. Cashier. Photo from Breach Bang Clear.
Hodgers fought in over forty engagements, including the Vicksburg Campaign, the Battle of Nashville, the Red River Campaign, and the Battles of Kennesaw Mountain and Jonesborough. An account exists of her escaping capture by overpowering a Confederate guard. She mustered out on 17 August, 1865.
Living as a man apparently agreed with Hodgers, and “Albert Cashier” worked several jobs, voted in elections, and drew a soldier’s pension. Hit by a car in 1910, “Cashier’s” true gender was discovered by the local hospital, which, remarkably, agreed not to give away her secret. She was sent to the Soldiers and Sailors Home in Quincy, Illinois to recover. It was here, in 1913, that dementia finally caused her to be revealed as a woman. Sadly, she was sent to an insane asylum where she was forced to wear a dress.
On the plus side, when the story was published in the local newspapers, Hodgers’ former comrades protested her treatment and defended her service. Upon her death in 1915, Hodgers was buried in full uniform and her grave was marked with the name Albert D.J. Cashier and her service dates. A second marker with the name Jennie Hodgers was placed beside the original in the 1970s.
Sarah Rosetta Wakeman is another whose story is well-known, thanks to her family’s preservation of her letters. With her father in debt and no prospects of marriage, the nineteen-year old Wakeman left home in 1862 to seek work as a man. While working as a laborer, she met recruiters from the 153rd New York Infantry Regiment, who offered a $152.00 enlistment bounty. Wakeman accepted and enlisted on 30 August, 1862 under the name Lyons Wakeman.
The 153rd New York saw action during the Red River Campaign of 1864 and Wakeman stood on the firing line at the Battles of Pleasant Hill and Monett’s Bluff. The Red River Campaign featured marches of hundreds of miles through muggy heat and disease-ridden swamps, which Wakeman endured as well as her male counterparts.
Sarah Rosetta Wakeman. Photo from Breach Bang Clear.
Before the campaign, Wakeman had written home, “I don’t know how long before I shall have to go into the field of battle. For my part, I don’t care. I don’t feel afraid to go.” Wakeman finally succumbed to disease in May, 1864 and died on 19 June. She is buried in Chalmette National Cemetery in New Orleans. The grave marker bears the name “Lyons Wakeman.” No record exists of her sex ever being discovered.
Mollie Bean is a bit more elusive than Sarah Edmonds and Jennie Hodgers, and, in her anonymity, is likely more representative of the majority of female Civil War soldiers. In fact, Mollie Bean may not have been her name at all.
Mollie was arrested on 20 February, 1865 while hitching a ride on a railroad car near Danville, Virginia. Riding a military rail car required permission from the provost marshal so, when she was discovered, the guard demanded her papers. Mollie replied, “I’ve got no papers and damn if I want any.” She was arrested and, shortly thereafter, discovered to be a female dressed as a soldier. Mollie claimed to have enlisted in the 47th North Carolina Infantry Regiment in 1863 and to have been twice-wounded in battle. She was sent back to Richmond and imprisoned in Castle Thunder. The story was picked up by newspapers in Richmond and Charlotte. Mollie was portrayed sensationally and her claims of service were discounted, with at least one paper describing her as “manifestly crazy.” The general opinion was that she could not have served for over two years without her true sex being discovered. Upon her imprisonment, Mollie vanishes from history. There are no records of her incarceration and examinations of the 47th North Carolina’s muster rolls reveal nothing. The census records of females with the surname “Bean” provide no real evidence. “Mollie Bean” may well have been a made-up name given to the authorities upon her arrest.
She does, however, make a fanciful reappearance in the alternate history novel The Guns of the South by Harry Turtledove. If you haven’t read it, and you’re into that sort of thing, it’s very well-done. The premise is built around South African time-travelers who provide Robert E. Lee’s army with AK-47s in the winter of 1864. Don’t be deterred by the fantastical scenario; Turtledove is a serious historian. The book is outstanding and thought-provoking.
Two more female soldiers from the Civil War merit our attention, though we don’t, and likely never will, know their identities. The remains of a Confederate private were discovered on the Gettysburg battlefield on 17 July, 1863 by a burial detail from the Union II Corps. The private was female. She was likely killed while taking part in Pickett’s Charge on 3 July. Finally, a 1934 excavation of a mass grave on the Shiloh battlefield revealed the remains of a female with a minié ball lodged in her pelvis, likely her death wound. Plainly, females not only served in the Civil War, they were in the thick of battle and some were killed. Due to the nature of their service, we’ll never know how many.
World War I
By the time the First World War rolled around, medical exams for prospective soldiers were more thorough. It was far more difficult for would-be female soldiers to disguise themselves. As far as we know, only one, 20-year old Dorothy Lawrence, actually pulled it off. Lawrence was a British journalist who managed to join a tunneling outfit of the British Expeditionary Force for ten days. At that point, she gave herself up out of a desire to report on the horrible conditions under which her fellow soldiers worked. Lawrence was treated rather poorly by the British authorities, who accused her of being a camp-follower (AKA prostitute). Still, two female soldiers, one British and one Russian, stand out for their wartime service.
Flora Sandes was the daughter of an Irish priest. As a child, she read and re-read Tennyson’s The Charge of the Light Brigade and dreamed of being a soldier. As an adult, she traveled throughout Europe, North America, and Egypt, working as a typist to fund her adventures. She was an experienced rider and, according to her family, “a capital shot with the big service revolver.”
Upon the Austro-Hungarian declaration of war against Serbia on 28 July, 1914, the 38-year old Sandes volunteered as a nurse for a Serbian ambulance unit. Serbia was overrun in late 1915 by the combined forces of Austria-Hungary, Germany, and Bulgaria. The Serbian Army forced marched across the mountains to Albania, where Sandes enlisted in the Serbian Iron Regiment.
Flora Sandes. Photo from Breach Bang Clear.
A year later she was a sergeant major and had published an English language book about her exploits to raise money and support for the Serbs. At the end of 1916, Sandes was involved in the vicious hand-to-hand combat in the mountains of Macedonia, where she was wounded by a grenade. Forced to retire from combat duty, she spent the rest of the war running an army hospital and conducting public relations tours to promote Western awareness of the plight of the Serbs. After the war, Sandes remained with the Army, eventually retiring as a captain. In 1917, she was awarded the Order of the Star of Karađorđe, Serbia’s highest combat decoration.
Sandes rode out the Second World War in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. Though aged 65, she was recalled to active duty. She was willing, but the Germans overran Yugoslavia before she could do anything. She was arrested by the Gestapo as an enemy alien and imprisoned with fourteen other women. One of Sandes’ fellow prisoners later said “She possessed a wonderful fund of Serbian swear words which she launched at the guards with such devastating effect that they behaved almost respectfully.” She was eventually released, but had to report to the Gestapo weekly until the war ended.
Sandes finally left Belgrade following the passing of her Serbian husband a few months after the war. She was nearly 70, but went to Rhodesia to stay with her nephew, who was a Rhodesian police officer. She was unpopular with the colonial authorities, however, who complained about her “fraternizing with the African peasant population, sitting around an open fire and drinking beer made from sorghum.” Flora Sandes returned to England, where she died in 1956.
Maria Bochkarevka was a Siberian peasant girl who survived an abusive father and two abusive husbands to join the Russian war effort in 1914. Women were not allowed to serve at that time, but Maria wrote a personal letter to Tsar Nicholas II asking for special permission. Her request was granted and Bochkarevka was sent to the front in 1915.
Her first combat saw Maria, despite being hit in the leg, pull dozens of wounded men from No-Man’s Land, for which she was decorated. She was soon promoted to corporal and began leading 30-man patrols into No-Man’s Land. On one of her patrols, she killed a German soldier with her bayonet. In the spring of 1916, Bochkarevka was wounded three times, including taking a piece of shrapnel near the base of her spine, paralyzing her from the waist down. Determined to fight, she learned to walk again and returned to the front, where she was promoted to sergeant. She was captured not long afterward, but she escaped, killing ten Germans in the process with grenades. She was decorated again.
Maria Bochkareva. Photo from Breach Bang Clear.
Bochkarevka is most famous for raising and training the Women’s Battalion of Death in 1917. The battalion was an all-female combat unit designed to shame the male soldiers of the Russian Army into fighting harder. The Russians were reeling from the fall of the Tsar and repeated defeats at the hands of the Germans, and desperately needed a morale boost. Buchkarovka started with 2000 women, but her iron discipline soon whittled it down to around to around 250.
The battalion participated in the summer offensive of 1917, going over the top with the men. Led by Buchkarovka, now a captain, they penetrated three German trench lines before being repulsed. After the battle, the women’s morale was reportedly far better than their male comrades, and their casualties lower, though they had spearheaded the assault in their sector.
In October, the battalion defended the Tsar’s Summer Palace in Petrograd against the Bolshevik revolutionaries. They were ultimately overrun and Buchkarevka was captured. Through the machinations of some friends, she was released and allowed to leave the country. She traveled to the US and England, where she met with Woodrow Wilson and King George V, who promised to aid the White Russians against the Bolshevik Reds. Buchkarevka was captured in 1919 while fighting the Bolsheviks and convicted of being an “enemy of the people.” She was executed by firing squad on 16 May, 1920.
World War II
The Second World War provided more opportunities for women to serve, but female combat soldiers were few and far between. Many women served with the British Special Operations Executive and the American Office of Strategic Services, but, due to concerns about length, I’m staying as close to the front lines as possible. With that in mind, one woman stands out above all others.
Lyudmila Pavlichenko was the deadliest of the scores of female snipers deployed by the Red Army in World War II. In just under a year of combat, Pavlichenko notched 309 confirmed kills, after which, she was pulled from the front and sent to the US and Great Britain to drum up support for a second front against Germany.
Lyudmila Pavlichenko. Photo from Breach Bang Clear.
Pavlichenko was a university student in Kiev when the Germans invaded in June, 1942. She immediately enlisted in the Red Army. She had won medals in a civilian marksmanship program and applied for the infantry. Nonetheless, the recruiter tried to convince her to become a nurse. Pavlichenko’s insistence on becoming a rifleman caused the army to test her. She was taken to the front, handed a rifle, and told to shoot two Romanian soldiers. Two shots: two kills. Pavlichenko was trained as a sniper and attached to the 25th Rifle Division. She never claimed the first two kills as part of her official count, since she said it was a test, not real combat.
Pavlichenko served in Moldavia and in the Siege of Sevastopol during the Crimean Campaign. She was known for tying the occasional strip of cloth to surrounding trees and brush to distract the eyes of enemy spotters. She also planted mannequins to serve as bait. Her first 75 days of combat yielded 187 kills. By the time she arrived at Sevastopol, she was known as “Lady Death” and the Germans starting targeting her with counter-snipers. She once made the mistake of climbing a tree to get a better view and was grazed by a German sniper round. She allowed herself to fall twelve feet to the ground, lying still for hours, before crawling away after dark. She eventually won every sniper duel in which she was engaged, accounting for 36 German snipers.
Pavlichenko became so famous, thanks in no small part to Soviet propaganda, that the Germans started addressing her directly by loudspeaker. They tried to lure her to defect, offering her honors and chocolate (seriously). When that failed, they threatened to catch her and tear her body into 309 pieces, one for each kill.
In a later interview, Pavlichenko laughed, saying how delighted she was that the Germans knew her score. She was evacuated from the Sevastopol by submarine before the city fell in July, 1942. She was awarded the USSR’s highest honor, Hero of the Soviet Union, and sent on her PR trip, where she became fast friends with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. She told one reporter that “Every German who remains alive will kill women, children, and old folks. Dead Germans are harmless. Therefore, if I kill a German, I am saving lives.” Upon her return, Pavlichenko was assigned to train snipers and boost morale on the home front. She even had her own postage stamp, issued in 1943. After the war, she returned to university, earning her degree in history. Eleanor Roosevelt visited Pavlichenko in Moscow in 1957. Pavlichenko died in 1974. A movie of her exploits was released in 2013. As far as I know, it’s only available in Russian, titled “Battle for Sevastopol,” and in Ukrainian, which is called “Indestructible.” There’s an English language trailer on YouTube.
Afghanistan and Iraq
The asymmetrical nature of the Global War on Terror has blurred the lines between the combat and non-combat roles of troops deployed to places like Afghanistan and Iraq. Troops who are technically slated for the support role have been thrust squarely into the line of fire. As a result, the US ban on women in combat units has not spared females from being tested under fire. Here are a few of the many who passed with flying colors.
Rebecca Turpin. Photo from Breach Bang Clear.
Marine 2LT Rebecca Turpin was leading her logistics convoy through 80 miles of desert in the Helmand Province when they were ambushed in a small village between Camp Bastion and the FOB at Musa Qala. They had hit an IED earlier in the march and were slowed by the necessity to tow the damaged vehicle and by maneuvering through a hamlet with no real streets. While moving through the hamlet, Turpin saw men herding women and children into the houses. “I had this sinking feeling,” she said later. Then an RPG hit her refueling truck, cuing a hail of small arms fire and grenades. Marshaling her convoy to provide cover, Turpin called for air support, which came in the form of two Cobra attack helicopters. Once the enemy fire was suppressed, the Cobras moved off and Turpin turned her column around to an alternate route. When they were hit again during the turnaround, Turpin called the Cobras back and directed a fighting exit from the hamlet. Going by a different route, her convoy arrived safely at Musa Qala with no serious injuries. Despite her insistence that “What I did was my job,” Turpin was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with “V” for her leadership under fire. Lt. Colonel Michael Jernigan, Turpin’s battalion commander, said “She could have made bad decisions, and perhaps Marines would have died. But she didn’t and they didn’t.” Turpin left the Corps as a captain in 2011.
On 20 March, 2005, Sergeant Leigh Ann Hester was escorting a supply convoy on a run east of Baghdad as a vehicle commander in the 617 Military Police Company, a Kentucky National Guard unit. When the vehicle in front of hers was hit by an RPG, Hester led her vehicle through the kill zone into a flanking position. She and her team then took the enemy positions under fire with an M203. Hester and her squad leader then assaulted the dug-in insurgents, clearing two trench lines. Hester personally killed three insurgents with her M4. After the 45-minute fight, 27 insurgents were killed, six wounded, and one was captured. All US personnel survived. Hester and her squad leader, SSG Timothy Nein, were awarded the Silver Star. Hester became the first female Silver Star recipient since World War II and the first ever for actions in direct combat.
Leigh Ann Hester. Photo from Breach Bang Clear.
Being under fire was nothing new for Hester, who, predictably, claims she just did what she was trained to do. According to all accounts, Hester is a bit embarrassed by the fact that she has her own action figure and a wax likeness at the Army Women’s Museum at Fort Lee. Hester left the Guard in 2009 and became a cop near Nashville, Tennessee, but missed being a soldier and reenlisted in the Tennessee National Guard in 2011. In 2014, she deployed to Afghanistan for 18 months as part of a Cultural Support Team. She is now an E-7 with the Tennessee National Guard.
First Lieutenant Ashley White-Stumpf was part of the first class of the Cultural Support Teams sent to Afghanistan to support special ops troops. Assigned to the 75th Rangers, White-Stumpf served two months in Afghanistan before being killed by an IED in an ambush on 22 October, 2011. She was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star. I was unable to find much on her activities in Afghanistan, perhaps because of her association with special ops forces. But there is a book about White-Stumpf and the CSTs called Ashley’s War, which looks to be pretty good. Still, I felt that she merited inclusion here.
Ashley White-Stumpf. Photo from Breach Bang Clear.
Private First Class Monica Lin Brown was the second woman, after Hester, to earn the Silver Star since World War II. Brown was a combat medic with the 82nd Airborne in Afghanistan’s Paktika Province in 2007. On 25 April, she was part of a convoy which was ambushed on its way to a meeting with tribal leaders. One HUMVEE hit an IED, sending it into a wadi and igniting its fuel load. Brown moved to the wreck and treated the soldiers wounded in the blast, shielding them with her body from small arms fire and the 15 mortar rounds which impacted near her. By this time, the ammo in the HUMVEE began to cook off, prompting Brown to shield the wounded once more while continuing treatment.
Monica Lin Brown. Photo from Breach Bang Clear.
Brown’s platoon sergeant arrived, amazed to see Brown still alive. Seeing the danger from the engulfed HUMVEE and continuing enemy fire, he loaded Brown and the wounded onto an Afghan Army truck and moved them to a safer location. An enemy mortar shell impacted on Brown’s former position just seconds later. All the while, Brown treated the wounded soldiers, continually shielding them from falling brass and enemy fire until the MEDEVACs arrived. Brown’s actions earned her the Silver Star. They also resulted in her being removed from her assignment because of the ban on females in combat.
As I said, I’m not taking a position on women in combat. Honestly, I’m not qualified to offer an informed opinion on the subject. It is clear, however, that women have served, and served well, in combat environments throughout history. So, taking advantage of the publicity from the Wonder Woman movie, here’s an opportunity to raise a glass to all the women who have answered the call and laid it on the line. Thanks for your service.
As you may recall, when “Team America: World Police” was released, Kim Jong Il hadn’t over-reacted so badly. Perhaps that was due to his being a movie buff. I mean, the dictator once kidnapped a South Korean director to improve his country’s film industry, for goodness sakes.
According to a report from The Daily Mail, the next group to face the AA guns could be some North Korean soldiers who were having some fun at the dictator’s expense. Now, troops often grouse about the brass, and even will poke fun at them. And our brass will tolerate it to some degree – at least until it undermines their authority, as this scene from Black Hawk Down shows:
Note that Captain Steele kept it to a brief moment of informal counseling. Using an anti-aircraft gun never entered his mind.
Here are some of the jokes that the North Korean grunts who now may be headed for their date with a DShK gun supposedly told:
1. Compare him to a mental patient
Kim Jong Un may have some problems. There was that time he got Hangover-level drunk and demanded senior military officials write letters of apology for not launching a “military satellite.” The next morning, he came down, and expressed concern for the elderly generals’ health.
In some ways, this was played on in “The Interview.”
2. Compare him to a kindergartener
Kim Jong Un got this as well, albeit the best examples may be from this Russia Today video showing him watching some missile launches. Barron Trump arguably showed more maturity at President Trump’s inauguration – and he was 10 years old at the time.
3. Mocking Kim’s ancestors
The Daily Mail particularly noted that some of the troops called Kim Jong Un “Kim Squared” – implying Kim Jong Un’s level of crazy was more than the combined crazy from his grandfather Kim Il-Sung and his father Kim Jong Il.
We can’t speak to the former, but “Team America: World Police” mocked the hell out of Kim Jong Il. Here is one of Kim’s first moments in the film — when he fires his translator in very dramatic fashion.
Now, we at We Are The Mighty would like to suggest that maybe Kim Jong Un should take a page from his dad and try to sing it out, like in this clip:
The A-10 is justifiably celebrated for its tank-killing prowess.
After all, it destroyed 987 tanks and a metric buttload of other Iraqi stuff during Desert Storm, and its GAU-8 got a lot of use, including some Iraqi helicopters who felt the BRRRRT! But the Air Force once planned for a tank-buster with a gun that made the A-10’s GAU-8 look puny.
The Beechcraft XA-38 Grizzly was intended to be a close-air support plane to bust up tanks and bunkers in front of the infantry. Beechcraft, ironically, is best known for civilian planes like the King Air.
To accomplish that mission, it was given a powerful armament. In the nose was a pair of M2 .50-caliber machine guns and a powerful T15E1 75mm automatic cannon. It had a pair of twin .50-caliber turrets as well (one on the top, one on the bottom), and the ability to carry up to 2,000 pounds of bombs, according to MilitaryFactory.com.
Yeah, you read that right. The Army Air Force in World War II was developing a specialized tank-buster that was two and a half times bigger than the GAU-8. Of course, a 75mm gun had been used on variants of the B-25, but the XA-38’s gun was essentially a semi-auto.
The plane had a top speed of 376 miles per hour, a range of 1,625 miles, and a crew of two. With all that performance, it had a lot of promise when it first flew in May of 1944. But that promise was never seen by the grunts on the ground.
The XA-38 project never got past the two prototypes, because a different aviation project took up all the engines that the Grizzly was designed to use. The Wright GR-3350-43 engines were needed by the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, which in 1944 was needed to bomb Japan.
One prototype was scrapped, while the other’s fate remains unknown.
A once quiet landscape turned battlefield, the clash of gunfire and shouts ripped through the Shahi-Kot Valley in the early hours of March 4, 2002. As part of an early war effort that targeted al Qaeda and Taliban forces in Afghanistan, the Battle of Roberts Ridge is still known as one of the deadliest engagements during Operation Anaconda.
Above the Takur Ghar mountain top, an MQ-1 Predator aircrew became an unforeseen, close air support asset for a desperate joint special operations team in their time of need.
Deep, black smoke from a crashed, bullet-riddled MH-47 Chinook helicopter filled the air. Among the wreckage were the lead combat controller on the ground, Maj. Gabe Brown, then a staff sergeant, along with the rest of the special operations team who worked to secure casualties and defend their position on the summit.
Pinned down on the landing zone and under direct fire, Brown established communications with an MQ-1 aircrew in the area who had visual of the team. Col. Stephen Jones, then captain and Predator pilot, had already been in the cockpit and was ordered to support just moments after the crash.
Before Jones arrived on station that early morning, he had no idea what he and his team were in for.
An MH-47 Chinook Helicopter.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christopher Callaway)
“I remember coming in on shift that night and there was a lot of commotion,” Jones said. “I was told to get out to the ground control station as soon as possible.”
Throughout the day, Brown said he developed rapport with the Predator pilot as he gave situational awareness updates and assisted with targeting enemy combatants.
“When I had fighters check in, he would buddy lase for those inbound fighters and would help me with the talk-on, so it cut my workload dramatically having him there,” Brown said.
Many other U.S. and coalition aircraft were simultaneously entering and exiting the area. Before authorizing a strike, Brown needed to “talk-on” the respective aircrew, which meant he briefed the situation on the ground to every aircraft that entered the airspace.
With a bird’s-eye view, Jones and his aircrew alleviated some of Brown’s duties and took control of liaising information within the zone, while serving as forward air controllers in the battle.
“(From our cockpits) we were serving as forward air controllers airborne or FACA, and I was serving as the on-scene commander,” Jones said.
He began looking after the survivors, deconflicting airspace for coalition aircraft coming in and out, as well as communicating back to the joint command and control elements about the survivors’ condition as they put together an evacuation plan.
“Gabe was doing a phenomenal job being a controller on the ground calling in close air support, but it was a lot of work,” Jones said. “There were a ton of coalition aircraft coming in and out and some of them didn’t have much play time, meaning they had to get in, develop an understanding of what was going on, receive a nine-line and then drop bombs or shoot their missiles.”
The aircrew took some of the burden from Brown who remained on frequency with Jones, ready to voice commands at any moment.
A U.S. Air Force MQ-1B Predator.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)
Brown was able to conserve radio battery life due to the aircrew’s initiative and the MQ-1’s ability to loiter over the battlefield for extended periods of time.
Ground forces were still pinned down from continuous bunker fire when Jones relayed the evacuation plan to Brown. Their team was in need of a precise airstrike that could eliminate the enemy hunkered down deep in the mountainous terrain.
Brown first called upon fighter aircraft.
“We were basically trying to use walk-in ordinance off the fighters, using 500-pound bombs to frag (blast) the enemy out of the bunker and we were unable,” Brown said.
After numerous attempts, Brown and his team were running out of options and daybreak quickly approached…
Brown and his team were considered danger-close due to their proximity to the target, causing concern for aircrew and senior leaders. However, Brown’s need for immediate aerial support outweighed any apprehension.
“It was late in the morning, he (Jones and aircrew) had one shot left and we had been on the ground for a few hours,” Brown said. “I gave my own initials and cleared him hot.”
Jones released the hellfire missile and successfully destroyed the bunker, which allowed U.S. forces on the ground to recuperate and devise a mission plan going forward.
“When that hellfire went into that bunker, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that bunker had been neutralized,” Brown said.
The enemy may not have seen the MQ-1 as it soared overhead, but radical terrorists felt the Predator’s wrath.
Jones and the rest of the MQ-1 aircrew loitered above the combat zone for approximately 14 hours, relaying critical information and laser-guided munitions during the entire fight. Their actions provided key reconnaissance for senior leaders commanding the situation, and directly enabled visual relay between forces on the ground and the combatant commander.
“I credit that pilot, the technology and that airframe with saving my life, as well as the team’s and getting the wounded and KIA (killed in action) off the hilltop that day,” he said.
“Kick his ass!” was one of the multiple jeers I heard through the litany of booing as I stepped on the mat at Dragoon Fight Night, the 2d Cavalry Regiment’s combative showcase. A few weeks prior, I had posted a video on social media to over 4,000 Dragoons challenging any Soldier to fight their Command Sergeant Major. My opponent, Sergeant Zach Morrow, stood across the ring, he was 50 pounds heavier, nearly 20 years younger, and had a cage fighting record. I was about to be punched in the face.
Getting punched in the face is exactly what I needed and what the 700 people in attendance and those watching online needed to see. Often young leaders hear, “Never ask Soldiers to do something you are not willing to do,” but how do leaders, echelons above the most junior Soldiers on the front line, demonstrate this?
As NCOs and officers move up in positions the number of opportunities to exhibit leadership by example diminishes. Getting past the fear of failure, identifying opportunities to highlight priorities with action, and understanding Soldiers are always watching their leaders provides us the chance to inspire and positively impact the formation.
As leaders, we cannot be afraid of failure. When Sergeant Morrow approached me about my challenge, I knew the odds were against me. I was overmatched and fully understood I could be twisted into a pretzel or even worse, knocked out in front of my entire formation. But why shouldn’t I step into the ring? I didn’t make it to this position without losing a few battles or failing occasionally. Fear of defeat or failure cannot dissuade leaders from setting the example, it should inspire them to be better!
Recently, two majors in the 2d Cavalry Regiment attempted to get their Expert Soldier Badge (ESB). As they passed event after event the staff buzzed with excitement. Here were two staff primary officers who had taken time out of their schedule, risking failure to earn something they didn’t even need. They accepted risk and delegated responsibilities to ensure they could accept a challenge. Even after they failed on the third day of testing, their peers and subordinates saw them with a level of respect and admiration.
It would have been easier for those officers to avoid a challenge or risk of failure using busy work schedules as an excuse. Their evaluations were already written by their senior rater at that point. But they stepped in the ring and took a punch in the face earning respect and loyalty of their Soldiers even in failure. Any leader taking a risk and puts their reputation on the line is more inspirational than one who just shakes Soldiers’ hands after a fight.
There are many ways officers and NCOs can set the example at all echelons of leadership. As leaders accept challenges, it provides them with an opportunity to highlight command emphasis. Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Fortenberry (United States Army Infantry School) earned his Ranger Tab between battalion and brigade command. It echoed the importance his command team placed on the fundamentals and leadership lessons all Soldiers, regardless of rank, can learn at Ranger School.
Recently, Command Sgt. Maj. Frank Lopez (Brigade Support Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division) earned his ESB. He didn’t need it for a promotion or another badge on his chest. By earning it, he demonstrated to the NCOs and Soldiers the ESB is important and if he is willing to take a figurative punch in the face, so should every subordinate below him.
Soldiers always watch their leaders. They see the ones who “workout on their own” instead of joining them for challenging physical fitness training. Soldiers notice leaders who are always in their office while they face blistering wind during weekly command maintenance in January or scorching heat during tactical drills in July. In addition, senior leaders have fewer chances to lead from the front. They must actively look for opportunities to get punched in the face.
After three brutal rounds, Sergeant Morrow connected with a perfect strike to my upper eye. While the physician assistance superglued my eyebrow back together an unsettling quietness took over the gym. When I stepped back onto the mat the crowd erupted, it wasn’t about the Sergeant Major getting his “ass kicked” it was about a leader who accepted a challenge and wouldn’t quit or accept defeat. A few minutes later, I stood beside Sergeant Morrow, the referee raised his hand. The standing ovation was the loudest of the evening. The audience didn’t care their Command Sergeant Major was defeated, they were excited to see a good fight and a leader enter the ring and take a punch to the face.
Several different games were considered, but “War Thunder,” a free cross-platform online game that simulates combat, won out.
The 3rd ABCT, which recently returned from South Korea, does not actually have any tanks to train in right now because they are waiting to get upgraded M1A2 Abrams tanks, but even if they had them, the coronavirus would likely keep the four-man crews from piling into them.
3rd ABCT spokesman Capt. Scott Kuhn, who wrote the Army news story, told Insider that the tank crews have training simulators like the Close Combat Tactical Trainer (CCTT) and Advanced Gunnery Training Systems (AGTS), but, like a real tank, these simulators require soldiers to be in close proximity to one another.
Social distancing demands in response to the continued spread of the coronavirus required leaders to take a look at alternative training options.
Seeing that all their soldiers had a PlayStation, an Xbox, or a PC that “War Thunder” could be downloaded on, troop leaders decided that was the best option in these unusual times.
“We are able use the game as a teaching tool for each crew member,” Staff Sgt. Tommy Huynh, a 3rd platoon section leader, explained in the Army release.
“For example, drivers can train on maneuver formations and change formation drills. Of course online games have their limitations, but for young soldiers it helps them to just understand the basics of their job,” he said.
One of the big limitations is that “War Thunder” only allows players to virtually operate tanks and other weapon systems from World War II and the Cold War, meaning that the game is not a perfect training platform for modern tanks.
While there are certain limitations, there are also some advantages, the main one being a new perspective.
“Being exposed to other viewpoints through the game is extremely helpful,” Sgt. David Ose, a 1st Platoon section leader, said in the Army news story.
“If you are a driver and you’re inside a tank for real, you don’t get to see what it looks like from above. You don’t always understand that bigger picture because you’re just focused on the role of driving the tank,” Kuhn told Insider.
“This kind of broadens that. It provides a training opportunity to teach younger soldiers how what they do impacts the bigger picture for the platoon or the company,” he explained.
The training, while somewhat unconventional, remains structured. Sessions tend to include a briefing from the section or platoon leader. There are also required training manual readings.
Game play is treated like the real thing, as leaders issue commands and soldiers use proper call-for-fire procedures. And after the soldiers complete an online training session, there is an after action review to talk about how the soldiers can do better in the next exercise.
Body armor for your average infantry troop has come a long way. Today’s soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are issued amazing technology designed to stop the most common threat they will likely face in combat: the rifle round. But the tech that will stop a lethal bullet isn’t just one miracle material that they can wear all over their bodies. There is a combination of forces at work, working to stop another combination of forces.
Soldiers don the Interceptor Armor before going on patrol in Iraq.
Kevlar itself is a plastic material five times stronger than steel. Everything about the material, from how it’s woven, right down to its molecular structure just screams strength. Its tensile strength is eight times that of steel. It doesn’t melt, it doesn’t get brittle with cold, and is unaffected by moisture. Kevlar is an awesome antiballistic material because it takes incredible amounts of kinetic energy to pass through it. Its molecular structure is like that of rebar through solid concrete, and forces a bullet to fight its way through at every level.
When layered, the material can sort of “soak up” a lot of the kinetic energy from a projectile. For most low-velocity handguns and even some of the more powerful handguns, a few layers of Kevlar is enough protection. But for high-velocity rifles, it needs some help. That’s where ceramic plates come in.
The standard AK-47 fires with a muzzle velocity of 716 meters per second. For Kevlar alone to protect a soldier from that kind of kinetic energy, the Kevlar would have to have more layers than a troop could carry while retaining the mobility necessary to perform his or her job functions. Kevlar is lightweight, but it’s not weightless, after all. The standard-issue Interceptor body armor was not tested to stop rounds at that velocity, which is classified as Level III protection. The Interceptor Armor does have pockets on the outside of the vests, so ceramic plates can be inserted to upgrade the armor to Level-IIIA.
Just like the Kevlar, the ceramic plates redistribute the kinetic energy of an incoming rifle round, slowing it down enough that it would not be able to penetrate the Kevlar, if it passed through the ceramic at all. It also prevents blunt force trauma from other rounds that may not penetrate the Kevlar, but still cause indentations in the material. The impact from bullets that don’t penetrate the Kevlar can still cause internal injuries. Ceramic inserts are rated to stop whatever projectiles are listed on the plate, and can take up to three hits before failing.
The ESAPI plate saved Sgt. Joseph Morrissey when he was hit in the chest with a 7.62mm round from about 30 meters while deployed to Afghanistan.
While ceramic may seem like an odd choice for stopping bullets, this isn’t the ceramic material used to make vases or coffee mugs. A lot of materials are actually ceramic, including titanium diboride, aluminum oxide, and silicon carbide, one of the world’s top ten strongest materials – the material used in the U.S. military’s Enhanced Small Arms Protective Inserts, or ESAPI plates. These enhanced plates, combined with the Kevlar are capable of stopping a Springfield 30.06 round with a tungsten penetrator.
That’s why the U.S. military uses ceramic plates and Kevlar body armor. It not only protects troops but allows them enough mobility to do their jobs in a hostile environment. And body armor tech is only getting better. Materials like spider silk and nanotubes are being tested that are even lighter and don’t take on as much heat as Kevlar. Maybe one day, we all won’t be drenched in our own sweat when we take off our armor.