Our first president, George Washington, sold whiskey from one the country’s largest distilleries after leaving office — but reportedly never drank his own supply. Instead, Washington sipped a dark porter style of beer mixed with molasses that was brewed in Philadelphia. His presidential successor, John Adams, loved drinking hard cider, rum, and Madeira wine during his time off. The eighth President of the United States, Martin Van Buren, drank so much whiskey that he earned the nickname, “Blue Whiskey Van.”
Many of our Presidents turned to their alcohol beverage of choice in order to relax after a long day’s work. However, one president flipped the script and decided to start his days by knocking back a shot of his favorite: bourbon.
It’s reported that President Harry S. Truman liked to start his days with a nice, brisk walk and a shot of Old Grand Dad (bourbon).
Truman appreciated a strong Old Fashioned and, reportedly, would complain to his staff if he felt the cocktail was too weak. Although it may seem unhealthy for a person of his position to consume such a potent drink so early in the morning, he actually prided himself on maintaining a nutritious diet.
In a diary entry, dated January 3, 1952, Truman wrote:
“When I moved into the White House, I went up to 185. I’ve now hit an average of 175. I walked two-miles most every morning at a hundred and twenty-eight steps a minute, I eat no bread, but one piece of toast at breakfast, no butter, no sugar, no sweets. Usually have fruit, one egg, a strip of bacon and half a glass of skimmed milk for breakfast, liver & bacon or sweetbreads or ham or fish and spinach and another non-fattening vegetable for lunch with fruit for dessert. For dinner, I have a fruit cup, steak, a couple of non-fattening vegetables, an orange, pineapple, or raspberry for dinner. So, I maintain my waistline and can wear suits bought in 1935!”
On behalf of the veteran community, we say well done, sir.
Gen. Mark Milley addresses National Guard leaders in Nashville, Tennessee on Sept. 11, 2015. (Photo courtesy of the National Guard.)
In times of crisis, people naturally look to leaders for guidance. Officials from every branch of the military are responding to the widespread civil discontent in the wake of recent protests and riots, following the death of George Floyd. Across the Armed Forces, leadership has affirmed that our military upholds the Constitution and rights guaranteed to every citizen, urging service members and citizens alike to acknowledge and respect the dignity of every other American.
Air Force Chief of Staff David Goldfein promised that he, along with Chief Master Sergeant Kaleth Wright would ensure “liberty and justice for all” in the upcoming weeks and have resolved to “[Independently] review our legal system, racial injustice and opportunities for advancement.” Directly reprimanding racism in the Air Force, he further stated that, “I do know there is no room for bigotry, hatred or small mindedness in our Force. Period.”
Likewise, Sergeant Major Troy Black, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, issued an address June 3 reminding Marines and civilians alike to work toward eliminating the source of racism and closing the growing divide between Americans.
In a previous speech addressing the removal of the Confederate flag from Marine bases, Black stated, “Anything that divides us, anything that threatens team cohesion, must be addressed head-on.” He continued, “There is no place in our Corps for racists – whether their intolerance and prejudice be direct or indirect, intentional or unintentional. Current events are a stark reminder that it is not enough for us to remove symbols that cause division – rather, we also must strive to eliminate division itself.”
The Army’s address, crafted by Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy, as well as Sergeant Major Michael A. Grinston and General James C. McConville, promised to uphold the values it was founded upon: those of the Constitution.
“Just as we reflect the best of America, we reflect its imperfections as well… Every Soldier and Department of the Army Civilian swears an oath to support and defend the Constitution. That includes the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. We will continue to support and defend those rights, and we will continue to protect Americans, whether from enemies of the United States overseas, from COVID-19 at home, or from violence in our communities that threatens to drown out the voices begging us to listen.”
Sergeant Major of the Army Grinston tweeted, on the same day the address was released, that the Army protects the American people and way of life, which includes the right to peacefully protest. He implored followers to, “Stand Tall!”
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley also issued a statement on Tuesday, June 2nd, reminding the military that its primary responsibility is to uphold the Constitution, to include the belief that all men and women are born free and equal. Milley promised that the services will preserve peace and public safety and encouraged all Americans to honor the respect and dignity of every citizen.
“We in uniform – all branches, all components and all ranks – remain committed to our national values and principles embedded in the Constitution. The Joint Force – comprised of all races, colors, and creeds – you embody the ideals of our constitution… We will uphold the values of our nation.” The statement closed with a promise and a call to action: “Let’s get better together.”
Additionally, General Milley signed the statement and left a handwritten note. Speaking on behalf of the Joint Force, he reminded troops that, “We all committed our lives to the idea that is America – we will stay true to that oath and the American people.”
The Chief of Naval Operations address compared to Milley’s handwritten message in terms of sentimentality. Recognizing the issues at hand, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mike Gilday reminded members of the Navy and citizens to consider the dignity and respect guaranteed to us in our American citizenship.
“It’s been a very sad time for our country – a confusing time. And most of us are trying to figure it out and trying to ask ourselves, ‘What can we do?’ First right now, I think we need to listen. We have black Americans in our Navy and in our communities that are in deep pain right now.
In the Navy we talk a lot about treating people with dignity and respect – in fact, we demand it.
But over the past week, after we’ve watched what is going on, we can’t be under any illusions about the fact that racism is alive and well in our country. And I can’t be under any illusions that we don’t have it in our Navy. Racism [can] happen with people who are friendly, generous, and kind. So, when that happens… think about dignity and respect. Think about having a private conversation – an honest conversation in educating them. If we don’t do that, racism, injustice, indignity, and disrespect – it’s going to grow and it’s going to continue.”
The U.S. Air Force is searching for a new company to rebuild wings on the A-10 ground-attack plane after ending an arrangement with Boeing Co., officials said.
The service plans to launch a new competition for the re-winging work and award a contract sometime after Congress appropriates full-year funding for fiscal 2018, which began Oct. 1, they said. (The government is currently running on a short-term funding measure known as a continuing resolution, which lasts through Feb. 8.)
During a speech in Washington, D.C., Gen. Mike Holmes, the head of Air Combat Command, touched on the contract with Boeing and the planned future deal.
“The previous contract that we had was with Boeing, and it kind of came to the end of its life for cost and for other reasons,” he said. “It was a contract that was no longer cost-effective for Boeing to produce wings under, and there were options there that we weren’t sure where we were going to go, and so now we’re working through the process of getting another contract.”
When contacted by Military.com for additional details, Ann Stefanek, a spokeswoman for the Air Force at the Pentagon, confirmed the planned contract will be “a new and open competition.”
Boeing has been upgrading A-10 wings for the Air Force since June 2007, according to Cassaundra Bantly, a spokeswoman for the Chicago-based company. The contract calls for replacing up to 242 sets of wings, and the company has so far received orders to replace 173, she said.
“Boeing stands ready with a demonstrated understanding of the technical data package, tooling, supply chain, and manufacturing techniques to offer the lowest risk option and quickest timeline for additional wings for the A-10 Warthog,” Bantly said in an email.
She added, “The ordering period on the current contract has expired, so the U.S. Air Force is working on an acquisition strategy for more wings. Boeing would welcome a follow-on effort for additional A-10 wings.
“We’re currently in the process of delivering the remaining wings on our contract,” Bantly said.
During a briefing at the Brookings Institution, Holmes said the Air Force requested funding in the fiscal 2018 budget to continue rebuilding wings on the A-10 Thunderbolt II, also known as the Warthog. The aircraft, popular among ground troops though a budget target for previous leaders, recently returned to Afghanistan to conduct close air support missions.
Stefanek recently told Military.com the Air Force plans to use $103 million authorized in the National Defense Authorization Act, which sets policy goals and spending limits for the fiscal year, to award a contract for the A-10 work, establish a new wing production line and produce four additional wings.
That work “is all that money funds,” she told Military.com last week.
Once the Air Force receives the funding, the competition can be announced. Whichever defense contractor wins the contract will pay for the startup to include four sets of new wings.
However, because the wings will be considered a “new start” program, the work can’t begin under a continuing resolution — the program is dependent on the fiscal 2018 and succeeding 2019 appropriations.
“In the [FY]19 program that we’re working, we also buy more wings,” Holmes said.
With a new contract, like “all new contracts” the first set of wings will be expensive as engineers work through the design phase, Holmes said, referring to working through the production line kinks that come at the start of programs.
How many more A-10s will get new wings still remains in limbo.
Air Force officials have said the service can commit to maintaining wings for six of its nine A-10 combat squadrons through roughly 2030.
“As far as exactly how many of the 280 or so A-10s that we have that we’ll maintain forever, I’m not sure, that’ll depend on a Department of Defense decision and our work with Congress,” Holmes said.
On the exact squadron number, he clarified, “It’s not a decision that we have to make right away. It’ll depend on what we have, what we need and what’s useful on the battlefield year-to-year as we go through it.”
Of the 281 A-10s currently in the inventory, 173 have already been outfitted or are in the process of being outfitted with new wings (though one of the newly re-winged planes was destroyed in a crash), Stefanek said. That leaves 109 aircraft remaining in the inventory still slated to receive the upgrades, she said.
The service has struggled with its message on how it plans to keep the fleet flying since the aircraft’s retirement was delayed until at least 2022.
Facing financial pressure, the Air Force — driven by spending caps known as sequestration — made multiple attempts in recent years to retire the Warthog to save an estimated $4 billion over five years and to free up maintainers for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the stealthy fifth-generation fighter jet designed to replace the A-10 and legacy fighters.
Holmes added that as more F-35 amass themselves across U.S. bases, “I won’t be able to just add those on top of the [fighter] squadrons that I have.”
The service is looking to grow its fighter fleet to stay competitive against near-peer threats such as Russia and China. To do so, it believes it needs to increase its number of fighter squadrons from 55 to 60.
But that means it needs a variety of aircraft to sustain the fight, not just a regurgitation of old planes. Whether this means the Air Force is still weighing retiring its F-15C/D fleet sometime in the mid-2020s is unclear. Holmes did not speak to specific aircraft fleets when addressing fighter requirements.
“We’ll have to make some decisions” of what kind of aircraft to move or divest, he said. Preferred basing for F-35 bases is old F-16 Fighting Falcon bases, he said. The Air Force has been moving Vipers around various bases or into new training units since the F-35 has come online.
David Silcott, left, chief executive of S3i, goes over an airflow particle test for Navy Vice Adm. Dee Mewbourne, right, deputy commander, U.S. Transportation Command, on board a United Airlines 767 aircraft at Dulles International Airport, Va., Aug. 28, 2020. (DoD/ Stephenie Wade)
A new military-led study unveiled Thursday shows there is a low risk for passengers traveling aboard large commercial aircraft to contract an airborne virus such as COVID-19 — and it doesn’t matter where they sit on the airplane.
Researchers concluded that because of sophisticated air particle filtration and ventilation systems on board the Boeing 767-300 and 777-200 aircraft — the planes tested for the study — airborne particles within the cabin have a very short lifespan, according to defense officials with U.S. Transportation Command, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) and Air Mobility Command, which spearheaded the study.
“The favorable results are attributable to a combination of the airframes’ high air exchange rates, coupled with the high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration recirculation systems, and the downward airflow ventilation design which results in rapid dilution and purging of the disseminated aerosol particles,” Vice Adm. Dee L. Mewbourne, deputy commander of U.S. Transportation Command, said during a virtual roundtable with reporters.
DARPA teamed up with biodefense company Zeteo Tech, scientific research company S3i and the University of Nebraska’s National Strategic Research Institute (NSRI) for the trials. Industry partners included Boeing and United Airlines.; the study was funded by TRANSCOM, according to Army Lt Col Ellis Gales, spokesman for the command.
“All areas on both aircraft proved to be extremely effective in dispersing and filtering out the aerosol particles,” said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Joseph Pope, TRANSCOM Operations directorate liaison for the airflow particle test. “So specifically, can I tell you to sit in seat XYZ? No; they all performed very well.”
During the tests, held Aug. 24-31, analysts released two types of aerosols that had specific DNA signatures. The tagged fluorescent tracers allowed for researchers to better follow their distribution path, both in flight and on the ground.
Sensors throughout the aircraft measured over 300 iterations of aerosol releases — at rates of 2 to 4 minutes — across four cabin zones on the 777, and three zones on the 767, Mewboourne explained. The dispersions were mapped in real-time, he said.
The particles were quickly diluted, however, and only remained detectable for fewer than six minutes on average, TRANSCOM said in the report. By comparison “a typical American home takes around 90 minutes to clear these types of particles from the air,” the command said.
While the more time spent on an aircraft correlates to a potential infection rate, according to the study, even passengers on long-haul flights wouldn’t be able to pick up a sufficient viral load under the test conditions. Passengers traveling on board the 777 would need to spend at least “54 hours when sitting next to an index patient in the economy section,” and more than 100 hours in the other cabins of both the 777 and the 767 to be exposed to an infectious dose, the study said.
Mannequins representing passengers were positioned throughout the aircraft, some wearing masks and some without. David Silcott of S3i and one of the authors of the report said the dispersed mannequins were part of both breathing and cough tests.
During the simulated cough tests, masked mannequins showed a “very, very large reduction in aerosol that would come out of [them], greater than 95% for most cases,” Silcott said. “It definitely showed the benefit of wearing a mask inflight from these tests.”
Pope said it is important to consider that the study was specific to aerosols and not ballistic droplets, those that are emitted while coughing, sneezing or breathing heavily.
That said, “the mask is very important in that the larger droplets that travel ballistically through the air will be caught by your mask,” Pope said. “And if you don’t have the mask on, then you cannot reduce those numbers of ballistic particles.”
Scientists also collected samples from surfaces like armrests and video screens, considered “high-touch” zones; the tests showed that while the distribution on surfaces was minimal, flat surface areas — like armrests — are more likely than vertical surface areas like seatbacks or screens to collect deposits of particles.
There are other caveats: The scientists didn’t try to simulate passengers freely moving about the cabin, moving around to switch locations or turning toward one another to have a conversation.
“While … we’re very encouraged by the results, that’s part of the reason why we’re making the results public, and sharing them with the scientific community so that that follow-on research can be done,” Pope said.
The study next heads into a peer review before its findings can be submitted for a scientific journal. TRANSCOM is examining the results, which could spur new travel policies or proposals, Pope said.
Following the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March, TRANSCOM identified an immediate need to move passengers in a safe manner, including high-risk patients as well as military members and families traveling aboard the Defense Department-contracted Patriot Express flights. The two Boeing aircraft used for the aerosol simulations are the aircraft most typically used for Patriot Express flights.
The officials stressed service members should still follow current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and airline protocols when boarding a flight.
Walk into any military hospital, and you can usually get away with calling any of the medical personnel “Doc” if you’re unfamiliar with the individual military branches’ rank structure.
It happens all the time.
But bump into any Navy hospital corpsman and refer to him as a “medic,” and you’re going to get the stink-eye followed by a short and stern correction like, “I’m not a medic, I’m a corpsman.”
The fact is, both Army medics and Navy corpsmen provide the same service and deliver the best patient care they can muster. To the untrained civilian eye — and even to some in the military — there’s no difference between two jobs. But there is.
We’re here to set the record straight. So check out these five things that separate Army medics and Navy corpsmen.
1. They’re from different branches
The biggest difference is the history and pride the individual branch has. Let’s be clear, it’s a significant and ongoing rivalry — but in the end, we all know they’re on the same team.
2. M.O.S. / Rate
Combat Medic Specialists hold the MOS (military occupational specialty) of 68 Whiskey — these guys and gals are well trained. They also have 18 Delta — designated for the special forces community.
A Hospital Corpsman holds a rate of “0000” or “quad zero” after graduating “A” school. They then can go on to a “C” school to receive more specialized training like “8404” Field Medical Service Technician, where the sailor will usually find him or herself stationed with the Marines.
Both jobs are crucial on the battlefield.
The Combat Medic Badge is awarded to any member of the Army Medical Department at the rank of Colonel or below who provided medical care to troops under fire.
The “Caduceus” is the Navy Corpsman rating insignia.
Both symbols feature two snakes winding around a winged staff.
Hospital corpsmen deploy on ships, as individual augmentees, and as support for Marines on combat operations.
5. Advance Training
Although both jobs take some serious training to earn their respected titles, the Navy takes double duty as many enlisted corpsmen become IDCs, or Independent Duty Corpsmen.
Considered the equal of a Physician’s Assistant in the civilian world (but their military credentials don’t carry over), IDCs in most cases are the primary caregiver while a ship is underway, or a unit is deployed. After becoming an IDC, the sailor is qualified to write prescriptions, conduct specific medical procedures, and treat many ailments during sick call.
If you’re interested in learning more about becoming an Army medic or Navy Corpsman — contact a local recruiter today.
Can you think of any other differences between Corpsmen and Medics? Comment below.
Throughout history, humans have often weaponized faith. This makes any discussion of the intersection between wellness and spirituality especially tricky because it can be divisive – which is counterintuitive to our relatively inclusive military and veteran cultures.
However, as a Marine I’m always ready to tackle tough things, and as a social scientist invested in teaching veterans how to optimize their performance at home and work, I cannot ignore the compelling data surrounding the positive effects of spirituality.
Maj. Alejandro Sanchez, chaplain, Puerto Rico Army National Guard, says a prayer during the ceremony that marked the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. (U.S. Army photo)
What does spiritual fitness have to do with anything?
There are explicit, direct, trackable ties between resilient trait cultivation and spirituality. These ties include common-sense connections to things like behavioral health, social support, and philanthropic leanings, and the more mysterious connection between positive thoughts and their impact on us at a cellular level.
From Stanford to Duke University to Oxford, some really interesting research is being conducted globally on the ways in which spirituality and religiosity (self-reported connection to organized religion) can improve everything from healing and recovery time to pain tolerance and longevity. The protective effects faith offers when it comes to depression and anxiety conditions are especially significant.
Many scholars and scientists who are not religious do believe that at some level we’re wired for spirituality. For example, at the top of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs sits transcendence – or the human need to connect with something bigger and outside of ourselves.
The protective factors offered by spirituality and religiosity are very powerful – even more powerful than many of the behavioral health practices that the military currently invests in financially. Because of this, the topic deserves a closer look in any honest conversation about building resilience.
So what’s the tie-in to resilience?
The links between spirituality, religiosity, and resilience can be found in three main areas that are significant not only statistically, but also practically in terms of health benefits.
1. Behavioral Health
People who identify as individually spiritual enjoy a number of benefits at the psychological and neurological levels. However, these health benefits are amplified and extended with higher levels of subjective religiosity – in particular when people take their spirituality a step further and practice it with some kind of community.
For example, binge drinking and promiscuous sex – which are high-risk for our bodies – are generally discouraged by major world religions. Religious people across demographics and age exhibit lower rates of smoking, alcohol abuse, drug use, and almost all risk-taking behaviors than their nonreligious peers. They also enjoy lower rates of depression and anxiety, better mental health, and even a slower progression of dementia.
In short, people who gather around an idea of virtue and live it out with community support are less likely to engage in physiologically high-risk behaviors. This tendency toward healthier living results in better long term health outcomes.
2. Social Support
People who are very religious tend to be members of a faith community and enjoy strong social ties as a result.
Many faiths encourage both the practice of gratitude and giving to others outside of the social contract (which is essentially the idea that if I do something nice for you, you’ll do something nice for me). They prompt members to give to people who can’t fulfil their end of the social contract. This is the essence of philanthropic giving, which has demonstrated physical, mental, and emotional health benefits.
Of course, you needn’t be spiritual to give generously, but religious Americans give significantly more both financially and in terms of volunteer hours than their nonreligious peers.
3. Positive Thought
Researchers have found an inexplicable link between the practice of prayer and lowered blood cortisol levels and increased high-level cognitive capabilities. Because the brain influences bodily functions like heart rate, blood pressure, and the immune system, shifting what happens in the brain through spiritual practice can have significant physical impacts.
U.S. Marines participate in a formation run prior to a physical-training competition. Elements of the 15th MEU are ashore in Djibouti for sustainment training to maintain and enhance the skills they developed during their pre-deployment training period. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jamean Berry)
In fact, in prayer (unlike in meditation) the relationship centers of the brain light up. The parietal lobes light up too. These lobes are on the side of the brain and allow you to experience feelings of empathy. In the Christian tradition there’s a sacred text that speaks to being transformed by the renewal of your mind, and today we’re understanding that spiritual practice can actually grow your empathy and increase your ability to connect deeply with others.
Aren’t there downsides to religion?
It’s true that all of the benefits of a beloved social community can also turn negative. If acceptance lowers blood cortisol levels, rejection raises it. So many people have been battered by faith communities around the world. However, although finding an affirming community of faith is a complicated process, it is also important because it reinforces the helpful behaviors and activities listed above.
If you’re curious, but don’t have a tradition you feel drawn to, commit to doing some research. Maybe take a cultural literacy course on world religions to orient yourself. Then, carve out time to ask yourself big questions in a sincere way. Do some research, some learning, and look for an affirming faith community that feels like an authentic choice and fit.
The three pillars of a resilient life are social support, self-care, and spirituality. The individual value of these pillars is backed irrefutably by science, and – when practiced together – their benefits increase exponentially.
This PTSD and trauma-engagement program welcomes veterans of all faith backgrounds. It provides resource for active duty servicemembers and veterans looking to bring spirituality to their day to day.
Big Question Inspiration
What has “faith” or “spirituality” looked like in my past? What does it mean to me?
How would I assess my current spiritual health? Do I spend time on it? Do I think about it at all?
What do I believe?
Where do I need to go to learn more?
Who can I reach out to as I figure this out?
About the Author
Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas is a U.S. Marine veteran and wellness coach who writes about resilience building, creating strong communities, and the science of spirituality. You can find her new book, “Brave, Strong, True: The Modern Warrior’s Battle for Balance”, here.
With so few women in combat arms right now, the services and Defense Department officials really can’t judge how successful the effort has been, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis told cadets at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia, Sept. 25, 2018.
“It’s a very, very tough issue because it goes from some people’s perspective of what kind of society do we want,” the secretary said. “In the event of trouble, you’re sleeping at night in your family home and you are the dad, mom, whatever. And you hear glass break downstairs. Who grabs a baseball bat and gets between the kids’ door and whoever broke in, and who reaches for the phone to call 911? In other words, it goes to the most almost primitive needs of a society to look out for its most vulnerable.”
At heart, this is the issue DoD faces, Mattis told the cadet who asked him what results he had seen. The question for the department comes down to whether it is a strength or a weakness to have women in the close-quarter infantry fight, Mattis said.
Then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta opened the door by removing the ban on women in combat jobs in 2013. In 2015, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter directed the services to open all military occupational specialties to women. Currently, 356 women are combat arms soldiers, and 17 women have graduated from the Army’s Ranger School. The Marine Corps has 113 enlisted women and 29 officers in previously restricted specialties. Specifically in infantry, the Marine Corps has 26 enlisted Marines and one officer who are women.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
(DOD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)
The secretary said he cannot make a determination about the situation because “so few women have signed up along these lines.”
“We don’t even have data at this time that I can answer your question,” he added.
Part of what drives the question is the culture of close-combat units, the retired Marine Corps general said. “I was never under any illusions at what level of respect my Marines would have for me if I couldn’t run with the fastest of them and look like it didn’t bother me [or] if I couldn’t do as many pullups as the strongest of them,” Mattis said. “It was the unfairness of the infantry. How did the infantry get its name? Infant soldier. Young soldier. Very young soldier. They’re cocky, they’re rambunctious, they’re necessarily macho, and it’s the most primitive — I would say even evil — environment. You can’t even explain it.”
The close-combat fight is war at its most basic, and Mattis cited an Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. quote when talking to his fellow Civil War veterans: “We have shared the incommunicable experience of war.”
The nation needs to discuss this issue, the secretary said. “The military has got to have officers who look at this with a great deal of objectivity and at the same time remember our natural inclination to have this open to all,” he said. “But we cannot do something that militarily doesn’t make sense.”
The Army chief of staff and Marine Corps commandant are looking at the issue. “This is a policy that I inherited, and so far the cadre is so small we have no data on it,” he said. “We’re hoping to get data soon. There are a few stalwart young ladies who are charging into this, but they are too few. Clearly the jury is out on it, but what we’re trying to do is give it every opportunity to succeed if it can.”
The Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 2004. These countries don’t have much in the way of air assets. According to FlightGlobal.com, as of 2017, the three countries combined have three L-39 trainers, one L-410 transport, three C-27J transports, and 13 helicopters that operate either as search-and-rescue or training assets.
The NATO Baltic Air Policing Mission was established just after these countries joined NATO and is designed to protect their airspace. The mission usually consists of detachments of aircraft — four initially, but in recent years, as many as 16 aircraft have been sent for this mission — that operate out of airbases in Poland, Lithuania, and Estonia.
On Jan. 8, the United States ended its most recent run as part of this mission. Four F-15C Eagles from the 493rd Fighter Squadron, part of the 48th Fighter Wing, were deployed to Lithuania for four months. They worked alongside F-16AM Fighting Falcons from Belgium for this mission.
These four months proved to be fairly busy, according to the Air Force Times. Russia has been aggressive with its neighbors, most notably Ukraine. Since tensions with Ukraine have heated up, NATO routinely sends two detachments. The American detachment operated out of Šiauliai International Airport in Lithuania.
Russian Air Force Su-30 (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
While there, on at least two occasions, the American pilots intercepted Sukhoi Su-30 Flankers. These multi-role jets, assigned to the Russian Navy, flew near the airspace of the Baltic States. The U.S. Air Force F-15s were scrambled in response to intercept them. These encounters were caught on tape.
You can see these encounters on the video below. One thing you won’t see are the types of buzzing stunts that Russia has pulled on American ships and planes in the past.
Paratroopers assigned to Company A, 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment prepare to conduct security checks near the Pakistan border at Combat Outpost Dand Patan in Afghanistan’s Paktya province in 2012. | U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Epperson
President Obama once again altered his withdrawal plan for Afghanistan on Thursday, announcing that 8,400 U.S. troops would remain in the country next year rather than the 5,500 he initially authorized.
The announcement by Obama at the White House, with Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford flanking him, left decisions on future U.S. commitments to Afghanistan to the next president and essentially scuttled Obama’s dream of leaving office after ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The decision I’m making today ensures that my successor has a solid foundation for progress in Afghanistan, as well as the flexibility to address the threat of terrorism as it evolves,” Obama said. “I firmly believe the decision I’m announcing is the right thing to do.”
Currently, there are about 9,800 U.S. troops authorized for Afghanistan. Obama had earlier agreed to alter his plan to begin reducing that number to 5,500 by January 2017 by keeping the 9,800 in Afghanistan through the rest of this year, as recommended by his generals.
In a statement, Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee who just returned from a fact-finding trip to Afghanistan, said “the decision to retain 8,400 U.S. troops in Afghanistan into next year is certainly preferable to cutting those forces by nearly half. That said, when the president himself describes the security situation in Afghanistan as ‘precarious,’ it is difficult to discern any strategic rationale for withdrawing 1,400 U.S. troops by the end of the year.”
In 1989, Denzel Washington won his first Academy Award for his portrayal of Private Silas Tripp, a runaway slave-turned-freedom fighter, in Glory. Although Private Tripp was not a real person, the movie took its inspiration from a real-life volunteer unit in the Civil War — the 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.
The first African American regiment to serve in the United States military, the 54th Massachusetts was led by a 25-year-old abolitionist. The men were a pivotal part of the frontal assault of the Second Battle of Fort Wagner, one of the Civil War’s most memorable battles. Made up of hundreds of volunteers, the 54th Massachusetts regiment achieved incredible things — easily meriting their nickname, the “Glory” regiment.
Established in February 1863, just one month after the Emancipation Proclamation officially authorized the recruitment of African American soldiers, the 54th Massachusetts regiment spent the next three months recruiting and training their soldiers before going on to become one of the most iconic units ever to serve in the U.S. military.
The 54th was comprised of 1,100 soldiers, the majority of whom were recruited by local abolitionists — white and black alike. The likes of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Frederick Douglass boosted morale, helping recruit black Americans into military service for the first time. Douglass even contributed two of his own sons to the cause, both of whom enlisted in the 54th.
The Northern states knew that strong African American enlistment could help turn the course of the war, as both a symbol and as additional manpower for the bloody conflict. President Lincoln’s Secretary of War personally charged John Andrew, governor of Massachusetts, with staffing the officer corps of the 54th regiment. Andrew selected a bright-eyed, 25-year-old man, the son of abolitionists, to lead the 54th. His name was Robert Gould Shaw. Although Shaw was only a captain at the time, he was quickly promoted to colonel, and his second-in-command, Norwood Penrose “Pen” Hallowell was promoted from captain to lieutenant colonel–just a few days after his 24th birthday.
At first, the all-white officers were controversial. Both white and black citizens were dismayed that a black regiment would have to be led by white men. But the recruiting efforts of men like Douglass soon turned the tide, and volunteers began showing up in larger and larger numbers.
Morale was strong during enlistment, and the 54th received an influx of hopeful recruits — so much so that the unit implemented a “rigid and thorough” medical exam, with the aim of enlisting only the most physically and mentally fit into its ranks. The company trained at Camp Meigs just outside of Boston, for a period that lasted only several weeks.
On May 28th, 1863, the 54th Massachusetts regiment marched out of Boston on its way to Beaufort, South Carolina. They did so despite a December 1862 proclamation by President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, which stated that any captured African American soldier or white officer in charge of an African American company would be put to death.
As portrayed in Glory, the 54th Massachusetts’s first action was the looting and burning of a small town in Georgia. The action came on the orders of Colonel James Montgomery, a rabid abolitionist and controversial officer in the Northern Army who often implemented extreme tactics when dealing with pro-slavery populations.
Montgomery had been charged with raising an African American regiment around the same time as Colonel Shaw. His 2nd South Carolina unit rampaged through the South with their most famous battle, the Raid at Combahee Ferry, coming just before they linked up with the 54th Regiment Massachusetts. With the help of Harriet Tubman’s underground railroad, Montgomery and his men freed nearly 800 slaves at Combahee Ferry.
But Colonel Shaw wasn’t impressed with Montgomery’s tactics. He wrote a sternly-worded letter to the military higher-ups, complaining of Montgomery’s rampant destruction of Confederate towns and wanton cruelty towards their civilians. As a result, the 54th was shipped off to fight in a skirmish on James Island, South Carolina, in which they repelled a Confederate assault.
It was then that the 54th entered into its most famous battle: the raid on Fort Wagner, just outside of Charleston, South Carolina.
The climactic scene of Glory, depicting the Battle of Fort Wagner.
Charleston was considered a prize by many in the North, having been the birthplace of the Confederate rebellion. Charleston’s Fort Sumter was where the Confederacy fired its first shots, overtaking a Union garrison and precipitating the Civil War.
Colonel Shaw was tasked with leading the 54th Regiment on a dangerous frontal assault of Fort Wagner, with the aim of keeping the 6,000 men garrisoned inside occupied long enough for a rear-guard attack to penetrate the fort’s walls. It was a bold proposition, and the 54th was a mere 48 hours removed from their battle at James Island. Yet on July 18, 1863, the men of the first African American regiment bravely charged the battlefield and made history in the process.
The raid on Fort Wagner was ultimately a failure and led to the loss of many lives. No unit was more decimated than the 54th Massachusetts. 270 of its 600 men who charged the fort were killed, wounded, or captured. Colonel Shaw was among the dead, having been shot three times through the chest just outside the fort’s parapet.
Despite the heavy losses, the 54th Massachusetts regiment was commended for its valor. Tales of the unit’s bravery spread far and wide, prompting many African Americans to enlist in the Union army. President Lincoln ultimately cited the mobilization of African American troops as a key ingredient in the North’s victory over the South.
Many decades later, in 1900, Sergeant William Harvey Carney, then 60 years old, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery at the Battle of Fort Wagner. Carney had spotted the flag bearer fall during battle, and quickly rushed over to raise the American flag. Carney then led troops to the parapet, waving the flag high to boost morale despite receiving multiple gunshot and shrapnel wounds in the process. Upon the Union’s call to retreat, Carney somehow escaped with the flag intact, and crawled back to his encampment. As he handed the flag off to fellow soldiers, he famously told them, “Boys, I only did my duty; the old flag never touched the ground.”
The 4th United States Colored Infantry, mustered in Baltimore, Maryland
Although numerous African American soldiers received the Medal of Honor prior to Carney, his actions at the Battle of Fort Wagner preceded theirs. As such, he is considered the first African American to be granted the military’s highest honor.
Despite the bravery of the many men amongst their ranks, the 54th Regiment had still often been treated as second-class soldiers. Upon enlisting, the men who joined the 54th Massachusetts regiment were promised the same wages as white men who enlisted: a month, with food and clothing included. But as soon as the regiment arrived in South Carolina, they discovered that they would only be paid — and three of those hard-earned dollars would be taken by the Department of the South to pay for their clothing. Rather than accept this, the men of the 54th refused all pay. It would not be until late September 1864 that equal pay for the regiment was issued. Most of the men had served 18 months at this point.
After the Battle at Fort Wagner, the 54th Massachusetts continued to fight in several more battles and skirmishes, with and without pay, right up until the end of the war. The regiment gained international fame after the war, and was immortalized by poets and artists both in America and Europe. A memorial to Colonel Shaw and the 54th was erected on the Boston Common as part of its Black Heritage Trail. The bust serves as the closing shot of Glory, over which the final credits roll.
On Nov. 21, 2008, the 54th Massachusetts regiment was reactivated as part of the Massachusetts National Guard. Today, the unit conducts military honors at funerals and state functions.
We’ve all seen Marine officer recruiting videos either on TV, on our mobile devices, or posted on a billboard next to the highway. For many, the video’s imagery, music, and testimonials cause young minds to consider joining the Corps — for one reason or another.
The video states what you’re going to learn and what awesome prospects lay ahead. Those who attend and complete the training can move on and serve in the Marine Infantry if that’s the path the individual has set for himself.
But what the training book doesn’t teach you is the role outside of the technical. Life in the Marines as an officer is a proud one, but it’s also stressful.
We sat down with our resident Marine infantry officer Chase Millsap and discussed what you should know before taking on the vital leadership role.
1. Your primary weapon is the field radio
It’s your job as a leader to organize your Marines while taking contact. Knowing how to use your radio to instruct your Marines and coordinate supporting arms is paramount.
Not that type of radio Jean-Claude. (Image via Giphy)
2. You will always eat last
In the Marines, enlisted Leathernecks get to eat their chow before anyone else, which means officers are always at the end of the line.
It’s tradition. (Images via Giphy)
3. You will almost always be the least experienced person starting day one
Everyone has to start out somewhere (unless you’re prior enlisted). Listen and learn as quickly as you can.
No doubt you’ll be motivated the first day though. (Images via Giphy)
4. Physical fitness isn’t optional
The minimum PT score is 300 — just saying. And you’d better never, ever let that squad leader beat you on a unit run.
None of those count, sir. (Images via Giphy)
5. Pony up the big bucks to take care of your grunts
We’re not suggesting you buy everyone in your platoon houses — that’s crazy talk. We mean forking out cash for cigarettes, rip its and dip. It will boost your unit’s morale.
Goodbye hard earned cash. (Images via Giphy)
6. You don’t have to be nice.
But you do need to be fair.
That’s hilarious but it’s so mean. (Images via Giphy)
7. You better know why you’re giving those orders
Having the power to give a Marine an order is a big deal. So you need to be sure that it’s well thought out ahead of time.
A top authority on North Korea has jokingly suggested the U.S. launch an unorthodox attack on the country’s leader.
Jeffrey Lewis, the founding publisher of Arms Control Wonk and the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterrey, California, has outlined a plan for the U.S. to strike Kim Jong Un’s personal toilet.
Writing at The Daily Beast over the weekend, Lewis was responding to increased chatter of a U.S. strike on North Korea. Though Lewis was approaching the issue in a tongue-in-cheek way, his writing nonetheless illustrates the dangers of and motivations behind using military force to send a message.
Basically, reports have come forth that the U.S. is tired of North Korea’s constant defiance and wants to carry out a limited strike in response. In theory, the use of force against a weaker opponent can serve as a reminder of who is in charge.
But while North Korea couldn’t really defend against a small U.S. strike, it doesn’t intend to defend. North Korea’s military posture is entirely offensive. While the country could do little to stop an incoming cruise missile or airstrike, it has long had artillery aimed at Seoul, South Korea’s capital of 25 million.
Lewis seems to think that the idea has some merit but that the difficulty lies in finding a target that’s important enough to matter but not big enough to provoke war. From The Daily Beast:
The central challenge, as we contemplate a ‘bloody nose’ option for a limited military strike, is finding a suitable target that represents Kim Jong Un’s nose — a target that will allow our strike to be intimidating and humiliating to Kim, but not the sort of broad assault that might prompt him to retaliate with his growing stockpile of nuclear weapons.
Lewis settles on a target of little strategic importance but great personal relevance to Kim: his port-a-potty.
Kim almost always observes North Korean missile launches from a private trailer. The launches normally happen in the middle of nowhere, so comforts like a port-a-potty suited for a supreme party leader need to be shipped in.
“Destroying the port-a-potty will deny Kim Jong Un a highly valued creature comfort, while also demonstrating the incredible accuracy of U.S. precision munitions to hold Kim and his minions at risk,” Lewis wrote. “It will send an unmistakable message: We can kill you while you are dropping a deuce.”
Lewis refers to his idea as hilarious, “a comedy and an action movie — both at the same time.” The U.S. military, however, may not be laughing.
Lewis’ playful idea represents a rather circumspect approach to selecting the right target to use military force to send a message. While the verbal, diplomatic, and economic messages the world has tried time and time again have failed to get through to North Korea, President Donald Trump’s administration has floated the idea of military action more than any before it.