The US military, despite the rise of powerful rivals, remains an unmatched military force with more than 2 million active-duty and reserve troops ready to defend the homeland and protect American interests abroad.
Insider took a look back at the thousands of photos of the military in action and selected its favorites.
From the time he was a boy, Merian C. Cooper wanted to be an adventurer, a wish that propelled him into journalism, the National Guard, military aviation, two world wars, and the cinematic killing of King Kong. During that time, he took part in historic events, like the hunt for Pancho Villa, and contributed to others, like the Doolittle Raid.
When he was six, he read a book by a French explorer who traveled Africa, and he was hooked on the idea of adventure. In 1916, that led the journalist and Georgia National Guardsman to Mexico, where he took part in the punitive expedition against Pancho Villa.
That only fueled his desire more, so he got a billet at a military pilot school in Georgia and graduated in time to go to France for World War I. He became a bomber pilot, but was shot down over Germany and declared dead until the American officers learned he had survived and been taken prisoner.
But he wasn’t done with Europe, soon heading to Poland as a captain and taking part in the Polish-Soviet War. He formed a new squadron, the Polish 7th Air Escadrille, with volunteers from France. The men saw protracted combat, and Cooper himself was shot down two times. The second time, he was captured by the Soviets and sent (a second time) to a prisoner of war camp.
After two attempts, he successfully escaped and was rewarded for his wartime service with Poland’s highest decoration for valor.
After returning to a peaceful America, he became a movie producer and writer, working on some cinematic classics, including the game-changing King Kong of 1933. He even played one of the pilots in the film.
But war came knocking again when the U.S. entered World War II. So, Cooper returned to service as a colonel and was sent to India where he served as a logistics expert for the Doolittle Raid, the legendary attack by carrier-based bombers against Tokyo itself in 1942. He was even eventually invited to see Japan’s surrender on the deck of the USS Missouri.
Imagine looking out your window to see an eerie green glow resonating from your neighbor’s shed. Or seeing government trucks being loaded with barrels marked radioactive by men dressed in hazmat suits outside your home.
The residents of Golf Manor, Michigan, don’t have to imagine it, because in 1995, a young teenage boy built a nuclear breeder reactor in his mother’s potting shed, an idea he came up with while working on his Atomic Energy merit badge in attempt to earn Eagle Scout status.
At an age when most adolescents are consumed with sports, friends, or dating, Hahn spent his free time conducting chemical experiments. Much to the chagrin of his parents, he had several chemical spills and even created an explosion that rocked their tiny house and left David “lying semi-conscious on the floor, his eyebrows smoking.”
Even his scout troop was not immune to his scientific curiosity. David once appeared at a scout meeting, “with a bright orange face caused by an overdose of canthaxanthin, which he was taking to test methods of artificial tanning.” Then there was the night at camp where his fellow scouts accidentally ignited a pile of powdered magnesium he had brought to make fireworks.
There’s no question that David was increasingly bold in his attempts to learn more about the chemical compounds of our world, but even with the goal in mind to build a nuclear breeder reactor, you have to wonder how he obtained the radioactive elements.
David worked a series of jobs at fast-food joints and grocery stores after school to finance his experiments. He admitted to Harper’s that he used several aliases and a string of mail communications with individuals working for agencies that control nuclear elements. None were as helpful as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, where David was able to engage the agency’s director, Donald Erb.
Erb provided David with a list of contacts who provide commercial sale of some elements and how to harvest others. David broke apart smoke detectors to obtain americium-241, commercial gas lanterns provided him thorium-232, and with the help of a Geiger counter, he found an antique luminous clock that contained a vial of radium paint used to keep the clock face glowing. He even purchased $1000 worth of batteries to extract the lithium.
After several attempts to create energy, David was finally successful but he soon learned that his small reactor was producing so much radiation that it was spreading through his neighborhood. Unfortunately, his safety precautions only consisted of wearing a makeshift lead poncho and throwing away his clothes and shoes following a session in the potting shed. So he took apart the reactor.
Stashing some of the more radioactive elements in his house and the rest in his car, he was later found by the police after a call was made about a young man trying to steal tires. The police opened his trunk to find an array of scientific materials and a tool box locked with a padlock and sealed with duct tape. The police were rightly concerned about the box, and after David advised that it was radioactive, they were worried he had a nuclear bomb.
While being questioned by the police, David’s parents became afraid that they would lose their house, so they ransacked his room and his “laboratory” and tossed everything they could find. This left the authorities with nothing but what was in the car.
“The funny thing is, they only got the garbage, and the garbage got all the good stuff,” Hahn told Harper’s.
David never went back to his experiments and later served four years in the U.S. Navy – including service aboard the USS Enterprise, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. He also briefly served in the Marine Corps before returning home to Michigan. In 2016, David died from alcohol poisoning – not from exposure to radiation.
Though David Hahn is gone, the small town of Golf Manor will never forget their “Radioactive Boy.”
When his father deploys, 9-year-old Davidson considers himself “man of the house” — it’s a role he’s filled eight times.
Davidson’s father, Dave Whetstone — the surname is a pseudonym for security reasons — is a Green Beret currently on his tenth deployment. Dave has deployed nearly every year of Davidson’s life, and each time, Davidson “puts on a brave face,” he said.
To help other military families also be brave, the father and son duo recently published a children’s book, “Brave for my Family,” written by Davidson and illustrated by Dave, with some proceeds going to military charities.
The book was released on Veteran’s Day under pen names to protect their identities, and recounts the family’s experience with one of Dave’s deployments after a life-threatening battlefield injury, recovery, and Dave’s return to war — all through Davidson’s eyes.
“Brave For My Family”
While deployed, Dave tries to stay in touch with his family, he said. In the past, he’s recorded videos of himself — reading bedtime stories, praying, etc. — for his wife, Elizabeth, to replay for their children.
“While Americans are grateful for the sacrifices service members make for our country, it’s the sacrifices they don’t see that are the hardest,” Dave wrote in an email.
Story behind the story
While deployed to Afghanistan in late 2013 — four days shy of Christmas — Dave was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.
During the explosion, shrapnel pierced the Green Beret’s face and tore through the right side of his body. It missed his carotid artery by a few millimeters.
Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, the Whetstones were with family over the holidays and carried on with their lives, unaware the patriarch of their family was fighting for his.
After the blast, the Special Forces officer suffered life-threatening injuries. He was triaged on the battlefield, and subsequently airlifted to Germany and briefly hospitalized there.
From Germany, Dave returned to the United States and underwent multiple surgeries at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, where he eventually stayed for three-weeks.
Once the Whetstones received the terrible news, they also flew to Washington, D.C., and were reunited with their soldier on Christmas, Davidson said.
Davidson — who was 3 years old at the time — writes about this moment in the book.
“My mom cried, and I was pretty scared my dad was going to die,” he wrote.
An illustration from “Brave for My Family.”
In the book, Dave’s illustration depicts this moment, too. The wounded soldier is in the hospital — he’s battered, with multiple wounds and bandages — but embraced his son.
To this day, the illustration is hard for Elizabeth to see without reliving the memory, she said, because the artwork looks so real.
Also on Christmas day that year, Dave and his family were greeted by then-Vice President Joe Biden. The former VP, who visited wounded troops and their families at the hospital, invited the Whetstones to his home for lunch — an offer they took him up on the following year.
As he recovered, Dave learned his close friend — while also deployed in Afghanistan — was killed in combat. Although he was on convalescent leave, Dave requested special permission to return to Afghanistan and complete his deployment.
The blast claimed the peripheral vision from his right eye, and left parts of the shrapnel lodged in his body. However, Dave doesn’t believe the scars of war are the most painful thing a soldier can experience.
“I have been wounded in combat, I have lost close friends,” Dave wrote. “But, for me some of the toughest pills to swallow are not being there for first words, first steps, first Christmases, first birthdays, and all of the moments that I’ll never see again. The hardest thing is watching my kids grow up in pictures.”
Father and son share their story
Years later — during the summer before Davidson started school — the father and son duo started the foundation for their book. Together, they decided to produce something “that could help kids not be scared if their parents deploy,” Davidson said.
“I know what it’s like to have your dad deployed to a scary place,” Davidson added.
For nearly two years, and in-between deployments, the pair would spend the Sunday afternoons they had, usually after church, being creative together, Elizabeth said.
An illustration from “Brave for My Family.”
“Creating the book was therapeutic for them both,” she added.
For Dave, drawing is a way to organize his thoughts, and a passion that dates back to childhood, he said.
“Illustrating Davidson’s story gave me a strong motivation to create meaningful representation of our family’s sacrifice and courage,” Dave wrote. “It also allowed me to spend time recalling and appreciating the details of our family’s experience, and come to terms with some things.”
Part of the proceeds from the book will go toward charities like the Green Beret Foundation and help support military families and wounded warriors.
“I can’t express how proud I am of my family, and how immeasurably blessed I am to have each of them in my life,” Dave wrote. “I am so proud of Davidson for writing this book. But, if I’m being honest, this is only a snapshot of his talents and passion as a good young man.”
In addition to playing a Resistance lieutenant, Carrie Fisher’s daughter Billie Lourd had a special second role in “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.”
Lourd stepped in to play Princess Leia during the short flashback scene in “Episode IX.”
“Billie was playing her mother,” Industrial Lights & Magic visual effects supervisor Patrick Tubach told Yahoo Entertainment. “It was a poignant thing, and something that nobody took lightly — that she was willing to stand in for her mom.”
Here’s a reference of how Leia looks in most of “Return of the Jedi.” The look is reminiscent of how we see her in the new film.
“If you’re going to have someone play [Fisher’s] part, it’s great that it’s [Billie] because there are a lot of similarities between them that we were able to draw from,” added Tubach. “The real challenge was just making the Leia footage we had to work with fit in that scene.”
The ILM team told Insider that bringing Fisher back was “a gigantic puzzle.” The team utilized previously unused footage from director J.J. Abrams’ “The Force Awakens” to help bring her to life.
Master Fitness Training instructors work tirelessly to coach soldiers from across the Army in developing new ways to prepare them for combat, while in the process, helping increase readiness and lowering profiles up to 40%, says the fitness school NCOIC.
Wanting to better understand the effectiveness of the fitness program, Master Sgt. Joseph Komes, U.S. Army Physical Fitness School noncommissioned officer in charge, used a roster based on thousands of soldiers, all previously certified at the school, and sent a questionnaire to understand the school’s effectiveness.
Shortly after, the responses started pouring in.
“What I started seeing was that trainers were increasing their unit readiness,” he said. “The way I measured unit readiness was only by PT scores and profile rates, because, I’m just one guy in an office trying to figure out if what we’re doing is working.”
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michael J. MacLeod)
Komes also determined individual units, armed with certified fitness trainers, decreased their profile rates by close to 40%. However, Komes added, “I don’t know if those individuals were on a two-week profile and they just ended up falling off during the training program or what.”
That said, the responses were useful and answered his question. In addition, it gave fitness instructors at the school a better understanding of how worthwhile their program is, and with the Army Combat Fitness Test in its second phase of implementation, the timing couldn’t be better, he said.
Scheduled to be the test of record in October 2020, the ACFT is the Army’s largest physical fitness overhaul in nearly four decades. Like physical readiness training, something the instructors are experts in, the ACFT is part of a larger “reset” to build a more combat-ready force.
To meet the demands of the six-event ACFT, instructors from the school have already certified thousands of soldiers from around the Army to develop physical programs to bring back to their units. In addition, the selected soldiers are trained on a variety of skills vital to the ACFT, including how to set up the testing field, as well as supervising and grading the test.
According to Komes, in the past, physical training programs “lost touch” with combat readiness. Regarding PT, soldiers were forced to “run four days out of the week and ruck on the fifth,” which led to injuries and an overall decrease in a soldier’s lethality.
Georgia Army National Guard Soldiers conduct a sunrise run during annual training at Fort Stewart, Ga., Jan. 11, 2017.
(U.S. Army photo by Capt. William Carraway)
He added, “That’s just the way PT was always done, and it’s our job is to help soldiers sit down and strategically assess their mission, and prevent injuries from happening. [They should think] Okay, I have a training event nine weeks from now — where we’re going to enter a building and clear room — how do we physically, and safely prepare for this?”
That’s where the master fitness trainer comes in, he said.
“These days, we have better knowledge to increase overall unit performance during a deployment,” he said. “[Master Fitness Training instructors] are doing their best to implement that [knowledge] and shape the future for the Army.”
When fitness instructors certify trainers, they’re thinking of each individual soldier and the unique needs required to be successful — even at that basic level, he said.
“We’re looking at them as individuals and not just as just a big mass,” Komes said. “I think with the ACFT around the corner, it seems like that’s the mindset that’s important, because every person has their own requirements.”
Komes added, it’s vital for trainers to know their soldiers and know what they need to be successful on the ACFT.
“Our trainers understand that we have to physically prepare individuals to complete the Army’s mission,” he added. “It’s very humbling for us to give soldiers, from all three components of the Army, the tools to succeed because the folks who leave here go back to those individual soldiers.”
“Everyone is different,” he said. “Some soldiers could be attached to National Guard units, and implementing a PT program once a month is challenging, or they could be military police and work odd shifts.”
Being able to “crack the code and see the challenges from different perspectives” is a daily task the trainers and instructors grapple with, he said, adding, that “having a fitness trainer all the way down to the platoon level” would be ideal. However, the trainers who leave the fitness school only reach the company level, for active duty.
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Danny Gonzalez, Recruiting and Retention Command, New Jersey Army National Guard, carries two 40-pound kettlebells during the Army Combat Fitness Test
(New Jersey National Guard photo by Mark C. Olsen)
“We already know each individual is different, but each individual platoon is different, too,” he said. “Each platoon is training for a different goal.”
That’s also where certified master fitness trainers come in, he added. “Certified trainers are able to go to their units with a wealth of knowledge, and look at essential task list and identify the most daunting task and develop a physical fitness program based on those tasks to increase the overall performance.”
When Komes first arrived at the fitness school in 2012, the ACFT wasn’t a thought on anyone’s mind. Today, it seems to be everyone’s first thought, he said.
This change leaves the instructors with a large responsibility on their backs — to ensure the force is ready. But, it’s a responsibility they carry with pride, he said.
“When we conduct MFT training, we ensure each certified trainer has a plan for their unit,” he said, adding thousands of certified trainers are among the force already.
“They’re out there, they’re already in units, and hopefully commanders understand what they bring to the fight,” Komes said.
For soldiers uneasy with the ACFT, Komes recommends they reach out to their local master fitness trainer, or identify who it is through their chain of command.
The Master Fitness Training Course is broken into two phases — a self-paced, 60-hour online phase and a two-week, 76-hour in-residence phase. The curriculum covers everything from exercise science, PT program design, leadership, physical fitness assessment and unit physical readiness programs, aligned with current Army doctrine and regulations.
After graduating from the course, soldiers are equipped to advise units on physical readiness issues and monitor unit and individual physical readiness programs.
The XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator, a low-cost unmanned air vehicle, successfully completed all test objectives during a 71-minute flight, June 11, 2019, at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona.
The test marked the second successful flight for the aircraft this year. The inaugural 72-minute flight was recorded in March 2019.
The Air Force Research Laboratory developed the low-cost unmanned air vehicle together with Kratos Defense & Security Solutions, Inc. The joint effort falls within AFRL’s Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology portfolio, which has the goal to break the escalating cost trajectory of tactically relevant aircraft.
“The XQ-58A is the first Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology flight demonstrator with (unmanned aircraft systems) technology to change the way we fly and fight, and build and buy,” said Doug Szczublewski, program manager.
US Air Force Releases Video of New Combat Drone: XQ-58A Valkyrie
There are a total of five planned test flights for the XQ-58A, with objectives that include evaluating system functionality, aerodynamic performance, and launch and recovery systems.
The Air Force Research Laboratory is the primary scientific research and development center for the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,000 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development.
While the introduction of a new plane, ship, or tank will often make headlines, these aren’t the only important procurements done by the military. In fact, many crucial upgrades go unnoticed by the media, but they make a huge difference in the lives of troops.
Such was the case with the Air Force’s new firefighting foam. You might think that water is the best tool for putting out fires. Well, in some cases, using water can do more harm than good. That’s why, especially with aircraft, the military likes to use Aqueous Film Forming Foam, or AFFF, which has just been replaced with a newer version.
It wasn’t that the old foam was ineffective — far from it. The problem was that the foam came with some serious drawbacks. Most notably, the old foam was quote toxic, both to personnel and to the environment. The old version of AFFF made use of two chemicals, known as PFOS and PFOA. Both of these were unsafe for consumption in even the tiniest amounts (measured in parts per trillion).
Sometimes, it’s a bad idea to put water on a fire — which led to the development of specialized firefighting foam.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)
The toxicity of the old foam was such that even after testing in a hangar, the Air Force was spending time and money doing hazardous materials mitigation. In a day and age when each defense dollar is precious, spending time and money on HAZMAT stuff after each practice run is a huge drain.
Tech. Sgt. Brian Virden and Master Sgt. Bryan Riddell, replace legacy firefighting foam at King Salmon Air Station, Alaska, with Phos-Chek 3 percent, a C6-based Aqueous Film Forming Foam. The new foam has far fewer toxins than the older foam.
The new foam, now completely rolled out, doesn’t have any PFOS and very little PFOA. This means that the costly mitigation process is sidestepped almost entirely. Plus, in the event of a real usage, the airmen will be exposed to a much lower level of toxins — which saves lives down the line.
Not having to do HAZMAT clean-up after tests like this can save time and money – both of which are factors in readiness.
(U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. William Powell)
In short, the introduction of the new AFFF didn’t generate headlines, but it is the type of small, behind-the-scenes move that enhances readiness across the service. A few small savings here, less time consumed there — you’d be surprised at how much a seemingly small change can improve the entire force.
The infantry squad leader is a billet that demands leadership and integrity. There is an unofficial rite of passage that every squad must endure. I’m not talking about the first order issued or the trials of combat. No–it’s when your squad leader sings his favorite, stereotypically “girly” songs. Maybe it’s boredom or his brain has turned to soup because of all the stupid he has to put up with.
In Afghanistan, our squad leader lost a bet to our Staff NCO and had to do a patrol debrief wearing spandex short shorts. What we saw was not meant for mortal eyes. The constant stretching and Ke$ha songs, however, were not mandatory. If he had to pay the price, so did all of us. If your squad leader doesn’t sing ridiculous songs at some point, is he even a real leader?
Ke$ha – Tik Tok
Vietnam Veterans had Jimi Hendrix and Creedence Clearwater Revival – meanwhile, we have this. Out of all the things that can give someone PTSD, I can’t listen to this song without remembering the horrors of that day. Was it worth it Staff Sergeant?
Pinkfong – Baby Shark
If you have had kids this song has given you PTSD. Naturally, drill instructors sunk their teeth into it immediately at the height of it’s popularity.
Katy Perry – Firework
For a long time, Katy Perry was the darling of the Marine Corps. She has done numerous shows for the troops on USO tours and even made a tribute music video. She has partnered with UNICEF and Generosity Water to help children around the world. Her humanitarian resume stretches decades into the past making it less inhibiting to be a fan in uniform. If your squad leader didn’t at least hum this during a tactical halt, sweating and losing his marbles – yet happy, then it wasn’t a real deployment.
Britney Spears – Baby one more time
A classic. A must have on the list. Generally the older SNCOs sing this because of their aversion to pop culture, although ironically, this is pop culture – but old.
Christina Aguilera – Genie in a Bottle
Same as above.
Lady Gaga – Bad Romance
When I was a devil pup embarking on my first deployment, this song hit the air waves. Unfortunately for us, since we were without internet, it was one of the only songs people would sing. Mother Monster is beautiful and a great singer. However, when her lyrics come out of the mouth of the leadership, you start reevaluating your life choices.
The Navy’s theme song
As is tradition.
Aqua – Barbie Girl
We’ve all sung this one. Laugh it up because then we’re going in a fun run when its over. Even the Russians are doing it!
There’s nothing troops anticipate more than the chance to finally get to do what they’ve spent their entire career training for: deploying to a combat zone. Maybe you’re the gungho grunt who just can’t wait to embrace the suck. Maybe you’re the frightened POG who’s terrified of indirect fire sirens. Maybe you’re the salty NCO who’s ready to mark your fifth trip to the sandbox, realizing that each deployment feels more and more like a TDY trip than the last.
Nowhere is this wide array of emotions more on display than in the transient tents that house troops as they move between the States and the deployment. Regardless of how you’re feeling about the deployment, you’ll have to mark a few things off the checklist before you arrive.
Keep your gear ready to go at a moment’s notice
Number one rule about traveling in the military: Expect to be somewhere for weeks until, suddenly, you’re not. Your flight will be bumped back after you’ve been waiting for a few hours. You will have to endure more sleepless nights in that disgusting tent that no one ever cleans.
When your number finally comes, not even your chain of command will have a heads up. They’ll be just as lost as you are when they’re told their troops are on the manifest in thirty minutes.
Tell loved ones you have to go radio silent for a few weeks before deployment
Well, since you’ve got nothing important to do while your flight gets delayed for the sixth time (which, judging by your conversations with other deployed vets, is not out of the ordinary), you might as well call your family and tell them you love them.
The one thing you should probably let them know is that you won’t be able to speak to them until everything is set up at your final destination. This could happen immediately or it could take weeks. They should prepare for either case. On the bright side, this is also about the time that your commander should allow you to give out your future mailing address so loved ones can send care packages while you’re deployed.
Spoiler alert: Your address is always going to just be your name, your unit up to brigade level, APO, AE, and whatever zip code for the base.
Get that last bit of fast food before you go without for a while
As odd as this one sounds, you’re going to want to hit up that rip-off McDonald’s in Ali Al Salem Air Base. It’s going to taste like absolute garbage. Compared to a stateside Big Mac, it’s going to be stale, under-cooked, and a bit sour for some reason. But, funnily enough, that same burger is going to taste like Heaven when you come back from deployment 12 months later.
Think of it as a soft introduction to the type of food you’re going to have to eat for your entire employment. We hope you like spongy, mermite eggs.
Talk with the guys leaving where you’re going
The nice thing about transient barracks is that everyone, both coming and going, is bunked in the same tent. Some may have been in the serious sh*t while others were at a bigger, more comfortable air field. Since you both have absolutely nothing better to do, might as well pick their brains.
Take everything they say with a grain of salt — your deployment experience may differ. Even if you’re going to the exact same FOB, a lot could have happened between then and now, for better or worse. Still, it’s always nice to try and get a heads up.
Realize you forgot necessities and buy them off of outbound troops
It doesn’t matter if it’s you’re deployed for the first time or the fourth, you’re probably going to kick your own ass when you realize that you forgot something seemingly insignificant,like a power adapter.
Don’t sweat it. Everyone who’s in the tents and is headed back home is trying to pawn off all of their crap because they just don’t need it anymore after deployment. In fact, you could probably get it for free if you do a little sweet-talking.
Enjoy the last bit of nothingness you’ll experience for the rest of your deployment
This isn’t even a POG vs grunt thing. Everyone is going to be working their ass off while they’re deployed — there’s no getting out of that. Regardless of what your MOS is, don’t expect weekends or a 0900-1700 schedule. Those days are over.
So, screw it. Since you’re just sitting on the tarmac, waiting to leave: Relax. Take a load off. Enjoy the fact that the only thing you need to do while in transit for deployment is just being at the right place at the right time.
Women have played a part in war and the military ever since the birth of our nation, whether it be disguising themselves as men to secretly join the Army during the Civil War, tending to the wounded on the battlefield as nurses in WWII, or, more recently, taking up arms alongside their brothers in combat positions.
Elsie Ott, for example, made a name for herself in the world of flight nursing. Ott was born in 1913 in Smithtown, New York, and attended nursing school at Lenox Hill Hospital School of Nursing in New York City right after high school.
It was 1941 when Ott joined the Army Nurse Corps, and she became a true trailblazer for women in the military. She was commissioned as a 2nd Lt. and stationed in Louisiana and Virginia before flying on a mission that would make history.
Take Elsie Ott, for example, who was one such woman that made a name for herself in the world of flight nursing. Ott was born in 1913 in Smithtown, New York, and attended nursing school at Lenox Hill Hospital School of Nursing in New York City right after high school.
It was 1941 when Ott joined the Army Nurse Corps, and she became a true trailblazer for women in the military. She was commissioned as a 2nd Lt. and stationed in Louisiana and Virginia before flying on a mission that would make history.
During WWII air evacuation of casualties was in its infancy and procedures, as well as training of flight nurses, was not perfected. Before aeromedical evacuation, the injured would have to wait weeks and often months, to be sent back home to the U.S.
The Army Air Corps started to spin up a program for flight nurses in 1941 in order to aeromedically evacuate patients from the field.
Ott had never even been on an airplane, nor had training on the aircraft when she was assigned to fly a week-long mission. On Jan. 17, 1943 the flight originated in Karachi, India, and was to fly to Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Five patients were assigned to the flight and Ott was only given a simple first aid kit to care for all of them.
It was a week later when Ott reached Walter Reed with the patients, all of them alive and well. She made sure to take detailed notes throughout her journey to improve the procedures and training for future flight nurses. Some of the suggestions she noted included, oxygen bottles, blankets, more medical supplies, and a change of uniform from skirts to pants.
Above, Army nurses tend to patients on aircraft.
Ott’s contributions didn’t go unnoticed and were used to improve aeromedical evacuation processes, to this day. Two months after her groundbreaking first flight she was awarded the U.S. Air Medal. She was the first woman in U.S. Army history to obtain such and honor.
Brigadier General Fred Borum presents the Air Medal to 2nd Lieutenant Elsie Ott
(Photo by the U.S. Air Force).
Due to Elsie Ott’s unwavering persistence while caring for her patients and individual contributions, flight nurses today can give their patients the highest level of care in the air while returning them safely home.
President Donald Trump is reportedly considering an executive order setting up a review of interrogation practices, including whether to re-open so-called “black sites” run by the CIA under the George W. Bush administration.
According to a report by CBSNews.com on a leaked draft of the order, the initiative would reverse executive orders issued by President Obama regarding Guantanamo Bay and interrogation techniques. Those orders were signed on Jan. 22, 2009.
The draft order raises the specter of the return of enhanced interrogation techniques. One of those who developed the techniques, retired Air Force Lt. Col. James Mitchell, fiercely denied they were torture in a forum at the American Enterprise Institute this past December.
The order also would keep the detention facilities at the U.S. Navy’s base at Guantanamo Bay open, saying, “The detention facilities at United States Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, are legal, safe, and humane, and are consistent with international conventions regarding the laws of war.”
“If it was torture, they wouldn’t have to pass a law in 2015 outlawing it because torture is already illegal, right?” Mitchell asked. “The highest Justice Department in the land wouldn’t have opined five times that it wasn’t torture — one time after I personally waterboarded an assistant attorney general before he made that decision three or four days later, right?”
When contacted for comments on the draft executive order, Mitchell said, “I would hope they just take a look at it.” He admitted he had not been contacted by the Trump administration or the Trump transition team, but pointed to an ACLU lawsuit that made him “damaged goods,” but did wish that they would “talk with someone who has interrogated a terrorist.”
In a statement released after the reports of the draft order emerged, Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain said, “The Army Field Manual does not include waterboarding or other forms of enhanced interrogation. The law requires the field manual to be updated to ensure it ‘complies with the legal obligations of the United States and reflects current, evidence-based, best practices for interrogation that are designed to elicit reliable and voluntary statements and do not involve the use or threat of force.’ Furthermore, the law requires any revisions to the field manual be made available to the public 30 days prior to the date the revisions take effect.”
Mitchell was very critical of McCain’s statement, noting that it essentially boils down to relying on terrorists to voluntarily give statements about their pending operations. “It’s nuts,” he said, after pointing out that counter-terrorist units don’t reveal their tactics. He also noted that “beer and cigarettes” or social influence tactics, like those Secretary of Defense James Mattis favored, are not included in the manual.
Retired Army Lt. Col. Bob Maginnis backed up Mitchell’s comments.
“I favor giving the interrogation decisions to those with the need to know. Not all threats are the same and there are situations where tough techniques are justified,” Maginnis told WATM. “I’m not with the camp that says tough interrogation techniques seldom if ever deliver useful outcomes. That’s for the experienced operator to know.”
Maginnis also expressed support for the use of “black sites” to keep suspected terrorists out of the reach of the American judicial system. He also noted, “Some of our allies are pretty effective at getting useful information from deadbeats.”
Senator McCain’s office did not return multiple calls asking follow-up questions regarding the senator’s Jan. 25 statement on the draft executive order.