Tomorrow, almost 70,000 U.S. troops and veterans will pack Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field to watch two college football teams with records that could barely be called “winning” go head-to-head for the Commander-In-Chief Trophy.
I remember the major calling me into his office as an 18-year-old private for a discussion. The discussion came around to the importance of voting and how it was my duty to vote. I liked to do things the hard way at the time, and I was honest about how I wouldn’t vote. That went over like a lead balloon with the major.
After some yelling and cursing on his part, I agreed to look into voting. It would not be the only time that I spoke bluntly about voting and paid the repercussions for it. As many young service members have found out, no matter how much you push the ground, it doesn’t move anywhere. I did get stronger and times like these reinforced my stubbornness.
I ignored politics on both the local and national level. I focused all of my energies on being the best soldier that I could. At least that is what I told myself. I didn’t feel it was right to pick my bosses, like POTUS, who sits atop the command chain. I never looked into the issues because I didn’t care what happened locally as I was going to be moving anyway, and I certainly didn’t care about what went on in Washington, DC. Plus, I had a high level of disdain for politicians; well, that one hasn’t changed much.
Hindsight is a great knowledge enhancer. As I look back, I was wrong for not exercising my constitutional right to vote.I ignored issues that I should have spent a little time researching, instead of watching a movie or having a few cold ones. I could have dug into the problems instead of sticking my head in the sand. Now having been retired for 18 months, I acknowledge how ignorant I was.
We put our lives on the line so that others can vote in countries around the world, and I failed to do my civic duty at home. I’m now passionate about ensuring service members vote and that their vote counts.
I’m proud to support Count Every Hero, an organization committed to ensuring that every service member’s ballot is counted before a winner is declared. Count Every Hero (CHO) is a cross-partisan, nonprofit organization chaired by General (Ret) Tony Zinni. CHO has two principles: 1: Every service member’s right to vote must be protected and their votes must be counted. 2: Military voters must have an opportunity to register, request an absentee ballot, and cast a vote regardless of their location in the world. To date, 16 retired four-star Flag Officers have joined the movement to ensure every hero’s vote is counted.
General Zinni said, “We count on our troops to fight for our freedom so we owe it to them to count their ballots. No candidate should be declared an election winner until all military ballots are counted.” I fully support his message. Who you vote for is a personal choice. This right is part of why I served for 20 years, defending our freedoms. I don’t care who you vote for, but your vote should and must be counted before determining the winners of our elections.
As for me, I will be like the Afghans and Iraqis I saw with ink on their fingers, so excited to have voted for the first time. I may not have ink on my fingers come Nov. 3, but I will have the same smile and sense of pride partaking in a critical function of our democracy.
The moment the people of Iraq and Syria have waited so long to see has finally arrived: the Kurdish SDF are assaulting the last ISIS stronghold in the Middle East. For years, ISIS and its so-called caliphate conquered and subjugated people across the two countries – including the Kurds, against whom they committed numerous atrocities.
It’s all in the past now, as the U.S.-backed Kurdish SDF just brought the war on ISIS to their last doorstep.
In the small Syrian town of Baghuz, near its eastern border with Iraq, ISIS fighters are using smoke and suicide bombers to try to slow the progress of the Kurds as they roll through ISIS’ last stronghold. The SDF waited weeks before assaulting the area in an attempt to allow innocent civilians to flee the combat zone. Now, the battle has begun, and it’s not looking good for the Islamic State, despite its potentially thousands-strong numbers.
No one in the region will be particularly sad to see the threat of the Islamic Caliphate dissipate. In 2014, the Islamic State saw a surprisingly easy territory grab across Iraq and Syria, capturing weapons, vehicles, cash, and oil in a blitz of unprecedented success.
Kurdish SDF forces have arrested scores of ISIS fighters trying to flee the area.
Inside the captured territory, life under ISIS rule was harsh and repressive, with dire consequences for noncompliance. Under the strictest forms of Islamic law, civilians would be put to death for offenses ranging from smoking cigarettes to dancing. The terror group destroyed numerous historical and religious sites considered blasphemous by their brand of Islam and threatened persecution and genocide against religious and ethnic minorities they considered apostates.
Kurdish fighters in Syria and Iraq began to strike back just as fast. U.S.-backed Kurdish and Iraqi forces had retaken all ISIS-held territory in Iraq by the end of 2017. Though Syria remains a country fractured by civil war, at least one faction is finally on its last leg as the SDF empties the last pocket of ISIS.
At the end of the operation, American forces are likely to go home, as President Donald Trump has restated time and again, most recently in the 2019 State of the Union Address. They are slated to leave Syria by the end of April. For the U.S.-backed Kurdish militias, the future is far from certain.
Turkey, a NATO ally of the United States, considered armed Kurdish groups in Syria to be terrorist groups, no better than ISIS itself. Turkey maintains a large presence in Syria after intervening in the country in 2015. To date, Turkey has struck SDF positions numerous times, despite U.S. warnings – and the SDF has promised retaliation for any Turkish attacks in Syria.
Drones have become an integral part of modern warfare, and the low supply of drones led the US Armed Forces to approve using off-the-shelf drones made by the Chinese giant DJI. However, on August 2, the order came to pull all DJI drones from service – immediately.
The problem is that the US is not the only one using the drones. ISIS and Hezbollah have made wide use of them as well, and the Pentagon worries that their familiarity with the drone’s control systems will makes them a ripe hacking-target that could provide valuable intelligence, such as troop movements.
“All units must cease all use, uninstall all DJI applications, remove all batteries/storage media from devices, and secure equipment for follow-on direction,” read the order, which was signed by Army Air Directorate’s deputy chief of staff Lt. General Joseph Anderson.
In a statement to SUAS News, DJI said that “we are surprised and disappointed to read reports of the US Army’s unprompted restriction on DJI drones as we were not consulted during their decision.”
“We are happy to work directly with any organization, including the US Army, that has concerns about our management of cyber issues. We’ll be reaching out to the US Army to confirm the memo and to understand what is specifically meant by ‘cyber vulnerabilities’.”
The operational risks associated with drones are not new to Israel. In the 1997 ‘Shayetet Disaster,’ Hezbollah utilized information obtained from an unencrypted IDF drone to lay an ambush that killed 11 commandos from the elite Shayetet-13 Special Operations unit.
The terror militia was able to intercept signals sent out by Israel Air Force unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that conducted reconnaissance over the soldiers’ planned route in the five days that preceded the raid. The UAV’s signal was unencrypted and Israel’s enemies could therefore see the video being sent out in real time.
Hezbollah thus gained advance knowledge of the raid and had time to rig powerful explosives at points on the route where they expected the commando soldiers to pass. A force made up of 16 soldiers walked into the ambush and 11 were killed. Four more were injured and only one, the radio operator, was unhurt and called in the rescue force.
Sitting on Miyagi Coast in Okinawa, Japan, is a well-loved establishment called Transit Café where people gather to eat and enjoy the scenery of Okinawa. It was Feb. 19, 2019, a normal weekday afternoon, the sun was shining, the blue ocean waves were crashing and Staff Sgt. Jonathan McClure, a military policeman with Headquarters and Support Battalion, Marine Corps Installations Pacific, Marine Corps Base Camp Butler-Japan, and his wife were enjoying their meal. Meanwhile, Jillian Romag and one of her close friends were also chatting during their lunch break at Romag’s favorite lunch destination on island, the Transit Café.
The McClure family was relaxing and people-watching when a sudden movement caught Mrs. McClure’s attention.
“What’s wrong?” Mrs. McClure asked her husband, looking towards the white bar. “I think she’s choking!”
Staff Sgt. McClure looked up to see Romag’s vomit splattering across the white floor. As she stumbled, grabbing desperately at her throat he rushed over, grabbed her shoulder, and looked into her eyes.
First Sergeant Jacob Karl, right, reads Staff Sgt. Jonathan McClure’s, left, Navy Achievement Medal citation Feb. 22, 2019, at Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan.
(Photo by Cpl. Tayler Schwamb)
“Are you choking?” he asked.
“I’m going to help you,” McClure said reassuring the woman as he moved to stand behind her. McClure, an experienced policeman aboard Camp Foster, had rehearsed the abdominal thrust, commonly known as the Heimlich maneuver, yearly as part of military policemen’s annual training. After three abdominal thrusts, the chunk of steak that was lodged in her throat blocking her airway came up enough for her to remove it.
In relief and mortification Romag sat down.
McClure bent down, “Are you okay?” he asked. She nodded sheepishly.
After McClure washed his hands and arms, he asked the manager for rags, immediately cleaning up the mess.
On Feb. 22, 2019, McClure was awarded the Navy Achievement Medal for superior performance of his duties while serving as a military policeman and accident investigation section chief Provost Marshal’s office, HS Bn, MCIPAC-MCB.
“This reminded me that there are really still good people out there,” said Jillian Romag, the woman McClure saved. “The Marine Corps takes care of its people and teaches its people how to take care of others.”
McClure’s exceptional professionalism, unrelenting perseverance and loyal devotion to duty reflected great credit upon him and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.
Staff Sgt. Jonathan McClure, left, and Jillian Romag, right, pose for a picture Feb. 22, 2019, at Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan.
(Photo by Cpl. Tayler Schwamb)
“I think that any MCIPAC Marine would have reacted the same way,” said Col. Vincent Ciuccoli, commanding officer of HS Bn., MCIPAC, MCB Camp Butler. “In the organization that I am in we have a very diverse group. We have a common thread throughout, every Marine here has a bias for action, and every Marine would do something. It is one thing to say that you attempted to save someone’s life, but to actually save their life and have the bravery and skillset to do it says a lot.”
Marines aboard MCIPAC strengthen and enable force projection in the Asia-Pacific region by building bridges with their allies and partners while protecting and defending the territory of the United States, its people and its interests.
“I firmly believe with 100% of my heart and soul that any Marine who knew what was going on and how to react would have done so the same exact way,” said McClure proudly. “I work with military policemen who react to hard situations on a daily basis. I know without a shadow of a doubt that any of those Marines would do the same thing. The life lesson that this instance reminded me of is that you are forever a student. You have to be willing to learn and continue to hone and refine your skills. If you do have any type of certifications, or if you are recertifying, make sure you take it seriously. If you don’t have the training, go out there and seek it. There are programs through our U.S. Naval Hospital and Red Cross. We need more people who are out there, trained and ready to act when a situation gets hectic or scary.”
One of the most celebrated World War II tank gunners received the bronze star during a surprise award ceremony 74-years in the making.
Clarence Smoyer, 96-year-old former 3rd Armored Division tank gunner, never bragged about the five tanks he destroyed in the war, including an infamous Nazi tank he leveled during a dramatic duel in war-torn Cologne, Germany.
He didn’t ask for anything, either. To Smoyer, he was just doing his job to protect the men he considers family.
(Pictured left) Clarence Smoyer, former 3rd Armored Division tank gunner, and Joe Caserta, World War II veteran of Omaha Beach, Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge, attend a Bronze Star award ceremony, with Smoyer as the guest of honor, Sept. 18, 2019, at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Smoyer was nicknamed the “Hero of Cologne” for his efforts destroying a German tank during the battle.
(Thomas Brading, Army News Service)
Duel at the cathedral
It was March 6, 1945, and WWII was winding down, much of Germany was left in ruins.
Cologne, one of the country’s largest cities, was no exception. Once a bustling metropolis, Cologne had been reduced to rubble, with only a few identifiable buildings remaining — including its cathedral.
As the Americans entered Cologne, Smoyer recalls the now-infamous words of his lieutenant, Bill Stillman, who said, “Gentlemen, I give you Cologne, let’s knock the hell out of it.”
Clarence Smoyer (top middle) was a 21-year-old Pennsylvania native when he, and his fellow tank crew members, were photographed in Cologne, Germany, in 1945. This photo, courtesy of the National Archives, was taken moments after the battle of Cologne, Germany, and Smoyer delivered the fatal shots that destroyed a German tank.
“So… we obliged,” Smoyer joked, thinking back to that day.
American forces, before making their way east toward Berlin, had to conquer Cologne first. Their goal was to secure a bridge over the Rhine River, but a nearby Nazi tank had other plans.
“Attacking such a large city gave the enemy plenty of places to hide,” Smoyer said. “Not just in the horizontal plane, but from the basements to the tops of five-story buildings — Cologne put us to the test.”
“We were chosen as the first tank(s) into the city,” he added. “Everyone else followed us in. So, for us, it was constant firing. You fired at anything that moved. That’s when a gunner’s instinct kicked in.”
One street over from Smoyer, the Panther tank, used by the Nazis, took out an American Sherman tank, killing three soldiers inside, including Karl Kellner. The Wisconsin native, and Silver Star recipient, had received a battlefield commission to lieutenant just two weeks prior.
(Pictured left) Clarence Smoyer, receives his long-awaited Bronze Star Sept. 18, 2019, during a ceremony at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Smoyer was recognized for his heroic efforts during the battle of Cologne, Germany, where as a tank gunner, he delivered the fatal blows to a German Panther tank and was nicknamed “The Hero of Cologne.”
(Thomas Brading, Army News Service)
After being hit, Kellner’s leg was amputated at the knee. He jumped from the tank and landed on his remaining leg. Smoke lifted from his stump like a ghost fading into the air, witnessed remembered.
Nearby, Stars and Stripes reporter, Sgt. Andy Rooney — the future acclaimed television journalist — along with another man sprinted toward Kellner. He was lying near the destroyed American tank. They moved him to onto a jumble of debris, safely out of the way, and attempted to stop the blood as it flowed from Kellner’s severed limb.
Rooney, the future 60 Minutes newsman, held Kellner in his arms as he died. Later, Rooney would say it was the first time he witnessed death. The other two tankers, both killed by the Germans, never escaped the Sherman tank. Meanwhile, Smoyer and his crew were slowly approaching the battle.
The Panther tank idled quietly in the street, as the Americans approached.
Veterans Clarence Smoyer and Joe Caserta stand near a Pershing tank, similar to the ones they were both crewmembers of during World War II, Sept. 18, 2019, near the National World War II Memorial in Washington. Both men were present in their respective tanks in Cologne, Germany, March 6, 1945, when Smoyer’s tank crew “Eagle 7,” took out a German tank.
(Photo by C. Todd Lopez, DOD)
“Experience taught me it’s impossible to knock out a German tank in one shot,” he said. “So, I worked a plan with our driver. He was to edge into the intersection, I’d shoot, and then he’d back up — fast! When we roared into the intersection to shoot, everything went out the window.”
Instead of “seeing the flank of the Panther in the periscope,” like he planned, Smoyer looked at the Panther’s super velocity muzzle pointed at street level, right at him, he said.
Smoyer added “his heart stopped.” The driver, also staring down the barrel of the German’s muzzle, panicked and “floored the gas.”
“We were totally vulnerable,” Smoyer said. “I snapped off a quick shot and hit him first. I kept yelling for (armor-piercing) rounds and kept hitting him until he caught fire. I could hardly breathe as we backed out of there.”
Smoyer’s finger squeezed the trigger of his tank, and he fired 90mm rounds into the side of the Panther tank, garnishing three direct hits.
World War II veterans Clarence Smoyer, Joe Caserta and Buck Marsh stand for the chaplain’s invocation during a Bronze Star award ceremony at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, Sept. 18, 2019.
(Photo by James K. Lee, DOD)
“People always ask why I fired three times,” Smoyer said. “Some say I was butchering that German crew by not giving them a chance to flee the tank. Any crewman still alive in that Panther could have pulled the trigger and with that powerful of a gun still pointing at us, we’d all be dead.”
But, that wasn’t the case. The Americans won, and Smoyer, the thin, 21-year-old curly blonde haired corporal, earned the nickname “the hero of Cologne.”
Footage of the battle, captured by Tech. Sgt. Jim Bates, a combat cameraman attached to the 165th Photo Signal Company, made its way into movie newsreels worldwide, including back home in Pennsylvania, where Smoyer called home.
“That’s Hon!” Smoyer’s sister-in-law yelled during an airing of the newsreel, Hon was Smoyer’s family nickname.
She later convinced the theater owners to replay the reel, so Smoyer’s parents, who had never been to a movie theater, could see their son was still alive.
Author Adam Makos and World War II veteran Clarence Smoyer walk to a Bronze Star award ceremony at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, Sept. 18, 2019.
(Photo by James K. Lee)
History in the making
For his actions that day, Smoyer was notified he earned the Bronze Star. However, this was short-lived after Smoyer talked to German children, who were begging the soldier for bubble gum. This small act of charity cost him the medal.
“They wanted bubble gum and I was still searching my pockets when a jeep full of (military police) turned the corner,” Smoyer said. “Fraternization was a no-no.”
Smoyer added, he felt bad for the kids, who had been on the frontlines of war longer than him. The MPs took his name, tank, serial number, and indirectly, his Bronze Star.
Army Maj. Peter Semanoff salutes World War II veteran Clarence Smoyer after awarding him the Bronze Star during a ceremony at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, Sept. 18, 2019.
(Photo by James K. Lee, DOD)
“I could have avoided all that if I just had a stick of gum!” He joked.
But, it was never about the medals and glory. As decades passed, the war ended, and Smoyer returned to civilian life. His neighbors in Allentown, Pennsylvania, never knew they lived by a war hero.
That all changed after an author, Adam Makos, who wrote a book on Smoyer’s story, happened upon information that changed everything.
“Smoyer’s tank commander and an Army combat cameraman both received Bronze Stars for their actions that day — yet, Smoyer got nothing,” Makos said.
This inspired the author to change that. He used witnesses to Smoyer’s actions, evidence he collected, including Bates combat camera footage, and contacted the Army.
World War II veterans Joe Caserta and Clarence Smoyer embrace during a Bronze Star award ceremony at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, Sept. 18, 2019.
(Photo by James K. Lee, DOD)
In the end, a military review board agreed with Makos, and Smoyer was awarded the Bronze Star. Three additional Bronze Stars were also awarded to the rest of the tank crew, making Smoyer’s tank crew “one of the most celebrated in Army history,” according to Makos.
To keep the surprise, Smoyer’s loved ones convinced him he was visiting the WWII Memorial as a tourist. The monument was filled with soldiers, fellow WWII veterans, news crews, and onlookers. Then, overwhelmed with emotion, he received the long overdue medal.
With the Bronze Star pinned to his chest, Smoyer promised to, “Wear the medal to remember the ones who lost their lives” that day, nearly 75 years ago.
When the Los Angeles Police Department responded to this particular domestic dispute during the 1992 LA riots, they likely didn’t need the backing of the United States Marine Corps – but they had it anyway. Upon approaching the house, one officer was hit by a shotgun blast of birdshot. He called back to the Marines to cover him. Unfortunately, what “cover” meant to the Marines and to the LAPD were two different things.
The officer just wanted the threat of M-16s pointed at the house to keep the shooter from shooting again. The Marines thought the 200 rounds they fired into the house would be enough. They were probably both right. But that’s not how the U.S. Army National Guard would have done it.
Before the Marines were called in, thousands of Guardsmen took to the streets of LA during the 1992 riots.
In the early 1990s, the streets of LA were a dangerous place. Even the LAPD officers who regularly walked their beats admitted to losing the streets to the tens of thousands of gang members who controlled much of the city’s south side. Los Angeles was soon a powder keg of racially and socially fueled frustration that exploded on April 29, 1992. Four LAPD officers were acquitted of using excessive force against Rodney King, a black motorist who was beaten by the officers after evading them on a California freeway.
Their acquittal sparked the 1992 LA Riots, a huge civil disturbance that covered 32-square-miles, from the Hollywood Hills to Long Beach. Eventually, the governor of California would call in more than 10,000 California National Guard troops and 2,000 active troops to quell the riots. That wasn’t enough. Then-Gov. Pete Wilson, a Marine Corps veteran, knew what he needed and asked President Bush to send in the Marines.
Within 36 hours, state and local agencies, along with thousands of California National Guardsmen had largely restored order. That’s when they were suddenly federalized and augmented with more active duty troops and the United States Marines from nearby Camp Pendleton. According to U.S. Army Maj. Gen. James Delk, this caused the morale among the soldiers of the California Guard to plummet, after all their work in restoring Los Angeles. Suddenly being told the Marines were coming in to finish the job didn’t look so good.
Local civilians, on the other hand, knew exactly who to thank. According to Gen. Delk, locals cheered at the appearance of the California National Guard in their neighborhoods. Shopkeepers and restaurants refused to take money from the Guardsmen often even delivering food and drinks to the staging areas.
So in the immediate aftermath of the rioting and violence, the media latched on to the idea that calling in the Marines was the solution to restoring law and order, despite the fact that the job was mostly done by the time the Marines arrived. The Guardsmen, for their part, continued to do their jobs despite the lack of national appreciation. By the time the Guard withdrew, the streets were much safer than they were before the riots began. The crime rate dropped by 70 percent and local citizens did not want the troops to leave. In fact, it was more than a month before the last National Guard soldier left Los Angeles.
The good news is that the federalization of the joint task force worked exactly as it was supposed to and no one wearing a uniform of the U.S. military was killed or seriously injured. Most importantly, no U.S. troops killed or wounded any innocent civilians.
If true, the battle may mark the deadliest encounter between the Cold War rivals in decades.
While the Kremlin has declined to comment, and no independent party has yet verified the reports, U.S. and Russian aligned forces have fought on opposite sides of the Syrian conflict and in close proximity for years.
If the U.S. did kill Russian military contractors, it falls short of killing official Russian service members, which could escalate into a larger war.
But the loss of Russians in Syria may still blacken the image of the Kremlin’s intervention in the six-year civil war, which it portrays as peacekeeping and inexpensive.
Russian media said Russian private contractors and pro-government forces advanced on oil fields in the eastern Deir el-Zour province and were targeted by the United States.
“Pro-regime forces initiated what appeared to be a coordinated attack on Syrian Democratic Forces east of the Euphrates river,” Pentagon spokesperson Dana White said in a statement, referring to the SDF, which the U.S. has trained, equipped, and backed for years.
The river acts as a border between the coalition and Russian and Syrian forces, and the Pentagon also described the SDF location as well-known, and that therefore the attack wasn’t a mistake.
Syrian regime forces launched a coordinated attack that included about 500 regime troops, 122mm howitzers, tanks and multiple launch rocket systems on the U.S.-backed SDF headquarters in Deir al-Zor province approximately five miles east of the Euphrates River.
The U.S.-led coalition responded with “AC-130 gunships, F-15s, F-22s, Army Apache helicopter gunships and Marine Corps artillery,” according to Fox News reporter Lucas Tomlinson.
The Pentagon said that the attack wounded only one SDF soldier. Days later, a U.S. jet destroyed a Russian-made T-72 battle tank that had fired on U.S. and SDF forces, the Pentagon told Business Insider.
Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, speaks to a crowd of small businesses, venture capitalists, and Airmen during the Inaugural Air Force Pitch Day in Manhattan, New York, March 7, 2019. Air Force Pitch Day is designed as a fast-track program to put companies on one-page contracts and same-day awards with the swipe of a government credit card. The Air Force is partnering with small businesses to help further national security in air, space and cyberspace. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // TECH SGT. ANTHONY NELSON JR.)
Senior U.S. Air Force leaders are embracing and promoting the concept that if their Airmen are not failing, then they are, more than likely, not moving forward.
They believe pushing the envelope is necessary to keep the U.S. Air Force dominant and the occasional failure should be viewed by supervisors not as a negative, but as part of a greater positive.
In this series, we hear senior Air Force leaders give examples of how taking calculated risks and failing throughout their careers taught them valuable lessons, propelled them to future success and made them better leaders.
DR. WILL ROPER, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF THE AIR FORCE FOR ACQUISITION, TECHNOLOGY AND LOGISTICS
As the Air Force’s Service Acquisition Executive, Dr. Will Roper oversees Air Force research, development and acquisition activities with a combined annual budget in excess of billion for more than 465 acquisition programs.
He promotes the concept of “Fail Fast, Fail Forward” as a foundational culture shift necessary to keep the U.S. Air Force dominant.
This philosophy is manifested in his promotion of rapid prototyping and funding innovative ideas through Air Force Pitch Day and AFWERX’s Spark Tank.
Roper believes that by spending money to develop fledgling technologies and ideas quickly, and then prototyping them rapidly, flaws are found much earlier in the development process.
This method avoids committing to the huge cost of the much longer traditional system and weapons development and acquisition where flaws are only found years and hundreds of millions of dollars later. Then the Air Force is stuck with that flawed system for decades.
However, in order for “Fail Fast, Fail Forward” to work, Roper believes the Air Force must adjust its attitude towards risk.
He points out that his own success actually points to a persistent flaw in the Air Force’s tolerance for risk – people are only rewarded for taking a risk that pays off. Roper insists that to foster an innovative culture, people must be rewarded for taking a good risk in the first place.
“Why are the people who succeed the only people we cite when we talk about risk taking as a virtue?” Roper said. “I’m trying to be very mindful with Air Force program managers and people taking risk that they get their evaluation and validation for me at the point that they take the risk.”
Grunts everywhere are always searching for new ways to make their lives easier and more convenient. From buying lighter body armor to buying an original Magpul, we always want to improve our effectiveness on the battlefield. There are certain adopted rituals, however, that are actually more inconvenient than they are improvements. One such ritual is wrapping a single piece of duct tape around the pin of an M67 frag grenade.
This ritual stems from a fear that the pin might get snagged on a tree branch and get accidentally pulled, initiating the fuse countdown. Anyone who has pulled the pin on a grenade can tell you, though, it’s not that simple. Any Marines will tell you that the process is actually, “twist pull pin” because if you try to just pull it straight out, it ain’t happening.
Here’s why it’s a bad idea to tape your grenades:
The training grenades have all those safeties for a good reason…
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Justin J. Shemanski)
The pin is not the only safety
Hollywood would have you believe that all you have to do to use a grenade is pull that pin, but it’s not so simple. There’re three safeties on the M67: the thumb clip, the pin, and the safety lever (a.k.a. the “spoon”). The entire purpose of the thumb clip is to ensure the fuse isn’t triggered if the pin is pulled first.
We all know that one guy who pulled the pin before sweeping the safety clip and threw it into a room, waiting hopelessly for the grenade to go off… How embarrassing.
When you think about it, you’re going through an unnecessary amount of effort for just a four second delayed explosion.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Akeel Austin)
You don’t have time
According to the Marine Corps Squad Weapons Student Handout for the Basic School, the average individual can throw a frag 30 to 40 meters. Why is this important? It means that if you’re using that glorious ‘Merica ball, it means you’re in close-quarters.
Do you have time to rip that tape off during a close encounter? No, you don’t.
It’s not easy enough for you to pull it out with your teeth. Just take our word on that.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Chelsea Baker)
The pin is already difficult enough to pull
The pin is in there just tightly enough so that you can rip it out quickly with the right amount of force, but it’s not so easy that it slips out when snagged on an inanimate object.
Notice how the pins are safely tucked inside.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ashley McLaughlin)
Experts say you shouldn’t
In an Army.mil article, Larry Baker, then-FORSCOM explosives safety and range manager, is quoted as saying.
“…to the best of my knowledge, there is no evidence in the history of the M67 hand grenade to suggest that it requires taping and there is no evidence that a Soldier needs to tape it because of inherent safety issues.”
Larry Baker, a Vietnam veteran, had nearly thirty years of experience at the time the article was written. He goes on to state that grenade pouches exist for the purpose of safely transporting grenades to your objective.
Corporals need the opportunity to be corporals before they become sergeants.
That’s what Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Troy Black told Marines last week when introducing new enlisted promotion and retention policies.
Starting in January 2019, corporals won’t be able to pick up sergeant until they’ve been in the Marine Corps for four years. That’s twice as long as the current requirement.
And sergeants won’t make staff noncommissioned officer status until they’ve served at least five years — a year longer than currently required. Sergeants will also need 36 months time-in-grade before they can make staff sergeant. That’s up nine months from the 27 required now.
Black told Marines that about a third of new sergeants are leaving the service within a year of picking up rank.
“Quite frankly, we can’t afford to lose about 30% of our sergeants every single year,” he said. “… We need sergeants on flight lines, we need sergeants in squads, we need sergeants doing what they’re supposed to do, and we need corporals to … master their responsibilities to reach the next higher paygrade.”
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Hector J. Marchi Ramos, a radio operator with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, I Marine Expeditionary Force, is promoted to sergeant by his wife during a promotion ceremony at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. Sept. 4, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps/Capt. Joshua P. Hays)
Starting in July 2019, new staff sergeants will also owe the Marine Corps at least two years of service once they pin on their new rank.
“Marines who are selected to the rank of staff sergeant must have at least 24 months of obligated service remaining on contract beginning on the date of their promotion,” states Marine administrative message 612/19, which announced the changes.
The service already requires gunnery sergeants to serve at least three more years after pinning on that rank, Black told the Marines in Yuma, Arizona, where he discussed the policies last week.
“What’s the benefit of that?” asked Black, who previously served as the top enlisted leader of Manpower and Reserve Affairs. “If about 30% of people who get selected to staff sergeant … and don’t stay at least 24 more, that speeds up promotion from sergeant to staff sergeant, that speeds up promotion from corporal to sergeant. You start to lose experience along the way.”
That’s because the Marine Corps promotes to fill vacancies, said Yvonne Carlock, a Manpower and Reserve Affairs spokeswoman. A lot of corporals were picking up sergeant before they hit the end of their first four-year enlistment, only to leave the service at that point, she said.
To fill those voids, the Marine Corps would again tap into the corporal ranks to promote more Marines to sergeant, and the same pattern was repeated.
“The reason we’re doing this,” Carlock added, “is to reduce the churn.”
The move hasn’t been popular with everyone. One Reserve Marine career planner told Stars and Stripes “nobody is going to want to wait four years to pick up sergeant.” And a corporal told the outlet if the changes leave fewer Marines making sergeant, that could mean “less structure in the ranks.”
Marine officials say the opposite will be true — that the moves will keep more newly promoted noncommissioned officers and staff NCOs from immediately leaving the ranks.
Along with the new promotion rules for sergeants and staff sergeants, the Marine Corps is introducing new initiatives to help retain enlisted leathernecks. Carlock said the moves are meant to improve processes.
Marines who demonstrate “high levels of proficiency and talent must be given the most efficient means by which to request and be approved for reenlistment and subsequently be provided opportunities to excel in critical leadership roles,” the administrative message states.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Mackenzie Gibson)
A select number of Marines will be allowed to submit their reenlistment packages a year ahead of schedule. The move could also leave them eligible to receive reenlistment bonuses and other initiatives that apply to Marines choosing to stay on another term in that fiscal year.
“Under current policy, [a Marine] with an end of current contract (ECC) of April 2022 is considered an FY22 cohort Marine and is currently required to wait until July 2021 to submit for reenlistment,” the administrative message states. “Under Early Reenlistment Authority, this Marine, if a computed Tier 1 Marine with no jeopardy on current contract, will be allowed to reenlist as early as July 2020 during the FY21 Enlisted Retention Campaign.”
General officers will also be given the authority to approve some Marines’ reenlistments without sending requests to Headquarters Marine Corps.
“[Major Subordinate Command-level] General Officers will be allocated a specified number of reenlistments for approval based on the percentage of the eligible cohort assigned to their command,” the message states.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The Marine Corps wants to buy some second-hand Tigers. No, they’re not trying to replace Sigfried and Roy; they want to buy some F-5E/F Tiger fighters.
According to a report at Soldier of Fortune, the Marine Corps is looking to bolster its force of aggressors. The F-5E/F had long seen service as an attack airframe. In fact, F-5E/F aggressors portrayed the fictional MiG-28 in “Top Gun.”
So, why is the Marine Corps looking to expand the aggressors? One reason is the age of the fighters. The Marine F/A-18Cs are in some of the worst shape — it’s so bad that last year, the Marines had to pull Hornets out of the “boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.
Currently, the Marines have VMFAT-101 at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, in Arizona. The goal is to place detachments of F-5s at three other Marine Corps air bases. This will help meet the needs of the Marine Corps.
One of the reasons ironically had to do with a new capability for the AV-8B Harrier force in the Marines: the ability to shoot the AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile. The AMRAAM capability required training to help the pilots use it.
So, why not just ask the other services? Well, the Navy and Air Force are having similar problems in terms of airframe age.
SOF also notes that the Air Force has resorted to using T-38 Talon trainers to provide high-speed targets for the F-22, largely because the F-22 force is both very small and expensive to operate. The Marines face the same issue with operating costs if they were to use the F-35B as aggressors.
The Marines are also looking to add light attack capability, possibly using one of two propeller-driven counter-insurgency planes, the AT-6C Coyote and the AT-29 Super Tucano. If such a unit were to be created, it could very well be assigned to the Marine Corps Reserve’s 4th Marine Air Wing.
It’s easy to see American military members in uniform and sort of lump them all in together as a single unit – that’s kind of the point of part of their lives. But it’s only a part of their lives. Once the uniform is off or they’re out of the military, what remains is a person. The Military Fresh Network aims to show that U.S. military members can serve their country while being the unique individuals they were created to be.
The Military Fresh Network provides them a platform to promote their real passions. From music to fitness, active military members and veterans alike turn to the Military Fresh Network to join a family and put their talents to work for them.
(Military Fresh Network)
If you look at Hank Robinson’s (above) ten years of Army infantry service, with his three Bronze Stars and Combat Infantryman Badge, you might be quick to lump him in with the stereotypical infantry grunt and all the baggage which might come along with it. But get to know the person and you’ll see a man who became enamored with metal work – so enamored he started his own engraving business after spending years perfecting his chosen art form. This is a man who now helps others work through PTSD via art therapy.
Then you realize you were too quick to judge. We all are. It’s sometimes hard to see past the decorations and the uniform. The Military Fresh Network is here to help change all that. Jimmy Cox, the founder of the Military Fresh Network, is as passionate about the talents of the people on the network as he is about his own.
Gabrielle Torres funded her college education through Miss America scholarships, but the dual-bachelors student will also be an Army officer upon graduation.
(Military Fresh Network)
“This is finally something we can do and show for ourselves,” says Cox, a 23-year veteran of the U.S. Army. “The reason so many people don’t join the military today is the same reason they didn’t join ten years ago – they don’t want who they are to get lost. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Your life does not have to be on hold while you wear the uniform. The Military Fresh Network shows them that. “
On the Military Fresh Network’s website, you can see the stories of dozens of America’s finest troops, officer and enlisted, who took the oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States out of uniform and in their natural habitat. There, you can read their stories, see the faces of the men and women who serve, and realize their talents and skills in a way never before seen – ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
Air Force veteran, Navy spouse, and fitness professional Tarryn Garlington is also a civilian working for the Army.
The site is broken down by branch of service and by the kind of skills and talent on display. Here you can see military members at their finest, playing musical instruments, bodybuilding, giving fitness tips, even showing off their street art and business savvy. It truly is a way to get to know America’s vets as real people, to interact with them, and appreciate people on a new level.
“I had my own following when I started in graphic design,” says Ana Valencia, a U.S. Army senior NCO who is also a Military Fresh Network volunteer. “The Military Fresh Network provided me with a huge platform for my work, so I became a huge advocate.”
In 2019, the Military Fresh Network will even be joining the ranks of the Military Influencer Conference sponsors. If you’re interested in starting your own business and don’t know where to begin, the Military Influencer Conferences are the perfect place to start. There, you can network with other veteran entrepreneurs while listening to the best speakers and panels the military-veteran community of entrepreneurs can muster. Visit the Military Influencer Conference website for more information.
Then you can post your own business skills on The Military Fresh Network.