Attacking enemy fighters in close-air-support aircraft, using ground-based laser designators to “paint” targets for aircraft, and training friendly forces for the rigors of high-casualty close-in combat are all US Air Force Special Operations Force skills tested and refined during the last decade and a half of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Drawing upon these Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTPs), Air Force Special Operations Command is accelerating a strategic shift from its recent counterinsurgency focus to preparing for “high-end” combat or major force-on-force warfare against a technologically advanced enemy.
“I would tell you there is definitely strategic value for Special Operations in the high-end fight. With our mentality, we think outside of the box and about how to present dilemmas for the enemy,” Lt. Gen Marshall Webb, said Sept. 17, 2018, at the Air Force Association Convention.
Webb emphasized that the Command’s counterterrorism focus will not diminish in coming years but likely increase as existing threats persist and new ones emerge. At the same time, he made it clear that AFSOC is “laser focused on the high-end” and currently adapting its well-established TTPs to support major power warfare.
“We have to extend the TTPs for high-end conflict as well, including multi-domain command and control,” Webb said.
Interestingly, migrating combat-tested TTPs to a high-end fight does not seem to be an insurmountable stretch but, rather, an extension of refined combat practices. Significantly, many TTPs fundamental to counterinsurgency are also of great tactical and strategic relevance to major-power warfare. For example, during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, Air Force Special Operations, the Special Tactics Squadron, used advanced targeting techniques to guide aircraft attacking the Taliban. This included using Forward Air Controllers to radio strike coordinates to circling attack aircraft and using laser designators to paint ground targets.
AFSOC contributions to the war in Afghanistan are highlighted in a 2017 Special Operations Annex portion of Air Force Doctrine published by the Lemay Center for Doctrine, Maxwell AFB.
An AC-130U gunship.
“AFSOC CCTs were instrumental in the first major gain of the conflict, leveraging airpower that led to the capture of the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif on Nov. 9, 2001 — a major breakthrough in the struggle to oust the Taliban and al-Qaeda,” the doctrine writes.
This kind of integrated air-ground operation, used to great effect in Afghanistan, is also something of potentially great value in a high-end conflict as well. The prospect of needing close air support to fortify advancing units on the ground or attacking low-flying enemy air assets presents the kinds of scenarios anticipated in major war.
The Air Force Special Operations AC-130 gunship, for instance, often circled Kandahar in Afghanistan, to fire its 105mm side-firing cannons to attack Taliban fighters. While there are of course major differences when between attacking insurgents and engaging in major air combat with a near-peer enemy, some of the tactics, approaches and technologies do seem to cross over and offer value to both kinds of conflict.
Webb further elaborated upon AFSOCs role in close air support missions will be enhanced by the service’s emerging Light Attack Aircraft. The aircraft is designed for rugged counterinsurgency missions in combat environments where the Air Force has established air superiority. At the same time, the need for these kinds of attack missions are at very least conceivable, if not likely, in large-scale warfare also.
“The need for the Light Attack Aircraft is an excellent requirement for AFSOC,” Webb said.
Special Operations Forces (SOF) are also known for a substantial intelligence expertise, used to both train and equip friendly forces and offer crucial combat-relevant detail to the larger force. Advising allied fighters is yet another instance of skills likely to be of great value in major war. Part of this intel mission includes air and ground reconnaissance using sensors, scouting forces and unique positioning in combat terrain in support of the larger fight.
Operating in small units, often somewhat autonomously, SOF are experienced fighters in austere, or otherwise hard to reach, combat areas. This skill also, quite naturally, would add value in major force-on-force warfare, as well.
SOF is “out there in the hinterlands and don’t have the luxury of an F-16,” Webb explained.
The Air Force’s Curtis Lemay Center for Doctrine, Development and Education also cites the full range of Special Operations mission sets, many of which are specifically designed for large scale war. Combat areas listed in the Doctrine text include a range of missions relevant to both COIN and major war such as “information operations, precision strike, ISR, command and control and specialized air mobility.”
The overall strategic roadmap, such as that articulated by Webb, mirrors multi-domain concepts written into special ops doctrine materials. The Lemay Center’s 2017 Doctrine Special Ops Annex text identifies a “combat continuum” for Special Ops missions, to include low-intensity conflict such as security cooperation and deterrence, limited contingencies and major operations.”
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
It’s possible the next big innovation in Marine Corps classroom or tactical training could come from an airman or a soldier.
Marine Corps Training and Education Command is in the final days of soliciting ideas for an innovation challenge focused on how to improve small-unit training, from policy to curriculum and classroom instruction to the use of tools like simulation and gaming. Any federal employee is eligible to submit ideas, including uniformed members of all service branches, including the Marine Corps, to defense department civilians.
“Sometimes it’s hard for this organization to look inside itself for new ideas,” Maj. Gen. James Lukeman, commanding general of TECOM, told Military.com in an interview. “So one of those ways that you get good ideas is, you go outside the organization.”
To date, TECOM spokesman Capt. Joshua Pena said, about 150 submissions have been collected; those eligible to submit ideas have until March 31 to send them in via a dedicated site accessed through DoD credentials. Submissions for the innovation challenge will be reviewed in April, and winners will be notified in May, officials said.
Last year, the Marine Corps has conducted a Corps-wide innovation challenge on autonomous systems and robotics, and another challenge specific to the logistics community.
“The specific focus was on how to create better decision makers,” Lukeman said. “The idea is that the ability to make good decisions quickly with limited information is critical for success on the battlefield, so how do we change our training and education that creates better decision makers for the Marine Corps.”
The Marine Corps is not promising a financial reward for winners of the challenge, or even a guarantee that their ideas will be implemented. But the authors of the best ideas will get a free trip to TECOM at Quantico, Virginia, where their proposals will be workshopped with subject matter experts.
“We just had a discussion the other day about the commandant’s reading list, on books that are out there for Marines to read, and they’ve been out there for a while,” said Sgt. Maj. Justin LeHew, the senior enlisted adviser for TECOM. “Somebody said, ‘well, they have audiobooks that are out there to do that. I could learn by using an audiobook.’ There are different things that are just provoking thought.”
Even as ideas still roll in, changes are taking place at Quantico that affect Marine Corps training. In a January message to the force, Commandant Gen. Robert Neller called for the Marine Corps to develop a new plan for Marine Corps-wide use of simulation and virtual training environments no later than this June. He also ordered that a plan be developed to build a world-class simulation and gaming center at Quantico to enhance realistic training and better prepare Marines to fight.
With retired Marine Gen. Jim Mattis, who once told fellow officers that “Powerpoint makes us stupid,” now at the helm of the defense department, Lukeman said TECOM was also working to minimize slide-lecture briefings and presentations.
“This is what we’re trying to get away from, is sit in a classroom and get taught,” he said. “The other thing that we’ve shifted to is, where possible, we want for Marines to get taught by other Marines … We’re going with the method of having a unit leader discussion over having a class.”
The Navy successfully completed its first Joint Air-to-Ground Missile (JAGM) flight test on the AH-1Z helicopter on Dec.5 at Patuxent River.
During the flight, aircrew aboard the AH-1Z navigated the missile through various operational modes and exercised its active seeker to search and/or acquire targets, demonstrating its compatibility with the aircraft.
“Initial results from the flight indicate the missile performed as planned,” said Liam Cosgrove, JAGM flight test lead. “We will continue to conduct a series of tests to prepare for live fire testing of the JAGM off the AH-1Z scheduled for early this year.”
JAGM, a joint program with the Army, is a precision-guided munition for use against high-value stationary, moving, and relocatable land and maritime targets. It utilizes a multi-mode seeker to provide targeting day or night in adverse weather, battlefield obscured conditions and against a variety of countermeasures.
“This missile will provide increased lethality and better targeting capabilities, beyond the Hellfire’s laser point designating capability that the AH-1Z currently has in theater today,” said Capt. Mitch Commerford, Direct and Time Sensitive Strike (PMA-242) program manager.
JAGM is managed by the Program Executive Office for Missiles and Space, Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. It will initially be employed on the AH-64 Apache and Marine Corps’ AH-1Z helicopters and is compatible with any aircraft that can carry Hellfire missiles. The Army will complete a 48 shot test matrix by May 2018 on AH-64 Apache aircraft in support of Milestone C.
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter sought to minimize Wednesday the impact of the failed coup in Turkey and the ensuing purge of military officers on the NATO alliance and the campaign against ISIS.
Despite the recent anti-U.S. rhetoric from the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which has demanded the extradition of a Muslim cleric in Pennsylvania, Carter said, “We support the democratically elected government.”
The secretary added, “I don’t have any indication” that the failed coup and Erdogan’s tough response would affect Turkey’s continuing membership in NATO. “The alliance is very strong, our relationship is very strong,” he said of Turkey, a founding member of NATO.
Carter also said he expected commercial power that was cut to the U.S. air base at Incirlik in southeastern Turkey following the coup attempt last Friday to be restored shortly, along with full flight operations that are vital to the air campaign against ISIS in Syria.
In a statement, the Pentagon said that Joint Chiefs Chairman Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford phoned his Turkish counterpart, Gen. Hulusi Akar, on Wednesday and they “broadly discussed operations in Incirlik and the deep commitment the U.S. has to Turkey.”
Carter spoke at a news conference at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, following the opening session of two days of meetings with the defense and foreign ministers of more than 30 nations in the anti-ISIS coalition on the next steps to eliminate the terror group’s remaining strongholds.
Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu were no-shows at Andrews. Turkey’s ambassador to the U.S., Serdar Kilic, represented his government at the meetings, which will continue at the State Department on Thursday.
After failing to make contact with Isik in the aftermath of the coup, Carter said they spoke by phone Tuesday and he told Isik, “I was glad that he was safe and the ministry was functioning. He assured me very clearly that nothing that happened over the weekend will interrupt their support” for the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.”
Erdogan responded to the attempted coup with a wide-ranging purge of the ranks of the military, police, judiciary, media and academia.
By some counts, more than 50,000 people have been fired or suspended, and more than 9,000 have been detained on suspicion of supporting the coup that Erdogan has blamed on supporters of exiled Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, now living in Pennsylvania.
Gulen has denied any involvement in the coup, but the Turkish government on Tuesday said that paperwork had been filed with the State Department demanding his extradition. Secretary of State John Kerry has pledged to review the extradition request while adding that the U.S. would adhere strictly to the law.
The purge has devastated the ranks of the Turkish military, with at least 118 generals and admirals now under detention, including the commander of Incirlik air base, which is shared by the U.S. 39th Air Base Wing and the Turkish air force.
Erdogan told Al Jazeera on Wednesday that the attempted coup, which left at least 240 dead and more than 1,000 wounded, was carried out by a minority within the armed forces.
“It is clear that they are in the minority,” Erdogan said. “This organization that we called a terrorist organization [Gulen’s] is trying to make the minority dominate the majority. We have taken all the steps necessary to prevent such an event.”
In a conference call with reporters Tuesday, analyst Steven Cook of the Council on Foreign Relations said the failed coup and Erdogan’s harsh response had reduced U.S.-Turkey relations to their “lowest point” in recent times.
“It’s hard to refer to Turkey as a democracy,” Cook said. The U.S. “has to start asking questions about the value of Turkey as an ally,” but has been reluctant to do so because of Turkey’s membership in NATO and the importance of Incirlik air base in the fight against ISIS, Cook said.
However, “the Turks have been reluctant to get involved in fight against the Islamic State,” Cook said. “By their own admission, they’re much more concerned about Kurdish nationalism.”
A sheriff’s deputy received minor injuries after his vehicle was struck by a train in Midland, Texas on May 21, 2019.
Two Midland County Sheriff’s Office SUVs attempted to drive around a slow-moving, west-bound train at a railroad crossing when an east-bound train struck the lead vehicle.
The west-bound train had offloaded some cars and was trying to get out of the deputy’s way, Midland County sheriff Gary Painter said during an interview with KWES. The west-bound train; however, blocked the deputy’s view of the incoming east-bound train that was moving “at a high rate of speed.”
The railroad crossing sign was functioning at the time of the crash, but the deputy made the decision to cross the railroad tracks, Midland Reporter-Telegram reported.
The deputy’s vehicle flipped over after it was struck by the moving train. Video footage from a witness showed the scene:
The deputy behind the impacted vehicle pulled the injured deputy through his windshield, according to KWES. The deputy who was hit sustained minor injuries and was taken to a hospital.
The deputies were initially responding to a call of a baby who wasn’t breathing, KWES reported. (The baby is alright, Painter told KWES.)
The Federal Railroad Administration estimated in 2015 that motorists are 20 times more likely to die in a collision with a train than with a vehicle. Most of the collisions involved trains traveling less than 30 miles per hour.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Master Sgt. Raul “Roy” P. Benavidez was a young special forces linguist and medic when, in 1965, he stepped on a mine in Vietnam and was evacuated to the United States. He was told he’d never walk again. But, wanting to return to Vietnam, he began a nightly ritual of attempting to relearn how to walk despite explicit orders from his doctors.
A year later, his doctor was standing in Benavidez’s hospital room with medical discharge papers. The doctor made a deal with Benavidez that he’d tear up the discharge if Benavidez walked out of the room. Benavidez did one better by walking out of the ward.
Amazingly, this was not the most insane or heroic part of Benavidez’s life. That’s because, after returning to Vietnam, Benavidez volunteered to assist with the emergency extraction of a 12-man special forces team under extreme fire on May 2, 1968. He rode into battle on the fourth helicopter to attempt extraction, the first three having been driven back by withering small arms and anti-aircraft fire. The fourth bird also decided it couldn’t land, but allowed Benavidez to drop out of the helicopter 75 meters from the team.
Benavidez ran the 75 meters and was wounded three times in the process, including once in the head and once in the face. Despite his wounds, he began repositioning the wounded team members so they could lay down fire while also marking the location for aircraft to attempt extraction. When the bird arrived, he ran alongside, providing cover fire, as the helicopter picked up the wounded. Right as the helicopter and Benavidez reached the dead team leader, Benavidez was hit by small arms fire and grenade shrapnel while the pilot was mortally wounded and crashed the aircraft.
Benavidez again recovered the wounded and placed them in a defensive perimeter. He began circuits of the perimeter, distributing ammunition and water. As the enemy increased its pressure on the team, he began calling in airstrikes.
Another aircraft arrived to attempt extraction and Benavidez — despite his own serious injuries — ferried the dead and wounded to the waiting helicopter until he was clubbed from behind by an enemy soldier. He engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the soldier and killed him, but sustained bayonet wounds. While ferrying the last of the wounded to the bird, he engaged two additional enemy soldiers, killing them and protecting the helicopter.
Then, just to prove being wounded 37 times in six hours of combat ain’t no thang, he did a final sweep of the perimeter to ensure no wounded men or classified material was left on the battlefield.
Finally, Benavidez allowed himself to be pulled from the fight. Upon arriving back at the base, he was declared dead by two doctors. As the second one was zipping up the body bag, Benavidez proved he was alive by spitting in the doctor’s face, much like he had been spitting in the face of death for the previous six hours.
It would be nearly 13 more years before Benavidez was awarded the Medal of Honor, primarily because it was thought that there were no surviving witnesses to testify to his actions. After a team member who did survive, Brian O’Conner, heard Benavidez was still alive and that a witness testimony would allow him to be awarded the nation’s highest military honor, O’Conner provided a 10-page report to satisfy the requirement.
On February 24, 1981, President Ronald Reagan presented the Medal Of Honor. Before reading the citation, he told the crowd, “If the story of his heroism were a movie script, you would not believe it.”
The reading of the citation and Benavidez’s story, in his own words, is available in the video below.
Sometimes it can feel pretty darn easy to forget about the National Guard – especially when the branch doesn’t get any traction for high visibility news coverage. But the truth is that the National Guard actually has a long and distinguished history, and has been a cornerstone to the support of other branches of the military.
Here’s a list of 7 lesser known facts about the National Guard.
Did you know that the National Guard is older than the United States? It’s true. In 1636, the first militia units were organized in the Massachusetts Bay Colony under three permanent regiments, and each of these militia units trace their lineage back to 17th century armed forces. However, colonists were fearful of a militia and vehemently opposed a standing army.
Over 100 years later, the 1792 Militia Act gave the president powers to call forth the militia whenever the United States might be invaded or be in face of imminent danger of invasion.
Evolution of the Guard
Free, able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 45 were conscripted into local militia during the 19th century in the United States. The militia units were divided much like the current modern military into divisions, brigades, battalions and companies.
What’s in a name?
The use of the term “National Guard” occurred after the end of the Civil War. In 1878, the National Guard Association of the United States was formed to lobby for the formation of the National Guard in states and territories. The term was popularized by Marquis de Lafayette, but didn’t become an official term until 1916.
During the Revolutionary War, National Guard service members were called “Minutemen” for their rapid response abilities, making them the original Rapid Deployment Force.
During the Progressive Era (1890-1920), reforms to government and private industry saw a shift in the perception of the National Guard. Of the most pressing reforms was the Militia Act of 1903 which established training and organizational standards across all Guard units in the country.
The amendment of the National Defense Act in 1933 officially created the National Guard of the United States and formally established it as a separate reserve component of the Army. This revision allowed for the creation of training standards and clearly defined the role of National Guard units when they’re called into service.
Swearing in ceremonies are unusual
Each member of the National Guard has to swear to uphold both the federal constitution and their state constitution. This oath hearkens back to the origins of the National Guard as a state militia.
Presidents serve, too
Two presidents have served in the National Guard in its current iteration – Harry S. Truman and George W. Bush.
A National Guard for every state
Guard units are everywhere except in American Samoa, which is the only U.S. territory not to have a unit.
To join the National Guard, a person has to be between the ages of 17 and 35, be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, and have at least a high school diploma or GED. Enlistment is eight years, minimum. However, a person can elect to serve three or six years and spend the remainder of the time in Individual Ready Reserve (IRR). IRR soldiers don’t train with a unit but can be called up in the event of an emergency.
The Navy gets 14 new ships, including a carrier; the Air Force adds 56 F-35s; the Army gets 17 Apache and 11 Lakota helicopters; the Marine Corps receives 24 vertical landing F-35Bs; and the Coast Guard gets a long-needed icebreaker.
All the troops get funding for a 2.4 percent pay raise that took effect at the beginning of the year, with the possibility for more next year.
The Air Force also gets $103 million for the wing replacement program on the A-10 Thunderbolt as a start in what Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said is a plan to keep the “Warthogs” flying at least to 2030.
These are some of the highlights from the submissions of the Senate and House Defense Appropriations subcommittees in the overall 2,342-page, $1.3 trillion omnibus spending package for fiscal 2018, including nearly $700 billion for the military and $591 billion for non-defense funding.
The $700 billion includes $65.2 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations, or “war budget” funding mostly for Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.
“Overall, this is the biggest year-to-year increase in defense funding in 15 years — a $61 billion increase over FY2017 enacted levels,” the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee said in its overview.
Yet Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said it isn’t enough to completely reverse the shortfalls in readiness and modernization brought about by the budget restraints under the sequester process.
“It is not enough to fix our problems, but it’s probably the right amount to be spent this year,” he told Fox News on March 21, 2018.
The Defense Department has been promised $716 billion for fiscal 2019 under a two-year military spending plan already approved by Congress — $700 billion in 2018 and $716 billion in 2019.
All of that funding is contingent on Congress approving the $1.3 trillion omnibus package, which is still hung up on debates over health care, immigration, gun control, and the funding of Planned Parenthood.
Since failing to adopt a fiscal 2018 budget Oct. 1, 2017, the government has gone through two brief shutdowns and five continuing resolutions that kept spending at 2017 levels. The latest continuing resolution runs out at midnight March 23, 2018.
The proposed fiscal 2018 budget for the DoD includes $137.7 billion overall for personnel and the 2.4 percent pay raise; $89.2 billion for research and development, up $16 billion over 2017; $144.3 billion for procurement, up $25.4 billion over 2017; and $238 billion for operations and maintenance — about $1 billion above the Trump administration’s request.
The omnibus package would also fully fund an active-duty end strength of 1,322,500 and a reserve component end strength of 816,900 — an overall increase of 9,500.
The Missile Defense Agency would get at least a $2 billion increase over its original request to a total of $11.5 billion, mainly to counter the growing threat from North Korea.
The additional MDA funding includes $568 million to initiate the expansion of Missile Field #4 at Fort Greely, Alaska, with 20 additional Ground-Based Interceptors.
The proposed agreement calls for $23.8 billion to go to Navy shipbuilding programs, $3.4 billion above the initial budget request.
In total, the agreement funds the construction of 14 new ships: one aircraft carrier, two Virginia- class submarines, two DDG-51 destroyers, three Littoral Combat Ships, one LX(R) amphibious assault ship, one Expeditionary Fast Transport ship, one Expeditionary Sea Base, one TAO fleet oiler, one Towing, Salvage and Rescue ship (ATS), and one T-AGS oceanographic survey ship.
The agreement also fully funds advance procurement activities for Ohio-class and Virginia-class submarines. Other critical shipbuilding investments include an additional $225 million for the expansion of the submarine industrial base and $150 million to accelerate procurement of a Heavy Polar Icebreaker, according to the Senate overview.
The Army would get $348 million for 116 Stryker Double V-Hull upgrades; $300 million for Stryker lethality upgrades; $1.1 billion for the upgrade of 85 Abrams tanks; and $483 million for the upgrade of 145 Bradley Fighting Vehicles.
In addition, the Army would get $220 million for National Guard High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle recapitalization, including $120 million specifically for ambulance modernization.
The proposed bill includes a total of $44 billion for aircraft procurement programs, $9.5 billion above the amount requested by the Trump administration. The bill would provide:
• $2.9 billion for 10 conventional take-off, six carrier variant, and four vertical take-off F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, as well as additional tooling and spare engines (Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps).
• $739 million for 10 F-18 Super Hornet aircraft (Navy).
• $676 million for eight V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft (Marine Corps and Navy).
• $600 million for five MC-130J aircraft (Special Operations Command).
• $577 million for 17 AH-64 Apache helicopters (Army).
• $510 million for three KC-46A tanker aircraft (Air Force).
• $501 million for three P-8A Poseidon aircraft (Navy).
• $480 million for six C-130J aircraft (Air National Guard).
• $400 million for eight MH-60R helicopters (Navy).
• $387 million for eight CH-47 Chinook helicopters (Army and Special Operations Command).
• $343 million for four KC-130J tanker aircraft (Marine Corps).
• $250 million for two CH-53K King Stallion helicopters (Marine Corps).
• $221 million for seven UH-1Y/AH-1Z helicopters (Marine Corps).
• $207 million for two C-40 aircraft (Marine Corps).
• $130 million for two C-37B aircraft (Air Force).
• $110 million for additional RQ-7 Shadow systems (Army).
• $108 million for eight UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters (Army National Guard).
• $107 million for nine MQ-1 Grey Eagle vehicles and payloads (Army).
• $100 million for one HC-130J aircraft (Air Force).
• $90 million for 11 UH-72 Lakota helicopters (Army).
• $84 million for six MQ-8 Fire Scout vehicles (Navy).
• $40 million for two SATURN ARCH aircraft (Army).
• $29 million for one Dash 8 maritime patrol aircraft (Southern Command).
There were a lot of big name winners at the 17th Annual Academy Awards in 1945, Bing Crosby, Ingrid Bergman, and… the United States Marine Corps. That’s right, USMC Combat Cameramen won the Oscar for Best Documentary Short for their coverage of the Battle of Tarawa in 1943. Tarawa was unique because of the coverage COMCAM operators were able to give the battle.
November 20-23 1943 saw a thousand Marines die fighting to take the tiny, two mile wide island of Tarawa from Imperial Japanese forces during World War II. Two thousand more Marines were injured. 4,700 Japanese died defending the island with only 17 surrendering to U.S. forces. Hundreds of Korean slave laborers also died.
Combat Camera Marines with the 2nd Marine Division were along for the ride and after the battle, edited With the Marines at Tarawa, a twenty minute short film designed to bring the story of the battle to Americans on the home front. The goal was to give people as close to a first hand experience of the horrors of war as film could get them.
In an eleven minute newsreel from the Army-Navy Screen Magazine designed to be viewed by servicemen, Marine Corps Combat Cameraman Norm Hatch narrates the footage he filmed during the battle of Tarawa.
The narration was clearly written by a screenwriter (this is WWII propaganda, after all), and it includes a short skit as a premise for the story, but the combat footage is heavy and graphic at times.
The end may seem out of place, but the quick construction of the airfield at Tarawa is a reminder of the importance of the battle and the need for the island’s strategic position. It’s also a good reminder of what Marines can do when called upon: The Japanese admiral commanding Tarawa boasted the Marines couldn’t take Tarawa with a million men in a hundred years.
The Department of Defense is asking armed citizens to stop standing outside of military recruiting centers, USA Today reported Friday.
“We take the safety of our service members, our DoD civilians, and the families who support them very seriously, and Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is currently reviewing recommendations from the services for making our installations and facilities safer — including our recruiting stations,” Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said in a statement.
Some citizens have armed themselves and have stood outside recruiting centers in the wake of the July 16 shooting rampage by Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez in Chattanooga, Tennessee that resulted in the deaths of four U.S. Marines and one sailor.
But armed non-military personnel — some affiliated with militia groups — has gotten some military leaders worried, according to Stars Stripes.
“I’m sure the citizens mean well, but we cannot assume this in every case and we do not want to advocate this behavior,” reads a letter from Army Recruiting Command, which urges recruiters to report the vigilantes to local law enforcement.
The Pentagon issued the statement after a man accidentally fired his AR-15 outside of a recruiting center in Lancaster, Ohio, according to The Columbus Dispatch.
“We felt it was prudent to issue this statement in order to help potentially prevent other incidents like this from occurring,” a defense official told The New York Times. “The absolute last thing we want is to see any other loss of life.”
United States Army Air Forces airman Henry Eugene “Red” Erwin, Sr., who was presented the Medal of Honor for his actions in World War II. (Courtesy of Erwin family)
Red Erwin was in such bad shape, suffering from burns all the way to the bone, that then-Maj. Gen. Curtis LeMay put one of his legendary bull rushes on the regulations to get him the Medal of Honor before he died.
The medal was awarded and presented to Erwin within a week of his near-fatal injuries; it’s still believed to be the fastest approval on record of the nation’s highest award for valor.
Staff Sgt. Henry E. “Red” Erwin, the radio operator on a B-29 Superfortress over Japan in April 1945, beat long odds to survive and go home to Alabama, where he was welcomed at the hospital with a kiss from his wife Betty on the only part of his face that wasn’t scalded.
The doctors didn’t think he would see again, but he did. They thought he would lose his right arm, but he didn’t. Following more than 40 surgeries, Erwin would work for 37 years counseling burn patients and advising on benefits for the then-Veterans Administration in Birmingham, Alabama.
He and Betty would have four children. Following his death in 2002, son Henry Erwin Jr., who had become a state senator in Alabama, said his father “embodied all the ideals of the Medal of Honor. He wore them like a well-pressed suit.”
“He was honest, thrifty and patriotic,” the son told the Pentagon, “[and] treated everyone with courtesy and respect.”
There was never any doubt that what Erwin did on April 12, 1945, deserved the Medal of Honor — not among the other 11 crew members whose lives he saved and definitely not for LeMay, then-commander of the bombing campaign against Japan.
As the radio operator, Erwin was also in charge of dropping white phosphorus charges down a chute to signal rallying points for other bombers in the formation to proceed to targets.
On that day, something went terribly wrong with the “willy peter” charge. It either jammed in the chute or went off prematurely, bouncing back up and hitting Erwin in the face. He was blinded, part of his nose was burned off and his clothes were on fire. Flames were spreading through the aircraft.
Despite his injuries, Erwin picked up the white phosphorus charge, still burning at more than 1,300 degrees Celsius, or 2,372 degrees Fahrenheit. He groped and crawled his way to the cockpit, where he somehow unhinged a small desk blocking his way to a window. He heaved the charge out the window and then collapsed.
On Guam on April 19, 1945, Erwin’s entire body was covered in bandages when Maj. Gen. Willis H. Hale, commander of Army Air Forces Pacific Area, presented him with the Medal of Honor. It had been approved by the newly sworn-in President Harry Truman.
LeMay would later tell him: “Your effort to save the lives of your fellow Airmen is the most extraordinary kind of heroism I know.”
Erwin’s story has become part of Air Force lore, but the effort to honor his legacy and preserve it for new generations has taken on a new form to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II.
WWII Hero’s Incredible Medal of Honor Story Now to Be a Movie
His grandson, Jon Erwin, in collaboration with author William Doyle, has written a book, to be published Tuesday, on Red Erwin’s astonishing sacrifice, his life after the war, and the strong Christian faith that saw him through hardship: “Beyond Valor: A World War II Story of Extraordinary Heroism, Sacrificial Love, and a Race against Time.”
In a 1999 History Channel documentary with other Medal of Honor recipients, Erwin said, “I called on the Lord to help me, and He has never let me down.”
Jon Erwin and his brother, Andrew, the director-producer team in a string of successful inspirational movies such as “Woodlawn” and “I Can Only Imagine,” also are at work on a movie about their grandfather.
For Jon Erwin, the book and movie are a way of coming to grips with the meaning of his grandfather’s legacy, which he may not have fully appreciated in his youth.
In a phone interview, he recalled being about six years old when his grandfather took him to the basement and retrieved the Medal of Honor from its display case.
“He let me hold the Medal of Honor in the basement,” but initially said nothing as the young boy tried to grasp what his grandfather was telling him, Jon Erwin said.
Then, Erwin leaned over his shoulder and said only, “Freedom isn’t free.”
The message was lost on him as a boy, Jon Erwin said, and he feels that he never truly comprehended through his teenage years his grandfather’s passion for duty and service.
“I think my generation doesn’t look back enough on the heroism that built this country,” typified by the World War II generation, he said. “I didn’t either. That’s my one lasting regret — that I didn’t take the time to listen.”
Jon Erwin said there is new material in the book, including a stash of letters that his grandparents wrote to each other during the war, interviews with Erwin’s crew members, and a quote from LeMay on his determination to get the Medal of Honor to Erwin quickly.
“I want to pin the Medal of Honor on that kid’s neck before he dies,” LeMay said.
Jon Erwin said his grandmother shared her husband’s general reluctance to dwell on what had happened during the war.
“He didn’t talk about it; that was my husband,” he recalled Betty saying.
‘He Cradled It Like a Football’
Red Erwin was born in Docena, Alabama, on May 8, 1921. His father, a coal miner, died when he was 10. He quit school to join the Civilian Conservation Corps, one of President Franklin Roosevelt’s “alphabet soup” agencies meant to ease the devastating effects of the Depression.
Erwin joined the Army Reserve in July 1942 and was called to active duty as an aviation cadet in the Army Air Forces in February 1943, training as a pilot in Ocala, Florida. He didn’t make it through flight school and later was trained as a radio operator and radio mechanic.
He was assigned to the 52nd Bombardment Squadron, 29th Bombardment Group, 20th Air Force, which left for the Pacific in early 1945.
From Feb. 25 to April 1 of that year, his unit participated in 10 missions against Japanese cities. On April 12, his B-29, called the “City of Los Angeles,” was the lead bomber in a formation on a low-level mission to attack a chemical plant at Koriyama, 120 miles north of Tokyo.
The following account of the mission is based on Air Force historical records, which included interviews with other crew members, Erwin’s medal citation and the interview with his grandson Jon.
Erwin’s job dropping the white phosphorus charge down the chute on the signal of Capt. George Simeral, the B-29’s flight commander, was crucial to the success of the mission. The bombers flew individually to Japan and would await the phosphorus signal to form up on Simeral’s aircraft.
Over the Japanese volcanic island of Aogashima, Simeral barked the order to Erwin, “Now.”
Erwin pulled the pin on the charge, which contained 20 pounds of white phosphorus, and dropped it down the chute.
There was supposed to be an eight-second delay on the charge, giving it ample time to clear the aircraft, but it either went off prematurely or caught in the chute. Erwin was kneeling over the chute when the charge shot back up and hit him in the face.
Erwin said later that he immediately sensed something was wrong as he lit the charge. “I knew that sucker was coming back. I was completely aflame.”
Thick white smoke spread through the aircraft. The charge, burning at 1,300 degrees Celsius, was eating its way through the metal bulkhead.
The navigator’s table blocked Erwin’s path to a window. He clutched the white-hot charge between his right arm and his chest — “he cradled it like a football,” other crew members said — and reached out with his left hand to unlock the table.
Erwin “stumbled into the cockpit, threw the bomb out the window, and collapsed between the pilots’ seats,” an Air Force report said.
“After Red threw that bomb out the co-pilot’s window, the smoke cleared out, and I could see the instruments. And, at that point, we were at 300 feet,” Simeral said. “If he hadn’t gotten it out of there, well then, why we probably would have gone on in.”
Simeral aborted the mission and headed back to Iwo Jima, the closest place where Erwin could be treated. The crew used a fire extinguisher to put out the flames on Erwin’s clothes, but the white phosphorus embedded in him continued to smolder.
Erwin was in agony but never lost consciousness. He kept asking, “Is everybody else all right?”
On Guam on May 7, LeMay asked Erwin what else could be done for him. He asked for his brother Howard, who was on Saipan with the 7th Marine Division.
Screen idol Tyrone Power, star of swashbuckler hits and a Marine Corps cargo pilot in the Pacific during World War II, flew Howard to visit him in the hospital on Guam.
“And so my brother was there the next morning,” Erwin said. “He stayed with me for 24 hours. I couldn’t see him, but I knew he was there and that was a great comfort.”
Erwin received a disability discharge from the Army in October 1947 as a master sergeant.
In a 1986 oral history for the Air Force, he said, “I love the military. Even though I was severely burned, if they had retained me, I would have stayed in.”
Reflecting on World War II, Erwin said, “We had the leaders, we had the logistics, and we had the brave men at the right place at the right time.”
In the business of movie-making, Jon Erwin said that he and his brother try to tell stories that “have the power to uplift and inspire people,” adding that their grandfather’s story is the best example.
“The lessons of Red Erwin inspire us with the ideals of endurance and perseverance,” which can mean the difference between success and failure, he said. “And I’ve found that the people who are successful are the people who can go above and beyond. I learned that from my grandfather.”
Years after initial development, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II finally seems like it’s well on its way to enter the US’s fleet of fighter jets. That doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that the DoD isn’t seeking alternative jets to supplement their squadrons.
According to Defense News, the US Air Force announced that it would begin testing aircraft that were not currently planned to be in its inventory. After signing a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with Textron AirLand, the Air Force will begin a series of tests to determine if Textron AirLand’s flagship jet, dubbed “Scorpion”, will be airworthy.
“This is the first of its kind, we have not done a CRADA like this before and we have never had a partnership with industry to assess aircraft that are not under a USAF acquisition contract,” an Air Force representative explained in a statement from Defense News.
The Scorpion is a different beast compared to the other jets around the globe. Starting with its cost, Textron AirLand’s President Bill Anderson explained in a Bloomberg video, “The Scorpion … was designed to be very effective and very affordable.”
“The goal was to create a very mission-relevant aircraft for today’s security environment that’s below $20 million in acquisition costs, and below $3,000 an hour to operate.”
By comparison, a Predator unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) costs about $13 million and $1,500 per hour to operate, while the conventional F-35A costs $98 million per unit and $42,200 an hour in 2015.
“It’s quite maneuverable,” explained Scorpion test pilot Andy Vaughan. “It reminds me of my days when I used to fly the A-10 in the US Air Force.”
From start to finish, the construction of the Scorpion was kept secret to maintain a competitive advantage. Nevertheless, the secret wasn’t kept very long — Textron AirLand was able to conduct testing soon after the aircraft’s conception.
“In a classic DoD acquisition program, they can spend up to 10 years just developing and fielding an aircraft — and we’ve done it in less than 2,” Anderson said.
However, it’s still too early to determine whether this move by the Air Force will also move the sale of Scorpion units both in the US and abroad — according to Defense News, the program has attracted only one potential customer.