Early March 2018, the Russian Ministry of Defense asked people to choose between names for what it described as a new breed of hypersonic intercontinental ballistic missile:
На официальном сайте Минобороны РФ запущен специальный сервис, предназначенный для выбора наименований новейших образцов российского оружия. С сегодняшнего дня любой посетитель официального сайта Минобороны России с помощью простого и понятного сервиса https://t.co/Fg0eglezqTpic.twitter.com/ozDnpNScCk
The results have since been announced, and they decided that the new missile should be called Burevestnik, a type of bird. It narrowly beat Palmyra, a site of clashes in Syria between Russia and the Islamic State terrorist group, and Surprise.
It also reflects a broader tendency for Russian diplomatic channels to joke about international relations.
After Russia was accused of being behind the poisoning of a Russian former spy on British soil, the action that prompted the US to expel the Russian diplomats, Russia’s embassy in the UK tweeted that Agatha Christie’s fictional detective Hercule Poirot should be sent to figure out the truth.
Now that the military life is thoroughly back into full swing after the new year lull, I’m going to make a wild guess and assume that a large portion of the grunts are now going to go out into the field “to make up for lost time.” Have fun with that.
To a certain extent, I understand summer field problems. Go out and train for what you’ll do on a deployment. And I get that there are certain parts of RC-North, Afghanistan, that get cold as balls, so acclimatizing makes sense. But winter field exercises back stateside just teaches troops one crucial thing: never second guess the packing list.
You’ll be doing the exact same as thing you’ll do during every other field exercise, but if you, for some reason, forget gloves… Well, you’re f*cked.
For the rest of you POGs who’re still lounging around the training room on your cell phones, have some memes!
(Meme via PT Belt Nation)
Five bucks says that Adam Driver still has a poncho liner on his couch.
Peter MacDonald is one of the last remaining Navajo Code Talkers. The former chairman of the Navajo Nation recently sat down with VAntage Point staff to explain what made the “unbreakable” code so effective, and how it helped save lives and secure victory in the Pacific.
“Without Navajo, Marines would never have taken the island of Iwo Jima,” he said. “That’s how critical Navajo Code was to the war in the Pacific.”
The Unbreakable Code
Code Talkers used native languages to send military messages before World War II. Choctaw, for example, was used during World War I. The Marine Corps, however, needed an “unbreakable” code for its island-hopping campaign in the Pacific. Navajo, which was unwritten and known by few outside the tribe, seemed to fit the Corps’ requirements.
Twenty-nine Navajos were recruited to develop the code in 1942. They took their language and developed a “Type One Code” that assigned a Navajo word to each English letter. They also created special words for planes, ships and weapons.
Understanding Navajo didn’t mean a person could understand the code. While a person fluent in the language would hear a message that translated into a list of words that seemingly had no connection to each other, a code talker would hear a very clear message.
Here is an example:
Navajo Code: DIBEH, AH-NAH, A-SHIN, BE, AH-DEEL-TAHI, D-AH, NA-AS-TSO-SI, THAN-ZIE, TLO-CHIN Translation: SHEEP, EYES, NOSE, DEER, BLOW UP, TEA, MOUSE, TURKEY, ONION Deciphered Code: SEND DEMOLITION TEAM TO …
In addition to being unbreakable, the new code also reduced the amount of time it took to transmit and receive secret messages. Because all 17 pages of the Navajo code were memorized, there was no need to encrypt and decipher messages with the aid of coding machines. So, instead of taking several minutes to send and receive one message, Navajo code talkers could send several messages within seconds. This made the Navajo code talker an important part of any Marine unit.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has completed his policy review on transgender individuals serving in the military and his recommendations are likely to be forwarded to the White House late February 2018, the Pentagon said Feb. 21, 2018.
Pentagon spokesmen said the review and recommendations would be conveyed privately and disclosure would be up to the White House.
Mattis was under a Feb. 21 2018 deadline to complete the report that came about after President Trump caught the military by surprise July 2017 in sending out Tweets calling for a ban on transgender individuals in the ranks.
Trump said he wanted the future policy to be that the U.S. “will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military.”
In August 2017, Trump issued a memo directing Mattis to conduct a review led by a panel of experts and make recommendations by Feb. 21, 2018.
Trump’s ban would reverse the directive issued by former President Barack Obama in 2016 that allowed transgender individuals to serve openly for the first time.
Trump’s proposals triggered a series of lawsuits by advocacy groups and four federal district courts have now ruled that a ban would be unconstitutional. The courts also ordered that the recruitment of transgender individuals should resume on Jan. 1, 2018 and the military has complied.
Mattis strongly endorsed the new rules for the military setting out that those who cannot deploy for 12 consecutive months should be discharged. Exceptions would be made for pregnancies and troops wounded or injured in combat.
There has been speculation that the “deployability” rules could be used against transgender individuals, but Matt Thorn, president of the OutServe-SLDN (Servicemembers Legal Defense Network) advocacy group said that deployments were not generally a problem for transgender individuals currently serving.
“We don’t expect that policy to have much impact,” Thorn said of the new rules on deployments. “Most transgender individuals are deployable by the 12-month marker.”
The Defense Department has repeatedly declined to give an estimate on how many transgender individuals are currently serving. A Rand Corp. study estimated that there are between 2,500 and 7,000 transgender service members on active duty and an additional 1,500 to 4,000 in the Reserves and National Guard.
Army officials at Fort Polk, Louisiana, are trying to determine how a soldier was shot during training in October 2018 since the incident did not occur during a live-fire event.
The soldier from 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, was shot accidentally while going through Expert Infantryman Badge (EIB) testing at 2 p.m. Oct. 26, 2018, according to Kim Reischling, a spokeswoman for Fort Polk.
The Army did not release the soldier’s name, but Reischling said he is in stable condition.
Infantry soldiers participate in testing each year to show they have mastered their core infantry skills and to earn the EIB, a distinctive badge consisting of a silver musket on a blue field.
Expert Infantryman Badge candidates wait at the start of the 12-mile foot march before the sun rises, April 3, 2014.
The testing requires soldiers to pass a day-and-night land navigation course; complete a 12-mile road march with their weapon, individual equipment and a 35-pound rucksack within three hours; and pass several individual tests involving weapons, first aid and patrolling techniques.
Soldiers are required to have their weapons with them during EIB testing, but there “shouldn’t have been live rounds” present when the soldier was shot, Reischling said.
The incident remains under investigation, she said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
A court order just halted the Trump administration’s plans to revert the Department of Defense personnel policy on transgender troops implemented by President Barack Obama. The ruling has the effect of keeping the order in place while the case is argued.
According to a report by the Washington Times, U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who was appointed to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia by President Bill Clinton in 1997, wrote a 76-page ruling issuing the injunction. The ruling nullified President Trump’s memo from Aug. 25. The memo followed up on a tweet by the President from July.
“The Court finds that a number of factors—including the sheer breadth of the exclusion ordered by the directives, the unusual circumstances surrounding the President’s announcement of them, the fact that the reasons given for them do not appear to be supported by any facts, and the recent rejection of those reasons by the military itself — strongly suggest that Plaintiffs’ Fifth Amendment claim is meritorious,” Judge Kollar-Kotelly wrote in the opinion striking down the ban on future accessions and retention of transgender troops.
The ruling drew fire from Elaine Donnelly, the president of the Center for Military Readiness. Donnelly said that the judge in the case was acting as “supreme judicial commander of the military.” She argues that the issue of whether transgender individuals can serve in the military was not about civil rights, but was “a national security issue.”
“The United States Supreme Court has on numerous occasions upheld or issued decisions based on deference to the Congress of the United States, which has the power to make policy, and the Executive Branch which implements policy,” she explained.
Personally nominated for the Nobel Prize a record 84 times, Arnold Johannes Wilhelm Sommerfeld was one of the most influential physicists of all time, both because of his own accomplishments in the field and the many dozens of his students who turned into superstars in the world of science (including having four doctoral students go on to win the Nobel Prize, along with three of his other postgraduate students also taking home the award- the most eventual Nobel laureates all taught by one person).
Born on December 5, 1868 in Königsberg, East Prussia, Sommerfeld began his career as a student of mathematics and the physical sciences at Albertina (aka University of Königsberg) in his hometown, where he received a Ph.D. on October 24, 1891.
After a year of compulsive military service ended in 1893, unlike so many academics of his era, Sommerfeld continued to serve as a volunteer for the next eight years on the side. Physically impressive, with a Prussian bearing and wearing a fencing scar on his magnificently mustachioed face, while in the service, Sommerfeld was famously described as managing “to give the impression of a colonel of the hussars,” rather than a book-worm academic.
As for that scar, in his first year of study, the near “compulsory drinking bouts and fencing duels” not only resulted in said scar, but also hindered his studies significantly, which he later came to regret as wasted time.
Apparently making up for lost efforts in his youth, Sommerfeld left Königsberg for the University of Göttingen and after two years as an assistant to more experienced mathematics professors, he earned his Privatdozent (authorization to teach at the university level) in 1895. Rapidly moving up the ranks, he was appointed to chair the mathematics department at the Bergakademie in Clausthal-Zellerfeld in 1897. The following year, he became editor of the famous Enzyklopädie der mathematischen Wissenschaften, a post he held through 1926.
Sommerfeld moved on to become Chair of Applied Mechanics at the Königliche Technische Hochschule Aachen, and it was in Aachen that he produced his theory of hydrodynamics. Also at Aachen, Sommerfeld mentored Peter Debye, who later won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1936 for “his contributions to the study of molecular structure.”
In 1906, Sommerfeld accepted the position as director of the new Theoretical Physics Institute at the University of Munich, where he mentored Werner Heisenberg in hydrodynamics theory; Heisenberg later won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1932 “for the creation of quantum mechanics.”
While in Munich, Sommerfeld also mentored Wolfgang Pauli on his thesis on quantum theory, and Pauli also went on to win a Nobel Prize in Physics, in 1945, for his discovery of the eponymous Pauli exclusion principle (which stated that two or more identical fermions can not be in the same quantum state within a quantum system at the same time).
If all that wasn’t enough, he also mentored Hans Bethe while at the University of Munich; Bethe was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1967 for his theory of stellar nucleosynthesis (i.e., when chemical elements in stars change due to nuclear fusion).
While his own direct contributions to advancing the world of physics were prodigious, including his pioneering work in quantum theory, it was arguably for his teaching ability that Sommerfeld was most revered in his lifetime, with Albert Einstein once remarking, “What I especially admire about you is that you have, as it were, pounded out of the soil such a large number of young talents.”
Mathematician Morris Kline further stated of Sommerfeld that he “was at the forefront of the work in electromagnetic theory, relativity and quantum theory and he was the great systematizer and teacher who inspired many of the most creative physicists in the first thirty years of this century.”
Famed Jewish mathematician, physicist, and Nobel Prize winner Max Born (who was forced to flee Germany in 1933) went on about Sommerfeld’s talent for cultivating young minds who so often went on to great scientific achievements of their own:
Theoretical physics is a subject which attracts youngsters with a philosophical mind who speculate about the highest principles without sufficient foundations. It was just this type of beginner that he knew how to handle, leading them step by step to a realisation of their lack of actual knowledge and providing them with the skill necessary for fertile research. … He had the rare ability to have time to spare for his pupils, in spite of his duties and scientific work. … In this friendly and informal way of teaching a great part was played by invitations to join a skiing party on the ‘Sudelfeld’ two hours by rail from Munich. There he and his mechanic … were joint owners of a ski hut. In the evenings, when the simple meal was cooked, the dishes were washed, the weather and snow properly discussed, the talk invariably turned to mathematical physics, and this was the occasion for the receptive students to learn the master’s inner thoughts.
Going on about the man himself, Born stated,
Arnold Sommerfeld was one of the most distinguished representatives of the transition period between classical and modern theoretical physics. The work of his youth was still firmly anchored in the conceptions of the nineteenth century; but when in the first decennium of the century the flood of new discoveries, experimental and theoretical, broke the dams of tradition, he became a leader of the new movement, and in combining the two ways of thinking he exerted a powerful influence on the younger generation. This combination of a classical mind, to whom clarity of conception and mathematical rigour are essential, with the adventurous spirit of a pioneer, are the roots of his scientific success, while his exceptional gift of communicating his ideas by spoken and written word made him a great teacher.
Adding to his list of achievements, Sommerfeld eventually became chair of the Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft in 1918, a position previously held by Albert Einstein.
With the rise of the Nazi party in Germany, however, Sommerfeld was forced to watch many of his esteemed colleagues have to flee the country. As the aforementioned Morris Kline notes,
Sommerfeld’s life was saddened toward the end of his career by events in Germany. Anti-Semitism, always present in that country, became virulent in the Hitler period and Sommerfeld was obliged to witness the emigration of famous colleagues, including Einstein. All he could do was use the friendships he had built up during a one-year stay in the United States and a one-year round-the-world trip to help place the refugees. The loss of so many of its best men in this way together with World War II, destroyed the scientific strength of Germany, and Sommerfeld felt obliged to continue teaching until 1947, long after the usual retirement age of 65.
On that note, Sommerfeld had intended to retire much earlier, in 1936, putting forth one of his prized pupils, the aforementioned Nobel Prize winner Werner Heisenberg, as his hoped successor. However, as Heisenberg, like Sommerfeld, was considered by the Nazi party to be a Jewish sympathizer, ultimately the decidedly unaccomplished anti-Semite Wilhem Muller, with a lot of help from the Reich Education Ministry, was very controversial appointed to replace Sommerfeld as Professor of Theoretical Physics, despite Muller not even being a theoretical physicist. (Unsurprisingly, Muller was dismissed from the position in 1945 as a part of the denazification process that followed WWII.)
As for Sommerfeld’s once patriotic views, he wrote to Einstein shortly after Hitler took power,
I can assure you that the misuse of the word ‘national’ by our rulers has thoroughly broken me of the habit of national feelings that was so pronounced in my case. I would now be willing to see Germany disappear as a power and merge into a pacified Europe.
In any event, as for his own Nobel Prize aspirations, as alluded to, Sommerfeld’s contributions to theoretical physics were many and included groundbreaking work in quantum theory (including co-discovering the Sommerfeld-Wilson quantization rules in 1915), electromagnetism and hydrodynamics, and significantly advanced knowledge of X-ray wave theory, among other things.
Among his many awards were the Max-Planck Medal, the Lorentz Medal and the Oersted Medal, and he was also a member of the Royal Society, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the Indian Academy of Sciences and the Academy of Sciences of the USSR.
However, although he was nominated an astounding and record setting 84 times (the only other person close is Otto Stern, who was nominated 82 times before finally winning in 1943), Sommerfeld never won a Nobel Prize. His nominations for Physics were made in 1917, 1918, 1919 (twice), 1920, 1922 (four times), 1923 (twice), 1924, 1925 (six times), 1926 (three times), 1927 (three times), 1928 (three times), 1929 (nine times), 1930 (four times), 1931 (twice), 1932 (five times), 1933 (eight times), 1934 (six times), 1935, 1936 (twice), 1937 (eight times), 1940, 1948, 1949 (three times), 1950 (three times) and 1951 (four times).
Sommerfeld died on April 26, 1951 at the age of 82 as a result of a traffic accident that occurred while taking his grandchildren for a walk. At the time, he was quite hard of hearing and did not hear shouted warnings before he stepped in front of a moving truck. The distinguished scientist died two months later as a result of the injuries sustained in that incident.
Originally published on Today I Found Out in November 2017.
But abuse and maltreatment of recruits did not begin or end with Siddiqui, Military.com has learned.
In all, three different investigations into training inside one Parris Island battalion reveal a culture of hazing and violence that did not end until one recruit’s family sent an anonymous letter to President Barack Obama in April.
The investigations also reveal that drill instructors within 3rd Recruit Training Battalion had a history of singling out recruits based on their ethnicity and religion, and that another Muslim recruit had been subjected to severe hazing in 2015 when a drill instructor repeatedly shoved him into a clothes dryer and turned it on, and forced him to shout “Allah Akbar” loud enough to wake other recruits.
That same drill instructor would become a supervisory drill instructor in Siddiqui’s unit, the investigation found, and his treatment of the recruit, including forcing him to complete “incentive training” and physically assaulting and slapping him immediately prior to his death, provided impetus for the suicide, investigators found.
In all, 20 drill instructors and senior leaders from Parris Island’s Recruit Training Regiment face punitive action or separation from the Marine Corps for participating in or enabling mistreatment of recruits. Several drill instructors at the heart of the abuse allegations are likely to face court-martial for their actions.
The contents of the three investigations have not been released publicly as the findings have yet to be endorsed by Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, commanding general of Marine Corps Combat Development Command. But Marine officials discussed the contents of the investigations and the recommendations of the investigating officers in response to a public records request.
Marine officials said Thursday that the incidents of hazing and abuse were confined to 3rd Recruit Training Battalion and not indicative of the culture within the Corps’ boot camps at Parris Island and San Diego.
“When America’s men and women commit to becoming Marines, we make a promise to them. We pledge to train them with firmness, fairness, dignity and compassion,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said in a statement. “Simply stated, the manner in which we make Marines is as important as the finished product. Recruit training is, and will remain, physically and mentally challenging so that we can produce disciplined, ethical, basically trained Marines.”
A lengthy investigation into the death of 20-year-old Siddiqui found the recruit had died by suicide, jumping from the third floor of the Company K recruit training barracks, slamming his chest against a railing at the bottom of the stairs.
Siddiqui had threatened to kill himself five days before, prior to the first full day of recruit training. He described a plan to jump out a squad bay window, investigators found, but later recanted and was allowed to remain in training.
In the short time Siddiqui was at the unit, investigators found he was repeatedly referred to as a “terrorist,” presumably in reference to his Muslim background. One drill instructor also asked the recruit if he needed his turban, officials said.
Findings show recruits were routinely singled out on account of their backgrounds and ethnicity. Drill instructors referred to one recruit born in Russia as “the Russian” and “cosmonaut” and asked him if he was a communist spy, investigators found.
In Siddiqui’s unit, recruits were subjected to unauthorized incentive training, in which they would lift footlockers, day packs and other heavy items and clean the squad bay in uncomfortable positions using small scrub brushes for hours. Drill instructors would also push and shove recruits and use Marine Corps Martial Arts Program training as an opportunity to pit recruits against each other, sometimes in physically unfair matchups.
Drill instructors told investigators that a more experienced drill instructor taught subordinates they needed to “hate” recruits to be successful at training them.
On March 13, Siddiqui, who previously had received a clean mental health evaluation, expressed a desire to kill himself. He was interviewed at the scene and turned over the the depot’s mental health unit, where he recanted and expressed a wish to return to training.
He was given a clean bill of health, described as “highly motivated to continue training,” and returned to his unit with no follow-up requested, investigators found.
Drill instructors would tell investigators that recruits frequently express suicidal ideations as an excuse to get out of training, and thus no serious incident report was made about Siddiqui’s threat. While drill instructors were told to ease Siddiqui back into training, they were not made aware of his suicidal ideations.
The morning of Siddiqui’s death, the recruit presented drill instructors with a note asking to go to medical with a severely swollen throat. He claimed he had lost his voice and coughed up blood overnight and was in significant pain. In response, he was told to do “get-backs” — to sprint back-and-forth the nearly 150 feet between the entrance to the bathroom, the back of the squad bay and the front of the squad bay.
“I don’t care what’s wrong with you; you’re going to say something back to me,” a drill instructor yelled as Siddiqui began to cry.
Shortly after, the recruit dropped to the floor clutching his throat, though it’s not clear if he became unconscious or was feigning to deflect the drill instructor’s abuse.
In an effort to wake him, the drill instructor slapped Siddiqui on the face hard enough to echo through the squad bay. The recruit became alert, ran out of the squad bay, and vaulted over the stairwell railing, sustaining severe injuries in the fall.
Drill instructors called 911. Siddiqui would be taken to Beaufort Memorial Hospital, then airlifted to Charleston, where he would receive blood transfusions and emergency surgery in an unsuccessful effort to save his life. He died just after 10 a.m.
The lawyer for the Siddiqui family, Nabih Ayad, did not immediately respond to requests for comment regarding the investigations’ findings.
In the wake of Siddiqui’s death, multiple leaders have been relieved for failing to prevent the culture of recruit abuse. On March 31, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Joshua Kissoon was fired in connection with the investigation of prior allegations of recruit mistreatment, including the hazing and assault of another, unnamed, Muslim recruit.
Notably, the Marine Corps’ investigations stopped short of finding that drill instructors’ hazing of Siddiqui and other recruits was motivated by racial bias. They did find evidence that some drill instructors made a practice of exploiting recruits’ ethnicities as a way to harass them.
On June 6, Parris Island officials announced that Recruit Training Regiment’s commander, Col. Paul Cucinotta, and its senior enlisted leader, Sgt. Maj. Nicholas Dabreau, had been relieved in connection with the Siddiqui investigation.
Fifteen drill instructors have been sidelined since April amid allegations of recruit hazing and maltreatment, and two captains may also face punishment for failing to properly supervise drill instructors.
Marine officials said it may be one to three months before disciplinary decisions are made, including possible charges filed, regarding these 20 Marines.
Officials with Marine Corps Training and Education Command have also set in motion a host of new policies designed to prevent future mistreatment of recruits, said Maj. Christian Devine, a Marine Corps spokesman.
These include increased officer presence and supervision of recruit training; mandatory suspension of personnel being investigated for recruit hazing or mistreatment; better visibility of investigations above the regiment level, changes to the drill instructor assignment process to prevent chain-of-command loyalty from affecting leadership; creation of a zero-tolerance policy for hazing among drill instructors; and a review of mental health processes and procedures for suicide prevention.
“We mourn the loss of Recruit Siddiqui,” Neller said. “And we will take every step necessary to prevent tragic events like this from happening again.”
When I frequented my Marine Corps recruiting office from 1999 until I enlisted in 2003, Staff Sgt. Molina used to welcome me with a familiar, “Ey devil,” and Staff Sgt. Ciccarreli would echo with “Eyyyyyyy.” Vintage recruiting posters were sprinkled among more modern propaganda. The message they consistently reinforced was that the Corps’ values—especially service above self—are timeless.
In one of the old posters, a strong, black Marine standing tall in his dress blue uniform with gold jump wings stared back at me. I couldn’t tell whether he was grinning or scowling—welcoming a potential recruit or warning me. Scrawled in bold typeface across the bottom third of the poster were the words “Ask a Marine.” My reaction was visceral. Where do I sign?
The iconic Marine recruitment ad campaign featuring Capers. He was the first black man to be featured in such a campaign.
The man in the poster was James Capers Jr., a now retired major whose 23-year career was defined by breaking barriers and blazing a path of excellence in the Marine Corps special operations community. Capers recently published “Faith Through the Storm: Memoirs of James Capers, Jr.,” and the book is a powerful portrait of an extraordinary life.
As the son of a sharecropper in South Carolina, Capers had to flee the Jim Crow South for Baltimore after his father committed some petty offense, which he feared might get him lynched. Capers describes his flight in the back of an old pickup driven by a white person as a sort of “Underground Railroad.” His trip to Baltimore is reminiscent of Frederick Douglass’ escape north because not much had changed for black people in the South since 1830.
We get a vivid picture of Capers’ early years and family life in Baltimore before he joins the Marine Corps. In the Marines, Capers finds an organization where men are judged by their actions, and he excels. He polishes his boots, cleans his weapons and learns what he can from the old salts, who mostly respect his effort. Early on, Capers commits himself to a standard of excellence that distinguishes him above his peers. That struggle is a consistent theme throughout his career.
When applying for special operations swim qualification, an instructor cites pseudo-science to explain that black people can’t swim. Capers has to beg to be let into the class. When a white student fails the test required to graduate, Capers pleads with the cadre to allow the student to swim it again. Then he swims with the Marine, motivating him to muster up the fortitude and faith in himself to pass.
At one point, Capers can’t find an apartment in Baltimore even though the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had recently passed and was promoted to end housing discrimination based on race. While assigned the temporary lowly duty of a barracks NCO, a white Marine flicks a cigarette butt at Capers—already trained as an elite Force Reconnaissance Marine—and tells him to pick it up. The slight weighs heavily on Capers until he tracks the Marine down and does something about it.
As Vietnam approaches, Capers is eager to get in the fight. A seasoned veteran of more than 10 years, he volunteers to return to special operations, and in the spring of 1966, he deploys with 3rd Force Reconnaissance Company.
Capers (bottom right) with his Marine Corps 3rd Force Reconnaissance Company in Vietnam.
The section about Capers’ Vietnam tour is harrowing and crushing. He survives and thrives as a warrior and leader through several months of brutal combat in the jungle. Eventually, he receives a battlefield commission to 2nd Lieutenant and becomes the first black officer in Marine special operations. By the heart-pounding final mission in Vietnam, I couldn’t help but feel like the book is a 400-page summary of action for a Medal of Honor.
Heart is the book’s central theme. Its most moving parts focus on overcoming adversity and heartbreak. In one chapter, Capers leads his men through two minefields to avoid the enemy. His inspiring leadership carries them through alive against all odds.
Characters frequently appear only briefly enough to become attached to before they die. Capers recalls fondly an old black first sergeant who had fought on Iwo Jima in World War II and saved Capers from some trouble. He dies in Vietnam.
In another scene, a Marine hollers a cadence on a medevac transport out of Vietnam to raise the spirits of wounded Marines who join the sing-song before the Marine dies somewhere along the way.
These wrenching memories reminded me of returning to the recruiting office after my first combat deployment and asking Staff Sgt. Alvarado whatever happened to Staff Sgt. Molina, whose son had fallen under my supervision when I was an assistant karate instructor before I enlisted. Alvarado’s eyes looked to the ground, “You didn’t hear?” I’d seen enough death on my deployment to suddenly know without having to be told, and a mental image of his cherub-faced child still tugs my heart because that kid had an especially wonderful dad.
The death surrounding Capers takes its toll on him, and though he is a hard charger and maybe the best Marine in Vietnam, he is not a machine. His pain is complicated. The book’s strength is in Capers’ brutal honesty about his emotional state, which deteriorates as the death toll mounts and the misuse of his recon team by new out-of-touch officers costs more than he can bear.
Retired Marine Corps Maj. James Capers II.
(Photo by Ethan E. Rocke)
This memoir may not break into the mainstream like a Matterhorn or Jarhead because it’s steeped in Marine culture that may not translate to readers outside of those bounds. It deserves a mini-series due to its dramatic story arc and relevance regarding the unique historical experience of a black U.S. Marine who is able to achieve in the Marine Corps what most likely would not have been accessible to him in the society of his time.
“Faith Through the Storm” should be required reading for Marine infantry officers. It’s the perfect book for The Commandant’s Professional Reading List. This book ultimately adds another dimension to one of the Corps’ most famous recruiting posters.
The U.S. military says one of its soldiers was wounded when insurgents launched an attack in eastern Afghanistan’s remote Achin district of Nangarhar province.
Capt. Tom Gresback, a U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan, told the Associated Press one U.S. service member was wounded and in stable condition in what he would describe only as “active ground engagement.” He refused to give further details including whether it involved a local militia.
In Afghanistan, local militias are often paid by the U.S. and are partnered with them in operations in remote regions.
The Taliban claimed the attack Jan. 11 was carried out by two insurgent disguised as local militiamen. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told The Associated Press the attackers had infiltrated the local force months earlier.
As the summer months come rolling around, families all over the nation will get together and begin planning trips. From hitting sunny beaches to visiting majestic national parks, there are tons of great places to visit this summer. After compiling a list of exciting locations, the next most important part aspect of a vacation is to consider the company you’ll keep.
When coming up with a list of potential vacationers, you’ll need to make sure you well mesh with everyone invited. For the best trip, you’ll want to bring people with a wide variety of characteristics and talents. Here’s a quirky idea: Make sure you invite one of your buddies who served in the military.
Veterans love to drink; it’s no secret. Some of us are beer drinkers while others like to pound a glass of whiskey. While you might have to bribe a veteran to get them to try a new type of food, you can simply put a tasty drink in front of them and watch that f*cker disappear.
It’s like a magic trick — but better.
They’ll have plan ‘b’ through ‘z’ in mind — just in case
Troops are trained to always have contingency plans and that characteristic invariably follows them when they reenter civilian life. Even if you and your buddies are simply visiting a new pub or restaurant, the veteran is going to first locate the exits and identify any potential threats — just in case.
Who doesn’t like saving money? Having a veteran in the group could knock a few dollars off the bill at the end of the night. If you’re okay with paying full price for everything, then we don’t want to go on vacation with you.
They don’t have a problem waiting in lines
In the military, we often do this crappy thing called, “hurry up and wait.” It’s a sh*tty aspect of military service, sure, but it’s a realistic one. If your group wants to get into a club, the veteran among you is the best candidate for waiting out the long line.
Don’t exclusively use your veteran for waiting in lines, though — that’s just plain mean. But it is plus to have a vet who is willing to wait it out for the good of the group.
The Cold War was the ultimate worldwide, geopolitical game, pitting two disparate ideologies against one another. The battle lines were drawn — and they were clear. In one corner, you had the global Communist bloc and its allies, some perfidious, willing to pit the two superpowers against each other for their own gain. In the other was the West and its allies, defenders of capitalism and democracy (or… at least… they were just not Communists).
For nearly 50 years, this game dominated the world order. It became so ingrained in our brains that, today, it’s still difficult to think of Russia as anything but the Soviet Union, a democracy in name only, just waiting to turn back the clock and surprise us. So we must always be on guard.
Pictured: Chinese foreign policy.
The problem with American foreign policy makers is that they don’t really know if Russia is truly their main adversary these days. Recently, a top CIA Asia expert told the Aspen Security Forum that China was definitely enemy number one, but does not want a direct conflict. China is much more insidious than that. Where the Soviets Russians prefer to openly troll Americans and blatantly defy American objectives, China is subtly undermining American power in strategic locations all over the world. And it has nothing to do with trade disputes.
FBI Director Christopher Wray says China poses the most significant threat to U.S. national security.
“The volume of it. The pervasiveness of it. The significance of it is something that I think this country cannot underestimate,” Wray said. It was a sentiment echoed by many security experts in Aspen — China is ready to replace Russia as a global U.S. competitor and to supplant the U.S. as the economic powerhouse.
China has the second-largest defense budget in the world, the largest standing army in terms of ground forces, the third-largest air force, and a navy of 300 ships and more than 60 submarines — all in the process of modernizing and upgrading. The Chinese are also far ahead of the United States in developing hypersonic weapons.
They’re ready for the United States in a way that Russia hasn’t been prepared for in a long, long time.
“I’m sorry Xi, I misheard you. The future is what?”
And this isn’t exactly a new development. While the United States (and now Russia) were engaged in costly wars and interventions all over the world, China has slowly been expanding its worldwide economic footprint and partnerships. Russia has been harassing its neighbors since 2008 in Georgia, Crimea, Ukraine, and elsewhere. Meanwhile, China began its Belt and Road Initiative, investing billions in infrastructure to link China with markets from Central Asia to Europe.
While no one was watching, Chinese investment dollars have filled coffers all over the world, bringing once-forgotten economic backwaters into the Chinese sphere of influence at the cost of American prestige. Chinese raw materials will build these developing marketplaces and the Yuan may soon even be the currency of choice. If the Belt and Road Forum takes off, it could even cut Chinese reliance on American markets.
Russia seems more threatening because that’s exactly what the Russians are good at. Vladimir Putin is no fan of the West or NATO and it seems like he takes real delight in NATO’s failures, especially in Ukraine. While hypersonic weapons, an increased nuclear weapons capacity, and a deeper relationship with Bashar al-Assad’s Syria seem like a significant threat (and may well be), the reality is those hypersonic weapons aren’t quite perfect and Syria isn’t going as well as planned.
Meanwhile, China is quietly preparing for the future.