Leonard Matlovich joined the Air Force in 1963. He served three tours in Vietnam, volunteering for all of them. The son of an Air Force Chief, his service record was nothing short of exemplary. The only problem was that Matlovich was gay in the military at a time when discrimination was accepted practice.
Leonard Matlovich enlisting in the U.S. Air Force, CMSgt Matlovich by his side. (leonardmatlovich.com)
Matlovich might seem like an anomaly by today’s standards. He was a conservative Republican and a staunch Catholic who hated the reforms of Vatican II. He even converted to Mormonism later in his service.
In 1966, he received an Air Force Commendation Medal for bravery during a mortar attack. He personally ran to the base perimeter to bolster the defenses there and help tend to the wounded.
He was innovative and dedicated. An electrician, he came up with a nighttime lighting system for base perimeters that inhibited the ability of North Vietnamese snipers to target the base population. Matlovich personally repaired all the base systems during nighttime attacks, never waiting until the dust settled. This is how he received a second Commendation Medal and the Bronze Star.
Matlovich received a Purple Heart while clearing mines near Da Nang. He was blown up by a mine and as he lay there in pain he realized the physical pain was not nearly as bad as the pain he felt for hiding who he truly was.
That’s when he decided to challenge the Air Force policy on homosexuals in the service. By 1975 Matlovich was up for a discharge based on his sexuality. He lawyered up and was determined to fight the case all the way to the Supreme Court. It caught the media’s attention and Matlovich became the first openly-gay person to appear on the cover of a U.S. magazine.
The Air Force decided to let him stay if he signed a document saying he’d never engage in homosexual acts again. Matlovich refused.
He was going to be drummed out of the Air Force under a General Discharge. It was upgraded to Honorable by the Secretary of the Air Force, based on Matlovich’s service record, but that didn’t stop the Tech Sergeant.
In 1976, Matlovich and his lawyers took their case to the U.S. district court in Washington, D.C. to argue the Air Force policy violated the same constitutional principles that recently won Civil Rights cases for African-Americans and women in the United States.
All it led to was a re-wording of the DoD anti-gay policy.
He fought to stay in the Air Force as an openly-gay man but in the end accepted that the court cases would never stop. He took a cash settlement for his back pay, which he immediately donated to nonprofits who fought for gay rights.
Matlovich spent the rest of his life fighting for equal rights for the LGBT community in the United States. In 1986, he was diagnosed with HIV and began to fight for more attention to HIV/AIDS research. Matlovich was a vocal critic to the Reagan Administration’s response to the outbreak of the disease.
When Leonard Matlovich died of AIDS in 1988, he was buried in Washington, D.C.’s Congressional Cemetery. His gravestone doesn’t have his name on it. He wanted it to be a memorial for all homosexual military veterans. It reads:
“A Gay Vietnam Veteran | When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.”
Leonard Matlovich’s gravesite has become a pilgrimage site for the LGBT community, especially those serving in the military of United States and other countries.
A Chinese firm has reportedly developed next-generation radar technology with the ability to see through American stealth defenses.
The Intelligent Perception Technology Laboratory successfully developed China’s first quantum radar system in August, several Chinese media outlets reported Sept. 8. The Laboratory is run by the 14th Institute of China Electronics Technology Group Corporation, a defense and electronic technology firm.
During real-world tests of China’s new quantum radar system, it was able to detect targets 100 kilometers (62.1 miles) away.
Quantum radar systems offer unjammable aircraft detection.
The B-2 Spirit bomber is one of the most sophisticated military aircraft ever built. China says it has developed a radar that can help shoot it down. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)
Older radar systems can be rendered ineffective in a number of different ways. For instance, white noise can be used to drown out the radar frequency, or aircraft can deploy chaff countermeasures to create a false reflection and confuse the radar system. Newer radar systems can skirt these defenses; however, it is now possible to intercept the radar signal and send back false images.
If electromagnetic and stealth countermeasures are deployed effectively, traditional radar systems can’t tell the difference between a floating piece of tin foil and a stealth fighter. Quantum radar systems cannot be so easily compromised though.
Mehul Malik, Omar S. Magana-Loaiza, and Robert W. Boyd, three researchers in the Institute of Optics at the University of Rochester in New York, determined in December 2012 that quantum-secured imaging could be used to develop an unjammable radar system.
“In order to jam our imaging system, the object must disturb the delicate quantum state of the imaging photons, thus introducing statistical errors that reveal its activity,” explained the three-man research team in a report. If a stealth aircraft attempts to jam a quantum radar system by intercepting the photons and sending back a false image, it will destabilize the signal and reveal an error, indicating that an enemy is trying to jam it.
China’s KJ-2000 early warning and control aircraft, which uses X-band radar technology and Beidou satellites, can reportedly spot the F-22, but it is difficult for the KJ-2000 to lock onto stealth aircraft.
Quantum radar technology rectifies this problem. Chinese military experts suggest that once a stealth aircraft is detected by a quantum radar system, it won’t be able to escape elimination by air defense missiles, reports the People’s Daily. China argues that its new quantum radar system will make stealth fighters like America’s F-22 and Russia’s T-50 completely visible to Chinese defense systems. Theoretically, this technology could also be used against a vast array of other stealth aircraft, including the F-35 and B-2.
China launched an unhackable quantum satellite last month. The launch was hailed as a breakthrough in quantum technology. China’s development of a quantum radar system represents another great leap forward in Chinese quantum technology.
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The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
Pennsylvania Air National Guardsmen from the 171st Air Refueling Wing near Pittsburgh prepare to deploy a KC-135 aircraft and about 25 Airmen to the Middle East the night of Jan. 5, 2016.
An F-16 Fighting Falcon from the 421st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron taxis on the ramp before departing on a sortie in support of ground operations in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, Jan. 6, 2016. The 421st EFS, based out of Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, is the only dedicated fighter squadron in the country and continuously supports Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and the NATO Resolute Support mission.
U.S. Army AH-64 Apache helicopter crews, assigned to 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, 7th Infantry Division, land at Wheeler Army Airfield, Hawaii, Jan. 6, 2016. The helicopters and crews are in Hawaii training with U.S. Army Pacific’s 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Infantry Division.
Soldiers, assigned to U.S. Army Special Operations Command, test the capabilities of all-terrain vehicles in United States Army Europe – USAREUR’s Boeblingen Local Training Area near Stuttgart, Germany, Jan. 5, 2016.
BREMERTON, Wash. (Jan. 4, 2016) Electronics Technician 3rd Class Alice New, from Silverhill, Ala., paints a mural on a door aboard aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). Stennis’ crew is currently in port training for future deployments.
ARABIAN GULF (Jan. 4, 2016) Sailors transport ordnance on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group is deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, maritime security operations, and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Tyler Huey, squad leader with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command, provides security during a tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel exercise at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Dec. 28, 2015. SPMAGTF-CR-CC is ready to respond to any crisis response mission in theater to include the employment of a TRAP force.
Recruits of India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, perform pull-ups during a physical training event at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Dec. 28. Annually, more than 17,000 males recruited from the Western Recruiting Region are trained at MCRD San Diego.
It’s just another day at the “office” for USCG Station Noyo River!
We’re ready to crash into another action packed week! Are you?
As if the lowly soldier of World War I didn’t have enough to worry about on the hellish battlefields of France — from massive flamethrowers, to giant artillery guns to poison gas — there was a lot of nastiness that could kill you in no-man’s land.
But killer trees? Come on, is there no decency?
Not quite the nightmare scenario of living, walking Ents from “Lord of the Rings,” the British and later the Germans nevertheless disguised sniper hides and observation posts in positions designed to look like trees destroyed on the battlefield made from steel drums and camouflaged to look like an everyday arbor.
In the constant game of cat and mouse that marked the stalemate of the Western Front, diabolical designers looked to the splintered wreckage of the pock-marked battlescape to hide their positions. According to a story about the deadly hollowed-out trees in the London Daily Mail, the Brits found wrecked trees they could use to construct what they called “O.P. Trees” for observation posts.
“The ideal tree was dead and often it was bomb blasted,” the MailOnline story said. “The photographs and sketches were then sent to a workshop where artists constructed an artificial tree of hollow steel cylinders.”
“It contained an internal scaffolding for reinforcement, to allow a sniper or observer to ascend within the structure,” the story added.
The trees were built to look exactly like the ruined ones in no-man’s land, so troops would sneak between the lines in the dark and replace the real tree with the fake one. Manned by a British Tommy, the O.P. Trees gave a better view of the battlefield than peering over the trench line.
Historians say a soldier perched within the tree would relay his observation to another trooper posted below, who’d carry the information back to the lines for an attack.
“As far as we know the trees were surprisingly successful and none of them were detected by the enemy,” a historian with the Imperial War Museum in Kensington, England, told MailOnline. “In 1916 the Germans had captured a lot of the higher ground on the Western Front and even the elevation of a few feet through one of these trees could prove crucial.”
The Germans later caught on to the tactic and built their own, calling them Baumbeobachter (which means “tree observer”) and used them throughout the war. The Brits are said to have used their first O.P. Trees during the battle of Ypres in Belgium in 1915, and historians estimate around 45 were deployed to the Western front.
The official announcement was expected to come later in the day the additional troops, who were expected to operate as trainers and enablers mostly out of the logistics hub for the offensive at the Qayyarah West airfield about 40 miles southeast of Mosul.
Army Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, also said that ISIS was attempting to turn Mosul into a “living hell” for the attacking force by setting out extensive fields of improvised explosive devices and even filling trenches with oil.
The troops would be in addition to the 4,647 currently authorized for Iraq by President Obama and were requested by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.
In a statement, Abadi said “American President Barack Obama was consulted on a request from the Iraqi government for a final increase in the number of trainers and advisers under the umbrella of the international coalition in Iraq,” Reuters reported.
Hostage rescue is one of the most dangerous missions special operations troops can be assigned to.
One of the big reasons: You have to pull your punches, lest you accidentally kill the people you’re there to rescue. You have to be very stealthy, or you will be detected and the bad guys will kill the hostages. You must move quickly, or the bad guys will kill the hostages.
But it’s hard to find people who want to be in the middle of training for hostage rescue. The answer, according to one DoD release, may be to use robots.
Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians with the 27th Special Operations Wing conducted some hostage rescue training using the robots this past December – and some of it was caught on video:
Vice-Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson remains Britain’s most famous naval hero. It was the fear of Lord Nelson and his fleet that kept Napoleon’s armies from crossing the English Channel. He was known for his supreme understanding of naval combat tactics and his unconventional strategies.
“Something must be left to chance; nothing is certain in a sea fight” – Lord Nelson
Lord Nelson was wounded many times in his career. He lost sight in his right eye during a campaign in Corsica. He lost his right arm trying to conquer an island in the Portuguese Azores. He also destroyed most of the French fleet at the Battle of the Nile, effectively stranding Napoleon and the French Army in Egypt.
Let me alone: I have yet my legs and one arm. Tell the surgeon to make haste and his instruments. I know I must lose my right arm, so the sooner it’s off the better.” – Lord Nelson
He met his fate in another decisive fight against Napoleonic France, at the Battle of Trafalgar. He fought a combined French and Spanish fleet, sinking twenty two enemy ships without losing a single one of his own. Nelson was shot in the shoulder by a French musketeer during the battle. The bullet would make its way to his spine, and he succumbed to this wound shortly after. He lived long enough to know he’d won the battle.
Nelson’s victory secured English rule over the seas for the rest of the Napoleonic Wars, even though the Vice-Admiral wouldn’t be around for them.
After the battle, a storm threatened the admiral’s flagship, HMS Victory, which was missing its mainmast and would not be able to return to England quickly. The ship’s surgeon, rather than bury England’s greatest hero at sea, wanted to get Nelson’s body back home for a state funeral. His solution? Shove the Vice-Admiral’s body in a cask of brandy to preserve it during the trip home.
“If I had been censured every time I have run my ship, or fleets under my command, into great danger, I should have long ago been out of the Service and never in the House of Peers.” – Lord Nelson
After the long trip home and Nelson’s elaborate state funeral, Nelson’s body had spent 80 unrefrigerated days before his final burial. In the days that followed, people questioned the decisions of the ship’ surgeon, wondering why he didn’t use the ship’s supply of rum to preserve Nelson’s body. In his official account, the surgeon maintained that brandy was better suited for preservation, but public opinion was so strong, people just assumed he used the rum. It was so prevalent that Navy rum soon became known as “Nelson’s Blood.”
After the body was removed, it was found that the Victory’s sailors had drilled a hole in the cask, and drank from it. though some speculate the sailors drank all of the brandy, no one knows for sure. But henceforth, the act of drilling a hole in a cask became known as “tapping the admiral.”
Nelson is so pivotal to the history of Britain that in 2002 BBC poll, Nelson still rated #8 on a list of the most important Britons. His likeness towers over London’s Trafalgar Square atop a 169-foot-tall column surrounded by giant lions. The Victory, first laid down in 1759, is preserved as the flagship of England’s First Sea Lord, and is currently the oldest ship still in commission.
“The Japanese air arm was going to get all the glory in the Pearl Harbor attack, and the surface fleet sailors were unhappy about this, they wanted to get in on the action,” said author and historian Dan King in the video below. “But they couldn’t send battleships, cruisers, and destroyers to Pearl Harbor, so the next best thing was to send in submarines.
As it turns out, Yamamoto was no stranger to intra-service rivalry and glory hogging. His promotion of force projection through gunboat diplomacy is a result of the Japanese Army-Navy rivalry.
He fought against political opponents in the Army who only wanted the Navy for the logistical support of invading forces, transport, and supply runs.
Yamamoto settled on the 80-foot Type A Ko-hyoteki — or “Midget” — submarine for the attack. The small two-person vessels were armed with only a pair of torpedoes and sent to lay dormant on the harbor floor until the air raid began.
However, in early Dec. 7, before the attack kicked off, an American cargo ship spotted one of these small subs heading to its position on the South end of Oahu. Members of the cargo ship alerted the USS Ward (DD-139), who’s commander immediately called its crew to general quarters.
Two gun blasts and several depth charges later reduced the sub to scrap, and America officially drew first blood. But amazingly, the attack was treated as an isolated incident and didn’t raise any flags of a larger invasion.
This American Heroes Channel video shows how the events played out during the early hours of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The crisis in Syria reached new, heartbreaking heights on April 3, 2018, when one of the most devastating chemical attacks left dozens of people — including at least 27 children — dead or critically injured.
While watching a humanitarian disaster unfold before your eyes across the world may make you feel powerless, there are some things you can do to aid the people still in Syria and the 4.8 million refugees who have fled their country since the civil war began nearly six years ago.
Here are some actions you can take to help:
Donate to a charity
These 13 organizations received 3 or 4 stars (out of 4) from Charity Navigator, an independent nonprofit that rates charities based on their financial management and accountability. Here are links to their websites, listed in alphabetical order:
The Air Force is surging forward with a massive, fleet-wide modernization overhaul of the battle-tested, Vietnam-era B-52 bomber, an iconic airborne workhorse for the U.S. military dating back to the 1960s.
Engineers are now equipping all 76 of the Air Force B-52s with digital data-links, moving-map displays, next-generation avionics, new radios and an ability to both carry more weapons internally and integrate new, high-tech weapons as they emerge, service officials said.
The technical structure and durability of the B-52 airframes in the Air Force fleet are described as extremely robust and able to keep flying well into the 2040s and beyond – so the service is taking steps to ensure the platform stays viable by receiving the most current and effective avionics, weapons and technologies, Eric Single, Chief of the Global Strike Division, Acquisition, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
The B-52 has a massive, 185-foot wingspan, a weight of about 185,000 pounds and an ability to reach high sub-sonic speeds and altitudes of 50,000 feet, Air Force officials said.
“Their structure, service life and air frames are good until around 2040. They are built very strong structurally. This is not a structural modification, but upgrades to the capabilities and the avionics,” Single explained. “You are taking this old structurally sound airframe and putting modern avionics, modern communications technology and modern weaponry into it.”
Known for massive bombing missions during the Vietnam War, the 159-foot long B-52s have in recent years been operating over Iraq and Afghanistan.
The B-52 also served in Operation Desert Storm, Air Force statements said. “B-52s struck wide-area troop concentrations, fixed installations and bunkers, and decimated the morale of Iraq’s Republican Guard,” an Air Force statement said.
In 2001, the B-52 provided close-air support to forces in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, service officials said. The B-52 also played a role in Operation Iraqi Freedom. On March 21, 2003, B-52Hs launched approximately 100 CALCMs (Conventional Air Launched Cruise Missiles) during a night mission.
Given the B-52s historic role in precision-bombing and close air support, next-generation avionics and technologies are expected to greatly increase potential missions for the platform in coming years, service officials said.
Communications, Avionics Upgrades
Two distinct, yet interwoven B-52 modernization efforts will increase the electronics, communications technology, computing and avionics available in the cockpit while simultaneously configuring the aircraft with the ability to carry up to eight of the newest “J-Series” precision-guided weapons internally – in addition to carrying six weapons on each wing, Single said.
Eight B-52s have already received a communications (coms systems) upgrade called Combat Network Communication Technology, or CONECT – a radio, electronics and data-link upgrade which, among other things, allows aircraft crews to transfer mission and targeting data directly to aircraft systems while in flight (machine to machine), Single explained.
“It installs a digital architecture in the airplane,” Single explained. “Instead of using data that was captured during the mission planning phase prior to your take off 15 to 20 hours ago – you are getting near real-time intelligence updates in flight.”
Single described it key attribute in terms of “machine-to-machine” data-transfer technology which allows for more efficient, seamless and rapid communication of combat-relevant information.
Using what’s called an ARC 210 Warrior software-programmable voice and data radio, pilots can now send and receive targeting data, mapping information or intelligence with ground stations, command centers and other aircraft.
“The crew gets the ability to communicate digitally outside the airplane which enables you to import not just voice but data for mission changes, threat notifications, targeting….all those different types of things you would need to get,” Single said.
An ability to receive real-time targeting updates is of great relevance to the B-52s close-air-support mission because fluid, fast-moving or dynamic combat situations often mean ground targets appear, change or disappear quickly.
Alongside moving much of the avionics from analogue to digital technology, CONECT also integrates new servers, modems, colored display screens in place of old green monochrome and provides pilots with digital moving-map displays which can be populated with real-time threat and mission data, Single said.
The new digital screens also show colored graphics highlighting the aircraft’s flight path, he added.
Single explained that being able to update key combat-relevant information while in transit will substantially help the aircraft more effectively travel longer distances for missions, as needed.
“The key to this is that this is part of the long-range strike family of systems — so if you take off out of Barksdale Air Force Base and you go to your target area, it could take 15 or 16 hours to get there. By the time you get there, all the threat information has changed,” said Single. “Things move, pop up or go away and the targeting data may be different.”
The upgrades will also improve the ability of the airplane to receive key intelligence information through a data link called the Intelligence Broadcast Receiver. In addition, the B-52s will be able to receive information through a LINK-16-like high-speed digital data link able to transmit targeting and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, or ISR information.
The CONECT effort, slated to cost $1.1 billion overall, will continue to unfold over the next several years, Single explained.
Twelve B-52 will be operational with CONECT by the end of this year and the entire fleet will be ready by 2021, Single said.
The Air Force is also making progress with a technology-inspired effort to increase the weapons payload for the workhorse bomber, Single added.
The 1760 Internal Weapons Bay Upgrade, or IWBU, will allow the B-52 to internally carry up to eight of the newest “J-Series” bombs in addition to carrying six on pylons under each wing, he explained.
The B-52 have previously been able to carry JDAM weapons externally, but with the IWBU the aircraft will be able to internally house some of the most cutting edge precision-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions and Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles, among others.
“It is about a 66 percent increase in carriage capability for the B-52, which is huge. You can imagine the increased number of targets you can reach, and you can strike the same number of targets with significantly less sorties,” said Single.
Single also added that having an increased internal weapons bay capability affords an opportunity to increase fuel-efficiency by removing bombs from beneath the wings and reducing drag.
The first increment of IWBU, slated to be finished by 2017, will integrate an internal weapons bay ability to fire a laser-guided JDAM. A second increment, to finish by 2022, will integrate more modern or cutting-edge weapons such as the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, or JASSM, JASSM Extended Range (ER) and a technology called Miniature Air Launched Decoy, or MALD. A MALD-J “jammer” variant, which will also be integrated into the B-52, can be used to jam enemy radar technologies as well, Single said.
IWBU, which uses a digital interface and a rotary launcher to increase the weapons payload, is expected to cost roughly $313 million, service officials said.
On September 17, 1944, the Allies launched an ambitious mission to cross the Rhine River into Germany dubbed “Operation Market Garden.” Allied leaders hoped the mission would lead to end of World War II by Christmas.
Known to many as the operation that was “a bridge too far” and for being a strategic failure, it was not without incredible tales of personal courage, grit, and determination. Here are four of those amazing stories.
1. Pvt. Joe E. Mann
Private Mann was a scout assigned to the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division when it jumped into Holland. During fighting around the city of Best, Mann crawled within bazooka range of a German artillery emplacement and single-handedly knocked it out. He then began picking off Germans one-by-one with his rifle before he was wounded four separate times. Despite gunshots to both shoulders and one of his arms, he wasn’t out of the fight, insisting on standing guard through the night.
When a German attack came early the next morning, a grenade landed near Mann. Unable to raise his arms because they were bandaged to his body, he did the only thing he could — he jumped on the grenade and absorbed the blast to save his friends. Private Mann was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.
2. Maj. Julian Cook
Three days into the operation, stiff German resistance managed to hold onto the Nijmegen Bridge despite efforts by the 82nd Airborne to dislodge them. With the timetable of the British XXX Corps advance in jeopardy Gen. Gavin ordered an assault crossing of the river to seize the bridge from the far side.
With 26 collapsible canvas boats, the 307th Engineers rowed two battalions of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment across the river under heavy German fire. Some of the men had to use their rifle butts as paddles. Major Julian Cook led the 3rd Battalion across first and established a beachhead. The engineers in the boats then returned and re-crossed the river four more times, delivering the first battalion. Cook pulled several men from the water and tended to several wounded. He then led the remnants of his battalion in a 2.5 mile assault to capture German positions and secure the bridgehead.
Major Alison Digby Tatham-Warter, often just called “Digby,” was an eccentric character and hard-charging officer. Troops knew Digby by the umbrella he carried because, as he said, he “couldn’t remember passwords and anyone would recognize the bloody fool carrying the umbrella as an Englishman.”
He used the umbrella in one instance to stop a German armored car by shoving it through a gap and incapacitating the driver. When a fellow officer questioned his carrying of the umbrella he humorously replied, “My goodness Pat, what if it rains?” Another time, Digby led a bayonet charge wearing a bowler hat while wielding a pistol and his trusty umbrella.
Eventually, not even Digby’s courageous antics could stop the inevitable. With no options left, Digby transmitted his last radio message “out of ammo, God save the King” before being captured by the Germans. Digby’s captivity would not last long. He was transported to a hospital for his wounds and escaped that evening. He then helped organize Operation Pegasus, the rescue of British paratroopers trapped across the Rhine. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order upon his return to the United Kingdom.
4. Pvt. John Towle
Private Towle was only 19-years-old when he entered combat in the Netherlands as part of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment. He survived the Waal River crossing led by Maj. Julian Cook, but it was when German tanks attacked the paratroopers’ bridgehead that Towle sprang into action.
Towle left his foxhole with a bazooka and rifle to engage the German tanks. It took several bazooka rounds each before the tanks retreated in the face of the lone paratrooper. Towle then started taking fire from a building the Germans made into a strongpoint. One well-aimed shot eliminated all nine German soldiers.
When a German half-track appeared, Pvt. Towle advanced again. Just as he was preparing to fire, an enemy mortar round struck his position and killed him. Towle’s tenacity and bravery single-handedly broke up the German attack and earned him the Medal of Honor.
Awkward names for things that could save lives on the battlefield as well as on the streets of America. But these and other tools can be found in the search and rescue and personnel recovery arsenal of the elite Air Commandos.
Earlier in October, Pararescuemen and Combat Control operators from the 125th Special Tactics Squadron refreshed their extrication skills, showcasing along the way the importance of a little known but important skillset.
Utilizing old vehicles, the Air Commandos simulated the extrication of troops or civilians from wrecked vehicles with a variety of methods tools. However, it’s important to remember that the Air Commandos will often have to carry the tools on them, so the equipment must be effective yet portable.
An operator from the 125th Special Tactics Squadron uses a chainsaw during extrication training at Portland Air National Guard Base, Portland, Ore., Oct. 8, 2020, to simulate removing trapped personnel from a vehicle or aircraft. The members may use these techniques in combat environments or humanitarian assistance and disaster response zones. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Valerie R. Seelye)
“By using non-salvageable vehicles, we are able to develop a scenario in which all procedures and tools are utilized, enhancing proficiency in this specific Tactic, Technique, and Procedure,” said the 125th Special Tactics Squadron flight commander in a press release. “The non-salvageable vehicles provide the most realistic training possible.”
The advent of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) has made extrication capabilities that much more important. If a vehicle, regardless if it’s armored or not, triggers an IED, chances are that it will suffer significant, if not catastrophic, damage. But if the explosive charge in the IED isn’t sufficient to destroy the vehicle altogether, the crew might survive, probably trapped inside the wreck. That’s why the extrication capability becomes important. But the skillset is also important in domestic or humanitarian scenarios, especially considering that this particular unit is part of the National Guard and might be called on to help civilians in distress as it has been doing in the past months.
“We also use this equipment during state emergency response operations or humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations to establish landing zones,” added the officer. “Or in the case of hurricanes, we’d possibly cut holes in the tops of houses to evacuate personnel by helicopter. These procedures were also utilized by Special Tactics Pararescuemen during the earthquake response in Haiti in 2010.”
Break it down, boys (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Valerie R. Seelye).
Part of the Oregon Air National Guard, the 125th Special Tactics Squadron is based in Portland.
Pararescue is the only career field in the whole Department of Defense (DoD) that is specially trained and equipped to conduct combat search and rescue and personnel recovery.
Back in 1993 and the Battle of Mogadishu, the Air Commandos’ extrication training proved crucial. When the first MH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crashed during the “Black Hawk Down” incident, several of the crew members were trapped inside the twisted metals of the battered machine.
The moment the two pilots are finally extricated in the very realistic movie Black Hawk Down (Sony Pictures).
Even though the two Night Stalkers pilots who had been killed, the rest of Task Force Dagger resolved to not leave them behind. But only specialized equipped and trained men could extricate them. So, the burden fell on the Pararescuemen of the elite 24th Special Tactics Squadron. In the end, and after another day and night of fighting, the rescue force managed to extricate the two pilots.