The US Army may consider building a new 'urban warfare' school - We Are The Mighty
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The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school

Army Maj. John Spencer, a scholar at the Modern War Institute, argued Wednesday the Army needs to create a school of urban warfare as soon as it possibly can.


Global trends make conflict in urban areas much more likely in the future, but Spencer noted in an opinion piece for the institute at West Point that the Army has not adequately prepared its soldiers to fight in this environment, which means that the service is violating one of its ten core principles.

For Spencer, the way to fix this major gap is to create a school of urban warfare.

As pointed out recently by Army chief of staff Gen. Mark Milley, “Army forces operating in complex, densely populated urban terrain in dense urban areas is the toughest and bloodiest form of combat and it will become the norm, not the exception in the future.”

And yet, Spencer said the Army is woefully unprepared at this point to effectively fight in dense urban areas, which feature endless enemy positions, civilians mixed in with combatants, narrow alleys and close-quarter firefights.

Related: The 82nd Airborne deploys more troops to ‘brutal’ ISIS fight

“The Army is fighting in cities today,” Spencer wrote. “It will find itself fighting in cities in the future. It is time to commit to preparing soldiers for this environment. To do so, the Army needs a school that provides soldiers the opportunity to build necessary skills, feel the stress, and mentally prepare for the hell of urban warfare — before combat.”

As it stands now, soldiers receive training on breaching small buildings and only sometimes get the chance to participate in live-fire exercises in houses. While it’s true that many soldiers have fought in locations like Baghdad, Fallujah and Ramadi, new units and new soldiers coming into the service lack this experience and have to start from scratch.

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
Soldiers from the 19th Engineer Battalion react to a simulated rocket-propelled grenade attack at Zussman Urban Combat Training Center. | US Army photo by Sgt. Michael Behlin

Currently, the Army has no such site that can approximate either structural or population density of a city. The only location even remotely close, according to Spencer, is the Shughart-Gordon Training Complex at Fort Polk, Louisiana, which only has 20-30 buildings and is situated around trees or desert areas, as opposed to more dense urban structures. Moreover, civilian actors used in simulations rarely reach beyond a few hundred.

Special Forces has a slightly better selection with the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in Indiana, which has 68 buildings. Still, this setting is nowhere near city-size.

A real school of urban warfare could fix this, Spencer said, and would teach soldiers “the individual and collective skills of shooting, moving, and communicating in urban environments, along with specific skills like breaching.”

“They would learn to live, survive, and conduct offensive and defensive operations as units in dense urban terrain. The school could be further phased to replicate the full experience of operating in progressively more dense — and complex — environments,” Spencer continued. “It could culminate with terrain walks and site visits to a nearby city, requiring students to think through the application of the skills, field craft, and knowledge they’ve gained.”

Articles

The US military took these incredible photos this week

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:


NAVY

SURABAYA, Indonesia (Aug. 5, 2015) U.S. Navy Sailors assigned to Coastal Riverine Squadron (CRS) 3 and Indonesian Kopaska naval special forces members practice patrol formations during Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Indonesia 2015.

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
Photo by: Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joshua Scott/USN

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Aug. 4, 2015) Sailors prepare for flight operations on the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3).

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
Photo by: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Hunter S. Harwell/USN

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) 3rd Class I. J. Fleming helps stretch out the emergency crash barricade during drills on the flight deck aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75).

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
Photo by: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class E. T. Miller/USN

MARINE CORPS

Marines and Navy Corpsmen, assigned to various units in the 1st Marine Division, conduct tactical combat casualty care training during the Combat Trauma Management Course, taught by instructors with the 1st Marine Division Navy Education and Training Office, at the Strategic Operations facility, California.

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
Photo by: Staff Sgt. Bobbie A. Curtis/USMC

Fire Away!

An M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank crew with Company A, 4th Tank Battalion, fires its 120 mm main gun during the company’s pre-qualification tank gunnery at Range 500, Aug. 4, 2015. The live-fire exercise tests tank crews on their ability to work together on target acquisition and accuracy.

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
Photo by: Lance Cpl. Julio McGraw/USMC

COAST GUARD

Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Martin, a maritime enforcement specialist at Coast Guard Port Security Unit 313 in Everett, Wash., along with other security division members, set up security zones on the pier alongside the Coast Guard Cutter Henry Blake, while conducting an exercise at Naval Station Everett.

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
Photo by: Petty Officer 1st Class Zac Crawford/USCG

Petty Officer 2nd Class David Burns, a Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak aviation survival technician, walks across the flight deck of the Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley during practice hoist operations while at sea.

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
Photo by: Petty Officer 3rd Class Dale Arnould/USCG

AIR FORCE

A security forces Airman plunges into the combat water survival test at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo.

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
Photo by: Jason Gutierrez/USAF

Lt. Col. Todd Houchins, the 53rd Test Support Squadron commander, signals before the final takeoff of the last QF-4 Aerial Target on Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
Photo by: Tech. Sgt. Javier Cruz/USAF

Members of the 23rd Component Maintenance Squadron Propulsion Flight perform maintenance on a TF-34 engine July 27, 2015, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The 23rd CMS supplies the 74th and 75th Fighter Squadrons with TF-34s in support of Moody AFB’s A-10C Thunderbolt IIs.

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
Photo by: Airman Greg Nash/USAF

ARMY

paratroopers, assigned to 82nd Airborne Division, rig their rucksacks during a Basic Airborne Refresher course at the United States Army Advanced Airborne School, Fort Bragg, N.C.

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
Photo by: Maj. Craig Arnold/US Army

An Army pilot, assigned to the 185th Theater Aviation Brigade, watches a MV-22 Osprey land during a personnel recovery training exercise in Southwest Asia.

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
Photo by: Sgt. Michael Needham/The National Guard

NOW: More awesome military photos

OR: 4 support aircraft you didn’t know had killer combat variants

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is what happens when you swap your workout for PT

If you’re a suburban mom in Iowa, your PT is a Cruiser.

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
And this is what your husband does to unwind. Check out his award-winning ride. (Photo via Flickr, Rex Gray, CC BY 2.0)

If you’re a tumbler in the circus, your PT is a Barnum.

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
And your work wife is an elephant. And your carpool is full of clowns.

And if you’re an aspiring Industrial Age robber baron played by Daniel Day Lewis, your PT is an Anderson.

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
And your metaphor is a milkshake. And you’re drinkin’ it up!

But if you served in the military, your PT is an acronym, meaning Physical Training. And your PT comes with a silent F, which might officially stand for “fitness,” but back on testing days, probably stood for an f-word you used frequently to grumble and bitch.

In the service, PT sucks. That goes without saying. And yet, as a civilian, you’re still doing it. Nowadays, you do PT voluntarily and brag about your preferred brand to anyone who will listen. You pay $100/month for a nice, clean place (close to work!) to do it in. You pay someone extra to play your drill instructor, someone who’s motivational but not too mean. Let’s face it. You have become enmired in hypocrisy

And there’s only one man who can pull you free.

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
That man is Max. (Go90 Max Your Body screenshot)

Max doesn’t do PT, he is PT. He’s Physically Titanic, Proactively Tactical, Pyrotechnically Triumphant, and Proudly Terse. He’s a Prehensile Tyrannosaurus with Possible Telekinesis and a full Power Train warranty. Also, he will Put a Trace on your phone if you try to weasel out of this workout.

In this episode, Max is sending you back to PT. No frills. No gym. No equipment. No excuses. Just minute after minute of good old fashioned body weight conditioning drills stacked up in supersets for you to grovel and bitch your way through .

Welcome back to Performance Testing, Puddy Tat.

Watch as Max casually bats aside your nonsense, in the video embedded at the top.

Watch more Max Your Body:

Our trainer will make you a leopard

This is how you train for brotherhood

This is what happens when a troll runs the obstacle course

One session with this trainer will make you assume the fetal position

This is how you fight when the waters are rising

Articles

How prison saved this Army veteran

Army veteran Kenneth Carter wasn’t going to stop dealing or using drugs and alcohol, until prison forced him to. Rather than just bide his time behind bars, he used it to build a future he could be proud of. Now he’s helping others do the same. 

On April 6, 2021 Carter shared in a LinkedIn post that he was four years sober. He hoped to inspire others by detailing his experience and sharing his truth, thinking maybe a few people would like the posting. Instead, over a half a million people responded with likes and it led to almost 50,000 comments. 

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school

Carter was in prison for two and a half years for trafficking cocaine. After being set up by someone he knew and dealing to an undercover police officer, you’d think it would have been the worst experience of his life. Instead, prison saved him. But his story and road to prison was long. 

“My mom was in the Army and that’s what made me want to join. I heard all of the stories about her driving trucks, in the Army and wanted to do it too,” Carter said. “Immediately after highschool I joined and was in it before I even graduated. I was in basic training when 9/11 happened, that was really rough.” 

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school

He deployed to Kuwait for a year after graduating boot camp. Although Carter said he witnessed friends being impacted by serving in a combat environment, he didn’t think he was. Overtime, he noticed some changes in his own personality and behavior which he realized were connected to his time as a soldier. But he wouldn’t connect those dots until it was too late. 

When Carter left the Army, he started driving trucks for civilian companies. Before the military, he wasn’t much of a drinker, he said. But slowly he found himself reaching for alcohol more and more. A tragic accident would make it even worse.

Carter had forgotten his lunch at home one day, so he drove back to get it. On his way down the road he passed a man on a bicycle as he was making his way through a construction zone. Carter passed him, eventually making a right turn to get on his route. Unbeknownst to him, that man on the bicycle had sped him to try to pass him at the same time. The bicyclist hit the truck and lost his life.

Carter said he’s never shared that part of his story before, until now.

“It haunted me. I started thinking about what I could have done. I had to speak to the family and the children of the man. It was really rough,” he explained. 

Traumatized after the death of the bicyclist, he quit his job and began drinking even more. “It was six days a week. There was a guy who offered me coke [cocaine], saying it would balance me out. I ended up trying it and it was very addictive and it led me to wanting to sell it,” Carter shared. 

Five years later, he would be caught selling to the undercover officer. Despite facing charges and being out on bond for a year, Carter said he kept doing drugs and drinking. “Nothing phased me until I went to prison,” he explained. His time behind bars would lead to deep reflection and the recognition he didn’t like who he had become. 

Through processing it all, Carter would come to realize there were moments in his life which led to the prison cell. His mother was a proud soldier but when she went to serve, she had to leave her children with her mother, their grandmother. “There were four of us kids and she abused me constantly,” he explained. “I try to forget about it, really I was just suppressing it.”

The military has long been an escape for many individuals hoping to create a better life than what was waiting for them as a civilian. A 2018 RAND study of the Army found around 25 percent of soldiers joined for pay, benefits and around 22 percent joined to leave a negative environment. 

When Carter found himself behind those bars, he did everything he could to feel because for so long, his emotions had been shut off. The avoidance and boxing of emotions is common in trauma survivors. “I went into my cell and looked at the mirror, which was just metal. I looked myself dead in the eyes and I had to see myself…I felt embarrassed,” he said. “I shed a few tears because it hurt, deeply.”

He spent the rest of his time in jail building a company. Two months after he left prison, he officially launched Ameriton Freight and Logistics. When he looks back on the past year and a half since walking out a free man, he sees more work to be done. “I am not satisfied because I want to be further but I am happy where I am at,” Carter said. 

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school

Carter never shared his experience of abuse, until now. As a child he was taught there was no help out there and if there was, not to trust it. 

“Being black…we always said, Black people don’t do therapy. It just doesn’t happen. There’s a stigma against it. ‘Why do you need to talk to a white person about your problems, they don’t understand.’,” Carter explained. He’s found himself mentoring a lot of men and youth of color for that very reason, helping them by sharing his story and experiences.  

As Carter looks back on his traumatic childhood, military service and his subsequent fall from grace, he’s grateful. The experiences, both good and bad, have shaped him into who he is today and it’s a person he can joyfully look at in the mirror and see reflecting back at him. Carter hopes his story will inspire others to begin their own journey of sobriety and healing, too.

Articles

21 things sailors who’ve served in Yokosuka will understand

The sailors assigned to the commands around Yokosuka, Japan know about high optempo. The units assigned to Forward Deployed Naval Forces Japan are either on deployment or working up for deployment.


But with limited liberty time, the sailors of Yokosuka (and Atsugi) also learn how to play hard.

Here are 21 things every sailor who’s ever been stationed there knows all too well:

Related: 7 lies sailors tell their parent while deployed

1. Your weekend begins with a Liberty plan and a designated buddy

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher S. Johnson

(The liberty plan may not apply to those before 2002 or after 2014. Lucky you.)

2. But in reality, you have alternate plans

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school

3. Instead, you pregame with a Chu-Hi or three

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
Image: Kirin

4. And head for the Honch

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
Off to the Honch, Yokosuka, Japan. Image: Shissem

5. But you only stay for a while because you don’t get along with the regulars: a.k.a. ‘shore patrol’

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
Instagram, zacharyattackery

6. And, trust us on this one, you won’t stand a chance if you start your Captain’s Mast like this:

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
YouTube, Paul Coleman

7. Dinner options always brings out the toughest debates

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
Image: Rocket News 24

(By the way, Sukiya is way better.)

8. You opt for taco, rice, and cheese because there’s no way to come to an agreement

 

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
Photo Credit: Okinawa Hai!

9. Or maybe you settle on ramen (because it’s crazy delicious)

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
Pinterest, Honest Cooking

10. After dinner, it’s off to Roppongi

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
Giphy

11. You learn to stay away from “buy me drink” bars

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
Giphy

12. You learn that trains stop running at midnight . . .

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
YouTube, kennooo93

… the hard way.

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school

12. But if you happen to miss the last train the real debauchery begins

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
Giphy

13. Really, what’s a sailor to do without transportation? 

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
Instagram, AgehaTokyo

15. Somehow you always manage to save just enough cash to get you back to base

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
Flickr, BriYYZ

16. You know you missed your stop when signs are no longer in English

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
Flickr, François Rejeté

17. Luckily, the Japanese people are very friendly

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
Giphy

18. MWR (Morale Welfare and Recreation) trips are great for holding on to your money, exploring Japan and staying out of trouble. You could visit Kyoto …

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
Kiyomizu-dera (清水寺), Kyoto, Kyoto prefecture, Japan. Image: Wikimedia

19. … climb Mount Fuji …

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
Image: US Navy

20. … or take an epic snowboarding trip to Nagano

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
Image: Orvelin Valle, We Are The Mighty

21. And you know how to make the best of a liberty incident

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
VAW-115 barracks party. (Photo: Orvelin Valle, We Are The Mighty)

MIGHTY TRENDING

These 6 veterans never stop serving

In 1783, a Welsh immigrant named Evan Williams founded Kentucky’s first commercial distillery and began producing Bourbon whiskey. Today, Evan Williams Bourbon continues his legacy, and remains synonymous with smooth taste, strong character, and American pride.

That’s why Evan Williams started their American-Made Heroes Program, which celebrates military heroes by sharing veterans’ stories of service to their country and community. After reviewing thousands of entries, Evan Williams selected six new American-Made Heroes.


TYLER CRANE, SERGEANT 1ST CLASS – U.S. ARMY
Charity: Veteran Excursions to Sea

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school

U.S. Army Ranger Tyler Crane led platoons on multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, before an IED blast cut his military career short. Forced to reconsider his path, he made it his mission to improve the lives of fellow veterans in and around Port Charlotte, Florida.

Tyler started the non-profit organization Veteran Excursions To Sea (V.E.T.S.), which works with military families and a dedicated group of local guides to promote “healing through reeling.”

He takes veterans and their families on fishing charters to encourage camaraderie, fun, and relaxation. “It’s just good therapy,” Tyler says. “There’s nothing like spending a day on the water.”

DR. ARCHIE COOK JR., MAJOR – U.S. AIR FORCE
Charity: Veterans Empowering Veterans

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school

Dr. Archie Cook Jr. graduated from the Dental program at the University of North Carolina with help from the Air Force ROTC. After completion of service, he opened his own private practice. At his clinic, Archie offers medical discounts to members of the military and provides free and low-cost dental care to struggling veterans.

Archie also packs and distributes lunches to the homeless and volunteers with Veterans Empowering Veterans: an organization that provides basic services to help disenfranchised veterans get back on their feet. “If you’ve dedicated part of your life to serving our country,” he says, “you should at least have a hot meal and a roof over your head.”

CHRISTOPHER BAITY – VETERAN U.S. MARINE CORPS
Charity: Semper K9 Assistance Dogs

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school

Christopher Baity specialized as a Military Working Dog Handler and Kennel Master during his time with the U.S. Marine Corps. He completed three tours in Iraq, canvassing combat zones with his canine team to detect enemy explosives. After completion of service, Chris and his wife Amanda founded Semper K9 Assistance Dogs, a non-profit organization that turns rescue dogs into service dogs.

Chris trains each animal to provide companionship and emotional support to military veterans and their families, addressing a range of physical and psychiatric needs including PTSD and mobility challenges. “I continually try to learn the techniques and options being offered to disabled veterans,” he says. Since 2014, Chris has graduated over thirty dog teams.

AMANDA RUNYON, HOSPITAL CORPSMAN 2ND CLASS – U.S. NAVY
Charity: Veterans of Foreign Wars – Post 8681

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school

Amanda Runyon learned the value of community service early on while volunteering at local health clinics. Raised in a family with a proud military tradition, she became the first woman in her family to enlist. As a Hospital Corpsman, Amanda provided medical care to Sailors and Marines. She was assigned to intensive care overseas, treating American service men and women suffering from combat injuries sustained in Iraq and Afghanistan.

After nine years of active duty, Amanda returned to her hometown of Spring Hill, Florida, where she continues to serve as a Registered Nurse in the school district. She also volunteers her time to activities in the surrounding community.

MICHAEL STINSON, CHIEF HOSPITAL CORPSMAN – U.S. NAVY
Charity: U.S.O. of Wisconsin

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
Photo by TJ Lambert, Stages Photography

Chief Hospital Corpsman (Ret.) Michael “Doc” Stinson deployed several times as a combat medic with the Marine Corps. After 23 years of service, Michael retired and became a police officer with the Harbor Patrol in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Michael is an active member of the American Legion and serves as Treasurer of the Nam Knights Tundra Chapter: a motorcycle club honoring the sacrifices of military veterans and police officers. They raise funds and awareness for local causes and organizations, including HighGround Memorial Park in Neillsville, Wisconsin, that pays tribute to the heroism of all American veterans.

MICHAEL SIEGEL, SERGEANT MAJOR – U.S. ARMY (RET.)
Charity: U.S.O. Club at Fort Leonard Wood

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school

Sergeant Major (Ret.) Michael Siegel enlisted in the US Army at 17 and served for the next 25 years. Then and now, his mission in life is to lead soldiers, teach soldiers, and guide soldiers to be the best they can be.

Since his retirement, Michael continues to serve his community. He leads by example, volunteering with several youth organizations and fundraising for local charities. Today, he is the Director of Columbia College at Fort Leonard Wood, where he helps educate and position soldiers for successful careers after their military service.

Learn more about each of these incredible veterans and the work they’re doing in their communities at American-MadeHeroes.com.

MIGHTY FIT

Why you should be training, not exercising

Though the distinction between training and exercising might seem unimportant — it isn’t. How you label your physical activity says more about you, your mindset, and your probable rate of success than any PFT score ever could.

I first saw this difference at The Basic School in Quantico. Some of my peers were former college athletes, and a few were training in our off-time for an upcoming marathon. These peers had goals and a plan to achieve them. The rest of us were just doing what I now call “exercising,” random workouts on random days, inconsistently.


The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school

I’m on the far left, standing and squinting.

(Photo by Michael Gregory)

The Marines who were actually training were the only ones I knew who could keep a solid schedule and maintain their fitness levels during The Basic School. The rest of us got by on an ever-dwindling fitness reservoir that was nearly empty by the time I finally finished the school.

I finally started applying this training mentality to fitness during the Marine Corps Martial Arts Instructor Course. The course itself was a constant physical beat-down, but in the few classroom lectures, we were taught how to set up a MCMAP and combat conditioning plan for our units. It was then that I realized I could design a plan to become progressively more difficult as fitness levels increase, the same way a pre-deployment workup gets more complicated as the deployment date nears.

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school

A classic case of the slay fest.

(Photo by Cpl. Brooke C. Woods USMC Recruit Depot San Diego)

How I loathed unit PT…

I used to think I hated PT just because I disliked being told what to do.

I have come to realize I actually hated unit PT because it is exercise and not training.

Most units plan solid workups to prepare each member of the unit to the max extent possible with all the skills and proficiencies needed for when they are actually ‘in country.’ This is training, a clear plan that progressively increases in difficulty and complexity with an end state in mind.

I have rarely seen physical fitness approached in the same logical way in unit PT.

Most units approach PT in one of two ways: as a slay fest or a joke.

  1. A Slay Fest: (n) from the ancient Greek Slayus Festivus, meaning make as many people puke or stroke out as possible in an effort to assert physical dominance and make less-fit service members feel inadequate.
  2. A Joke: just going through the motions and checking the quarterly unit PT requirement box.

Neither one of these has the intention of making better the members of the unit. In fact, slay fests often lead to injuries which have the opposite effect on unit readiness, while potentially initiating a hazing investigation because a junior NCO decided to play drill instructor.

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school

Is this a training session or exercise? …Seriously though, what is this?

(Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash)

The difference between training and exercising

In the Marine Corps, I saw what could be accomplished when a proper training plan is followed to the most minute detail. I also saw what type of chaos or indifference towards fitness can result from no plan and/or unchecked egos.

This is why you should be training. The most successful athletes are those that have a plan in place that works them towards a goal. I’m a firm believer that everyone is an athlete no matter what your job or current station in life.

Marines are constantly reminded that it doesn’t matter what your MOS is, you could find yourself in combat and you better be prepared for it. Even though some roll their eyes at the idea of a finance technician lobbing grenades in a firefight, they still have an underlying feeling of pride that this is a potentiality.

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school

Promotion on Iwo Jima. I swore to not waste anyone’s time with exercise on that day.

(Photo by Jeremy Graves)

I carry that with me to this day. Constantly thinking about what I would do if a fight breaks out — or if ‘patient zero’ of the zombie apocalypse strolls into my part of town — doesn’t keep me awake at night in dread. It keeps me awake at night in giddy anticipation because I’m training for that sh*t every. Damn. Day.

Of course, your reason for training doesn’t need to be so heavy, violent, or world-altering. Simply wanting to be able to throw a perfect spiral with your future son is a perfect reason to be training. If you need a more immediate time frame, choose a challenge: sign up for an adventure race, a marathon, an adult sports league, or a powerlifting meet (I just took second in my first meet and got a free t-shirt #winning #tigerblood). Train for the on-season or the event day.

As a member of the military community, it’s in your blood to conduct work-ups. Now it’s your turn to determine where and when that “deployment” is and how you train for it. Exercise is a word for people who throw out their back trying to get the gallon of Arizona Iced Tea off the bottom shelf and into their grocery cart. They need exercise; you need to be training.

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
Articles

5 things every boot should know before dating a local

All motivated newbie boots — fresh out of months of rigorous training — have one agenda: excel at work, drink some beer, and find a local.


Since most lower enlisted troops lack transportation, straying too far away from base isn’t ideal — taxis and Ubers can get expensive.

So showing up at the closest watering hole from your barracks room is probably going to be your best bet.

Related: 7 tips for getting away with fraternization

Once you step off base and meet that potentially special someone, here’s a few pointers before you go full steam ahead:

1. Wrap it up

You may have built up pounds and pounds of muscle these last few months in training, but it only takes a microscopic bacterium to bring all that strength crashing down.

Don’t be a fool, wrap your tool. (Image via Giphy)If you do hook up with someone soon after meeting them, don’t expect to be their first (even if that’s what they told you).

2. Cultural

As a newbie, you might get stationed overseas in a foreign country where the lifestyles and customs can be very different. Make sure you do a little reconnaissance on the do’s and don’t’s or you might send the wrong message at the dinner table.

We told you so. (Images via Giphy)

3. Background check

We’re not suggesting you conduct a full scale credit and background check on your date, but it couldn’t hurt.

We’re saying to casually ask what mommy and daddy do for a living because many young guys and gals who you’ll meet near the base have parents who served.

You don’t want to hit on someone and find out later you broke the heart of the general’s son or daughter.

Congrats, you’re going to be an E-3 for the rest of your career. (Images via Giphy)

4. Putting ring on it

No offense to all the average looking service members out there, but if you are stationed in a foreign country and you hook up with a “10,” they might be trying to find a way to the states and gain citizenship.

Let’s face it, life would be pretty sweet…until she swears in then takes off. (Images via Giphy)

5. Financial security

Dating and then marrying a service member has some pretty good financial benefits; be careful of who you let into that world.

It happens more than you think. (Images via Giphy)

Also Read: 5 things you should know before diving into a ‘contract marriage’

Can you think of any others? Comment below.

Articles

6 lessons today’s military could learn from old cartoons

Wisdom comes in all sorts of places. Here are 6 lessons modern military leaders could learn from Bugs Bunny, Pinky and the Brain, and Winnie the Pooh:


1. Don’t rely on technology to solve all your problems

via GIPHY

Yes, F-22s, M1 Abrams, and Apache helicopters are sexy marvels of engineering, but they can’t win wars on their own. In a 1982 battle, Syria lost all of its fancy surface-to-air missile batteries in only two days of fighting because, instead of keeping them mobile or emplacing them in hard-to-template areas, they deployed them near bathrooms so they wouldn’t have to dig latrines.

2. A plan that is “so crazy it just might work!” usually doesn’t

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
GIF: YouTube/winniethepooh414

For all the flashy tricks in war, the best plan is often relatively simple. Don’t make a nine-step plan with 100 moving parts when you can send in an infantry company and get the job done. More moving parts equal more failure points.

3. Take care who you’re getting your advice from

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Not all intel is trustworthy. Plenty of locals are willing to provide fake tips to U.S. troops to get rid of political or business rivals. Troops in Afghanistan learned this the hard way when Pech River Valley residents got rid of families in Korengal Valley by siccing Americans on them. Soldiers deployed to the Korengal Valley footed the bill for those early mistakes.

4. Pick your allies and recruits wisely.

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
GIF: YouTube/TammieRD’s channel

Allies have to be rigorously screened. Some of the senior Iraqi political and military allies of the U.S. stripped their own army of key leaders, neutering it and leaving the country ripe for takeover by ISIS. Now U.S. troops are filtering back into the nation to redo the work they thought they completed just a few years ago.

5. Don’t bring more gear than you need

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
GIF: YouTube/8thManDVD.com™ Cartoon Channel

Whether it’s a training ruck march or troops establishing a new combat outpost in country, packing should be done according to mission requirements. Food, water, ammo, and batteries are essential. Everything else should be scrutinized before it’s packed.

6. Don’t let your actions become predictable

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
GIF: YouTube/Adeem Works Studios

All militaries practice battle drills and write doctrine, even if they call them something different. This is vital to make sure that all units know what to expect from one another. But, they need to take care that they don’t make their actions predictable for the enemy. When trucks stop 50 meters from a suspected IED, insurgents will immediately begin planting secondary IEDs 50 meters from a primary.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Breaking: Acting Navy Secretary resigns after calling USS Roosevelt’s captain ‘stupid’

It’s a saga that has unfolded chapter by chapter in recent weeks, and this plot just certainly took an interesting twist.


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First, on March 27, Business Insider reported that the USS Roosevelt, actively deployed in the Pacific, had two confirmed cases of COVID-19. WATM interviewed a spouse who learned this news on Facebook (and whose husband has since tested positive for the illness). As a result, families were asking for information, reporting that they hadn’t heard anything and wanted updates on whether or not their family members were okay. Days later, the plot thickened when a letter written by the captain of the USS Roosevelt, Brett Crozier, was obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle and published in its entirety.

In the four-page letter to senior military leadership, Crozier asked for additional support, stating that only a small number of those infected had disembarked from the deployed carrier, in port in Guam. A majority of the crew remained onboard, where, as anyone who has spent time on a ship knows, social distancing isn’t just difficult; it is impossible. “Due to a warship’s inherent limitations of space, we are not doing this,” Crozier wrote in the letter. “The spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating.”

Crozier asked that the majority of his crew be removed, asking for compliant quarantine rooms on Guam as soon as possible. “Removing the majority of personnel from a deployed U.S. nuclear aircraft carrier and isolating them for two weeks may seem like an extraordinary measure. … This is a necessary risk,” Crozier wrote. “Keeping over 4,000 young men and women on board the TR is an unnecessary risk and breaks faith with those Sailors entrusted to our care. …This will require a political solution but it is the right thing to do,” he continued in the letter. “We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors.”

While the letter ultimately had the outcome Capt. Crozier intended — many of the crew were quarantined on Guam, it came at a high cost: Capt. Crozier was relieved of command.

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school

Captain Brett Crozier.

He disembarked the carrier to the cheers of his ship, his sailors chanting “Captain Crozier! Captain Crozier!” Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Moldy defended his decision to relieve Crozier, in a press conference April 2. Modly said Crozier was removed because he didn’t follow chain of command protocol in how he handled the situation.

While Modly praised Capt. Crozier, he ultimately relieved him because the captain “allowed the complexity of the challenge of the COVID breakout on the ship to overwhelm his ability to act professionally.” You can read the full text of Modly’s statement, here.

But it didn’t end there.

Modly visited the carrier yesterday and gave a speech that contained both expletives and justifications for his decision. The full transcript of his remarks were leaked, which you can find here. But where Modly immediately came under scrutiny was for his strong criticism of Captain Crozier. “If he didn’t think—it was my opinion, that if he didn’t think,” Modly said, “that information was going to get out into the public, in this information age that we live in, then he was A, too naive or too stupid to be the commanding officer of a ship like this…”

The backlash was immediate from citizens and lawmakers, many with military backgrounds.

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school

Marine veteran Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal said, “Modly should be removed unceremoniously for these shocking remarks — especially after failing to protect sailors’ safety health. He has betrayed their trust.”

Virginia Rep. Elaine Luria, a Navy veteran, wrote, “Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly’s remarks to the crew show that he is in no way fit to lead our Navy through this trying time. Secretary Esper should immediately fire him.”

Today ⁦@RepRubenGallego⁩ and I requested ⁦@EsperDoD⁩ to fire Acting ⁦⁦@SECNAV⁩ Modly. ⁦SECNAV⁩ is no longer fit to lead the best Navy in the world. Our letter is below.pic.twitter.com/7qTUidZFtI

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While Modly issued an apology yesterday, today, he resigned in what surely won’t be the last chapter of this ongoing story.

Articles

Texas Tower Number 4 vs. the North Atlantic

“Would you like to spend 30 days on an island where the fishing is good, food is excellent, housing quarters are modern and free movies are shown every night?”
That was the Air Force’s pitch to attract volunteers to serve aboard the Texas Towers, a series of offshore early warning radar platforms built in the 1950s off the coast of Cape Cod and Long Island. These bizarre-looking structures, named for their resemblance to Texas oil rigs, were built to give our air defenses an additional 30 minutes of warning time in the event of an attack by Soviet bombers. 

The call for volunteers, which appeared in The Airman magazine, brought a rush of applications. To further sweeten the deal, Airmen who served aboard the Towers were given two weeks of leave for every six at sea. But the reality of life aboard was nothing like what the Air Force had promised. The Air Force never found a safe way to take men on and off the towers, even in calm seas (which are rare in that part of the Atlantic). Supplying the towers was a logistical nightmare. It wasn’t long before the boarding procedures had cost the lives of two airmen and caused untold injuries.  

Emergency plans and procedures were woefully inadequate. The same stability issues that would eventually lead to disaster earned Texas Tower 4 (TT4) the nickname “Old Shakey” among the crew. 

Five towers were planned, three were built, one was doomed. 

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
The towers. DOD photo.

On the night of January 15, 1961, Texas Tower 4 toppled over in heavy seas and was swallowed by the North Atlantic, taking 14 Airmen and 14 civilian contractors to the bottom with it. 

This is a story of WTF?!? Cold War engineering.  

It’s a story of leaders who had all the warnings and ignored them.  

And it’s the all too common story about what happens when service members are put in harm’s way by blatantly flawed technology and lowest-bidder contracts. 

Design, Construction, and Good Intentions

The Texas Towers were designed to take anything the North Atlantic could throw at them. Probability studies at the time established a criterion of 125 mile-per-hour winds and 35-foot breaking waves, so they were expressly designed to withstand that.

No such structure had ever been built in the open Atlantic or anywhere in a depth of 185 feet. For reference, TT2’s legs measured only 160 feet long; the first 48 feet settled snugly into the seabed, the middle 55 feet were immersed in water, and the top 60 feet rose above the water’s surface. 

The DeLong Corp — an engineering and construction company specializing in the design and construction of docks and similar structures — evaluated all the problems of TT4, installing in 180 feet of water, and formatted a fair estimate for all three towers. Their estimate for TT4 was a million dollars more than TT1 or TT3, given TT4’s greater depth. J. Rich Steers Inc., a competing engineering and construction company, submitted an estimate in the competition of DeLong and outbid them. Steers’ bid for TT4 was less than a quarter-million higher than their bid for TT3. DeLong would later testify that he assumed lack of knowledge on Steers’ part was the reason for this bid–which failed to consider the depth difference between the two towers. (See the table below.)

BidderTT2TT3TT4
J. Rich Steers, Inc. and Morrison-Knudsen, Inc.$7,878,0008,409,000
(Won) 
8,639,000
(Won) 
Raymond Concrete Pile ad DeLong Corp$7,436,000
(Won)
$8,017,0009,908,320
Merritt-Chapman and Scott Corp$8,473,56211,561,651No bid

The sea doesn’t get tired…”

In a hearing following the disaster, Delong testified the K-bracing for TT4 was the best-known construction method for the situation. He further explained any bracing generates additional resistance against the structure from the sea. To work properly, bracing needs to be left out of the water motion zone, meaning they had to keep bracing below any wave action. He said the use of pins in the legs of the tower would cause trouble because, 

“The sea works on it at all times, causing an impact at the clearance. There is one thing we can all be sure of, the ocean is not going to get tired. You will get tired, or metal, or anything else will tire, before the ocean will get tired.”

According to Mr. DeLong’s testimony, the base of TT4 was not moored deep enough into the seabed. TT2’s bases were sunk 48 feet into the substrate. This was sufficient, based on DeLong’s experience in the Gulf of Mexico. TT4’s base extended just 18 feet into the sand bottom. He would testify, “you are on awful shaky assumptions that 18 or 20 feet is enough.” 

J. Rich Steers built TT3 and TT4, and Mr. Rau, as the Vice President and chief engineer of J. Rich Steers, Inc., testified he was fully aware of the construction of TT3 and TT4. In addition, the Navy had a representative present during tower construction and erection. Captain Foster was a U.S. Naval Civil Engineer Corps commander who oversaw many large-scale projects before becoming responsible for Texas Tower 4. The legs, with their bracing, and platform were all constructed in Portland, Maine. The contractor, J. Rich Steers, requested an increase in the space between pins and the holes on the leg braces, originally designed to be 1/64 inch. Pin tolerance increases to 1/16-inch for above water pins and expansions to 1/8 inch below water. The request for larger holes underwater was because the water made them difficult to insert. Upon consulting the design engineers, Captain Foster agreed to all of the tolerance increases. 

Not the Navy’s Problem

TT4 would be damaged by the sea before it was even in position. After floating the legs into position out at sea, the construction crew had to ride out a storm. The rough weather damaged the legs’ diagonal braces. One brace broke off entirely.   

There were only two options: 

Sail the legs back to Portland, put the legs in dry dock, and install braces properly. 

Or an engineer could rig braces underwater. 

The Navy representatives managing the construction decided to upend the legs and design and install permanent underwater braces. The underwater braces were supposed to fit exactly as the originals had. But because only a stub against the leg remained when the brace broke off, the new braces were attached to the leg by two half sleeves, forming a collar which had to be bolted underwater around the joint. 

These retrofitted braces didn’t solve the tower’s stability issues. A December 4, 1958 report detailed a series of underwater inspections called “Texas Tower No. 4; Stability and Deficiencies.” It explained that approximately half of the bolts were loose and could be extracted by hand. Immediate details established that the bolts were not of design diameter and length, something Captain Foster approved, and some holes were oversized. Effective July 1, 1959, Commander Foster was detached from his duty associated with TT4, and the Navy was no longer directly involved in any of its problems.

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
Construction of TT4 Photo/Newsday Radomes Photo edited by JM

Tower Operations & Life Aboard

By the end of 1955, the first Tower, TT2, began radar operations. Its three radar domes protected an FPS-3A and twin FPS-6 height radars that were programmed to detect “targets of B-47 size, flying about 50,000 feet, up to 200 nautical miles away.” 

Unfortunately, It was only after the tower was in place that the Air Force found low-altitude radar gaps in the tower’s range. The same targets flying at low altitudes, around 500 feet, were only noticeable by radar up to 50 nautical miles away. Airborne Early Warning and Control, also known as AEW&C, aircraft needed to patrol the oceans to provide adjunct coverage to the Texas Towers. 

“Old Shaky”

TT2 and TT3 stood firmly in waters that were 56 and 80 feet from their installation, respectively. TT4 was different in its design because it had underwater bracing to compensate for the extra stresses of being in 185 feet of water. Despite constant reports of excessive wobbling aboard TT4 and the crewmembers’ nicknaming it “Old Shaky,” in the summer of 1960, the contractor reported the original design strength restored. Each of the towers was different as each had its unusual movement. The crewmembers on TT2 reported the platform had a juggling motion, while TT3 was a twisting motion. TT4, however, weaved, wobbled, and lurched like a living thing. 

Hurricane Donna

On September 12, 1960, Hurricane Donna produced winds of 132 miles per hour and breaking waves over 50 feet, forces that exceeded all of the design specifications of up to 125 miles per hour and breaking waves up to 35 feet. These surpassing forces broke part of the below water bracing. The post-storm damage estimates afforded an overall strength of 55% of what it was before the hurricane. 

Storm damage after Donna forced the Air Force and its construction contractor to begin renovating TT-4 on February 1, 1961. Donald Slutzky was a technical representative with the Burroughs Corp., who serviced computer data for a year on TT4. After the November hurricane, Slutzky and others aboard the Tower decided to leave, believing that the structure was unsafe. 

Soviet footprints…

The tower would shake, and the noise aboard was constant, and then there were the Russians. “Some nights, the lights were so thick you thought you were back at Coney Island,” one airman remembers thinking about the fleets loitering of Russian fishing trawlers swarming the towers. 

There were even rumors of infiltration by Soviet frogmen. “A body of legends grew up telling of “damp footprints encountered in passageways and of mysterious strangers furtively sipping coffee in the mess hall at 3 a.m.”

What the towers lacked in comfort, they made up for in food, beer, movies, and calls home

The Airforce spared no expense in making life aboard the towers comfortable. Funds were 70% above their parent squadron, and food allowances were 14% over stateside allowances. The towers had hobby shops, pizza parties, barbeques, daily beer rations, and movies every night, but weeks aboard the platforms was enough to give even the most stable airman “tower fever.” 

The isolation, bone-chilling cold, and screaming wind didn’t help, and unbearable noises were built into the tower. Diesel engines roared incessantly while air blowers whined, and radios echoed unnervingly down the steel hallways. In foggy weather, the world’s largest blow horn blasted every twenty-nine seconds. The horn of TT2 once hollered for three weeks straight while hidden in the fog. 

Communication was essential for the towers and the shore. Not only was it vital for the radar reports to be transmitted back to the SAGE system, but without this line of communication, the tower would be incapacitated. Unlike so much about the towers, comms actually worked as intended.

 Point-to-point tropospheric scatter systems, officially called FRC-56 but known as the troposcatter, transmitted and received messages from shore and were generally unaffected by atmospheric disturbances. They worked well for SAGE communications and the telephone circuits patched in. Voice communications through the troposcatter were reliably maintained, and anyone could call home after duty hours by merely dialing the Otis Operator through the troposcatter. 

Supply and Evacuation

The 4604th Texas Support Squadron had its headquarters at Otis Air Force Base on Cape Cod. It provided the Texas towers with staffing and controlled the towers’ activity. In addition, a supply ship, the USNS New Bedford or AKL-17, under Captain Manguel’s supervision, supported the Air Force Islands.  

Getting to and from the tower was a significant problem encumbered by New England Weather. Calm days with good visibility are the exception, not the rule, in this corner of the Atlantic.

The escape procedures were limited to methods that were dangerous on a good day. Knotted ropes could be suspended over the side, and crewmembers could climb the ropes to get from the tower’s platform to ships floating in the sea below. Many crewmembers preferred helicopter transport to and from the tower, but Atlantic wind and weather ultimately dictated the service. The mission of flying to the towers was so dangerous that the helicopters only flew in pairs, so if one of them went into the sea, the other could begin rescue operations. Therefore, when one helicopter landed on the platform’s deck, the other had to hover overhead.

Doughnut rides

The only other way off the tower was referred to by tower members as the “Doughnut.” Nothing in nautical or aeronautical history resembles this device used to transfer personnel between the tower and supply ships, ninety feet below. A colossal aircraft tire innertube was inflated and picked up by the tower’s cargo crane and suspended over the black water. With passengers clinging for dear life, the tube was then lowered or plummeted straight down and onto the pitching and rolling ship. The trip was, in the words of one airman, “enough to make a paratrooper queasy.” Most mariners on the supply ships declined the invitation to come aboard after seeing the doughnut. 

Too slow for missiles 

Simultaneously, on November 16, 1960, the Airforce ceased the tower’s radar operations and reduced the crewmembers aboard from about 75 to 28, consisting of 14 Air Force and 14 civilian maintenance personnel. By that time, the invention of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) had rendered the towers obsolete, reducing their early warning advantage from 30 minutes to around 30 seconds. 

Though their strategic usefulness was behind them, a major reason to keep the towers crewed was to prevent the Soviets from taking claiming them through salvage rights. 

The collapse of Texas Tower 4

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
Texas Tower 4, fitted with above water bracing. Photo/ DOD.

Captain Gordon Phelan was the Officer in Charge of TT4, and he made a special effort to communicate to the crewmembers onboard the day-to-day structural condition of the tower. His superiors cited his leadership for maintaining the high morale of fellow officers and subordinates aboard the doomed platform. He was recommended for the Legion of Merit when he prevented hysteria aboard the fully staffed tower during Hurricane Donna.  

Phelan’s superiors would testify that the captain aboard the tower had the authorization to evacuate if he deemed conditions unsafe effective January 7. However, in a tragic miscommunication, this policy was not relayed to Captain Phelan until hours before the collapse. 

Early on the morning of January 14, 1961, TT4’s weather advisory changed, calling for winds from 40 to 60 knots. At about 1330 hrs that afternoon, the AKL-17 completed its loading 202 tons of bulky equipment but no passengers from TT4 and cast off from the tower. Anticipating a North Atlantic Gale, Captain Phelan advised Captain Manguel to stay near the tower for possible evacuation as he would contact the 4604th Support battalion. Captain Manguel replied that if the evacuation was to remain an option, it needed to start while the weather was still good. Soon after, Captain Phelan informed Captain Mangual that the personnel would remain on the tower with the AKL 17 standing by. In other words, if evacuation became necessary, it would be too late to evacuate. 


Texas Tower 4, as seen from the supply ship USNS New Bedford (AKL-17) PHOTO/ DOD 

Major Stark, the officer in charge at the 4604th Support battalion, who could order an evacuation of the tower at any time, was back on Otis at the time and later testified that he was in a bowling tournament on base from 1300 to 1400. However, he felt confident no telephone call in from Captain Phelan because it would have been reported.  

That evening, at 2130 hrs on Otis AFB, Major Stark briefed Major Sheppard that he did not believe the weather forecast was severe enough to warrant the tower’s evacuation. He spoke to Captain Phelan a couple of times during the day and thought there was no reason for alarm or concern of any kind, and that everything was going fine. Major Sheppard was not aware of the worsening forecast of 60-knot winds for TT4. Had he been, he would have directed the evacuation of the tower. Major Sheppard was not particularly concerned because the tower had “just gone through the same situation six days before without any difficulty or motion.” They concluded that Major Sheppard had no need to contact the tower, and he did not communicate until 1600hrs  the following day.

Rising seas

 On January 15, at 1018 hrs, the U.S. Navy Hydrographic Office issued TT4 a wave warning beginning at 1900 hrs, calling for easterly seas 17 to 20 feet. Neither TT4 nor the 4604th support squadron ever acknowledged this receipt. The sea had continued its turbulence and the wind was forecasted for gusts of 60 knots most of the day. At 1000 hrs, Captain Phelan was asked if he was concerned about getting off the tower and he replied, “Well, you know as well as I that we can’t get off now.”

At approximately 1300 hrs, Captain Phelan called his wife, who lived near Otis Airforce Base in Falmouth, MA. They had a long conversation. He told her that the tower was “gyrating,” a word Mrs. Phelan said her husband never used to describe the tower’s behavior. Captain Phelan told her it was rough on board, and she believed he was especially concerned about the wind and waves. 

She asked him what would happen if the tower collapsed. He told her that it would not float. 

She asked if there were any watertight compartments, and he replied, “absolutely not.”

Captain Phelan thought it was asinine for the AKL-17 to be around because it would be  impossible to use the doughnut in such rough seas. If the tower fell, Phelan told his wife, no one would be saved, and the AKL or any other craft would be useless. 

She asked if the tower would float for a short time to allow them to use the boat. He said,when it went in, it would go in real fast. 

Finally, he called the Skipper of the AKL-17 and told him to go back home or his vessel would soon be swamped.  

The Wasp or the bottom of the sea

Around 1530 hrs, Lieutenant Roberts amended the weather forecast to maximum gusts of 75 knots. When Captain Phelan had reported one gust of 72 knots, he said, “Well, now maybe they will do something about it.” Lieutenant Roberts testified that he interpreted this remark to mean that Captain Phelan had been previously trying to contact someone without success.

At approximately 1600, Captain Phelan reported to Major Sheppard that he heard a loud noise, and the tower sway increased. He thought another brace had broken, and there could be trouble if wind direction shifted. 

Captain Phelan was concerned with a second storm on its way. When he suggested it would be wise to evacuate during a predicted lull between the two storms, Major Sheppard told him that as Tower OIC, he had discretionary authority to evacuate whenever he felt it was necessary. Captain Phelan then requested helicopters for the evacuation. Some time before 1745 hrs, Mr. Sheppard Called Captain Phelan and told him that the USS Wasp, an aircraft carrier, was being diverted and would arrive sooner than choppers from shore. 

At about 1800, Captain Phelan called his wife and told her they were finally sending the USS Wasp and evacuating his crew with choppers. Safes containing classified materials were being thrown overboard. All hands were on deck, clearing the way for the helicopters. He told her the waves were 35 feet, and the wind was blowing 85 knots. The tower was breaking apart, he said. At approximately 1910 hrs, Captain Phelan advised Captain Mangual on the AKL-17 supply ship of their intent to be evacuated by air and that Captain Mangual should proceed to the nearest safe port.

At approximately 1915 hrs, Mr. Schutz called Otis to inform him all hands were still clearing the deck to receive choppers and then stated, “My next call to you will either be on the Wasp, or I will be in the sea. So long.”

At about 1920 hrs, Captain Manguel observed the tower’s signal on his radar screens aboard the AKL-17 when it suddenly disappeared.  

He switched to another radar screen and was still unable to locate the structure. Captain Manguel, using the radio he had been in contact with Captain Phelan, called the radar station but received no response. 

At 1933 hrs, he transmitted a “Triple X” message to the Coast Guard that “Texas Tower #4 had disappeared from radar contact, and he presumed that it was lost.” 

Major search and rescue efforts recovered no survivors. One body was recovered from the radio room of the sunken Tower.

Aftermath

The exact cause of the tower’s collapse is unknown, but the most probable cause is the failure of the leg structure due to the ineffective bracing system between the A and B legs. 

TT4’s platform leg design would never pass modern code checks, even for dead load only. Many structural members were loaded beyond yield, explaining the extensive damage TT4 suffered during Donna. 

It was nothing short of a miracle that TT4 hadn’t gone down during Donna. 

A recent inquiry into the collapse has yielded hindsight calculations that tell a more accurate story of what was going on structurally before and during the collapse. Design engineers had totaled the mass around 7500 tons, but current predictions automatically generate masses and include the hydrodynamic added weight of the water in flooded members. Therefore, design engineers omitted the extra 3,200 tons, and the structure’s predicted mass is a total of about 10,800 tons. Using pin connections over fully welded joints to eliminate secondary bending in joints, an accumulation of wear happened at the pin connections, causing the holes to enlarge. 

Another weak point in the tower’s construction was the point where the legs met the seabed. TT4s legs were steel tubes with an outer diameter of 12.5 ft, reinforced with stiffening concrete to 50 feet below the surface. The lower part of the leg was hollow and used as ballast during transportation and installation and as a fuel tank after installation. This section is the weak part of the leg which broke near the footings during the fatal storm. The design engineers likely overlooked the possibility of the legs buckling.

TT 2 and 3 

After the collapse of TT4, the remaining towers, TT2 and TT3, were inspected for safety, and their practicality was reassessed. New policies were drafted, but the lingering threat from the Soviet trawlers that loitered around the towers had to be accounted for. From 1961 on, if extreme weather conditions were forecasted, a tower evacuation down to a seven-member standby crew was to be ordered. 

The purpose of the standby crew was to guard against the Soviet Sailors attempting to board the platform and claim possession on the grounds of salvage rights.

Decommissioning  

Considering the towers’ safety issues and their obsolescence, the Air Defense Command decided to phase out TT2 and TT3. A newer system, the Automatic Long Range Input (ALRI), would become fully operational by radars mounted on AEW&Con aircraft based out of Otis AFB, Massachusetts. 

These planes already flew constant missions to scan the Texas tower radar web gaps, so they only had to increase their flight time to replace the coverage from the towers. The EC-121 aircraft flew countless radar surveillance missions by their nineteen-member crews in the 1950s and 1960s. The EC-121H Super Constellation, or the “Warning Star,” carried more than six tons of radar and computer communications equipment. 

In 1963, ALRI stations became operational, and the towers were no longer needed. On January 15, 1963, TT2 was decommissioned, stripped of its communication and electronic equipment. The next phase would be to dynamite the legs and float the platform to shore. When the legs were dynamited, however, the platform plunged into the ocean and sank to the bottom. 

Salvage was not possible. Like TT4, TT2 sits on the bottom of the ocean. TT3 was filled with urethane foam to make it buoyant, floated home, and scrapped.

Fall of the warning stars

On March 2, 1965, the 551st Wing at Otis AFB celebrated “more than 350,000 hours of early warning radar surveillance missions over the North Atlantic without an accident involving personal injury or a fatality.” Thse were the “warning star” early warning aircraft that had supplemented and eventually replaced the Texas Towers. 

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
EC-121H Warning Star and her crew at Otis Air Force Base. PHOTO/ DOD

Less than 19 weeks later, on July 11, 1965, their good safety record was shattered when one of the Super Constellation aircraft developed fire, and the crew ditched the plane in the North Atlantic, approximately 100 miles from Nantucket. Of the 19 crew, there were three survivors, nine bodies were recovered, and the remaining seven were missing and presumed dead. 

A similar accident happened the following year on Veterans Day when another Super Constellation crashed in the same general area as the first one. All 19 crew members were killed, and their bodies were never recovered.

Five months later, on April 25, 1967, the 551st AEW’s commander, Colonel James P. Lyle, was piloting another EC-121H when an engine fire broke out. The aircraft went down in the North Atlantic one mile south of Nantucket while attempting an emergency landing. There were fifteen fatalities and one survivor. Only two bodies were recovered. Colonel Lyle had presented folded flags to the next-of-kin of the men under his command from the previous crashes. Now it was his family’s turn to receive one. 

The EC-121H aircraft was phased out, and the 551st Wing was deactivated on December 31, 1969. In total, 50 service members died in these three plane crashes, bringing the death toll of the North Atlantic Advanced Early Warning mission to over 78.


Image: U.S Air Force Museum

“You either drown, or you don’t.”

When Captain Phelan and the men of TT4 went down, there was no helm to command, no wheel or tiller to steer, and there was nothing they could have done on the night of January 15, 1961, to save themselves. They died in a structure that was built more like a building than a ship, and it certainly wasn’t watertight. As the captain told his wife on the telephone hours before the tower did this, if it goes in, it will go in real fast. 

As he did during Hurricane Donna, Captain Phelan likely maintained command of the military and civilian men on board. There’s no evidence of panic, even though there was nothing to do but panic. The Airmen and civilians fought for each other and their lives to keep the helicopter landing area clear, but the helicopters had not taken off from the Wasp yet when the legs buckled and the tower went down. 

We will never know if tower leadership was trying to contact Major Stark between 2 and 3 p.m., while the Major was occupied at a Bowling Tournament on Otis Air Force Base. All we know is that no action was taken by his command until it was too late. 

***

The Texas Towers themselves are relics of the scrapheap of forgotten Cold War technology. But, this sort of preventable catastrophe, where military brass has all the warnings and fails to act, has repeated itself again and again. 

Most recently, in July 2020, eight Marines and a sailor drowned when their twenty-six-ton amphibious assault vehicle sank off a California island. The incident resulted from inadequate training, a vehicle in “horrible condition,” and lapsed safety. 

Untrained for the situation, in forty-five minutes after water first leaked inside, most service members hadn’t shed their combat gear and body armor. “The key moment in the mishap was when water was at ankle level… and the vehicle commander failed to order the evacuation of embarked troops, as required by the Common Standard Operating Procedures for AAV Operations,” the investigation officer wrote. “Instead, the vehicle commander was more focused on getting back to the ship, vice evacuating the embarked personnel.” 

Water flooded the troop compartment, causing the AAV’s nose to rise, and then it quickly sank with eleven men still inside. Only three Marines made it to the surface — and only two of them survived. After the Navy recovered it from a depth of three-hundred and eighty-five feet of water, technical inspections and analyses of the amtrac revealed anomalies, loose or missing parts, and worn seals.

***

Sebastian Junger writes in The Perfect Storm, “everyone takes their chances, and you either drown or you don’t.” 

It is that stark simplicity that makes seafaring professions so alluring and so deadly. 

Men and women who earn their living at sea, in the military or as civilians, have long embraced the superstition that some among them are marked and that the sea will reclaim them eventually. 

Whether it was nautical providence or just bad luck, the Atlantic had marked many among the original crew of the Texas Towers. After Hurricane Donna, the Air Force had ceased radar operations on TT4 and scaled the crew back from 75 to just 14, supported by an additional 14 civilian support personal.  These were the 28 who went down that night in January 1961. Of the 50 fatalities from the subsequent “Warning Star” crashes, many had been survivors of Hurricane Dona, chosen by deep to join their fellow airmen another day. 

***

About the authors:

Joshua Maloney served in the First Cavalry Division as an M1A2 SEP V2 loader and driver and as an HMMWV driver, dismount, and gunner. He has been a part of numerous combat and humanitarian aid missions. He has since gone on to advocate for student veterans as president of the Student Veterans of America Chapter at Cape Cod Community College.

Charles Daly is the co-author of Make Peace or Die: a life of Service, Leadership, and Nightmares


MIGHTY CULTURE

This program uses equine therapy to address veteran suicide

To shed light on the epidemic of veteran suicide, BraveHearts — the nation’s leading equine rehabilitation program for veterans — started its first of three Trail to Zero rides Sept. 7, 2019 in northern Virginia.

The 20-mile ride in each city commemorates the number of veterans lives lost on average each day. The ride educates people on equine-assisted services benefits and healing effects.

Army veteran Tim Detert was one of the Trail to Zero riders. Detert served from 2005-2010 with the 82nd Airborne, deploying to Iraq twice for 18-month and 13-month tours. Following his service, Detert said he started suffering from depression and anxiety, turning to alcohol and opiates. Four friends ended their lives. After a suicidal spell, a friend recommended equine therapy to him.


“It’s completely turned around my life,” said Detert, who has been sober two years. “It’s given me a lot of hope and joy. I was so depressed and down before I came to this program. I was just looking for something and I hadn’t found it until I started working with the horses.”

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school

Army Veteran Mitchell Hedlund, one of the Trail to Zero riders, served in Afghanistan in 2011-2012 and now uses equine therapy.

The BraveHearts president and chief operating officer said she’s seen veterans greatly improve their well being through equine therapy.

“I can’t even tell you now how many times I’ve heard veterans tell me personally that they wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the horses,” said Meggan Hill-McQueeney. “They find peace with the horses, they find hope with the horses, and they find purpose with the horses. Alternative therapies like equine therapies are tremendous opportunities.”

Equine programs

Currently, 64 VA medical centers across the country participate in therapeutic riding programs. These programs use equine assisted therapeutic activities recreationally to promote healing and rehabilitation of veterans for a variety of physical disabilities and medical conditions, said Recreation Therapy Service National Program Director Dave Otto. These include traumatic brain injury/polytrauma, blind rehabilitation, other physical impairments, post-traumatic stress disorders and other mental health disorders.

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school

Children on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall talk to a BraveHearts rider Sept. 7, 2019, during the Trail to Zero ride.

Additionally, VA awards adaptive sports grants annually for organizations and groups that provide adaptive sports opportunities for veterans with disabilities, Otto said. These grant recipients also partner with VA facilities within their region to coordinate such adaptive sports opportunities for Veterans. During fiscal year 2018, VA awarded nearly id=”listicle-2640279831″ million to 12 grant recipients providing equine assisted therapy to Veterans with mental health issues. VA will award up to id=”listicle-2640279831″.5 million of these grants in fiscal year 2019.

BraveHearts is the largest Professional Association for Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.) program in the country and serves veterans at no cost to veterans. The program offers equine services to provide emotional, cognitive, social and physical benefits. Veterans at BraveHearts have reported increased self-esteem, self-worth, trust for others, community integration, and decreased depression, anxiety, post traumatic disorder symptoms and self-inflicting thoughts.

In addition to the Sept. 7, 2019 ride, Trail to Zero plans rides for Sept. 14, 2019, in New York City and Sept. 28, 2019, in Chicago.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These 3 Air Force bases will get the new B-21 bomber

The Air Force said on May 2, 2018, that the new B-21 Raider bomber will go to three bases in the US when it starts arriving in the mid-2020s.

The service picked Dyess Air Force Base in Texas, Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, and Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri as “reasonable alternatives” for the new bomber.


The Air Force said using existing bomber bases would reduce operational impact, lower overhead, and minimize costs.

“Our current bomber bases are best suited for the B-21,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said in a release. Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota has said Ellsworth is a candidate to be the first to get the new, next-generation bomber.

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
Airmen perform preflight checks on a B-2 Spirit and signal to the mission commander that he is clear and free to move to the runway at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, April 24, 2017.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jazmin Smith)

The B-21 will eventually replace the B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit at those bases, as well — though the Air Force doesn’t plan to start retiring those bombers until it has enough B-21s to replace them.

Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana and Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota will continue to host the B-52 Stratofortress, the workhorse bomber that was first introduced in 1952 and is expected to remain in service until the 2050s.

A final basing decision is expected in 2019 after compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act and other regulations.

“We are designing the B-21 Raider to replace our aging bombers as a long-range, highly survivable aircraft capable of carrying mixed conventional and nuclear payloads, to strike any target worldwide,” Air Force chief of staff Gen. David L. Goldfein said in the release.

Air Force Brig. Gen. Carl Schaefer, commander of the 412th Test Wing, said in March that the B-21 will head to Edwards Air Force Base in California for testing “in the near future.” His announcement appeared to confirm that the Raider would undergo operational testing sooner than expected.

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school
Aircrew members perform preflight checks on a B-1B Lancer as part of a standoff-weapons-integration exercise at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, August 13, 2014.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Zachary Hada)

The B-21 is being engineered to have next-generation stealth capability to allow it to elude the most advanced air defenses in the world, and it has been developed under a high level of secrecy.

There are no known photographs of the bomber, and few details about it have been released. A report in November 2017, suggested the Air Force could have been preparing Area 51 to host the bomber for testing.

The name “Raider” was selected from suggestions submitted by airmen in a contest in early 2016. The name refers to the daring Doolittle raid over Tokyo on April 18, 1942.

The raid was the first US strike on Japan in World War II, and it boosted morale in the US and led the Japanese military to divert resources for defense of its homeland. Lt. Col. Richard Cole, who was Lt. Col. James Doolittle’s copilot and the last surviving member of the raid, announced the new name in September 2016.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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