A top U.S. military technology company has announced that it’s working on new technology to give tank and armored vehicle crews a 360-degree view of the outside even when they’re buttoned up in armor with no windows.
Basically, crews will be able to see a virtual view of the world through the steel-plated sides of their tanks.
The new helmet technology being developed by Raytheon BBN Technologies is part of a project initiated by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, to develop futuristic survivability tools for armored vehicles.
“Our team is developing a virtual experience that gives the crews of armored military vehicles greater awareness of what’s going on outside the vehicle, while also reducing their vulnerability to attack,” David Diller, a program manager for Raytheon BBN Technologies, said in a press release. “We’re creating a three-dimensional model of the environment in real time that gives users views of their outside environment that would not normally be possible from inside the vehicle.”
The team aims to incorporate trackers for friendly forces, hostile fire, and known threats into the crew’s displays so the troops can concentrate on maneuver and tactics.
The system aims to use lidar, the same laser-imaging science that is in Google’s self-driving cars, to create the map of the surroundings while high-definition video lets the crew see what is going on around them.
Pilots who fly the F-35 Lightning II currently have a system that uses that plane’s sensors to achieve a similar effect, allowing the pilot to “see” through the aircraft. While the F-35 program has come under fire for cost overruns and delays, pilots and program managers have pointed at the tactical awareness the helmet gives as a game-changer in future fights.
If tank crews can get similar awareness when they’re going toe-to-toe with enemy armor, that could tip the scales in their favor during a decisive battle.
Raytheon BBN Technologies is owned by the Raytheon Company and is working on DARPA’s Grond X-Vehicle Technologies program, which aims to improve America’s vehicles by enhancing mobility, agility, crew augmentation, and signature management.
The UK and France scrambled fighter jets to respond to a two Tu-160 Russian nuclear bombers that approached Scotland without responding to air control on Sept. 20, 2018.
The UK Ministry of Defense said the unresponsive planes presented a hazard to other aviation by not communicating.
“Russian bombers probing UK airspace is another reminder of the very serious military challenge that Russia poses us today,” Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said in a statement sent to Business Insider. “We will not hesitate to continually defend our skies from acts of aggression.”
Military flight radar trackers spotted an unusually large number of Russian nuclear bombers taking off from bases in the country’s east early on Sept. 20, 2018, and tracked them as they flew above Scandinavia and down into North Sea towards the UK.
The fleet included three Tu-160 supersonic bombers and three Tu-95 propeller driven bombers with refueling tankers along for the long-distance haul. Williamson’s statement says only two Tu-160s were involved in the interception incident.
UK and French jets flew out to greet the bombers. Business Insider observed flight radar trackers as the incident unfolded. Ultimately the Russian bombers turned away and the European jets returned home. The Russian bombers did not enter UK airspace.
Typically the UK scrambles its own fighters to respond to potential breaches of airspace, so the inclusion of French jets may suggest some abnormality in the incident.
Together the six Russian bombers represent a massive array of air power. Both bombers can carry anti-ship and nuclear missiles in large enough numbers to punch a serious hole in UK or European defenses.
Russia regularly uses its bombers to probe the airspace of its neighbors and possibly gauge response time to aide in planning for potential future conflicts.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
After serving in the US Navy during the Vietnam War, George Platt faithfully wore his identification tag — informally known as a “dog tag.”
Like every other member of the military, he was originally issued two, but at some point one went missing.
The other one, however, was always with him throughout most of his adult life.
“He had it with him when I first met him,” said his wife of 30 years, Sheila Platt. The couple met in 1983.
Years later, sometime after George Platt was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease, the lone tag that he’d worn for so long disappeared.
“I just assumed when I didn’t see it that he put it somewhere in the house, and I would come across it,” said Shelia Platt. “I never did, and I stopped thinking about it.”
Her husband died in 2014 at the age of 67 and she gave his clothing to Goodwill. But she did not find the tag.
Three years passed, and then something happened. Something “amazing.”
Chain of events
William “Biff” Trimble served in the US Air Force in Southeast Asia about the same time as George Platt.
Today, he volunteers with Disabled American Veterans Chapter 86, driving veterans to medical appointments. As a result, he sometimes has one of the DAV vans parked outside his home.
That fact provided a critical link in the chain of events that was to follow.
On a recent weekend, Trimble’s regular postal carrier was making Express Mail deliveries in the vicinity of Bing’s Landing. Hurricane Irma had swept through and left behind a lot of street debris there. By chance, the carrier spotted a small metal rectangle in the debris and picked it up.
It was a military dog tag belonging to George Platt.
The carrier had the tag with her as she drove her regular route when she spotted the DAV van parked in Trimble’s driveway. She approached Trimble and his wife, showed them the dog tag and said, “I found this on the street; is there anything you can do?”
Trimble accepted the tag and took it to the DAV post, where he gave it to chapter treasurer Larry Rekart.
Rekart checked the chapter’s membership records, but did not find George Platt there. So he turned to the telephone directory.
At a time when many people rely solely on cell phones and the telephone white pages are shrinking, the Platts’ number was still listed. Sheila Platt had never changed it.
The day the phone rang, she had just returned home after having evacuated because of the storm. It marked the conclusion of an unhappy two weeks for Shelia Platt. She had evacuated just two days after attending her mother’s funeral.
When she answered the phone, the voice at the other end asked to speak with her husband.
She said simply that he wasn’t there, so the caller — it was Rekart — asked if he was speaking with Mrs. Platt.
She admits becoming irritated at first but what Rekart said next surprised her. Someone had found her husband’s dog tag and she could pick it up at the DAV office.
She wanted to tell someone about this incredible development, but her confidant had always been her mother. She wondered: “Who do I call for this? Who do I call to tell this story to?”
She settled on her husband’s niece. Then, by chance, the man who served as best man at the Platts’ wedding texted her to find out if she’d returned from her evacuation, so she called him.
“I said, ‘You will not believe this story,'” she said.
At last, Sheila Platt went to the DAV office to retrieve the missing ID. It was an emotional moment.
“I hadn’t cried over him in a long time,” she said, “and when I came here, I started.”
Bing’s Landing is almost nine-and-a-half miles from the Platt home. And it’s on the opposite side of the Matanzas River. By Sheila Platt’s account, her husband wouldn’t have gone there.
So, how did his dog tag end up so far from home?
It was a source of speculation when she met with members of the DAV. One person asked if her house had ever been robbed, but she said no. Another asked if she had given any of her husband’s clothing away, and she remembered the Goodwill.
Today, she wonders if the tag had been in a pocket she hadn’t checked before donating the clothing. Still, that may be as close as she ever gets to solving the mystery.
Sheila keeps the tag on a fob for now and plans to do something more permanent with it eventually.
George Platt, she said, “was just a great guy; he was a great husband.”
The tag, she added, was “something that was important to him. The fact that he lost it or whatever I attribute to the Alzheimer’s. Because it was something that he always kept with him.”
Marine Corps Lt. Col. William H. Rankin had flown combat flight operations in both World War II and the Korean War, but it wasn’t enemy fire that came closest to killing him during his military flying career. It was a summer thunderstorm over the east coast of the United States.
On July 26, 1959 Rankin and his wingman, 1st Lt. Herbert Nolan, were flying a pair of F-8 Crusaders from South Weymouth, Mass back to their home base at Beaufort, S.C. when they encountered a line of severe thunderstorms over North Carolina. Shortly after the fighters climbed up to 47,000 feet to go over the growing cumulonimbus clouds, Rankin heard a loud grinding noise followed by a loss of power from the jet’s only engine. About that time the jet’s fire warning light illuminated.
Rankin tried pulling the auxiliary power handle but it came off in his hand. He tried to restart the engine several times but had no luck. At that point, with the fighter in an uncontrollable dive and going nearly supersonic, he knew he only had one option left. He keyed the radio and matter-of-factly told his wingman he “had to eject” and then pulled the handle.
The senior Marine pilot wasn’t wearing a pressure suit, so as soon as he hit the surrounding atmosphere at that altitude his body was put through the ringer. The sudden decompression caused his stomach to swell, his ears, nose and mouth to bleed. The ejection tore his left glove from his hand, leaving it exposed to the brutally cold air. His skin immediately froze, which resulted in numbness and severe frostbite.
But things were about to get worse. In his memoir, The Man Who Rode the Thunder, Rankin describes his free fall like this:
I became conscious of my body tumbling, spinning, and cartwheeling through space. I spun like a pinwheel, my limbs trying to go in every possible direction at once. I spun on the vertical, diagonal and horizontal axis. I felt the enormous pulling, stretching effects of g forces. I was a huge stiff blob of helplessness! I recognized that my body was literally spreadeagled and the force was so great I could not move my hands or legs. Several times I tried to bring my arms in to my body but it was like pulling on a stone wall. The effect of the g forces on my arms and legs must have been to multiply their weight many times.
During his fall Rankin managed to strap his oxygen mask to his face, which was a crucial element if he was going to survive his ordeal. From his training he knew that it would take about three and a half minutes to fall from just under 50,000 feet to 10,000 feet where his parachute was designed to automatically deploy. He looked at his watch and saw that more than four minutes had gone by. He figured his ejection seat automatic chute mechanism had malfunctioned, so he manually deployed it.
But Rankin’s seat hadn’t malfunctioned. His descent had simply been slowed by massive updrafts created by the thunderstorm next to him, and as soon as his chute opened another powerful updraft filled it and rocketed him several thousand feet vertically a velocity of nearly 100 mph. Lightning flashed all around in what he later described as “blue blades several feet thick” and the thunder boomed so loudly he feared it would burst his eardrums. Rain pelted him from all directions. He felt like he was going to drown.
When he reached the top of the thunderstorm the updraft turned into a downdraft. It was totally dark as he was pulled into the center of the thunder cloud, and he plummeted downward at a rate he was sure would prevent his chute from opening. But his chute did open once he was under the storm, and as it did he caught another updraft that catapulted him back to the top of the cloud. Once at the top he was dragged back into the center of the storm and thrown as if by Thor himself toward the ground again.
Rankin was repeatedly buffeted through this cycle . . . a living hell he feared might never end. In The Man Who Rode the Thunder he describes what was going through his mind at that time:
There were times when I felt I might die of sheer exhaustion because it seemed as if either the storm might never end, or I was going to be swept along with it on its insane journey up the coast for as long as that journey might take—hours, days. This feeling was most intense when I decided to look at my watch and glimpsed the time during a flash of lightning. At first I thought what a wonderful thing it was not to have lost my watch all through ejection, decompression, blasts of air, and now this; and, then, what a silly thing, looking at the time! But when I saw that it was twenty minutes past six, I thought: My God, you should have been on the ground at least ten minutes ago! You are really trapped. You are really in the pattern of the storm and a part of it, a speck of human dust, up-over-and-down, up-over-and-down and that’s the way it’s going to be. But how long? For how long?
Finally the storm dissipated enough that he wasn’t dragged back up after shooting through it, and he was unceremoniously blown into a thicket of brush in the middle of a field near Ahoskie, N.C. He was wet and beat to hell and had to draw on his survival skills to make it through the dark to a dirt road where — after being passed by a number of vehicles that refused to stop — someone was finally kind enough to take him to the nearest hospital.
Colonel Rankin spent about 3 weeks in the hospital recovering from severe decompression shock, welts, bruising, and other superficial wounds. He eventually returned to flight status.
In 2009 he died of natural causes at the age of 89.
Movies and TV shows often portray military leaders as harsh and demanding all the time, but Navy SEALs Jocko Willink and Leif Babin say this is a misrepresentation. In their book, “The Dichotomy of Leadership,” they explain that a good leader has to be aggressive, but not too aggressive. It’s all about balance.
Jocko Willink: One of the things that you might see in the media is that some mission is going to come down and the front line troops are going to get told exactly what’s gonna happen and exactly how they’re gonna execute the mission. That doesn’t happen, and it doesn’t work. The military operates with a very decentralized command, so a lot of times it’s the mid-level guys that are coming up with the mission and how they’re gonna execute the mission. And they’re actually briefing up the chain of command. That’s what Leif and I did. We would brief up the chain of command and tell our boss how we were going to do something. And then, our boss would give us the support that we needed to go out and execute.
One of the better examples that kind of gets leadership right is Band of Brothers, which is an HBO miniseries that focused on Easy Company, 1st of the 506th, or actually 2nd of the 506th, and centered around a character named Dick Winters, who was just an outstanding leader. And if you watch the way he leads his men, compared to the way some of the less savory characters lead their men in that series, you’ll see the exact kind of leadership that we talk about in “The Dichotomy of Leadership.” He’s close to his guys, he’s not too close. He’s aggressive on the battlefield, but he’s not over-aggressive. So he takes risks, but he doesn’t take worthless risks that won’t gain anything. He’s a great example of a leader and he’s a guy that we definitely look up to, and try and emulate as leaders as well.
As we work with companies and with leaders over the last several years, we saw that one of the biggest weaknesses they had was trying to deal with something that we call the dichotomy of leadership. And what that is, is these are opposing forces that are pulling leaders in opposite directions, that a good leader has to try and balance those opposing forces out. So for instance, as a leader, you can’t get too emotional about things because then you make bad decisions, but on the other hand you can’t just stay completely detached and have no emotions, otherwise, no one will follow you. You can’t be hyper-aggressive. You can’t be over-aggressive, but at the same time, you can’t be not aggressive enough. You have to find that balance in the middle.
Leif Babin: People have a fundamental misunderstanding of what military leadership is like, and I think they look at guys like me or Jocko and think that we’re gonna be the guys that yell and scream and smash people down, and frankly that doesn’t work. That doesn’t work in any type of leadership scenario, doesn’t work in the military, doesn’t work in the business world, doesn’t work anywhere.
Willink: One of the biggest problems that new leaders have, is they think they should know everything. They think to themselves, “I’ve gotta know everything, everyone’s watching me and they’re judging me, and if I don’t know everything they’re gonna think less of me.” And so what they do is they go in and they try and act like they know things that they don’t know. The best possible thing you can do as a new leader, if there’s something that you don’t know, is raise your hand and say: “Hey guys, I’m new at this. Do you know a better way to do this?” or “Do you know how to do this?” or “Can you give me a hand?” That doesn’t lower people’s respect for you, it actually increases their respect because they think you’re not going to try and pull the wool over their eyes. You’re gonna actually ask for help when you need it. You’re a humble leader, and that’s going to come across a lot better and it’s going to work out better in the long run for you ’cause you’ll learn more, you’ll know more, and you’ll be more respected by your team. So don’t worry about saying I don’t know something, it’s perfectly fine. You just showed up, no one expects you to know everything. Relax, and ask some questions.
Babin: Another very common problem that we see with leaders is that leaders look at the specific problems that they’re facing, and they think it’s unique. And they think their problems are harder than everyone else’s problems. It’s a very common problem, I fall into that trap as well, and you can’t do that as a leader because what you’re really doing is you’re making an excuse. You’re making an excuse when you say, “Well, it’s harder for me than it is for other people. I have it tougher here. It’s easier for them.” Or “This other team in this situation that’s able to perform better.” And you can’t do that because as long as you’re making an excuse for yourself, an excuse for your team, you’re never going to actually solve the problems that are causing you to not perform the way you should, and therefore you’re going to keep repeating those same mistakes. And you’re gonna ultimately lead to failure. So, stop giving yourself that excuse, realize that your problems are no different than anybody else’s problems, step up, find a way to solve those problems and win.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In 2008, former SEAL Salvatore DeFranco was busy ramping up for his second deployment to Iraq when an unexpected accident happened. Salvatore was in a vehicle-on-pedestrian accident that left the SEAL with a traumatic brain injury (TBI), in a coma, and with nearly half of his skull removed to relieve the pressure on his brain.
Salvatore was in for a hard road ahead. He was sent home to Massachusetts to recover — and he has, but it took a while. He battled a number of issues daily in his recovery, which included depression. Salvatore had been seeing a mental health professional, but it was time to explore medication as an option in coping.
The doctor he went to see asked Salvatore two questions: Are you working out? Are you drinking coffee?
The answer to the first question was yes, but Salvatore’s answer to the second question was no. He had never been a coffee drinker. The doctor (which happened to be a former SEAL) stated that coffee was a natural anti-depressant and that it may help. After drinking coffee, things began to get better; he was happier and his energy came back. He started hanging out at cafes where the interaction with people was therapeutic and his passion for the coffee industry grew.
It’s not a stretch to say that coffee saved his life.
Battle Grounds Coffee is the product of this pain, hard work, and perseverance. Battle Grounds Coffee Company proudly roasts one of the finest coffee beans on earth. Alongside their popular house blends, they source a variety of seasonal single-origin coffees to provide their customers with a broad coffee experience. In addition to coffee, they serve breakfast sandwiches all day and a selection of salads and specialty sandwiches.
Salvatore and his wife Dana opened Battle Grounds Coffee in 2016 and have never looked back. They opened it as a way to give back to their community. Dana comes from a military family; her father, uncle, and grandfather all served. Her grandfather believed in the business so much he provided the seed money to open the café. He was a veteran who fought at the Battle of the Bulge in Europe, and was awarded the silver star, bronze star, and purple heart.
This family is no stranger to service for one’s country and community.
Community is the corner stone for Battle Grounds Coffee. They strive to be at the forefront of initiatives for the local and state veteran’s community. From helping homeless veterans stay warm in the cold weather to helping veterans get back to work. Salvatore and Dana are a family owned and run business and want to serve as a bridge between veterans and civilians.
“Battle Grounds serves as a place for people to discuss ideas, build relationships and create business. In our community, we are the tip of the spear,” stated Salvatore.
Country, Community, Coffee.
Side note: The doctor that suggested the coffee as a solution was a sleep specialist.
Bennett is a former Reconnaissance Marine and US Army Infantryman. Bennett is the Co-Founder of Battle Sight Technologies, Cigars Sea Stories and 5Paragraph and is the Managing Editor of Change Your POV Podcast Network. Also, as a Certified Peer Support Specialist Bennett has dedicated his life to helping veterans navigate the system and aid them in adding value to their communities.
A man who lost his wife in Iran’s January 8 downing of a Ukrainian passenger jet says he fled the country after being pressured by authorities for criticizing the way the government handled the tragedy.
Javad Soleimani’s wife, Elnaz Nabiyi, was among 176 people killed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) missile attack against the civilian airliner.
“I decided to leave the country as soon as possible because I wasn’t the person to go to their office and apologize for my criticism, so I decided to leave Iran immediately and be the voice of the victims and their families,” Soleimani said in a January 30 interview with Canada’s CBC News Network.
Soleimani, a postgraduate student at the Alberta School of Business in Canada, says Iranian authorities also interfered in his wife’s funeral to prevent potential protests.
“They didn’t let us have our own funeral. They controlled everything because they were afraid of any protest against the government,” Soleimani said, adding that his family tolerated the pressure “because our first priority was to bury my wife.”
The IRGC admitted three days after the tragedy that it had shot down Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752, saying the incident was the result of a “human mistake.” Iran says an investigation has been launched and that arrests have been made.
But so far, no official has resigned over the tragedy — which occurred just hours after Iran fired ballistic missiles at U.S. forces in Iraq as retaliation for the January 3 assassination of the IRGC’s Quds Force commander, Qasem Soleimani, in a U.S. air strike.
Tehran’s admission after three days of persistent denials spawned protests in the Iranian capital and other cities, with demonstrators calling for the resignation of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Javad Soleimani says senior officials, including Khamenei, should be held responsible for the crash. He says many Iranians were upset that Khamenei did not personally apologize for the loss of innocent lives.
“When you kill someone intentionally or unintentionally, the first thing to do is to say, ‘I apologize.’ But [Khamenei] didn’t say it, and he made people in Iran angry and more upset,” Soleimani told CBC News.
He says he also was upset that Iranian authorities referred to his wife as a “martyr.”
“They said the victims are martyrs and they wrote down congratulations,” he complained. “It was terrible.”
“We would not accept it if [authorities] find an individual and say he mistakenly pushed the button” in order to end the case, Ghandchi said in a January 10 interview with the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran.
“It’s my right to know [who was responsible] and ask for them to be put on trial,” Ghandchi said.
Ghandchi said regime agents were present at his family’s funeral at Tehran’s Behesht Zahra Cemetery.
He said authorities have neither pressured his family nor provided any support.
“The government didn’t give us any support, except for using the term ‘martyr’ and creating somewhat better conditions for us during the burial. That is all,” he said.
Ghandchi said the term “martyr,” which is used in Iran to describe soldiers killed during the 1980-88 war with Iraq, should not be used when referring to the victims of the plane downing.
“The term martyr is used for people who are [killed] in a war in conditions when there’s an enemy. But it’s not correct to use it when referring to my children, who were returning [to Canada] from their trip,” he said.
Hamed Esmaeilion, who lost his wife and daughter in the plane crash, said officials at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport harassed the relatives of victims when they left Iran to attend memorial services in Canada.
“Let the family members leave to attend the funerals with ease. It is none of your business if Canada has easily issued entry visas within hours for the relatives,” Esmaeilion said on Facebook on January 27.
Esmaeilion did not provide more details about why he thinks relatives of the victims are being harassed.
Other reports suggest some relatives of victims were told by authorities not to speak to Farsi-language media based outside the country but were encouraged to speak to Iran’s tightly controlled media.
“They said, ‘Come and talk to our own media, not to the anti-regime media,'” one mother who lost her son in the tragedy told the news site Iranwire.com on January 15.
“I said, ‘You want me to say that it was America’s fault? You will never hear me whitewash [this for] you’.”
Khamenei on January 17 accused Iran’s “enemies” of using the Ukrainian airline tragedy to question the Islamic republic and the IRGC, which he said “maintained the security” of Iran.
In his first public remarks about the incident, Khamenei said on January 17 that the downing of the Ukrainian plane was a “bitter accident” that “burned through our heart.”
DARPA wants “gremlins” to fly out of the bellies of C-130s or other large planes, assist jets in bombing missions, and then return to their motherships for the flight home in order to be ready for another mission within 24 hours.
The gremlins are semi-autonomous drones that would hunt targets and find air defenses ahead of an attack by a piloted fighter or bomber. In some cases, the gremlins could even find and identify targets that their motherships would engage with low-cost cruise missiles.
Some of the drones could be configured as electronic warfare platforms, hiding themselves and the other aircraft from enemy air defenses or jamming the enemy radar altogether.
A typical mission would play out like this: A stealth jet would approach unfriendly airspace ahead of the gremlins’ mothership. The drones would launch and proceed ahead of the jet into hostile territory, seeking out enemy air defenses and mission objectives on the ground.
The jet pilots would then use the intelligence from the gremlins to decide how to engage the target, either with weapons on the jet or with cruise missiles from the mission truck that is still flying just outside of the enemy air defenses. Once the bombs or missiles take out the radar, other aircraft can now force their way into the country while the drones fly back into the mothership.
If everything comes together, the gremlins will be part of DARPA’s “System of Systems” project. The idea is a new weapons system that would work with different aircraft as time went on. So, the gremlins could fly from C-130s in support of F-22s and F-35s now, then support new aircraft as they’re added to the U.S. military arsenal.
But the GMD has a bad track record. It recently had a successful test that may have calmed the fears of some in the U.S. amid nuclear tensions with North Korea, but a recent paper on the test shows it was unrealistically generous.
Laura Grego and David Wright, leading experts in the field of ballistic missiles, writing for the Union of Concerned Scientists, found that the so-called intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) the GMD knocked down was flown on a favorable trajectory, slower than the real thing, and without any of the tricks or savvy North Korea might use in an actual attack. The paper concludes the U.S. has no reliable ballistic missile defense capability for the homeland.
To be clear, the U.S. can defend against some, shorter-range missiles. Aegis-equipped ballistic missile destroyers at sea have a good track record of defending themselves, but they’re not meant to go after ICBMs. Patriot missiles have saved some lives from short-range missile attacks on the battlefield, though that has been historically over-hyped or just lied about.
BMD kind of works on a theoretical level, but is that worth $40B?
Missile defense plays into the complicated and highly theoretical world of nuclear deterrence. For an adversary like North Korea, maybe even the single-digit percent chance a missile would be intercepted by the U.S. would dissuade them from attacking.
But much more likely, North Korea wouldn’t attack the U.S. because of the U.S.’s ability to return the favor tenfold.
It’s entirely unclear, and no expert can demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that BMD has ever deterred anyone, or done anything beside line pockets of defense contractors.
For the U.S. taxpayer, who has contributed billions to the cause of missile defenses while enriching the world’s biggest defense contractors, a fair question might be: Where is the capability? Why don’t these systems work?
Mark Bowden is one of the greatest investigative reporters of our age.
“Black Hawk Down,” his exhaustive work on the experience of U.S. troops in Mogadishu, brought renewed attention to the oft-forgotten story. It also resulted in the film, which remains a favorite of the military-veteran community.
His most recent book, “Hué 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam,” is just as exhaustive and compelling. The book is a master work, five years in the making.
The Battle of Hué was the longest and costliest fight of the entire Tet Offensive. On the morning of Jan. 31, 1968, a coordinated attack from 8,000 North Vietnamese Army Regulars, Viet Cong infiltrators, and Vietnamese civilians quickly captured much of the city in a single night.
American and South Vietnamese troops were woefully outnumbered in Hué. Facing the Communist forces there were the ARVN 1st Infantry Division and 200 of their American and Australian advisors at the MACV compound. By the time the sun came up that day, the Communists controlled the city south of the Huong River – except the MACV compound.
A view from a Marine machine gun position on the outer Citadel wall of Hué City during the 1968 Tet Offensive.
The Marines from MACV would have to go on the offensive, fighting their way across the river to rescue the brilliant and highly-respected ARVN General Ngô Quang Truong and what remained of his 1st Infantry. Then they had to expel the Communists from the area.
Hué would become a case study in urban combat, the first time since the Korean War the Marines would fight in a city like that. The battle lasted almost a month, turning 40 percent of the city’s buildings to rubble and costing the lives of 380 ARVN troops, 147 Marines, 74 U.S. Army soldiers, 8,000 Communists, and more than 5,800 civilians.
It was also the turning point in American popular support for the war.
Bowden’s book covers the history of the war until that point, especially from 30,000-foot view from the White House and General William Westmoreland’s MACV Headquarters. What’s truly unique and fascinating about Bowden’s style is the personal narratives that drive the history of the story.
“Hué 1968” is a gripping tapestry of nonfiction storytelling, with personal stories of people on the ground woven into the history and politics of the war. The enemy is no longer a nameless, faceless mass of targets; the NVA and VC are characters in the story of the war in Vietnam, with names, families, and lives. With these stories comes the understanding of why the McNamara doctrine of “limited warfare” would never have worked against the Vietnamese.
The book gives the eyewitness account of a young Vietnamese girl who turns on the southern regime and becomes a Viet Cong operative just as much as it follows the junior enlisted Marine radio operator Jim Coolican, who was stationed at the MACV compound. Personal narratives from every side of the conflict continue like this throughout the book.
Bowden traces the details of a young VC as he traverses the Ho Chi Minh trail and moves to infiltrate the city. He even painstakingly documents the “logistics miracle” – as one U.S. Navy captain called it – of the Tet Offensive’s movement of men and weapons into South Vietnam.
NVA and VC soldiers assault the city of Hué in South Vietnam, January 1968.
If you know the history of the Vietnam War, you know what’s coming in the Tet Offensive and it keeps you turning pages. No matter how familiar you are, you get to see the war from all sides – the NVA, the VC, ARVN leadership, American troops, American leadership, even Ho Chi Minh and North Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap’s points of view are covered in remarkable detail.
The fall of Hué was the most successful attack of the entire Tet Offensive and even then the city was retaken by Feb. 24. Both sides bought into their own propaganda. The Communists believed that the South was ready to rise against the despotic Thieu regime and expel the Americans — they just needed a hand to get started.
Viet Cong forces climb on an abandoned U.S.-built Marine Armored Vehicle during the Battle of Hué.
The north came to depend on that uprising for the long-term success of the Offensive. The Americans and South Vietnamese were caught off guard because they thought the enemy was weak and could not launch an attack on that scale, let alone capture a city like Hué.
Until the Tet Offensive, a majority of Americans believed the war was going well and believed government officials who used statistics and body counts to insist that American involvement could soon come to an end. Body counts weren’t the metric used by the Communists. For the north, their success was defined by killing or wounding as many Americans as possible, destroying the ARVN, and inciting a popular uprising in the South.
Marines hold a Viet Cong flag they ripped down from the provincial headquarters in Hué.
The United States claimed a military victory in Hué but Hanoi would never be intimidated by a limited war. The prolonged violence and media bias against the war after the Tet Offensive eroded public support for it as well.
The U.S. began a strategic withdrawal from Vietnam the next year and left completely in 1973. South Vietnam fell to the Communists just two years later. Hué was just the beginning of the end.
Mark Bowden is an award-winning author and correspondent for The Atlantic. He is also a contributing editor for Vanity Fair. Filmmakers Michael Mann and Michael De Luca (who produced the 1995 heist movie “Heat”) purchased the rights to “Hué 1968” and plan to turn the book into a miniseries.
Iran has debuted a new, locally built long-range missile system as it continues its defiant stance against the United States amid heightened tensions between the two countries.
Iranian President Hassan Rohani said in a speech on Aug. 22, 2019, during the unveiling of the mobile air-to-surface missile system that since Iran’s “enemies don’t accept logic, we cannot respond with logic.”
“When the enemy launches a missile against us, we cannot give a speech and say: ‘Mr. Rocket, please do not hit our country and our innocent people. Rocket-launching sir, if you can please hit a button and self-destruct the missile in mid-air,'” Rohani added in the speech from Tehran.
Rohani’s speech and the missile system are the latest volley in a war of words between Tehran and Washington that many worry will escalate into armed conflict.
The United States withdrew from a 2015 international accord to limit Iran’s nuclear ambitions and instead reimposed sanctions on the country.
The ministers of foreign affairs and other officials from the P5+1 countries, the European Union and Iran while announcing the framework of a Comprehensive agreement on the Iranian nuclear program, April 2015.
Iran’s economy has suffered under the sanctions, which target its oil and financial sectors.
Iran’s oil production has plummeted to 300,000 barrels a day or less while its economy will shrink by 6 percent this year, the International Monetary Fund projects. Unemployment remains high, at 12 percent.
A series of recent attacks on international ships, which the United States has blamed on Iran, and the seizure of a British tanker, have added to volatility in the region and on the global shipping industry.
Iran shot down a U.S. military surveillance drone in the Persian Gulf with a surface-to-air missile in June 2019. It says the drone was over its territory, but the United States says it was in international airspace.
Despite the increased rhetoric and animosity, Tehran maintains that it does not seek confrontation with Washington that U.S. moves against it are tantamount to bullying.
“Will there be a war in the…Gulf? I can tell you that we will not start the war…but we will defend ourselves,” Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said on Aug. 22, 2019, at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs.
Whether it’s after four years or twenty plus years, everybody gets out of the military. It can be daunting to figure out what to do after. Of course, if one retires, that can be it. However, most veterans are uncomfortable being inactive even if they have that option. Which is a good trait to have in entrepreneurship. In fact, the past decade has shown an increased push to have small business training, mentorship and access to funding than ever before.
1. Veterans hire veterans
Naturally, the character traits honed in military service make veterans a force to be reckoned with in the workplace. Combat veterans often feel like they don’t have to prove anything to anyone, which is correct in theory but counterproductive in practice. Civilians don’t know what they don’t know about you. Some combat veterans are fine with doing the job to the best of their ability, getting a check and going home. There is nothing wrong with that.
Yet, combat veterans can always do more, they know they can captain the ship. Non-combat arms-related military occupational specialties provide the advantage of their service years count as experience, where typically grunts do not. In 2014, when I was a freshman in college I applied to a famous sci-fi themed electronic store in Burbank to sell TVs. The hiring manager told me that my military experience did not count as real job experience — to sell TVs — An entry-level job position. From that point on, I knew assimilation to the civilian world would require patience and understanding that is not given to veterans. Some employers just will not hire you because of your service and they hide behind the fact it’s almost impossible to prove it.
2. Be the boss a civilian can never be
“I want to hire veterans because they’re bad ass, not because somebody feels bad for them. No! You get some meateaters sitting at the table, you’re going to get a lot of stuff done. You’re going to do it and you’re going to have a lot of fun doing it. You can trust that they’re going to deliver, because they told you they were going to do it. That’s the advantage of hiring vets, as a vet, because you have this common starting place. They still have to earn their spot, but if I have a former grunt platoon sergeant or 0369 that doesn’t know how to get out after it, I’m going to know pretty quick. There are a lot more of the guys who do know how to get out after it and get it done responsibly with high integrity. Tons of opportunity there.”
Looking back at my own employment history, I do not think I ever worked for anyone who wasn’t a veteran. The stigma against combat veterans in particular makes the already small pool of jobs harder to break into. However, as a small business owner, you know what it takes to have been an 0311 or 11B infantryman. You know it’s more about problem-solving with limited intel and making it work with the resources and information at hand. Civilians have a hard time grasping that, and those that do, see you as a threat to their own jobs.
Veterans in a position of leadership often get the best out of their teams because they treat them like people. The end justifies the means, as long as the law isn’t broken. Improvise, adapt, overcome. As a veteran entrepreneur, you can pay your success forward by giving another veteran employment without worrying if they will let you down. Nine times out of ten you’re going to get a motivated warrior loyal to you and your business.
3. Combat veterans have integrity
Business is trust. I trust you to do what you say you’re going to do and you trust me to do what I say I’m going to do – but here’s a contract in case that trust is broken. It’s about integrity.
4. Combat veterans can network efficiently
“It doesn’t matter what you know, it’s who you know.” There is some truth in that saying because, unlike the military, your proficiency at your job is not enough. Even the field with networking with other veterans and civilians. Although I do not like that word, networking –because it sounds insincere — it is necessary as an entrepreneur. Networking in my mind is the process of finding allies in your industry or complementary industry that can provide a mutually beneficial trade of information. How can people support you if they do not know you exist?
Think back on your service. How many times were you able to do this or that because you had a buddy who was your connection? Same deal. You met at a sports club, a bar, through an acquaintance, school, event or a former job. Combat veterans have a form of charisma that is like magnetism for respect. Your service has earned you the benefit of the doubt, now prove you deserved it in the first place. Over the years, these business relationships can evolve into professional friendships. How many times have you heard a famous CEO say his friend is a CEO somewhere else? It doesn’t happen by accident and it didn’t happen overnight.
5. Veterans have initiative
The SBA offers support for veterans as they enter the world of business ownership. Look for funding programs, training and federal contracting opportunities.
“I do not know the answer but I know how to find it” is my favorite phrase from the military. One of the first steps to creating a business is a business plan. The Small Business Administration was created in 1953 as a federal agency to provide counseling, capital and contracting expertise in regard to small business. It also has a mission to support veteran-owned businesses by guiding them to specific advantages one would not know of otherwise.
Combat veterans googling where to start will find their first step here. It takes initiative and follow-through but the information is out there. The SBA has gotten better at providing resources to veterans in the past decade. The only thing better than finding a job is creating one.
6. Vets First Verification Program
The Vets First Verification Program affords verified firms owned and controlled by Veterans and Service-disabled Veterans the opportunity to compete for VA set asides. During verification, the Center for Verification and Evaluation (CVE) verifies service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses (SDVOSBs)/VOSBs according to the tenets found in Title 38 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 74 and 13 CFR Part 125 that address Veteran eligibility, ownership and control. In order to qualify for participation in the Veterans First Contracting Program, eligible SDVOSBs/VOSBs must first be verified.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
The VA is improving by leaps and bounds every year. The VA of today can and will help you with your small business attain government contracts by partnering with the VA itself or other agencies. It is safe to say that even the smallest of government contracts bring in a good amount of money, especially when you have multiple, recurring contracts with the peace of mind that Uncle Sam is not going to default.
Finally, the biggest advantage of starting your own business is that you do not have a chain of command to answer to. No bosses, no corporate ladder. Freedom to create your own client base and decide who you do or don’t want to do business with. You have the freedom to succeed or fail and it all rests on your determination. It is not easy and the road ahead is full of danger but veterans are cut from a different cloth. Combat veterans did not shy away from the insurgents, so why fear some paperwork?
If it takes breaking night with the coffee maker churning out beverages at the cyclic rate, veterans will get it done. You’ve been there, done that. When you’re on active duty, you do your best because anything less is shameful. You don’t want to fail others. In the civilian world, you do your best because you do not want to fail yourself. As a small business owner, you have the freedom to follow your dreams.
Feature image: U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Siuta B. Ika
On Wednesday, an active duty U.S. Army soldier brought an active shooter situation in Kansas to an abrupt end by ramming the suspect with his vehicle. By the time police officers had arrived on the scene, multiple vehicles had been hit by small arms fire, and one other Soldier had been wounded, but the suspect was safely pinned beneath a vehicle.
Now, the heroic soldier whose quick action likely saved a number of lives has been identified as Master Sgt. David Royer, a corrections noncommissioned officer with the 705th Military Police Battalion (Detention).
Royer was traveling eastbound when he arrived at the Centennial Bridge in Leavenworth, where he found stopped traffic. MSG Royer was talking to his fiancée on speakerphone when he noticed an armed man exiting another vehicle. Without hesitation, Royer instructed his wife to call 911 as the suspect opened fire at nearby vehicles.
“I assessed the situation very quickly, looked around and just took the only action possible that I felt I could take,” Royer said. “I accelerated my truck as quickly as possible and struck the active shooter and pinned him underneath my truck.”
Law enforcement arrived only minutes later, where they found Royer had already assessed that the shooter was no longer a threat, and he’d already begun providing first aid to another Soldier who had been driving in a different car, and had been wounded in the initial volley of small arms fire. According to police, the suspect was armed with a pistol and a semi-automatic rifle.
Royer, who has served in the Army for the past 15 years, received training on how to handle these sorts of situations throughout his career, including Military Police Special Reaction Team Training (Military SWAT Team), Air Assault School, and a Military Police Investigator Course. While many see Royer’s action as heroic, he’s quick to credit the training he’s received in service for his handling of the situation.
“I was shocked that it was happening, but the adrenaline took over and with the military training that I’ve received, I took appropriate action and took out the threat as fast as possible,” Royer said. “I didn’t imagine (an active shooter situation) would happen in traffic, but it was always in the back of my mind because of how crazy things are in the world today.
Despite Royer’s reluctance to take the credit for his actions, Leavenworth Police Chief Pat Kitchens made a point to address the bravery and skill Royer demonstrated on Wednesday.
“He won’t call himself a hero, but I will,” said Kitchens in a press conference. “He saved countless lives. … His actions were extraordinary, and he should be commended for that. We’re grateful … on behalf of the entire Leavenworth community.”
Despite the accolades of local law enforcement and his command, Royer believes many people would respond in the same way if faced with the same circumstances. The career Soldier’s selflessness in the face of danger echoes similar sentiments offered by other heroic service members over the years, as he pointed out that while his life has value, he would be willing to sacrifice it for the safety and security of his fellow countrymen.
“My life is worth something, but there are also many other lives out there, too,” he said, “so if I can sacrifice myself for the majority, that is my motive.”
Col. Caroline Smith, 15th Military Police Brigade commander, also issued a statement honoring Royer’s quick action, bravery, and level headedness.
“I think many people will sit back and wonder what would they do at a time of adversity like that and would they have the confidence and the courage to act when necessary,” Smith said. “I think Master Sergeant Royer did exactly what needed to happen in order to neutralize the threat. He had a split second to decide and he made the decision and he made the right decision. “He acted with courage and conviction. Because of that, I have no doubt that he saved many people’s lives,” she said. “We’ll never know how many lives he saved, but I can say I’m super proud of the actions he took and who he is as an NCO and a soldier in the Army.”