This hero was so deadly, they called him 'Black Death' - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This hero was so deadly, they called him ‘Black Death’

In this modern world, earning a nickname is generally a piece of cake. Show up for work one day with a half-shaven face and you will quickly be slapped with one or two ‘loving’ and memorable nicknames that follow you for years.


In previous generations, nicknames were a bit harder to come by. Add in the legal segregation and racism that characterized the early 20th century and imagine what exactly had to be done for a black soldier to be known as “Black Death” by both friendly and opposing forces. It all stems from one night.

Related: 6 signs that you might be a veteran

Who is Henry Johnson?

Henry Johnson was born on July 15, 1892. On June 5, 1917, standing at approximately 5’4″ and weighing roughly 130 pounds, he enlisted in the 15th Infantry Regiment of the New York National Guard (colloquially known as the Harlem Hellfighters).

He joined them on deployment to France to augment the Fourth French Army and would go on to become the first black soldier to engage in combat during World War I.

This hero was so deadly, they called him ‘Black Death’
Pictured: Henry Johnson (Photo from NBC News).

Why “Black Death?”

On May 14, 1918, Henry Johnson and Needham Roberts were augmenting the Fourth French Army, standing as sentries in Argonne Forest. Outfitted with French weapons and gear, Johnson and Roberts soon began taking sniper fire as German forces advanced.

Roberts was severely wounded trying to alert standby forces, leaving Johnson to fend off the German advance, essentially alone, using any and everything he could get his hands on. Johnson successfully held the German forces up long enough for American and French troops to arrive, forcing the Germans to retreat.

Johnson took bullets to the head, lip, sides, and hands, suffering 21 total wounds in all. Using a combination of grenades, rifles, pistols, buttstocks, and a bolo knife, Johnson killed four enemy soldiers and wounded another 20. Following the events of that night, he was known as, “Black Death.”

This hero was so deadly, they called him ‘Black Death’
A dramatization of Henry Johnson’s heroic and historic night.

Also Read: 7 more professional athletes you didn’t know were veterans

Vindicated

Johnson and the Harlem Hellfighters returned home to a hero’s welcome — a parade on Fifth Avenue and the adoration from their particular corner of the nation.

The good times wouldn’t last, however, as Johnson’s erroneously recorded medical records resulted in him not receiving a Purple Heart.

He would then bounce from job to job, sliding further down on his luck at every stop until he turned to alcohol. Johnson was dead less than 11 years after his heroic day.

Johnson was, eventually, posthumously awarded a Purple Heart in 1996, a Distinguished Service Cross in 2001, and, finally, the Medal of Honor in 2015.

This hero was so deadly, they called him ‘Black Death’
President Barack Obama awards the Medal of Honor posthumously to Army Private Henry Johnson. Command Sergeant Major Louis Wilson accepts the Medal of Honor. (Photo by Pete Souza)

Articles

The 5 military laws that nearly everyone breaks

The military has a lot of rules and some of them are hard to follow every day in every instance. We’re not saying that everyone should be prosecuted under any of these articles, we’re just saying that a lot of people technically break these rules.


1. DISRESPECT TOWARD SUPERIOR COMMISSIONED OFFICER (ART. 89)

“Any person subject to this chapter who behaves with disrespect toward his superior commissioned officer shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.”

This hero was so deadly, they called him ‘Black Death’
Creating this meme would be an Article 89 violation for enlisted personnel.

“Can’t spell lost without the LT!” called in cadence in the presence of an officer is technically a violation of Article 89.

Interestingly, this is one of the few times where the word, “toward,” in an article doesn’t require that the victim be present. Service members can be prosecuted under Article 89 for disrespecting an officer even if that officer didn’t hear or see anything. For the NCO equivalent listed below, the NCO or warrant officer must be present and hear or witness the disrespect.

2. INSUBORDINATE CONDUCT TOWARD WARRANT OFFICER, NONCOMMISSIONED OFFICER, OR PETTY OFFICER (ART. 91)

“Any warrant officer or enlisted member who–

(1) strikes or assaults a warrant officer, noncommissioned officer, or petty officer, while that officer is in the execution of his office;

(2) willfully disobeys the lawful order of a warrant officer, noncommissioned officer, or petty officer; or

(3) treats with contempt or is disrespectful in language or deportment toward a warrant officer, noncommissioned officer, or petty officer while that officer is in the execution of his office;

shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.”

Anyone who has mouthed off to a superior NCO or warrant officer is guilty, provided they knew that the person was an NCO or warrant officer at the time. Talking back to a squad leader could trigger Article 91. This also covers assaulting or disobeying a lawful order from a superior NCO or warrant officer.

3. MILITARY PROPERTY OF UNITED STATES-LOSS, DAMAGE, DESTRUCTION, OR WRONGFUL DISPOSITION (ART. 108)

“Any person subject to this chapter who, without proper authority–

(1) sells or otherwise disposes of;

(2) willfully or through neglect damages, destroys, or loses; or

(3) willfully or through neglect suffers to be lost, damaged, sold, or wrongfully disposed of;

any military property of the United States, shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.”

This hero was so deadly, they called him ‘Black Death’

Getting the corpsman or medic to give an unnecessary I.V. or walking off with a couple of MREs falls under Article 108. Even painting hilarious graffiti on a bunker counts.

Side note: Some people like to claim that this article forbids troops from getting sunburn because that’s damage to “government property.” The Stars and Stripes Rumor Doctor investigated this and experts in military law told him this isn’t true for two reasons. First, service members are not military property. Second, the government has to quantify the damage done to the property which is nearly impossible when referring to a human being.

4. PROPERTY OTHER THAN MILITARY PROPERTY OF UNITED STATES – WASTE, SPOILAGE, OR DESTRUCTION (ART. 109)

“Any person subject to this chapter who willfully or recklessly wastes, spoils, or otherwise willfully and wrongfully destroys or damages any property other than military property of the United States shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.”

This hero was so deadly, they called him ‘Black Death’
IRAQ. Baghdad. 2006. Graffiti written by soldiers on the walls of bathroom stalls.

This article is pretty broad, referring to any willful or reckless destruction of someone else’s personal property. So service members who vandalize a porta-potty rented from a vendor are technically guilty. In practice of course, the damage needs to be worth investigating and the government has to prove a certain person committed the act at a specified place and time.

5. GENERAL ARTICLE (ART. 134)

“Though not specifically mentioned in this chapter, all disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces, all conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces, and crimes and offenses not capital, of which persons subject to this chapter may be guilty, shall be taken cognizance of by a general, special or summary court-martial, according to the nature and degree of the offense, and shall be punished at the discretion of that court.”

This hero was so deadly, they called him ‘Black Death’

There are many ways to fall foul of Article 134, but the most common is probably using indecent language. Any indecent language, especially if it causes “lustful thoughts,” can trigger the article.

Other commons ways of triggering the “General Article” are drunkenness and straggling.

NOW: 6 weird laws unique to the US military

OR: 8 reasons the new guy always gets caught when he screws up

Articles

How this WWI veteran became Metallica’s ‘One’

Ethelbert “Curley” Christian was the first and only surviving Canadian quadruple amputee of the First World War.


Born in Pennsylvania, Christian settled in Manitoba before enlisting in the Canadian Armed Forces almost a year and a half before U.S. involvement. It was in the Canada’s most celebrated victory at Vimy Ridge that Christian sustained his injuries, resulting in the loss of all four of his limbs.

Prince Edward VIII (who would later become King Edward VIII) visited Christian at the Toronto hospital and wrote about him in what would become a long string of inspiration that became Metallica’s One.

This hero was so deadly, they called him ‘Black Death’
Image via Sharon Williams and the Military Museums of Calgary

Metallica is one of the most beloved bands by U.S. troops and they have fully embraced the troops in return. They have invited veterans and their families on stage and they’ve also been “honored” by the use of their music in Guantanamo Bay.

But it’s in their music that they show their support for the troops, using the “plight of the warrior” as a reoccurring theme. None of their songs (or their music videos) capture this more than 1988’s One.

Related: 7 killer songs that use Morse code

The song takes inspiration from the novel “Johnny Got His Gun” written by Dalton Trumbo. The music video uses many clips from the same 1971 film, which was also written and directed by the novel’s author, Trumbo.

(MetallicaTV | Youtube)

“Johnny Got His Gun” is about a World War I soldier, Joe “Johnny” Bonham, who suffers severe injuries. After losing all four limbs and most of his senses in combat, Johnny reflects on his life, as memories are all he has left.  The film and novel are remembered for the ending where, after many years of insanity of being trapped, Johnny wishes only for death.

Having read Prince Edward VIII’s letter, Trumbo used the story as the inspiration for what would be his best selling novel.

Johnny may have been a fictional character, but Curley was the real soldier. And very much unlike Johnny, Curley loved life despite all that was thrown at him.

This hero was so deadly, they called him ‘Black Death’
Article via The Winnipeg Evening Tribute

Ethelbert “Curley” Christian never lost any of his senses, unlike his fictional counterpart, and remained in high spirits through out his life.

His cheer was noticed by the then Prince of Wales, who wrote about the joyous veteran. Christian fell in love with his caretaker, a Jamaican volunteer aide named Clep MacPherson. The two would marry shortly after. Their love — and her nursing skills — would spark the Canadian Veterans Affairs to enact the Chapter 5 – Attendance Allowance, one of the first in its kind.

Years later, Christian would meet King Edward VII at the dedication to the Canadian National Vimy Memorial. He described to the Toronto Star their second encounter: “Just as he was passing he paused and pointed to me, saying, ‘Hello, I remember you. I met you in Toronto 18 years ago,’ as he broke through the double line of guards.”

After many years of a happy marriage and raising a son, Douglas Christian, Curley Christian passed away on the 15th of March, 1954. His legacy still carries on through both his advancement of Canadian Veterans Affairs and being the true inspiration for one of the most iconic power ballads.

Rock on, Curley. Rock on.

Military Life

The worst duty assignments for every branch of the military

Every branch of the service has that place their soldiers, sailors, airmen, Coast Guardsmen, and Marines just dream of getting orders for.


That place could be anywhere that might appeal to an individual… maybe they love the cultural experience of being in Europe, or they enjoy the sun in Hawaii, or maybe they’re just away from their hometown.

These aren’t those places.

Army: Fort Polk, Louisiana

Ever hear of Leesville, Lousiana? No? Good for you. Living in a swamp is not something anyone grew up dreaming about. The nearest towns are at least an hour away, and the nearest fun is in New Orleans, a long drive away.

This hero was so deadly, they called him ‘Black Death’
Someone take me back to Philly.

Sure, the PX is supposedly great thanks to a facelift, but it had better be: There’s nothing else to do. Fort Polk will supposedly ruin your car, ruin your marriage, and make you hate biting lizards.

Navy: NAS Lemoore

Hey, how does being cast out into one of the most polluted cities on the planet sound? Because NAS Lemoore is a great place to get asthma.

This hero was so deadly, they called him ‘Black Death’
When Fresno is your biggest selling point…

To make matters worse, the Navy thinks it’s just an image problem. Yes, the place routinely referred to by the residents as an “armpit” does have an image problem.

Air Force: Cannon AFB, New Mexico

Most people who haven’t been to Clovis will argue that I spelled “Minot” wrong. I argue that any place referred to as “Afcannonstan” is probably far worse.

This hero was so deadly, they called him ‘Black Death’
I once ran into a group of female airmen from Cannon deployed to Saudi Arabia. They seemed happy to be there.

Both places are pretty remote, and while Minot has a seemingly endless winter, the people of Clovis are annually subjected to a wave of giant insects. Also, the stink of cow dung doesn’t travel as far in the cold. Cannon’s airmen would tell you to be happy it’s so cold.

Marine Corps: Twentynine Palms, California

All of the duty stations on this list have one thing in common: They’re pretty far from real American life. Twentynine Palms is no different. These guys are smack-dab in the middle of the Mojave Desert.

This hero was so deadly, they called him ‘Black Death’
The difference between the hottest and coldest temperatures ever recorded in Twentynine Palms is 108 degrees.

So, Marines can prep for sandstorms in the Middle East with sandstorms right here at home. And remember, when airmen complain about the smell of cow manure in the desert, Marines can complain about the lake of sewage.

Coast Guard: You tell me.

The Coast Guard talks about its districts like it’s in the world of The Hunger Games. Everyone seems to love district 13. In fact, as much flak as the Coast Guard gets for being the awkward child of the military, the Coast Guard doesn’t seem to have a “worst” station among them.

This hero was so deadly, they called him ‘Black Death’
Also, the Coast Guard always looks like it’s on the way to Jurassic Park.

I’m told the station at Venice, Louisiana can be pretty bad and that the CG will let you choose your follow on orders for doing a tour there. But no one ever seems to talk Twentynine Palms-level smack about any station.

MIGHTY HISTORY

You will never be as badass as this explorer who removed his own appendix

Leonid Rogozov was one of 13 scientists and researchers on the Soviet Union’s sixth expedition to Antarctica from 1960 to 1962. One morning in 1961, he woke up feeling general malaise, weakness, and feverish along with pain in his abdomen. He soon understood what was happening. His appendix needed to be removed. Unfortunately, he was the only one who could do it.

So he did.


If movies and television taught us anything during the Cold War, it’s that Russians are amazingly strong superpeople who punch with the force of a full ton, can train even the worst armies to become special operators, and seem to know everything about everyone. In this case, movies and television were absolutely right. Rogozov was the only medical doctor on the team of Soviet scientists at Novolazarevskaya Station, almost 47 miles from the Antarctic Coast, separated by the Lazarev Ice Shelf. On April 29, 1961, the morning he woke up with pain in his abdomen, the average daily temperature would have been around 13 degrees Fahrenheit.

The doctor recognized his symptoms as indicative of appendicitis, an inflammation affecting the appendix that can cause it to burst. Without any kind of treatment, this condition can kill in a matter of a few days. Rogozov had to act fast because his condition was only getting worse. He was beginning to vomit and believed his appendix might soon burst. With the help of two fellow scientists holding mirrors, he used a novocaine solution to numb the direct area and then went to work.

This hero was so deadly, they called him ‘Black Death’

No big deal.

The doctor made a 12-centimeter incision and began looking into his own abdomen and the organs within. He noticed his appendix was discolored with a dark stain and estimated it was about to burst. For two hours, he poked around, resected his appendix, and battled bouts of nausea and the weakness caused by his condition. He sometimes even had to work by feeling alone, being unable to see from the angle he was sitting. But the operation was a success.

Four days later, his digestive system began functioning normally. After five days, his fever receded, and after a week, the incision was completely healed. In two weeks, he was back to duty and after a month, back to heavy labor in Antarctica as if he hadn’t just cut out his own appendix.

MIGHTY TRENDING

SOCOM is hunting for an advanced new sniper rifle

U.S. Special Operations Command has set the wheels in motion for a new Advanced Sniper Rifle to replace the organization’s current Precision Sniper Rifle setup.


It appears SOCOM will continue using a modular, bolt-action, multi-caliber rifle design; but will switch up calibers on the ASR. Though 7.62×51 NATO will remain in use, .300 Norma Magnum, and .338 Norma Magnum will replace SOCOM’s current .300 WinMag, and .338 Lapua cartridge selection.

Read Also: Special operators want a new sniper rifle in this rare caliber

Black Hills Ammunition is working closely with the government to lend “surrogate cartridges” to companies interested in developing an ASR contender. The rounds are not a spot-on representation of the final government approved ammo, instead serving as a starting point for gun makers to craft their ASR platforms.

SOCOM implied earlier this year that it was looking to switch up its rifle platforms, but held off on offering specific details. The ASR pre-solicitation came down the official pipeline last week. Still in its early stages, the formal solicitation with rifle requisites are expected to drop in February 2018.

SOCOM’s current Precision Sniper Rifle system took the government nearly two and a half years to award. The PSR was first announced in November 2011 and after extensive testing and fielding was eventually awarded to Remington’s Modular Sniper Rifle in March 2013. Remington took the top spot over Sako’s TRG M10. The 10-year contract with Remington, worth $79.7 million, called for 5,150 rifles and over 4 million rounds of ammunition.

This hero was so deadly, they called him ‘Black Death’
This is the Remington Modular Sniper Rifle (MSR) (Image Remington)

The selection process for the ASR will likely mirror that of the PSR. Once selected, the ASR will serve SOCOM for five years with an initial order of 10 rifles to include ancillary equipment. The government alluded that more than one contract might be assigned, stating that it reserves the right to grant multiple awards.

SOCOM is currently prepping an industry day for manufacturers to gain insight on the ASR program. SOCOM says the event will cover the official timeline as well as addressing rifle specifications and test equipment. In addition, SOCOM is using the event to discuss future needs of Special Operations Forces. The ASR event is scheduled to run Dec. 5 through Dec. 7 at NSWC Crane.

Articles

Chinese play chicken with a US P-3 Orion over South China Sea

A United States Navy P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft and a Chinese KJ-200 airborne early warning plane nearly collided over the South China Sea – the first such incident in the presidency of Donald Trump and reminiscent of a similar encounter that occurred in the first months of the George W. Bush administration.


This hero was so deadly, they called him ‘Black Death’
U.S. Navy Lt. Scott Keelan, a Patrol Squadron 46 pilot, operates a P-3 Orion aircraft during a sinking exercise Sept. 13, 2016, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, during Valiant Shield 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Justin Fisher)

According to a report by FoxNews.com, the incident occurred Nov. 8 off Scarborough Shoal, a reef about 120 miles off the west coast of Luzon. Chinese forces have interfered with Filipino fishermen in the vicinity of the reefs, an action condemned by an international arbitration panel.

China has been constructing island airbases in the region, despite the adverse ruling, and recently conducted joint exercises with Russia in the maritime flash point.

This hero was so deadly, they called him ‘Black Death’
A P-3C Orion from Patrol Squadron (VP) 10 takes off from Naval Air Facility Misawa. VP-10 recently started a six-month deployment to NAF Misawa in support of the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kenneth G. Takada/Released)

The two planes reportedly came within 1,000 feet of each other. Incidents like this have not been unusual in the region. While not as close as past encounters (some of which had planes come within 50 feet of each other), this is notable because the KJ-200 is based on the Y-8, a Chinese copy of the Russian Antonov An-12 “Cub” transport plane.

Many of the past incidents in recent years involved J-11 Flankers, a Chinese knock-off of the Su-27 Flanker. Navy P-8 maritime patrol aircraft and EP-3E electronic surveillance planes were involved in some of these encounters, which drew sharp protests from the Pentagon. China also carried out the brazen theft of an American unmanned underwater vehicle last December.

This hero was so deadly, they called him ‘Black Death’
A KJ-200 airborne early warning aircraft. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Perhaps the most notable incident in the South China Sea was the 2001 EP-3 incident. On April 1, 2001, a Navy EP-3E collided with a People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force J-8 “Finback” fighter. The EP-3E made an emergency landing on Hainan Island, where the 24 crew were detained for ten days before being released.

Such incidents may be more common. FoxNews.com reported that during his confirmation hearings, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson took a hard line on Chinese actions in the South China Sea.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Everything wrong with the Targaryen air force right now

This article contains spoilers from “Game of Thrones” Season 8 Episode 4: “The Last of the Starks.”

Really, though, if you haven’t seen “The Last of the Starks” go watch it, call a loved one, and then come back because we’re going to break down the military failures tactics from the episode. You should know going into this that I’m pretty pissed off about it.

Here we go.


This hero was so deadly, they called him ‘Black Death’

King’s Landing would later be built upon the site of the Aegonfort, but this map shows the distance from there through Blackwater Bay to Dragonstone is estimated at under 500 miles.

Atlas of Ice and Fire Blog

In the final twenty minutes of last night’s episode, Euron Greyjoy’s fleet managed to ambush Daenerys Targaryen in broad daylight about 400 miles from the last known location of her enemy. Worse, Greyjoy’s first volley took out Rhaegal, one of her surviving two dragons. This should never have happened. Ever.

At the very least, Daenerys should have prepared for an ambush from the castle of Dragonstone or its surrounding waters.

She knew her enemy would expect her to return there to stage her attack on King’s Landing.

She knew her enemy had developed weapons capable of attacking the dragons.

She knew her enemy not only had access to wildfire, but the will to use it at sea and against the population as needed.

Advancing on Dragonstone should have been conducted with caution. Where the f*** were her advanced scouts? And more importantly, where was her ISR???

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aD11KvGV1jY
Euron Attacks Daenerys | Rhaegal Death | Game of Thrones S08E04

www.youtube.com

Euron Attacks Daenerys | Rhaegal Death

From 100 feet high, Daenerys and her dragons could see twenty miles in the distance. They didn’t think it might be important to do some aerial reconnaissance from a safe height and keep a weather eye for the Iron fleet which has already ambushed their allies once before?

This hero was so deadly, they called him ‘Black Death’

This stupid WW1 pigeon is more useful than two of the most dangerous predators on the planet and a cognitive human with ancestral powers and multiple battles under her belt…

Intelligence, Reconnaissance, and Surveillance are some of the most critical military components if one hopes to achieve victory against the enemy. You have to know where your enemy is if you want to defeat them.

Daenerys has global air superiority and she can literally see her enemy from dozens and dozens (if not hundreds — I don’t know how high the dragons can fly) of miles away — well beyond the range of medieval SAMs.

I would think that after the scorpion missile struck Drogon during the Loot Train Attack, Daenerys would have been more cautious against the Lannister threat.

She should have surveilled Dragonstone and Blackwater Bay from a safe distance for the Iron Fleet and scanned Dragonstone for signs of scorpion sites or occupation. Then an amphibious insertion of Unsullied should have infiltrated Dragonstone under the cover of darkness and cleared every damn room and cave of personnel and wildfire.

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Or here’s an idea! Bring this Greensight goober along with you and get real-time updates on the position of your enemy.

“Hey creepy version of Bran? Where’s Euron rn?”

“Oh that guy? He’s around the corner waiting to shoot your pretty green dragon in the f***ing throat and ruin your Sunday.”

You know what two dragons could have done to the Iron Fleet? Baited them like velociraptors and blown them to the bottom of The Gullet with dragonfire up their ass.

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Yes, I am.

Here’s why this episode doesn’t sit well:

When Tyrion was outmaneuvered at Casterly Rock and Highgarden was taken, his enemy defeated his good plan with a better one.

When Yara’s fleet was ambushed by Euron’s, it was because he built a stronger naval force and attacked her when she was overconfident and vulnerable.

When Viserion was killed, it was shocking and painful — but earned. It established the White Walker’s physical strength and the threat they posed to the dragons — just as the scorpion did in the highlands.

But this? Eleven ships sitting in the open on a clear day in contested waters somehow managed to sneak up on an air force? It’s cheap. It does a disservice to clever characters and it makes the viewing experience unsatisfying.

Still, I remain hopeful that the showrunners have set up our heroes as the underdogs at their lowest so their upcoming victory will feel that much more gratifying.

This hero was so deadly, they called him ‘Black Death’

Then again, it’s Game of Thrones and we’re not allowed to have nice things.

Articles

The 7 most important military decisions the next president will make in 2017

With ISIS continuing to fight, Russia and China throwing their weight around, and budget shortfalls becoming bigger and bigger problems, the Department of Defense will definitely need strong leadership in the form of a commander-in-chief and his political appointees in the months immediately following the inauguration next year.


Here are 7 important decisions he or she will have to tackle:

1. Will the U.S. pressure China to get off of contested islands, force them off with war, or let China have its way?

This hero was so deadly, they called him ‘Black Death’
The Littoral Combat Ship USS Fort Worth conducts a patrol through international waters near the Spratly Islands. (Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Conor Minto)

America has a vested interest in navigational freedoms in the South China Sea. Many allies transport their oil, other energy supplies, and manufactured goods through the South China Sea and the U.S. Navy uses routes there to get between the Pacific and Indian oceans.

Currently, a few sets of islands in the area are contested, most importantly the Spratly Islands. In addition to controlling important sea routes, the area may hold vast supplies of oil and natural gas. The most optimistic estimates put it second to only Saudi Arabia in terms of total oil reserves

China is deep in a campaign to control the South China Sea by claiming historical precedent and by building new bases and infrastructure on them. An international tribunal ruling on the issue will likely side against China shortly, but China probably won’t accept the decision.

That leaves a big decision for the next president. Does America recognize Chinese claims, back up U.S. allies in the area through diplomatic pressure, or begin a military confrontation that could trigger a major war?

2. How dedicated is the U.S. to the NATO alliance and deterring Russian aggression?

This hero was so deadly, they called him ‘Black Death’
173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team soldiers conduct exercises in partnership with NATO forces. (Photo: US Army Pfc. Randy Wren)

For decades, America’s presence in NATO was unquestionable. Candidates might argue about specific NATO policies, but membership was a given. Now, a debate exists about whether NATO might need to be adjusted or a new, anti-terror coalition built in its place.

America pays more than its fair share for the alliance. Every member is supposed to spend 2 percent or more of its GDP on defense, but only America and four other countries did so in 2015. Even among the five who hit their spending goals, America outspends everyone else both in terms of GDP and real expenses. The U.S. is responsible for about 75 percent of NATO spending.

And NATO was designed to defeat Russia expansion. Though members assisted in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, they’ve struggled with what the alliance’s responsibilities are when addressing ISIS. For those who think ISIS should be the top priority, there’s a question about why the U.S. is spending so much time and energy on a European alliance.

So the question before the next president is, should America continue to dedicate diplomatic and military resources to a Europe-focused alliance when ISIS continues to inspire attacks in America and Europe while threatening governments in the Middle East?

3. What part of the world is the real priority?

This hero was so deadly, they called him ‘Black Death’
(Photo: US Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy)

To use the cliche, “If everything is a priority, nothing is.” The American military does not have the necessary size and resources to contain both Russia and China while fighting ISIS and other terrorist organizations. The next U.S. president will have to decide what is and isn’t most important.

Alliances can help the U.S. overcome some of the shortfalls, but each “priority” requires sacrifices somewhere else. The next president will have to decide if protecting Ukranian sovereignty is worth the damage to negotiations in Syria. They’ll have to decide if the best use of military equipment is to park it in eastern Europe to deter Rusia or to send it to exercises in Asia to deter China.

Obama spent most of his administration trying to pivot to Asia while Middle Eastern and European crises kept forcing America back into those regions. Where the next president decides to focus will decide whether Russia is contained, China is pushed off the manmade islands, and/or if ISIS and its affiliates are smothered.

4. What is America’s role in the ongoing fight against ISIS and is there a need for more ground troops?

This hero was so deadly, they called him ‘Black Death’
U.S. Marines fire artillery to break up ISIS fighters attacking Kurdish and Peshmerga forces. (Photo: US Marine Corps Cpl. Andre Dakis)

On the note of transferring forces, those vehicles that could be redirected from supporting NATO or conducting exercises could be set to Iraq, Syria, and other countries to fight ISIS, but is that America’s job?

Though America’s invasion destabilized the region, Iraq’s rulers asked U.S. troops to leave before putting up a half-hearted and strategically insufficient response to ISIS. So the next president will have to decide whether America owes a moral debt to prop up the Iraqi government and Syrian rebels and whether it is in America’s best interest to do so.

The answer to those two questions will fuel the biggest one, should America deploy additional ground forces (something generals are asking for), risking becoming mired in another long war, to stop the rise of ISIS and other terrorist groups in the region?

5. How long will the Air Force keep the A-10?

This hero was so deadly, they called him ‘Black Death’
(Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Chris Drzazgowski)

The struggle between A-10 supporters and detractors continues to rage. Air Force officials and A-10 detractors say the plane has to be retired due to budget constraints and the limited ability to use the plane in a contested environment. Proponents of the A-10 insist that it’s the cheapest and most effective close-air support platform.

The battle has nearly come to a head a few times. The Air Force was forced by Congress to keep the A-10 flying and finally agreed to a showdown between the A-10 and F-35 for some time in 2016. The critical analysis of the results will almost certainly come while Obama is still in office, but the A-10 decision will likely wait until the next president takes office.

The decision will officially be made by the Air Force, but the president can appoint senior officers sympathetic to one camp or the other. Also, the president’s role as the head of their political party will give them some control when Congress decides which platforms to dedicate money to supporting.

So the new president will have to decide in 2017 what close air support looks like for the next few years. Will it be the low, slow, cheap, and effective A-10 beloved by ground troops? Or the fast-flying, expensive, but technologically advanced and survivable F-35?

6. How much is readiness worth and where does the money come from?

This hero was so deadly, they called him ‘Black Death’
US Marines conduct underwater training. (Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jered T. Stone)

Sequestration, the mandatory reduction of military and domestic budgets under the Budget Control Act of 2011, puts a cap on U.S. military spending. The service chiefs sound the alarm bell every year that mandatory budget cuts hurt readiness and force the branches into limbo every year.

The next president, along with the next Congress, will have to decide how much military readiness they want to buy and where the money comes from. To increase the percentage of the force that is deployed or ready to deploy at any one time without sacrificing new weapons and technology programs, money would need to be raised by cutting other parts of the federal budget or raising taxes.

So, what size conflict should the military always be ready for? And where does the money for training, equipment, and logistics come from to keep that force ready?

7. How many generals and admirals should the U.S. have?

This hero was so deadly, they called him ‘Black Death’
Generals and admirals are on the chopping block, though service chiefs like Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller, seen here speaking to a group of Marines, are likely too valuable to cut. (Photo: US Marine Corps Cpl. Shawn Valosin)

As the number of U.S. troops has decreased in the past 30 years, the number of U.S. general officers has rarely dropped and was actually raised by over 100 since Sep. 11, 2001, causing a 65 percent increase in the number of four-star officers to total number of service members. This has led to questions about whether it’s time to ax some generals and admirals.

Former Secretaries of Defense Chuck Hagel and Robert Gates both proposed serious cuts, and the Senate Armed Services Committee has recently floated a 25 percent reduction in the total number of general officers.

Not only would this significantly cut personnel costs since each general and their staff costs over an estimated $1 million per year, but it would reduce the bureaucracy that field commanders have to go through when getting decisions and requests approved.

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This psychedelic drug could be approved to treat PTSD

Just as cannabis is gaining traction as a legitimate treatment option for military veterans, the US Food and Drug Administration has given the “breakthrough therapy” designation to MDMA, the main chemical in the club drug Ecstasy, for treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.


The move appears to pave the way for a Santa Cruz, California-based advocacy group to conduct two trials of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for patients with severe PTSD.

The nonprofit group Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies plans to test out the strategy on 200 to 300 participants in clinical trials this spring.

This hero was so deadly, they called him ‘Black Death’
Image from MAPS.org

“For the first time ever, psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy will be evaluated in [advanced] trials for possible prescription use, with MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD leading the way,” said Rick Doblin, the group’s founder and executive director.

The FDA says it doesn’t disclose the names of drugs that receive “breakthrough therapy” designation. But if a researcher or drug company chooses to release that information, they are allowed to. In this case, the Psychedelic Studies group is the researcher.

Veterans have pushed for new treatments for PTSD, which some consider the “signature” injury of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Symptoms include depression, isolation, inability to concentrate and, in the extreme, suicidal thoughts.

This hero was so deadly, they called him ‘Black Death’
MDMA in pressed pill form. Image from DEA.

At present, the US Drug Enforcement Administration lists the drug as a Schedule I drug, which means there are no currently accepted medical uses and there’s a high potential for abuse.

The drug affects serotonin use in the brain.

It can cause euphoria, increased sensitivity to touch, sensual and sexual arousal, the need to be touched, and the need for stimulation.

Some unwanted psychological effects can include confusion, anxiety, depression, paranoia, sleep problems, and drug craving, according to the DEA.

Clinical studies suggest that MDMA may increase the risk of long-term problems with memory and learning.

MIGHTY GAMING

This is why becoming a Spartan from ‘Halo’ would actually suck

When you think about the Halo series of video games, you probably reminisce about a great story, an excellent multiplayer experience, and a slew of badass weaponry that makes us yearn for the future. If you’ve played even a single story mission, then you know about the Spartans: highly trained, augmented super soldiers designed to withstand any condition and defeat any enemy. In theory, it sounds pretty cool to be a Spartan. In reality, however, it’d suck. Majorly.

In the world of Halo, the SPARTAN-II program started as a way to combat insurrectionists and later became a way to stem the advance of the alien empire known as The Covenant. The goal was to pair advanced exoskeleton technology with a mechanically and biologically enhanced soldier.

But the process of creating a Spartan, were it to happen in real life, would be brutal, unethical, and extremely controversial. Here’s what a to-be Spartan would experience:


This hero was so deadly, they called him ‘Black Death’

Still, the procedure was pretty unethical…

(Bungie)

Recruitment

Candidates, typically between the ages of 5 and 6, are kidnapped by Office of Naval Intelligence recruiters. These candidates are then flash cloned and the copy is sent home. Unfortunately, because the science behind flash cloning wasn’t totally sound, these clones would often die a week or two later, leaving parents mystified and grief-stricken.

How did ONI find candidates? Well, they gathered genetic information during a vaccination program. But if you’re thinking that’s just another reason not to vaccinate your children, just remember that this is what they got in exchange:

This hero was so deadly, they called him ‘Black Death’

It might’ve hurt like a b*tch, but Spartans were nearly unbreakable. Fair trade?

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Janessa Pon)

Skeletal augmentation

The first step in enhancing candidates is grafting materials onto bones to increase their strength. The goal is to make the bones of the candidates nearly indestructible, but those who undergo the process say it feels like their bones are all being broken.

The worst part is that this process only covers about 13% of the skeletal system so… maybe they could have just had some milk instead? Or maybe some grape juice?

This hero was so deadly, they called him ‘Black Death’

This is nothing for a Spartan.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Darhonda V. Hall)

Muscular augmentation

It’s safe to say that casually flipping over a Scorpion tank requires some insane strength. So, as part of the SPARTAN-II program, all sorts of proteins are injected into candidates’ muscles. Sounds cool, right?

It might… until you hear that it feels like napalm is coursing through your skin and your veins are being ripped out of your body.

This hero was so deadly, they called him ‘Black Death’

You have to be a little crazy to try and become a SEAL, but at least it’s your choice.

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric S. Logsdon)

Attrition rate

The attrition rate for real-life special operations units is ridiculously high. Many don’t make the cut and, if you don’t, you’re out — but at least you’re not dead.

In the SPARTAN-II program, candidates that survived the augmentation process often died from physical side effects. Out of the 150 children that started out in the program, only 33 made it all the way through to the end, becoming the super soldiers who would go on to kick some serious alien hide.

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US asks Europe to deploy more troops for ISIS fight

Declaring the group’s destruction its top Middle East priority, the Trump administration on March 22 urged coalition partners to contribute more to forces who are retaking Iraq’s second largest city and readying an assault on the extremists’ self-declared Syrian capital. There was no apparent announcement of a new overall strategy, however.


Addressing top diplomats of the 68-nation coalition, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called for new ideas to expand the against IS in the Iraqi city of Mosul and accelerate the campaign to chase from Raqqa, Syria, while preparing for the complex humanitarian and political consequences of both efforts.

Yet Tillerson did not propose, at least in his public remarks, a new approach, beyond noting the increased U.S. role in each country. As the officials were meeting at the State Department in Washington, the Pentagon announced that it provided an airlift for Syrian taking part in an west of Raqqa, in an escalation of U.S. involvement. At least one country participating in the meeting, France, voiced frustration that Tillerson and other U.S. officials had not offered specifics.

“I recognize there are many pressing challenges in the Middle East, but defeating is the United States number one goal in the region,” Tillerson said. “As we’ve said before, when everything is a priority, nothing is a priority. We must continue to keep our focus on the most urgent matter at hand.”

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Ababi said victory was finally within reach.

“We are at the stage of completely decimating ,” al-Abadi said, using the Arabic acronym for IS.

Nothing Tillerson outlined departed significantly from the Obama administration’s strategy, which focused on using local forces to retake territory along with efforts to disrupt IS recruitment and financing, and the blueprint of the multilateral effort seemed unchanged.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said he was disappointed the U.S. hasn’t outlined a more detailed plan, particularly for Raqqa’s future. He said he understood Trump’s administration was still formulating policy, explaining that he will be more concerned if decisions aren’t made before the end of April.

“We are expecting some further clarity from the U.S.,” he told reporters, citing France’s desire for the city to be run by moderate opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad and not the country’s Russian-backed government. He also wants to hear what America seeks from U.N.-led talks on a broader political settlement to the six-year civil between Assad’s and various groups.

Tactics for the are complicated in Syria, where a partnership with Kurdish has prompted difficult discussions with Turkey, which sees them as a national security threat. The Pentagon made clear that in Wednesday’s near Raqqa, U.S. forces were still in a support role.

Tillerson said the United States would play its part and pay its fair share of the overall operation. But he said other nations, particularly those which have faced IS or IS-inspired , must contribute more militarily or financially.

He said increased intelligence and information sharing could overcome traditional rivalries between different agencies and governments, and advocated an enhanced online effort to halt the spread of extremist views, especially as the group loses ground in Iraq and Syria.

Although Tillerson alluded to the intensified campaign, he said the Trump administration was still refining its strategy. As a candidate, Trump spoke broadly about radical changes to the approach adopted by then-President Barack Obama. As a president, Trump has moved more cautiously.

“A more defined course of action in Syria is still coming together,” Tillerson said. “But I can say that the United States will increase our pressure on and al-Qaida and will work to establish interim zones of stability, through , to allow refugees to return home.”

The reference to “zones of stability” appeared to stop short of “safe zones,” which the U.S. has been extremely reluctant to commit to enforcing in Syria, even as Trump and others have raised the idea at various times.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Hungary’s foreign minister said he liked what he heard.

“We are enthusiastic about the new U.S. strategy,” Peter Szijjarto said, adding that he saw Trump’s administration determined “not only to against , but totally eliminate .” He said his country would send 50 more to Iraq, taking its contribution to 200.

As the become more encircled, the mission will change. Officials expect in the coming months to see the dissipation of surviving into underground cells that could plan and mount throughout the Middle East, South and Central Asia, Europe, South America and the United States. Washington has been trying to get NATO, coalition and other partners to take actions to adapt to changing threats.

“As we stabilize areas encompassing ‘s physical caliphate in Iraq and Syria, we also must prevent their seeds of hatred from taking root elsewhere,” Tillerson said. “We must ensure cannot gain or maintain footholds in new regions of the world. We must online as aggressively as we would on the ground. A digital caliphate must not flourish in the place of a physical one.”

Associated Press writer Bradley Klapper contributed to this report. 

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4 awesome traditions to look for at the Army-Navy Game

Along with more than 100 years of history, the game comes steeped in traditions that range from the usual smack talk between fans to events that can only be found when Army plays Navy.


Almost all American sporting events feature the National Anthem, many games get a U.S. military flyover, and every sports rivalry is characterized by fans going above and beyond to demonstrate their team spirit. The Army-Navy Game has all of those, except this game gets a flyover from two service branches and fans in attendance willing to break strict uniform regulations to show their spirit.

Along with the traditions typical of every other sporting event, the Army-Navy Game comes with the added traditions of two military academies that are older than the sport they’re playing, of military branches whose own traditions date back to the founding of the United States, and a unique culture developed through the history of American military training.

And despite the intense rivalry, it’s all in good fun.

1. The Prisoner Exchange

Before the game kicks off, seven West Point cadets and seven Annapolis midshipmen will march to midfield in Philadelphia to be returned to their home military academies. These “prisoners” were sent to their rival service academies in the Service Academy Exchange Program, which sends students from each of four service academies (along with West Point and Annapolis, the Air Force Academy and the Coast Guard Academy also participate) for the fall semester.

The prestigious, competitive exchange program began its semester-long life in 1975 and has remained the same ever since. Each academy sends seven sophomore students to the other academies. The “Prisoner Exchange” allows the visiting cadets and mids to sit with their team’s fans.

2. The Army-Navy Drumline Battle

At the Army-Navy Game, there’s more confrontation than just what happens on the football field. Before the game, the bands representing each branch engage in a drumline – one as much about showmanship as it is about skills with the sticks.

3. “The March On”

Before the kickoff of every Army-Navy Game, the cadets of the U.S. Military Academy and the midshipmen of the U.S. Naval Academy take the field. No, not just the teams playing the game that day, the entire student body — thousands of people — march on the field in the way only drilled and trained U.S. troops can.

4. “Honoring the Fallen”

Every Army-Navy Game is going to see one loser and one winner. No matter what the outcome of the game, the players sing both teams’ alma maters. The winners will join the losing team, facing the losing side’s fans. Then, the two groups will do the same for the winning team. It’s a simple act of respectful sportsmanship that reminds everyone they’re on the same side.

To date, this tradition hasn’t caught on across college teams, but it might be happening as we speak. The Navy team invites every school it plays to sing “Navy Blue and Gold” after the game, and sometimes they do, like in 2014, when the Ohio State Buckeyes joined in.