If you’ve ever served in the Army, you know chain of command is everything. Orders flow down from the Commander, and the success of the mission is a direct reflection of the rigor and discipline with which his or her subordinates execute.
If you’ve ever worked in a gourmet kitchen, you know that chain of command is everything. Orders flow down from the Chef, and the success of the meal service is a direct reflection of the rigor and discipline with which his or her subordinates execute.
Cute, right? Yeah, it’s true though. The parallels between a deployed military force and a busy professional kitchen are abundant and revealing. Discipline, hierarchy, preparation, trust in team — it’s all there. And no one gets this more clearly than Army veteran Will Marquardt, who now serves as Chef de Cuisine (second in command) to celeb Chef Ludo Lefebvre in his five-star Hollywood hole-in-the-wall, Petit Trois.
Meals Ready To Eat host August Dannehl took the 405 to the 10 to drop in on Petit Trois, where he found a young lieutenant at the top of his game, executing dish after perfect dish with precision, exemplary leadership, and an added dash of creativity.
The M203 grenade launcher entered service with the U.S. military in 1969 during Vietnam. It replaced the M79 “Blooper” stand-alone launcher, almost always being used as an under-barrel addition to an assault rifle.
Though it has served faithfully and effectively for over 40 years now and will continue to do so for years to come, the M203 is being phased out of Army service and is being replaced by the new M320 designed and built by Heckler Koch.
For now the Marines are sticking with the 203, though many top infantry advocates in the service want the Corps to replace its current ones with M320s.
The M320 won a competitive bidding process and entered production in 2008 with over 71,000 of the weapons planned for the U.S. Army. Soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division were the first to field the weapon operationally.
While the M203 was capable of operating independently, in practice it is rarely used in standalone configuration. In fact, the old M79 resurfaced during Operation Iraqi Freedom as a superior option for grenade launcher duties without a rifle.
The break-action blooper (or ‘thumper,’ based on who you ask) was touted as a superior tool for the job when the whole rifle/launcher combo was too heavy or unwieldy, and standalone M203 units were not up to the task or simply unavailable.
The M79 has greater range and better accuracy than the M203. While it has performed admirably since Vietnam, no one has ever claimed that the M203 provided pinpoint accuracy.
The M79, introduced in 1961, is even older than the M203. Much more importantly, it’s not capable of being used as an under-barrel launcher on an M4 or M16 rifle. While stand-alone launchers definitely have their place, the need for a grenadier who is also a rifleman is a crucial one in most cases. A new, better, under-barrel 40mm grenade launcher was needed.
The M320 filled that need. Using the same high-low propulsion system of the M79 and M203 to keep recoil low while firing a heavy 40mm projectile, the M320 has the same range as the M203 while increasing accuracy and coming with a number of improvements over the older model.
One of the most noticeable upgrades over the M203 is the M320’s side-loading mechanism. The barrel swings out for loading, rather than the M203’s forward-sliding pump-like barrel. This allows the use of additional, longer, ammunition, particularly non-lethal rounds. With the weapon’s introduction, the Army is able to move forward with the development of new, high-tech rounds that wouldn’t fit in the M203.
Another obvious feature of the M320 is the folding foregrip. The grip is intended primarily for use when the weapon is used separate from a rifle, but it can also serve as a forward vertical grip when mounted under a barrel. When not needed, the foregrip can be easily folded back and out of the way.
The sights of the M320 are certainly more advanced than those of the M203, and they benefit from being integral to the launcher itself, being mounted on the side of the unit. The M203’s sights were attached separately and had to be re-zeroed every time.
The M320’s leaf sight simply flips up when needed, and the integrated electronic sighting system allows users to dial in the range as determined by laser and tell if they’re on target. This alone makes the M320 easier to field and more accurate in more conditions more of the time. While operating the M79 was an acquired ability and accuracy with the M203 was more art than skill, the M320’s sight helps to make every operator a capable grenadier.
The M320 has a double-action trigger compared to the M203’s single-action unit and has an ambidextrous safety. This allows the operator more control over his weapon, its firing, and better capability to handle a misfire or simple unloading.
Despite the M320’s technical advantages over its predecessors, its introduction did not come without some hiccups. All new weapons systems suffer from some teething pains, particularly when introduced during a time of war, and the new grenade launcher was no exception.
While intended to be lighter than the M203, the M320 is actually slightly heavier, weighing in at 3.3 pounds compared to the M203’s 3.0 pounds. While this difference is small, combat troops are already overloaded and every ounce counts.
While the new sight provides significant advantages over the M203’s sight, some troops have complained that it’s a little fragile for hard use in the combat zone. This may be due to the fact that the troops are used to not worrying about an M203 because there was so little to break.
Another complaint is that when used stand-alone with the stock assembly, the buttstock is a little short for many operators.
Finally, the single-point sling attachment of the stand-alone M320 meant that the weapon swung around and was often bouncing in the way, with troops calling for a holster of some sort to use while carrying the launcher unmounted. The Army responded by launching an M320GL Holster Soldier Enhancement Program.
The SEP was a “try-before-you-buy” program that used holsters from three different vendors and issued them to troops for testing and feedback. The holster solution will also address some of the concerns about the fragile sights, since the weapon won’t be bouncing around or getting dragged on the ground when the operator hits the dirt.
A comment found online from a soldier claiming to carry an M320 in Afghanistan says that the launcher is a pain in the ass and swings everywhere, he “wouldn’t trade it for anything else in a firefight.” It’s hard to come up with a better endorsement of the M320 than that.
China has one aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, that’s designated as a training vessel and has never been on a combat deployment, but new photos suggest that they want to build a true, US-style aircraft carrier.
Right now, China’s aircraft carrier uses a ski-jump design, where planes hit a ramp to launch of the ship. This greatly limits the maximum weight of the planes, meaning they can’t carry as much fuel or ordnance as land-launched variants can.
Only the US and France operate true flat tops, or aircraft carriers that use either catapults or steam powered launchers that grip and throw the planes off board with such force that no ramp is needed. Therefore, US and French planes launching from carriers can carry much more substantial loads of fuel and bombs for better range and efficacy on missions.
But now photos surfaced in Yeo’s piece suggest that China is trying to imitate these flat top carriers. Here’s a photo of a J-15 with additional nose landing gear (this is what the catapult couples with during launches).
Below we see Huangdicun Airbase, where it looks like China has tried to emulate a steam catapult, which the US Nimitz class carriers have, and an Electromagnetic Aircraft Launching System (EMALS), which the US plans to deploy on the coming Ford class carriers.
Aircraft carriers provide several advantages over land bases, chief among them the fact that aircraft carries allow nations to project power around the globe.
Mel Gibson has returned to the director’s chair after a 10-year hiatus with the WWII epic “Hacksaw Ridge.”
The film tells the tale of real-life Army medic Desmond Doss. Torn between his conscientious objection to violence and his desire to serve his country in its time of greatest need, Doss joined the Army as a medic but refused to carry a weapon.
Despite suspicion and contempt from his fellow soldiers, Doss repeatedly braved danger and even disobeyed orders to make sure his countrymen made it home alive. Doss received the Medal of Honor for his actions, one of only three conscientious objectors to ever do so.
Gibson is no stranger to the classic American war film, having previously starred in “We Were Soldiers” and “The Patriot.” “Hacksaw Ridge” is the actor’s first directing outing since 2006’s “Apocalypto,” but that film and 1995’s “Braveheart” proved Gibson is right at home capturing epic battles on film.
“Hacksaw Ridge” is now playing in theaters nationwide. Watch the trailer below.
Over the weekend, real-estate mogul and GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump said he did not like “losers,” like US Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), in reference to McCain’s 2008 presidential election loss to President Barack Obama.
“I never liked him after that, because I don’t like losers,” Trump said.
He then dug into McCain’s military career. Trump said the US Navy veteran imprisoned for nearly six years in Vietnam was not a “war hero.” He quickly caveated that statement.
“He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured,” Trump said.
Amid the backlash, Trump has accused the media of taking his remarks about McCain’s military record out of context in an interview with NBC’s “Today” show.
McCain has talked and written extensively about his service and his experience as a prisoner of war.
On October 26, 1967, then-US Navy Lieutenant Commander John McCain’s A-4 Skyhawk was shot down over Vietnam.
“I reacted automatically the moment I took the hit and saw my wing was gone. I radioed, ‘I’m hit,’ reached up, and pulled the ejection seat handle. I struck part of the airplane, breaking my left arm, my right arm in three places, and my right knee, and I was briefly knocked unconscious by the force of the ejection.”
Writing in 2000 memoir “Faith Of My Fathers,” this is how McCain describes the moment he became a prisoner of war for nearly six years. He continues:
“I landed in the middle of the lake (Truc Bach Lake), in the middle of the city, in the middle of the day. An escape attempt would have been challenging.”
Wearing approximately 50 pounds of gear and not being able to use either of his broken arms to deploy his life vest, McCain sank to the bottom of the shallow lake. He managed to inflate his life vest by pulling the plastic toggle with his teeth and shot to the surface. Floating in the lake, McCain fell in and out of consciousness until a group of Vietnamese villagers pulled him out of the water.
McCain being pulled from Trúc Bạch Lake in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
“Several hundred Vietnamese gathered around me, shouting wildly, stripping my clothes off, spitting on me, kicking and striking me repeatedly. When they had finished removing my gear and clothes, I felt a sharp pain in my right knee. I looked down and saw that my right foot was resting next to my left knee, at a 90-degree angle … Someone smashed a rifle butt into my shoulder, breaking it. Someone else stuck a bayonet in my ankle and groin.”
Before the angry mob could do more harm, Vietnamese soldiers arrived and transported McCain to Hoa Lo, a French-built prison.
“As the massive steel doors loudly clanked shut behind me, I felt a deeper dread than I have ever felt since … for the next few days I drifted in and out of consciousness. When awake, I was periodically taken to another room for interrogation. “
McCain was accused of being a war criminal and tortured until he shared classified military information in exchange for medical attention. As he refused to reveal more than his name, rank, and date of birth, his condition steadily worsened.
“For four days I was taken back and forth to different rooms. Unable to use my arms, I was fed twice a day by a guard. I vomited after the meals, unable to hold down anything but a little tea. I remember being desperately thirsty all the time, but I could drink only when the guard was present for my twice-daily feedings.”
McCain, who was forced to lay in a puddle of his own vomit and other bodily wastes, became feverish and lost consciousness frequently and for longer periods of time.
One day the camp officer, who the PO Ws called Bug and who McCain referred to as “a mean son of b—-,” entered his filthy cell to examine his injuries.
“Are you going to take me to the hospital? I asked.
“No,” he replied. “It’s too late.”
“Take me to the hospital and I’ll get well.”
“It’s too late,” he repeated.
Hopeless, McCain assumed we would die and began mentally prepping himself of his approaching death; but a few hours later, Bug rushed into his cell and shouted: “Your father is a big admiral. Now we take you to the hospital.”
“A couple of days later I found myself lying in a filthy room about twenty by twenty feet, lousy with mosquitoes and rats. Every time it rained, an inch of mud and water would pool on the floor … I received no treatment for my injuries. No one even bothered to wash the grime off me.”
Meanwhile, McCain’s interrogators continued to pressure him for more information and threatened to terminate his medical treatment if he did not cooperate.
“I gave them the names of the Green Bay Packers’ offensive line, and said they were members of my squadron. When asked to identify future targets, I simply recited the names of a number of North Vietnamese cities that had already been bombed.”
Since McCain could not feed himself, a young boy was assigned to feeding him. The boy forced three spoonfuls of food down McCain’s throat twice a day. There were usually leftovers, which the boy helped himself to in front of McCain.
Two months into his captivity, McCain underwent an operation on his leg.
“The Vietnamese filmed the operation, I haven’t a clue why. Regrettably, the operation wasn’t much of a success. The doctors severed all the ligaments on one side of my knee, which has never fully recovered.”
Shortly after his surgery, McCain was moved into a cell with two other American Air Force POWs. They took care of each other and McCain notes that his condition improved.
The darkest moments of his capture occur when guards place him in solitary.
“It’s an awful thing, solitary. It crushes your spirit and weakens your resistance more effectively than any other form of mistreatment.”
A year later, several guards brought a resistant McCain to the camp commander in order to formally charge him of his war crimes.
“Knowing that I was in serious trouble and that nothing I did or said would make matters any worse, I replied: ‘F— you.'”
McCain was beat up, tied up for a night, and then dragged to an empty room for 4 days.
“At two-to-three intervals, the guards returned to administer beatings … still I felt they were being careful not to kill or permanently injure me.”
The worst beating came on the third night.
“I lay in my own blood and waste, so tired and hurt that I could not move…he slammed his fist into my face and knocked me across the room towards the waste bucket. I fell on the bucket, hitting it with my left arm, and breaking it again. They left me lying on the floor, moaning from the stabbing pain in my refractured arm.”
It was after this night, that McCain tried to commit suicide twice. He was stopped by the guards and received more beatings. Shortly after, he confessed to whatever war crimes he was accused of and was left alone in his cell for 2 weeks.
“They were the worst two weeks of my life … I was ashamed … I shook, as if my disgrace were a fever.”
This was 2 years into McCain’s almost 6 year imprisonment. He was released as a POW in March of 1973.
Just over two weeks after the Commander-in-Chief Forum aired during prime time on NBC, IAVA chief Paul Rieckhoff is still recovering from the event, riding the high of having had a big hand in pulling it off but also weathering a substantial wave of social media criticism — much of it from fellow veterans — about how it fell short.
#IAVAforum if you want to truly represent service members and vet’s then why didn’t you include #GaryJohnson in the forum?
“What the critics don’t understand is events like this are a four-way negotiation,” Rieckhoff says over the phone while riding an Uber between Newark Airport and Manhattan after attending a “VetTogether” — a gathering of IAVA members — at comedienne Kathy Griffin’s home in Los Angeles. “It’s us, the network, and each of the candidates. Anybody can walk away at any time. Concessions are made on all sides to pull it off.”
Rieckhoff and his team started planning the forum about two years ago using Pastor Rick Warren’s “Conversation on Faith” as a model.
“He brought the candidates to his church one after another for a one-on-one conversation,” he says. “It was widely watched and really drove the issues front and center.”
The IAVA wishlist had a few key elements: It should take place around 9-11. It should take place in New York City “because of the media traction,” Rieckhoff says. And it should take place aboard the USS Intrepid, the retired aircraft carrier docked on the Hudson River at midtown.
They also knew it needed to happen before the final three debates.
“We’re politically savvy enough to know that’s it’s all about the art of the possible,” Rieckhoff says. “The idea that you’re going to get the candidates for three hours and get everything you want is not grounded in the reality of the landscape.
“The idea was straightforward,” he continues. “Bring together the candidates where vets could ask the questions on as big a stage as possible. Respect to the American Legion and VFW, but nobody watches their conventions but them.”
Two cable networks expressed interest in airing the event, but Rieckhoff held out for something bigger.
“It needed to be as big as possible in order to attract the candidates,” he says.
In early May NBC offered an hour in primetime. Another major network indicated interest but “dawdled,” as Rieckhoff puts it, so IAVA accepted NBC’s offer. Right before Memorial Day both candidates agreed to participate. But at that point, the work was only starting.
“It was a constant negotiation with the campaigns right up to the event itself,” Rieckhoff says. “They were always threatening to pull out if they didn’t get what they wanted.”
And among the negotiations was agreeing to who the host would be. IAVA made a few suggestions, NBC personalities with some experience in the defense and foreign policy realms. The network and campaigns came up with their own option.
“The campaigns preferred not to have hard-hitting questions, and NBC wanted somebody who’d resonate during primetime,” Rieckhoff says. “Suffice it to say Matt Lauer was not IAVA’s choice.”
But Matt Lauer got the nod, and for the first hour of the Commander-in-Chief Forum, he fumbled his way through the format, dedicating a disproportionate amount of time to issues other than those of critical importance to the military community. His poor performance in the eyes of viewers even spawned a hashtag: #LaueringTheBar.
Just caught up with @NBC‘s #CiCForum. What on earth was @MLauer thinking? All the mental acuity of a boiled potato…
“We would’ve like the opportunity to separate foreign policy from veteran’s policy,” Rieckhoff says. “Matt Lauer found that out the hard way.”
But beyond that Rieckhoff is pleased with the outcome of the forum.
“Plenty of folks may be criticizing the event or the host,” he says. “But the bottom line is every critic or whatever got an opportunity to talk about their perspective on the issues because this thing happened.”
The broadcast was viewed by 15 million people, and Rieckhoff believes that the overall impact needs to be framed in terms much bigger than that.
“The reach has to be considered beyond the ratings of the show itself,” he says. “It was the entire day prior, the day of, and at least one day afterward where every morning show, every newspaper, and every columnist was writing about vet issues.”
That sense is shared by IAVA board member Wayne Smith, an Army vet who served as a combat medic during the Vietnam War and went on to be one of the founders of the Vietnam Veterans of America. He was seated in the crowd during the forum.
“I come from a generation of war vets who had no voice for decades, who were rejected by vets from previous wars not to mention the nation at large,” Smith says. “I was blown away by the brilliance of this forum, this first time we had the undivided attention of both candidates. I hope this is the first of many.”
While the Pentagon’s new strategy is being released in 2018, it feels more like the year 2000 on Capitol Hill with members itching for the maverick spirit of then-presidential candidate John McCain’s campaign bus, the Straight Talk Express.
The substance of the document is classified at the request of Capitol Hill, but there is a growing consensus about how to grade its success or failure. It is past time for a new National Defense Strategy that seeks to break the mold in honesty, clarity, conciseness, and fresh thinking. As an official articulation of Pentagon doctrine, this is an opportunity to mend the broken dialogue between the military and the government and people they serve.
To be relevant beyond a few news cycles, the Pentagon’s new defense strategy must:
7. Connect the strategy with geopolitical reality.
The most recent generation of strategies has repeatedly watered down the Pentagon’s force-sizing construct with each iteration — from the aspirational objective of fighting two wars at once to the declinist “defeat-and-deny” approach. Since a 2014 defense strategy was published, the dangers of a lack of credibility in American military power and political willpower have become evident in Ukraine, Iraq, and North Korea — just to name a few.
The newest defense strategy should emphasize three theaters of importance. As it is getting harder for planners to differentiate between war and peace, the need for a strong American presence in Asia, Europe, or the Middle East cannot be wished away as politically inconvenient. Planners should size forces to maintain robust conventional and strategic deterrents forward in all three of these theaters while equipping a force for decision in the event deterrence fails.
To effect this change, the strategy must clearly differentiate between forces and capabilities required to prevent a war versus those needed to win one. Unfortunately, the panoply of threats spanning from North Korean ICBMs to ISIS demands the American military maintain a broad array of capabilities.
6. Tie means with ends.
Even with declining force-sizing constructs, U.S. forces have largely continued to do all that they have done under previous super-sized strategies. The armed forces have been asked to do more with less, resulting in various missions being shortchanged, ignored, or dropped altogether as the supply of American military power is consistently outstripped by demand.
Consequentially, there is now a general dismissal of strategy because the reductions in force structure proposed in each iteration have not resulted in substantive changes in operations of the force. Nowhere is this more tragically clear than in the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Command. It is time to stop putting the cart before the horse by constructing budgets and then diving strategies, as the budget caps have encouraged but unrealistic strategies have exacerbated.
5. Identify what missions the military can stop doing.
Effective strategy is about choices and tradeoffs. In the last year, cargo shipments to Afghanistan were delayed due to hurricane relief, a private contractor evacuated U.S. troops after the fatal ISIS ambush in Niger, and the Air Force outsourced “red air” adversary training to non-military pilots. Instead of papering over these realities, the new strategy should identify what needs to be restored and which ancillary assignments may actually be more efficiently conducted outside the military.
Combat missions should not be exempt, either. For example, the sustained use of naval aviation to provide fire support to counterterror fights in the Middle East that could be resourced with light attack aircraft or artillery is expensive and ties up increasingly scarce aircraft carriers better employed elsewhere, particularly in Asia.
4. Prioritize among threats.
Claiming the five challenges of China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and persistent counterterrorism operations are all equally important is not a strategy — it is the absence of one.
Policymakers must clearly rank the relative severity of these threats to help planners prioritize and make tradeoffs. Given the limited supply of American defense resources, not all of these threats can receive the same amount of attention or bandwidth — nor should they.
3. Don’t let perfection get in the way of good enough.
The military needs more extant force structure and capabilities rather than an obsessive hunt for technological silver bullets. Putting too much stock in the wonder weapons of the future could be the military’s ruin — not its salvation — if it comes at the expense of immediate and medium-term needs.
If enemies know we are weak today but will be strong tomorrow, they have every incentive to strike sooner rather than later. Leaders should balance the acquisition risks introduced by speculative technological gambles with tried-and-true systems suited for immediate use to diminish any window of opportunity for aggression.
2. Recognize the Pentagon is a more than a Department of War — it is a Department of Defense.
As the largest federal agency, the Pentagon engages in a bewildering variety of deterrence and presence missions every day, in addition to fighting. It also supports part-time forces, families and children all over the world.
It is called the Department of Defense for a reason, and the strategy should reflect these large organizational, financial, educational, and bureaucratic demands. For example, while achieving reforms and efficiencies are noble goals, the belief that ongoing organizational changes will result in tens of billions in potential savings that can be reinvested elsewhere within the defense budget has yet to be proven.
1. Finally, stop scapegoating Congress and tackle problems head-on.
While sequestration has degraded the military’s capacity and capability gaps and encouraged the self-destructive practice of constructing budgets before inventing strategies to justify them, budget caps must cease to be the blame for all the military’s woes.
An over-emphasis on budgetary neglect creates the false expectation that a higher topline alone will solve the Pentagon’s problems overnight. The National Defense Strategy will need to address not just America’s declining fiscal ability to support all instruments of national power, but also the deteriorating international situation. Higher spending can alleviate the former, but new investments will need to be tied to clear strategic goals to address the latter.
It took years for the Pentagon to realize its current predicament, and it will likewise be years before it overcomes its contemporary challenges. To get there will require a redoubled commitment to the military by Congress through stable, sustained, and sufficient defense funding. But the Pentagon must also do its part to ensure that when fiscal relief arrives, there is a thoughtful strategy in place commensurate with the multitude of threats assailing the United States today. Now is the time to go big and bold.
Iraq’s prime minister on July 4 congratulated his fighters on “the big victory in Mosul” — even as fighting with Islamic State militants continued in Mosul’s Old City neighborhood where Iraqi forces are about 250 meters from the Tigris River and facing increasingly brutal resistance.
Haider al-Abadi spoke during a press conference in Baghdad, less than a week after he declared an end to IS’ self-styled caliphate after Iraqi forces achieved an incremental win by retaking the landmark al-Nuri Mosque in the Old City.
“Praise be to God, we managed to liberate [Mosul] and proved the others were wrong, the people of Mosul supported and stood with our security forces against terrorism,” al-Abadi said.
His remarks came on the third anniversary of IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s sermon at the al-Nuri Mosque, from where he declared an Islamic caliphate on IS-held lands in Syria and Iraq.
Also during the press conference, al-Abadi added that he has given instructions to rebuild and stabilize areas of the city already freed from the militant group.
Inside Mosul’s Old City, civilians fleeing Iraqi advance are increasingly desperate. The elderly and weak are carried across mounds of rubble in blankets. Soldiers — increasingly fearful of the Old City’s inhabitants after a string of suicide bombings — hurry the groups along.
A middle-aged woman with a gaunt, pale face fainted as she fled past the destroyed al-Nuri Mosque. Two soldiers carried her to the roadside and tried to revive her with cold water.
Largely cut off from food and water for months, humanitarian groups are reporting a spike in the number of displaced people suffering from malnutrition and dehydration.
“None of the previous battles were like this,” said Iraqi Maj. Faris Aboud, working at a small field hospital just outside the Old City.
“In a single day we received 300 wounded,” Aboud, a father of three continued. “For me, seeing the wounded children is the hardest, we see children who have lost their entire families under the rubble, they have no one now.”
Lt. Gen. Abdel Ghani al-Asadi, of Iraq’s special forces, said earlier in the day that Iraqi forces are just 250 meters (yards) from the Tigris River, in the western half of Mosul. The Tigris divides the city roughly into its western and eastern half, which was liberated from IS militants back in January.
IS militants who remain trapped in just a few hundred meters of territory in the Old City are now in a “fight to the death,” al-Asadi said, adding that IS fighters are increasingly resorting to suicide bombings and that he expects the fighting to get even heavier as they are pushed closer to the river.
Iraqi forces marked a significant victory this week when the Rapid Response Division retook Mosul’s main hospital complex on the city’s western side.
The building that once held the city’s best medical facilities now sits devastated by the fight. For weeks, a handful of IS snipers perched in the main hospital’s top floors held back hundreds of Iraqi forces.
Iraqi forces launched the operation to retake Mosul, the country’s second largest city, in October. IS overran Mosul in a matter of days in 2014. At the height of the extremists’ power, they held nearly a third of Iraq.
A man who asked to only be referred to as Abu Abid, for fear for his family’s safety, was waiting to get a spot on a truck after fleeing the Old City.
“That place, it was absolute death,” he said. “We will never be the same. Once the fear has been planted in your heart, you can’t get rid of it.”
If you’re looking for tips on how to shirk military service, you’re about forty-some years too late. And if you’re looking to dodge a draft, you are also probably not our target audience.
For those unfamiliar with their civic duty, U.S. law says all male citizens of the United States and male immigrants (and bizarrely, illegal immigrants, too) have to register for the Selective Service System (SSS — aka “The Draft”) within 30 days of their 18th birthday. You are not joining the military but registering with the government to be available in a time where a draft would be necessary.
The U.S. first started drafting civilians during the Civil War. Back then, rich men had many other options open to them avoiding Civil War service. To dodge the Civil War draft, people could pay a less wealthy person to take their place in the draft, pay a crooked doctor to give them a bad health exam, or outright bribe draft officials.
The modern Selective Service system was established to raise an army to fight in Europe during World War I. It was used again from 1940-47 to raise troops to fight World War II, and then again to meet the needs for the Korean War. Between the end of WWII and the Korean War, men could just be drafted to serve, regardless of the demands of a national emergency.
After Vietnam, President Gerald Ford abolished the draft entirely in 1975 but President Carter established the draft system in place today as a response to the potential threat posed by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
President Nixon established a draft lottery in 1969 but stopped drafting military-age males in 1973 when the U.S. military became an all-volunteer force, but not before an estimated half million people avoided conscription.
There were two kinds of methods to avoid being drafted when you number was called: illegal and legal. There were a few laws in place relevant to Selective Service meant to keep necessary men in their homes and with their families. Purposely pursuing a legal waiver or deferment for any reason is draft avoidance. Those who could not meet the criteria for legal would mitigate their responsibilities by illegal means, this is called draft evasion or more popularly known as “draft dodging.”
Those who received deferments (especially politicians and other people who like to closely associate themselves with the military) will fervently argue there is a distinct difference. Here are 11 ways people beat the draft in the 1970s.
1. Be a Conscientious Objector
Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mennonites, the Amish, and Quakers are all considered Peace Churches who are opposed to any kind of military service. They were allowed to serve in other ways, however, but in a civilian capacity. Dishonest conscientious objection would be illegal. You can still be awesome as a CO, by the way. Clergymen and missionaries were also exempt from the draft, which is how Mitt Romney deferred while spending two years in France as a Mormon missionary.
2. Make up a health condition
The military is surprisingly strict about the medical conditions of those it enlists, even if they really need the manpower. Gastritis, ulcers, hepatitis and anemia are all common, treatable conditions the military will flat-out reject you for having. Diabetics are out, too.
If you don’t have one of these or you’re in perfect health, just make up a health problem! During the Vietnam draft, people would stay awake for days ahead of their medical screening, do a lot of illegal drugs, or otherwise make themselves appear generally unhealthy to avoid being draft. Ask Ted Nugent about doing meth and crapping his pants to avoid the draft.
3. Have children who need you
Men with children and families who depend on those men for their livelihood are in a lower draft priority than single men or childless husbands.
4. Be a homosexual
And if you’re not a homosexual, pretend to be! In the 1960s and 1970s, it was perfectly fine to both ask and tell. If men out to dodge the draft were afraid they wouldn’t be asked, they would wear women’s underwear to the medical exams.
5. Run away to Canada
Upwards of 40,000 draft dodgers fled to Canada between 1965 and 1975. Many stayed in Canada after the war’s end, and some even stayed after President Carter pardoned them all on his first day in office. Those who stayed became Canadian citizens.
6. Go to college
Student deferments were very common ways of beating the draft, though many students were really in school to be in school and not simply to avoid Vietnam. Notable examples of those receiving student deferments include Bill Clinton (1 deferment), Joe Biden (5 deferments), and Dick Cheney (5 deferments).
While a college deferment was very common, it is still a major point of contention for politicians seeking office today.
7. Have a high lottery number
366 plastic capsules, each with one date of the year, were dumped in a large glass container, then drawn, opened, and assigned sequentially rising numbers. The first capsule was September 14. So all men born on that date, from 1944 through 1950, received the first priority for call to duty.
The remaining capsules were drawn and assigned a number. A second lottery was also conducted for the 26 letters of the alphabet, to determine the order of priority (by last name) for each date. The highest draft number drawn was 195.
8. Hold an “essential” civilian job
These are also known as “reserved occupations” and are so necessary to a country’s war effort, drafting them is illegal. The jobs cannot be done by others and cannot be completely abandoned, but those men were required to continue working that job.
9. Get married
In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson changed the draft law to allow married males to be drafted, if they didn’t have children. Before August 26, 1965, however, getting hitched was a Get Out of Vietnam Free card. Johnson quietly changed the rules to keep up with the demands of the war. Hundreds of couples on the West Coast ended up in shotgun marriages to avoid serving.
10. Forge military ID or reserve papers
Some men in Northern states formed groups which made fraudulent National Guard or Reserve papers, identifying men who bore them as having already enlisted. For upwards of $5000, men could acquire these papers and take them to the local draft board to be relieved of their obligation.
11. Enlist anytime
Even during Vietnam, men received credit for serving. If you completed a military service obligation, you couldn’t be forced to re-enter the military. If you called up to be drafted, you could avoid it by enlisting and choosing your service.
If you couldn’t remember any of these tips, you could just learn the words to Phil Ochs’ “Draft Dodger Rag”
Failing to register for the draft could mean ineligibility to hold a government job, the inability to apply for student loans through the Department of Education, and a condition of citizenship for immigrants who arrived before their 26th birthday. It is also punishable by a 250,000 fine and up to five years imprisonment, among other consequences.
So it’s a good idea to register. The U.S. is unlikely to have a war which requires national conscription anytime soon and there hasn’t been a real draft since the last days of the Vietnam War.
It could be argued that the one persistent challenge faced by the Air Force over its 70-year history is how to best integrate Airmen with cutting-edge technology.
Most pressing, from the earliest days of aviation, was the need to protect the human body from the potentially deadly forces generated by advances in aircraft speed, maneuverability and altitude capabilities.
Even in the pre-Air Force days leading up to WWII, altitudes were being achieved that necessitated aircraft with oxygen systems to keep pilots and crews coherent and alive during missions. This was closely followed by the development of aircraft with a pressurized fuselage, such as the B-29, which allowed crews to fly high-altitude missions without oxygen masks and cumbersome heated flight suits to protect them from sub-zero temperatures.
The advent of the jet age led to ever increasing altitudes and gravitational forces (G-forces) on the pilot, necessitating the development of G-suits to push blood to the pilot’s brain, minimizing blackouts, and ejection seats to allow pilots to safely escape aircraft operating at high speed and altitude.
The testing of these technologies quickly became the public face of the Air Force’s human performance research and human factors engineering.
Baby Boomers routinely saw newsreel films and photos in magazines of researchers testing ways to protect pilots from the effects of high G-forces and altitudes with rocket sleds, centrifuges, atmospheric chambers and even balloons used in Project Excelsior as an Airman, Col. Joseph Kittinger, protected by a pressure suit, made a free-fall jump from 19 miles above the Earth’s surface.
It was physiological research necessary to keep advancing the Air Force’s capabilities in the air, and later, in space. But it also made for good theater for the public.
However, from the very beginnings of the Air Force, there has been concurrent, less theatrical study of another interface between humans and their machines that has been just as ground breaking; that between the machine and the human brain.
It is research that is pivoting from an emphasis on optimizing tools for use by Airmen to creating technologies that will work with Airmen, as a partner.
Cognitive research by the Air Force began with an issue created by the U.S.’s enormous production output during WWII: lack of uniformity between aircraft cockpits and displays.
“There wasn’t such a thing as a standard cockpit configuration and aviators were confusing things like landing gear and putting flaps down,” said Dr. Morley Stone, the Chief Technology Officer for the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. “Of course, that was leading to a variety of mishaps … Really, that gave birth to the whole field of human factors engineering.”
Lt. Col. Paul Fitts led the research team at Wright Patterson AFB that developed a consistent method for laying out an aircraft cockpit and instruments allowing a pilot to quickly and efficiently comprehend the current state of the aircraft. They also developed methods to manipulate controls more reliably, no matter the airframe.
The autonomous capability that we currently have is fairly nascent. Current algorithms are limited, certainly imperfect. We want to design to remedy that … intelligent assistants that sit on your shoulder that sift through data that look for correlations and relationships and present those in an easily digestible way to our Airmen to consider. ILLUSTRATION // COREY PARRISH
“That key research that occurred here at Wright-Patterson (AFB), as well as elsewhere, enabled the standardization of the key instrumentation needed to fly an aircraft,” said Mark Draper, a principal engineering research psychologist with the 711th Human Performance Wing at the AFRL. “It’s called a T-scan pattern. Pilots quickly learned the T-scan to rapidly ascertain if their aircraft is doing they want it to do. That became the standard for decades.”
However as new weaponry, on-board radars, sensors, communications and command and control technologies were added to airframes, pilots and crews quickly became overwhelmed by too much information for the human brain to process efficiently, a condition that pilots call a “helmet fire.”
“A key milestone, which was really significant, was the introduction of the glass cockpit,” said Draper. “Over several decades of just adding more controls and hardware instruments here and there, the real estate became really limited.”
“If we were able to put in computer monitors, if you will, into the cockpit, we would be enabling the re-using of that real estate. We could tailor the information towards a particular mission or phase of flight. The controls and the displays could be changed. That opened up a wealth of opportunity to not only provide more capability to the pilot, but also to enable the introduction of graphics into cockpits to make the information more easily understood and utilized.”
These concepts advanced by human factors engineering at AFRL has led to further research making the workflow of Airmen in many career fields more efficient and has even crossed over into the public sector.
According to Stone, this type of research led to everything from the development of the mouse, optimizing how a person inputs information into a computer, to eye-tracking studies to analyze how Airmen best recognize and utilize intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance information displayed on a monitor, to wearable devices that can measure a human’s current physical state, heart rate, blood pressure and respiration.
Yet for all of these advances in streamlining interfaces and presenting data in more digestible packets on ergonomic displays, the limits of human cognition still present an ubiquitous obstacle for the future Air Force to efficiently integrate main and machine.
Stone and Draper believe one way to scale this obstacle is to enable Airmen to share some of their workload with a partner – a silicon-based partner. Draper and his team at the Human Autonomy Lab at the AFRL focus on how to better interconnect human intelligence with machine intelligence as we move into the future.
“Seventy years into the future, we’ll still be limited by the fact that we have a very limited short-term memory, we get bored easily, we’re not known to just sit there and stare at one place for a long period of time. That’s why our eyes move a lot,” said Stone. “We’re looking at a whole variety of tools, not just wearable sensors, but other types of non-invasive standoff sensors that look at things like heart rate and respiration and other physical cues … and trying to get that information out in such a way that you can make it readable to that future synthetic teammate.”
These sensors, coupled with ever increasing computing capabilities, could lead to Airmen of 2087 routinely conducting missions with a synthetic partner that will not only shoulder some of the workload, but constantly monitor the carbon-based Airman’s physical, mental and emotional state before recommending mission options.
“Computational power is getting ever more powerful. Also, computational power is becoming more miniaturized, so you can start putting it more places,” said Draper. “At the same time, you’re increasing the reasoning capabilities of the machines to collect domain knowledge, assess the conditions and create courses of action.”
“We have sensors becoming very miniaturized and able to sense the human physiology without even being attached to the human,” Draper added. “In a vision of the future, Artificial Intelligence can serve to continually monitor the human while the human is engaged in various tasks, and then dynamically adapt the interaction with the machinery, the interaction with the environment, and the off-loading of tasks. All with the express purpose of better team performance.”
According to Draper, one of the Air Force’s first forays into the realm of operational autonomous computing was the introduction of flight management systems into cockpits during the 1980s.
“Up until then, you had pre-planning and the pilots did all the navigation with a navigator,” said Draper. “Then they introduced a flight management system, which would automatically generate routes … give you the waypoints all the way from point A to point B. However, the initial design of these systems was less than great and we ran into lots of problems, lots of mishaps. This inspired research in order to better design how humans interact with automation which is critical, especially when we start talking about increasingly intelligent systems that are going to be introduced to future military systems.”
These initial steps were the beginning of a slow gradation from applying of autonomous systems as advisors, to allowing them to shoulder some mission requirements, to a possible future of handling some tasks on their own.
“The Air Force in its history has focused very strongly on the cockpit and crew stations for aircraft. However, where we’re going is expanding well beyond the cockpit,” said Draper.
“The autonomous capability that we currently have is fairly nascent. Current algorithms are limited, certainly imperfect. We want to design to remedy that … intelligent assistants that sit on your shoulder that sift through data that look for correlations and relationships and present those in an easily digestible way to our Airmen to consider … We want to reduce the overall workload associated with the Airmen, but the Airmen still retain key decision making authority.”
The key ingredient in a symbiosis between carbon-based and silicon-based Airmen is the development of trust.
Consider the amount of trust you have that your consumer grade GPS or cellular navigation system will correctly plot the best route to your destination and give you timely cues to execute that route. This is the bridge that must be designed and optimized between Airmen and their synthetic counterparts.
“As autonomy becomes more trusted, as it becomes more capable, then the Airmen can start off-loading more decision-making capability on the autonomy, and autonomy can exercise increasingly important levels of decision making,” said Draper. “That’s a migration you slowly incorporate as you unleash autonomy, as its capability dictates, and then you reel it back in when you need to, when your trust in it drops and you know that you need to become more engaged, you tighten the leash. The Airman and machine will share decision making, and at times one or the other takes the lead depending on the particular context.”
Draper said this trust will be achieved by a paradigm designed with a series of checks and balances, where Airmen can override an autonomous decision and Artificial Intelligence can sense an Airman’s fatigue, stress or miscalculation and suggest an alternative course of action.
“Humans make errors too, right? We all know this,” said Draper. “We should have an almost equivalent Artificial Intelligence looking at overall system performance, telling the aiman, ‘Hey, human! What you’re doing here potentially can really disrupt some complex things. Do you really want to do that?'”
Draper believes autonomous systems will never be given the keys to the kingdom and turned loose to execute missions completely on their own without human management and authorization. There will always be an Airman in the loop working with technology, to do the right thing. The nature and level of Airman engagement will change with new technology, but the critical role of the Airman, as supervisor, teammate, overseer, will persist.
“Imagine a perfect assistant with you while you work on a car. You’re struggling and you’re switching between many different tasks. All the while, you have this intelligent assistant that is constantly supporting you; reaching and moving tools out of your way and bringing in new tools when you need it, or showing you pictures and giving you computer readouts of the engine at exactly the right time. That sort of symbiotic tight-synced relationship between humans and autonomy is what I envision 70 years from now. True teammates,” said Draper.
When the military adopted the V-22 tiltrotor aircraft in 2007, there were legions of naysayers who thought the military’s first tiltrotor was too unsafe and too expensive to be added to the fleet.
But while the V-22 did have a spotted history during development, it wasn’t the first military tiltrotor aircraft. A few such aircraft were in the early stages of development during World War II, and the U.S. Army bought a tiltrotor aircraft in 1956 — over 30 years before the first V-22 flew in 1989.
The Doak Model 16 was a vertical take-off and landing aircraft that used ducted tilt-rotors to generate forward thrust and — in the vertical flight mode — lift. Like the V-22, the Model 16 only rotated its rotors when transitioning between flight modes.
The Doak company spent years developing VTOL technologies before it sold a single Model 16 to the Army for further testing and development. For its part, the Army dubbed the Model 16 the VZ-4 and flew it for three years, evaluating its flight characteristics and the potential for full production and deployment.
Cobbled together with parts from other planes and using still experimental tiltrotor technologies, the VZ-4 had fairly impressive stats. It was capable of flying at 229 mph and had a 229-mile range.
But, the plane struggled with some “undesirable characteristics,” especially during the transitions between vertical and horizontal flight. The most problematic was a tendency for the nose of the aircraft to rise in relation to the tail during the switch between flight modes.
Ultimately, the Army passed on purchasing more of the planes and loaned its single Model 16 to NASA for continued tests. When NASA was finished with it, the aircraft was sent to the Army Transportation Museum at Fort Eustis, Virginia.
Nowadays, the performance of the CV-22 and MV-22 Osprey has left little doubt that there’s a place in the military inventory for tiltrotor aircraft. The Ospreys can fly from patches of dirt or relatively small ships at sea that traditional planes could never operate from. And they can fly for over 1,000 miles without refueling, over twice the range of the CH-47 Chinook helicopter.
It’s particularly poignant when members of the military community share their own stories. Hollywood has a fascination with depicting battles, wars, and heroes, but there’s an intimacy and truth that comes from the minds of those who actually lived those experiences.
Who better to explore war than those that fought it? Than those that are haunted by it? Than those who lost someone on the battlefield?
In honor of Veteran’s Day, we are proud to amplify the stories of three members of our own community who are exploring the military experience from very different, and yet very universal, perspectives. From memoirs to war poems to coffee digital publications, these storytellers are contributing to the dialogue about what it means to serve.
You won’t want to miss their work:
Just got my copy of #TheKnockattheDoor. I’ve read #BrothersForever and am looking forward to reading this. @TMFoundation @rmanionpic.twitter.com/adIdbBkBs3
Ryan Manion has devoted her life to carrying on the legacy of her brother, 1st Lt. Travis Manion, who was killed in the line of duty while serving in the United States Marine Corps. On April 29, 2007, Travis was ambushed in the Al Anbar province of Iraq, along with his fellow Marines and their Iraqi Army counterparts. “Leading the counterattack against the enemy forces, Travis was fatally wounded by an enemy sniper while aiding and drawing fire away from his wounded teammates,” reads his bio on the website of the Travis Manion Foundation, which empowers veterans and families of the fallen to thrive.
Ryan, who has served as the President of the foundation since 2012, is a well-respected member of the military community. On Nov. 5, 2019, Ryan joined Heather Kelly and Amy Looney Heffernan to release Knock at the Door, a book that shares their experiences about joining the Gold Star family and the inspiring and unlikely journey “that began on the worst day of their lives.”
It’s time to caffeinate the troops! For every bag of BRCC coffee you buy through November, we’ll donate a bag to the deployed troops overseas spreading freedom on a daily basis. #brcc #americascoffee #babgabpic.twitter.com/vBANDYQnmL
Logan Stark trained as an Infantry Assault Marine with the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines before becoming a Scout/Sniper on multiple deployments, including one to Sangin, Afghanistan. After his military service, he earned a degree in Professional Writing from Michigan State University, where he directed For the 25, a film about his Afghanistan deployment.
As the film garnered attention, Stark went on to write for USA Today and the New York Times’ At War blog. Now, he’s the Producer of Content at Black Rifle Coffee Company, where he manages the creation and dissemination of caffeine and freedom social media content. BRCC recently launched Coffee or Die, their online magazine sharing military stories and humorous anecdotes from the vantage point of veterans.
2019 Gannon Award Winner “The Art Of Warrior Poetry”
Justin Thomas Eggen, U.S. Marine Corps
Justin Thomas Eggen’s military career within 2nd Route Clearance Platoon, Mobility Assault Company, 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division includes operating as a heavy machine gunner during Operation Moshtarak and clearing the IED threat for Operation Black Sand and Operation Eastern Storm in Sangin, Afghanistan. Like most veterans, Eggen struggled with many invisible wounds when he returned home from combat.
He decided to face the emotions straight on and became a writer, using pen and ink to explore his deployments through poetry. Since the release of his first book, Outside The Wire: A U.S. Marine’s Collection of Combat Poems Short Stories Volume 1, Eggen has released several volumes of work and connected with other veterans on speaking engagements, book tours, and a spoken word book tour with two other veteran poets they dubbed “The Verses Curses Tour.”