14 Top Gun call signs ranked, worst to best - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MOVIES

14 Top Gun call signs ranked, worst to best

Top Gun is an iconic movie, no doubt about it. The action flick, which came out in 1986, was a blockbuster hit and has stayed popular in the three decades since.


The sequel comes out this summer and its trailers have already made us crave the need…. the need for speed.

The movie’s lexicon has permeated into our everyday language over the years. We tell others to “Cover me, Goose,” “Be my wingman anytime,” or “take me to bed or lose me forever.”

If you have ever been stationed in or have visited San Diego, you might have sung “Great Balls of Fire” at Kansas City Barbeque, sang “Highway to the Danger Zone” as you watched jets fly around Miramar, or hummed, “Take my Breath Away” as you hung out on a beach in Oceanside. The San Diego Padres have even tried several times to make “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling” their version of the Red Sox’s “Sweet Caroline.”

One of the most iconic parts of the movie has to be the call signs.

Everyone loves call signs. They can be badass, cool, funny, and always give some glimmer of personality to a person in a military that tends to dissuade individuality.

(When my unit first got to Iraq, our command floated the idea of letting us pick a call sign. For an afternoon, I went back and forth between “Indian Outlaw” and “Buckeye” (my parents were from India and I left Ohio State to enlist the Marines). Unfortunately, the movie “300” had recently come out, and after having every junior enlisted Marine fight over why they deserved to be called “Spartan” or “Leonidas,” the idea was scrapped, and we were assigned call signs based off our rank and last name.

Hence, instead of “Indian Outlaw,” I became “Echo4Juliet”…puke.)

On the flip side, Top Gun had some amazing call signs.

So let’s rank them from worst to first. We went off how awesome they sound, if they fit the character, and if they resonate with the audience. Here we go!

“Charlie”

Charlie, played by Kelly McGillis, was based on a real-life civilian mathematician and maritime air superiority expert Christine “Legs” Fox. Her character did showcase the amount of data and analytical studies that went into studying and perfecting the art of aerial warfare. But the call sign Charlie was pretty lazy (the character’s first name was Charlotte) and really didn’t add anything to her personality.

“Chipper”

Chipper is barely in the movie and is more of a seat filler. The lack of character doesn’t really give us much to wonder about his name. Doesn’t look very chipper to me.

“Merlin”

When you think of the name Merlin, you think of wizardry and magic. You would think that someone with that call sign would either be doing some type of aviation wizardry. Instead, Merlin, played by Academy Award winner Tim Robbins pretty much looks like he’s about to crap is pants most of the time. Merlin is more apt for Andy Dufrense because of his escape from Shawshank and less Robbins character in Top Gun.

“Slider”

“Slider…. You stink…” Does it have to do with how he gets with the ladies? Or sliding in behind the enemy? Did he slide off a runway when in training and end up in the backseat as a result? Or was he a college baseball player that just had one pitch? I don’t know why this name doesn’t sit well, but it just doesn’t.

“Cougar”

Maybe Cougar liked to go after older women. But, he probably was named after a ferocious animal. Its not a bad call sign, but not that original. His character, losing his edge, didn’t help.

“Wolfman”

Wolfman should have been called Cowboy. He wore a cowboy hat in class, after all. But he does have a personality that shines through all throughout the movie and comes across like an old school radio DJ ala Wolfman Jack. So that pushes him up on the list.

“Stinger”

“Your ego is writing checks your body can’t cash!” Lines like that make it obvious why Stinger is well, Stinger. His butt chewings would make him a great First Sergeant, and when he speaks, he means business. “And if you screw up just this much, you’ll be flying a cargo plane full of rubber dog shit out of Hong Kong!”

“Hollywood”

Hollywood looks good and acts the part. He’s got the shade and swagger and doesn’t seem to lose his cool. The name fits so much that after he is shot down and ends up ejecting and needed to be rescued out of the water, he still looks Hollywood-like.

“Sundown”

It might have to do with the fact he is African American. It might have to do with the fact when he flies in, the sun goes down, and darkness arrives. Or both.

Regardless it is an awesome name. The helmet is even more bad ass.

“Goose”

Image result for goose top gun

Goose normally would suck, but it fits its characters personality so well. A guy with a callsign, Cobra wouldn’t be serenading women in bars, yelling “Great Balls of Fire” after getting in trouble, or taking Polaroids of MiGs…. WHILE INVERTED. Anthony Edwards, the actor who played Goose, later gave insight on why writers came up with the name.

“Jester”

Image result for jester top gun

“You can run kid, but you can’t hide” Jester is probably the perfect name of an instructor. He is wily, knows all the tricks, and is keen to remind you of why you are the student while he is the teacher. He also will break the rules and then throw them back in your face when you break them. (He did go below the hard deck first…..)

Jester was played by veteran actor Michael Ironside, whose own last name should be a call sign.

“Iceman”

Image result for iceman top gun

“That’s right…. Ice…Man… I am dangerous.”

Iceman chomps his teeth at him.

Everyone in the military fashions themselves to be the Iceman type. Cool. Calm. Collected…and Cocky. You keep your cool under pressure and stick to your training and planning. Nothing gets under his skin, and he thrives at the hint of competition.

Iceman looks Maverick right in the face and tells him why he is dangerous but doesn’t go running to higher command. He takes it as a challenge and goes out and wins. The only time he starts to crack is when he’s taking on five MiGs by himself (and can you really blame him on that?)

“Viper”

Image result for viper top gun

Based on Vietnam veteran, Top Gun instructor, and technical advisor Rear Admiral Pete “Viper” Pettigrew (holy Harry Potter name), Viper is a bad ass based on a real-life bad ass.

Vipers might look slow and sluggish but will deliver a quick strike. In the same manner, Viper doesn’t go around yelling like Stinger or Jester. He is quiet and calm and gives off the demeanor of tranquility… until he is in the air.

There he makes short work of his pupils.

“Maverick”

Image result for maverick top gun iceman

Did you really think this name wasn’t going to be number one? Maverick has become synonymous with breaking the rules and flaunting the fact you’re doing it. It has been co-opted by politicians, someone you served with, and is now the #73 most popular boy’s name in America.

The name fits the character perfectly.

Jester : His fitness report says it all. Flies by the seat of his pants. Completely unpredictable.
Viper : He got you, didn’t he?
Jester : [pauses] Yeah.

Maverick knows what it takes to get the job done and has the talent to do it. He also does what drives a lot of the military brass (and Iceman) crazy. He thinks outside the box.

Once he is able to reconcile being a good wingman while still utilizing his talents, it is game over for the enemy MiGs. All we can do is enjoy the ride with the “oh crap” look that Merlin has.

Let us know if you had a great call sign in the military! Comment your call sign and why you got it!

Indian Outlaw… out.

MIGHTY CULTURE

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.

When most of us join the Navy, we don’t expect to be put into positions where our lives are in danger. For sure, we know it’s a possibility; as is joining any branch of the Armed Forces, but not as probable as our USMC and Army brothers-in-arms.

But now that a sailor has fallen to the virus, it’s apparent just how potent and diverse enemy combatants can be.


I served four years on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, from 2006 to 2010. The crew aboard CVN-71 refer to their ship as The Big Stick, personifying the ship as the US’s show of force to allow us to “Walk Softly” throughout the world. My job was to safely and efficiently maintain the electrical and steam plant systems within the two powerful Nuclear Reactor plants that power and propel the ship.

We steamed everywhere from South Africa to England to the middle of nowhere deep in the Atlantic ocean. We also spent six months sending F-18 Super Hornets to Afghanistan to provide Close Air Support for ISAF forces on the ground.

14 Top Gun call signs ranked, worst to best

PHILIPPINE SEA (March 18, 2020) An F/A-18F Super Hornet, assigned to the “Black Knights” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 154, lands on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) March 18, 2020. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nicholas V. Huynh)

Sailing a warship is inherently dangerous. There are cables with thousands of volts of heart-stopping power running through them, manifolds of high-pressure steam harnessing enough force to easily cut a person in half and thousands of people carrying-out dynamic operations both above and below-deck. Not to mention the mighty (and oftentimes unpredictable) sea, rocking and listing the ship with sometimes violent and turbulent waves.

In my four years on The Big Stick I lost three fellow shipmates to these various dangers. Now that the world is fighting a new, global enemy, unconventional deaths like losing a sailor to COVID-19 are becoming a new normal for families all across the world. And now, we see that active duty military members are just as susceptible as anyone else.

14 Top Gun call signs ranked, worst to best

Photo courtesy of August Dannehl

Part of the allure of joining the Navy is being able to see the world. The main mission of the Navy is to bring US sovereign territory, in the form of floating cities like the Roosevelt, to any corner of the planet in just a matter of hours. This allows sailors to enjoy the perks of visiting ports in places like Cape Town, Tokyo and Da Nang. Unfortunately, now, that perk also led to the death of one of my fellow Rough Riders.

The virus likely infiltrated the ship during a port visit to Vietnam’s fifth largest city. Da Nang offered its sandy beaches and opulent hotels to provide some RR for the crew of the TR but before long, the crew was ordered back to the ship, underway early and restricted to “River City” communications (meaning no phone calls or internet access).

Back in 2008, steaming off the coast of Iran, River City was set pretty much all the time (and we hated it) but we knew it was necessary. Recently, this order meant something very serious was unfolding and the sailors aboard knew it.

14 Top Gun call signs ranked, worst to best

Photo courtesy of August Dannehl

When that first River City was set just weeks ago, it was hard to imagine just how serious this situation would be. No one could have predicted then that over 500 Rough Riders would test positive for the coronavirus, a Navy Captain with 30 years of military experience would be fired, a Trump-appointed official would resign and one sailor would ultimately die in the line of duty from this silent, unpredictable enemy.

Living for months at a time on a carrier out to sea, confined to extremely small and cramped spaces, living and working alongside fellow Sailors in close proximity; these truths have always been the downsides of Navy service. Now, in the age of COVID-19, they have proven deadly.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Nigeria just bought the JF-17 Thunder to blast Boko Haram

The Nigerian military has been fighting the radical Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram since 2009. Now, Nigeria is getting some new firepower to deal with the group made infamous by kidnapping over 200 girls from a school in Chibok in 2014.


14 Top Gun call signs ranked, worst to best
Boko Haram fighters. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Nigeria has become the latest country — and the first in Africa — to buy Communist China’s JF-17 Thunder multi-role fighter. The country has ordered three for their 2018 defense budget, which also included funds for the maintenance needs of the Nigerian Air Force’s nine Alpha Jets, which have conducted strikes against Boko Haram in the past. Nigeria also has nine Chengdu F-7 fighters, which is the export designation for Chinese-built J-7 Fishbeds, a copy of the Soviet-designed MiG-21.

14 Top Gun call signs ranked, worst to best
Nigerian Air Force Alpha Jet loaded up for a strike mission. (Photo from Nigerian Air Force)

According to the BBC, Boko Haram, which calls itself “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad,” and is also known as the “Islamic State in West Africa,” has conducted a lengthy campaign against the government of Nigeria. The group has suffered some recent reverses in the wake of the 2014 mass kidnapping, which drew international outrage. The United States has been involved in the campaign against Boko Haram, sending Special Forces to assist countries in the region.

14 Top Gun call signs ranked, worst to best
A C-802 missile in front of a JF-17 Thunder of the Pakistan Air Force on static display at the 2010 Farnborough Airshow. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

To date, the JF-17’s primary user has been the Pakistani Air Force, which sought to replace a mix of French-built Mirages, Nanchang A-5 attack planes, and Chengdu J-7s. The plane was co-developed by Chengdu and the Pakistanis. Myanmar has also reportedly agreed to acquire the plane to bolster their existing force of 31 MiG-29 Fulcrums. They also have a total of 46 older jets, including A-5s, F-6s, and F-7s, according to FlightGlobal.com.

14 Top Gun call signs ranked, worst to best
Two JF-17 Thunders in formation. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Faizanbokhari)

The JF17 is a good fit for the Nigerian Air Force. It can carry a wide variety of air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons from both China and Western countries. This will allow Nigeria to use its current stocks of weapons to try and finish off Boko Haram.

Articles

21 of the US military’s most-overused clichés

There are certain phrases military service members hear on the regular, and by regular, we mean they are over-used like crazy.


While every workplace has its own cliche buzzwords — we’re talking about you there, “corporate synergy” — the military has plenty to choose from. The WATM team put its collective heads together and came up with this list of the cliche phrases we’ve heard way too many times in the military.

1. “All this and a paycheck too!”

Usually uttered by a staff NCO at the moment of a 20-mile hike where you wish you could just pass out on the side of the road.

2. “If you’re on time, you’re late.”

Military members are well aware of the unwritten rule of arriving 15 minutes prior to the time they are supposed to be somewhere. Of course, if there’s a senior officer involved, that might even mean 15 minutes prior to 15 minutes prior.

3. “We get more done before 6 a.m. than most people do all day.”

The time can always be changed, but the phrase remains the same. Military members across the world are usually waking up way earlier than most, and as the saying goes, it probably means they have done personal hygiene, conducted an insane workout, ate breakfast, and started training before average Joe hit the snooze button on the alarm clock.

14 Top Gun call signs ranked, worst to best

4. “Don’t call me sir. I work for a living.”

Among the enlisted ranks, it’s a common cliche that officers don’t do any real work. “There’s a reason why they have office in their name” is a popular saying. So when an enlisted service-member is incorrectly addressed as “sir,” this is one of the most popular responses.

5. “If it ain’t raining, we ain’t training.”

No matter what the weather, the U.S. military is guaranteed to be training or conducting some sort of exercise. But this cliche phrase is guaranteed to come out when a torrential downpour hits your unit.

6. “This ain’t my first rodeo there, cowboy.”

Let’s not ask the sergeant any stupid questions. He knows what he’s doing, because he’s done this a million times before. Cowboy.

7. “Best job in the world!”

Calling your particular field in the military “the best job in the world” usually happens during the times when you would never think it’s the best time in the world. These times include freezing cold on patrol in Afghanistan, running out of water while training in Thailand, and/or not showering for a month-and-a-half.

8. “Complacency kills.”

You’ll find this phrase spray-painted to every other Hesco barrier on the forward operating base, on a sign outside the chow hall, and on the lips of every sergeant major in a half-mile radius. Troops need to stay alert while they are out in combat, and this one gets drilled into the dirt.

14 Top Gun call signs ranked, worst to best

9. “Keep your head on a swivel.”

This one is similar to “complacency kills” but is often said to troops about to go into dangerous situations. Before heading out on patrol, a squad leader might tell his troops to “keep their head on swivel,” meaning: keep alert and look everywhere for potential threats.

10. “Got any saved rounds?” or “Any alibis?”

At the end of a briefing, you’ll usually hear either of these phrases. “Any questions?” just doesn’t pack the same punch as using terminology straight off the rifle range.

11. “Another glorious day in the Corps!”

It could be the Corps, the Army, the Navy, or the Air Force, but it’s always a glorious day there, according to whoever utters this phrase. This is meant to motivate but it’s usually met with eye-rolls.

12. “This is just for your SA.”

This is another way of saying FYI, but with a military spin. SA, or situational awareness, is all about being aware of what’s happening around you, so this is often said by a subordinate to a leader so they know what’s going on.

14 Top Gun call signs ranked, worst to best

13. “We’re putting on another dog and pony show.”

We’ve never actually been to a real dog and pony show, but we have put on plenty of them in the military. A military “dog and pony show” is usually some sort of ceremony or traditional event for troops to show off their weaponry and other stuff. For example, Marines may put one on by standing around and answering questions about their machine-guns, rocket launchers, and other gear for civilians who are visiting the base for an event.

14. “Roger that.”

This is a phrase that should be uttered only over the radio (it’s actually just “roger, over” and “roger, out,” respectively), but troops often say this instead of saying “I understand.”

15. “Bravo Zulu.”

Bravo Zulu is a naval signal that can be conveyed via flag or over the radio, and it means “well done.” But plenty of troops will use this as a way of saying good job or congratulations.

16. “Like a monkey f–king a football.”

A favorite of NCOs and staff NCOs, this comes out when junior troops have screwed something up pretty bad. As you can probably guess, a football is not a good object for a monkey’s sexual relations.

17. “Let’s pop smoke.”

Smoke grenades are used for signaling and/or screening movements. When under fire, troops may want to pop smoke so the enemy can’t really see where they are headed. On the flip side, troops at a lame bar may want to “pop smoke” and go somewhere else.

14 Top Gun call signs ranked, worst to best

18. “Let’s break it down, Barney style.”

Barney the dinosaur loves you, and some military members like to invoke his name to explain things. When a task is complicated, a leader may explain it “Barney style,” or so simply that a child could understand it.

19. “Look at this soup sandwich.”

This refers to someone who has usually screwed up the wear of their uniform in some way.

20. “Ok, gents, we need to be heads down on this.”

A favorite of WATM’s own ex-naval aviator Ward, this is actually a twofer. First, the use of “gents” (oh Lord please make it stop), and then referring to working hard as heads down. Apparently we’ll be more productive as long as our heads are not up or to the side.

21. “You are lost in the sauce.”

This will often be said of someone who has no idea what the hell is going on. In order to rectify, a leader will probably break things down “Barney Style.”

Got any to add to the list? Leave a comment.

NOW: 11 Vets with some of the coolest jobs in Hollywood

MIGHTY TRENDING

This new American amphib will pack a huge aerial punch

The US Navy on Sept. 23 will christen the USS Tripoli (LHA-7), its latest America-class amphibious assault ship that will pack Osprey helicopters, F-35 fighters, and thousands of Marines for rapid deployment from sea to shore.


Lynne Mabus, the wife of former Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, will break the ceremonial bottle of wine across the bow of the 844-foot warship during a ceremony at Huntington Ingalls Industries in Pascagoula, Mississippi.

Once it hits the fleet around 2018, the Tripoli will join the USS America (LHA-6) on the high seas, with the pair of ships packing unique capabilities among the expected total 11 ships of this class. Besides their power-plant and technology upgrades, the Tripoli and America will not have a well deck for launching small boats filled with Marines to the shore.

Instead, the ships are “optimized for aviation capability” — giving them larger hangar decks to store more aircraft, enhanced aircraft-maintenance facilities, more storage for onboard jet fuel, and more high-tech intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities.

14 Top Gun call signs ranked, worst to best
The future USS Tripoli (LHA 7) is launched at Huntington Ingalls Industries. Tripoli was successfully launched after the dry-dock was flooded to allow it to float off for the first time. Tripoli incorporates an enlarged hangar deck, enhanced maintenance facilities, increased fuel capacity and additional storerooms to provide the fleet with a platform optimized for aviation capabilities. The ship is planned to be christened in 2017 with delivery planned for late 2018. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

“The idea is rapid mobility air assault,” Capt. Michael Baze told US Naval Institute News. “So the thinking with me and my Marines right now is, lighter companies, people that can move quickly via the (MV-22) Osprey and the (CH-53Es).”

The Tripoli will also be the first LHA “fully ready to integrate the entire future air combat element of the Marine Corps,” including the F-35B, capable of short takeoffs and vertical landings.

With its aviation-focused capability to deploy Marines, the Tripoli and America allow more standoff from potential hotspot areas.

“I don’t have to worry about force protection for my ship as much because I don’t have to get two and three miles off the beach to deploy my Marines” on small boats, Baze said. “The truth is, I’m over 100 miles right now — we could deploy the Marines from here.”

This will be the third Navy ship to bear the name Tripoli, which commemorates the 1805 Battle of Derna, in which US Marines defeated the Barbary pirates in Libya. The victory is also memorialized in the “Marines’ Hymn” with the line “from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli.”

The Tripoli will be able to hit a speed of about 20 knots, with an approximate displacement of 45,000 tons.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Watch as WATM parties in LA with the posse behind ‘Range 15’

The wholly irreverent, veteran-fueled, zombie killing adventure ‘Range 15’ hit Los Angeles last week – and We Are The Mighty was invited to the party. WATM host Weston Scott ripped off his sleeves and dove into the fun with the guys of Article 15 and Ranger Up, taking over Ye Rustic Inn before taking over the red carpet at the Vista Theater in Hollywood.


Enjoy this look behind the scenes of “the most decorated movie of all times” (as Ranger Up!’s Nick Palmisciano puts it).

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump approves cash for missile upgrades aimed at China

President Donald Trump on Aug. 13, 2018, signed into law a $717 billion defense spending bill that puts China in the crosshairs of a host of new US Navy missiles and tactics.

Beijing heavily protested it and may have scored some small concessions, but the bill puts nearly $1 trillion behind the idea that great power strategic competition has returned and that the US seeks to win it.


The increase in spending comes as China has increasingly edged out the US Navy’s competitive advantage in open waters. The US suffers a missile gap with both Russia and China, meaning those countries have longer-range missiles designed to sink massively valuable platforms like aircraft carriers before they can get close.

The US drifted from a focus on fighting near-peer adversaries like China and Russia after the Cold War, as military planners banked on continued US supremacy to limit potential adversaries to non-state actors and rogue states.

14 Top Gun call signs ranked, worst to best

The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, the guided-missile cruiser USS Chosin, the guided-missile destroyers USS Sampson and USS Pinkney, and the guided-missile frigate USS Rentz operating in formation in the South China Sea.

(U.S. Navy photo)

But with the new defense bill comes a renewed focus on producing as many new missiles as possible to counter the high-end threats from those countries.

China’s YJ-18 and YJ-12 each can fly over 240 miles while meters above the surface of the ocean. When the YJ-18 gets close to the target, it jolts into supersonic speed, at about Mach 3. When the YJ-12 — also supersonic — approaches a target, it executes a corkscrew turn to evade close-in ship defenses.

Russia’s anti-ship Club missiles can reach 186 miles and boost into supersonic speeds when nearing a target.

The US Navy’s Harpoon missile is subsonic and travels just 77 miles.

Simply put, these missiles would chew up a US carrier strike group, with destroyers and cruisers protecting an aircraft carrier. Launching F/A-18s off a carrier could beat back a Russian or Chinese attack, but the missile gap remains palpable and a threat to the US Navy’s highest-value assets.

14 Top Gun call signs ranked, worst to best

US Navy submariners loading a Tomahawk cruise missile onto a sub.

(US Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Samuel Souvannason)

Return to ship-sinking

To regain its status as the world’s premier ship-sinking force, the US has planned a few upgrades and set aside cash for them in the defense bill. It would pay for new long-range missiles for the Air Force and some Navy planes while bringing back a missile abandoned by the Navy after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Today, Tomahawk missiles have a massive range, of about 1,000 miles, but can hit only land targets, as they have in Syria recently. At the height of the Cold War, Tomahawks could strike moving ships, and now the Navy seeks to get that power back.

A modification in the works at Raytheon seeks to deliver 32 maritime versions of the Tomahawks by 2021 that would healthily out-range any Russian or Chinese missiles.

After a successful test of the upgraded Tomahawk in 2015, the deputy secretary of defense at the time, Bob Work, said (according to USNI News): “This is a potentially a game-changing capability for not a lot of cost. It’s a 1,000-mile anti-ship cruise missile.”

“It can be used by practically our entire surface and submarine fleet,” Work added.

Full-court press

But not only will the Navy get increased power to fight adversaries like China — it’s scheduling in some more patrols that could lead to run-ins, as have become increasingly frequent.

With Beijing building up its military presence in the South China Sea and rolling out new warships at a dizzying rate, the US’s return to great power competition will also include training neighboring navies in India and Sri Lanka.

Meanwhile, it says Beijing will remain excluded from Rimpac, the world’s largest naval exercise, until it stops its efforts to take control of the South China Sea.

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

Articles

Almost every rifle recovered at Gettysburg was fully loaded and no one knows why

In the aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg, the Confederate Army was in full retreat, forced to abandon all of its dead and most of its wounded. The Union Army and citizens of Gettysburg had an ugly cleanup task ahead of them. Along with the numerous corpses littered about the battlefield, at least 27,574 rifles (I’ve also seen 37,574 listed) were recovered. Of the recovered weapons, a staggering 24,000 were found to be loaded, either 87% or 63%, depending on which number you accept for the total number of rifles. Of the loaded rifles, 12,000 were loaded more than once and half of these (6,000 total) had been loaded between three and ten times. One poor guy had reloaded his weapon twenty-three times without firing a single shot. At first glance, this doesn’t seem to make any sense whatsoever.


14 Top Gun call signs ranked, worst to best
Springfield 1861 rifle | Smithsonian

One could draw any number of conclusions from this data. But an obvious one might be that for some reason, large numbers of soldiers were not discharging their weapons during the battle but continued to reload anyway, perhaps to give off the appearance that they were participating in volleys. The thick smoke, mass confusion, and thunderous sounds of musket and cannon fire would probably prevent a neighbor on your line from definitively observing that you weren’t actually firing your weapon. You could even mimic the rifle’s kickback as you pretended to fire. In his book on the psychological impact of killing in war, On Killing, Dave Grossman argues this very point, coming to the conclusion that the discarded but loaded weapons recovered after Gettysburg mostly represent soldiers who were psychologically unable or unwilling to fire at the enemy.

14 Top Gun call signs ranked, worst to best
US National Archives

Paddy Griffin highlights a few other possibilities in her well regarded book, Battle Tactics of the Civil War. For one, Griffin argues that the high rate of misfire in Civil War era rifles combined with the inability of many soldiers to reload properly under hectic battle conditions would render a large number of rifles unusable in a short period of time. Loading a civil war rifle, such as the Springfield 1861, was a complex and time consuming process. In the heat of battle, it is to be expected that some number of soldiers will panic, lose focus, or act in fear, leading them to misload and thus misfire their weapon, rendering them useless.

The rifles of the era were prone to overheating and often malfunctioned on their own and the rate of misfire only increased with each successful shot. Inserting the percussion cap, the final step before firing, was easy to bungle or forget, potentially leading a soldier to think that he had discharged his weapon when he hadn’t. There is also the chance that a soldier accidentally fires his ramrod (essential for reloading), then begins to reload his weapon only to find he cannot complete the job. These weapons would likely be abandoned. A new weapon would be claimed but it too could be a discard. The soldier would reload the newly acquired weapon only to find that it cannot fire, and then immediately drop it. Now the rifle is double loaded. There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that in some instances the misfire rate could be as high as 25% during combat. We might believe then that many of the loaded rifles were discarded on the battlefield precisely because they couldn’t fire. Functioning rifles might be desirable enough to be claimed from the battlefield long before an official tally of leftover weapons was made.

14 Top Gun call signs ranked, worst to best
Wikimedia commons

Finally we must consider the high attrition rate of artillery fire, which could engage the enemy at much longer ranges than musket volleys. During Pickett’s Charge, the confederate army marched slowly towards the union lines and only began anything resembling a spirited jog once they had closed to a few hundred yards. Throughout the war, both sides were reluctant to fire until they had their intended target within their sights. By the time they reached volley range, cannon fire would have already decimated whole sections of the line, leaving behind dead or dying men clutching fully loaded rifles.

These factors probably all contributed. It’s certainly believable in light of other studies that some percentage of soldiers intentionally fired over the head of the enemy, or perhaps double, triple, or quadruple loaded their rifles to avoid firing them at all. But 90 or even 60%?  That seems ludicrous. The number of casualties at the battle alone (33,000 between the two sides), not all of which could have been caused by artillery, attests otherwise. Those who misloaded or misfired their weapons were among the lucky ones. Plenty were killed before they could fire off a single pre-loaded shot.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How veterans play an important role at the CIA

Veterans of the United States Armed Forces have always played an important role at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Take CIA’s predecessor organization, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), for instance. Founded by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt at the outset of World War II — and in the aftermath of the Japanese attack on U.S. naval forces at Pearl Harbor — the OSS began its life as a wartime body tasked with mandates to collect and analyze strategic information and to conduct unconventional and paramilitary operations.

At its peak, OSS employed almost 13,000 people: Two-thirds of the workforce was U.S. Army and U.S. Army Air Forces personnel. Civilians made up another quarter, and the rest were from the U.S. Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard. At the helm of OSS was World War I hero, General William “Wild Bill” Donovan. The story of CIA begins — and continues — alongside those of the U.S. military and its veterans.


Today, veterans comprise nearly 15% of CIA’s workforce, and we continue to serve alongside our military partners across the globe. CIA, the broader Intelligence Community, and the American people benefit tremendously from the insight and impact of veterans who bring to their work a wealth of experience and knowledge. They are mission-focused from day one and equipped with the skills CIA is looking for in its officers. Veterans often come into the building with the overseas experiences, clearances, and foreign languages that allow them to dive right into the action. A rich history of close collaboration between the military and CIA makes for a smooth transition from military to civilian service. While CIA is not a military body, its officers share that same commitment to mission and service. Veterans will find a familiar enthusiasm in the air at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

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World War I hero, General William “Wild Bill” Donovan, helmed the pre-CIA OSS.

CIA is committed to the continued to developing relationships with veterans, and in May of 2013, it chartered the American Veterans Employee Resource Group (AVERG) to serve as a link between the veteran workforce and Agency leaders. The group is committed to goals that include the hiring and retention of veterans, education and engagement on veteran matters, continued career development and frequent community networking opportunities. AVERG offers veterans an important link to Agency leadership — one that ensures CIA’s continued investment in veterans and the unique perspectives they bring to an important mission.

Every day, but especially this week when we celebrate Veterans Day, CIA honors the commitment of its veterans who continue to serve and continue the fight in defense of freedom.

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

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Here’s a tragic reminder that Americans are still in the fight in Afghanistan

The Pentagon released the name of a Special Forces soldier who was killed by an improvised bomb attack during a night raid with Afghan commandos in the restive Helmand province, a reminder that the fight continues 15 years after American troops first landed there.


Staff Sgt. Matthew Thompson, 28, of Irvine, California, was killed while accompanying Afghan special forces on a raid near Lashkar Gah. Thompson was a Green Beret with the 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces group based in Washington and died Aug. 23 alongside six of his Afghan comrades.

Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. — Staff Sgt. Matthew V. Thompson, 28, of Irvine, California, died Aug. 23, 2016, of wounds received from an improvised explosive device while on patrol in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Another American servicemember was wounded in the attack and remains in stable condition at a hospital in Afghanistan, officials say.

“This tragic event in Helmand province reminds us that Afghanistan remains a dangerous place, and there is difficult work ahead even as Afghan forces continue to make progress in securing their own country,” Pentagon chief Ash Carter said in a statement. “We will continue to work closely with the government of Afghanistan and our NATO partners to bolster the capabilities of the [Afghan national defense and security forces] so they can provide the people of Afghanistan the peace they deserve.”

The deaths came on the eve of a brazen attack on the American University in the Afghan capital Kabul that killed 14 and wounded 35. No Americans are among the casualties so far.

The top spokesman for the NATO mission in Afghanistan said special operations troops, many of them Americans, are on missions nearly every night throughout the country advising Afghan commandos who are targeting Taliban holdouts in key areas. He said that about 10 percent of Afghan special forces missions include NATO troops, but they’re not usually engaged in the fighting.

14 Top Gun call signs ranked, worst to best
Commandos from the 7th Special Operation Kandak prepare for the unitís first independent helicopter assault mission, March 10, 2014, in Washir district, Helmand province, Afghanistan The mission was conducted to disrupt insurgent activity. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Richard B. Lower)

“This is something that we do nationwide [so] it’s possible that we have some NATO [special operations force] element out in the field on any given night,” said Army Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland during an Aug. 25 press conference. “Our role in that, of course, is that we don’t participate, we don’t go on the objective, but we provide the assistance they require.”

Cleveland said about 80 percent of Afghan special operations missions are conducted solo, with another 10 percent incorporating NATO and U.S. help in the rear, including intelligence and surveillance support.

14 Top Gun call signs ranked, worst to best
A U.S. Special Forces soldier, attached to Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan, and an Afghan National Army commando, of 6th Special Operations Kandak, scan the area for enemy movement after taking direct fire from insurgents during an operation in Khogyani district, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, March 20, 2014. Commandos, advised and assisted by U.S. Special Forces soldiers, conducted the operation to disrupt insurgent freedom of maneuver. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Connor Mendez)

He added that the Taliban have been unable to hold any major city or town, and typically raid a checkpoint, steal equipment and are pushed out by Afghan forces some time later.

The operation in which Thompson was killed included an effort by Afghan special forces to interdict Taliban insurgents on the outskirts of the key Helmand town of Lashkar Gah. It was a “fairly large operation,” Cleveland said.

“It was an effort to clear out Taliban strongholds so conventional forces could move in,” he said.

Though violence has been on an upsurge as the summer fighting season crests, officials say the Taliban isn’t able to mount an effective, large-scale assault to win coveted territory and sanctuary.

“The idea that they’re this invincible force, moving ahead and claiming territory we don’t believe is accurate,” Cleveland said. “We don’t think there’s a massive, invincible offensive coming from the Taliban.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Airmen re-secure Tyndall Air Force Base

Airmen from the 822nd Base Defense Squadron, Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, are always primed to deploy at a moment’s notice to secure and defend bases around the world. On Oct. 11, 2018, that moment came.

However, they weren’t traveling to faraway lands to set up security in foreign territory. They were driving to Tyndall AFB, Florida, to protect a base that had been ravaged by a category four hurricane one day prior.


“Our sole purpose is to be a global response force,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Beil, 822nd BDS base defender. “We have to be prepared to deploy anywhere in the world, anytime, just like that, and secure an entire base.”

Tyndall is only a three and a half hour drive from Moody, but what the 822nd BDS defenders found when they arrived was outside of the expectations many had when setting out.

14 Top Gun call signs ranked, worst to best

Airmen from the 822d Base Defense Squadron depart Moody Air Force Base, Ga., as they convoy en route to Tyndall AFB, Fla., to provide base security during Hurricane Michael recovery efforts, Oct. 11, 2018.

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Greg Nash)

“Our group commander told us before we left to keep a sympathetic and empathetic mindset,” Beil said. “I tried to keep that in my head, but nothing could have prepared me for the damage that was done. The first thing that went through my head was that they definitely needed all the help they could get.”

For airmen accustomed to rapid global response, the call to action so close to home brought a whole new set of experiences.

“For them to have us come down here, this was definitely something new,” Beil said. “We’ve never done anything like this before. Once we took over, we had new procedures for making sure the right people were getting access to the base.”

14 Top Gun call signs ranked, worst to best

Defenders from the 822d Base Defense Squadron load ammunition prior to departing Moody Air Force Base, Ga., to provide base security at Tyndall AFB, Fla., during Hurricane Michael recovery efforts, Oct. 11, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Greg Nash)

The many airmen who have joined the recovery team at Tyndall AFB have undertaken a demanding task and produced real results that lend hope to the future of the base.

“The key here has been adaptability,”Beil said. “That’s always been ingrained in us at the squadron, but coming out here to do this has been a true test of that.”

Among the experiences unique to securing a base within the United States, Beil has found comfort in lending a hand while at home.

“For me, it’s heartwarming,” Beil said. “These are Americans I’m surrounded by. They appreciate the work that we do for them. They appreciate how we’re here trying to represent the Air Force and making sure everyone is safe. We’re the first faces that they see when they come through the gate.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

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The 6 worst spies of all time

Like any other profession, espionage is going to have its legends and its cautionary tales. Some spies are better than others. If you’re truly a great spy, then chances are good no one will ever know what you did or why. This list isn’t about effectiveness, this list is about methodology.


The six spies on this list experienced varying degrees of success or failure, depending on which side of the border the reader is seeing. How they went about their work is what’s most suspect. There’s a reason spy agencies check their employees’ bank accounts, psychological profiles, and alcohol use. Then there’s some spies who just can’t wait to get spying, and they have to flag down the car of the local foreign intelligence agency chief.

1. Adolf Tolkachev

Tolkachev was a great American asset for ten years of the Cold War, after he made contact with the CIA, that is. He managed to do this by leaving hand-written notes on cars with diplomatic license plates that happened to be parked near the American Embassy in Moscow. He even banged on the car of the CIA’s Moscow Station Chief.

 

14 Top Gun call signs ranked, worst to best
This is how the KGB moves you once they find out you work for the CIA. (Melton Archive)

It’s truly amazing that it took the KGB so long to catch Tolkachev in the act. In one day he was tried, convicted, and executed. In the end, it wasn’t his open hatred of the Soviet government or the notes he left on cars a decade before, it was CIA agents (either Edward Howard or Aldrich Ames) who outed him to the KGB. Speaking of which…

2. Aldrich Ames

This guy is probably the reason federal investigators look for certain trouble warnings in their investigations for security clearances. Ames was more of a “bumbling boob” than a master spy. He kept being promoted despite a series of drunken incidents, poor performance reviews, and insubordination. Unsure of how the CIA could allow this to happen? Think about your own job. Is everyone there 100 percent effective? Right.

14 Top Gun call signs ranked, worst to best
Ames also has a very punchable face.

In his nine years as a mole, Ames was able to ID at least twenty CIA operatives in the Soviet Union to the KGB. Many of those agents were executed as Ames lived a plush life on Soviet money, to the tune of some $4.6 million. This is why the Agency watches bank accounts, as Ames expenditures exceeded his monthly salary, he paid for a home and a Jaguar in cash, and started wearing very fine tailored suits. He is serving a life sentence with no parole.

3. Michael Bettaney

Bettaney was a British MI5 agent whose work was so awful and methods so crass, he was actually given up to the UK government by the Russians because they thought he was meant to be a crude sort of double agent.

14 Top Gun call signs ranked, worst to best
Also, Bill Cosby needs his sweater back.

An alcoholic who would regularly try to avoid the drunk tank by telling everyone he was a spy, Bettaney photographed MI5 documents and stored those photos in his home. He was scheduled to leave for Austria to sell the stuff when the Russians betrayed him.

Basically, this guy was the English version of Archer if Archer never succeeded in a mission.

4. Anna Chapman

The laziest Russian spy of all time, Anna Chapman was part of a sleeper ring. She and her spies were so bad at espionage, the U.S. government just shipped Chapman back to Moscow because they didn’t have enough evidence of actual secrets stolen to convict her.

14 Top Gun call signs ranked, worst to best
Chapman in a Russian military video

That’s not the worst of it. Chapman and the 11 others in the spy ring failed in a lot of espionage basics. They conducted monetary and other transactions in broad daylight, kept their communications guidebook instead of memorizing it and burning it, and met directly with sources instead of using an intermediary.

5. Unnamed CIA Lady

This is the person who is responsible for spreading the idea that “enhanced interrogation techniques” (aka torture) are an effective method for getting information from suspects with links to terror cells. Still at the CIA, her name remains a mystery to most, but an NBC investigator found documented evidence this woman not only defended the practice, but enjoyed taking part in its implementation, even on innocent people.

She inaccurately reflected intelligence to CIA leadership who continued a program she knew to be ineffective. Does this not sound so bad? This woman’s name was also included in the 9/11 Commission’s report for not sharing testimony about two of the hijackers with the FBI — which the reports say was one of the critical failures of pre-9/11 intelligence.

6. Stewart David Nozette

Nozette was a space scientist with a very high security clearance. He was arrested in 2009 for being an agent of Israel, spying on the U.S. for Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service. Unfortunately, the Israelis never talked to Nozette. He was actually talking to the FBI the whole time. And they got it on tape.

Nozette worked for a number of aerospace companies in Israel which shared defense contracts with the U.S. He practically announced his intention to become a spy and attempted espionage for $11,000 (a paltry sum, considering what other spies, like Jonathan Pollard, received for their services).

MIGHTY HISTORY

How this Union Army added insult to injury with its battle flag

By the time the Army of the Ohio joined General William T. Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign in 1864, it had already repelled Confederate attacks on Ohio and marched South through Tennessee, chasing John Bell Hood through the Battles of Knoxville and Nashville. After burning Atlanta, the Union XXIII Corps, which made up the bulk of the Army of the Ohio, stopped to create a historical wonder: the world’s best battle trophy.


It turns out that Civil War combat isn’t very kind to the remnants of battle flags, especially those of the losing side. And after years of constant fighting, and a whole lot of winning, the XXIII Corps had a lot of captured Confederate flags.

14 Top Gun call signs ranked, worst to best

I don’t know if you see where this is going.

With all the wear and tear on their own battle flag, the Army of the Ohio decided they required a new flag to fly as they might soon be helping General Sherman March to the Sea. You don’t want to burn Savannah without looking your best. It’s a good thing Confederate battle flags decided to use the exact same colors the XXIII Corps required for its flag.

Using the best pieces of the captured enemy flags they had, the Corps decided to form a new battle flag of their own, made entirely from the shredded, battle-scarred remains of their defeated enemies’ banners. They even happened upon more of the cloth after capturing Macon, Ga. The finished product was actually made for them by the 98th Illinois Regiment.

14 Top Gun call signs ranked, worst to best

The flag itself was recently auctioned off for the low, low price of over ,000. Check it out over at Heritage Auctions.

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