Spc. Benjamin Ritchie came to Fort Jackson with the same hope as many others — to start his Army career on the right path by excelling at Basic Combat Training.
On Oct. 21, 2019, he became the first Basic Combat Training trainee to record a perfect score of 600 points on the Army’s new physical fitness test.
Ritchie maxed all six events on Army Combat Fitness Test, making him the third soldier in the Army to earn a perfect score. The San Antonio native, is assigned to Company A, 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment, the “River Raiders.”
The battalion is one of two on Fort Jackson participating in the Army’s ‘field test’ where trainees take the ACFT during the ninth week of training.
Spc. Benjamin Ritchie, a trainee with Company A, 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment conducts the sprint drag event as Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Cabrera watches.
(US Army photo)
Ritchie, an 09S — Officer Candidate, said what ultimately brought him success was his personal dedication to physical fitness and the consistent guidance and support of his unit leadership.
“We didn’t do anything special,” Ritchie said about his preparations. “I trusted my drill sergeants and did my best.”
Ritchie was unable to max his initial diagnostic Army Physical Fitness Test, the soon to be legacy fitness test. For the following nine weeks, he performed regularly scheduled physical readiness training according to the BCT program of instruction and ate the regular meals provided by the dining facility and by the end of basic training, he was able to max both the APFT and ACFT.
Staff Sgt. Joshua Delgado, a senior drill sergeant in Ritchie’s company, said the training was the same as every other cycle.
Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Cabrera with Company A, 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment, observes Spc. Benjamin Ritchie conduct an Army Combat Fitness Test event.
(US Army photo)
“There were no special fitness coaches, diets, or focused ACFT workouts,” Delgado said. “Hard work and motivation — that’s our ‘special sauce.’ Once you get the trainees to buy-in to what you’re doing, they will achieve whatever you put in front of them.”
The company and battalion focused on creating an environment for the trainees to excel. They placed pull-up bars in easily accessible locations; encouraged trainees to conduct physical training in their free time; planned time to familiarize trainees with the ACFT in the evenings; and encouraged friendly, peer-to-peer competition.
The results speak for themselves as Ritchie maxed the test while two other trainees in the battalion scored above 590.
Lt. Col. Randall Wenner, 3-60th commander, said he is excited about the new direction of the ACFT and the work the battalion has put into its implementation.
Brig. Gen. Milford H. ‘Beags’ Beagle Jr., Fort Jackson commander and Post Command Sgt. Maj. Jerimiah C. Gan, pose with Spc. Benjamin Ritchie from 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment after his graduation.
(US Army photo)
“There are naysayers out there about the new test, specifically due to injury,” he said. “We have tested over 2,800 trainees with zero injuries. Ritchie’s performance along with the performance of other trainees also sends a message — excellence in the ACFT is attainable for everyone. The Army needs adaptable soldiers. A fit soldier is an adaptable soldier.”
“We proved that when we asked trainees, who have been focusing on the APFT for graduation, to take the ACFT in week nine,” he added. “Focusing on fitness gives soldiers the tools to excel, regardless of the test.”
Ritchie, Co. A., 3rd Battalion 60th Infantry Regiment, and Fort Jackson have shown proper training and motivation produce outstanding results.
For almost two decades, drone strikes have been the hassle-free, war crime tolerant way to sever the heads of any kind of terror cells operating against the United States in the war on terror. There’s just one big problem with that: Hellfire missiles make a big boom, and when that boom is misplaced, a lot of people die – innocent people. And that just creates more terrorists. Lockheed-Martin has finally created a weapon designed to minimize civilian casualties while taking out the bad guys with pinpoint accuracy.
Actually, knife-point accuracy.
Imagine this hellfire missile, but instead of explosives, it’s filled with pop-out blades.
The Hellfire missile is a staple of drones, helicopters, and fixed-wing aircraft throughout the U.S. military arsenal. The laser-guided, tank-busting workhorse is great for use on a conventional battlefield but not so great when used for surgical strikes.
The term “surgical strike” gets a whole new meaning with the Hellfire R9X projectile, which, according to the Wall Street Journal, has no explosives, but rather it drops 100 pounds of metal blades into a target, which includes long blades that deploy from the missile’s body right before impact. The shards hit with such force that they cut through concrete and sheet metal.
A U.S. airstrike using a Hellfire RX9 to kill al-Qaeda deputy leader Abu Khayr al-Masri in Syria in 2017. Above is the result of the surgical strike.
(New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness)
Also called “The Flying Ginsu” by the people who developed the missile, they say it’s the equivalent of dropping an anvil on a terrorist’s head, minimizing the damage to people and property in the vicinity of the weapon’s detonation. Since the weapon has no explosive effect, it is also sometimes referred to as “the ninja bomb.”
So far, the weapon has only been deployed around a half-dozen times, in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Somalia. It was the weapon of choice to kill a number of al-Qaeda operatives, including Jamal al-Badawi, the bomber behind the USS Cole attack in 2000 and it was the back-up plan to kill Osama bin Laden in his Pakistan compound.
When you think of airborne troops, there’s one unit that comes to mind because of its place in both history books and pop culture: the 101st Airborne Division. Nearly every major World War II film features — or at least mentions — the bravery and tenacity of the Screaming Eagles that jumped into action on D-Day.
Even after the triumphant stand of Easy Company at Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest, the 101st Airborne kept performing heroics that would land them in history books. This happened in the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, and again in the Global War on Terrorism.
Today, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t immediately recognize the iconic 101st patch — the Screaming Eagle. And when civilians see that patch, they immediately think of elite paratroopers. Here’s the thing: we technically haven’t been an airborne unit since 1968, but you’ll still find the words “AIRBORNE” above Old Abe — here’s why.
Yes, you read that correctly. The Screaming Eagles have largely been re-designated away from the airborne world since their reactivation following Post-WWII restructuring. Fun fact: During the Korean War, the 101st was actually a training unit out of Camp Breckenridge, Kentucky, until 1953.
The unit bounced around a little before landing at Fort Campbell and being made into a “pentomic” division — meaning it was structured to fight with atomic warfare in mind. As the possibility of nuclear war grew, the role of the paratrooper in war shrank. The airborne infantrymen of the 101st were still needed — mostly involved in rapid deployment strategies — but the training was shifting with the times, and the times were changing indeed.
Then, on July 29th, 1965, the 1st Brigade landed at Cam Ranh Bay, South Vietnam, and the 101st adapted to their new role in the jungle. Now, we’re not saying that combat jumps into Vietnam didn’t happen — they definitely did — but the 101st wasn’t conducting them.
In case you’re wondering. Yes. It did have a loudspeaker to blast Ride of the Valkyries or Fortunate Son for Charlie to hear.
The Screaming Eagles were tasked with one of the largest areas of operations during the early days of the Vietnam War. Given the terrain and the nature of the enemy, airborne insertion at one point and moving from town to town just didn’t make good sense. They needed an alternative. They needed a way to get from place to place faster, efficiently, and safely. Enter the helicopter.
Helicopters saw use in the Korean War, but it was fairly rare — mostly just for medical evacuations. In the jungles of Vietnam, however, The UH-1 (or “Huey”) Iroquois and the 101st Airborne Division were like a match made in military heaven. The division designated itself as an airmobile division in mid-1968 and became the Air Assault division it is today in 1974.
If you really want to be technical, the airborne tab itself isn’t isn’t given to the troops. That still has to be earned individually. Think of the tab in the same vein as a unit citation.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kevin Doheny)
That leaves the 101st Airborne Division legs in everything but name. The air assault capabilities of the 101st are the contemporary evolution of the paratroopers of old. Now, don’t get this wrong: There are still several units on Fort Campbell that are still very much on airborne status, such as the 101st Pathfinders
Today, the Screaming Eagles are the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) — with “Air Assault” in parentheses. It’s a more accurate description of the unit, since we’re still involved with airborne operations — just not the paratrooper, jump-out-of-planes-and-into-combat type. Screaming Eagles just fast-rope from a helicopter or wait for it to make a solid landing for insertions.
The reason “airborne” is still in the name (and on a tab above Old Abe) is because it’s difficult as hell to change a division’s name while it’s still active. Go ahead and ask the 1st Cavalry Division about the last time they rode horses into combat or the 10th Mountain Division about when they last fought on an arctic mountaintop.
The names and insignia are historic. They’re part of a legacy that still lives on within the troops.
Michael F. asks: Are executions really held at midnight like shown in the movies? If so, why?
By the time Rainey Bethea was executed on Aug. 14, 1936, most of the United States had ceased executing people publicly. However, in Kentucky in 1936 an execution could still be held publicly and, according to the jury at his trial, Bethea deserved such an end, though not without controversy given the fact that the whole thing from murder to scheduled hanging took place in only about two months. On top of that, this was the case of a young black man who had previously only been convicted of a few minor, non-violent crimes being sentenced to death for rape and murder without any real defense on his behalf. He also claimed the confessions he gave were given under coercion. Whatever the case, the jury deliberated for less than five minutes and returned with the sentence of death by hanging, a mere three weeks after the crime was committed.
Approximately 20,000 people gathered around the gallows to witness the execution. When the time came, the trap door was opened and the rope snapped Bethea’s neck. After 14 minutes, his body was taken down and he was confirmed dead. This was the last public hanging ever performed in the United States.
So what does any of this have to do with executions being held at midnight? While a common Hollywood trope is the classic execution at midnight, it turns out for most all of history, this really wasn’t a thing. As with the case of Bethea, executions were largely a public spectacle and, outside of mob murders, people weren’t exactly keen on gathering at night to watch someone be killed; so executions tended to occur at more civilized hours.
Interestingly, the fact that people preferred day time executions actually appears to be one of the chief reasons executions were, for a time in the United States, initially switched to late night, giving us the Hollywood trope that has largely endured to this day.
The earliest examples of this change occurred in the late 19th century as certain states began looking to curtail the spectacle that was public executions. As professor John Bessler of the University of Baltimore School of Law states, “There was pickpocketing at these public executions, thefts and sometimes violence. They were trying to get rid of the mob atmosphere that attended these public executions.”
The fix was easy — simply move the execution time to an hour when most people are sleeping, getting rid of the boisterous crowds and accompanying extra media coverage.
Now, given the switch to banning public executions completely, you might at this point be wondering why the nighttime time slot endured and became popular enough for a time to become a common trope?
One of the principal reasons often cited is simply to cut down on potential for more red tape in certain cases. While there are exceptions, in many states in the U.S. death warrants were, and in some cases still are, only legal for one day. If the execution is not carried out on the specified date, another warrant would be required which, as you might imagine for something as serious as killing someone legally (and ensuring the executioner cannot be charged for murder), this is a lot of paperwork and not always a guarantee. By starting at midnight, it gives the full 24 hours to work through potential temporary stays of execution, if any, before the time slot has ended and a new death warrant must be procured.
That said, perhaps more importantly, and a reason cited by many a prison official, is simply the matter of staffing. Executions performed at the dead of night see the inmates locked up in their cells, with minimal guard presence needed. Thus, prison workers don’t have to worry about any potential issues with the inmate populace during an execution. Further, some normal staff can easily be diverted to handling various aspects of a nighttime execution without taxing the available worker pool, a key benefit given prison systems are notoriously understaffed in the United States.
All this said, contrary to popular belief, midnight executions are not really much of a thing anymore. There are a variety of reasons for this, but principally this is as a courtesy for the various people processing and working on the appeals. For example, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor notes, “Dispensing justice at that hour of the morning is difficult, to say the least, and we have an obligation … to give our best efforts in every one of these instances.”
Arguments for a switch in time slot have also been made on behalf of the loved ones of both the condemned and victims. These people were formerly made to arrive a couple hours before the execution at midnight, and would then have to stay until after it was carried out if they wanted to witness it. Even with no delays, this tended to see them not processed out the door until a few hours after midnight. And if there were temporary stays of execution, they might have to skip a night’s sleep to be sure they were there to watch someone, perhaps a loved one or potentially the opposite, die.
There is also the issue of overtime. While ease of staffing is generally listed as a positive reason for late night executions, it turns out that as states began to move the executions into the light of day again, issues with the other inmates during daytime executions never really manifested, while overtime costs to keep the necessary staff on hand to process the execution at night were not trivial. For example, in the execution of Douglas Franklin Wright in 1996, staff assigned to the execution cost just shy of an extra ,000 (about ,000 today) in overtime compared to if the execution had been carried out in the daytime. Some prisons have also taken to simply implementing special modified lockdown procedures during executions to free up normal staff while reducing the risk of issues with the rest of the inmates.
What about the potential paperwork problem? This has easily been worked around by many states who’ve moved to daytime executions. For example, in Missouri they just switched the time limit to 24 hours, regardless of date. What matters is just the starting time. Other states simply have moved to longer periods like a week or ten days granted for such a warrant.
Thus, contrary to what is often depicted in films, midnight executions have gone the way of the dodo in the United States, though there are a few places in the world that still prefer to execute people in darkness. For example, in India executions are typically carried out before sunrise, with the stated reasoning being staffing convenience — as was the case in the U.S., at these hours more staff are available to handle the execution before normal daily activities begin.
Botched executions are surprisingly common, for example occurring in about 7% of all executions in the United States. Historically, between 1890 and 2010 in the United States, 276 executions were messed up in some way, sometimes dramatically. One young black teen, who very much appears to have been innocent of the crime he was convicted of, even had to be sent to the electric chair twice. After the first attempt at killing him failed and he had to be brought back to his cell, the subsequent controversy over whether it was legal to try to kill him again brought to light the fact that there really wasn’t any evidence against him other than a forced confession. We’ll have more on this in an upcoming episode of our podcast The BrainFood Show, which you can subscribe to here: (iTunes, Spotify, Google Play Music, Feed)
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
The Pentagon is releasing a redacted version of the lengthy Niger ambush investigation that is expected to focus on the command and tactical decisions that led to the deaths of four members of the Army‘s Third Special Forces Group.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has said the Article 15-6 fact-finding investigation is thousands of pages long. Pentagon officials said the report would include an animated video of what happened on the joint patrol with Nigerien troops near the village of Tongo Tongo in northwestern Niger on Oct. 4, 2018.
The families of the fallen and members of Congress have already been briefed on the findings, which were expected to answer the lingering questions about how a patrol of 12 U.S. and approximately 30 Nigerien troops came to be overwhelmed by fighters from an offshoot of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
In a briefing shortly after the ambush, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford said the mission had been expected to pose little risk.
(Dept. of Defense Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
However, the mission reportedly was changed and sent the patrol after a high-value militant linked to the offshoot called ISIS in the Greater Sahel.
Those killed in the patrol were Sgt. La David Johnson, 25, of Miami Gardens, Florida; Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, 35, of Puyallup, Washington; Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio; and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29, of Lyons, Georgia.
Four Nigerien troops and a Nigerien interpreter also were killed in the ambush near the Mali border as the patrol was returning to base near the Nigerien capital of Niamey.
Black’s father has declined to fault the decisions that led to the ambush.
He told National Public Radio, “I would not personally characterize them as mistakes. They were just decisions based on what they knew, and I believe that those decisions were sound decisions.”
One of the questions that is expected to be answered is how Sgt. La David Johnson came to be separated from the rest of the patrol during the ambush. His body was not found until two days after the attack.
(U.S. Army photo)
The noontime briefing at the Pentagon on the investigation is expected to be led by Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Robert S. Karem and Marine Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, commander of U.S. Africa Command.
Waldhauser’s chief of staff, Army Maj. Gen. Roger L. Cloutier, who led the Article 15-6 investigation, is also expected to join the briefing.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
On Wednesday, an active duty U.S. Army soldier brought an active shooter situation in Kansas to an abrupt end by ramming the suspect with his vehicle. By the time police officers had arrived on the scene, multiple vehicles had been hit by small arms fire, and one other Soldier had been wounded, but the suspect was safely pinned beneath a vehicle.
Now, the heroic soldier whose quick action likely saved a number of lives has been identified as Master Sgt. David Royer, a corrections noncommissioned officer with the 705th Military Police Battalion (Detention).
Royer was traveling eastbound when he arrived at the Centennial Bridge in Leavenworth, where he found stopped traffic. MSG Royer was talking to his fiancée on speakerphone when he noticed an armed man exiting another vehicle. Without hesitation, Royer instructed his wife to call 911 as the suspect opened fire at nearby vehicles.
“I assessed the situation very quickly, looked around and just took the only action possible that I felt I could take,” Royer said. “I accelerated my truck as quickly as possible and struck the active shooter and pinned him underneath my truck.”
Law enforcement arrived only minutes later, where they found Royer had already assessed that the shooter was no longer a threat, and he’d already begun providing first aid to another Soldier who had been driving in a different car, and had been wounded in the initial volley of small arms fire. According to police, the suspect was armed with a pistol and a semi-automatic rifle.
Royer, who has served in the Army for the past 15 years, received training on how to handle these sorts of situations throughout his career, including Military Police Special Reaction Team Training (Military SWAT Team), Air Assault School, and a Military Police Investigator Course. While many see Royer’s action as heroic, he’s quick to credit the training he’s received in service for his handling of the situation.
“I was shocked that it was happening, but the adrenaline took over and with the military training that I’ve received, I took appropriate action and took out the threat as fast as possible,” Royer said. “I didn’t imagine (an active shooter situation) would happen in traffic, but it was always in the back of my mind because of how crazy things are in the world today.
Despite Royer’s reluctance to take the credit for his actions, Leavenworth Police Chief Pat Kitchens made a point to address the bravery and skill Royer demonstrated on Wednesday.
“He won’t call himself a hero, but I will,” said Kitchens in a press conference. “He saved countless lives. … His actions were extraordinary, and he should be commended for that. We’re grateful … on behalf of the entire Leavenworth community.”
Despite the accolades of local law enforcement and his command, Royer believes many people would respond in the same way if faced with the same circumstances. The career Soldier’s selflessness in the face of danger echoes similar sentiments offered by other heroic service members over the years, as he pointed out that while his life has value, he would be willing to sacrifice it for the safety and security of his fellow countrymen.
“My life is worth something, but there are also many other lives out there, too,” he said, “so if I can sacrifice myself for the majority, that is my motive.”
Col. Caroline Smith, 15th Military Police Brigade commander, also issued a statement honoring Royer’s quick action, bravery, and level headedness.
“I think many people will sit back and wonder what would they do at a time of adversity like that and would they have the confidence and the courage to act when necessary,” Smith said. “I think Master Sergeant Royer did exactly what needed to happen in order to neutralize the threat. He had a split second to decide and he made the decision and he made the right decision. “He acted with courage and conviction. Because of that, I have no doubt that he saved many people’s lives,” she said. “We’ll never know how many lives he saved, but I can say I’m super proud of the actions he took and who he is as an NCO and a soldier in the Army.”
Reporter James Foley was no stranger to battle zone coverage. This first-hand look at a Taliban ambush against U.S. soldiers shows how he was willing to put himself in harm’s way to capture the story.
Infantrymen from the 101st Brigade were under constant attack and lost seven troops to IEDs, suicide attacks, and firefights.
Much of the U.S.’s military attention was focused on Kandahar, the Taliban stronghold in the southwest part of the country (Afghanistan), according the PBS video below. But, in Kunar Province in the northeast, the firefights were just as fierce.
The video picks up with Private Justin Greer, age 19, getting shot in the head while manning the turret-mounted grenade launcher.
James Foley was a freelance reporter for GlobalPost, Agence France-Presse and other news organizations. He was murdered by the terrorist group ISIS in August 2014.
Russia has warned the United States that it will retaliate immediately if Syrian government forces come under fire from positions held by a US-backed, Kurdish-led militia in eastern Syria.
Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov made the comments in a statement on Sept. 21, five days after the US-led coalition said Russian jets struck Syrian Democratic Forces fighters in the eastern province of Deir al-Zor, wounding several of them.
His remarks came amid rising concerns of a confrontation on the ground between Russia-backed Syrian government forces and the US-backed forces fighting the Islamic State militants who captured large swathes of Syrian territory in 2014.
Konashenkov said that SDF forces had taken up positions on the east bank of the Euphrates River with US special operations forces, and that Syrian troops operating alongside Russian special forces near the city of Deir al-Zor were “twice targeted with massive fire from mortar launchers and rocket artillery” from the SDF positions.
A representative of the US military command in Qatar was “notified in severe form that attempts to attack from districts where SDF fighters are located will be repelled,” Konashenkov said, adding, “Fire positions in these areas will be immediately suppressed with all available weapons.”
Ahmed Abu Khawla, an SDF commander whose unit is leading the fight in the Deir al-Zor Province, denied Russian accusations of shelling and accused Moscow of seeking to obstruct the US-backed advance, the Associated Press news agency reported.
The United States and Russia back separate military offensives in the Syrian war, both of which are advancing against IS militants in the east of the country near Iraq.
The government forces, backed by Russia and Iranian-allied militiamen, have gained control of most of the city of Deir al-Zor.
The SDF, supported by US-led coalition air cover, said on Sept. 20 that its campaign to capture the IS stronghold of Raqqa, north of Deir al-Zor, was in its final stages and that its fighters had seized 80 percent of the city.
Konashenkov claimed that Russian intelligence shows the coalition’s operation in Raqqa had stopped and that SDF fighters redeployed from there to Deir al-Zor. He did not provide evidence.
He also said that a Syrian government offensive captured two villages on the west bank of the Euphrates overnight, taking about 16 square kilometers of land.
On Sept. 16, the US-led coalition said the Russian warplanes struck SDF forces in Deir al-Zor Province, wounding several fighters. The Russian Defense Ministry denied it.
Barrage balloons cover the landings at Normandy (U.S. Navy photo)
The salty spray of the ocean battered their faces as the boat rocked with the waves. High above in the thick grey clouds, the thunderous drone of Allied planes could be heard. In the words of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, these men were, “about to embark on the Great Crusade.”
Operation Overlord, D-Day, the invasion of Normandy, Omaha beach—these words invoke the memory of the events of June 6, 1944 when the combined allied nations assaulted the Western Front of Hitler’s Fortress Europe. As a result of media entertainment, the images that are associated with these words are often historical films of men running ashore through the high surf, John Wayne and Henry Fonda in The Longest Day, and Tom Hanks and Tom Sizemore in Saving Private Ryan. Unfortunately, this remembrance of D-Day omits the contributions of the African-American troops who supported the invasion at Normandy.
The 621 men of the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion were split up amongst the thousands of troops who would storm the beaches on June 6. Their job was to go ashore and raise hydrogen-filled barrage balloons to protect the landings from strafing runs by enemy aircraft. Despite their defensive mission, these men were not immune to the merciless fire of the German guns.
“…the 88s hit us. They were murder.” Waverly Woodson Jr., a corporal and medic with the 320th, recalled during a 1994 interview with The Associated Press. “Of our 26 Navy personnel, there was only one left. They raked the whole top of the ship and killed all the crew. Then they started with the mortar shells.” Woodson was wounded in the back and groin by a mortar shell. After receiving aid from another medic, he went on to tend to the other wounded men aboard the landing craft.
Despite his own injuries, Woodson went ashore and continued to provide medical aid to his wounded comrades. For the next 30 hours on the blood-soaked beach, Woodson removed bullets from wounds, dispensed blood plasma, reset broken bones, amputated a foot and saved four men from drowning. Only after he collapsed from exhaustion and his own wounds, was Woodson evacuated to a hospital ship.
For his actions on D-Day, Woodson received a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. Woodson’s commanding officer had originally recommended him for a Distinguished Service Cross, and a memo from the War Department to the White House uncovered in 2015 revealed that Woodson had been recommended for the Congressional Medal of Honor. The push to upgrade Woodson’s award continues to this day.
Waverly Woodson in his Army photograph (photo provided by Joann Woodson)
Another corporal in the 320th, William Dabney, had his barrage balloon shot out above him. Without a replacement balloon to raise, Dabney dug in and did everything he could to survive. “The firing was furious on the beach. I was picking up dead bodies and I was looking at the mines blowing up soldiers…I didn’t know if I was going to make it or not,” Dabney recalled in a 2009 interview with The Associated Press. Dabney survived D-Day and continued the war providing barrage balloon cover for an anti-aircraft gun team. “I followed the big gun wherever it went. I went to Saint Lo, then near Paris, and then later to Belgium and Holland.” In 2009, Dabney was awarded the French Legion of Honor at the 65th Anniversary D-Day Ceremony at Normandy.
William Dabney and his son, Vinnie Dabney, at the French Embassy in Washington D.C., before their trip Normandy in 2009 (photo provided by Vinnie Dabney)
The men of the 320th that survived the invasion of Europe were eventually reassigned to the Pacific Theater. They trained at Camp Stewart, Georgia, to fight the Japanese and protect friendly forces from the suicidal kamikaze planes. The 320th made it as far as Hawaii before the war ended.
Johnnie Jones, Sr. was a warrant officer responsible for unloading equipment and supplies at Normandy. As he came ashore, Jones and his men came under fire from a German sniper. “The bullets were going in front of you, back of you, side of you, everywhere,” Jones recounted. He grabbed his weapon and returned fire with his fellow soldiers. As he attempted to suppress the sniper, Jones witnessed another soldier rush the pillbox concealing the enemy. “I still see him, I see him every night. I know he didn’t come back home. He didn’t come back home but he saved me and he saved many others.” Jones is one of the last surviving African-American veterans of D-Day.
The contributions of these men and their African-American comrades was invaluable in saving lives and achieving victory in WWII. Though many of them have passed away, their memory lives on in our remembrance of D-Day as their stories are finally told.
Iran commands a 25,000-man army fighting in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, according to the head of Israel’s foreign affairs and defense committees.
Avi Dichter, who formerly served as Israel’s domestic intelligence chief, warned visiting Swiss parliamentary members that the massive army is purposely targeting the Syrian rebel opposition, as opposed to the Islamic State.
“This is a foreign legion of some 25,000 militants, most of whom have come from Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Dichter told the delegation Wednesday, as reported by Reuters. “They are fighting in Syria only against the rebels and not against ISIS.”
Dichter did not disclose his sources, but he does receive regular intelligence briefings in his role.
Iran’s role in the Syrian conflict is as substantial as Russia’s, albeit much more covert. In lieu of massive bombing campaigns, Iran has recruited a large army comprised of mostly Afghan refugees.
The Hazara community is a small Shia Muslim sect in Afghanistan’s predominantly Sunni population. ISIS and Taliban attacks against the Hazaras forced many to flee to Iran, which also practices Shia Islam. Instead of welcoming the Hazaras, Iran converted them into an army, known as the Fatemiyoun division.
Typically, the Qods Force, a branch within Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), is responsible for foreign cover operations. Iran’s government recognized at the start of the Syrian conflict that a war in Syria would likely be unpopular. The Hazaras served as a convenient proxy.
Iran also utilizes Lebanon’s Hezbollah terrorist militias as a proxy for Assad. The Iran-Hezbollah relationship goes back decades, and the terrorist group is far better suited for counter-insurgency operations in Syria than the more conventional Iranian forces.
“The Iranians enlisted Hezbollah … to fight in Syria because the Iranian army is better suited to fight as an army against another army, while the Hezbollah militants are adept at fighting against terror groups,” said Dichter.
Dichter noted approximately 1,600 Hezbollah fighters have been killed fighting in Syria. The terrorist group is an arch-enemy of Israel, but that does not mean he is happy to see them dying on the battlefield.
“The fighting had made [Hezbollah] a better fighting force and more adept in conventional military warfare,” said Dichter.
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Anticipating a deployment is at once stressful, exhilarating, and boring as hell. Here are the 8 basic steps:
The announcement comes down from the Pentagon that your unit is headed overseas at some point. Everyone will respond to this differently. Newer troops will walk with a swagger as they think about becoming combat veterans. Actual combat veterans will sigh heavily.
2. Keeping it a secret (while telling everyone)
Sure, operational security and all that. But you have to tell your family. And your best buddies need to know. Also, those guys at the bar won’t buy you drinks just for sitting there. Is that hot girl over there into deploying troops?
3. First stage of training
“Time for pre-deployment training! Time to become the most elite, modern warriors in the world!” you think for the first 15 minutes of the first training session.
4. The rest of training
“Oh my god, how much of this is done via PowerPoint?” Also, your weapon will be completely caked in carbon from those blanks.
5. Culmination exercise
Suddenly, it’s exciting again. Pyrotechnics, laser tag, a bunch of awesome pictures that can become your Facebook cover photo so those girls from high school can see them. Someone in your squad can edit out the blank firing adapters.
6. Packing (and packing, and packing …)
That brief adrenaline rush at the final culmination exercise will not last. You will realize you still have to clean and pack the gear to go home. Then pack the connexes to send to country. Then pack your bags to go into other connexes. Then pack the …
7. Pre-deployment leave
Finally! After months of hard work, a brief rest before more months of hard work. Also, a chance to “not” tell more hometown girls that you’re deploying.
8. Getting on the plane (or ship or whatever)
Time to go somewhere really “fun” and live there for a year or so. But hey, only [balance of deployment] left until redeployment.
It might come as a surprise to some that the fighting in Vietnam wasn’t limited to the Soviet-backed North or the U.S.-back South Vietnamese forces. Along with Communist China and other Communist movements in the region, who were fighting to reunite the Vietnams under the red banner, there were other belligerent, free countries in the region who had an interest in keeping South Vietnam away from the Commies. Among them was South Korea, whose tactics were sometimes so brutal, they had to be reined in by American forces.
But brutality doesn’t always inspire fear, and fear is what struck the hearts of Communist forces when they knew they were up against the Australians. The Aussies brought a death the Viet Cong might never see coming.
(Australian War Memorial)
Today, the picture of the Vietnam War is often American troops on search-and-destroy missions, fighting an often-unseen enemy who blends in with the jungle. When the North Vietnamese Army or the Viet Cong do attack the Americans in this perception, it comes as an unseen, unexpected ambush, routing the Americans and forcing them back to their fire bases. This is not actually how the Vietnam War went – at all. In Vietnam, much of the fighting was also done in the cities and in defense of those firebases. There were even often pitched battles featuring tanks and artillery. In fact, the 1972 Easter Offensive was the largest land movement since the Chinese entered the Korean War, and featured a three-pronged invasion of the South.
So let’s not pretend it was rice farmers vs. American soldiers.
But the North Vietnamese forces in the jungle did have to worry about a mysterious fighting force, moving silently to close in on them and murder them. They weren’t Americans — they were Australians, and they came to Vietnam to win.
Centurion Mark V/1 tanks of C Squadron, 1st Armoured Regiment, Royal Australian Armoured Corps (RAAC), taking up position on the perimeter of Fire Support Base (FSB) Coral, shortly after their arrival at the Base.
(Neil James Ahern)
Australian special operations units would go out into the jungles of Vietnam for weeks at a time, often without saying a word to one another in order to maintain complete silence as they stalked the Northern troops through the jungles. The Australians committed more forces to the war in Vietnam than any other foreign contributor (except for the United States, that is). It was the largest force Australia had ever committed to a foreign conflict to date and was its largest war. But they conducted themselves slightly differently, especially in terms of special operations.
Just like the image of U.S. troops moving through the jungle, dodging booby traps and getting ambushed, the North Vietnamese forces had to face the same tactics when operating against the Australians. Aussies routinely ambushed NVA patrols and booby trapped trails used by the Viet Cong. When they did engage in a pitched battle, such as places like Binh Ba, the Australians weren’t afraid to fight hand-to-hand and move house-to-house. In fact, the NVA was beaten so badly at Binh Ba, they were forced to abandon the entire province.
A US Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter delivering stores to 102 Field Battery, Royal Australian Artillery, at Fire Support Base Coral, which is just being established.
The Vietnamese didn’t have much luck on the offensive against the Australians, either. When assaulting Firebase Coral-Balmoral in 1968, the Communists outnumbered the Aussies and New Zealanders almost two-to-one. They hit the base with a barrage of mortars in an attempt to draw the ANZAC forces out of the base and chalk up a win against the vaunted Australians. When the 120 Australians came out to clear the mortars, they found way more than a mortar company – they found 2,000 NVA troops surrounding them.
The Aussies fought on, calling sometimes dangerously close artillery strikes from New Zealand and U.S. positions. The outnumbered fought, surrounded, until an Australian relief force came out of the base to help their beleaguered mates. The NVA pressed an attack on the firebase using an entire regiment but were repulsed. Rather than sit and wait to be attacked again, the Aussies and New Zealanders went out to meet the enemy, this time with Centurion tanks. The battles for Coral-Balmoral went on like that for nearly a month: attack, counter-attack, attack counter-attack. The NVA had strength in numbers but the Aussies had pure strength.
Eventually the NVA would be routed and would avoid Nui Dat Province for as long as the Australians were defending it.