Turkey has always been at the intersection of two different worlds, bridging the gap where Europe meets Asia, where East meets West, and where many cultures historically clashed. During the Cold War, it was in Muslim Turkey’s interest to become a NATO ally. It had remained firmly in the NATO sphere until recently. Now the U.S. is giving the Turkish government an ultimatum.
Within the next two weeks the Turkish government has to decide whether it will maintain its complete alliance with NATO partners and go all-in with the F-35 or risk a severe penalty and buy Russia’s S-400 missile system. The Turkish government has already inked a deal to buy Russia’s missile defense system, which would remove them from eligibility to buy the 100 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters it was promised – while facing the possibility of U.S. sanctions and other NATO fallout.
The U.S. Department of State gave Turkey until the first week of June to make the call.
Russia’s S-400 missile defense system.
Russia called Washington’s warning an “ultimatum,” and condemned the threat of sanctions as an attempt to strong-arm Ankara into buying Raytheon’s Patriot batteries and Lockheed’s Joint Strike Fighter. Turkey agreed to pay .5 billion for the S-400 system, one of the most advanced defense systems in the world. Turkey is also one of the manufacturing partners for the world’s most advanced fighter. But Turkey is already building the infrastructure for the S-400.
No one has stated exactly what the economic and military consequences for Turkey will be if they fail to reject the S-400.
James Zumwalt is a retired Marine lieutenant colonel who served in the Vietnam war, the 1989 intervention into Panama and Operation Desert Storm. The son of the late Navy Adm. Elmo R. Zumwalt Jr., he’s also a best-selling author, speaker and business executive. The views expressed in this commentary are his own.
On Jan. 2, 2000, less than 48 hours into a new millennium, the U.S. Navy lost a 20th-century hero and revered, visionary leader.
Adm. Elmo R. Zumwalt Jr., 79, had succumbed to mesothelioma — a lung cancer caused by asbestos exposure, incurred during his naval career. He died at Duke Hospital in Durham, North Carolina.
As a grieving family focused on making preparations for a funeral to be held Jan. 10, 2000, at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, Marine Col. Michael Spiro stepped forward to escort the remains home.
Spiro had served as Zumwalt’s Marine aide, initially during the Vietnam war and later when the admiral was promoted to the Navy’s top position as (the youngest ever) Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) in the summer of 1970.
Zumwalt had been most impressed with Spiro’s professionalism and sense of duty. As CNO, the admiral was about to embark upon various programs that would shake up the naval service. He knew success turned on having a loyal staff in place to support his changes.
When Zumwalt asked Spiro to join him at the Pentagon, there was no hesitation on the colonel’s part. Immediately accepting, Spiro knew by doing so, time spent working for Zumwalt’s Navy was not time spent working in a Marine Corps billet to further his own career. Yet, driven by a sense of personal loyalty, Spiro answered the admiral’s call. The two men developed a close friendship.
As CNO, Zumwalt faced enormous challenges implementing changes that TIME magazine credited with bringing the U.S. Navy “kicking and screaming into the 20th century.”
With re-enlistment rates at an all-time low in 1970, Zumwalt focused on making the Navy a much more people-oriented service. His changes eventually leveled the playing field for all serving — especially for long, over-looked minority service members.
Meanwhile, Spiro, who might well have gone on to make brigadier general had he elected to leave Zumwalt and take a Marine Corps command billet, opted instead to serve at his friend’s side.
Spiro was committed to helping Zumwalt achieve his goal — and with him, Zumwalt did. By the time the admiral retired in 1974, the Navy’s re-enlistment rates had tripled. The evidence the playing field for minorities has successfully been leveled today can be found by examining the faces of the Navy’s top leadership.
Although Spiro retired in 1976, he donned his Marine Corps uniform during the first week of January 2000 to escort Admiral Zumwalt’s remains home from North Carolina.
Having become an Annapolis resident after his own retirement, Spiro, for years after the admiral’s death, often visited the gravesite. Brushing off winter leaves or recently-cut summer grass, Spiro occasionally left a rock on the headstone. The significance of this custom, lost to many today, is a sign of respect a friend had visited.
The year Zumwalt died, then-President Bill Clinton announced the Navy would build a new class of warship — unlike any other ever built. A stealth ship, it was to be the world’s largest destroyer. The ship would bear Zumwalt’s name.
Sixteen years after Clinton’s announcement, USS ZUMWALT became a reality. Built by General Dynamics Corp.’s Bath Iron Works in Maine, this magnificent vessel is now to be commissioned Oct. 15, 2016, in Baltimore.
After her commissioning and official entry upon the Navy’s active ships registry, USS ZUMWALT will depart from Baltimore, undertaking a most unique mission.
Col. Spiro, 86, passed away on Nov. 28, 2015. As was his wish, he was cremated.
Upon the USS ZUMWALT’s arrival in Baltimore in October, Spiro’s son, Peter, will present his father’s remains to the ship’s commanding officer. Following her Baltimore departure, somewhere in route to her homeport of San Diego and at the mandatory distance offshore, USS ZUMWALT will come to a dead stop. The ship’s crew will then conduct a brief ceremony rendering Spiro final honors as the colonel’s ashes are committed to sea.
Sixteen years earlier, Col. Spiro was honored to escort Admiral Zumwalt’s remains home. Later this year, the USS ZUMWALT seeks to return the honor.
Marines manning an entry control point tasked with managing the flow of ambulances heading for the USNS Comfort, a U.S. Navy hospital ship deployed to New York City, ran to the aid of COVID-19 patients whose lives were in danger as their oxygen tanks began to run low in traffic.
On a fairly busy night, the Marines from Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment that are tasked with security for the Comfort may deal with an inbound ambulance every thirty minutes. But on April 7, shortly after midnight, they received a urgent call. A nearby hospital was evacuating, and would be sending patients in a convoy of 10 ambulances at once.
Despite being after midnight, the physical limitations of New York traffic and the pier created a traffic bottleneck that slowed the ambulances ability to offload their patients, and as the Marines redirected traffic to allow the most desperate a clear path to the Mercy, it soon became clear that managing the traffic situation wouldn’t be enough.
When a patient in the fourth ambulance in line began to deteriorate as their oxygen tank ran low, the Marines halted all traffic onto the pier, allowing the ambulance to maneuver out of the melee and directly toward the comfort, saving as much as 15 minutes when literal seconds could mean the difference between life and death.
“Us being infantry Marines, we’re all trained in Combat Lifesaver/Tactical Combat Casualty Care,” Marine Sgt. Austin Loppe said after the fact.
“You need oxygen to survive. And even just going a couple minutes without oxygen, the human brain starts losing function and having permanent brain damage for life.”
Loppe’s Marines from Lima company had no time to celebrate, however, as just ten minutes later they received another urgent call. The ambulance at the back of the pack had a patient that was now also running out of oxygen. The Marines jumped into action, redirecting the flow of traffic and getting that ambulance to the front of the line, but as they averted that disaster, an unsettling realization began to set in. It wouldn’t be long before each of these ambulances were out of oxygen, and as a result, patients stuck waiting could suffer brain damage or even die.
“So that wasn’t something that myself or any of my Marines were willing to let happen to an American citizen,” Loppe said.
Navy medical personnel moved quickly to provide additional oxygen tanks which Marines working on the pier picked up and sprinted hundreds of meters to the entry control point (ECP). From there, the Marines manning the ECP grabbed the tanks and took off for the ambulances, distributing them to the medical staff on board each.
USNS Comfort during its voyage to New York City.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class John Q. Hightower)
Despite the strength of both body and will the Marines had on display that evening, they were unwilling to accept the lion’s share of the credit. LCpl. Colton Flach from Green Camp, Ohio was among the Marines on the pier that night, but he’s quick to credit the Navy and New York City police for their hand in helping to save the patients.
“They’re with us 24-7 on post,” Flach said. “And the moment that we had got that call, I knew that I could count on them to be able to do whatever I needed them to do, and we would do whatever we could to help them as well to get these patients the medical attention that they needed as fast as possible.”
The Marines have played an active role in the Defense Department’s efforts to both bolster governmental responses and ongoing inter-service efforts in places like Guam, where U.S. Navy sailors have been evacuating from the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt due to the spread of the coronavirus on board.
The Marines from Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment tasked with security for the USNS Comfort did not wait for orders from higher or for a solution to be presented from others. Instead, they utilized small unit leadership, a skill of significant emphasis within the Corps, to rapidly make command decisions that saved lives.
“It’s kind of hard to put in words. It’s immensely humbling to observe the Marines and actions that small-unit leaders are making, rapid decisions on their own without any sort of tasking or supervision,” Marine Capt. Peter Hofinga, the company commander for Lima Company, said.
“Despite the fact that this is not really in their typical task group, or what they trained to do, they are able to operate within that friction and chaos to help both the Navy-Marine Corps team overall as well as New York City residents.”
It can be hard to take a precision shot on the ground. It can be even harder to do in the air. Helo-borne snipers are elite sharpshooters who have what it takes to do both.
“There are a million things that go into being a sniper, and you have to be good at all of them,” veteran US Army sniper First Sgt. Kevin Sipes previously told Business Insider. When you put a sniper in a helicopter, that list can get even longer.
“Shooting from an aircraft, it is very difficult,” US Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Hunter Bernius, a native Texan who oversees an advanced sniper training program focused on urban warfare, told BI.
“Getting into the aircraft is a big culture shock because there are more things to consider,” he added. “But, it’s just one of those things, you get used to it and learn to love it.”
A lead scout sniper with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Maritime Raid Force, provides aerial sniper coverage during a simulated visit, board, search and seizure of the dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48), underway in the Coral Sea, July 7, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Isaac Cantrell)
“Eyes in the sky”
Helo-borne snipers are called on to carry out a variety of missions. They serve as aerial sentinels for convoys and raid teams and provide aerial support for interdiction missions.
“As far as taking the shot, it is not often that we do that,” Bernius explained to BI. “Our primary mission is reconnaissance and surveillance, just being eyes in the sky for the battlefield commander.” But every aerial sniper is prepared to take the shot if necessary.
A lead scout sniper with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Maritime Raid Force, tests his Opposing V sniper support system on a UH-1Y Huey aboard the amphibious transport dock USS Green Bay (LPD 20) prior to a simulated visit, board, search and seizure of a ship, underway in the Coral Sea, July 7, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Isaac Cantrell)
‘It can throw you off’
Helo-borne snipers typically operate at ranges within 200 meters, closer ranges than some ground-based sharpshooters, and they’re not, as Bernius put it, “shooting quarters off fence posts.” That doesn’t make hitting a target from a helicopter any less of a challenge.
Either sitting or kneeling, aerial snipers rest their weapon, a M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System (SASS) in the case of the Marines, on a prefabricated setup consisting of several straps the sniper can load into to reduce vibration. “We’re constantly fighting vibration,” Bernius said.
Like resting your gun on the hood of a big diesel truck while it’s running, the helicopter vibrates quite a bit, Bernius explained. “If you’re talking about a precision rifle, it’s substantial when you are looking through a small scope at a hundred meters. It can throw you off a few inches or even more.”
The vibration of the aircraft isn’t the only concern. Aerial snipers also have to take into consideration rotor wash (the downward pressure from the rotating blades impacting the bullet as it leaves the barrel), wind direction and speed, altitude, and distance to target, among other things.
Communication with the pilots, who often act as spotters for these elite troops, is critical. “Going in without communicating is almost like going in blind,” Bernius explained.
Before a sniper takes his shot, he loads into the rig to take any remaining slack out of the straps and dials in the shot, adjusting the scope for elevation and wind. Breathing out, he fires during a brief respiratory pause. If the sniper misses, he quickly follows with another round, which is one reason why the semi-automatic rifle is preferred to slower bolt-action rifles.
Helo-borne snipers can put precision fire down range regardless of whether or not the helicopter is in a stationary hover or moving. In cases where the aircraft is moving, the aerial snipers will sometimes use a lagging lead, counterintuitively placing the reticle behind the target, to get an accurate shot.
Scout Snipers – Aerial Sniper Training On Helicotper
The urban sniper training that Bernius oversees is an advanced course for school-trained snipers, Marine Corps sharpshooters who have gone through the preliminary basic sniper training at Camp Pendleton in California, Camp Geiger in North Carolina, or Quantico in Virginia.
In the advanced sniper program, Marine Corps snipers go through four weeks of ground-based sniper training before transitioning to the air. “It’s primarily 600-meters-in combat-style shooting from tripods, barricades, and improvised positions,” Bernius told BI.
“The first three days is laying down in the prone, and then after that, they will never shoot from the prone again,” he explained. “These guys get pretty good at putting themselves in awkward situations. They get very familiar with being uncomfortable,” which is something that helps when the sniper moves into a cramped helicopter.
Nonetheless, moving from the ground to a helicopter is tough, and a lot of snipers get humbled, Bernius said. Fighting the vibrations inside the helicopter is difficult. “Some guys can really fight through it and make it happen, and some guys really struggle and they just can’t get over it and can’t make accurate shots,” he explained.
In many cases, Bernius told BI, aerial snipers have to rely more heavily on instinct than the guys on the ground. That takes repetition. That takes practice.
But once a sniper has mastered these skills, they can use them not only in the air, which is the most challenging, but also in any other vehicle. The skills are transferable.
Sgt. Hunter G. Bernius, a scout sniper with Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team 3/1, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit and Lufkin, Texas native, shoots at a target placed in the water from a UH-1Y Huey during an aerial sniper exercise.
(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Chance Haworth)
‘I’m doing this for the love of my country’
Not everyone can be a Marine Corps sniper, and each person has their own motivations for serving. “I grew up in a small town in East Texas hunting, playing in the dirt, hiding in the woods. It was a lot of fun. I could do that all day, day in and day out,” Bernius explained to INSIDER.
That’s not why he joined up, though.
Bernius had the opportunity to play baseball in college, but in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, he decided to join the Marines instead. “I don’t regret it one bit.”
“I’m very patriotic,” he said. “I’m doing this for the love of my country. I’ve been in 13 years. There’s been a lot of ups and a hell of a lot of downs. But, I would say love of the country is what’s keeping me around.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
With Confederate statues coming down across the nation, it’s time to ask: Should we change the name of Army bases named after Confederate Generals?
I think it’s a good discussion for us to have as a nation and an Army. When we can assess the problem and make rational decisions, I trust the Army leadership to make the best decision for our force and nation. We may not all agree on that or those decisions, but one of the greatest parts of America is civil discourse. It’s not difficult to see the pain these names may cause or why the current names don’t matter.
I’ve been to countries where they’ve torn down statues and changed names, erasing history without dialogue. There were many more significant issues, but none of those places have peace and prosperity. A statue or name change alone will not change society or bring a land of opportunity. When not done correctly, it divides people. However, this is an opportunity to do something right for the current and future generations.
We can have discussions and study our Civil War for years. There are a few undeniable conclusions. The Confederates attempted to succeed from the Union and the score was Union – 1, Confederates – 0. The Confederates implicitly or tacitly endorsed slavery of people based upon the color of their skin. We can learn from these difficult times in our nation’s history, so as not to repeat them. We should not honor these generals that fought against their country and therefore the right to own slaves.
In my 20-plus year military career, I never once cared about a base’s name, let alone whether the name of a general inspired me. What motivated me were the units that called those bases home. The famed 82nd Airborne, 101st Airborne, 10th Mountain Division and United States Army Special Forces — these and other storied units are what inspired me. We stand on the shoulders of giants. I’d read about these units in books and watched them in movies. The unit lineage is what mattered to me, and I’m willing to bet most of those I served with would agree.
I also didn’t care that they were named after famous generals. They didn’t inspire me or give me a sense of pride. Truthfully no generals, living or dead, ever inspired me. I had the privilege to work with some of the finest generals of our time. I have immense respect for these men and what I learned from them is invaluable. However, I wouldn’t say I was inspired. Why, you might ask? These generals are so removed from the fight that I find it hard to gain inspiration. Those that inspired me were leaders closer to us out conducting missions in the dirt, and my brothers and sisters that I served with.
I will not lose sleep if we change the names of our bases to Fort Tomato or Fort Pine Tree. I hope that we make these decisions with a thorough process. If Army leadership is considering such a process, I do have some excellent suggestions. Medal of Honor recipient, MSG Roy P. Benavidez, Fort Benavidez. Commander of the Tuskegee airmen, General Benjamin O. Davis, Fort Davis. The list of worthy American soldiers is much longer than the number of bases.
The truth is, we are hurting as a country. If this can help our nation heal, I’m all for it. It’s absurd not to have the discussion. Let’s reinvigorate patriotism and pride in our Army. We can run major marketing campaigns sharing the stories of these worthy soldiers. We can all be proud to say “I’m reporting to” or “served at” Fort (insert great American name).
I leave you with only one question: Will you be part of the discussion with me?
CIA Director Mike Pompeo said Dec. 2 that he sent a letter to a top Iranian military official warning him that the United States would hold Tehran accountable for any attacks it conducted on American interests in Iraq.
Pompeo, who has voiced staunch opposition to Iran, said he sent the letter to Gen. Qassem Soleimani, a leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and elite Quds Force, but the general didn’t read it.
“I sent a note. I sent it because he had indicated that forces under his control might, in fact, threaten U.S. interests in Iraq,” Pompeo said at a defense forum at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute in Simi Valley, California. “He refused to open the letter — didn’t break my heart to be honest with you.”
“What we were communicating to him in that letter was that we will hold he and Iran accountable … and we wanted to make sure that he and the leadership of Iran understood that in a way that was crystal clear.”
Pompeo said Iran is working to strengthen its influence throughout the Middle East. As a Republican congressman from Kansas, Pompeo was highly critical of the Iran nuclear deal, which the U.S. and other nations negotiated with Tehran to lift sanctions in exchange for reductions in its nuclear program. Pompeo said Iran is currently in compliance with that agreement.
In a wide-ranging panel discussion, Pompeo would not answer questions about speculation that he could replace Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State. Pompeo, an outspoken conservative, has a close relationship with President Donald Trump and personally delivers an intelligence briefing to the president nearly every day.
Pompeo declined to say whether he has had conversations with Trump about the possibility of replacing Tillerson, saying only that he was very focused on his job as CIA director.
On North Korea, Pompeo said U.S. intelligence on the progress of Pyongyang’s nuclear missile program is good.
“I think we have a pretty good understanding of the scope and scale of their program and how far they are making progress towards being able to reliably deliver that system against the United States,” Pompeo said.
He said U.S. intelligence agencies believe that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un does not have a good idea about how tenuous his situation is domestically and internationally.
“Those around him are not feeding him the truth about the place that he finds himself — how precarious his position is in the world today. It’s probably not easy to tell Kim Jong Un bad news,” he quipped.
Pompeo said the U.S. hopes that economic and diplomatic actions being leveled at North Korea, along with pressure from China, will resolve the nuclear threat “in a way that doesn’t require the military outcome that I know no one is excited to advance.”
Former CIA director Leon Panetta, who appeared with Pompeo, criticized Trump for his brazen tweets, particularly his decision late last month to retweet a string of inflammatory videos from a fringe British political group purporting to show violence being committed by Muslims. The tweets drew sharp condemnation from world leaders and civil rights groups.
He said the White House should have a disciplined message and that Trump should use Twitter to advance his policies.
“I know the president loves to tweet. Frankly, if I had my way, I’d take that tweeter and throw it out the window,” said Panetta, who also served as White House chief of staff and secretary of defense. “It just raises a little bit of concern about stability.”
Pompeo disagreed. He said Trump’s tweets have actually helped the intelligence agencies.
“I have seen things the president has put on his Twitter account actually have a real-world impact on our capacity to understand what’s going on in other places in the world,” Pompeo said. “That is, our adversaries responded to those tweets in ways that were helpful to us to understand command and control issues, who is listening to what messages, how those messages are resonating around the world.”
As US Rep. Walter Jones continues a 15-year effort in Washington to re-designate the title of the Department of Navy, not everyone in his North Carolina home and military community sees the need.
Retired Marine Col. Pete Grimes of Hubert refers to the adage “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” when asked about Jones’ fight to re-name the Department of Navy the Department of Navy and Marine Corps.
Beyond the surface of the name change, Grimes doesn’t see any benefit to the organization by disrupting the status quo.
“Why change the name? What does it achieve? At the end, I can’t think of anything that would improve the stature of the Marine Corps,” Grimes.
Jones has seen things differently.
He first introduced a proposal to change the title of the department to Department of the Navy and Marine Corps in 2001 and has stuck to his belief that the two separate services deserve equal recognition.
The House Armed Services Committee passed the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2018. As a member of the committee, Jones was involved in drafting the defense bill and has several measures attached, including the re-designation of the Department of Navy title.
“The Marine Corps is an equal member of this department, and therefore, deserves equal recognition in its title,” Jones said in remarks on getting the language included in the defense bill.
Jones said the defense bill is expected to go to the House floor for a vote in July. If successful, NDAA will then go to the Senate.
Retired Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Ball of Jacksonville, who served 23 years in the Marine Corps, said whatever name is used is a matter of perception and will vary by a person’s point of view. Regardless of the name, Ball said the operations of the two services are separate and should stay that way.
He said the organization as it is now has been working well.
“Leave it the way it is,” Ball said.
Brian Kramer, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel, said the unique Navy-Marine Corps relationship is an exceptional one within the Department of Defense that should not be changed. He questions whether a name change now could lead to larger, negative changes later.
“I am a traditionalist, and on this issue I think the longstanding relationship between the Navy and the Marine Corps should remain unchanged. This relationship has served both services exceptionally well over the centuries. We ( Marines) are called ‘Soldiers of the Sea’ for a reason,” Kramer said. “Our roots are with the Navy, and I see the short-term ‘feel-good’ benefit of a name change having possible long-term negative consequences. Might this be a first step to the Corps being a separate service? I am not certain we want to go there.”
Retired Navy Capt. Rick Welton of Swansboro doesn’t have a particular opinion on the proposed change the Department of Navy’s title but agreed that the two services have long had a history of working together.
“We’ve been working as a team from the beginning,” Welton said. “We have depended on each other, worked with each other, and done outstanding things together.”
North Korea publicly unveiled a special operations unit for the first time during a military parade marking the Day of the Sun, the anniversary of the birth of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, reports Yonhap News Agency.
The soldiers were armed with grenade launchers and presented with night-vision goggles on their helmets.
“Once Supreme Commander Kim Jong-un issues the order, they will charge with resolve to thrust a sword through the enemy’s heart like lighting,” a North Korean broadcaster said.
The North Korean special operations forces marched across Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang behind the Navy, Air Force, and other strategic forces. The new unit is believed to be led by North Korean Col. Gen. Kim Yong-bok.
North Korea’s special operations forces could be used to counter allied pre-emptive strike plans. Special operations troops recently drilled in preparation for a possible strike on an enemy missile base, the Korean Central News Agency reported. The force also practiced combating enemy commandos.
U.S. and South Korean reports have suggested that allied war plans include the possibility of “decapitation strikes” designed to eliminate the North Korean leadership. South Korea reported that this year’s Key Resolve and Foal Eagle drills included exercises focused on “incapacitating North Korean leadership.”
“The KPA will deal deadly blows without prior warning any time as long as the operation means and troops of the U.S. and South Korean puppet forces involved in the ‘special operation’ and ‘preemptive attack’ targeting the [Democratic Republic of Korea] remain deployed in and around South Korea,” the North Korean military warned in late March.
The North also unveiled several new missiles, intercontinental ballistic missile models, during the parade.
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When James Elliott Williams enlisted in the Navy in 1947, World War II was over, and the South Carolina native probably thought he might have a career no different, better, or worse than any other enlisted sailor. History would have other ideas. He just wanted to join the Navy, so bad in fact, he was only 16 when he enlisted. He and a county clerk altered his birth certificate to make him old enough to join. That was just the first bold move of his career.
It’s notable that the most decorated enlisted sailor in Navy history isn’t a SEAL or anything like that, he was a Boatswains Mate.
Chief Ryback approves.
Today’s Boatswain’s Mates now train, direct, and supervise the ship’s personnel in the maintenance of the ship as well as operate machinery to load and unload supplies. They’re kind of the jack of all trades sailor, the oldest rate in the Navy. They repair the ship, provide security, and even drive the damn things. Not three years into James William’s enlistment, the Korean War broke out, and Williams was aboard the destroyer USS Douglas H. Fox. Being a Boatswain’s Mate, he ended up on numerous small boat raiding parties into North Korea.
It suited him just fine. Williams continued his enlistment even after the war ended. His real moment to shine came during his time in Vietnam.
Yeahhhhhhhh buddy. I don’t know this guy, but I’d follow him anywhere.
Williams was the Petty Officer in charge of overseeing patrols in the Mekong Delta as the Vietnam War was heating up in 1966 and 1967. At the time in his career when other NCOs would be seeking a quiet place to end their enlistment, Williams was tossing ammunition over his shoulder and telling junior sailors everything was going to be okay – and it was, because Williams was going to see to that.
That’s what happened on Oct. 31, 1966, when Williams’ two boat patrol was ambushed by two enemy boats on the river. He collected his “19-year-old and scared to death” gunners, and directed a return fire that destroyed one boat and sent the other running away for dear life. It wouldn’t get away, as the sailors chased the damaged enemy boat right into…
An enemy stronghold.
Suddenly, they were outnumbered 65-to-1. The VC opened up on the Americans with withering AK-47 and RPG fire. You can probably guess what happened next.
If you guessed the Americans retreated, I’m showing you this photo again because you clearly forgot about it.
Williams led his boat and its crew into the enemy formation, with fortified bunkers shooting at them from the riverbanks, enemy boats swirling around them, and all kinds of different ordnance being thrown their way. As he attacked enemy sampans, junks, and other river craft, he called in for help from UH-1B Huey helicopters as the night fell on the South Vietnamese inlet where Williams and his crew were absolutely laying waste to the Viet Cong.
For three hours, Williams and company fought and wrecked an entire hub of VC shipping and supply along with the 65 boats and untold manpower defending it. The Navy wrecking crew killed 1,000 enemy troops in the process while disrupting the VC supply lines in the entire region.
That’s how James Williams earned the Medal of Honor.
Aside from the Medal of Honor he earned on that day, Williams other awards and decorations include the Navy Cross, the Silver Star with gold star, the Legion of Merit with combat V, the Navy and Marine Corps Medal with gold star, the Bronze Star with combat V and two gold stars, the Purple Heart with two gold stars, and a ton of other unit commendations and service medals.
He left the military as a Boatswain’s Mate First Class, E-6, but was made an honorary Chief in 1977.
The Army’s 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta — or “Delta Force” or CAG (for Combat Applications Group) or whatever its latest code name might be — is one of the best door kicking-units in the world.
From raining hell on al Qaeda in the early days of the war in Afghanistan to going after the “deck of cards” in Iraq, the super-secretive counterterrorism unit knows how to dispatch America’s top targets.
But during the wars after 9/11, Delta’s brethren in the Army Special Forces were tasked with many similar missions, going after top targets and kicking in a few doors for themselves. And Delta has a lot of former Special Forces soldiers in its ranks, so their cultures became even more closely aligned.
That’s why it’s not surprising that some might be a bit confused on who does what and how each of the units is separate and distinct from one another.
In fact, as America’s involvement in Iraq started to wind down, the new commander of the Army Special Warfare Center and School — the place where all SF soldiers are trained — made it a point to draw the distinction between his former teammates in Delta and the warriors of the Green Berets.
“I hate analogies like the ‘pointy end of the spear,’ ” said then school chief Maj. Gen. Bennett Sacolick.
“We’re not designed to hunt people down and kill them,” Sacolick said. “We have that capability and we have forces that specialize in that. But ultimately what we do that nobody else does is work with our indigenous partner nations.”
So, in case you were among the confused, here are four key differences between Delta and Special Forces:
1. Delta, what Delta?
With the modern media market, blogs, 24-hour news cycles and social media streams where everyone’s an expert, it’s tough to keep a secret these days. And particularly after 9/11 with the insatiable appetite for news and information on the war against al Qaeda, it was going to be hard to keep “Delta Force” from becoming a household name.
The dam actually broke with Mark Bowden’s seminal work on a night of pitched fighting in Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1993, which later became the book “Black Hawk Down.” Delta figured prominently in that work — and the movie that followed.
Previously, Delta Force had been deemed secret, it’s members signing legally-binding agreements that subjected them to prison if they spoke about “The Unit.” Known as a “Tier 1” special operations unit, Delta, along with SEAL Team 6, are supposed to remain “black” and unknown to the public.
Special Forces, on the other hand, are considered Tier 2 or “white SOF,” with many missions that are known to the public and even encourage media coverage. Sure, the Green Berets often operate in secret, but unlike Delta, their existence isn’t one.
2. Building guerrilla armies.
This is where the Special Forces differs from every other unit in the U.S. military. When the Green Berets were established in the 1950s, Army leaders recognized that the fight against Soviet Communism would involve counter insurgencies and guerrilla warfare fought in the shadows rather than armored divisions rolling across the Fulda Gap.
So the Army Special Forces, later known as the Green Berets, were created with the primary mission of what would later be called “unconventional warfare” — the covert assistance of foreign resistance forces and subversion of local governments.
“Unconventional warfare missions allow U.S. Army soldiers to enter a country covertly and build relationships with local militia,” the Army says. “Operatives train the militia in a variety of tactics, including subversion, sabotage, intelligence collection and unconventional assisted recovery, which can be employed against enemy threats.”
According to Sean Naylor’s “Relentless Strike” — which chronicles the formation of Joint Special Operations Command that includes Delta, SEAL Team 6 and other covert commando units — Delta’s main mission was to execute “small, high-intensity operations of short duration” like raids and capture missions. While Delta operators surely know how to advise and work with foreign guerrilla groups, like they did during operations in Tora Bora in Afghanistan, that’s not their main funtion like it is for Green Berets.
3. Assessment and selection.
When Col. Charles Beckwith established Delta Force in 1977, he’d spent some time with the British Special Air Service to model much of his new unit’s organization and mission structure. In fact, Delta has units dubbed “squadrons” in homage to that SAS lineage.
But most significantly, Beckwith adopted a so-called “assessment and selection” regime that aligns closely with how the Brits pick their top commandos. Delta operators have to already have some time in the service (the unit primarily picks from soldiers, but other service troops like Marines have been known to try out) and be at least an E4 with more than two years left in their enlistment.
From what former operators have written, the selection is a brutal, mind-bending hike through (nowadays) the West Virginia mountains where candidates are given vague instructions, miles of ruck humps and psychological examinations to see if they can be trusted to work in the most extreme environments alone or in small teams under great risk of capture or death.
Special Forces, on the other hand, have fairly standard physical selection (that doesn’t mean it’s easy) and training dubbed the Q Course that culminates in a major guerrilla wargame called “Robin Sage.”
The point of Robin Sage is to put the wannabe Green Berets through a simulated unconventional warfare scenario to see how they could adapt to a constantly changing environment and still keep their mission on track.
4. Size matters
Army Special Forces is a much larger organization than Delta Force, which is a small subset of Army Special Operations Command.
The Green Berets are divided up into five active duty and two National Guard groups, comprised of multiple battalions of Special Forces soldiers divided into Operational Detachments, typically dubbed “ODAs.” These are the troopers who parachute into bad guy land and help make holy hell for the dictator du jour.
Delta is a small, elite unit that specializes in direct action and other counter-terrorism missions. (Photo from YouTube)
It was ODA teams that infiltrated Afghanistan with the Northern Alliance and Pashtun groups like the one run by Hamid Karzai that overturned the Taliban.
These Special Forces Groups are regionally focused and based throughout the U.S. and overseas.
Delta, on the other hand, has a much smaller footprint, with estimates ranging from 1,000 to 1,500 operators divided into four assault squadrons and three support squadrons. Naylor’s “Relentless Strike” even hints that Delta might have women in its ranks to help infiltrate operators into foreign countries for reconnaissance missions.
And while Special Forces units are based around the world, Delta has a single headquarters in a compound ringed with concertina wire at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Few have served their country and community at the level of Floyd Carter, Sr. His service began in 1944 when he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps as a 2nd Lt. Bombardier. He was among the first African-Americans to complete pilot training. At the time, the 1,000 black pilots of the Tuskegee Airmen were just a drop in the bucket of those fighting World War II.
After the war and after the creation of the United States Air Force in 1947, Carter joined the Air Force Reserve. He was a part of the massive flow of moral and material support for West Berlin that would come to be called the Berlin Airlift.
If you’re doing the math, that’s already 24 years of service.
As an Air Force Reservist, he needed a civilian job. In that, he continued to serve, joining the New York Police Department in 1953. Within three years, he was promoted to detective and spent 27 years serving the people of New York in some of the most trying, crime-ridden times in the city’s history.
He retired from the Air Force in 1974 and the NYPD in 1980.
Carter was presented with a Congressional Gold Medal from then-President George W. Bush in 2007. He and other Tuskegee Airmen were also invited to President Barack Obama’s 2009 Inauguration ceremony as well as the premiere of George Lucas’ 2012 film about the Tuskegee Airmen, Red Tails.
Israeli pop star Noa Kirel made a controversial television commercial just after she was drafted. (YouTube screenshot)
Imagine a world where 18-year-old music sensation Billie Eilish, fresh off her six Grammy wins in February, had to report to boot camp at Fort Benning, Georgia, in March. How would the Army handle the media glare, and how would her fellow recruits react?
That’s the situation in Israel right now. Noa Kirel has been famous since age 14 for her YouTube videos that led to stardom on reality television, teen dramas and TV commercials. She recently signed a multimillion-dollar recording contract with Atlantic Records.
The Washington Post reports that Kirel, now 19, has been drafted into the Israeli Army to fulfill her required service under the country’s mandatory conscription law. Noa will serve at least two years before she can return to her career full time.
Some of our readers are old enough to remember Elvis Presley’s Army service 60 years ago. A lot has changed since then, and the Army didn’t have to deal with a pack of paparazzi and a bottomless appetite for gossip on social media at that time.
Things in Israel have not gotten off to a great start. Kirel pissed off the brass by making a commercial for Israeli streaming service Yes+ that has her playacting in American fatigues in a fake boot camp. She’s singing “Let the Sunshine In” from “Hair,” a show that even Israelis remember for its anti-war sentiments.
“Wonder Woman” actress Gal Gadot also did her Israeli military service, but she had yet to launch her acting career at that point. Still, she was already famous as the winner of the Miss Israel pageant, but local media insist that Kirel’s current fame dwarfs Gadot’s at that time.
Kirel may be causing chaos, but she chose to fulfill her obligation even though she could have opted out because she’s got only one kidney. Her commitment to serve no matter what counts for a lot in Israeli society.
“I felt that, because I was famous, I had to serve to set an example to others,” Kirel said. “I know people abroad will probably not understand this, not understand why I have put everything on hold, but it was clear to me that I had to do this.”
Kirel represents the first wave of a new problem facing the Israeli military. The modern definition of fame is changing, and there are dozens of Israeli youths becoming popular solely through their social media profiles on YouTube, Instagram and TikTok.
Making an exception for one big star might be a challenge that the Israeli Army is prepared to meet, but what happens when you’ve got a whole platoon of teenage celebrities reporting to boot camp?
That’s not a problem we’re likely to face anytime soon. It’s not likely the USA will have compulsory national service in the near future. We can’t even convince people to wear a mask over here.
Few American veterans will ever officially earn both the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the title of Crow War Chief. Joe Medicine Crow might be the only one. His other awards include the Bronze Star and the French Légion d’Honneur. How he earned the title of War Chief of the Crow tribe is a feat unheard of for decades before World War II started.
But for all his feats, he was still a Private in the U.S. Army.
“Promote ahead of peers.”
There are four criteria to become a Crow War Chief, all of which Joe Medicine Crow accomplished during two years of service with the U.S. Army in Europe:
Touching an Enemy Without Killing Him
Taking an Enemy’s Weapon
Leading a Successful War Party
Stealing an Enemy’s Horse
The Crow did not likely think this would be so difficult in the age of machine guns and tanks, but as Joe Medicine Crow showed, it was clearly not impossible.
Also, that’s Dr. Joe Medicine Crow. Just sayin.
The Native American GI was working in a shipyard in Washington state for the first part of World War II. In 1943, he decided to join the U.S. Army. He came from an incredible nomadic warrior tradition. He was the last person to hear a first-hand account of the Battle of Little Bighorn and his grandfather served as a scout for Gen. George Armstrong Custer before the general’s last stand. Joe Medicine Crow would carry this tradition forward, as well as many others.
Before he left for the war, a medicine man provided him with a painted eagle feather he would wear under his uniform before fighting. He would also paint traditional war paint under his uniform, placing two red stripes on his arms. And then, he became a War Chief, the last Crow War Chief.
Crow lived to the ripe old age of 102.
While fighting at the Siegfried Line, the border fortification that would take the U.S. Army into Germany, the warrior was ordered to take a team – a war party, if you will – and cross a field under a hail of bullets to retrieve some dynamite from a previously destroyed American position. Joe Medicine Crow and seven fellow GIs crossed a field of devastating fire that probably should have killed all of them, grabbed the explosives and blew a huge hole in Hitler’s vaunted line. No one was killed. One down.
After penetrating the line, Joe Medicine Crow and the 103d Infantry advanced on a nearby town that turned out to be heavily defended. As a scout, Joe was ahead of most of his unit. After they were ordered to flank some German defenders, Joe was separated and decided to take a shortcut. That’s when he ran right into a Nazi defender while running at full sprint.
For anyone else, this might have been embarrassing at the least and deadly at the most, but this is Joe Medicine Crow. He sent the Nazi flying and the Nazi’s rifle across the lawn. The American was still standing as he bent over and grabbed his enemy’s weapon. Two down.
Instead of killing the German, Joe decided to drop the weapon and let his warrior skills take over. The two men fought hand-to-hand for what seemed like hours. When Joe finally got the upper hand and started to kill the Nazi soldier with his hands at the man’s throat. But the German began to whimper, and Joe let him go. Three down.
Then, there’s the task of stealing a horse.
Joe Medicine Crow was scouting a farmhouse behind enemy lines one night when he realized it was full of high-ranking SS officers. They all rode there on horses, which were corralled under guard near the house. Joe Medicine Crow snuck through the guards with only his M1911 to protect him. Having grown up learning to ride horses bareback, mounting one of them in Europe was no problem. He let out a Crow war cry and sang a song as he herded all the horses out of the corral and into U.S. Army lore.