The US Navy is going to eventually arm all of its destroyers with hypersonic missiles that are still being developed, White House national security advisor Robert O’Brien said Wednesday, according to Defense News.
“The Navy’s Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) program will provide hypersonic missile capability to hold targets at risk from longer ranges,” O’Brien said at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.
“This capability,” he continued, “will be deployed first on our newer Virginia-class submarines and the Zumwalt-class destroyers. Eventually, all three flights of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers will field this capability.”
Hypersonic missiles — high-speed weapons able to evade traditional missile-defense systems — are a key area of competition between the three great powers. Earlier this month, Russia test-fired its Tsirkon hypersonic anti-ship cruise missile from the frigate Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Gorshkov.
Given the ongoing hypersonic missile arms race, it is easy to see why the US Navy might want hypersonic missiles for its destroyers, something the Navy has previously discussed, but there are challenges.
The CPS missile is a combination of the developmental Common Hypersonic Glide Body (C-HGB) and a two-stage booster, according to the Navy’s fiscal year 2021 budget overview.
Newer Zumwalt-class destroyers have larger vertical launch system (VLS) cells that could accommodate a large diameter missile with a hypersonic warhead in a boost-glide vehicle configuration, but older Arleigh Burke-class destroyers have much smaller VLS cells that would need to be modified or replaced altogether.
“I think it’s a terrible idea to try to outfit these destroyers with hypersonic missiles,” Bryan Clark, a retired Navy officer and defense expert at the Hudson Institute told Insider. Retrofitting dozens of Navy Arleigh Burkes to carry new hypersonic missiles would be expensive, he said.
What the Russian military appears to be doing is developing a new hypersonic missile to fit existing warships. The US military would be going about this in reverse, refitting existing ships to suit a new missile, a weapon that could be quickly replaced by a smaller, cheaper alternative down the road given the rapid pace of technological development.
“If the Navy makes this massive investment in retrofitting only to find in five years that these smaller weapons are now emerging, that money will be largely wasted,” Clark said, adding that the plan “doesn’t make sense.”
In addition to the steep costs of retrofitting dozens of destroyers and arming them with expensive missiles, of which the Navy may only be able to afford limited numbers, other challenges include taking warships offline and tying up shipyards for extended periods of time, potentially hindering other repair work.
Changes risk making the 500-ship plan ‘unaffordable’
Defense News reported that O’Brien also pushed the Trump administration’s vision for a 500-ship Navy, a vision that Secretary of Defense Mark Esper unveiled earlier this month to counter China’s growing naval force.
The plan, known as “Battle Force 2045,” calls for a mixture of manned and unmanned vessels and is based on recommendations from the Hudson Institute, which presented what Clark said was an affordable path to a 500-ship Navy.
A major difference between the Pentagon’s plan and the Hudson Institute study is that the Pentagon wants to build a larger submarine force, which could drive up sustainment costs, making the vision impossible to realize from a cost perspective. Each Virginia-class attack submarine with a larger missile launcher is estimated to cost .2 billion.
Retrofitting destroyers to carry hypersonic missiles would pull away funding as well. “This missile launcher thing, the additional submarines, all the additional ornaments that the Navy is looking at hanging on this fleet are going to make it unaffordable,” Clark said.
He argued that the Navy should focus on arming Virginia-class submarines with hypersonic missiles and let the destroyers be. “You don’t have to rebuild the ship to do it,” Clark explained. “That makes more sense. The Navy should be pursuing that for its boost-glide weapons.”
“That would be sufficient to provide maritime launch capability to complement what the Air Force and the Army are doing,” he said. Both the Army and the Air Force have been pursuing hypersonic weapons for existing launch platforms, such as the AGM-183 ARRW for the B-52 Stratofortress bomber.
Since early 2018, the Marine Corps has been issuing Marine recruits and officer candidates in entry-level training a “performance nutrition pack” of high-energy snacks to get them through the 10-hour stretch between dinner and breakfast. Now, nutrition specialists want to know which items in the packs these prospective Marines are most likely to eat.
Surveys were distributed this month at Officer Candidates School in Quantico, Virginia to gather feedback on the items in the performance nutrition packs that candidates were most likely to consume, said Sharlene Holladay, the Marine Corps’ Warfighter and Performance Dietitian.
The packs are assembled with purpose; they’re composed of off-the-shelf non-perishable food items that can include fruit-and-nut trail mixes, cereal, peanut butter and jelly packets, shelf-stable milk and more. A typical pack totals 500-600 calories in a ratio of 50-60% carbohydrates, 30% fat and 12-13% protein, Holladay said.
The intent is to give trainees a caloric boost before they head out to rigorous morning PT before breakfast; but that only works if they’re eating what’s provided.
Rct. Thomas Minnick Jr., Platoon 1014, Bravo Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, lifts a 30-pound ammunition can during his combat fitness test Feb. 11, 2014, at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Octavia Davis)
“If you’re not consuming it, it becomes really nutrient-dense trash,” Holladay said.
The survey uses a Likert scale with ratings from one to five, inviting officer candidates to indicate what they are most likely to eat and most likely to discard. Feedback will be collected through the end of October, giving officials a 95% confidence rate in the results.
From there, the feedback will be used to design future nutrition packs. Holladay noted that tastes and preferences change over time with new generations of recruits, and the survey allows officials to stay current on popular items.
The rollout of performance nutrition packs at entry-level training, following a pilot program in fiscal 2016, mirrors efforts by other services to make sure trainees aren’t limited by chow hall meal times when it comes to fueling up.
The Marine Corps dispenses roughly 1,500 of the packs each month at OCS and the two recruit depots in Parris Island, South Carolina and San Diego, Holladay said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
By now, you’ve probably heard about the Marines getting a new sniper rifle that’s forcing the legendary M40 into secondary roles. What you may not know, however, is that the new rifle, the Mk 13 Mod 7, is closely related to the weapon used by Craig Harrison to record one of the longest-range kills in history.
The Mk 13 Mod 7 is based on Accuracy International’s Arctic Warfare sniper rifle, which has been sold to civilians, militaries, and police forces around the globe. The version used by the Marine Corps is chambered for the .300 Winchester Magnum round, uses a five-round detachable magazine, and has an effective range of roughly 1,300 yards. Other versions of the rifle are available, chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO and .338 Lapua.
Corporal of Horse Craig Harrison used the L115A3 version of the Accuracy International Arctic Warfare Magnum to make the record shot in 2009.
(Photo by Mike Searson)
Accuracy International offers an even more powerful version of this rifle, the Arctic Warfare Magnum, which has been acquired by a number of forces internationally. The AWM comes chambered in either .300 Winchester Magnum or .338 Lapua. In 2009, this rifle (using .338 Lapua rounds) was used by Corporal of Horse Craig Harrison to kill a Taliban machine-gun team from a distance of 2,707 yards — a record at the time.
The L115A3 rifle, which held the record for the longest sniper kill until May 2017.
(Photo by UK Ministry of Defense)
Prior to the Global War on Terror, the mark for the longest sniper kill in history was held by Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Hathcock of the United States Marine Corps, who used a modified M2 machine gun to take out an enemy at 2,500 yards in 1967. Since then, the record has been eclipsed four times, including twice in March 2002 by Canadian snipers in Afghanistan.
An ammo depot in the Krasnoyarsk region of Siberia has been the scene of a series of large explosions over the past two weeks, killing one Russian soldier and injuring at least 32 other people thus far.
The first massive explosion occurred last Monday, killing one and injuring at least 10 others. Then, two more large explosions tore through the facility on Friday, reportedly as a result of lightning due to the facility’s lightning management apparatus being destroyed in the previous explosions. Multiple smaller explosions have also been reported at the facility during the intervening days, resulting in more than 16,000 people being evacuated from nearby communities.
MASSIVE Explosions at Ammunition Depot – Achinsk, Russia – Aug. 5, 2019
Soldiers assigned to Russia’s “74008 military unit,” as officials called them, were ordered to take cover in bomb shelters until the explosions stopped.
According to Russian state media, the facility housed thousands of artillery shells and propellant bags filled with explosive material used to launch the artillery. While Russian authorities have not offered any detailed explanation as to what may have caused the incident, at least one Russian Defense Ministry official cited “human error” as the preliminary cause of the first explosion, pending a more thorough investigation.
The local governor’s office offered only slightly more detail, explaining that the first explosion took place during “shell clearing” operations. That, combined with reports of two “disposal sights” that are still burning, suggests that the munitions involved in the explosion may have been old and awaiting disposal. This possibility is bolstered by the fact that the site of the explosion is among Russia’s oldest existing munition storage and logistic sites, dating back to its use by the Soviet Union. The entire facility is slated for demolition in 2022.
Russia’s Uran-14 Robot can supposedly fight fires and clear mines. Two have been deployed to Achinsk.
(Russian Ministry of Defense via WikiMedia Commons)
Russian firefighting efforts, which are already largely taxed by a series of large wildfires in the Siberian forest, are reportedly being bolstered by Uran-14 firefighting robots that, according to Russian state media, can spray water a distance of up to 180 feet and move up to 10 tons of debris.
These claims, however, should be taken with a grain of salt, as Russia also once claimed their Uran-6 infantry robot had successfully participated in combat operations in Syria, only for it to be revealed months later that the robot had actually been a dismal failure.
Unfortunately for the Russian military, these explosions are not the highest-profile incident to occur last week, with another explosion at a missile test site that seems to have involved Russia’s much-touted nuclear-powered cruise missile claiming the lives of at least five and injuring a number of others.
Meathead generals just can’t understand what the brilliant scientist is trying to explain. Soldiers can’t get the job done without the help of the brilliant criminal. The only strategy the military knows how to use is a carpet-bombing campaign.
Seriously, we know that movie and TV writing is complicated, and that movie makers have to take some liberties in order to get their plots jump started, but these seven tropes that rely on military stupidity should really be used less often — if at all.
In Battlestar Galactica, the military got behind a plan to deploy thousands of immortal robot warriors over which they had little control. But, in their defense, the Cylons came back sexy. So… win?
1. Military leaders use dangerous technology because science is hard
The Terminator movies are awesome. Arnold Schwarzenegger is swole, explosions are fun, and robots fighting robots is exhilarating. But does it really make sense that the U.S. military gives control of nearly all of its weapons, from nukes to stealth bombers to cyber defenses, to Skynet, a single computer program that they don’t understand? No human pilots? No man in the loop? No kill switch? Great idea.
The same issues exist within the Cylons of 2004’s Battlestar Galactica, the zombies in Return of the Living Dead 3, and the indominus rex from Jurassic World (yeah, supposedly, the military was secretly buying the data from that research in order to create dinosaur units).
Plots like these rely on the military looking at lethal weapons, over which they have no direct control, and going, “huh? Yeah, sure. We should deploy these things. Preferably, within easy range of our own troops and citizens with little or no real safeguards.”
Seriously, in Terminator Salvation, terminators physically touch John Connor, like, four times and don’t manage to kill him. I don’t think terminators need to eliminate John Connor to win. They need to figure out how to kill in the first place.
Remember when your entire battalion, squadron, or fleet’s mission revolved around one guy, and if he didn’t succeed then the entire battle would be lost? No? Maybe because that’s a horrible way to form a strategy. Nearly all military units spend a lot of time and energy ensuring that everyone can be replaced in case of battlefield loss.
And yet, only one Hobbit can deliver the ring to Mordor even though there are multiple armies standing by to do whatever needs done. John Connor is the only one who can stop Skynet, so much so that the factions fight to protect or destroy Sarah Connor’s womb rather than just promoting a new leader. Surely there’s some other small-unit leader that can fail to detect Terminators until they throw him across the room.
Snake Plissken is the only one who can get people out of dangerous, crime-ridden cities. Maybe because he’s the only one who is this calm while his helicopter is on fire.
In the trope above, at least it’s a soldier that the military is relying on. In Rambo: First Blood Part II, Rambo is freed from prison to complete missions. Snake Plissken, a notorious outlaw, is the only person who can save the president in Escape from New York. Dirty Dozen sees an entire special operations unit constructed out of the Army’s hardest criminals.
It’s weird that the military doesn’t have any other special operators with, you know, more training — and discipline. And impulse control.
“Literally anything has happened. It’s time to bomb people.”
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Xiomara Martinez)
4. The military just wants to bomb everyone
The only way to defeat an enemy force is to bomb it into oblivion — at least according to some movie military leaders. General Brigham, leader of the United Defense Front in Edge of Tomorrow, is asked about what he would do if it turned out one of his soldiers could time travel and knows where the time-controlling hivemind of the enemy is. His reply? Bomb it.
That’s also the military’s response to a quarantine breach in 28 Weeks Later. In just a couple of minutes, they’re firebombing apartment buildings filled with civilians. “Well, about 20 sniper shots failed to solve the problem… I guess we should turn to firebombing civilians.”
Speaking of which …
Soldiers in zombie movies are just so bad. So very bad.
5. The military completely fails to enforce basic security measures
Why is it that the military can’t enforce a quarantine or lockdown in nearly any movie ever? The aforementioned 28 Weeks Later catastrophe occurs when the military decides to study the single human carrier of the dormant strain of the rage virus. They leave her locked behind doors that her husband, a glorified janitor at the facility, has the ability to unlock. Then, the now-zombified janitor is able to access the shelter where all the civilians have been sequestered, causing an outbreak.
Seems like they almost want the infection to spread. And then there’s that gum-chewing scene in 1998’s Godzilla, in which a gate guard lets a Humvee through because the occupants swear a sergeant called for them. He doesn’t check IDs, he doesn’t call the supposed sergeant — great job. I guess that barely matters when base walls in movies like The Hurt Locker are jumpable AF.
“Hey, this fight against these seemingly dead people is getting pretty serious. Think we should take off in any of our helicopters or drive any of our Humvees in either attack or retreat?” “Nah, that’ll screw up the ambiance for any unlikely survivors. Let’s leave them parked and get eaten.”
6. Military units are overrun by zombies and other slow monsters
Maybe that lax security is why zombies overrun mobile military units in shows like The Walking Dead and movies like 28 Days Later and Dawn of the Dead. Sure, you need to get rid of the military for your zombie survivor story to make sense and have high stakes, but how did a helicopter unit and tanks get overrun by zombies that shamble no faster than 5 miles per hour?
Please, at least claim they ran out of fuel or something. (Yes, yes. We know the 28 Days Later zombies are fast, but still.)
A rogue commando officer armed with a rifle, a knife, and years of experience fails to take down a lab-rate chemical weapons specialist in The Rock.
7. Trained killers can’t quite hit the hero or villain
In 28 Weeks Later (I love that movie, but, seriously, come on), an Apache chases a station wagon through the streets of London and is able to stick with it through some determined flying but, somehow, can’t make contact with a single round. An Apache attacks a station wagon and the station wagon survives — what?
It’s sort of like how Nicholas Cage’s character in The Rock, Stanley Goodspeed, survives numerous encounters with elite commandos who shoot at him with rifles and pistols in addition to attacking him with knives and grenades, but the worst damage he takes is self-inflicted when he uses a nerve gas capsule to poison one of the commandos.
Hollywood knows that Marines are really good at killing people, right?
Sgt. 1st Class Robert Rodriguez and his platoon patrol the sandy streets of Djibouti, the hot East African sun scorches their path with temperatures upwards of 115 degrees. Passing through impoverished villages, Rodriguez began to notice a devastating trend — most of the children are barefooted.
It was during his visit to an orphanage that, Rodriquez immediately thought of his own two daughters and made it his personal mission to do something about the shoeless orphans.
“While on patrol, every few weeks we passed a local orphanage where children gather for their meals,” Rodriguez said. “Children aged 5-8 sleep along the walls outside and wake up to shower in the orphanage. They eat cups of peanut butter for protein with crackers. Since there is no refrigeration, that is the most protein they are able to get. That’s their lunch — crackers. So I thought you know what? This would be a great mission for my church back home.”
While on emergency leave due to his father’s passing, Rodriguez pushed past his grief to talk to students and coordinate a sandal drive with the school that his daughters attend, Blessed Sacrament Elementary School in Laredo, Texas. Their Catholic school is part of the parish that Rodriguez and his family belong to.
Sgt. 1st Class Robert Rodriguez, a platoon sergeant for the 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division of the Texas Army National Guard, stands with several of the children in Djibouti. Rodriguez gifted 500 sandals to barefoot orphans and children during their deployment.
(Photo by Capt. Nadine Wiley De Moura)
“I am very active in my daughter’s school and I wanted to get my daughters involved and proactive in something in Africa as well,” Rodriguez, a platoon sergeant for the 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division of the Texas Army National Guard, said. “I talked to the principal, who said she would talk to Father Wojciech, the priest in charge of his church in Laredo. The school sent out flyers thru the National Junior Honor Society asking parents to donate one pair of sandals.”
On Veteran’s day, Rodriguez who is completing his fourth deployment, visited his daughter’s school to talk about his service in the military and the children in Djibouti.
“I described how the weather was there, how hot it was and asked them to imagine standing outside, barefooted in Laredo,” Rodriguez said. “My daughters and their classmates are at that age where they are learning to help others and how to ask for help as well. I want them to learn a sense of compassion.”
From September to December, his daughter’s school collected six boxes filled with roughly 500 sandals of varying sizes. After the sandals were collected, the students raised money to send the two by three-foot shipping boxes to Djibouti for Rodriguez and his unit to deliver to the children.
Sgt. 1st Class Robert Rodriguez, a platoon sergeant for the 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division of the Texas Army National Guard, hands out sandals to barefoot orphans and children with his platoon during their deployment, February 2019 in Djibouti.
(Photo by Capt. Nadine Wiley De Moura)
“This is the first time that we have done something so big that reaches out of the country,” Cynthia Sanchez, math and science teacher at Blessed Sacrament School. “It’s a trickle-down effect, from parents, and at school they are learning how to help others so that they can teach their own kids.”
Normally, the school participated in blanket, canned food and sweater drives, and periodically will make trips to feed the homeless.
“They feel good and warm inside about helping others with no incentives but because they want to give it,” said Sanchez. “We weren’t expecting that amount. A lot of parents and kids wanted to do their part and National Junior honor Society members went outside of the school into their communities to get donations.”
Anxiously waiting for the packages to arrive, Rodriguez received the sandals in February.
In order to distribute the sandals in the community, Rodriguez coordinated with the local orphanage and the village elder for approval.
After he received approval, Rodriguez and his platoon set out to deliver the sandals to the children of the community.
“When we handed out the sandals the children were so surprised,” Rodriguez said. “Their happiness turned into overwhelming joy, to trying to be next, I made sure they all were good. It got chaotic at times but these children had nothing but what they were wearing and most were barefooted.”
Rodriguez, who kept close contact with his daughter’s school immediately alerted the school, via e-mail, that he had handed out the sandals to the children.
Children from Djibouti pose for a photo after receiving sandals from Texas Army National Guard Soldier, Sgt. 1st Class Robert Rodriguez and his platoon, February 2019 in Djibouti.
(Photo by Capt. Nadine Wiley De Moura)
In response, Anacecy Chavez, a Blessed Sacrament School teacher wrote:
“When I read this my heart jumped. You are a super hero for me and many others for serving our country and helping those around you.”
The Director of the orphanage, Caritas Djibouti, also thanked Rodriguez and his daughter’s school for their donation.
“We had the good surprise a few days ago to receive, through Mr. Rodriguez, a nice and generous donation of shoes for the street children here at Caritas,” said Francesco Martialis, director of Caritas Djibouti. “It was such a generous support which will be usefully used for sure! And also many thanks for the Church support that we feel, from here Djibouti, an isolated place, through your donation. It is precious to us.”
Rodriguez, who has been a soldier on the Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force for 18 years, is no stranger to getting involved into the community. Task force members routinely support local law enforcement agencies and community-based organizations in an effort to detect, interdict and deter illicit drug activity.
In addition to being an involved member of his church, Rodriguez said that his experience as a task force member enhanced his ability to build relationships on an international level, communicate and coordinate with partners in order to make the drive a success.
Although Rodriguez’s tour is coming to a close, he has continued to solidify the connections of his church at home with the local Djibouti church — which coincidentally are both named Blessed Sacrament.
Rodriguez spoke to the Bishop of the Djibouti Catholic Church about maintaining contact in the case that they may be able to provide more donations for the children.
“It is great to hear that our young youth are striving to be humanitarians as that is something this world is missing more of,” Rodriguez said. “It gives me great pride to know that the sacrifices we make as soldiers to protect our country is giving our youth the opportunity to grow into caring, responsible and giving citizens of our communities.”
When it was first designed, the AGM-114 Hellfire missile was intended to give the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter a way to kill the Soviet tanks of World War II, replacing a combination of the AH-1 Cobra and the BGM-71 TOW missile. But the Hellfire has proven to be far more versatile.
Don’t get us wrong, the Hellfire was indeed a very capable tank killer. As many as 4,000 missiles were fired during Operation Desert Storm and as many as 90% of those hit their targets, which ranged from tanks to bunkers to radar sites.
After Desert Storm, the missile was improved. One of the biggest improvements was the addition of a new means of guidance: the Longbow radar system. The Longbow radar is able to automatically search, detect, locate, classify, and prioritize targets in the air, on land, and at sea.
The Hellfire has been added to numerous other helicopters, notably Navy MH-60R and MH-60S Seahawks. It also has been added to the Navy’s littoral combat ships, and it has been tested for launch from a variety of ground vehicles, from the M113 to the High-Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle. The missile is so versatile, in fact, that they’re used for coastal defense by Norway and Sweden, and they’re also used on the Combat Boat 90, a Swedish coastal boat.
But the missile’s true versatility emerged in the War on Terror.
The United States and Israel have used the Hellfire to take out a number of high-ranking terrorists. This includes Hamas leader Ahmed Yasin, Anwar al-Awlaki, and ISIS propagandist, “Jihadi John.” The Hellfire has been exported to over two dozen countries and it will likely be in service for a long time to come, including as an option for the Stryker Mobile Short-range Air Defense vehicle.
Learn more about the highly-versatile Hellfire in the video below.
On what would have been their 26th wedding anniversary, Tech. Sgt. John Chapman’s widow, Valerie Nessel, accepted his Medal of Honor from President Donald Trump during a ceremony at the White House Aug. 22, 2018.
“We are gathered together this afternoon to pay tribute to a fallen warrior, a great warrior…and to award him with our nation’s highest and most revered military honor,” Trump said.
Fighting in the early morning hours through brisk air and deep snow, Chapman sacrificed his own life to preserve the lives of his teammates during the Battle of Takur Ghar, Afghanistan, on March 4, 2002.
“[John] would want to recognize the other men who lost their lives,” Valerie said in a previous interview. “Even though he did something he was awarded the Medal of Honor for, he would not want the other guys to be forgotten – they were part of the team together. I think he would say his Medal of Honor was not just for him, but for all of the guys who were lost.”
Chapman was originally awarded the Air Force Cross for his actions; however, following a review of the Air Force Cross and Silver Star recipients directed by then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, Deborah James, then-Secretary of the Air Force, recommended Chapman’s Air Force Cross be upgraded to the Medal of Honor.
“John was always selfless – it didn’t just emerge at Taku Ghar – he had always been selfless and highly competent, and thank God for all those qualities,” retired Air Force Col. Ken Rodriguez, Chapman’s commander at the time of the battle, said in a previous interview. “He could have hunkered down in the bunker and waited for the (Quick Reaction Force) and (Combat Search and Rescue) team to come in, but he assessed the situation and selflessly gave his life for them.”
Valerie Nessel, the spouse of Tech. Sgt. John Chapman, holds up the Medal of Honor after receiving it from President Donald J. Trump during a ceremony at the White House in Washington, D.C., Aug. 22, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)
Chapman enlisted in the Air Force Sept. 27, 1985, as an information systems operator, but felt called to be part of Air Force special operations. In 1989, he cross-trained to become an Air Force combat controller.
According to friends and family, Chapman had a tendency to make the difficult look effortless and consistently sought new challenges. Dating back to his high school days, he made the varsity soccer squad as a freshman. In his high school yearbook, Chapman quoted these words: “Give of yourself before taking of someone else.”
Chapman looked for a new challenge, which he found in combat control. This special operations training is more than two years long and amongst the most rigorous in the U.S. military; only about one in 10 Airmen who start the program graduate. From months of intense training to multiple joint schools – including military SCUBA, Army static-line and freefall, air traffic control, and combat control schools – Chapman is remembered as someone who could overcome any adversity.
Attendees observe as President Donald J. Trump presents the Medal of Honor to Valerie Nessel, the spouse of U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. John Chapman, during a ceremony at the White House.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Wayne A. Clark)
“One remembers two types of students – the sharp ones and the really dull ones – and Chapman was in the sharp category,” said Ron Childress, a former Combat Control School instructor. “During one of his first days at Combat Control School, I noticed a slight smirk on his face like [the training] was too simple for him…and it was.”
Following Combat Control School, Chapman served with the 1721st Combat Control Squadron at Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina, where he met Valerie in 1992. They had two daughters, who were the center of Chapman’s world even when he was away from home – which was common in special operations.
“He would come home from a long trip and immediately have on his father hat – feeding, bathing, reading and getting his girls ready for bed,” said Chief Master Sgt. Michael West, who served with Chapman through Combat Control School, a three-year tour in Okinawa, Japan, and at Pope AFB. “They were his life and he was proud of them. To the Air Force he was a great hero…what I saw was a great father.”
The Battle of Takur Ghar
In conjunction with Operation Anaconda in March 2002, small reconnaissance teams were tasked to establish observation posts in strategic locations in Afghanistan, and when able, direct U.S. airpower to destroy enemy targets. The mountain of Takur Ghar was an ideal spot for such an observation post, with excellent visibility to key locations.
For Chapman and his joint special operations teammates, the mission on the night of March 3 was to establish a reconnaissance position on Takur Ghar and report al-Qaida movement in the Sahi-Kowt area.
“This was a very high profile, no-fail job, and we picked John,” said retired Air Force Col. Ken Rodriguez, Chapman’s commander at the time. “In a very high-caliber career field, with the highest quality of men – even then – John stood out as our guy.”
During the initial insertion onto Afghanistan’s Takur Ghar mountaintop on March 4, the MH-47 Chinook helicopter carrying Chapman and the joint special operations reconnaissance team was ambushed. A rocket-propelled grenade struck the helicopter and bullets ripped through the fuselage. The blast ripped through the left side of the Chinook, throwing Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts off the ramp of the helicopter onto the enemy-infested mountaintop below.
The severely damaged aircraft was unable to return for Roberts, and performed a controlled crash landing a few miles from the mountaintop. Thus began the chain of events that led to unparalleled acts of valor by numerous joint special operations forces, the deaths of seven U.S. servicemen and now, 16 years later, the posthumous award of the Medal of Honor to Chapman.
Alone, against the elements and separated from his team with enemy personnel closing in, Roberts was in desperate need of support. The remaining joint special operations team members, fully aware of his precarious situation, immediately began planning a daring rescue attempt that included returning to the top of Takur Ghar where they had just taken heavy enemy fire.
Valerie Nessel, the spouse of U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. John Chapman, holds up the Medal of Honor after receiving it from President Donald J. Trump during a ceremony at the White House in Washington, D.C., Aug. 22, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)
As the team returned to Roberts’ last-known position, now on a second MH-47, the entrenched enemy forces immediately engaged the approaching helicopter with heavy fire.
The helicopter, although heavily damaged, was able to successfully offload the remaining special operations team members and return to base. Chapman, upon exiting the helicopter, immediately charged uphill through the snow toward enemy positions while under heavy fire from three directions.
Once on the ground, the team assessed the situation and moved quickly to the high ground. The most prominent cover and concealment on the hilltop were a large rock and tree. As they approached the tree, Chapman received fire from two enemy personnel in a fortified position. He returned fire, charged the enemy position and took out the enemy combatants within.
Almost immediately, the team encountered machine gun fire from another fortified enemy position only 12 meters away. Chapman deliberately moved into the open to engage the new enemy position. As he engaged the enemy, he was struck by a burst of gunfire and became critically injured.
Chapman regained his faculties and continued to fight despite his severe wounds. He sustained a violent engagement with multiple enemy fighters for over an hour before paying the ultimate sacrifice. Due to his remarkably heroic actions, Chapman is credited with saving the lives of his teammates.
This Friday, February 26, Fred Lewis will lead his all-military team to muscle through setbacks due to aging equipment. Lewis and his team of patriots are no strangers to delays, but one team member is particularly hedging his bets on this endeavor. ‘This needs to work out, I don’t want to be another homeless vet,” said Kyle Pletzke. This quote reveals more about the team than before. Pletzke is one of the nation’s homeless veterans who joined Lewis in Discovery’s Gold Rush in pursuit of fame and fortune. Homelessness is an in issue so pervasive that even I, the author, was a homeless veteran at one point in the not-too-distant past.
Time and again Lewis and his crew go through the gauntlet. Reinforcements arrive as the situation grows dire. Mitch Blatshke from Parker’s crew leaves no man left behind and renders aid to the other team’s machines. Will it be enough or too little too late? Mitch races against the clock to accomplish the mission.
In 2019 there were 37,085 homeless veterans registered with the VA’s PIT Count. The goal of the PIT count (point-in-time count) is to show Congress there is a need to end homelessness amongst veterans. From 2018 to 2019 the program reduced the homeless population by 2.1% by providing shelter.
Another resource is the Salvation Army. When I was homeless, the VA and the Salvation Army’s case workers banded together to help me find temporary housing. The irony of the situation was I could work from home, yet I didn’t have one. Long story short, my roommates lost their jobs due to the pandemic and instead of giving me a heads up to find my own place they kept me in the dark until we abruptly had to move.
If it wasn’t for We Are The Mighty and the fans who read my work I probably would have ended up a statistic. This artform is a cathartic release that pulled me through my darkest days. My mother lost her kidneys to Lupus and was fighting for her life. I’m still taking care of my sister. Veterans are proud and we won’t ask for help. However, it is important to call broken arrow when your back is against the wall.
Help is there and it will come.
That’s why this episode resonates so deeply for me. Another veteran is out of ammo and is fixing his bayonet, refusing to accept defeat. Gold Rush paints the perfect example of the camaraderie forged in the fires of combat. The other veterans also share their stories of their past and how they got into gold mining. Gold Rush is one of the few shows that accurately displays the brotherhood of the military.
Gold Rush airs this Friday at 8 PM ET/PT on Discovery, followed by the military Gold Rush special at 10 PM ET/PT on Discovery. Fans can also binge all previous seasons of Gold Rush on Discovery+.
Garlin Conner charged alone into the cold abyss, toward the massive silhouettes of German tanks in the distance.
Clutching a telephone, radio and wire, the first lieutenant carried himself through the frigid January air, toward 600 encroaching Germans and the enemy rounds he knew were coming.
Conner could not turn back if he wanted to.
His company needed a guide to cut into the surging German infantry or risk getting overrun. The Kentucky marksman always fought in front of his men, and his fellow soldiers trusted him to lead. Conner often fired at the opposition standing while others ducked for cover.
Conner could see the enemy before they spotted him, fellow soldiers wrote.
The thunder of the German rifles didn’t rattle him. His father had raised him to be fearless while hunting wild game in the woods of southern Kentucky. A bullet wound in his left hip could not keep him from returning to the front lines, nor could orders to remain at a military field hospital. On a frigid winter morning in 1945, Conner would once more put himself between his fellow soldiers and the onslaught of enemy fire.
This time, in a snow-covered forest, 5-foot-6-inch Conner faced the full brunt of German forces. On Jan. 24, the Nazi-led German army mounted a desperate surge to split American units near the French-German border.
Conner headed toward the flurry of bullets until he ducked into a shallow, snowy ditch.
Here in the frozen French countryside, amid rampant automatic fire, Conner would make what could be his final stand, guiding American artillery toward the German infantry. Here, Conner would remain until American forces stopped the Germans, or until a bullet stopped him.
When locals in the rural farming town of Albany, Kentucky, would ask Garlin “Murl” Conner about his time in World War II, he’d hush them quickly.
“I’d done what I had to do,” Conner said in soldier accounts, “and that’s all there is to it.”
After returning to Clinton County following the war and starting a tobacco farm, the decorated Army veteran decided he had seen enough of the world and the horrors of armed combat. Conner had found peace plowing fields in the shadows of the Appalachians.
Conner never boasted about his acts of bravery.
For more than 53 years until his death in 1998, he rarely spoke about the war again — not to his wife, Pauline, or even to a fellow soldier.
During the two decades since Conner died of complications related to heart and kidney failure, others took up the cause the farmer so adamantly declined. Former Army Green Beret Richard Chilton, with the support of seven retired generals, presented Conner’s bid for the Medal of Honor to the Army’s personnel records office.
The curious case of Conner, who held a war record so compelling that it rivals the accolades of the more famous veteran Audie Murphy, baffled those who knew him. In all, Conner spent more than 800 days on the front lines in World War II. He suffered seven combat wounds while earning four Silver Stars, three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star, the French military decoration Croix de Guerre, and the Distinguished Service Cross.
And yet, in an effort to get Conner recognized with a Medal of Honor, Chilton and his team endured a difficult quest that spanned decades. A federal district court rejected Conner’s initial bid for the award. In the 2014 ruling, a federal judge in Kentucky told a heartbroken Pauline that she had not filed her husband’s paperwork in time.
Conner had for decades shied away from talk of the award, much like he avoided any conversation of his four years in the Army. Still, his family continued to cling to hope that one day Conner would earn the U.S. military’s highest distinction.
Old Kentucky home
A curving paved road leads to Murl and Pauline Conner’s red brick farmhouse wedged near the foothills of the Appalachians in southern Kentucky, two miles north of the Tennessee state line.
Blue skies hang over Albany’s green rolling landscape, as plowed fields seem to shine under the midday sun. Cardinals outside the one-story house chirp as a light wind sweeps by. This farm, cradled in the hilly terrain of Clinton County, hid the story of a man whose steely courage withstood the gravest circumstances.
Just footsteps down the road from the farm, Murl’s son Paul, and his wife Kathy, live in a modular home that was built to replace their home that had been destroyed by a tornado. Paul took over the farm after his father suffered a heart attack on a spring day in 1979.
He spent long hours planting tobacco plants before the farm transitioned into raising cattle as its primary product.
Born nine years after Conner returned from the war, Paul contrasts his dad in appearance. Burly and stout, he sports a much larger frame than his father, who had been thin and wiry, at 5-foot-6-inches tall, and weighing only 120 pounds during active duty.
Paul shares his father’s love of animals. And Paul raised his four children with the same grounded morals he learned from his father. Paul said his father offered sound advice that Paul would later instill in his children. “Be a man of your word,” Paul recalled his dad saying. “Do what you say. If you can’t fulfill a promise, don’t make it. Be mindful of people around you because everyone has feelings.”
In the family’s living room, Paul sits next to a black and white portrait of Murl as a young soldier, flanked by faded portraits of Paul’s children and grandchildren. Decorated with beige ceramic lamps, rustic wooden chairs and shelves, the room has changed little since Pauline and her husband moved into the home more than 50 years ago.
For decades the photo loomed over the room. As a boy, Paul occasionally would stare at the black and white picture in awe.
When he asked his father about his time in the Army, he’d receive the same cold response: “We went over there, we did what we had to do,” Paul recalled his father saying. “And it needs to stay over there.”
Paul grew up without knowing the full extent of his father’s achievements on the battlefield. And for the most part, so did Pauline.
Generations have passed since the soldier with only an eighth-grade education used wit and intelligence to thwart enemy advances. But buried in eyewitness accounts and in the testimonials of fellow soldiers, Conner’s heroic deeds remained etched in history, unknown to his family and many of Albany’s residents.
“I just thought he was a farmer and he did a little something in the war,” said Walton Haddix, a family friend of the Conners. “But he never would talk about it. He never mentioned anything he did in the military.”
Outside of his war medals, this 200-acre farm on the lower east end of Clinton County is Conner’s lasting legacy. The family purchased the plot of land in 1949, after the government bought the family’s previous farm to make way for the Wolf Creek Dam and Lake Cumberland Reservoir. With his time in service long behind him, Conner turned his attention to his farm and raising Paul.
He never boasted about his wartime achievements, telling his wife he didn’t want to appear to be bragging. After all, Conner’s five brothers also served in the military: four in World War II and one in the Korean War.
As a farmer, he took pride in working on his farm, where he could often be found in his long-sleeved khaki shirt, farmer’s billed cap and overalls, riding a tractor or teaching Paul how to grow tobacco from the soil.
But the war never truly left him. Sometimes, at night, Conner would wake, gripped with tension and reliving moments from the battlefield, said his wife. Instead of returning to bed, Conner would retreat to the family’s wooden porch, where he lingered for hours smoking cigarettes.
The episodes at times became so traumatic, Pauline declines to talk in detail about them. Pauline said her husband suffered symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder, an illness that had not yet been widely identified until the Vietnam War.
“If anyone had PTSD, it was Murl,” Pauline said.
Conner carried the burden internally, never voicing his anguish to his family. The last time Conner had spoken publicly about the war, it happened to be the same day Pauline laid eyes on her future husband for the first time.
A hero’s welcome
On a bright spring day in May 1945, the Wells family heard that a war hero, a native of Clinton County, would be returning after four years overseas.
The local American Legion post organized a parade in the town square to welcome back a war veteran whose bravery had townspeople talking. They traveled from surrounding counties, some by wagon. Others drove in by car, while some came on foot.
Garlin Murl Conner, a farmer’s son who voluntarily joined the Army in 1941, had come home from the war.
Pauline Wells, still in her teenage years, climbed into the back of the family’s horse-drawn wagon along with her two brothers, two sisters and her parents at the family’s farm in northern Clinton County. They drove the wagon along a dirt trail, 10 miles to the town square. The county’s schools dismissed classes early so students could attend the parade.
Pauline’s family learned that following the parade, Conner would be speaking to the crowd about the war. So townspeople crowded into the second floor of the old courthouse. Sergeant Alvin C. York, the most decorated soldier of the First World War, also attended, beginning what became a lifelong friendship with Conner. Pauline leaned onto the wooden bench in the back row to hear Conner speak.
“I was expecting a giant of a man,” Pauline said.
When Conner finally emerged before the crowd, his appearance stunned Pauline. Wearing his olive-colored military dress uniform, the lieutenant’s small stature underwhelmed the young Pauline. With narrow shoulders, and a slender frame, Conner hardly appeared like heroes in storybooks.
“That little wharf rat,” Pauline said to her mother, Tressie. “He couldn’t have done all the things they said he’d done.”
But unbeknownst to Pauline and her family, Conner had long proved his mettle to U.S. forces, the Allies, and fellow soldiers, his commanding officer would say.
Conner was a quiet man of few words. The native of nearby Aaron, Kentucky, stood before the crowded courtroom and said what would be his last public statements about his time in the war.
“It gives me great pleasure,” Conner began, “to be able to come out here today. I am not a speaker, and did not come here to make a speech.”
“But,” Conner continued, “I will try to explain to you a small part of the war in Europe and some of the things I saw.”
Conner didn’t mince words. He talked first about the early November morning in 1942 when his unit first landed on the shore of Fedala, Morocco, in support of Operation Torch. American and Allied forces wrested control of North Africa from the Axis powers in only three days.
He moved onto the invasion of Licata, Sicily, a war-ravaged city that lay in tatters after 38 days of continuous fighting. Through his 10-minute testimony, Conner didn’t talk about his medals, or the times he fought on the front lines ahead of his men. Instead he spoke of his unit’s achievements, and how they survived the changing elements and terrain.
Finally, Conner touched on his unit’s trek into southern France and a difficult battle in the foothills of the Vosges Mountains. But he didn’t say a word about any of his selfless, valorous acts. Nor did he mention a fateful January morning near a small French village during the aftermath of the Battle of the Bulge, when for three hours in the winter of 1945, he risked his life so his unit could survive.
At any cost
On the morning of Jan. 24, 1945, the men of the K Company, 7th Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division entered the Brunwald Woods near Houssen, France.
As U.S. troops scrambled to reinforce their position in the small village near the German-French border, a bitter cold swept over eastern France, creating a stinging chill.
As the frigid wind stung their faces, K Company’s soldiers marched into the snow to take on a Battalion of desperate German soldiers.
Conner had rejoined his unit in the French countryside while still recovering from a sniper bullet wound in his left hip. Conner, knowing a crucial battle loomed, had earlier slipped out of the field hospital in northern France and returned to the front lines.
Upon his return, Conner learned that his commanding officer, Lt. Col. Lloyd Ramsey, had made arrangements to send him home. Conner had earned eligibility to return to Kentucky based on his time served and accolades earned. Ramsey removed Conner from the front lines and reassigned him to serve as his intelligence officer in battalion headquarters for his own safety.
Hitler’s army, facing looming defeat, countered American forces with desperate barrage after barrage, attacking U.S. forces with ruthless resolve. The German assaults gravely concerned Ramsey. The day before, the Germans had rallied for a fierce offensive against another company, costing the Americans 25 men.
Ramsey needed a patrol team to scout the enemy’s position, but resources ran thin.
Conner, still ailing from his hip injury, once again volunteered to take a patrol and said he would attempt to use direct artillery to halt the German offensive. Ramsey, knowing the weight of Conner’s previous contributions and his pending return home, reluctantly agreed.
“No words can express the outstanding leadership qualities that Lt. Conner had,” the late Ramsey wrote. “(He was) always willing to do more than his part.”
Conner had built a reputation as an expert scout and marksman. The soldier from the Bluegrass State had earned the respect of his fellow soldiers by fearlessly confronting the enemy and taking dangerous missions. Maurice Williams, a soldier who served under Conner, said Conner’s background as a Kentucky outdoorsman helped prepare him to go undetected in combat. Raised on a farm during the Depression era, Conner learned to become a skilled marksman and hunter.
“He could go through the woods unnoticed,” Haddix, the family friend, said. “And if a squirrel (was) in a tree somewhere and move its tail, he could see it.”
While other soldiers would go on night scouting missions with team members, Conner operated alone.
Conner had fostered such a respect from his fellow soldiers, and had performed with such distinction, that he earned a battlefield commission at Anzio. Conner, along with the highly-decorated Murphy, both served in the 3rd Infantry Division, which suffered more casualties than any other during World War II.
“He always led from the front,” wrote Williams, who fought alongside Conner earlier in the war. “And his platoon felt safe following him.”
At about 8 a.m. on Jan. 24, a sudden barrage of light artillery swept on the American troops. Six German Panzer tanks emerged from the frigid air, flanked by a battalion of 600 German soldiers descending on K Company. The powerful, 9-foot tall tanks nearly spanned 27 feet across and 12 feet wide.
“The Americans, the Allies, had nothing like it,” said Luther Conner, President of Clinton County’s historical society. “It was the most potent war weapon at that time. It was just a monster. It caused fear just for a soldier to see the size of it.”
Two thirds of the battalion pushed toward K Company, attempting to split and divide the Americans. A week earlier, a German Panzer division attacked Second Battalion’s 600 soldiers. About 100 returned to their units. Germans killed or took the remainder as prisoners.
Near Houssen, K Company faced similar odds. Conner knew his unit’s only chance in the wintry conditions rested in his hands. He needed to guide artillery fire on the Germans.
Conner saw the towering frames of German Panzers barrelling through the forest. Without a moment’s hesitation, the soldier sprinted straight toward tanks, carrying a telephone, radio, and wire reel.
Conner uncoiled the wire as exploding shells and wood splinters from the surrounding woods showered upon him. Conner ran nearly 400 yards toward the enemy, ignoring warnings from his unit, said Chilton.
He did not stop until he had advanced 30 yards past the American Infantry front line.
There, in a shallow ditch beneath the January snow, Conner planted himself before the oncoming German fire. And for three hours, Conner laid like immovable rock under a violent wave, directing artillery rounds onto the German infantry. As swarm after swarm of German soldiers came like an avalanche upon him, Conner, barked directions and coordinates to battalion headquarters.
“Although he was in a prone position, the ditch only covered part of his body,” wrote 1st Lt. Harold Wigetman, who served as the S-3 in 3rd Battalion. “He was wedged in there so tight, that it was almost impossible for him to move or shift his position.”
The Germans soon grew aware of the lone figure in the snow guiding the American artillery. German soldiers began to swarm and surround Conner and the Americans. The German army mounted a final surge to overwhelm the American forces.
Conner, seeing the enemy close, made a lasting, drastic choice to defeat the German infantry.
Conner directed American artillery rounds toward his position, and the surrounding Germans. As the enemy attack continued to unfurl, Conner put himself in peril so that his unit could achieve victory.
“He cared about his men more than he cared about himself,” Chilton said.
With bullets flying toward him from both directions, Conner never wavered. At one point, a German soldier ran within five yards of Conner clutching a grenade before an American stopped him. Haddix said Conner dispatched German soldiers with his submachine gun.
“With icy self-control, he kept telephoning his directions,” Wigetman wrote, “although he must have seen that the (Germans) would have killed him before he could get on his feet.”
The American onslaught led by Conner overwhelmed the German attack. By the time the final rounds fell, Conner’s actions had resulted in killing 50 German soldiers and leaving more than 150 wounded. American munitions destroyed the six German tanks.
“I saw elements waver … their fighting spirit broken by the deadly concentration of (American) fire,” Wigetman wrote.
Conner paid a heavy toll for his valor during the war. The injury to his left hip would hamper his mobility for the rest of his life. Like many veterans of his generation, Conner did not think highly of anything he had achieved in Europe, his wife said.
“He was always very humble,” Pauline said. “He did what he felt like he had to do to protect our freedom to vote and our freedom of speech, which we have truly earned from what he did and others like him.”
Ramsey called Conner the greatest combat soldier he had ever seen. Troops who remembered him noted Conner’s cool resolve under the most difficult conditions.
Wrote Williams in his journal, “I had such confidence in (Lt.) Conner. I would have followed him anywhere he wanted to go.”
In the years after Conner’s heart attack in 1979, he found a new calling. He listened with concern to stories of soldiers who had not received their veteran’s affairs benefits. Some servicemen struggled with living expenses after they left the service.
Conner and his wife would drive across Clinton County’s 196 square miles of rolling hills and farmland to meet with vets. They extended their travels to 10 neighboring counties. Once a month they would place their paperwork and a suitcase in their Buick sedan and travel to veterans’ homes or meet them at their office in the courthouses. Pauline acted as his secretary, fielding phone calls and helping her husband coordinate his appointments with the veterans in need.
The night episodes continued through the years, Pauline said. And Conner still struggled to sleep on some nights. But helping other veterans, she said, helped him find peace.
“(Assisting veterans) became his life,” Paul said.
But listening to the tales of other soldiers and hearing about their struggles awakened a longing in Conner he thought that he had long buried.
Throughout his four years in the Army, Conner’s concerns rested with his soldiers, never seeking personal glory, but always on the lookout for how he could help, whether scouting the enemy position, or finding ways to help retired vets file their military records. But hearing their stories, Pauline said, she noticed for the first time regret.
That regret became clear in 1996, his wife said.
Chilton, a former Army Green Beret from Wisconsin, wrote a letter to Conner in search of information on his late uncle, Pfc. Gordon Roberts, who was killed after landing at Anzio. Conner, no longer able to speak or write, invited Chilton to his Albany home.
Chilton visited Conner on a fall day in 1996. He sat with Conner in the family living room, and asked him questions about his uncle and the war, while Conner nodded his answers from his wheelchair.
Chilton learned that Conner had indeed served with his uncle, and that Conner had carried his uncle in his last moments to a medical aid station. Conner, reliving a moment from 50 years prior, began to weep.
Pauline suggested that she could sort through her husband’s old war records to search for documentation of Roberts’ service. She carried her husband’s weathered, military green duffel bag out of the living room closet and pulled out old paperwork, records and medals contained inside a cardboard box.
As Chilton skimmed through the pages, his eyes widened. Chilton saw the decorations: the Purple Hearts and Bronze Star and Silver Stars. The Kentucky native had participated in eight major campaigns and had been wounded in each of the countries he toured.
“My God,” a stunned Chilton said to Pauline. “This man should have been awarded the Medal of Honor.”
Chilton, feeling sudden inspiration, asked Pauline and Garlin if he could pursue an application for the medal on Murl’s behalf. Pauline turned to her husband.
“I looked at [Garlin],” she said. “And he was looking at me so straight with tears in his eyes.”
Conner nodded his head yes. After 50 years, he was finally ready to apply for the honor that he had for so long been reluctant to seek.
“He’s my hero,” Pauline said, sitting in the Conner family’s living room, clutching the brown picture frame holding her husband’s black and white service photo. “He always has been.”
Wearing a black blazer and rose-colored blouse, her once-blonde locks have faded into gray. Now 89 years old, her voice wavers when she talks about the life of her late husband. She fondly recalls his humility and his quiet way of voicing his approval.
Finally, she talks about that spring night in 1945, when she and Garlin slipped away from Clinton County in his convertible with nothing but a homemade dress to get married at a courthouse in Rossville, Georgia. They would stop at a neighboring town on the way to Georgia to purchase clothing for Pauline. Pauline said Garlin’s patience and understanding swayed her to marry him after two weeks of dating.
Though their early marriage suffered the occasional bumps, Pauline stood by her husband’s side for more than five decades. Conner suffered a heart attack in 1979, after falling ill riding on the tractor. He underwent open heart surgery later that year, and a second surgery 11 years later.
In the years before his death, Garlin had battled numerous illnesses, including kidney failure, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease. He suffered a stroke that left him bedridden and no longer able to speak. Pauline took on the role of caretaker, cooking his meals and driving him to his medical appointments. She took a part-time job for additional income.
Conner passed mercifully on a November day in 1998. He was 79.
“The last few years my dad was alive, he wasn’t really alive,” Paul said. “It progressively got worse. I wish I hadn’t have had to see that part of it. But we can’t choose how we’re going to live and how the last days are going to be.”
At the Weldon Haddix Funeral home along Business Route 127 in Albany, hundreds waited in line to view Conner’s remains. In the rectangular, brick building nestled between local businesses on the north side of Albany, farmers, neighbors and veterans paid their respects. Veterans whom Conner had helped approached Pauline to express their gratitude for Conner’s assistance years ago. Neighboring farmers whom Conner helped as president of the Clinton County Farm Bureau also attended. To this day, Pauline said, veterans still greet her.
“They come up and hug me for what I’ve done, for what [Garlin] has done,” Pauline said. “And I always hug them and tell them I love every one of them.”
Conner’s acts left a lasting impression on Ramsey. The two remained in touch for decades through letters and phone calls. Ramsey later retired as a major general and suffered five combat wounds during his time in service. He encouraged Conner to apply for the medal over the years, Pauline said. But each time, Conner declined and the medals and decorations remained mostly untouched inside the duffel bag, in the living room closet.
Ramsey, whose 34-year career spanned three wars, wrote in 2006: “One of the most disappointing regrets of my career is not having the Medal of Honor awarded to the most outstanding soldier I’ve had the privilege of commanding.” The Army medically retired Ramsey in 1974.
A final plea
Chilton continued to press on Conner’s application for the Medal of Honor, writing letters and contacting politicians.
New evidence had been uncovered by Congressman Ed Whitfield’s office in the National Archives in Washington, including three eyewitness accounts written by fellow soldiers who fought on the front lines with Conner. The three affidavits painted in vivid detail accounts of Conner’s acts in January 1945. But even the affidavits would not be enough.
The Army Board for Correction of Military Records rejected Chilton’s original application for Conner’s eligibility for the medal. Haddix assembled a legal team, headed by Dennis Shepherd of the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs as lead trial counsel, and included Luther Conner, who also serves as the Conner family’s lawyer, to begin work on a lawsuit which was filed in federal court. That lawsuit would obtain a ruling ordering the Board to grant Pauline a new hearing and to consider the new evidence.
In 2014, U.S. District Judge Thomas Russell ruled that the statute of limitations to correct Conner’s military record had expired and that the family could no longer continue to seek the award.
After the judge dismissed Pauline’s case in 2014, she said she had lost hope. She returned to Albany and resigned herself to the idea that her husband’s decorated service record would remain as it was, without the addition of the honor that Conner’s family and friends felt he deserved. Despite the backing of the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs, several generals and Congressman Ed Whitfield, Conner’s chances for the Medal dimmed.
But then, on March 2, 2015, Conner’s case reached a turning point at the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. During the appeal for Conner’s Medal of Honor bid, Assistant U.S. Attorney Candace Hill was assigned to represent the government’s stance against Conner’s case. For 15 minutes, Hill defended the Army’s previous stance during the proceedings, saying the case should be left alone.
But then, in a closing moment of abject candor, Hill revealed her true feelings.
Hill broke into tears, as she discussed her father’s service as an officer in the same unit as Conner during World War II. She said her father suffered a severe leg injury on Jan. 25, 1945, one day after Conner’s heroic acts.
“For all I know,” she said. “Garlin Conner may have … helped save his life.”
Hill’s words, according to an Associated Press report, convinced the panel to submit Conner’s case to a federal mediator. The mediator then directed the ABCMR to grant a new hearing and to consider all evidence, including the recently discovered eyewitness accounts. The following October, the Board granted “full relief” to Pauline’s request to upgrade Conner’s Distinguished Service Cross to the Medal of Honor.
Still, Conner’s bid for the medal needed further approval from the Secretary of the Army, the Secretary of Defense, and the president.
Last March, Pauline received a call from a military officer at the Pentagon who told her to expect an important phone call from a high-ranking DOD official regarding her husband. Could this be the phone call she had been waiting for? It must be a trick, Pauline thought, and she called Luther Conner, the family’s attorney, to confirm its validity. When Luther gave his assurances, Pauline still asked Luther, and his wife Susan, to sit with her for the important call.
The following Monday the phone rang.
“Is this Lyda Conner?” asked a man with a gruff, New York accent.
“I go by Pauline,” she said.
“You sound just like an old country gal,” the man said.
“I am,” Pauline said, soon realizing the caller was the president.
“It’s a beautiful place down there where you live,” President Trump said.
“Yes it is,” Pauline said, as she sat in the family’s tidy living room, amid family photos of Conner, her son, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Outside, redbirds chirped in the cool spring air.
“You are the widow of Lieutenant Garlin Conner?” Trump asked.
“I am,” she confirmed.
After a brief exchange of pleasantries, Trump said, “Well I’ve got some good news for you. He has a wonderful military record — one of the best I’ve ever seen. I am going to award him the Medal of Honor.”
The news soon spread to the rest of the Conner family, Conner’s legal team and Clinton County’s residents. Chilton, who spent much of his own time and money on Conner’s journey, could breathe a sigh of relief. Chilton traveled across the country in his quest to bring the Medal of Honor to the Conner family. He’d conducted dozens of interviews with former veterans who knew Conner. Nearly all have since passed. Chilton also penned what he said could be hundreds of hand-written letters to congressmen and to the Army.
A 22-year quest for a man who left everything on the battlefield had finally ended. Conner will be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in a White House ceremony June 26.
“It gets you kind of numb, you know?” Chilton said. “It sinks in and you understand it. You realize how long you’ve been after it and how long you’ve been doing it. I was just kind of numb … I felt good for him. I felt good for his wife; she suffered through all this stuff. I felt good for (Paul). They’ll all know this forever: (he’s) a hero.”
Pauline was asked what she thought her husband would say if he was still alive. Pauline thought for a moment. And she recalled how her husband might not want the honor, and might brush it aside once more. He might defer credit to the men he fought alongside. But Pauline said she sensed her husband’s attitude toward the honor had changed during his waning years. She remembered his regret in the 1996 meeting with Chilton.
Maybe, Conner might just tip his cap, and smile.
“More than anything I miss him,” Pauline said wistfully. “And I wish he was here so he could go get the Medal himself. Because I think he would have been proud of it. I know he would have.”
“I always kept thinking he didn’t want it in his younger days. And he didn’t really. … When he got older, he wished he had.”
The story of Garlin Conner doesn’t lie in his heroic acts or in his courage under the grimmest of odds. His family says it lies in his unending desire to help others, whether guiding soldiers on the battlefields of Western Europe, or helping veterans in the rolling hills of Clinton County, Kentucky.
Chilton, a military veteran of 20 years, traveled the world with both the U.S. Army and the Israeli Army during Desert Storm. Perhaps the Wisconsin resident put it best.
“I’ve traveled a lot and I’ve seen a lot,” Chilton said. “But I’ve never met anyone like Garlin Conner.”
Editor’s note: Garlin Murl Conner will be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in a ceremony at the White House June 26, 2018. President Trump will present the Medal to Conner’s widow, Pauline, at the ceremony.
The unmanned tank couldn’t operate as far away from its controllers as expected, had problems firing its 30mm gun, and couldn’t fire while moving, amid other problems, according to Popular Mechanics, citing the Defence Blog.
But in Syria, it could only be operated from about 984 to 1,640 feet from its operators around high-rise buildings, the Defence Blog reported, citing reports from the 10th all-Russian scientific conference “Actual problems of protection and security” in St. Petersburg.
The robot tank’s controller also randomly lost control of it 17 times for up to one minute and two times for up to an hour and a half, Defence Blog reported.
Uran-9 combat unmanned ground vehicle
The Uran-9 is heavily armed with four 9M120-1 Ataka anti-tank guided missile launchers, six 93 millimeter-caliber rocket-propelled Shmel-M reactive flamethrowers, one 30-millimeter 2A72 automatic cannon, and one 7.62-millimeter coaxial machine gun.
But its 30-millimeter 2A72 automatic cannon delayed six times and even failed once, Defence Blog reported, and it could only acquire targets up to about 1.24 miles away, as opposed to the expected four miles.
Apparently the tank’s optical station was seeing “multiple interferences on the ground and in the airspace in the surveillance sector,” Defence Blog reported.
The unmanned tank even had issues with its chassis and suspension system, and required repairs in the field, Defence Blog reported.
“The Uran-9 seems to have proven to be more about novelty than capability, but that doesn’t mean these tests are without value,” SOFREP reported. “In time (and with funding) a successor to the Uran-9 may one day be a battlefield force to be reckoned with.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
You’ve probably seen it plastered all over billboards by now. The Army is offering “up to $40k in an enlistment bonuses!” Some hopeful recruits will learn that they can, in fact, get that down-payment for a Corvette. Another guy could come in that same day and walk out with just the “honor of serving.”
What’s the difference here? Why does one guy get a ‘vette and the other nothing but a hardy handshake? The determination process is kind of convoluted, but it all comes down to the military trying to get the right people in the right places.
I mean, it’s better to have a brilliant lawyer become an infantry officer than to have an idiot defending troops at a court martial, right?
(U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Ayana Pitterson)
Troops get a bonus based on what they bring to the military, how long they plan on staying in, and when they sign the contract.
So, if you have just a high school education and you want to enlist in a field that’s pretty crowded at a time when everyone is trying to get in for just the 3 years required to get full access to the GI Bill, your bonus prospects are looking pretty bleak. If you have a college degree and plan to use said degree to benefit the military at a time when it’s almost impossible to find others like you — the cash is yours.
With that being said, the stars need to align for everything to work out perfectly. Even if, say, you have a doctorate in law and decide to use your skills in JAG, if you arrive a time when the Army needs more infantry officers, you’re going infantry. Uncle Sam will always have the final say.
Obviously I’m making fun of water dogs (because they’re so used to enduring jokes by everyone that they won’t flip sh*t in the comments section).
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Adam Dublinske)
Highly trained and highly skilled troops, like cyber security NCOs, often leave the service and jump into higher-paying, civilian-equivalent jobs. The troop that was once the backbone of their unit is now working the IT help-desk at Google, dealing with a quarter of the stress for double the pay. The civilian sector is gunning for these troops by offering sweet cash deals — and the military can’t sustain this kind of personnel hemorrhaging.
If the military didn’t offer retention bonuses, those cyber security NCOs would all jump ship. Suddenly, offering that bonus of 0,000 over a four-year period for an indefinite contract doesn’t seem too unreasonable.
All that being said — and this isn’t to diminish the service or need of anyone who didn’t get an enlistment or a reenlistment bonus — the more competitive your specific skill set is to the outside world, the more of an incentive the military will offer to keep you in.
2020 sure hasn’t been the most relaxing year, now has it? If you’re anything like me then you’re over everything.
You don’t even want to scroll social media anymore because it makes your blood pressure rise. I have always been able to fall down the Instagram rabbit hole into trashy reality TV star drama to zone out for a bit, but now even that isn’t possible because they are on hiatus due to quarantine too! So, what am I doing to try and rid myself of some of the negative energy surrounding me these days? How do I disconnect after hearing the newest updates on what it will be like to teach for the 2020-2021 school year? Well, sometimes whiskey. But more recently I’ve been looking into healthier ways to deal with my stress and try to zone out for a bit.
First up is yoga.
Now, I am hardly the lithe yogi you see in the movies. I used to laugh at the idea of doing yoga to relax. Mainly because I would get so in my own head about not being bendy enough to traditional-looking enough to be in a yoga class. But now I find that it is actually a great way to get out of my head. While I’m still glad no one can see me doing downward dog from the comfort of my living room, I like the soothing music, the calm tone of the yoga instructors, and the 30 minuets a day I carve out for just my own well-being. If you aren’t sure where to start with a yoga routine head to YouTube, one of my favorites is MadFit. She is just very encouraging and calming, even laughing at herself when she falls out of a pose.
I have a friend that turns to meditation when the stress levels are getting too high.
He told me a quote once that stuck with me. “Meditate 20 minutes every day. And if you don’t have the time, then do 40.” It took me a moment to realize what he was saying. It means that you NEED to make time for the things that will help you be healthy, physically and mentally. While I am not big on meditation myself, I can find a few moments to do some deep breathing when yet another news update rolls across my screen.
You can also turn into your grandma to relax.
Don’t laugh! There has been a huge upswing in 20- 30-year old’s learning to crochet and knit these days! Maybe yarn crafts aren’t your thing, but you get creative in some other way. Painting, writing, coloring curse words in an adult coloring book. Any of those things help you focus on the task at hand and get you out of your head and your problems for a while. I know that when I wasn’t focused on the scarves I was knitting on deployment (I’ve been an 80 year old woman in a 30 year old body for a long time), I’d end up having to take the whole thing apart and start over. While I never quite mastered anything bigger than a baby blanket, just having something to keep my hands busy that wasn’t my cell phone seemed to calm me.
There is also the option to go get some fresh air.
Going on a hike or a bike ride or even just walking the dog are all socially-distanced approved activities still. Get out of the house and get your sweat on. Remind yourself from a beautiful mountain top that there is more to this world than the four walls you may feel trapped in these days. Daily I take my dog on a walk that should take us about 10 minutes. However, he likes to stop and smell EVERYTHING. His pace forces me to slow down and enjoy the feeling of the sun on my face. If you live somewhere coastal, you can drive on down to the water and let the sound of the waves calm you the same way. Just get out of the house. Stretch your legs. Breathe deeply and return home refreshed.
Are these things too tame for you?
Because not everyone is looking to get their Zen on, and I understand that. If that’s the case, see if you can’t swap the yoga videos for some kickboxing instead. And maybe instead of wandering the beach you can see if your local shooting range is practicing safe social distancing standards. I’ll admit that as much as I love relaxing with a good book, there is a serious adrenaline rush that makes me calm down just as much when I have torn apart a target or two on the range. Plus, it makes me feel better knowing my aim isn’t getting rusty…
So, whatever it is that makes you feel a little less frazzled, make time for it. Make it a priority the same way you do your job, your family, your faith. You schedule everything else that is important to you, why not schedule in some time to make sure your mental health can be kept on track with some relaxation too?