U.S. prepares to win the peace against violent extremists - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. prepares to win the peace against violent extremists

“It’s not about winning the war. It’s about winning the peace,” was an expression heard often at the Counter Violent Extremist Organizations Chiefs of Defense Conference on Oct. 16, 2018.

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, hosted the gathering, which drew representatives from 83 nations, including all the U.S. combatant commanders and commanders of counter terrorism operations from around the world.

Dunford and Brett McGurk, the U.S. special envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, spoke to Pentagon reporters during a break.


This was the third chiefs of defense conference. It started in 2016 with 40 countries. “Last year we had 71 [countries] and this year 83, so we are pleased with the turnout,” the general said.

Combating violent extremism

Over the past two years there has been real and quantifiable military progress against violent extremism. But that does not mean the campaign is over. Nations now must particularly address the underlying conditions that lead to radicalization, and that requires a whole-of-government approach, the chairman said.

There is a military dimension and chiefs of defense play an important role. The chiefs generally deal with the counterterrorism fight and mass migration. But getting after the underlying conditions – building economies, establishing schools, hospitals and infrastructure, and improving legitimate governance is a broader issue.

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Brett McGurk, the U.S. special envoy for the global coalition to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, brief the press at the Counter Violent Extremist Organization Chiefs of Defense Conference held at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Oct. 16, 2018.

DOD photo by Jim Garamone

“What we’ve tried to do throughout the day is ensure that we have in context the role of the chiefs of defense,” Dunford said. “One of the things that I think most of them will be more empowered to do when they return to their countries is describe the nature of the challenges we face and help craft more comprehensive solutions to deal with violent extremism.”

The military can deal with the symptoms of terrorism, but it cannot solve the root cause.

The chiefs of defense themselves are a network aimed at taking on a network. The chiefs’ network opens up opportunities to share information, share intelligence and share best practices and then, where appropriate, to take collective action, the chairman said.

The chiefs discussed countering violent extremism around the world, from West Africa and the Sahel to Libya and the maritime operation the European Union is conducting there. They discussed the fight against ISIS and al-Qaida. They discussed the operations in Afghanistan. They also talked about the Sulu Sea and the challenges in Southeast Asia.

Dunford said he was pleased with the good dialogue at the meeting. The chiefs “came prepared to engage and have a discussion,” he added.

Stabilization, sustainment effort

McGurk called the defeat-ISIS campaign in Iraq and Syria a microcosm of the counter violent extremist organizations campaign worldwide. “The theme of the day is the conventional fight. While not over, we can see the endpoint,” he said. “But that is not the end of the campaign. We talked about transitioning to a new phase really focusing on the stabilization and sustainment effort.”

He noted that nations have announced 0 million in contributions just over the last five months enabling stabilization initiatives in Syria. This is giving hope in even in very difficult places like Raqqa – the former capital of the so-called ISIS caliphate – where 150,000 Syrians have returned to their homes.

In Iraq, the U.S.-led effort has now trained over 170,000 members of the security forces. “We had a good presentation today from the commander of the new NATO Training Mission to Iraq that will continue to professionalize the force,” McGurk said. The United States announced 8 million will go to vulnerable communities in Iraq that were so damaged by the fight and campaign and the genocidal acts of ISIS.

Getting information and intelligence to the countries that can act upon it is important, as well. Dunford said nations in Africa and Southeast Asia are looking at establishing fusion centers where regional nations can share this vital information.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia fires intercontinental ballistic missile amid rising tension with US

Russia test-fired its advanced RS-24 Yars intercontinental ballistic missile Feb. 6, 2019, the Russian defense ministry said, amid rising tensions between Washington and Moscow.

The road-mobile, solid-fuel ICBM, which was “armed with multiple warheads,” was launched from the Plesetsk state testing spaceport, according to Russian state-run media outlet TASS. “The launch aimed to confirm the advanced missile system’s capabilities and flight characteristics,” the ministry said.


The Yars missile went into service in 2010. It can be either mobile or silo-based, and it is upgraded version of the Topol-M missiles. With a range of nearly 7,000 miles, the Yars was designed to beat enemy missile defenses.

The Yars has the ability to alter its trajectory during flight, and this maneuverability makes it more difficult to intercept. It can also deploy active and passive decoys — countermeasures that make it more formidable.

And then there are the multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles, which allow the multiple warheads on board to travel a different path than the ICBM was traveling initially.

(Russian Defense Ministry)

“This coupled with the fact that the Yars only takes 7 minutes to launch poses serious threats to the missile defense system used by the US to protect its homeland and its allies,” according to the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance. “The RS-24 is a vital part of Moscow’s effort to increase the survivability its nuclear forces and to counter missile defense systems being deployed by the United States.”

The latest test comes just a few weeks after the release of the Trump administration’s Missile Defense Review, a document highly criticized by Moscow, and just days after the collapse of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty — the last line of defense preventing a major nuclear arms race — from which the US withdrew over alleged Russian violations of the Cold War-era nuclear-arms agreement.

As he ripped up the INF Treaty, President Donald Trump warned the US will “move forward with developing our own military response” to Russian moves. Russian President Vladimir Putin then stressed that Russia “will respond quid pro quo.”

The Russian defense ministry has called for the development of a new land-based cruise missile, a variant of the sea-launched Kalibr missiles, and hypersonic missiles. There are also reports that Russia is again testing its much-hyped Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile, although Moscow apparently has yet to achieve success with this new system.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the plane that nearly killed Chuck Yeager

Ask around — every veteran pilot has a few stories involving close calls. Some of these terrifying near-misses happen in combat and others during peacetime. Chuck Yeager, however, has the displeasure of experiencing both. In fact, his closest call had nothing to do with the enemy.


Back in the 1950s and ’60s, the United States Air Force was testing a number of planes, always trying to reach for the higher and faster. One such plane was the NF-104A Starfighter, a modification of the baseline F-104 that had a short career with the United States Air Force, but saw decades of service with other countries.

A West German F-104 Starfighter. In 1962, this plane crashed with three others, killing four pilots (one of them American).

(US Army)

The purpose of the NF-104A was to test reaction control systems for use in space (since conventional control surfaces need air to function). The F-104 was a great choice for this test. As a high-performance fighter, it could reach a top speed of 1,320 miles per hour, had a maximum range of over 1,000 miles, and maintained the ability to carry two tons of weapons. However, it also proved to be very difficult to fly, earning the nickname “Widowmaker” among the West-German Luftwaffe.

To reach the altitudes required for such a test, engineers paired a rocket with 6,000 pounds of thrust with the J79 engine (the same engine used by the F-4 Phantom). The NF-104A was able to reach altitudes as high as 12,000 feet. It was called the Aerospace Trainer.

A NF-104 Starfighter lights off its rockets to zoom to altitudes of as much as 120,000 feet.

Lockheed modified three F-104As taken from the boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base for the Aerospace Trainer program. Two of the three NF-104s crashed. Yeager’s was the first among them and perhaps the most dramatic. His NF-104A, delivered less than six week prior to the nearly fatal flight, went into a flat spin. Yeager fought the plane as it fell almost 10,000 feet before he ejected. He suffered burns, but lived to eventually command a fighter wing in Vietnam.

Learn more about the plane that nearly killed one of the most famous pilots in history in the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FgToX-Fy42U

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Marines just delivered the latest new uniform changes

Good news, Marines. On Nov. 27, 2017, MARADMIN 644/17 was signed and with it comes a few changes to your uniforms and seabags.


The first, and perhaps most widely applicable change, is that watch caps, combat utility gloves, and inserts are to be placed on the minimum requirement list for seabags. This means that each and every Marine needs to keep these handy.

Marines assigned to the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit embark aboard the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Julio Rivera)

In addition to putting a few more required items in the Marine seabag, MARADMIN 644/17 includes a few changes to the Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniform. One of these changes is yet another something for which your commanding officer can get on your ass. The document will:

Authorize commanders to direct the MCCUU blouse be tucked into the MCCUU trousers in a neat manner, when doing so will enable Marines to deploy and employ mission critical equipment.

The justification for this change is that by tucking in the MCCUU blouse, Marines will be able to more easily deploy military police belts, duty belts, or pistol belts, expanding that tactical toolbox just a tiny bit further.

The changes outlined in MARADMIN 644/17. (Screenshot via Marine Times)

Read Also: 5 ways US military combat uniforms have changed since Vietnam

MARADMIN 644/17 is also helping unmanned aircraft operators get a little more credit. Starting now, both enlisted and officers who pilot drones can wear the unmanned aircraft systems breast insignia on Marine Corps uniforms. Recognizing the troops behind the controls of unmanned aircraft is becoming more important as drone warfare becomes more prevalent. In fact, the US Air Force recently updated their awards to ensure that drone pilots would get their just honors.

The Unmanned Aircraft Systems insignia.

Finally, the document also mandates that combat instructors at the School of Infantry East/West and The Basic School should have an additional pair of hot weather Marine Corps Combat Boots. Expect a slight bump to supplementary allowances to get these boots in your bag.

For more information on uniform requirement changes and additions, check out the official document here.

MIGHTY HISTORY

13 rarely seen illustrations from the Revolutionary War

If you’re reading this, you’re probably familiar with what happened during the American Revolution. But the heroics, triumphs, and defeats of the first American citizens have inspired artists for centuries. Here are 13 illustrations of the war that are often left out of the history books and popular culture:


(John Trumbull, Yale University Art Gallery)

(Alonzo Chappel via Good Free Photos)

(A.H. Ritchie via National Archives and Records Administration)

(M.A. Wageman via National Archives and Records Administration)

(Alonzo Chappel via National Archives and Records Administration)

(E.L. Henry via National Archives and Records Administration)

(James Peale via National Archives and Records Administration)

(Augustus G. Heaton via National Archives and Records Administration)

(Alonzo Chappel via National Archives and Records Administration)

(Ezra Winter via National Archives and Records Administration)

(A.I. Keller via National Archives and Records Administration)

(Alonzo Chappel via National Archives and Records Administration)

(Turgis via National Archives and Records Administration)

Articles

Here’s what it takes to guard the ‘Tomb of the Unknown Soldier’

Every year, approximately 4 million people travel to Arlington National Cemetery to pay their respects to the men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice defending our great country. Most gather in solemn awe at the historic site of “The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier” standing atop a hill overlooking Washington, D.C.


If you plan your visit accordingly, you may get to witness the awesomeness that is the changing of the guard, which occurs every 30-minutes during the hot summer and every hour during the cold winter.

Related: This is the story behind the pre-inauguration wreath laying ceremony

In April of 1948, the 3rd US Infantry Regiment proudly took on the responsibility of guarding the tomb 24-hours day. Being a sentinel guard isn’t just about walking back and forth keeping a close eye out, it takes professionalism, honor, and most importantly commitment as one must volunteer for the role.

Tomb Sentinels at the Changing of the Guard, Arlington National Cemetery. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

Prospects are hand-selected after volunteering and undergo either a 2 or 4 week TDY to learn rifle precision, uniform maintenance, and marching, as well as to, memorize seven pages of knowledge. Verbatim.

Sentinel prospect practice drill marching together before heading out for their watch. (Source: 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment/Screenshot)

On average, 60% of the hopefuls will not graduate, but those who do complete the training will move on and become “Newman”.

Newmans assist sentinels prior to guard changes, maintain their uniforms, and must endure three more tests before earning their future position. The entire training takes six to nine months and has a fail rate of 90%.

Sentinels stand a 27-hour guard shift, walking their post a dozen times. Contrary to popular belief, they are allowed to verbally discipline tomb visitors.

Check out 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment‘s video for more behind the scenes of what it take to guard the tomb.

(3d U.S. Infantry Regiment, YouTube)
popular

This is why ‘silencers’ don’t really exist — firearm suppressors do

There’s a common idea among people who get their gun education from movies and video games that all you need to make a firearm completely silent (or at least barely as loud as someone whispering, “pew“) is to attach a silencer to the front of it. For the record, they are sometimes called “silencers,” but they are still far from silent. The more accurate term is a firearm “suppressor.”


A suppressor works by dampening the gas that leaves the barrel after each shot. Inside the tube of the suppressor are rings, called baffles, that slow down the gas. When a round is fired normally, the gas leaves the barrel super hot and concentrated — creating a loud and beautiful bang sound. When fired out of a suppressed firearm, the gas is slowed by the baffles and leaves cooler and dispersed — creating a less-loud phut sound.

Related: This amazing video shows how firearm suppressors work using a see-through silencer

As for the pew that comes out of every gun in Hollywood spy movies, that is entirely a work of fiction. In a May 2011 episode of MythBusters, Jaime and Adam experimented with the effects of a suppressor on an un-suppressed .45 caliber and a 9mm handgun. They had a sound engineer record the decibels and fired three shots from each gun. They repeated the experiment using firearm suppressors and compared the results to what we see in most films.

They found that the average level of the un-suppressed handguns was 161 dB, while the suppressed firearms came in at 128 dB. Decibels are a logarithmic loudness measurement, which means that 33dB difference is very significant. An ordinary conversation at 3ft registers at about 60 dB and is the baseline for relative loudness. Although significantly quieter, 128 dB is still roughly 115.2 times louder than that baseline conversation.

Turning the math into a real-world perspective, if someone were to say the word “bang” at a normal speaking voice from three feet away under nominal conditions, a suppressed handgun would be roughly just as loud firing from 34 feet away (or roughly the width of an average 4-lane street). An un-suppressed handgun reaches that same volume at 50.5 feet away. Both still above the 125 dB threshold of pain.

A service member aims a firearm with a suppressor.

And it’s still not that “pew” sound.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Sarah N. Petrock)

One of the benefits of having a firearm suppressor — a benefit many who use one can attest to — is that it brings noise below the 140 dB permanent damage mark. Along with the more control of sound in the battlefield, the Marine Corps has been eyeing adding suppressors on all of their rifles and an integrated suppressor on the new M27 infantry automatic rifle. Another benefit, especially on a handgun, is that the additional weight of a suppressor at a firearm’s business end helps with recoil control.

All of these firearm suppressors are spectacular for troops, veterans and civilian firearm owners. It just won’t ever make the whispered “pew” of a Hollywood silencer.

MIGHTY HISTORY

George Clooney literally uses spy satellites to keep tabs on warlords

In 2010, after a trip to South Sudan, George Clooney and Enough Project co-founder John Prendergast had a revelation: they could monitor warlord activity via satellite and take action to help save lives.

Within a year, they had launched the Satellite Sentinel Project, which “combines commercial satellite imagery, academic analysis, and advocacy to promote human rights in Sudan and South Sudan and serve as an early warning system for impending crisis.”

Since 1956, military regimes favoring Islamic-oriented governments have dominated war-torn Sudan. Two civil wars mark the country’s recent history, and though South Sudan became independent in July 2011, Sudan and South Sudan remain in a conflict resulting in a humanitarian crisis that affects more than one million people.

Though violence between government forces has lessened, inter-tribal violence continues — which is where Clooney and his partners step in.


George Clooney Witnesses War Crimes in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains

www.youtube.com

WARNING: This video contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

The project works like this: DigitalGlobe satellites passing over Sudan and South Sudan capture imagery of possible threats to civilians, detect bombed and razed villages, or note other evidence of pending mass violence. Experts at DigitalGlobe work with the Enough Project to analyze imagery and information from sources on the ground to produce reports. The Enough Project then releases to the press and policymakers and sounds the alarm by notifying major news organizations and a mobile network of activists on Twitter and Facebook.
Activist John Prendergast

youtu.be

In 2012, Clooney returned to South Sudan to meet with survivors, policy-makers, and militants.

“The worst-case scenario is rapidly unfolding: political and personal disputes are escalating into an all-out civil war in which certain ethnic groups are increasingly targeted by the others’ forces and the rebels take over the oilfields,” wrote Clooney and Prendergast for The Daily Beast.

But Clooney maintains that there is an opportunity for the international community to help the South Sudanese leaders prevent Sudan from becoming the next Syria.

Which is where the Satellite Sentinel Project comes in. The Enough Project gathers HUMINT (Human Intelligence) on the ground, provides field reports and policy analysis, and coordinates the communications strategy to sound the alarm.

Meanwhile, DigitalGlobe’s constellation of satellites capture imagery of Sudan and South Sudan, allowing for analytic support, identification of mass graves, evidence of forced displacement, and early warning against attacks.

The Satellite Sentinel Project is a clear example of how anyone can help get involved to help defend those who need it most.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A communist soldier made a daring escape through the Berlin Wall in an APC

May Day was a big deal in East Germany. As a matter of fact, it was a big deal in all of the Communist Eastern Bloc countries during the Cold War era. It was, after all, a day for celebrating workers around the world. Since Communist countries were supposed to be a worker’s paradise, it stands to reason they would take a day off from shooting dissenters and waiting in lines to watch a few parades.

And those parades were lit.

It was because everyone was preparing for May Day that Wolfgang Engels was able to escape from East Germany.


The wall began construction in 1961.

Engels was born in 1943 in Düsseldorf, Germany (what would have been West Germany just a few years later), but his Communist mother took him to East Germany after the end of World War II. As a young man, he was drafted into the Army of the new German Democratic Republic, what we know as East Germany.

The young soldier was a believer in the new ideology as a young man. He called his upbringing “thorough” and “socialist” and noted his mother even worked for the Stasi. It wasn’t until much later in his service that someone managed to convince him that things were not all they were made out to be.

But one of his first assignments as a newly-minted East German was to help build the Berlin Wall.

A Soviet-built East German BTR-152, like the one Wolfgang Engels drove through the Berlin Wall.

He soon felt terrible about what the wall became. Not just the barrier between the Iron Curtain and Freedom, but a symbol of the ideological struggle of the Cold War — and he was on the wrong side. The GDR was not the Germany he thought he knew.

After two years, the pressure was getting to him. Suddenly, well before his defection, he was accused of trying to cross the border illegally. He and two friends were looking for a concert in a cafe near the border wall. The group was found and unable to explain, to the guards’ satisfaction, what they were doing and so they were manhandled and mistreated. It drove the reality of East Germany home to him.

In reality, the thought of crossing the wall hadn’t occurred to him until his East German superiors put the idea in his head. But attempting to flee came with a stiff fine, two years’ jail time, and maybe even a bullet to the head. Still he remained determined — and even asked random passersby to come with him, but no one took him up on the offer.

His plan to escape was simple enough. He would steal an armored personnel carrier, drive to the most famous wall in the world (at the time at least), and then drive right through it. That’s exactly what he did, but it was nice of him to stop a couple of times and ask if anyone wanted to come.

The armored personnel carrier came from the preparations being made for the upcoming May Day parade. It was a BTR-152. A six wheeled, Soviet-built vehicle whose top could open upward, luckily for Wolfgang Engels. When the workmen went off to lunch, Engels started up his new vehicle, garnering little notice in a military-run city.

He had roughly 100 meters — the length of a football field — to gather enough velocity to crash through a single layer of cinder blocks less than ten feet high. Unfortunately, Engels’ APC didn’t fully penetrate the Berlin Wall and he was soon stuck in his vehicle — and stuck in the wall. East German border guards began to open fire on the BTR-152 and Wolfgang Engels. He decided it was time to book it.

He left the relative safety of the vehicle and tried to climb away. Ensnared in barbed wire, he was shot at close range while attempting to flee. Twice — once in the back and once in the hand. The second bullet tore through his body, in then out.

Luckily for him, West German police officers from a nearby watchtower fired back at the Eastern border guards, providing much-needed cover and time for Engels. But really, it was time enough for a group of revelers at a nearby bar to come out and help pull him out of the wire and into the freedom of the West. They formed a human ladder, freed him from the wire, and brought him over. They carried his unconscious body back to the bar, closing up the blinds.

“I came to on top of the counter,” he says. “When I turned my head and saw all the Western brands of liquor on the shelf, I knew that I had made it.”

He ordered a cognac.

Wolfgang Engels was sent by ambulance to a nearby hospital where he recovered from a collapsed lung for three weeks.

He wouldn’t see his mother again until 1990, after the fall of the wall. He learned the East Germans were planning to abduct him and charge him with desertion before the wall fell. As for the soldier who shot him, Engels is just grateful he didn’t turn his AK-47 on automatic.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Watch the best intro to the Army-Navy Game ever made

On Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, CBS will once again present the Army-Navy Game, live, at noon EST. Army and Navy already released the uniforms they’re sporting this year, troops around the world are uploading their spirit videos to join in on the smack talk, and, hopefully, CBS Sports will have another outstanding introduction to the game like the one they made in 2017.


This 2018 matchup is the 119th time Army and Navy will take the field in what many call “The Greatest Rivalry In Sports.” Each side will have its students, alums, and military fans cheering on — both in the stadium in Philadelphia and wherever the U.S. Military operates. But as remarkable as the storied game is, the day is truly all about the cadets and midshipmen who are on the field and in the stands that day. Few things can accurately describe the all-encompassing magnitude of a young person choosing life in a service academy quite like the energy of the Army-Navy Game.

Attending the U.S. Military Academy at West Point or the Naval Academy at Annapolis doesn’t just affect the person who wants to go, who competes with so many others for a coveted spot. It affects everyone in their lives, as it has for generations.

And CBS Sports did an amazing job of describing the power of such a decision.

The entry requirements for both of these service academies are rigid — they won’t take just anyone. A candidate must be between 17 and 23 years old and must not be pregnant or have any dependents. The candidate can’t be married and must be a United States citizen. Beyond that, a candidate must be nominated by an official of the U.S. government, which is a sitting Representative, Senator, or Vice President of the United States.

Beyond an excellent high school record and standardized test scores, the candidate must also be in above average physical condition and must successfully complete a Candidate Fitness Assessment for their desired service academy. Needless to say, candidates aren’t just your average American college-age student before they get in.

And before you start thinking this intro video is a little dramatic, consider the ranks academy graduates will be joining.

(U.S. Army)

The cadets of West Point and the midshipmen of Annapolis share a lineage with a “who’s who” of American Military History. West Point has graduated names like William Tecumseh Sherman, Ulysses S. Grant, John J. Pershing, George S. Patton, Douglas MacArthur, H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, and even current Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.

Other notable alums include Mike Krzyzewski, current head coach of the Duke Men’s Basketball Team, who has led the Blue Devils to five national championships and even coached the U.S. Men’s Basketball Team in the 2008, 2012, and 2016 Summer Olympics.

(U.S. Navy)

Midshipmen have their own stunning heritage. Former President Jimmy Carter is a USNA alum who helped pioneer the development of nuclear submarines. Former Arizona Senator John McCain is an alum, along with football great Roger Staubach, Basketball legend David Robinson, billionaire tycoon H. Ross Perot, and the first American in space, Astronaut Alan Shepard.

Along with its distinguished alumni come 21 ambassadors, 24 members of Congress, two Nobel Prize winners, 73 Medal of Honor Recipients, 54 astronauts, and countless scholars.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A Marine left for dead was resurrected at the end of the Vietnam War

In February 1968, two platoons of Marines from a combat base near Khe Sanh went out on a combat patrol. Ronald Ridgeway, just 18-years-old at the time, was one of those Marines. He and 26 of his fellow Marines would not be coming back that night, their patrol would live on, forever known as “The Ghost Patrol.”


A Marine lieutenant lost his way around the area and accidentally led his Marines into a devastating ambush. Ridgeway was shot in the shoulder. Others took much more serious wounds. When the ambush was over, the North Vietnamese walked through the grim melee, popping rounds into Marines to ensure their job was done. Ridgeway was grazed by a bullet that shook his body. The NVA figured he was dead.

So did the Marine Corps.

A 1973 photo of Ronald Ridgeway.

Many of the ambushed Marines were dead, including two of Ridgeway’s closest friends. Through the night, the young man survived an American artillery barrage and excessive bleeding. He woke to an NVA soldier trying to pull off his watch. For six weeks, the remains of those Marines were left. It turns out there were upwards of 20,000 NVA troops moving to assault the Combat Base at Khe Sanh, defended by just 6,000 Marines.

At first, Ridgeway was listed as missing in action, but after the survivors of the ambush made their way back to Khe Sanh and the battlefields couldn’t be cleared, there was little hope for him. The Marines declared him killed in action. His funeral was held Sept. 10, 1968 in St. Louis. His family and friends mourned the loss of their young Marine. By then, Ridgeway had been a POW for seven months.

Ridgeway in 2013.

The NVA soldier taking his watch didn’t kill him, he just put him in leg stocks and marched him to a jungle POW camp. Eventually, the young Ridgeway found himself in North Vietnam’s Hanoi Hilton. He was beaten and starved, but he survived. He sat in a lonesome cell, with just a wooden bed and a bucket that he emptied in a courtyard once a day.

He was there for nearly five long years before the Paris Peace Accords meant he was headed home before the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam. When the list of returning troops was released, Ridgeway’s family was shocked to see their son’s name included on that list.

Ridgeway getting a hug from then-First Lady of California Nancy Reagan and California Governor Ronald Reagan upon returning home in 1973.

“I came back in basically one piece,” he told the Washington Post. “I came back able to live my life. . . . We went over with a job to do. We did it to the best of our ability. We were lucky enough to come back.”

Another place he wanted to see his name listed was his own tombstone. He and his wife visited that several months after he returned home: “Ambushed Patrol Died in Vietnam Feb. 25, 1968… Ronald L. Ridgeway.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

11 striking photos from 2019 of the US military in action

The US military, despite the rise of powerful rivals, remains an unmatched military force with more than 2 million active-duty and reserve troops ready to defend the homeland and protect American interests abroad.

Insider took a look back at the thousands of photos of the military in action and selected its favorites.

The following 11 photos, many of which were also Department of Defense favorites, were the ones we chose.


(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class John Harris)

(Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Jon Alderman)

2. A Wyoming Air National Guard C-130 fires flares over Camp Guernsey Joint Training Center, Wyo., Sept. 24, 2019, during a training mission.

DoD pick

(U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Cmdr. Darin Russell)

(Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Nicole Rogge)

4. Marines use a fire hose to extinguish a fuel fire during live-burn training at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa, Japan, Jan. 25, 2019.

DoD pick

(U.S. Navy photo by Master-At-Arms 1st Class Joseph Broyles)

(Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Brendan Mullin)

6. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Juan Vasquezninco provides security during small boat raid training at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., Sept. 10, 2019.

DoD pick

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Castelan)

(U.S. Navy photo by Jeff Morton)

8. Three MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopters line the seawall at Naval Air Station Jacksonville as the sun rises over the St. Johns River on June 13, 2019.

DoD pick

(Army Sgt. Henry Villarama)

9. Army paratroopers jump from a CH-47 Chinook helicopter over the Bunker drop zone at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, Aug. 14, 2019.

DoD pick

(Air Force Senior Airman Thomas Barley)

10. An Air Force B-2 Spirit bomber, two Royal Air Force F-35 Lightning IIs and two F-15 Eagles fly in formation behind a KC-135 Stratotanker during a training mission over England, Sept. 16, 2019.

DoD pick

(Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jacob Wilson)

11. A service member jumps out of a Marine Corps MV-22B Osprey during parachute training at Marine Corps Training Area Bellows, Hawaii, Aug. 13, 2019.

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