Disabled veterans can now get free lifetime access to national parks - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Disabled veterans can now get free lifetime access to national parks

It’s never too soon to start planning an epic spring or summer vacation. For disabled veterans living stateside, 2020 could be the best year yet for outdoor recreation. This is because the National Parks Service offers disabled veterans an amazing deal on their next visit. From Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park to Dry Tortugas National Park and the Mt. Zion and the Smokey Mountains in between, they’re all at our fingertips – and it’s now totally free.


More than 330 million people visit America’s most beautiful parks every year, and the parks are about to see a huge influx from American veterans due to this partnership between the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation. Disabled veterans can get free access with an Access Pass on their cars, granting free access to anyone in that vehicle. On top of access, the access pass gives holders a discount on expanded amenity fees at many National Parks sites, which can include campsite fees, swimming, boat launches, and group tours.

All a veteran has to do to be one of those who enter the parks for free is submit proper documentation of his or her service-connected disability, along with proof of identification and a processing fee. A Veterans Administration letter of service connection is enough to satisfy this requirement, and the passes can even be ordered online.

Disabled veterans can now get free lifetime access to national parks

This could be you.

(Emily Ogden/National Parks Service)

On top of the disability award letter from the VA, qualified veterans can also use a VA summary of benefits, or proof of SSDI income to prove their disability status. Once proof of residency is also established, and the processing fee is paid, all the veteran has to do is wait. Their new lifetime access pass will arrive 3-5 weeks after sending the application. If online payments aren’t available to the veteran, the passes can also be acquired by paper mail or by stopping into an access pass-issuing facility. The documentation is still required, but getting the pass is a breeze.

The National Parks Service really is full of amazing natural wonders, which make this lifetime pass one of the biggest benefits of having served. The NPS is full of places you’ve always heard about, but likely have never seen: Big Bend, Arches, Denali, Sequoia, Crater Lake, Petrified Forest, Glacier Bay, Hot Springs, and so much more. Summer vacations will never be the same.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the United States can avoid the next ‘dumb war’

While on the campaign trail, President Trump labeled the 2003 invasion of Iraq a “dumb war,” and the “worst decision” in American History. These statements should have received praise from Americans on both sides of the political aisle. Now, however, I’m not so certain that Trump is following through on his promises to avoid the next “dumb” war.

In May 2018, the president announced his intention to pull out of the Iran Deal, or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The deal was, no doubt, flawed, but it did provide an inspections regime to limit and delay any Iranian attempts to go nuclear. Perhaps, being a creation of the Obama administration, the JCPOA was doomed from the start.


Iran is a mid-level menace. It aggressively pursues its interests through various proxy forces in the Mid-East — a sign of its weakness as much as power. The Islamic Republic has a burgeoning ballistic missile program (not covered by the JCPOA) and sometimes threatens Israel. This is all cause for concern and requires the U.S. military to balance and, perhaps, contain Iran. However, the Islamic Republic is decidedly not an existential threat to the United States. A more realist foreign policy must take this into account and avoid disastrous war.

Iran is nowhere near able to launch a (non-existent) nuclear weapon at Tel Aviv, let alone New York. Furthermore, as I have previously noted, Iran spends about as much on defense annually as the U.S. does on a single aircraft carrier. Iran’s GDP is about $427 billion, and it spent some $11.5 billion on defense in 2016. U.S. allies, like Saudi Arabia and Israel, spend $66.7 billion, and $19.6 billion, respectively. Standing behind them is the U.S., which plans to spend $716 billion on defense in 2019, or $300 billion more than Iran’s entire GDP.

Moreover, the U.S. military faces two significant problems: Iran presents a formidable obstacle to invasion, and American forces are already desperately overstretched.

Remember back when Americans were assured that the invasion of Iraq would be a “cakewalk?” We all know how that turned out. Iran is larger, more populous, and more mountainous than Iraq. It also has a fiercely nationalistic population, which, not-so-long-ago used human wave attacks to clear Iraqi minefields. Any U.S. invasion of Iran will require more troops and more years of patience than Washington or the populace have on hand.

Disabled veterans can now get free lifetime access to national parks
The April 2003 toppling of Saddam Hussein’s statue in Firdos Square in in Baghdad shortly after the Iraq Waru00a0invasion.
(Department of Defense photo)

America’s formidable military is already spread thin, deployed in nearly 70 percent of the world’s countries. Our ground and air forces actively engage in combat in Niger, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The U.S. Army is also busy sending brigades to deter Russia in Eastern Europe and to shore up defenses in South Korea. Meanwhile, the Navy is patrolling the South China Sea, and ensuring access to the Persian Gulf and Red Sea. Bottom line: America’s warriors are quite busy.

The last thing Washington should do is take its eye off the ball in some seven ongoing shooting wars to start a new conflict with Iran. ISIS is not yet defeated, Iraq is far from politically stable, and — despite optimistic pleas to the contrary — the war in Afghanistan is failing. The best bet is for the U.S. military to cut its losses, avoid more counterproductive interventions, and cautiously disengage from the region.

The last thing American servicemen and women need is to fight a new, exhaustive war in Iran, with existing enemies to their rear. That would defy just about every sound military maxim on the books. Worse still, if we think Iran’s proxy forces are a problem now, imagine what will happen in the case of war, when Tehran would undoubtedly unleash them against U.S. bases and supply lines across the region.

Personally, this combat veteran trusts President Trump’s instincts more than those of his advisers. Secretary of State Pompeo and National Security Adviser Bolton are well-known Iranophobes with an ax to grind. Ditching the Iran Deal was definitely a win for these two. Still, scuttling the JCPOA does not have to mean war.

Trump eventually saw the invasion and occupation of Iraq for what it was: an unmitigated failure. Let’s hope he applies that instinct and avoids what promises to be an even more costly war with the Islamic Republic.

Mr. President, hundreds of thousands of us, overstretched veterans of 17 years of perpetual war in the Mid-East, are counting on a new deal.

One that doesn’t include a new war.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

popular

If the modern American military conducted the 1944 D-Day landings

The most important difference between 1944 and today would be in the realm of guided munitions.  I once heard that a single F-15 packs as much firepower as an entire squadron of WWII era bombers, when you take into account explosive weight and the percentage of ordnance you can get on target (Keep in mind, the F-15 is a Fighter/Bomber, not a dedicated bomber.  If we start talking about the B-52, things get even crazier).  Additionally, Naval Gun Fire support has come a long way since the 1940’s.  US destroyers and cruisers now only come equipped with one or two 5″ main guns.  In the 1940’s, 5″ guns were almost considered an afterthought.  With improved fuses and nearly automatic rates of fire that can be achieved with today’s weapons, you wouldn’t need the hours and hours of shelling they used during WW2 landings.


As far as the landings go, with today’s amphibious landing tactics and equipment, you wouldn’t NEED to land at Omaha beach at all.

 

Disabled veterans can now get free lifetime access to national parks
Photo: US Navy Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Alicia Tasz

This is an LCAC (Landing Craft Air Cushioned).  It is just one of the many ways the US Navy and US Marine Corps get troops from ship to shore.  The main difference between an LCAC and the landing craft of yore is the fact that the LCAC can access almost any beach in the world, and can travel across dry land.  Furthermore, it can achieve incredible rates of speed compared to the Amtracks of WW2 (I think around 70 knots when not weighed down much).  Today the US would be able to basically avoid any defensive strongpoints and just stick their landing forces where ever they figured was the least defended.

Helicopters, in widespread use since the Vietnam War, allow entire infantry companies and battalions to be shuffled about at incredible speed compared to the 1940s.

Disabled veterans can now get free lifetime access to national parks
Photo: US Army Cpl. Mark Doran

The M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank would probably be as close to invulnerable as anything ever employed in warfare.  The only reasonable option for destroying one with 1944 equipment would be swarming it with infantry and trying to get a grenade inside.  This technique was costly during WW2.  Against an Abrams, with a wingman that can just shower his buddy with HE rounds that do nothing substantial to the armor…

As far as the individual soldier is concerned, the primary difference is the body armor.  Ceramic plates and flak jackets have greatly increased the survivability of the infantryman.  Back in WW2, your armor was a millimeter of cloth.  Today it contains plates that would actually be capable of stopping pretty much any small arms round the Wehrmacht utilized (7.62 AP is the limit, I believe).  A quick look at the WW2 Killed/Wounded ratio [1:1.65] versus the Operation Iraqi Freedom Killed/Wounded ratio [1:7.3] shows that even if nothing but the current body armor was added to the equation, it is likely that the US would have reduced the number of soldiers killed on D-Day from 2,500 to probably around 700.  On the flip side, the infantry of WW2 would be much faster and more agile, as they weren’t towing around 50+ lbs of gear.  So you have a classic heavy infantry vs light infantry situation here.

Disabled veterans can now get free lifetime access to national parks
Photo: US Army

The Mk19 Automatic Grenade launcher.  Designed for use against troops in the open, troops in trench-lines, light armored vehicles, urban strongpoints, and light fortifications, this 76.2 lb beast is technically man-portable (by someone’s standard) and is widely employed on mounted assets.  Capable of firing 325-375 40mm grenades per minute, there is arguably no more intimidating weapon in the US arsenal that is commonly used in firefights.  I have personally been within 25 meters or so of the beaten zone of someone unleashing a long burst of grenades, and it was, shall we say, disconcerting.  This is probably the one weapon capable of allowing an individual to singlehandedly end a firefight.

Today many infantry companies will have communication assets down to the fire team level.  This allows for much faster response times to dealing with threats or re-organizing after a firefight or simply getting troops to move around where you want them (radios at the platoon level were very rare during World War 2, and what was in play was of limited range and had no encryption capabilities.  When I was in a motorized heavy weapons platoon, we had a dozen PRC-119’s, satcom radios, Blue Force Trackers, etc; we probably had comm capabilities that entire divisions during WW2 would have drooled over.  And we had 40 dudes).

While the small arms themselves haven’t really come a long way, the accoutrements certainly have.  Every infantryman today is probably equipped with, at minimum, a 4x scope, NVG’s, and a laser for use with night vision.  One out of every 4 infantrymen will have a grenade launcher.  Another one will have a light machine gun.  This allows for the ability to achieve combined arms effects using just a single fire team.  And the night-fighting capability, with nothing else, would be a game changer.

Disabled veterans can now get free lifetime access to national parks
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy

 

The one thing we would be at a disadvantage in would be combat experience.  The Germans had been fighting for FIVE years by the time the US actually got into France.  Of course, this was an issue during the actual D-Day landings, and didn’t hamper things too much, probably because the allies were facing off against the JV squad, so to speak.  At the same time, our military back then was well trained for large scale battles, as opposed to how the US military is organized today.  Whether or not the current infantryman would fare well is anyone’s guess.

Free Fun Fact:

One thing that hasn’t changed is the M2 .50 Caliber Heavy Machine Gun.  Supposedly something like 95% of the M2s in use currently were originally built during World War 2.  The ammunition, however, has received quite the upgrade (SLAP, API, Raufuss, all fun stuff)

Another Fun Fact:

The United States uses a military doctrine termed “Rapid Domination” (Shock and Awe for the soundbite term).  The Gulf War and the initial invasion of Iraq during OIF are two examples of this doctrine in use.  The basic concept involves gaining air superiority, using tactical and strategic bombers to disrupt and destroy enemy command and control, employing a wide range of offensive maneuvers (amphibious landings, paratrooper drops, armored thrusts, infantry assaults on defensive positions) simultaneously in order to paralyze any decision making ability of the opponent.  This military doctrine is heavily based on the so-called Blitzkrieg doctrine of Nazi Germany.

Read more from Paul Frick here.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

It Sure Looks Like Cats Can Contract COVID-19

A Belgian housecat may be the first feline with a confirmed case of COVID-19, joining the more than 800,000 humans around the world who have contracted the disease to date.

Belgium’s Federal Public Service announced that the cat’s owner contracted the disease after a trip to Northern Italy, one of the most infected regions in the world. About a week after the onset of their human’s symptoms, the cat followed suit, with diarrhea, vomiting, and respiratory issues. Poor kitty.


Disabled veterans can now get free lifetime access to national parks

Tests conducted at a veterinary school in Liège on vomit and feces samples from the cat confirmed the vet’s suspicions: High levels of the SARS-CoV-2 novel coronavirus were found. Blood tests will be conducted once the feline exits quarantine and antibodies specific to the virus are expected to be found.

When COVID-19 first hit our shores, many media outlets (ahem, New York Times) were quick to jump on the fact that the virus was not yet shown to infect dogs. This has proven untrue — two dogs in Hong Kong were infected — and is beside the point. Dogs are not a primary vector for the disease, but if their owner is infected, they can certainly pass on the virus. This is why experts advise steering clear of strange dogs when you’re on solitary walks no matter how friendly they are.

Disabled veterans can now get free lifetime access to national parks

Still, the experts don’t seem too panicked about this development.

“We think the cat is a side victim of the ongoing epidemic in humans and does not play a significant role in the propagation of the virus,” Steven Van Gucht, virologist and federal spokesperson for the coronavirus epidemic in Belgium, told Live Science.

That’s good news for the humans of the earth, especially the cat people. The good news for the felines of the earth is that the cat in question recovered from the virus after just nine days with all nine of its lives intact.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

Articles

6 times America went to war since 9/11

The Trump administration opened a new military front April 6 when it ordered dozens of cruise missiles against a Syrian air base, adding to a growing list of recent U.S. military forays.


A look at where the United States has fought in the 21st century:

1. Afghanistan

Disabled veterans can now get free lifetime access to national parks
U.S. Special Operations personnel take cover to avoid flying debris as they prepare to board a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter during a mission in Kunar province, Afghanistan, on Feb. 25, 2012. (Dept. of Defense photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Clayton Weiss, U.S. Navy)

After al-Qaida attacked the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. led an invasion of Afghanistan that ousted the Taliban. Though the U.S. and NATO formally ended their combat mission in Afghanistan at the end of 2014, the war — now in its 16th year — drags on.

Some 8,400 American troops are deployed in Afghanistan, where they train the country’s military and perform counterterrorism operations.

2. Iraq

Disabled veterans can now get free lifetime access to national parks
An M2A2 Bradley in action during a mission in Iraq. (U.S. Air Force)

Under President George W. Bush, the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003 and toppled Saddam Hussein. Bush’s successor, President Barack Obama, pulled U.S. troops out of Iraq in 2011 after failing to reach an agreement with Baghdad to leave a residual U.S. force behind.

But the U.S. sent troops back three years later after the Islamic State group, a successor to al-Qaida in Iraq, seized Iraqi territory and sought to declare an Islamic caliphate.

3. Drone Wars

Disabled veterans can now get free lifetime access to national parks
Predator drone strike.

Under Obama, the U.S. dramatically increased the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as drones, to launch counterterrorism strikes without the need for a large U.S. military presence on the ground. The CIA and Defense Department have launched strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya, some of them covert.

Intense criticism from civil liberties advocates led Obama to create legal parameters for drone use that he hoped future presidents would respect. At least 117 civilians were killed from 2009 to 2016 by drone strikes outside of traditional warzones, the U.S. intelligence community has said. Other estimates place the toll higher.

4. Libya

Disabled veterans can now get free lifetime access to national parks
A quick reaction force with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response prepares to depart Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy, in support of a military assisted departure from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya, Saturday, July 26, 2014. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by 1st Lt. Maida Kalic)

The U.S. and European allies launched an air campaign in Libya in 2011, aiming to prevent atrocities by strongman Moammar Gadhafi against Arab Spring-inspired opponents. The bombing campaign toppled Gadhafi, but Libya slid into chaos and infighting. The Islamic State group later gained a foothold.

The U.S. has continued to carry out airstrikes in Libya that Washington says has diminished the number of IS extremists operating there.

5. Islamic State Group in Iraq and Syria

Disabled veterans can now get free lifetime access to national parks
U.S. Marines with Task Force Spartan, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), on Fire Base Bell, Iraq, fire an M777A2 Howitzer at an ISIS infiltration route March 18, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Andre Dakis)

After IS captured a wide swath of Iraq and Syria in 2014, Obama announced the U.S. could target the group “wherever they are.”

The U.S. started sending small numbers of military advisers to help Iraq’s weakened military fight IS. The number has crept up to around 7,500 U.S. troops. IS has lost much of its former territory.

In Syria, the U.S. has conducted airstrikes against IS since 2014. More recently, the U.S. has dispatched growing numbers of special operations forces to assist Kurdish and Arab forces fighting IS. Roughly 500 U.S. fighters are in Syria, plus additional, “temporary” forces that rotate through.

6. Syria

Disabled veterans can now get free lifetime access to national parks
The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) is one of the two warships to fire 59 BGM-109 Tomahawks at the Syrian airfield on April 6, 2017. (U.S. Navy photo)

Even while fighting IS in Syria, the U.S. has avoided wading into Syria’s civil war by directly confronting Syrian President Bashar Assad — until now. On April 6, U.S. warships in the Mediterranean Sea launched some 60 Tomahawk missiles at an air base in response to a chemical weapons attack blamed on Assad’s forces.

The strikes mark the first direct U.S. attack on Syria’s government, which has waged a six-year civil war against opposition groups. It also puts the U.S. into a de facto proxy battle with Russia’s military, which is on the ground in Syria and has propped up Assad.

Articles

That time this Navy squadron bombed North Vietnam with a toilet

In October 1965, Commander Clarence W. Stoddard, Jr. of the USS Midway carried a special bomb to North Vietnam to celebrate the six millionth pound of ordnance dropped on the Communist country: a ceramic toilet.


Disabled veterans can now get free lifetime access to national parks

The event was recounted on MidwaySailor.com:

The bombing was a Dixie Station strike from South Vietnam. Among the weapons on Stoddard’s ordnance list was one code named “Sani-Flush.”

Sani-flush was a damaged toilet, which was going to be thrown overboard. One of the Midway‘s plane captains rescued it and the ordnance crew made a rack, tail fins, and nose fuse for it. The checkers maintained a position to block the view of the air boss and the captain while the aircraft was taxiing forward.

Disabled veterans can now get free lifetime access to national parks

The toilet ordnance was dropped in a dive with Stoddard’s wingman, Lt. Cmdr. Robin Bacon, flying tight wing position to film the drop. When it came off, it turned hole to the wind and almost struck his airplane, and whistled all the way down.

According to Clint Johnson, now a retired U.S. Navy Captain, just as Stoddard’s A-1 Skyraider was being shot off, they received a message from the bridge: “What the hell was on 572’s right wing?”

“There were a lot of jokes with air intelligence about germ warfare,” Johnson said. “I wish that we had saved the movie film. Commander Stoddard was later killed while flying 572 in October 1966. He was hit by three SAMs over Vinh.”

Disabled veterans can now get free lifetime access to national parks
Cmdr. William Stoddard

This isn’t the first example of unconventional warfare from U.S. Navy aviators. In August 1952, AD-4 Skyraiders from the aircraft carrier USS Princeton dropped a 1,000-pound bomb with a kitchen sink attached to it.

Disabled veterans can now get free lifetime access to national parks

“We dropped everything on them (the North Koreans) but a kitchen sink.” Their squadron’s executive officer, Lt. Cmdr. M.K. Dennis, told the press, before showing them a bomb with a kitchen sink attached.

The admiral was not okay with this, but caved to pressure from American press. The U.S. dropped the kitchen sink on Pyongyang that same month.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Capt. America could soon be flying a B-2 stealth bomber — and why some fans don’t like it

On Oct. 6, Marvel made a huge announcement on Twitter, and fans are not happy.


Marvel Entertainment is joining forces with Northrop Grumman, an American global aerospace and defense technology company, and the world’s fifth-largest defense contractor.

We don’t know much yet, but it looks like there will be a promotional comic featuring the Avengers and “Northrop Grumman Elite Nexus,” or N.G.E.N.

 

The arms manufacturer generates over 20 billion dollars in revenue a year. Marvel Entertainment didn’t reveal anything more about the partnership, and to learn more the company encouraged fans to head to their New York Comic Con booth on Saturday afternoon.

The partnership comes as a surprise to many Marvel fans. Tony Stark/Iron Man, one of Marvel’s most popular characters, stops selling weapons (his family’s long-time business) because he realizes he’s not saving lives, he’s destroying them. For sensitivity reasons following the Las Vegas shootings, Marvel pulled its NYCC panel for “The Punisher,” and canceled screenings of the first two episodes.

Disabled veterans can now get free lifetime access to national parks
Lance Cpl. Brandon M. Barnes, 21, a team leader from Fairbanks, Ala., assigned to I Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, holds out one of the comic books that Marines pass out to Iraqi children at in Hit, Iraq, April 10. Barnes’ uncle and mom sent him packages with comic books in them. Barnes decided to hand out the comics he doesn’t read to the kids in the city. Before Marines give them away, he scans the comics for any pictures that may be offensive to the Iraqi people. (Photo/Cpl. Erik Villagran)

Many lauded Marvel’s decision to cancel The Punisher screenings, but fans don’t seem pleased with the new Northrop Grumman partnership, and some took to Twitter to express their opinions on the matter:

 

 

 

 

 

The full details of the partnership are unknown, but more should be revealed on Saturday at NYCC.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How brave World War II-era pilots flew the now-classic C-47

The C-47 is a classic transport plane — it flew with the United States Air Force in World War II and remained in service until 2008. It’s been used by dozens of countries as a transport. A re-built version, the Basler BT-67, currently serves in a half-dozen air forces, from Mauritania to Thailand, in both transport and gunship versions. In fact, classic C-47s are still around — either under civilian ownership or as warbirds.


This shouldn’t be a surprise. Over 10,000 C-47s were produced by the United States alone. Japan and the Soviet Union also built this plane — and these durable, reliable birds don’t just disappear. Versions of this plane also served as electronic warfare assets, either listening in to enemy communications or serving as jammers.

Disabled veterans can now get free lifetime access to national parks

The 6th Special Operations Squadron operated the C-47 as late as 2008.

(USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Ali Flisek)

The baseline C-47 has a top speed of 230 miles per hour and a maximum range of 1,600 miles. It can carry 27 combat-ready troops or up to three tons of cargo. The latter might not sound like much when compared to modern cargo-carrying birds, but again, over 10,000 of these planes were produced. With those kinds of quantities, you’re able to move a lot of volume on demand.

The C-47 was used in the European and Pacific theaters of World War II, the Berlin Airlift, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. C-47s helped drop the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions in Normandy and also dropped supplies to besieged troops in Bastogne.

Disabled veterans can now get free lifetime access to national parks

C-47s were used in all theaters of World War II – and training the tens of thousands of pilots was an immense task.

(Imperial War Museum photo)

The fact that so C-47s remain many out there in the world means that, one day, you might just get the chance to own one. Then, like tens of thousands of pilots before you over the last nearly 80 years, you will have to learn how to fly this legend.

Start by watching the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sA_N10PQtl0

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy locates the wreckage of missing C-2A plane

The U.S. Navy has located the wreckage of a transport aircraft that crashed into the Philippine Sea in November, NHK World reported Jan. 6.


In a statement, the Navy’s 7th Fleet says a team of deepwater salvage experts detected an emergency beacon from the C-2A Greyhound. The wreckage rests on the seabed at a depth of 5,640 meters.

The salvage team had been searching the area since late December.

Disabled veterans can now get free lifetime access to national parks
Matthew Chialastri, Steven Combs, and Bryan Grosso (l to r) were killed in the C-2A Greyhound crash on Nov 22. Lt. Steven Combs, the pilot of the aircraft, is credited with saving the lives of the 8 surviving passengers.  (Images from U.S. Navy)

The crash occurred on Nov. 22nd while the C-2A was flying from a military base in Iwakuni, in western Japan, to the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan.

Eight of the 11 crew and passengers were recovered. The U.S. Navy and Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force launched a combined search operation over several days, but failed to locate the three missing.

Read More: Navy pilot lost in C-2 crash ‘flew the hell out of that airplane’

The U.S. 7th fleet says every effort will be made to recover the aircraft and victims despite what it calls very challenging conditions.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the Coast Guard’s largest loss of life in a single event

“I felt and saw two flashes after which only the bow of the ship was visible. The rest had disintegrated and the bow sank soon afterwards.” – Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Perry Stinson, USS Serpens commanding officer

The quote above refers to the Coast Guard-manned USS Serpens. Nearly 73 years ago on Jan. 29, 1945, a catastrophic explosion destroyed the transport. In terms of lives lost, the destruction of the Serpens ranks as the single largest disaster ever recorded in Coast Guard history.


In March 1943, an EC-2 class “Liberty Ship” was laid down under a Maritime Commission contract as “Hull #739” by the California Shipbuilding Corporation of Wilmington, California. It was launched less than a month later as the SS Benjamin N. Cardozo. Two weeks later it was transferred to the U.S. Navy and designated AK-97. The transport was 442 feet in length, displaced 14,250 tons and had a top speed of 11 knots. For defense it carried one 5-inch gun, one 3-inch gun, two 40mm and six 20mm anti-aircraft cannons. Its crew consisted of 19 officers and 188 enlisted men. In late May, the Navy renamed the transport Serpens, after a constellation in the Northern Hemisphere, and commissioned the vessel in San Diego under the command of Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Magnus Johnson.

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USS Serpens at anchor somewhere in the Pacific islands with derricks extended to take on cargo.
(U.S. Navy photo.)

Following a shakedown cruise off Southern California, Serpens loaded general cargo at Alameda, California, and, on June 24, set sail to support combat operations in the Southwest Pacific. It steamed between the supply hub of New Zealand and various Pacific islands, such as Tonga, Vitu Levu, Tutuila, Penrhyn, Bora Bora, Aitutaki, and Tongatabu. In early December, Serpens moved its operations into the southern Solomons, re-supplying bases and units on Florida Island, Banika Island, Guadalcanal and Bougainville. In February 1944, its crew was ordered back to New Zealand for dry-dock and, for another four months, they delivered materials to bases in the New Hebrides and Solomons.

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An aerial view of Lunga Point, Guadalcanal, during World War II showing the airfield captured by the U.S. Marines early in the campaign.
(U.S. Navy photo)

In late July 1944, Lt. Cmdr. Perry Stinson assumed command from Johnson. From that time into the fall of 1944, Serpens resumed operations carrying general cargo and rolling stock between ports and anchorages within the Solomon Islands. In mid-November, it loaded repairable military vehicles from the Russell Islands and Guadalcanal and sailed for New Zealand. After offloading in New Zealand, three of its holds were converted for ammunition stowage. Late in December 1944, Serpens commenced loading at Wellington, completed loading at Auckland, New Zealand, and returned to the Solomons in mid-January 1945.

Monday, January 29, found Serpens anchored off Lunga Point, Guadalcanal. Lunga Point had served as the primary loading area for Guadalcanal since the U.S. military’s first offensive of World War II began there in August 1942. Serpens’s commanding officer, a junior officer and six enlisted men went ashore while the rest of the crew loaded depth charges into the holds or performed their usual shipboard duties. Late in the day, in the blink of an eye, the explosive cargo stowed in Serpens’s holds detonated. An enlisted man aboard a nearby Navy personnel boat gave the following eyewitness account:

“As we headed our personnel boat shoreward, the sound and concussion of the explosion suddenly reached us and, as we turned, we witnessed the awe-inspiring death drams unfold before us. As the report of screeching shells filled the air and the flash of tracers continued, the water splashed throughout the harbor as the shells hit. We headed our boat in the direction of the smoke and, as we came into closer view of what had once been a ship, the water was filled only with floating debris, dead fish, torn life jackets, lumber and other unidentifiable objects. The smell of death, and fire, and gasoline, and oil was evident and nauseating. This was sudden death, and horror, unwanted and unasked for, but complete.”

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A chart of Iron Bottom Sound, located north of Guadalcanal, showing the numerous ships lying on the seafloor, including the remains of USS Serpens at Lunga Point.

After the explosion, only the bow of the ship remained. The rest of Serpens had disintegrated, and the bow sank soon after the cataclysm. Killed in the explosion were 197 Coast Guard officers and enlisted men, 51 U.S. Army stevedores, and surgeon Harry Levin, a U.S. Public Health Service physician. Only two men on board Serpens survived–Seaman 1/c Kelsie Kemp and Seaman 1/c George Kennedy, who had been located in the boatswain’s locker. Both men were injured, but were later rescued from the wreckage and survived. In addition, a soldier who was ashore at Lunga Point was killed by flying shrapnel. Only two Coast Guardsmen’s bodies were recovered intact and later identified out of the nearly 250 men killed in the explosion.

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USS Serpens crew’s caskets arrive at Arlington National Cemetery from Guadalcanal in 1949.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

At first, the loss of Serpens was attributed to enemy action and three Purple Heart Medals were issued to the two survivors and posthumously to Levin. However, a court of inquiry later determined that the cause of the explosion could not be established from surviving evidence. By 1949, the U.S. Navy officially closed the case deciding that the loss was not due to enemy action but an “accident intrinsic to the loading process.”

Disabled veterans can now get free lifetime access to national parks
Retired Coast Guard officer Richard Stoud plays taps at the Serpens Memorial in November 2013.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Today, all that remains of the Serpens is the bow section sitting upside down on the sea floor off Lunga Point. The dead were initially buried at the Army, Navy and Marine Corps Cemetery at Guadalcanal. The crew’s mortal remains were later exhumed and shipped to Arlington National Cemetery for burial. On June 15, 1949, Serpens’s Coast Guardsmen were interred on Arlington Cemetery’s Coast Guard Hill. A monument to the Serpens listing all of the lost crewmembers was erected over the gravesite and dedicated on Nov. 16, 1950.

This article originally appeared on the United States Coast Guard. Follow @USCG on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Medal of Honor recipient directed a counterattack his first time in combat

Soon after graduating high school, Harvey “Barney” Barnum, Jr. joined the Marine Corp Platoon Leaders Course, where he learned various military infantry tactics. Once Barnum earned his degree, he was given an officer’s commission in the Marine Corps Reserves and sent to the gritty jungles of Vietnam in 1965.

On December 18, Barnum and the rest of the Marines were patrolling in the Quảng Tín Province of South Vietnam. Unbeknownst to Barnum and his men, as the Marines moved deep into the enemy territory, they were walking into a vicious trap. The Vietnamese troops had dug themselves into the nearby terrain and waiting as nearly three companies of Marines walked by, headed toward a small village.

Then, a firefight broke out, first striking the Marine’s rear position and moving to the front of the patrol as the grunts entered the enemy-infested village. What happened next, no first-timer would ever expect.


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Barnum takes a moment for a quick photo op while stationed in Vietnam.

The initial attack severely injured the company commander and the radio operator. This deadly wave was Barnum’s first taste of real combat — and his training kicked in immediately. He went and retrieved the radio, calling for heavy fire support.

Barnum also dashed out of his position to recover the company commander and move him to safety. Moments later, Barnum’s commanding officer died in his arms. With all the men looking for guidance, the young Marine knew it was up to him to assume control and direct a counterattack.

After passing out orders, the Marines laid a curtain of gunfire onto the trench line from which the enemy had so much success earlier. Barnum picked up a rocket launcher and fired it three times at the enemy position. That was the signal the attack Hueys needed.

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U.S. troops load up on a Huey during the Vietnam War.

After running out of rockets, the Marine officer directed the Hueys above towards targets to nail — and that’s just what they did. This airborne attack freed up some terrain, allowing the wounded and the dead to be transported out. Although still surrounded by enemy troops, Barnum choreographed each squad as they moved from the hot zone.

In roughly 45 minutes, the men found safety.

1st Lt. Harvey “Barney” Barnum, Jr. was presented with the Medal of Honor on February 27, 1967, surrounded by his fellow Marines at the barracks.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how the Apollo 11 travel pay proves DTS always sucked

On July 20th, 1969, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin made history as Apollo 11 landed on the moon. Seven days later, they returned to a country of adoring fans, astonished that these brave astronauts accomplished a feat few thought possible. They filled out all of their paperwork, which included customs documents accounting for the harvested moon rocks and travel vouchers — because, technically, they were listed as troops on TDY.

When Col. Buzz Aldrin got his travel voucher back, he was approved for $33.31 for his time spent and distance traveled. Yep. A whole thirty-three bucks for going to the moon. Accounting for inflation, that’s all of $228.73 in 2018 dollars.


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It should also be noted that the Defense Travel System usually pays out pre-approved amounts for travel in most cases — it’s how they avoid paying out ridiculous sums (like the one we’re about to calculate). This article is just a thought experiment to find out how much Col. Aldrin, and any likely Space Force cadets, would get for making an interstellar trip.

(NASA)

In his voucher, every aspect of his travels was itemized. First, Aldrin left his home on July 7th and arrived at Ellington Air Force Base (8 miles). He flew to Cape Kennedy that day (1,015 miles), then flew to moon via “Gov. Spacecraft” (238,900 miles) and touched down in the Pacific Ocean on the 24th (another 238,900 miles). He was then picked up by the USS Hornet and made his way to Hawaii on the 26th (900 miles) and flew back to Ellington (3,905 miles) before finally going home on the 27th (8 more miles).

In total, he traveled roughly 483,636 miles and was away for twenty days.

Out of context, Aldrin’s .31 compensation is a pittance. But, officially, we know he was given the roughly bucks exclusively for the distance traveled between home and Ellington and the 100 miles of authorized use of a privately-owned vehicle around Cape Kennedy. But, just for fun, let’s find out just how much Col. Aldrin should have been paid.

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To put this in perspective for our younger, junior-enlisted audience, that’s around half the price of a ’69 Ford Mustang back then.

(NASA)

Since DTS records of pricing rates for service members’ travel are hard to understand (at best) in 2018 and nearly nonexistent for 1969, we are going to have to extrapolate the data using recent travel rates and work our way backwards, accounting for the 85.44% inflation between now and then to get a grand total.

First, let’s start with the easy stuff: per diem rates. Right now, DTS offers 4 per day of travel within the continental United States and 5 per day of travel outside. Using these numbers, we arrive at a total of ,381, including his nine stateside days and 11 days spent outside of the continental U.S. (there’s no existing rate for travel outside of the Earth’s atmosphere, so we’re just going to consider those 8 days in Space as definitely outside of the continental U.S.). Right off the bat, we’re looking at roughly id=”listicle-2597884034″,366.17 in 1969 dollars.

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But, hey! I’m sure that the money means nothing compared to forever looking up at the moon and saying, “yeah. I was there.”

(NASA)

But since Aldrin was still in the Air Force at the time of his Apollo 11 mission, he was listed as TDY — hence the travel voucher — so we’re going to need to calculate distance, too. Mileage rates are categorized by car, motorcycle, airplane, and ‘other.’ This last category is typically reserved for boat or ferry travel (which he did use after splashing down the the Pacific to get to Hawaii), but we’re going to lump spacecraft travel in here, too. If that’s not ‘other,’ I don’t know what is.

Using these rates, he’d be paid .72 for driving to and from the base, ,953.20 for the plane travel, 2 for the USS Hornet trip, and, at .18 cents for every mile traveled, another ,004 for going to the moon and back. That’s a grand total of ,127.92 in 2018 travel pay, or ,416.72 in 1969 dollars.

With both distance and per diem rates, that’s a whole ,782.89 that Col. Buzz Aldrin could have been paid — but wasn’t.

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9 epic ways you can troll your radio guy

Messing around with your fellow Joes is always good fun. It’s a lighthearted way of letting them know that they’re one of the guys.


If you didn’t care about someone, you wouldn’t mess with them, right?

Every unit, from combat arms to support, has a communications (commo/comms) person. They range from being tasked to operate the radio systems to being a full specialization, from grunt AF to fobbit. These guys are there for us, but that doesn’t mean they’re not above some playful ribbing every now and then.

Doing any of the things on this list should always come from a place of mutual friendship. Don’t be a dick about it. Basically, don’t anything that would get you UCMJ’ed, impede the mission, or lose your military bearing.

1. Yell that you can’t hear anything on channel “Z”

Zeroize is a neat tool. It is designed to wipe out all of the information on the radio in case the worst happens. It’s also coincidentally very easy to access. Watch as their eyes grow big and run to your vehicle to set your radio back up.

 

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2. Say “is this chip thingy supposed to come out of the SKL?”

For some reason, you get your hands on the most protected piece of equipment of a radio guy.

A quick explanation of what that key does is that it allows you to load Comsec. Ripping it out would essentially zeroize it. Don’t actually rip it out. But saying that you did will make commo guy sh*t himself.

3. During radio checks, say “Lickin’ Chicken” instead of “X this is Y, Read you Loud and Clear, over.”

Radio checks are boring. And it’s usually the last thing before rolling out on the 0900 convoy that we all arrived at 0430 to prep for.

When one person starts saying “Lickin’ Chicken,” it spreads like wildfire. Before you know it, everyone will say it during radio checks. On the commo guy’s end, it’s like hearing the same joke 100 times over and over again.

“uh… roger, over…” via GIPHY

4. Say that the antenna is still lopsided

Most commo dudes are perfectionists (emphasis on most). If the SKL was their baby, the OE-254 (cheap ass FM antennae) is the bane of their existence.

Theoretically, just attaching it will make it work. But that won’t stop radio operators from trying to get it juuuust right.

5. “Hotkey” your mic

Everything is set up. Everything is green. Things are finally working. Then someone leaves their hand mic under something that pushes the button down.

“No problem!” thinks the radio operator. Just double tap on their own mic to mute that person until they release the mic.

But if you intentionally hold down the push-to-talk button after they mute you to keep messing with them…?

6. During a convoy, ask why we don’t have any music playing

Different type of radio system. And there’s totally no way to solder an aux cable onto a cut up W-4 cable to connect your iPhone up to the net, blasting music out to everyone in the convoy.

Nope, never done it…

7. Ask us to fix your computer

Not all Signal Corps soldiers are the same. Radio operator/maintainers are the less POG-y specialization. They only pretend to be POGs to get out of Motor Pool Mondays or bullsh*t details.

Ask the other S-6 guys for that. If they do know how, it’s not their main task. It’s the computer guy’s.

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“Sure, F*ck it. Whatever. Case of beer and I’ll look at your personal computer” (Photo credit Claire Schwerin, PEO C3T)

8. “Run out” of batteries

Batteries weight around 3 lbs each. A rucksack full of them surprisingly runs out faster than you’d think. So it’s fairly often that comms troops have to run back and forth to get more batteries.

Tell your radio maintainer that you’re running low and then just stockpile them for later, making them run around the convoy with a full ruck.

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9. Tell them that a drop test does nothing

This one is how you really dig into the saltier, more experienced radio guys.

A comms guy’s bread and butter is a fully-functioning radio. In most cases, the problem is simply putting the correct time in the radio. Others is making the radio work with their “commo magic.” That magic is almost always just kicking the damn thing or picking it up a few inches off the ground and dropping it. Ask any radio operator and they’ll tell you it works.

There’s no explanation — it just works. Saying that “It’s a bunch of circuits, why would that work?” will just have them bullsh*tting you on why they went all caveman for no reason and miraculously having things work.

Is there anything that we missed? If you have any ideas on how to mess with other job specialties?