This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years

Johnie Webb’s corner office is full of memories from a grim but fulfilling mission.

As the Army veteran leans over his desk — strewn with gifts given to him over the course of a 40-year career — he grabs a wooden box and pulls out a modest bracelet. Engraved on stainless steel reads the name of a staff sergeant killed in the Vietnam War.


When he begins to share the story of how he received it, his light blue eyes well up with tears.

“I keep it on my desk, because this is what we’re all about,” said Webb, deputy of outreach and communications for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

Since 1975, Webb has traveled dozens of times to former combat zones as a Soldier and later as a civilian for the joint agency or one of its predecessors. The agency is responsible for locating the remains of the more than 82,000 Americans who are still missing from past conflicts.

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years
upper right, deputy of outreach and communications for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, sits with team members during a recovery mission in Papua New Guinea in 1978.

While much of his time had been in search of those fallen service members, Webb, 72, is now an advocate for their families who continue to wait for updates.

“I’m not going to say closure, because I’m not sure if there ever is closure when you lose a loved one. But at least [we can] provide them answers and give that loved one back,” he said. “That’s extremely important and I’m honored to play a small part.”

Vietnam veteran

Early in his Army career, Webb, a retired lieutenant colonel, led convoys as a logistics officer all over Vietnam to ensure bases had fuel for operations during the war.

Under the constant threat of roadside bombs and ambushes, he briefed his Soldiers to move their vehicle out of the road if it were ever hit so other vehicles could escape.

“If you block the road, then we’re all done,” he recalled saying.

During one of those missions, a Soldier did just that after a rocket-propelled grenade struck the cab of his 5-ton vehicle and left him with severe burns.

His sacrifice was something Webb never forgot.

“Unfortunately, he didn’t survive,” he said. “But he probably saved the rest of us by doing what we were trained to do and that was to get his truck off the road.”

A few years after his tour, the Army assigned Webb to the Central Identification Laboratory-Thailand, which was later moved to Hawaii and consolidated into DPAA.

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years
Johnie Webb holds a stainless steel bracelet given to him by the father of a Soldier whose remains were found by the agency.

The role of the new unit was to find the remains of Americans from the Vietnam War.

At first, he was confused, he said, since he knew nothing about the organization or its mission. In the Army’s eyes, though, he was qualified for the job because as a young lieutenant he once took a course on graves registration.

It would eventually come full circle for Webb in 1985, when he was chosen to lead the first recovery team into Vietnam only a decade after the end of the war.

“It became very personal for me,” he said, regarding the sacrifices made by fallen comrades. “We couldn’t let them be forgotten.”

Being back in Vietnam was initially “unnerving,” he said. After all, he had once fought an enemy there and it was uncertain how his team would be treated.

The mission was to search for human remains from a B-52 bomber crash site near Hanoi. But the team’s visit to Vietnam was also an opportunity to rebuild the diplomatic relationship between the former warring nations.

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years
Johnie Webb points to a photo of him published in a book on U.S.-Vietnam diplomatic relations after the war inside his office at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, March 13, 2018.


The Vietnamese still distrusted Americans then, he said, and even photographed his team with cameras that were crudely hidden in briefcases.

Now, more than 30 years after that first mission, Vietnamese officials work closely with the DPAA teams that rotate in and out of the country each year. The agency is even permitted to permanently base one of its detachments in Hanoi to support teams as they search for roughly 1,600 Americans missing from that war.

“We were there before we had diplomatic relations. We were there before an embassy was ever established,” Webb said. “A lot of groundbreaking effort went into getting us to where we are today.”

North Korea

While the agency’s mission started with the work to account for those lost in Vietnam, it grew to include sites from World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War and other conflicts.

Webb was again behind another pioneering effort, but this time in North Korea. He and others took several trips to the country and helped negotiate with the North Koreans so teams could conduct missions at former battle sites from 1996 to 2005.

They even traveled from the capital, Pyongyang, to the Chosin Reservoir, where a decisive battle had taken place in the winter of 1950. As they were driven through the country, Webb recalled seeing how desperate the North Koreans had lived.

“It was very interesting times,” he said, “but it made sure you were really appreciative of being an American.”

As U.S. and North Korean governments currently aim to thaw relations between each other, Webb hopes it will lead the reclusive country to reopen its borders to the agency’s teams.

About 7,700 Americans are still unaccounted for from the Korean War, with the majority believed to be in North Korea.

“If we want to get answers to the families, and we definitely want to get them answers, we’re going to have to get access back into North Korea,” he said.

With the days of digging at excavation sites now behind him, Webb maintains a pivotal role in keeping families, distinguished visitors and veterans service organizations apprised of agency efforts.

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years
Johnie Webb stands next to then-President Bill Clinton during his visit to an excavation site.


“I couldn’t say enough good things about Johnie Webb and the fact that he is literally one of the staunchest contributors to this mission,” said Kelly McKeague, the agency’s director.

McKeague, a former Air Force major general, credits Webb’s “Texas roots” for his compassion and calm demeanor. There is no better person, McKeague said, to speak with families struggling with loss.

“Johnie has a sense about him to be able to communicate with them, to be empathetic to them, and to literally not just be their friend but be their confidant,” he said. “They have so much confidence in him.”

Family advocate

Whether in a foreign country or back at the headquarters in Hawaii, Webb said the younger troops at the agency have always impressed him.

“Most of them weren’t even born when the guy who they are trying to recover was lost,” he said. “Still, they feel that kinship to that military buddy who wore the uniform for them.”

The “grunt work” these troops — many of whom are Soldiers — do at an excavation site can take months to years to find remains, if there are any. Once recovered, it can take even longer to identify them by lab staff.

While the long process sometimes leaves families irritated, the agency wants to ensure human remains are properly excavated and identified.

“Not only is it frustrating to the families, it gets frustrating for us as well because we want to provide those answers,” Webb said. “We want to return that loved one, but we want to do it right.”

When the answers do come, some family members do not want to believe them.

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years
Johnie Webb consoles a grieving family member.


Inside a wooden box on his desk, the engraved bracelet reminds Webb of one such family member.

The father of the staff sergeant whose name is on the bracelet often spoke to Webb about his missing son before he was found. He had hoped his son was still alive and pleaded to Webb to bring him back.

A team then discovered remains from a site of a crashed helicopter, which the staff sergeant was on. Shortly after, Webb advised the father to prepare to receive his son’s remains so he could honor his life.

“It was clear that he was not wanting to hear that,” Webb remembered.

Webb asked other families who knew the grief-stricken father and had also lost loved ones to talk to him so he could come to terms with the news. He finally did.

When his son’s remains were returned to the family, there was a huge outpouring of public support. The funeral had full military honors and even dignitaries showed up to it.

“It was a day of celebration for this young man to come back home,” Webb said. “I was happy that he had honored his son the way he should have been honored.”

A few weeks later, a brown envelope addressed to Johnie Webb came in the mail. In it, there was a “thank you” note along with the bracelet, which the father always wore.

“I’m giving to you the POW bracelet that I have worn since my son was lost,” Webb said, recalling what the father wrote. “I finally took it off when he came back home. I want you to have it as a token of my appreciation.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The evolution of military timepieces from pocket watches to Rolexes to G-Shocks

The year is 1945 and U.S. forces are taking back Philippine Islands from the Japanese.

Lt. Col. Henry Mucci and his 133 Rangers are staging a daring rescue of allied POWs at the Cabanatuan prison camp. Mucci checks his watch; it’s time. At 1700 hours on January 30, the Rangers step off from their staging area at Platero. At 1745 hours, they reach their checkpoint at the Pampanga River and split into the two elements for the impending raid.


At 1800 hours, a P-61 Black Widow takes off from Lingayen Field. At 1855 hours, the pilot cuts the engines over the prison camp, drops altitude, and restarts his engines to produce loud backfires and simulate a crippled plane. He circles the camp at low altitude, continuously cutting and restarting his engines and causing an aerial spectacle for the next 20 minutes. This distraction turns the attention of the Japanese soldiers skyward and allows the Rangers to crawl undetected through the low grass leading up to the camp and take their positions for the raid. At 1944 hours, Lt. John Murphy and his support by fire element open up on the Japanese guard towers with a murderous crescendo of gunfire that signals the start of the raid.

The raid at Cabanatuan is just one example of the necessity for precise timing and synchronization in military operations. Before the advent of timepieces, the rising of the sun often served as a method of synchronization, with attacks occurring at first light. Although pocket watches were becoming more popular and commonplace in the late 1800s, they were not standard-issue in the military. The history of U.S. Military watches begins in the trenches of WWI.

The British Army experimented with the idea of a wrist watch a few decades before WWI in the Boer War, but the need for a timepiece worn on the wrist became more apparent in the trenches. During the war, officers would often signal the start of a synchronized charge against an enemy trench with the blow of a whistle. The timing of these attacks was crucial, with some being miles long. Holding a whistle in one hand and a pistol in the other, fumbling with a pocket watch just wasn’t practical.

As a quick-fix solution, metal lugs were soldered on and leather or canvas straps were fashioned to convert a pocket watch to a wristwatch. Trench watches, as they were known, were generally made of chrome plate or solid silver to prevent rusting in the damp trenches. The crystals that covered the face of the watches were made of vulnerable glass. Officers with a bit more money would fit their watches with a protective metal cage called a shrapnel guard to prevent damage to the crystal.

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years

Three examples of trench watches with shrapnel guards (photo from hodinkee.com)

By America’s entry into the war in 1917, many doughboys headed for the western front were issued wristwatches. American watch companies like Waltham and Elgin provided the timepieces which were rushed into service. Because of the haste, only some of the watches were marked “ORD” (U.S. Ordnance).

The development of military wristwatches continued in the inter-war period. Following military specifications, Swiss manufacturer Longines released the A-7 pilot’s watch for the Army Air Corps. Though new technology allowed watches to be made smaller while maintaining high levels of accuracy, the A-7 was oversized and resembled a canted pocket watch. Designed to be worn on the outside of a flight jacket, the watch’s large size made it more legible for pilots who could check the time with a quick glance without having to remove their hands from the controls.

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years

The A-7 featured a single-button chronograph integrated into the onion-shaped crown. (photo from wornandwound.com)

By WWII, the military wristwatch had evolved into something more recognizable today in the form of the “field watch.” The most notable of these was the A-11 (though this refers to a mil-spec production standard and not a specific model name). The Army required the watch to be water or dustproof, resistant to extreme temperatures, powered by a hacking (stoppable for synchronization) 15-jewel minimum movement (jewels are used to reduce friction on the gears of a mechanical watch) with a power reserve of 30-56 hours and accuracy of +/-30 seconds per day, and feature a black dial with white numerals and markings.

Though they were primarily issued to the Air Corps, A-11 watches also found themselves on wrists of infantry and other ground-based troops. American watch manufacturers Waltham, Elgin, and Bulova produced watches to A-11 specifications in such large quantities that it has been given the nickname “The Watch That Won The War”. Similar to A-11 specification, watches produced under the “Ordnance Department” specification utilized a sub-seconds register and were intended specifically for ground troops.

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years

An A-11 spec Bulova (photo by User STR via MWRFoum)

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years

An Ordnance Department spec Elgin (photo from emedals.com)

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years

By the Vietnam War, watches were becoming more specialized. Radioactive paint illuminated the hands and indices of a watch, allowing it to be read in the dark. Dive watches provided exceptional underwater performance at previously unheard of depths, and rotating bezels allowed for timing or the tracking of multiple time zones.

The MIL-W-3818 wrist watch specification saw minor changes throughout the war, but the general guidelines remained the same. Watches featured a parkerized stainless steel case, a black dial, white numerals and indices, hands with green luminescent paint, an acrylic crystal, and a 17-jewel movement with hacking, 36 hours of power reserve, and an accuracy of +/-30 seconds per day. Manufacturers Benrus, Hamilton, Marathon and Altus produced watches for the military under this specification.

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years

The Benrus DTU-2A/P was the first watch produced to MIL-W-3818B spec. (photo from 60clicks.com)

Increasingly, service members were buying their own watches from the PX for use in combat. The Glycine Airman was the first watch capable of tracking multiple time zones via a rotating 24-hour bezel. Because of this feature, it became immensely popular with pilots who crossed multiple time zones in a single day. This popularity extended to military pilots who famously purchased Airman watches from PX’s in Southeast Asia and wore them into combat.

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years

An unnamed captain returns from a sortie and gives a thumbs up with a Glycine Airman on his left wrist. (photo from wornandwound.com)

Although Rolex was not the luxury brand that it is today, the Swiss-made precision tool watches still came at a considerable cost in the 1960’s. On August 13, 1969, Army Specialist Alex P. Saunders purchased a Rolex Submariner 5513 from the PX at Quan Loi, Vietnam. Saunders paid 4.50 (id=”listicle-2646188536″,638.23 adjusted for inflation in 2020) which he recalls, “…was a whole month’s take home for a Buck Sergeant at the time.” The next day, Saunders went out on a mission with his 5-man MACV-SOG Recon Team.

Upon helicopter infil, Saunders and his team came under heavy enemy fire. “During things going on, I had my watch band popped off and I lost the Rolex for a while. I remember digging around in the brush looking for it while we were in contact,” Saunders recalls. “I also remember catching hell from the other guys in my unit. In retrospect, maybe I should have paid a little more attention to the bad guys and less to my investment in the Rolex. Years later, not so much.” Today, a Rolex Submariner 5513 sells for an average of ,000 with exceptional examples fetching as much as ,000.

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years

Saunders wearing his Rolex in Vietnam. (photo from QualityTyme.net)

These days, most service members are seen wearing personally bought Casio G-Shocks which are famous for their affordability and durability. The Suunto Core and GPS watches have also become increasingly popular with ground troops. However, many service members may be surprised to learn that the military still has mil-spec wristwatches available through the GSA Global Supply Catalog. Issued more commonly during the 1990’s, Marathon wristwatches are Swiss-made and can be purchased by unit supply clerks to be issued to formations. Of course, with the proliferation of affordable watches like G-Shocks and military budget limitations, these watches are rarely ordered and issued in the 21st century.

Since WWI, personal timekeeping has been a necessary function in the U.S. Military. Horological technology has evolved through the 20th century making accurate timekeeping available to the masses in the form of affordable, battery-powered quartz watches. Despite the more commonplace use of smartphones and smartwatches to tell the time, the humble wrist watch continues to be a mainstay in the formations of the U.S. Military. Just don’t expect that digital G-Shock you bought at the PX to be worth thousands of dollars in 50 years.

Articles

USAF engineers fixed ISIS damage to vital airfield in prep for Mosul fight

It’s not like ISIS didn’t know the attack on Mosul was coming. After all, Mosul is one of the last major cities in Iraq that the group holds. So the radical Islamic fighters prepared for the battle that is now raging on the outskirts of Mosul by doing a few things, including destroying the runways at the vital Qayyarah West Airbase, Iraq.


Qayyarah West sits within Iraq’s Ninawa Province to the south of Mosul and is an obvious logistics base for an attack on the city.

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years
U.S. Air Force Senior Airmen Timothy Williams, assigned to the 1st Expeditionary Civil Engineering Group, operates a jackhammer on a runway during repair operations at Qayyarah, West Airfield, Iraq, Oct. 7, 2016. (Photo and cutline: U.S. Army Spc. Christopher Brecht)

The same day that Iraqi forces captured the airfield in July, bloggers and journalists immediately predicted the role the base would play in the coming fight against ISIS.

There was just one major problem. According to a story by Army Sgt. 1st Class Robert Lemmons, ISIS had systematically destroyed the runways at Qayyarah West with explosives and heavy machinery for two years.

The C-130, one of the military’s most versatile cargo planes, needs at least 3,000 feet of safe runway to make an assault landing. Even then, the short runway lowers the available total weight with which aircraft can land or takeoff.

So the Air Force needed to take a base with no usable runways and get it ready to take in tons of cargo in a short period. A team of engineers from the Air Force flew to the base to attempt the task. They undid two years of ISIS destruction in only three weeks.

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years
A U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules waits to unload logistical supplies in support of the fight for Mosul at Qayyarah West Airfield, Iraq, Oct. 22, 2016. This is the second aircraft to land there following completion of repairs to the runway after Da’esh damaged it. (Photo and cutline: U.S. Army Spc. Christopher Brecht)

The Air Force deployed a small team to assess the damage, then sent the full team to begin repairs. Over the three-week period, the airmen judged which parts of the runway were unsafe for operations, cut out those sections of asphalt, and then fixed just those spots.

“We show up, clear the debris out, get all the junk and everything out of there,” Air Force Staff Sgt. Tyler Charles told a military journalist. “Then we dig down, if we have to, until we hit hard surface ground.”

Once the engineers found hard surface, they ensured everything was level and firm, then rebuilt the section of runway from the ground up. And the airmen completed their work just in time. The first C-130s arrived on Oct. 21, less than a week after the Iraqi Army began their offensive to retake Mosul.

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years
A U.S. Army M109A6 Paladin conducts a fire mission at Qayyarah West, Iraq, in support of the Iraqi security forces’ push toward Mosul, Oct. 17, 2016. (Photo and cutline: U.S. Army Spc. Christopher Brecht)

The repaired runway provides a more robust logistical capability for the invasion, allowing more ammunition and other supplies to fly in. And Qayyarah West has served the coalition in other ways as well, such as housing the American Paladins providing artillery support to the Iraqi advance.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army Secretary tells recruiters ‘failure is not an option’

Traveling about half the time of the year as a recruiter, Staff Sgt. Jon McCoy heavily relies on his wife to take care of their toddler and home.

“The whole reason why I’m here is the support that my wife is able to provide,” he said Feb. 4, 2019, before a ceremony at the Pentagon to honor some of the Army’s best recruiters.

Stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, McCoy is one of two warrant officer recruiters who handle the western region from Colorado to as far as South Korea.


While he may rack up some frequent flyer miles during his travels, he also gets numerous soldiers to stay in the Army or troops in other branches to join it.

In the first quarter of fiscal year 2019, McCoy had 150 individuals continue their careers as warrant officers in the Army — about one-third of all warrant officers boarded during that time.

Army Secretary Mark T. Esper honored McCoy and 12 other recruiters for their efforts this past quarter.

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years

Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper, left, Under Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy and Army Vice Chief of Staff James McConville recognize Staff Sgt. Jon McCoy during an awards ceremony for recruiters at the Hall of Heroes, Pentagon, Washington D.C., Feb 4., 2019.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Nicole Mejia)

“Readiness remains the Army’s top priority. Don’t doubt that. And you can’t achieve readiness without the right people,” Esper said. “It’s our recruiters serving across the country who are finding our nation’s best and brightest to join our ranks.”

Accessions are also now a crucial priority after Esper recently directed the Army’s recruiting efforts to modernize and give recruiters the resources they need to connect with qualified applicants.

Improvements to marketing and a larger presence in 22 target U.S. cities are also underway to bring greater awareness to the opportunities found within the Army.

Before the ceremony, Esper said he spoke to the group of recruiters and listened to their challenges and how they overcame them.

“The key to success is simple,” he said they told him. “It takes passion, it takes commitment, it takes honesty and transparency. That’s what America’s youth are looking for in a recruiter. That’s what their parents, their pastors, their counselors expect of us.”

Born and raised in Guam, Sgt. 1st Class Jesse Lujan works as a recruiter in Hagatna at the same station where he chose to enlist in the Army about 15 years ago.

Lujan, an aviation operations specialist, was able to sign up 19 recruits this past quarter.

“I’m able to relate to them and let them know that there’s more out there and that the Army is a stepping stone to help you get there,” he said.

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years

Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper, right, speaks during an awards ceremony for recruiters at the Hall of Heroes, Pentagon, Washington D.C., Feb. 4, 2019.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Nicole Mejia)

He also strives to be a positive member of his community. He often volunteers to help his daughter’s Girl Scouts troop, joins in cleanups of the coastline, and helped collect ,000 worth of items as part of relief efforts for Typhoon Mangkhut, which hit Guam in September.

“We’re just not there to recruit and bring people in,” he said. “We actually give back anytime that we can get.”

About 10,000 recruiters are spread out over 1,400 locations around the world, said Maj. Gen. Frank Muth, commander of the Army Recruiting Command.

“These recruiters here stand in the trenches everyday as the face of the Army,” Muth told the audience. “Their accomplishments this past quarter is a testament to their professionalism, dedication and laser focus on the mission.”

Being a recruiter still remains a difficult task to ensure the Army fills its ranks with quality applicants.

Only 29 percent of today’s youth are able to meet the minimum requirements to join the service, Esper said, and only 4 percent of them have the propensity to serve.

On top of that, the service is up against the greatest economy in decades, he said.

“This is a challenge that we must overcome,” Esper said. “We have no other choice. Failure is not an option.”

But that task should not rest solely on the shoulders of a few, he said, adding all soldiers need to educate people on the opportunities the service offers.

“Recruiting is everyone’s responsibility,” he said. “It’s the Army’s mission, not just ours. We are all recruiters.”

Articles

The US attack sub made famous by ‘The Hunt for Red October’ heads for retirement

The most notable Los Angeles-class nuclear-powered attack submarine – albeit for her fictional exploits – is headed for retirement. Well, actually, recycling. USS Dallas (SSN 700) completed her final deployment on Nov. 22 of this year.


The submarine is best known for its appearance in the 1984 novel “Hunt for Red October” by Tom Clancy, and its 1990 film adaptation. In Clancy’s story, USS Dallas, under the command of Commander Bart Mancuso, played a critical role in the successful defection of Captain First Rank Marko Ramius of the Soviet Navy and many of his officers, who brought along a modified Typhoon-class ballistic missile submarine, the Red October. USS Dallas also made an appearance in the novel “Cardinal of the Kremlin,” where she evacuated the wife and daughter of KGB Chairman Nikolay Gerasimov.

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years
USS Dallas conducting training operations in 2000. (U.S. Navy Photo by Journalist 1st Class Jason E. Miller)

In real life, USS Dallas had a distinguished career. The ship twice received the Meritorious Unit Commendation and also two awards of the Navy Unit Commendation. She was awarded the Battle Efficiency “E” seven times, and in 1993, received the Battenberg Cup as the best ship in the fleet. Commissioned in 1981, she served for 35 years. In 1984, the year the novel that made her famous came out, she carried out a seven-month deployment in the Indian Ocean, during which she went around the world.

In 1986, USS Dallas took part in Operation ELDORADO CANYON, when the U.S. retaliated against Muammar Qaddafi’s regime in Libya for sponsoring a terrorist attack in Berlin that killed an American soldier outright and caused another to die from his wounds two months later. The submarine completed a North Atlantic deployment in 1988, the year the novel Cardinal of the Kremlin came out.

Ironically, USS Dallas did not play herself in the 1990 film. Instead, that honor fell to USS Houston (SSN 713) and USS Louisville (SSN 724). Her most memorable scene is here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MehBu5crI2s

While many Los Angeles-class submarines have been slated for the scrapheap (the common euphemism being “recycling”), there are efforts underway to save at least some parts of USS Dallas and use her as a museum in her namesake city.

Articles

Israeli jet downs Hamas drone

An unmanned aerial vehicle being used by the terrorist group Hamas was shot down by an Israeli fighter today.


According to a report from ynetnews.com, the Israeli fighter shot down the drone as it was departing airspace over the Gaza Strip. Such actions are standard policy for the Israeli Defense Forces. A spokesman for the IDF told ynetnews.com that “the IDF will not allow any airspace violation and will act resolutely against any such attempt.”

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years
An Israeli F-15 I fighter jet launches anti-missile flares during an air show at the graduation ceremony of Israeli pilots at the Hatzerim air force base in the Negev desert, near the southern Israeli city of Beersheva, on December 27, 2012. (AFP photo by Jack Guez)

Six months ago, an IDF F-16 Fighting Falcon was scrambled to intercept a similar drone, and shot it down off the coast of Gaza.

The use of drones to deliver explosives has already been seen in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIS. One attack on Oct. 2, 2016, killed two Kurdish troops and wounded French special operations personnel.

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years
A captured ISIS drone on the battlefield. (Photo from Iraq Ministry of Defense)

The halftime show of Super Bowl LI, in which pop superstar Lady Gaga used 300 drones for a light show, also has drawn attention from the deputy commander of United States Special Operations Command, according to a report by WeAreTheMighty.com from earlier this month. WATM’s report on those concerns also noted that ISIS was using small drones to drop hand grenades on Coalition forces.

Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip since June 15, 2007, following over a week of violent fighting with Fatah. The charter of the terrorist group, known as the Hamas Covenant, calls for the absolute destruction of Israel.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marines create their own bridge in Norway

U.S. Marines with 2nd Marine Logistics Group-Forward built a bridge Oct. 29, 2018, during the largest NATO exercise in more than 16 years. The Exercise Trident Juncture 18 provided a unique opportunity for Marines to train with other NATO and partner forces. With more than 50,000 troops from 31 nations participating in the exercise, Marines strengthened transatlantic bond in a dynamic and challenging environment.


A unique capability the 2nd MLG provided to the II Marine Expeditionary Force, who is deployed to Norway for the exercise, was a bridge company that’s under 8th Engineer Support Battalion. Their mission provided general engineering support to the force with employing standard bridging to enhance mobility.

During the exercise, Marines and U.S. Navy Seabees, assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion One, built a medium girder bridge to ensure maneuver of the Marine force. Almost 100 U.S. Marine Light Armored Vehicles and Norwegian Bandvagns, a Norwegian all-terrain tracked carrier vehicle, crossed the bridge immediately after its completion.

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years

Norwegian military members use a Bandvagn-206 to cross a medium girder bridge as part of Exercise Trident Juncture 18 near Voll, Norway, Oct. 30, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott R. Jenkins)

“Gap crossing is a critical skill that engineers are tasked to accomplish,” says Capt. Jeffry Hart, the detachment officer in charge for 8th Engineer Support Battalion. “Being able to rapidly assess and breach a gap takes a lot of planning and coordination between all elements of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force and is always a challenge.”

Some of the challenges the bridge company overcame during the exercise were due to the austere environment of Norway. According to Hart, the road leading up to the bridge is narrow with steep drop offs on each side, which complicated the transportation’s movement. The bridge also iced over during deconstruction, creating a safety hazard for those Marines and Sailors working around the bridge.

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years

U.S. Navy Seabee Builder 2nd Class Mason Crane with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 1, 22 Naval Construction Regiment, rests during a bridging operation as part of Trident Juncture 18 near Voll, Norway, on Oct. 29, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott R. Jenkins)

“This created a logistical challenge for staging and employing our bridge,” said Hart. “The Marines quickly adapted to the situation and accomplished the mission. The bridge was kept in pristine condition and was ready to use for our operation.”

Marines and Sailors swift actions helped this construction validate the most important aspect of the exercise for the U.S. Marine Corps, which is the relationship Marines built with NATO Allies and partners and Norwegians hosts, according to U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Robert G. Hedelund, the II MEF commanding general.

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years

U.S. Marine Corps, Sgt. Michael Wilson, center, with Bridge Company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group-Forward, set up concertina wire during security set up before a bridging operation during Exercise Trident Juncture 18 near Voll, Norway, Oct. 29, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott R. Jenkins)

“We have been reinvigorating our effort to know northern Europe better,” said Hedelund. “Should we have to come back here in extremis, the relationship with NATO is an extremely important part of that.”

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years

Humvees with Bridge Company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group-Forward, use Humvees to provide security before a bridging operation during Exercise Trident Juncture 18.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott R. Jenkins)

Building a bridge over a river, halfway around the world from the home station, was not the only challenge. It was also a battle of logistics, which is why the Marine Corps’ relationship with Norway is important. To assist in this battle and foster the close friendship, the Marine Corps turned to another capability that was available in this exercise. Since 1981, the Marine Corps has prepositioned equipment and supplies in Norway to enable a quicker response in times of crisis or contingency. The program, called Marine Corps Prepositioning Program – Norway, has been used to support logistics for combat operations like the war in Iraq. During Trident Juncture 18, the Marines utilized the concept by withdrawing equipment from caves to build the bridge.

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years

U.S Marine Corps Lance Cpl. William Evans with Bridge Company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group-Forward, opens a meal ready to eat beside a Humvee during Exercise Trident Juncture 18.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott R. Jenkins)

The prepositioning program in Norway enabled Marines access to prepositioned equipment and supplies to enable a quicker response in times of crisis or contingency.

“I believe that logistics are the Achilles heel of any operations in the field,” said Navy Adm. James G. Foggo, the commander of Allied Joint Force Command Naples and the commander of Naval Forces Europe and Africa. “When we talk about the maritime domain, the land component, the air domain, cyber and space… we now have a sixth domain to talk about and that is logistics.”

The overall exercise, to include the bridge building construction, helped II MEF test and validate their warfighting capabilities across the warfighting domains, better preparing them to help support NATO Allies and partners.

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marines train to save lives from downed aircraft

Marine Wing Support Detachment 31 conducted an aircraft recovery convoy exercise during a Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort Aug. 2, 2018.

The exercise prepared the Marines for an aircraft mishap and ensured they were properly trained to recover personnel and equipment if called on.

“We used our own vehicles to conduct the convoy and assisted with the recovery process,” said Staff Sgt. Joel Contreras, the motor transportation operations chief with MWSD-31. “There were multiple training evolutions that pertained to different parts of the convoy.”


During the course of the exercise, MWSD-31 conducted convoy and sweeping operations by planning a route to the downed aircraft and back while simultaneously sweeping the area with combat mine detectors for explosive threats. Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Marines from Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron also aided in the training by salvaging the aircraft while also defueling the fuselage of the simulated aircraft to prevent fires and fuel leaks.

“I’m just one piece of the puzzle when we’re doing these kinds of events,” said Lance Cpl. Brandon Moody, a combat engineer with MWSD-31. “Once we get to a site, everyone has a job to do. We could be sweeping up and looking for ordnance while AARF Marines are defueling a gas tank. This exercise really painted a picture on how important teamwork is to mission accomplishment.”

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years

Cpl. Danny L. Clark and Sgt. Jose R. Trujillovargas help to guide a downed F/A-18 Hornet into a secure position during a Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Erin Ramsay)

MCAS Beaufourt is unique because it has the ability for Marines to conduct this type of training on base as opposed to having to go to another Marine Corps base in the fleet.

“Some of the Marines here only have the ability to do exercises like this during Integrated Training Exercise at Twentynine Palms, California and other places,” Contreras said. “If they don’t have the ability to do it there, we can do it here. We were fortunate that one of the squadrons gave us a retired aircraft to allow us to conduct this training.”

ITX is a month-long joint exercise that trains Marines so they can merge more easily into a Marine Air Ground Task Force, as well as, to maintain familiarity with basic military requirements.

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years

Cpl. Tristin L. Hoffmaster inspects a simulated downed F/A-18 Hornet to ensure it’s secured properly during a Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Erin Ramsay)

The mission of MWSD-31 is to provide all essential aviation ground support to designated fixed-wing component of a Marine Aviation Combat Element and all supporting or attached elements of the Marine Air Control Group. They offer support with airfield communications, weather services, refueling, and explosive ordinance disposal.

“I’m not sure if most Marines are familiar with what we do,” Moody said. “We’re here to support the wing units when stuff like this actually goes down. At the end of the day, if MCAS Beaufort needs something done, they can always rely on us.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Check out this summary of the Battle of the Atlantic

The Battle of the Atlantic lasted almost the entirety of the Second World War. It started when the United Kingdom and France declared war on Nazi Germany in 1939 and it didn’t end until Nazi Germany surrendered. Even then, some U-boats refused to give up the fight with their nation — a maritime version of Japanese holdouts.


The Nazi pocket battleship Graf Spee scuttled in Montevideo, Uruguay.

It’s hard to really comprehend this battle, both due to the length of the campaign (almost six years of fighting) and the massive scope. Forces clashed the world over, from the North Cape to Montevideo. But between these battles, it was sheer drudgery — long moments of boredom, punctuated by a submarine attack or air raid that would never make headlines.

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years

A Vought SB2U flies over a convoy carrying troops and supplies to the front.

(US Navy photo)

Despite the languid pace, the Battle of the Atlantic was of paramount importance. Without winning the Battle of the Atlantic, the Allies could never have pulled off the Normandy invasion, much less force the surrender of Nazi Germany. It was all about securing the lines of communication between the United States and the Allied forces in Europe and the Mediterranean.

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years

A convoy heads towards Casablanca, one of the locations where troops hit the beach during Operation Torch.

(US Navy photo)

Merriam-Webster defines a line of communication as “the net of land, water, and air routes connecting a field of action (as a military front) with its bases of operations and supplies.” In the case of the Battle of the Atlantic, the major focus was on keeping waterways open. This was the only way to transport the many tanks and planes needed to win the war, not to mention the supplies for ground troops. In fact, sea transport still matters today because it’s the most convenient way to move a major force to the front.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xH14aZpGnpw

www.youtube.com

Of course, the Allies succeeded in securing those lines of communication and won World War II.

To get a relatively short summary of the six years of maritime combat that made that overall victory possible, watch this U.S. Navy video.

MIGHTY CULTURE

8 veteran AF ways to celebrate Independence Day

Citizens of the United States of America tend go mildly wild when they celebrate the fourth of July. It was on that day, in 1776, when the Continental Congress adopted the Deceleration of Independence, severing our nation from the British Empire.

Most people commemorate this fateful moment with a nice, wholesome family gathering. Dads work the barbecue while telling awful puns and moms try to make sure the kids don’t hurt each other with sparklers. The evening’s merriment is capped off by watching the fireworks explode over the nearby lake.

Now, we’re not here to tell you that you’re doing things wrong — if you’re into that mundane, picturesque lifestyle, more power to you — but we are here to tell you that veterans like to go big. Real big.

Independence Day is what binds the veteran community. We may argue and bicker over little things, but each and every one of us loves this country and its people. In demonstrating that love, we tend to go a little overboard when partying on what is, essentially, America’s birthday.


This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years

Just like the good ol’ days!

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Miguel A. Rosales)

Going to the range

Veterans and firearms go together like alcohol and bad decisions. When veterans get a free day off work, they might visit the firing range. When they get a day off for the 4th, they’ll be there for sure — you know, for America.

In this case, “firing range” is a pretty vague term. It could mean a closed-off, handgun-only range, a range out in the middle of nowhere that allows you to legally fire off a fully automatic, or, if you happen to be in the middle of bumf*ck nowhere, your backyard. Regardless of how we do it, it’s our little way of supporting the Constitution — through celebrating the 2nd Amendment.

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years

Who doesn’t love watching 50 cannons go off?

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kevin Coulter)

Visiting military installations for the “Salute to the Union”

Every year, on the fourth of July, military installations hold a ceremony at noon where they fire off one gun for every state in the Union. Some of the veterans who once participated in those ceremonies come back many years down the road to see it again.

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years

“You can eat all of that, right?”

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Kelcey Seymour)

Hosting massive barbecues

Burgers sizzling on the grill is the unofficial smell of the holiday. You can’t go anywhere in America without sniffing out some hot dogs, steaks, and whatever else the veteran is cooking.

The only downside is that veterans tend to go a little overboard on what they think is the “right amount of food” for everyone. Veterans prepare for the event that everyone’s going to eat a dozen burgers. Deep down, we know that’s not going to happen, but what if…

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years

There are no safety briefs in the civilian world, but there probably should be…

(U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Kareem Abiose)

Drinking enough alcohol to relive barracks life

Sobriety is entirely optional on Independence Day. From the moment they wake up until they eventually pass out from taking too many shots in the hot summer sun, veterans spend the entire day drinking .

Of course, they should always err on the side of responsibility and remember all of the safety briefs they got when they were in. They’ve got the basics down, like “don’t drink and drive,” but they might forget some of the niche briefs, like “don’t get drunk and decide to shoot bottle rockets out of a metal pipe like a friggin’ rocket launcher” — so that’s probably still game.

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years

But, you know, any of the veteran-owned t-shirt company shirts are open game!

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jack A. E. Rigsby)

Wearing unapologetically American clothes

It’s America’s birthday, so dress for the occasion. American flag hats, tank tops, underwear, you name it. Today, everything is red, white, and blue.

Technically, such articles of clothing are discouraged by the Flag Code, but it’s an expression of patriotism — and the First Amendment allows you to express yourself like that.

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years

No 4th of July is complete without driving 110 down the freeway blasting “Free Bird.”

(Photo by Jon Callas)

Blasting American musicians

As much as Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, and Iron Maiden all kick ass, let’s reserve this day for America and American rock stars, baby!

Any party celebrating American independence should have a playlist featuring plenty of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Aerosmith.

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years

If you’re doing it right, the neighbors should confuse your backyard for the show put on by the city.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Conroy)

So many fireworks…

Veterans refuse to be outdone by the neighbors down the road who think their puny little display of patriotism is the best way to celebrate America. If that veteran also happens to be an old-school artilleryman or mortarman, you’re about to see something special…

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years

If you see one of our brothers or sisters with one of these signs, you can just ask them and let them know when you’re doing the fireworks. Just don’t be an asshole about it.

(WLKY News Louisville)

Chosing to avoid fireworks

Every year on social media, we see photos of signs placed in front of veterans’ homes politely asking neighbors to not set off fireworks get picked apart by the veteran community. You know what? A veteran choosing to spend America’s birthday exactly how they want to is veteran as f*ck, too.

Can’t stand large crowds of people and the traffic? Stay in. That’s veteran as f*ck.

Don’t want to be in a public place when loud explosions go off? You don’t have to be.

This is a day to celebrate America’s freedom. If you’ve raised your hand, there’s no way anyone can take your veteran status from you. Independence Day is about celebrating freedom. You celebrate it however you feel necessary.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Chris Shirron remembers he was several hours into a long convoy across the German autobahn when a military police officer leading the convoy pulled to the side of the road.


“What’s going on,” Shirron asked the soldier. “Why are we stopping?”

The soldier didn’t say much except that a plane had hit the World Trade Center.

“I was confused,” said Shirron, who was a sergeant at the time. “I asked, ‘What do you mean?’ I thought there must be a mistake.”

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years
Plumes of smoke billow from the World Trade Center during the September 11 attacks. Photo from Flickr user Michael Foran.

The terrorist attacks that day — Sept. 11, 2001 — would change the course of Shirron’s career, and that of countless other troops, and have lasting implications for Fort Bragg and the military.

Almost immediately, Fort Bragg tightened security to its highest level. Training, typically a year-round affair, stopped. Instead, soldiers and airmen were readied to respond to the attacks.

The first soldiers would leave Fort Bragg in the weeks following the attacks. Since then, they have been continuously deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq as part of the Global War on Terror.

Shirron, stationed in Germany in 2001 with the 1st Infantry Division, said he didn’t fully learn what was happening until several hours after the attacks.

First, his convoy was turned around and ordered to report to the closest US military installation. When they arrived at Wurzburg, then the home of the 1st Infantry Division, they were greeted by soldiers in full body armor with loaded weapons.

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years
Fort Bragg, North Carolina, USA. Enlisted personnel barracks for the 1st Brigade. Photo by Jonas N. Jordan, US Army Corps of Engineers

The entire installation was on lockdown. Shirron and others were given space in an empty mailroom to rest and wait for orders.

Across the hall, he found about 40 soldiers gathered around a television, watching the news of the attacks in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania

“Everything changed,” he said. “The Army gained a much greater purpose. And service became about something much greater than yourself.”

Shirron joined the Army in 1997, starting out in the Arkansas National Guard. He was a student at the University of Central Arkansas, still trying to figure out what he wanted to do with his life.

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years
US Army Photo by Cherie A. Thurlby

In the Army, he found the purpose he was lacking. And less than a year later, he transferred to active duty as a fires support specialist.

“I liked what it taught me, not only about myself but about what the Army was,” Shirron said of his decision.

He served at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, before transferring to Germany.

In those years before the attacks, Shirron said, Army life was very different from what it was today.

“The worst part was that every six months or year, you were going to be gone for about 30 days for training,” he said. “That’s what everyone dreaded.”

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years
Members of a Special Operations Surgical Team train with Green Berets. (USAF photo)

Training was less urgent and more monotonous, he said. Soldiers prepared for “Russian hordes” and other threats that didn’t seem real.

But after the attacks, training changed.

It was more focused and efficient. There was an urgency, a realism that had lacked before.

“The tempo picked up,” Shirron said. “We were grasping a new type of warfighting. Leaders understood the gravity of the situation and our methods were changing.”

Those who once dreaded month-long exercises now recognized that deployments would become part of life. They would serve for a year or more in countries they knew little about prior to the attacks.

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years
Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tom Sperduto.

Shirron said that prospect didn’t scare many out of the force. Instead, it created new resolve.

“Now, training was real,” he said. “Now, deployments were eminent.”

Shirron was approaching the end of a three-year enlistment when 9/11 happened. He soon would re-enlist for a six-year tour.

He said he wanted to serve his country when he joined, fueled by patriotism and a sense of duty. Things were different for those who joined in the days and weeks after the attack.

“The soldiers that came in after 9/11 — they knew immediately that they were going to fight,” Shirron said. “They joined because of 9/11. They wanted to do their part.”

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years
U.S. Army National Guard photo by Pfc. Andrew Valenza

Others in the military today were too young to join in the wake of 9/11.

First Lt. Andrew Scholl, a member of the brigade staff for the 82nd Airborne Division Sustainment Brigade, was in fourth grade in Proctorville, Ohio, when the first plane hit the World Trade Center.

“I can remember there were some teachers being taken out of class and talked to in private,” Scholl said. “Next thing I knew, they came in and told us our parents would be picking us up.”

Scholl’s father arrived in full uniform. He was a lieutenant colonel serving as a professor of military science at Marshall University, and he did his best to explain to his son what had happened.

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years
U.S. Army photo by Stephen Standifird

“It’s hard to wrap your head around that as a fourth-grader,” Scholl said.

Soon, his father was off to meetings at the Pentagon. Two deployments would follow — one for a year and another for six months.

Scholl said he never had thought much about serving in the military.

“Teachers would ask, ‘What do you want to do when you grow up?’ I never really had an answer before,” he said. “But after that day, it was ‘I want to be in the Army.’ Ever since that day, it’s all I wanted to do.”

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years
Lt. Col. Dave Hodne, the commander of 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., pins an Army Commendation Medal on one of the battalion’s Soldiers. Photo from Sgt. Christopher M. Gaylord, 5th Mobile Public Affiars Detachment.

Scholl said most young soldiers today don’t remember the attacks. They don’t remember a peacetime military. And that makes their service all the more impressive.

“They were born in 1997 and were growing up,” he said. “We’re still at war. There’s no clear end in sight.”

“If anything, I think that shows what kind of people are joining today,” Scholl added. “It speaks volumes for their character.”

Shirron has deployed three times since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He served 15 months and 14 months in Iraq, and 11 months in Afghanistan.

In 2008, he attended the Army’s Warrant Officer Candidate School. He’s now assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division as a lethal targeting officer.

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years
U.S. Soldiers conduct a patrol with Afghan National Army soldiers to check on conditions in a village in the Wardak province of Afghanistan Feb. 17, 2010. DoD photo by Sgt. Russell Gilchrest, U.S. Army

He said the Army has changed much over the last 16 years, but that focus is still there.

“We’ve been fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan for so long,” Shirron said. “But the burden on the individual soldier is only increasing.”

Today, the military juggles old and new threats, he said. There’s increased uncertainty in the Pacific, where North Korea continues to rattle sabers. And there’s budget uncertainty hanging over much of the force.

Shirron said he often looks back at how the Army and his own career was affected by Sept. 11.

“If 9/11 hadn’t have happened, I can’t say I would be here,” he said. “The world changed that day. I’m here now because of what happened that day. And definitely the military changed that day.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

See what happened when world’s top snipers competed

The finest snipers in the US military, as well as local, state, and federal law-enforcement agencies, have been battling it out against teams from across the US and around the world in the annual International Sniper Competition.

The Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment came in first, the Colorado Army National Guard took second, and Sweden’s 17th Wing Air Force Rangers came in third. There were also some surprises in the rankings.


This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years

(U.S. Army photo by Markeith Horace, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning Public Affairs)

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years

(U.S. Army photo by Patrick A. Albright, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning Public Affairs)

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years

(U.S. Army photo by Patrick A. Albright, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning Public Affairs)

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years

(U.S. Army photo by Patrick A. Albright, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning Public Affairs)

According to the Army, teams must complete “a gauntlet of rigorous physical, mental and endurance events that test the range of sniper skills that include, but are not limited to, long range marksmanship, observation, reconnaissance and reporting abilities, and abilities to move with stealth and concealment.”

Source: US Army

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years

(U.S. Army photo by Patrick A. Albright, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning Public Affairs)

Snipers play a critical role in combat, with missions including “precision fires on enemy personnel and equipment, intelligence gathering, counter-sniper operations, infiltration and overwatch of [named areas of interest], occupation of and operations in support by fire positions, ballistic interdiction of IEDs, and disruption of enemy operations.”

Source: US Army

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years

(U.S. Army photo by Patrick A. Albright, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning Public Affairs)

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years

(U.S. Army photo by Patrick A. Albright, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning Public Affairs)

“Working together in this venue is a great way for us to share ideas, build rapport, and train our forces,” Brig. Gen. David M. Hodne, the US Army Infantry School commandant, said at the closing ceremony, “After all, the purpose of the International Sniper Competition is to improve our collective lethality.”

Source: Fort Benning Public Affairs Office

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years

(U.S. Army photo by Patrick A. Albright, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning Public Affairs)

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years

(U.S. Army photos by Markeith Horace, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning Public Affairs)

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years

(U.S. Army photos by Markeith Horace, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning Public Affairs)

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years

(U.S. Army photos by Markeith Horace, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning Public Affairs)

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years

(U.S. Army photos by Markeith Horace, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning Public Affairs)

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years

US Army teams dominated the competition. One surprising result: The US Coast Guard’s Special Missions Training Detachment edged out the US Marine Corps’ Scout Sniper instructors.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Trick shooter Ed McGivern used his legendary skills to train law enforcement officers

The names Elmer Keith, Jeff Cooper, and Jack O’Connor are legend in the shooting world. If you Google “famous gun writers,” they’re among the top results. If you scroll a good ways, you’ll come to a fella named Ed McGivern. The only thing he ever wrote of note is a tough-to-find book called Fast and Fancy Revolver Shooting, published in 1938. However, a lot of police officers and federal agents across the US back in the 1930s knew McGivern well from the training they received from this one-time trick shooter and legendary pistol expert.

When it came to pistol shooting, especially revolvers, there were few who wielded a hand cannon with more speed and skill than McGivern. His shooting feats were nothing short of superhuman: The man clearly had eyesight and reflexes that were far keener than the average person’s. The fantastical shooting and quick-draw abilities of fictional pistoleers were present in the very real-life McGivern, though he didn’t exactly cut the typical figure of a gunslinger. At just 5-foot-6, he was a small, barrel-shaped man who was the fastest gun on the planet during the years between the two world wars.

A traveling trick shooter

McGivern bolstered his income performing as a trick shooter in the 1920s and ’30s, traveling all over the United States to put on astonishing displays for giddy crowds. He routinely shot at an assortment of stationary and airborne targets, like clay pigeons and lead disks the size of a quarter. You want to really understand how good McGivern was? Go to a safe shooting area, throw a tin can in the air, and see if you can draw and hit it before it lands on the ground. Unless you’re Jerry Miculek or Julie Golob, you probably didn’t even get close.

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years
Jerry Miculek is widely regarded as the fastest and most proficient speed shooter in the world, and he’s beaten several long-standing records set by trick shooter Ed McGivern. Photo courtesy of reddit.

McGivern could hit the can six times before it hit the dirt, on the draw. He could also throw playing cards in the air and cut them in two, edgewise, with a bullet. He could hit two aerial targets with two revolvers at the same time. Like I said, he was superhuman.

He set a revolver world record while on tour in 1932 that remains unbroken to this day and got him into the Guinness Book of World Records, until Guinness removed all shooting records a few years ago. McGivern fired two consecutive, five-shot groups from a revolver at a distance of 15 feet that “could be covered by a half-dollar piece” in a blinding 0.45 seconds (as clocked by shot timer). The diameter of a half-dollar was a hair over 1.2 inches. 

But this pistol prodigy went largely unnoticed for much of his life, working primarily as a sign painter in the small Montana town where he lived for 30 years.

Changing gigs

Unfortunately, arthritis eventually put an end to McGivern’s trick shooting career in his late 50s, so he decided to travel around and spread his knowledge instead of entertaining folks. 

He worked with law enforcement personnel all over the country. He taught marksmanship to police officers and federal agents from various LE agencies, including at the FBI’s training headquarters in Quantico, translating his exhibition-shooting experience into practical skills that focused on putting a lot of rounds on a target, accurately and quickly, under varying circumstances. At the time, most law enforcement in the US were still carrying double-action revolvers, McGivern’s specialty.

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years

He started his trick shooting career using semi-auto handguns but realized he could shoot quite a bit faster with double-action revolvers. If there’s any doubt this is generally true, check out Miculek firing 12 shots from a revolver in under three seconds back in 1999. 

When it came to training law enforcement, McGivern taught them how to shoot fast and accurately at close targets, but he was a firm believer that a .357 Magnum revolver, with proper technique, could be used to effectively engage man-sized targets with repeatable accuracy at distances of 600 yards. He preferred to use a gun outfitted with a small-diameter rear aperture sight with a gold bead front sight for this kind of shooting, though he experimented with various peep sights and telescopic scopes.

In fact, McGivern was friends with Elmer Keith and was instrumental in creating the earliest magnum revolver cartridges. While Keith was (most likely) integral to the creation of the .357 Magnum, he ultimately went on to deride it when he developed the .44 Special into what would become the .44 Remington Magnum, a superior cartridge in his mind. McGivern, on the other hand, believed the .357 Mag was the ultimate revolver cartridge and devoted a whole lot of his time and effort to pushing the round to its limits with what would have been considered a service revolver at the time, both in terms of speed and close- and long-range accuracy.

Time has proved that McGivern may have ultimately been correct in his assessment of the .357 Magnum. Despite Keith’s proselytizing, the .44 Mag was always considered too overpowered for law enforcement use, while many departments and agencies adopted .357 wheelguns as replacements for or as an alternate option to .38 Special revolvers.

Today, despite a foray into use of the more powerful .40 S&W for semi-autos, the 9 mm chambering, with modern ammunition, reigns supreme in the LE and military worlds—and the characteristics of a 9 mm +P cartridge are more similar to a .357 load than they are to a .44 Mag. Perhaps McGivern was more on the money because he focused on volume of fire and LE applications, whereas Keith was more hunting focused.

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years
Ed McGivern stands with officers of the Lewistown Police Department. Following his exploits as a trick shooter, McGivern trained the police department, the Fergus County Sheriff’s officers, the Montana Highway Patrol, and later the FBI, on firearms techniques. He did this free of charge. Screenshot from mtmemory.org.

The feats

Here’s a quick list of some of McGivern’s most famous shots with a double-action revolver. Think you could pull off any of them?

  • Hang a target, like a clay pigeon or lead quarter, from a string. Cut the string with the first shot, and hit the falling target with a second before it hits the ground.
  • String up three clays, one stationary, and set the other two swinging back and forth so they cross in front of the stationary target. Break all three clays with a single shot.
  • Drop a coin from shoulder height, and with the same hand, draw and fire as many shots as possible before the coin lands. (McGivern could fire two to three shots.)
  • Lay 10 revolvers on a bench with five rounds loaded in each. Proceed to shoot them in succession in double action for a total of 50 rounds in less than 21 seconds, with no misses on the target. McGivern could also do this with 20 guns, 100 shots, and 47 seconds.
  • McGivern did this reaction-time display with real guns and blanks, but if you want to try it, definitely use airsoft guns, safety glasses, and protective clothing. Face an opponent who is holding an aimed, cocked airsoft revolver at about 5 yards. Draw and fire from a regulation holster before your opponent can pull the trigger.
  • Balance two clays on top of each other with their edges facing the shooter. Break the bottom clay with the first shot, and break the top one with the second before it hits the bench.
  • Throw a target in the air, have a friend toss you a pistol, and hit the target before it hits the ground.
  • Shoot a 5-inch bull’s-eye pasted on a 24-inch square of plywood that’s tossed in the air at distances of 25 to 50 yards.
  • Draw, fire, and score a lethal hit on a man-sized target 15 to 18 feet away in 0.4 seconds or less. McGivern set a one-time record with this often repeated mainstay.

McGivern died on Dec. 12, 1957, at the age of 83 in Butte, Montana.

Jerry Miculek is one of the most remarkable competition shooters of our day, and it’s a privilege to see him shoot in person, as I imagine it must have been to see McGivern put on one of his trick-shooting displays.

Miculek has broken several of McGivern’s long-standing records, but there’s one he can’t beat. When Miculek tried to top the record of 10 shots in 0.45 seconds, he couldn’t score a better time than 0.57 seconds. McGivern set that record back in 1932 when he was 57 years old — and if Miculek can’t beat it, I don’t know who can.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

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