It’s not uncommon for troops who overrun an enemy position to take a photo with a captured enemy banner. It’s just as common for them to take that banner home as a souvenir. There are a lot worse things to remove from the battlefield. American troops have been capturing flags since the founding of the republic.
So, why are these World War II veterans returning captured Japanese flags?
The importance of a unit’s standard dates back to antiquity. Roman legions carried standards that took on an almost divine quality, representing the Legion, the Emperor, and even the Gods themselves. They would take extraordinary measures to recover a captured standard, even invading neighboring countries decades after losing the standards just to get them back. The Japanese had a similar tradition with their Yosegaki Hinomaru.
The hinomaru was a blank flag carried by every drafted Japanese soldier. It was signed by everyone in their life; mother, father, sisters, brothers, neighbors, teachers, wives, and children. It was a good luck charm that wished bravery and a safe return home to the carrier. The Japanese troop then marched off to war, the flag folded and tucked somewhere on his person.
These are usually the flags that were captured by American troops in World War II. Because no one enjoys taking photos with the flags of their fallen enemies like U.S. troops.
But American troops had no idea these flags were the personal keepsakes of fallen individuals and not unit flags carried by the Japanese army. Now that the men who captured these battlefield trophies are aging and dying, the flags are being sold off or thrown away altogether, but there’s a better way to handle these pieces of history: giving them back.
And that’s what World War II veterans and their families are doing. Through the international nonprofit Obon Society, families and veterans who still possess a captured yosegaki hinomaru are tracking down the Japanese veterans and families of Japanese veterans of the Pacific War to return the family heirlooms and help the aging veterans heal their decades-old, invisible wounds.
If there’s any doubt about the power of these standards, even to this day, just watch below as a Japanese man reacts to seeing his missing brother’s yosegaki hinomaru.
There are no better frenemies than American and Japanese veterans of WWII. In the years that followed, the U.S. and Japan grew ever closer as allies and as people. Despite the overwhelming brutality of the war, the enduring friendships that developed in the years since have been a testament to the idea that peace is always possible, even in the face of such hard fighting. The only thing that remains is handling the losses incurred along the way – brothers, fathers, sons, and friends.
Groups like the Obon Society and its team of researchers make it easy to start healing the pain that remains between families and friends who lost loved ones in the war. If you or your departed veterans have a flag like the ones seen in the photos above, contact the Obon Society to return the flag to its family and maybe even make contact with them.
Major Aaron Darty, 100th Maintenance Squadron operations officer, was presented the Bronze Star Medal at RAF Mildenhall, England, July 1, 2019, for his meritorious achievement while at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan.
Since Dec. 6, 1941, men and women who served in any capacity in or with the U.S. military, have been awarded the Bronze Star Medal by distinguishing themselves through heroic or meritorious achievement or service in a combat zone.
From March 3, 2018, to March 2, 2019, Darty served as the operations officer and maintenance advisor for the 442nd Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron. During this time, he operated outside of a coalition-controlled airfield, where he endured 29 indirect fire rocket attacks and was exposed to a persistent threat of insider attacks.
Even with all of the challenges, Darty was able to help execute more than 10,000 sorties during his year in Afghanistan, and he also helped set up a UH-60 Black Hawk maintenance training program, which allowed for the host nation members to become more familiar with this technology.
U.S. Air Force Maj. Aaron Darty, 100th Maintenance Squadron operations officer, poses for a photo at RAF Mildenhall, England, July 9, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Esau)
“This was an outstanding opportunity for me and I learned so much about my job as well as myself,” Darty said. “I was able to work alongside great U.S. military members as well as extraordinary Afghan National Army counterparts who all shared the same common goal.”
Before arriving to RAF Mildenhall, Darty finished the 365-day deployment which brought its share of obstacles.
“Communication was the toughest obstacle we faced,” Darty said. “We received training in Dari, which is one of the primary languages in Afghanistan, and we worked alongside some of the bravest interpreters and people I’ve ever met in some of the most hostile conditions, and patience was my guide.”
Learning patience and understanding of other cultures was a major factor in Darty and members of his team being awarded the Bronze Star.
“Some things I was the lead for and some I did on my own, but this award is really for the 40-plus other people in the squadron who did the heavy lifting,” Darty said. “Our team consisted of Romanian, Swedish and U.S. service members from different branches – it was a truly joint, coalition organization.”
U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Paul Weme, 100th Maintenance Group commander, presents Maj. Aaron Darty, 100th Maintenance Squadron operations officer, with a Bronze Star Medal during a ceremony held at RAF Mildenhall, England, July 1, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Esau)
Master Sgt. William Smith, 733rd Air Mobility Squadron production superintendent at Kadena Air Base, Japan, worked alongside Darty in Afghanistan and attests to his ability to lead a team with a common goal.
“It was an absolute pleasure to have the opportunity to work with a person of his caliber in a hostile and foreign environment,” Smith remarked. “Major Darty has an uncanny ability to bring everybody around him up, even in unknown situations. He was always calm in numerous high-stress situations where our number one priority was keeping our people safe and out of harm’s way.
Coming together as a team to execute the mission is, according to Darty, part of his vision for the airmen he works with here.
“My advice to them is always rely on the people next to you,” Darty expressed. “This was something I learned while deployed which I never learned anywhere else. We were our own security and even though we may not be getting shot at everyday here, you have to always trust the person by your side.”
Three Phase-1 human clinical trials evaluating an Army-developed Zika purified inactivated virus vaccine, known as a ZPIV, have shown it was safe and well-tolerated in healthy adults and induced a robust immune response. Initial findings from the trials were published early in December in the medical journal “The Lancet.”
Each of the three studies included in the paper was designed to address a unique question about background immunity, vaccine dose or vaccination schedule. A fourth trial with ZPIV is still underway in Puerto Rico, where the population has natural exposure to other viruses in the same family as Zika (flaviviruses), such as dengue.
“It is imperative to develop a vaccine that prevents severe birth defects and other neurologic complications in babies caused by Zika virus infection during pregnancy,” said Dr. Kayvon Modjarrad, WRAIR’s Director for Emerging Infectious Diseases, the Zika program co-lead and the article’s lead author. “These results give us hope that a safe and effective vaccine will be achievable.”
Across the three trials, a total of 67 healthy adult volunteers (55 vaccine, 12 placebo) received two vaccine injections, four weeks apart. Researchers measured the immune response by monitoring levels of Zika virus-neutralizing antibodies in the blood. More than 90% of volunteers who received the vaccine developed an immune response against Zika.
“Not only is the development of a Zika vaccine a global public health priority, but it is also necessary to protect Service Members and their families,” said Col. Nelson Michael, director of WRAIR’s Military HIV Research Program and Zika program co-lead.
The ZPIV vaccine candidate was developed as part of the U.S. Department of Defense response to the 2015 outbreak of Zika virus in the Americas. WRAIR researchers conceived the ZPIV vaccine in February 2016 and were able to advance the candidate to a Phase 1 human trial by November of the same year.
“WRAIR has previously steered to licensure a similar vaccine for Japanese encephalitis, a flavivirus in the same family as Zika, which helped speed our vaccine development effort,” said Dr. Leyi Lin, who led one of the trials at WRAIR.
In the volunteers who received the vaccine, neutralizing antibody levels peaked two weeks after they completed the 2-dose vaccine series, and exceeded the threshold established in an earlier study needed to protect monkeys against a Zika virus challenge. Researchers also found that antibodies from vaccinated volunteers protected mice from a Zika virus challenge, providing insight into how this vaccine might prevent Zika infection.
Next steps include evaluating how long vaccine-induced immunity lasts, and the impact of dose, schedule and background immunity. Michael added that, “Army researchers are part of integrated, strategic US Government effort to develop a vaccine to protect against Zika.”
The ZPIV program is led by Col. Michael and Dr. Modjarrad. The principal investigators at each of the study sites were Dr. Leyi Lin at WRAIR, Dr. Sarah L. George at SLU and Dr. Kathryn E. Stephenson at BIDMC. The sponsor of the investigational new drug application for two of the studies (WRAIR and SLU) is the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health. The BIDMC study is investigator-sponsored by Dr. Kathryn Stephenson.
When it comes to capabilities, no two states are alike — we ranked the top six, measuring everything from sheer size of force to whether the state has special forces, strike, and a brigade combat team. Overall, we found Texas has the most capable National Guard.
Texas Army National Guard soldiers from the 143rd Infantry Regiment conduct a live fire exercise at Fort Hood, Texas in October 2018.
(Texas National Guard photo by Sgt. Kyle Burns)
Don’t mess with Texas’ National Guard.
Texas has a number of capabilities that elevate the Lone Star State to the #1 position.
Its sheer size is a significant factor — the Texas National Guard is host to nearly 21,000 troops, including its army and air components.
Texas is also home to two companies of the 19th Special Forces Group and Air Guard fighter and attack wings that provide strike and drone capabilities.
A California National Guard soldier from the 19th Special Forces Group descends for a landing during a high altitude, high opening training near Los Alamitos, California in February 2018.
(Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Crystal Housman)
California’s National Guard forces nearly equal those found in Texas, including Green Berets in the 19th Special Forces Group.
But because the nation’s most populous state only yields roughly 18,000 troops, they fall in at #2.
A Pennsylvania National Guard soldier looks out the side of a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter near Nichols, South Carolina, in September 2018.
(Pennsylvania National Guard photo by Capt. Travis Mueller)
Pennsylvania hosts more guardsmen than California, with a force almost 18,500 members strong.
But because the state does not have Special Forces troops — the most elite forces in the Army, who are called upon for the most dangerous missions — it slid back to take the #3 spot.
F-16 Fighting Falcons assigned to the Ohio Air National Guard’s 180th Fighter Wing, sit on the flight line at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida, where they fly to conduct training and maintain readiness during winter months.
(Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Hope Geiger)
Though small in geographical size, census data shows Ohio to be the 7th most populated state in the US, so it’s no surprise that it has a highly capable National Guard.
Its 16,500 guard members include Green Berets, jet pilots, and an infantry brigade combat team that has deployed to Afghanistan.
Soldiers assigned to the 101st Cavalry Regiment of the New York Army National Guard off load from a CH-47 Chinook during cold weather training in January 2019.
(Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Ryan Campbell)
5. New York
Although New York does not have Special Forces, its force is sizable at 15,500 strong.
It hosts not one but two air attack wings — who fly MQ-9 Reaper drones — and an infantry brigade combat team.
Georgia Army National Guard helicopters fly over the Georgia State Capitol during the inauguration of Governor Brian Kemp on Jan. 14, 2019.
(Army National Guard photo by Spc. Tori Miller)
Georgia may not have Special Forces, but it hosts the sixth-largest National Guard in the US, with roughly 14,000 troops including an infantry brigade combat team.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Marine Corps drill instructor and Hollywood actor R. Lee Ermey was robbed of an Oscar for his legendary portrayal of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 classic “Full Metal Jacket” and snubbed by the Academy’s Oscar “memoriam” montage.
But while the Academy may not have thought his contribution worth recognition, we know the Gunny knew a thing or two we should all remember about military service.
Ermey had a long career. As well as his iconic role in “Full Metal Jacket,” where he improvised most of his dialog, and that long run on “Mail Call,” he played iconic roles as the police captain in “Se7en,” the voice of Sarge in the “Toy Story” movies, the mayor in “Mississippi Burning” and a chilling serial rapist in a 2010 episode of “Law & Order: SVU.”
Ermey also had a wicked sense of humor, one that allowed him to play the over-the-top movie director Titus Scroad in the cult TV series “Action” and the lead kidnapper in the “Run Ronnie Run,” the bizarre comedy from “Mr. Show With Bob and David” guys Bob Odenkirk and David Cross.
He left us on April 15, 2018, and he’s now at rest at Arlington National Cemetery.
So what did his TV and movie appearances teach us about service? Here are nine great examples.
1. Once a Marine, always a Marine.
In his “Full Metal Jacket” rants, Gunny Hartman tells his recruits that their Marine Corps training had permanently changed them. They’re no longer mere men: They’ve become Marines.
“Today, you people are no longer maggots. Today, you are Marines. You’re part of a brotherhood. From now on, until the day you die, wherever you are, every Marine is your brother. Most of you will go to Vietnam. Some of you will not come back. But always remember this: Marines die. That’s what we’re here for. But the Marine Corps lives forever and that means you live forever.”
2. You gotta break someone before you build them up.
Few civilians understand the bonds of trust required for a military unit to function and even fewer can grasp the process that goes into tearing down the idea of the individual so a person can be truly absorbed into the group. Gunnery Sgt. Hartman can help you with that.
“If you ladies leave my island, if you survive recruit training, you will be a weapon. You will be a minister of death praying for war. But until that that day, you are pukes. You are the lowest form of life on Earth. You are not even human fucking beings! You are nothing but unorganized grab-ass-tic pieces of amphibian shit! Because I am hard, you will not like me! But the more you hate me, the more you will learn! I am hard, but I am fair! There is no racial bigotry here. I do not look down on niggers, kikes, wops, or greasers. Here you are all equally worthless. And my orders are to weed out all non-hackers who do not packed the gear to serve in my beloved corps. Do you maggots understand that?”
Gunny Hartman may have been talking about Pablo Picasso’s 1939 portrait of Dora Maar.
3. Modern art is not good art.
Hidden in Gunny Hartman’s psychological tear down are some important observations about other parts of our world. He’s also an art critic.
“You’re so ugly you could be a modern art masterpiece!”
Truthfully, Gunny Hartman’s material is closer to Don Rickles than Steve Martin but Steve’s the one who said, “Comedy is not pretty.”
4. Comedy is not pretty.
He’s a talented insult comic.
“Well I’ve got a joke for you, I’m going to tear you a new a–hole.”
Ask yourself: “Is my toilet clean enough that I could invite the mother of Our Savior to use my bathroom?”
5. A clean toilet is a holy toilet.
He’s concerned that our religious icons have a good bathroom experience.
“I want that head so sanitary and squared away that the Virgin Mary herself would be proud to go in there and take a dump.”
What’s YOUR major malfunction?
6. A great catchphrase works in any situation.
Ask anyone who grew-up in a household where dad always asked “What’s your major malfunction?” Every Single Time they did something he didn’t like.
7. The Heart is the Deadliest Weapon.
He even operates on multiple levels. He may SAY a Marine is the deadliest weapon but listen closely: The threat really comes from a Marine’s cold, cold heart.
“The deadliest weapon in the world is a Marine and his rifle. It is your killer instinct which must be harnessed if you expect to survive in combat. Your rifle is only a tool. It is a hard heart that kills. If your killer instincts are not clean and strong, you will hesitate at the moment of truth. You will not kill. You will become dead Marines. And then you will be in a world of s***. Because Marines are not allowed to die without permission. Do you maggots understand?”
8. Everyone Needs Mail.
Ermey did his part on his long-running History Channel series to educate a generation of Americans who knew nothing about the military. He also reminded everyone that communication is critical for men and women who are serving their country. If you want to remember Ermey, write a letter, send an email or make a phone call in honor of his service.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Reports of sexual assaults in the military increased slightly last year, U.S. defense officials said Monday, and more than half the victims reported negative reactions or retaliation for their complaints.
The defense officials, however, said an anonymous survey conducted last year showed some progress in fighting sexual assault, as fewer than 15,000 service members described themselves as victims of unwanted sexual contact. That is 4,000 fewer than in a 2014 survey. Sexual assault is a highly underreported crime, so the Pentagon uses anonymous surveys to track the problem.
The new figures are being released Monday. Several defense officials spoke about the report on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the data ahead of time.
For more than a decade, the Defense Department has been trying to encourage more people to report sexual assaults and harassment. The agency says greater reporting allows more victims to seek treatment.
Overall there were 6,172 reports of sexual assault filed in 2016, compared to 6,083 the previous year. The largest increase occurred in the Navy, with 5 percent more reports. There was a 3 percent jump in the Air Force. The Army and Marine Corps had slight decreases.
Retaliation is difficult to determine, and the Defense Department has been adjusting its measurements for several years. It seeks to differentiate between more serious workplace retribution and social snubs that, while upsetting, are not illegal.
Two years ago, a RAND Corporation study found that about 57 percent of sexual assault victims believed they faced retaliation from commanders or peers. Members of Congress demanded swift steps to protect whistleblowers, including sexual assault victims, who are wronged as a result of reports or complaints.
Data at the time suggested that many victims described the vengeful behavior as social backlash, including online snubs, that don’t meet the legal definition of retaliation.
Officials are trying to get a greater understanding about perceptions of retaliation. They’ve added more questions and analysis to eliminate instances when commanders make adjustments or transfer victims to protect them, as opposed to punishing them or pressuring them to drop criminal proceedings.
As a result, while 58 percent of victims last year said they faced some type of “negative behavior,” only 32 percent described circumstances that could legally be described as retribution. This includes professional retaliation, administration actions or punishments. In 2015, 38 percent reported such actions.
Despite the small increase in reports last year, officials focused on the anonymous survey. The survey is done every two years and includes a wider range of sexual contact.
In 2012, the survey showed 26,000 service members said they had been victims of unwanted sexual contact, which can range from inappropriate touching and hazing to rape. The numbers enraged Congress and triggered extensive debate over new laws and regulations to attack the problem.
The surveys have shown a steady decline. Monday’s report shows 14,900 cases were reported. Of those, 8,600 were women and 6,300 were men. It marks the first time more women than men said they experienced unwanted sexual contact. There are far more men in the military and the total number of male victims had been higher, even if by percentage, women faced more unwanted contact.
The decrease in reports by men suggests a possible reduction in hazing incidents, officials said.
About 21 percent of women said they had faced sexual harassment, about the same as two years ago. The percentage of men dipped a bit.
Days after he was removed from his position as commanding officer of a Navy aircraft carrier, Capt. Brett Crozier has reportedly tested positive for the coronavirus illness he warned was spreading rampantly on his ship.
Navy officials did not immediately respond to questions about the officer’s condition.
Crozier was recently relieved of command after a letter he wrote to Navy leaders was leaked to the media. In his letter, he pleaded with Navy leaders to evacuate his carrier to help slow the spread of COVID-19 among the crew.
“Sailors do not need to die,” Crozier wrote in a letter that was later published by the San Francisco Chronicle. “If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors.”
Top Navy leaders first told reporters Wednesday that, while they wished the letter hadn’t made its way to the press, unless Crozier was found to have leaked it, he was not out of line in speaking up about the situation on the ship.
About 24 hours later, Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly reversed course and announced that Crozier had been relieved of command. That was despite Modly saying it was not known whether Crozier had, in fact, leaked the letter to the media.
Modly said Crozier had copied people outside of his chain of command when emailing the candid letter. The acting Navy secretary said the captain caused unnecessary panic on and off the ship,and, for that reason, Modly said, he lost confidence in Crozier’s ability to lead.
David Ignatius, a columnist for The Washington Post, reported this weekend that Modly told a colleague ahead of the relief that President Donald Trump wanted Crozier fired. Modly told reporters Thursday he faced no outside pressure, including from the White House, on the decision to remove Crozier from his position as the Roosevelt’s commanding officer.
Since Crozier’s letter was made public, the Navy has been working to move thousands of sailors off the carrier and into hotel rooms and other locations on Guam while the ship is cleaned and disinfected.
Modly said Thursday that 114 members of the Roosevelt’s crew had tested positive for COVID-19. As of Friday, the Navy had 372 coronavirus cases among uniformed personnel. That amounted to nearly 40% of the military’s 978 cases at the time.
In his letter, Crozier warned that the number of cases on the ship was likely to get much higher, citing tight living quarters, shared restrooms, and food that was prepared by people who’d been exposed to the virus.
COVID-19 has caused a global health crisis as cases worldwide have surged past 1 million, killing more than 65,000 people.
The Army is working on engineering unmanned systems and tactical robots that can both help and evacuate casualties from the battlefield by transporting injured soldiers out of dangerous situations, service officials said.
“We are evaluating existing and developmental technologies that can be applied to medical missions,” Phil Reidinger, spokesman for the U.S. Army Health Readiness Center of Excellence, told Scout Warrior.
The idea, expressed by Army leaders, is aimed at saving lives of trained medics to run into high-risk combat situations when soldiers are injured. For example, medical evacuation robots could prevent medics from being exposed to enemy gunfire and shrapnel.
“We have lost medics throughout the years because they have the courage to go forward and rescue their comrades under fire,” Maj. Gen. Steve Jones, commander of the Army Medical Department Center and School and chief of the Medical Corps, said in a written statement. “With the newer technology, with the robotic vehicles we are using even today to examine and to detonate IEDs [improvised explosive devices], those same vehicles can go forward and retrieve casualties.”
The Army has operated thousands of cave-clearing, improvised explosive device-locating robots in places like Iraq and Afghanistan for more than a decade. The majority of them use sensors such as electro-optical/infrared cameras to detect and destroy roadside bombs and other explosive materials.
“We already use robots on the battlefield today to examine IEDs, to detonate them,” Jones said. “With some minor adaptation, we could take that same technology and use it to extract casualties that are under fire. How many medics have we lost, or other Soldiers, because they have gone in under fire to retrieve a casualty? We can use a robotics device for that.”
Jones said unmanned vehicles used to recover injured Soldiers could be armored to protect those Soldiers on their way home.
But the vehicles could do more than just recover Soldiers, he said. With units operating forward, sometimes behind enemy lines, the medical community could use unmanned aerial vehicle systems, or UAVs, to provide support to them.
“What happens when a member of the team comes down with cellulitis or pneumonia? We have got to use telemedicine to tele-mentor them on the diagnosis and treatment,” he said, adding that UAVs could be used for delivering antibiotics or blood to those units to keep them in the fight. “So you don’t have to evacuate the casualties, so the team can continue its mission.”
The United States Navy commissioned its newest destroyer, USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000), a few years ago. It’s had a hiccup or two, but make no mistake, this is a very modern naval warship. It has tons of firepower, including two 155mm guns, 20 four-cell Mk 57 vertical-launch systems, and two 30mm guns. But how would it fare against the best surface combatant in the Russian Navy, the Pyotr Velikiy, the last of four Kirov-class battlecruisers?
This sort of ship-versus-ship combat looks one-sided in favor of the Russian ship. The Zumwalt is designed to hit and kill targets on land using BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles and has some self-defense capability with the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile. The Pyotr Velikiy, on the other hand, was primarily designed for naval anti-air combat, armed with SS-N-19 Shipwreck anti-ship missiles, SA-N-6 Grumble surface-to-air missiles, and a twin 130mm turret.
Looks can be deceiving. While firepower matters in any sort of combat, you need a target for that firepower. The Zumwalt, with its stealth technology, is a very elusive target. Yeah, one or two SS-N-19s could leave it a burning wreck, but they’d need to find it and hit it first. On the other hand, the Kirov’s not that stealthy. Its radars might as well be a big signpost saying, “I’m over here!”
Furthermore, the Zumwalt has a few more anti-ship weapons options. One of which is Vulcano technology, which transforms its 155mm guns into anti-ship missile launchers. This places the Kirov in a world of hurt. Seeing as the Zumwalt can carry 300 rounds for each of its two 155mm guns, that’s a lot of threatening firepower. Furthermore, some advanced versions of the Tomahawk missile can be used as anti-ship munitions. To make matters worse for the Pyotr Velikiy, the Zumwalt is likely able to be upgraded with systems like a ship-launched version of the LRASM.
In short, the real winner of this fight will come down to who can see the enemy ship first and in that department, the Zumwalt has the edge.
On July 9, a female National Guard soldier became the first woman to graduate from U.S. Army Special Forces training since Capt. Katie Wilder did so in 1980, earning the coveted Green Beret. The woman, whose identity the Army is withholding for personnel security purposes, joins more than a dozen women who have completed elite schools that were only available to men until the Pentagon opened all combat jobs, including special operations positions, to women in 2016.
Coffee or Die spoke with several men who served in special operations units alongside women in combat to get their thoughts on the historic event.
Special Forces soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) conduct an AAR after Counter Improvised Explosive Device training at Panzer Local Training area near Stuttgart, Germany, June. 10, 2020. Photo by Patrik Orcutt/U.S. Army.
Luke Ryan, right, served as a team leader with 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. Photo courtesy of Luke Ryan/Coffee or Die.
Retired Army Master Sergeant Jariko Denman served with the 75th Ranger Regiment for 16 years.
“In Afghanistan, women in Cultural Support Teams (CSTs) attached to us and other special operations forces, including Green Berets and [U.S. Navy] SEALs. CSTs were enablers, just like explosive ordnance disposal techs or others whose specialties we needed to support our missions.
“On my last four deployments as a task force senior enlisted advisor, we had CSTs with us, so I’ve been in firefights with women, chasing down bad guys alongside them. There was never a case in my experience of women weighing us down. I can’t say that for every other enabler who attached to us. Women coming into that job realized they were going into that hyperkinetic environment, and they brought their ‘A’ game. They knew they could not be a weak link, so they came in shape, and they were very successful.
“For any leader building a team, we know the team isn’t as strong if everybody looks and thinks the same. You want a diversity of skills and backgrounds because that diversity reflects your needs. High-performing individuals who have vastly different life experiences are an asset in SOF.
“As long as we maintain the same SOF qualification standards for everyone, I think women in SOF are just as capable as men, and I’m glad to see more women joining our ranks and getting the same special designations men have always had the opportunity to attain.”
Joe and Shannon Kent with their sons. Photo courtesy of Joe Kent/Coffee or Die.
Luke Ryan served as an Army Ranger and team leader with 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.
“I was on the mission where Captain Jenny Moreno was killed in action in October 2013. She was a nurse by trade but was attached to my Ranger platoon as a Cultural Support Team (CST) member. When she saw that several of my Ranger buddies had been seriously wounded, she moved to help them without regard for her own safety. She was killed in the process. That kind of selfless bravery is something I will never forget. I hold her in the same high regard as I hold my Ranger brethren who were killed doing the same thing.
“Women have already been fighting in special operations components for years. That part isn’t new. They were attached to our unit for my four deployments, and I will never doubt the ability of a woman to be courageous and effective on the battlefield. Moreno didn’t have a Ranger scroll, but in my opinion, she earned one. If I see her in the next life, I’ll give her mine.
“As far as integrating into traditional special operations units, I’ve seen the courage of women in SOF tested on the battlefield, and I’m in full support of it. As long as standards are maintained, allowing women in SOF will be a non-issue.”
Rob Garnett in Eastern Afghanistan on his last deployment in 2010. Photo courtesy of Rob Garnett/One More Wave.
Retired Chief Warrant Officer 3 Joe Kent served as a Ranger and Special Forces operator. His wife, Senior Chief Petty Officer Shannon Kent, was killed while serving on a special operations task force in the fight against ISIS in 2019.
“My wife trained as an Arabic linguist and signals intelligence collector. In Iraq, special operations forces relied heavily on intelligence professionals who had to work with local Iraqis to develop informants and gather intelligence for our missions. Iraqi women often had intelligence we needed, and women like Shannon stepped up to provide a capability that none of us had. Her contributions gave us a more complete picture of whatever situation we were heading into, which was invaluable.
“As years went on, Shannon gained more and more trust in the SOF community, and her performance in special operations opened doors for other intelligence professionals to try out for special operations forces.
“Anyone who has served alongside women in special operations should know it was just a matter of time before a woman would wear the Green Beret and Special Forces long tab.
“As Americans, our country has decided we’re going to have this all-volunteer force, so we get the military that shows up and volunteers to go fight. Plenty of women have fought and died, and to say they can’t go be combat arms or special operators is wrong. My wife was good enough to die alongside SEALs and operators on her fifth deployment but not have the same opportunity to prove herself in SOF qualification courses? That’s ridiculous.
“I’m very glad the ban on women serving in combat arms and special operations was lifted, and my hat’s off to the woman who completed Special Forces qualification.”
Nolan Peterson has covered conflict around the world. Photo courtesy of Nolan Peterson/Coffee or Die.
Rob Garnett served as a Navy SEAL for almost 23 years.
“In Baghdad in 2003, I was waiting with an Iraqi Interpreter at one of the entrances to the Green Zone to escort an Iraqi National inside. As vehicles moved through the ‘s curves’ of the base access point, we heard the guards start shouting ‘Stop!’ at a small car approaching the gate. When the vehicle didn’t stop, the soldier standing next to me began firing at the approaching vehicle, and I began to fire as well. The vehicle slowly came to a stop after the driver was killed. As the soldiers moved to inspect the vehicle, they found the trunk was full of 155 rounds made into an IED.
“When I walked over to the soldier who had first engaged the vehicle to say ‘great job,’ I realized this person was not a soldier but an airman, as well as a female. I remember joking with her and saying, ‘No females in combat, right?’ She just smiled and said, ‘Fuck off.’ She told me she didn’t plan on letting anyone inside that wasn’t supposed to be there.
“From my perspective, we aren’t getting female commandos in SOF now; we are getting MORE commandos. We can engage with more of the population when we include females in SOF operations, and I feel like most folks wouldn’t be as concerned about someone’s gender but more about a new team member’s performance.
“I would guess the soldier who completed SF training doesn’t want to be known as the first female SF soldier; she just wants to be a commando like everyone else.”
Nolan Peterson is a former Air Force special operations pilot who served with the 34th Special Operations Squadron.
“On my first deployment to Afghanistan, I served alongside a woman pilot whose impact I’ll never forget. On a long night mission, orbiting above a Taliban compound, helping good guys kill bad guys, I was pretty stressed and anxious. My greatest fear was I’d screw up somehow and get Americans hurt, or worse.
“They measure a pilot’s worth in hours flown because experience matters most. And, lucky for me, I was copilot to a woman who had years of combat experience. She had actually been one of my instructor pilots and played a big role in training me, and I was able to do my job that night in spite of the nervousness — thanks in no small part to the steady leadership and proficient skills of my pilot. It’s easy to do your job well when you’ve got a good example to follow.
“As we left station and started flying back to Bagram, we could see meteors streaking overhead through our night-vision goggles. Then the sun began to peak over the Hindu Kush.
“‘Pretty cool, isn’t it?’ I remember her saying. Then, as if granted permission, I suddenly stopped being so afraid of screwing up and took a moment to appreciate that, yes, this was, in fact, pretty damn cool. Then she told me I’d done well that night and had turned out to be a fine pilot. She was confident I’d go on and make her proud. Since she’d played a key role in training me, my performance was a reflection on her too. That small compliment she gave me was worth more than any medal.
“More than anything, on that debut deployment I’d wanted to prove myself to the people who’d mattered most — that’s to say, the people who’d been to war before me. And that pilot had been to war a lot. Hell, she’d spent most of the best years of her life either in war zones or training for them. She was a warrior, a professional, a mentor, and a damn good pilot. And getting her stamp of approval was one of my proudest moments.
“So when it comes to the recent news of a woman graduating the Special Forces Qualification Course, I think it’s long overdue. Women have been serving in combat and in special operations forces for years. They volunteer for the same risks, assume the same responsibilities and have had to uphold the same standards as their male counterparts. Once the bullets are flying, all that matters is that you’re good at your job. And without a doubt, to make it through the Green Beret selection process, that woman has clearly proven herself to be among the best of the best.”
Disclosure: Nolan Peterson is a senior staff writer for Coffee or Die; Luke Ryan is an associate editor, and Jariko Denman is a contributing writer.
Gary Brooks Faulkner, a construction worker from Colorado, was detained by police with a pistol and a sword. Except for the sword, this would not be unusual in Colorado. But he wasn’t in Colorado. He was in Pakistan, and he was there to avenge the 9/11 terrorist attacks by taking a sword to the world’s most wanted man.
When the U.S. Army adopted the motto “Army of One,” a lot of soldiers laughed. But one American civilian seemed to have taken it to heart. He wasn’t ashamed of his self-imposed mission. He was proud of it. Even when he was arrested in the Chitral District of Pakistan while trying to cross into Afghanistan, he didn’t hide it.
“He told the investigating officer he was going to Afghanistan to get Osama. At first we thought he was mentally deranged,” said Muhammad Jaffar Khan, the Chitral police chief. But the gun-toting, sword-wielding Californian was totally serious. He even brought along night vision goggles. The American was even under armed guard while staying in Pakistan under the guise of being an everyday tourist. One night, he slipped away from his guard and made a run for the border.
Faulkner was arrested in Pakistan back in 2010 and had no idea – like the rest of the world – that Osama bin Laden wasn’t even in Afghanistan at the time. Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan was just a ten-hour drive from the Kalash Valley, where Faulkner was staying. There wasn’t even a border to cross or policemen to arrest him or take away his samurai sword.
But the American had no idea where he was going. He told police he brought the Bible along with him and that God would guide him to where Osama bin Laden was hiding, and allow him America’s vengeance. Or at least allow him to capture the world’s most wanted terrorist. But of course, we all know how OBL’s story ends.
Faulkner’s ends with a Nic Cage movie.
Gary Brooks Faulkner, however, was turned over to the U.S. State Department in Pakistan and repatriated home to Colorado, where he was a guest on various talk shows, including The View and The Late Show with David Letterman, before going back to a regular life of managing his brother’s apartment complex. Then one day, a tenant who was being evicted tried to break into his apartment with three of her friends. She tried to intimidate a man who hunted Osama bin Laden with a sword.
He fired a shot at his assailants, but that shot brought the police, who confiscated his weapons and discovered he was a convicted felon. That shot eventually landed Faulkner in jail.
The Vatican Swiss Guard is primarily regarded as a tourist attraction, but they are actually descended from a famous military tradition and their duties are anything but just ceremonial.
Composed of a company of former Swiss military, the Swiss Guard are responsible for the protection of the Pope and perform many ceremonial functions as well. Though best known for their colorful uniforms and halberds, plainclothes Guardsmen also serve as bodyguards for the Pope and security for the Vatican.
Entrance requirements for the Guard is strict. Potential Guardsmen must be Catholic males, of Swiss nationality, and have completed Swiss military training. Their service records have to be spotless, and they must be at least 5′ 9″ tall and be between 19 and 30 years of age. Though the Guard has considered opening up positions for women, for now it’s exclusively male.
The Guard’s history stretches back to the Middle Ages. Swiss mercenaries, or Reislaufer, were among the most feared fighting forces of the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. Switzerland was an overpopulated and poor country, and its independent cantons would contract out its militia to other countries as a means of support.
Gaining their reputation with spectacular victories over their Austrian Habsburg overlords in the 13th century, the Swiss were famed for their skill in using pikes and halberds in deep column attacks. Their general refusal to take prisoners only added to their ferocious repute, and they became the most prized mercenaries in Europe.
Noted for their loyalty, Swiss mercenaries served as the bodyguard contingent for many European monarchs such as the French throne. During the storming of the Louis XVI’s palace during the French Revolution, his Swiss Guard refused to surrender despite being hopelessly outnumbered and running low on ammunition. It took a note from the king himself for them to lay down their arms, and their spirited defense so enraged the revolutionaries hundreds of them were summarily executed.
Swiss mercenaries had been serving the Papal States for centuries, but it wasn’t until 1506 that a permanent Guard of 150 men under the direct control of the Pope was formed, at the suggestion of the Swiss bishop Matthaus Schiner. When mutinous unpaid troops from the Holy Roman Empire sacked Rome in 1527, the Swiss Guard proved their bravery by losing most of their number defending Pope Clement VII. Out of 189 men, only 42 survived, but they bought time for the Pope to escape through a secret tunnel ahead of marauding enemy soldiers hoping to hold him for ransom.
When German forces occupied Rome during World War II, the Guard took up defensive positions and prepared to fight to the death, but Adolf Hitler chose not to attack the Vatican.
The Guard gradually morphed into a mostly ceremonial unit during the later 20th century, but this changed with the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in 1981. Mehmet Agca, a Turkish national believed to have been backed by the KGB, shot the Pope four times as he entered St. Peters Square, nearly killing him. The Guard has since refocused as personal protection, with the pope’s security detail beefed up and armed with light automatic weapons.
In 2006, the Guard celebrated its 500th anniversary by marching a contingent of former Guardsmen from Bellinzona in southern Switzerland to Rome, in emulation of the first Guards journey in 1505-06. Since Switzerland banned mercenaries in 1874 with the sole exception of the Vatican, this unit is the last remaining example of a storied line of soldiers.
In June 1982, Israeli tanks rolled across their border into neighboring Lebanon. Their mission was to stop the terrorist Palestine Liberation Organization from repeating further attacks on Israeli officials and civilians.
All this was in the middle of Lebanon’s Civil War, which raged from 1975 to 1990. When their tanks tried to roll through the U.S. Marines’ camp in Beirut, one Leatherneck told them they could do it “over his dead body.”
The Lebanese Civil War was in many ways like Syria’s civil war today. The country was a fractured group of religions, sects of those religions, political parties, refugees, and outright armed militias. The various factions vying for power were also aided by the patronage of other countries, like Iran, Iraq, Syria, Israel, the Soviet Union, and their Cold War adversary, the United States.
It was a mess.
Israel Defense Forces began to surround Beirut within a week of the invasion. The siege was particularly brutal. Of the more than 6,000 Lebanese and Palestinians who died in the siege, 84 percent were civilians. It was so bad, then-President Ronald Reagan reportedly called an August artillery barrage on Beirut a “holocaust” in a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin.
The brutality of the war as a whole is what prompted Reagan to send Marines to Lebanon’s capital as part of a multi-national force of peacekeepers. The MNF were there to protect foreigners and civilians while trying to protect the legally-recognized government and restore its sovereignty.
Later in 1982, Israel again drew worldwide condemnation for failing to stop the massacre of Lebanese and Palestinian civilians in refugee camps Sabra and Shatila. A militia allied with Israel began killing inhabitants of the camps as Israeli forces stood by. The PLO also blamed the United States for not living up to the MNF agreements to protect civilians.
So when three Israeli Centurion tanks rolled to the MNF perimeter manned by the Marines, Capt. Charles B. Johnson stood still as the tanks stopped only within one foot of his face. A full five minutes later, the IDF commander dismounted to talk to the captain. The Israeli told the Marine the tanks were on their way to nearby railroad tracks. He then demanded to speak to a Marine general.
Johnson replied by repeating he had orders not to allow the tanks to pass. The Israeli told him he would drive through anyway and began to mount his tank. That’s when the Marine drew his sidearm, climbed the lead tank and told the Israelis they could pass “over his dead body.”
One account in the Washington Post even recalls Johnson jumping on a tank as it raced toward his checkpoint, warning the Israelis that the likelihood of shooting each other was going to increase. A UPI report at the time says Johnson “grabbed the Israeli lieutenant colonel with his left hand and pointed his loaded pistol into the air.”
After a 50-minute stand-off, the tanks backed down and left the perimeter.
In response, the United States summoned then-charge d’affaires Benjamin Netanyahu to protest Israeli provocations against American forces in Beirut. The tank incident turned out to be one of many. The Israelis denied the incident occurred, saying tanks were in the area to investigate the death of an Israeli soldier.
Johnson was lauded for his “courageous action” by Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger.
The next month, a car bomb was detonated next to the Marine barracks at Beirut airport, killing 241 Marines (Johnson survived the attack) and 58 French paratroopers. By Feb. 26, 1984, the Marines withdrew to ships offshore and much of the MNF departed from Lebanon entirely.