The very essence of being a Marine Infantryman is being amphibious — it’s the reason we exist as a Marine Corps. However, the last two wars have been fought on land, so it’s understandable that beach assaults have taken a back seat in terms of training goals.
But, with the Marine Corps moving into a peacetime and with sights being set on near-peer rivals, amphibious assault training has resurfaced as pivotal.
Plenty of Marines are excited by this — as they should be — but beach assaults are just one more thing to add to the long list of reasons why the infantry is affectionately called, “the suck.”
1. Sitting in an amphibious assault vehicle for hours.
Have you ever wanted to just lock yourself in a dark, metal box that floats on the ocean for hours? If you answered, “yes,” then you’ll love beach assaults. You get locked inside an AAV while you’re taken from ship to shore. Not only is it really dark and hot, it’s also terribly boring.
2. Diesel fumes.
Remember that thing about being locked in the metal box? Well, that metal box burns diesel and the fumes make their way into where you and your buddies are waiting. Essentially, you just sit there and inhale the fumes until you reach the shore.
3. Your gear gets soaked.
This isn’t true for absolutely everyone as some AAVs are pretty good about staying air-tight, but these are old vehicles and they’re prone to mechanical shortcomings. As many Marines will tell you, be sure to waterproof your gear because, between ship and shore, you’ll often end up in ankle-deep water.
4. The blinding sunlight.
If your assault happens during the day, the moment the ramp drops and you run outside, your eyes are going to have to adjust from the dark, dank interior of the AAV to unrelenting sunlight. For a few seconds, as you run to your position in the attack, you’ll be nearly blind.
5. Your rifle gets extremely dirty.
Between the salt water, sand, and any oil leaks, your rifle is going to get crapped on. Hopefully, you either lubed it up prior to leaving the ship or you did so while sweating your ass off in a cloud of diesel smoke. There’s no way you’ll keep it clean, but this will at least ensure you can shoot your rifle.
Once the attack is over, prepare your anus as the armory rejects your rifle like never before. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by MCIPAC Combat Camera Lance Cpl. Sergio RamirezRomero)
It’s rough, it’s coarse, and it gets everywhere. Sand will not only get in every small space on your rifle, it’s going to get into everything you have. Every crack in your gear, uniform, and body. You’re going to have sand in places that didn’t even touch the beach. Once you get back to ship, you’ll have to deep clean everything — including yourself.
For the last 227 years, the U.S. Coast Guard has remained always ready to defend and secure our nation’s coastlines. For the last couple decades, however, the Coast Guard has pushed its boundaries out further, taking more aggressive stabs at the flow of South American drugs that, eventually, make their way into the U.S.
The fact is that narcotics will make their way to wherever people will buy them and, in the case of cocaine, the U.S. is happy to spend. According to The Washington Post, just shy of a million people tried cocaine for the first time in 2015.
Couple that stat with the fact that 90% of cocaine used in the U.S. comes from Colombia, and you’ve got yourself a bustling drug railroad.
The problem is that international borders are tricky for smugglers and there are quite a few between Colombia and the U.S. So, cartels often opt to take the path of least resistance, which extends out into the Pacific Ocean.
Cartels moving product north go to sea, trying to sail under the radar of the U.S. Coast Guard—and the odds of getting through aren’t so bad. Despite the fact that the Coast Guard has seized almost 500,000lbs of cocaine over the past year, it’s logistically impossible to keep all 6 million square miles of patrolled sea clean.
“I simply sit and watch it go by,” lamented Gen. John Kelly in 2014, then head of the Southern Command. Despite the fact that the U.S. Coast Guard seizes hundreds of millions of dollars worth of the drug, Gen. Kelly estimated that, because of resource limitations, the USCG stops just a quarter of trafficking.
So, who’s moving these mountains of coke? In many cases, they’re men from small fishing villages looking to support their families when times are tough. In their regular lives, they have little to do with drugs, but moving product makes a lot more money than selling the day’s catch. These fisherman are approached by cartel representatives and asked to do a week’s worth of work to pull in three or four times their normal annual salary—high risk, high reward.
Unfortunately for these men, the U.S. Coast Guard has played a huge role in the ongoing war on drugs. In 1986, the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act was passed, which defined smuggling drugs through international waters as a crime against the United States. This enabled the Coast Guard, the only branch of the US military that doubles as a law enforcement agency, to take the battle into foreign waters—and it’s been a winning strategy.
In the 1990s, the USCG detained roughly 200 men per year in waters beyond the U.S. Between Sept. 2016 and Sept. 2017, the USCG detained more than 700.
Drug cartels are notoriously elusive, so every fragment of intel against them is important. This means that every trafficker is to be charged, sentenced, and questioned on U.S. soil, no matter how small their involvement.
For these captives, due process doesn’t start until they’re formally arrested, which doesn’t happen until the ship makes port. Some challenge these practices, citing violation of human rights, but the U.S. Coast Guard stands firm in their belief that anyone detained is being adequately fed and sheltered during their lengthy transfers.
Fighting the war on drugs can be an ugly business and, sometimes, those caught in the crossfire are just looking to make a buck for their families. But, as Gen. Kelly said, “we are a nation under attack” from these cartels and defending our coasts is exactly what the Coast Guard does best.
Our military is faced with a conflicting dichotomy. On one hand, we tout that we are the most technologically advanced military force on the planet. On the other, the Pentagon states that we need to upgrade our defenses to keep up with the looming threats. Depending on which briefing you attend, you may hear that the Department of Defense (DoD) is operating under a very tight budget; meanwhile, the news media points out the United States spends more on defense than any other nation in the world.
So what gives? What is really happening?
To fully grasp the intricacies of the U.S. military’s budget and expenditures, we must take a holistic look at the budgetary process.
Who’s Really in Charge of the Military?
Each year, the service components draft their needs and submit them in a prioritized list to the Secretary of Defense. These lists are consolidated and given over to the president. The president, not being a military man, relies on the suggestions and vision of the service chiefs. In January of every year, the president submits his budget proposal (for the next year) to Congress.
The House and Senate each have their own Armed Services Committee, who eventually reconcile the two agendas; they determine what the military is authorized (how much they’re allowed to have) and what the military is appropriated (what they’re allowed to purchase that year). Once reconciled, Congress votes on the National Defense Authorization Act late in the calendar year. The NDAA then becomes law; the military must purchase those designated items.
This begs the question: who determines what the U.S. military will be comprised of? Sadly, it appears that the commander-in-chief merely makes recommendations; it is the Congress who has the final say.
Unfortunately, two flaws can be spotted in this system. First, it may be possible that a member of Congress may skew military appropriations in order to curry favor with their constituents. For example, Senator Susan Collins from Maine successfully petitioned to build the third Zumwalt-class destroyer to keep her state’s Bath Iron Works shipyard in business; at the time, it was a ship the Navy did not want. Second, once the appropriations are issued, it becomes a monumental fight to change them. What if a service realized that they need to change what they are purchasing because of a new threat? It would face the huge task of convincing Congress of the need to change the purchasing strategy mid-stream. It may prove more difficult than the effort itself.
There’s a consensus among military analysts that posits the technological advantages of our adversaries. They assert that Russia and China have already surpassed the United States in terms of technological abilities. In these analyses, they credit foreign missiles with absolute reliability and perfect accuracy while discrediting our own.
This trend has spurned the admirals and generals into action; there is a palpable emphasis in developing futuristic weapons to not only meet the challenge, but to far exceed it. At this point, I will concede that there is value in developing weaponry for the future. However, I will dispute the overwhelming emphasis currently placed upon it. If one is focused on a futuristic battle, you may not be prepared for the near-term skirmish.
The DoD budget for Fiscal Year 2021 stands at 8 billion in total. Of that, 4.3 billion is being spent on Research, Development, Testing, Evaluation (RDTE); this is the highest value in our country’s history. This money will be spent on the development of weapons that do not yet exist. Items such as laser rayguns, howitzers with global reach, and deflector shields sound good in theory, but the technology isn’t mature enough to make them a reality.
Each service component has a number of pet-projects that are purely hypothetical at this point: the Air Force’s B-21 stealth bomber concept boasts unmatched abilities, when it hasn’t even flown yet; the Navy’s electromagnetically driven catapults and elevators still haven’t proven their worth; the Army’s search for a robot that can autonomously carry an infantryman’s load hasn’t reached fruition; and all of the services are constructing massive databases to help each keep track of maintenance and availability at extreme cost.
I do not believe these programs should be canceled, but they should not be the national priority. These programs should be relegated to the “back burner” until technology can catch up to the promised capabilities.
Right now, the U.S. military is, by far, the strongest force on the planet. Let’s review recent history.
In 1991, the U.S. military dismantled the Iraqi army in 96 hours. Later, in 2003, the US military crushed the Iraqi army in less than weeks, while using only two divisions as the spearhead. In Afghanistan, the U.S. military forced the Taliban government to fall within three months. Since that time, the United States has held control of Afghanistan longer than the Russians or Alexander the Great ever did.
Think about that.
Those are astounding time frames. But like any sports team, all the competitors would like to defeat the champion and claim the title. So, the United States must be vigilant to keep the hyenas at a distance. Because of that, I propose that Washington maintain its current force as its primary effort, while slowlydeveloping its future capability as a secondary effort.
For a moment, let’s set aside the on-going technological revolution. The major weapons systems in the U.S. arsenal are sound, combat-proven, and worthy of keeping. Sure, they will require upgrades to keep pace with technological developments, but they are largely superior to most nations’ weapons. Our weapons systems cannot be allowed to fester or grow obsolete while we chase new futuristic weapons that are years from production. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld once said, “You go to war with the army you have, not the one you might want or wish to have at a later time.”
The reality is that new weapons are prohibitively expensive and take too much time to build; because of the costly price tags of the new weapons, the Pentagon invariably ends up buying fewer new weapons and ends up lagging behind our adversaries in terms of the sheer total number of systems; during these extensive construction times, we must maintain our current force structure by funding the “in-place” weapons systems.
Political doves often create conspiracy-laden theories that accuse the most outlandish plots. One of them touts that the average citizen does not truly comprehend how much the weapons manufacturing industries fuel the U.S. economy overall. True, the military-industrial complex affects many jobs in many states, but the funding of programs just to create “jobs” eventually hurts the military. It is sometimes necessary to cancel a project and shift its money to another more worthwhile project. This may hurt some Congress-members, and it may mean shifting funding to another defense company, but in the end, the United States will benefit from the security gained from a good piece of military hardware.
To unravel the convoluted budgetary process and streamline defense acquisition, the president should request a special meeting with both Congressional Armed Services Committees to appeal for one-time special monetary powers to shift defense spending toward ‘at risk’ military capabilities. Funds would have to be shifted on an emergency basis, with the aim of purchasing the best items now rather than perfect items far in the future. The president should propose:
1) The RDTE value should be reduced by 10 percent for one year. Research could still continue with the remaining .9 billion, although some delays could be expected. The .4 billion could be used elsewhere.
2a) Purchase another eight F-15EX fighters for id=”listicle-2645629724″.2 billion, as the Air Force did last year. This would serve to augment the F-15 fleet during the slow expansion of the F-35 acquisition.
2b) Along a similar vein, initiate the purchase of sixteen F-16V Block 72 fighters for id=”listicle-2645629724″.3 billion. Just the addition of the AN/APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) will be a great improvement of the Viper’s potential, given that the F-16 will still be flying beyond 2030.
3) Purchase another Virginia-class Block V submarine with the additional Virginia Payload Module for .75 billion. This would help in the Navy in two ways: the VPM capability will assist with the aging SSGN line of ships, which will retire soon; it will bring up the submarine production schedule, which had slowed over the last two years. This will alleviate concern of the shrinking attack submarine numbers. Further, insist that all future acquisition of Virginia-class attack submarines be equipped with the VPM missiles to ameliorate the retirement of SSGNs.
4) Disburse id=”listicle-2645629724″ billion to change the structure/composition of the Littoral Combat Ship. To date, twenty LCS ships have been laid down. These ships are misfits within the Navy, not truly fulfilling any particular mission. The president should insist that the remaining ships in the class (fifteen hulls) be re-configured as mini-arsenal ships. Using the current hull design, the super-structure would have permanently installed VLS systems to house the Naval Strike Missile, the Harpoon Block 1C anti-ship missile, the Standard Missile 2 missiles or the Standard Missile 6; all of these guided by the SPY-1F Aegis radar; however, this would most likely eliminate the helicopter landing pad in the stern of the ship. In short, the last fifteen LCS ships would be turned into offensive weapons systems and serve as an interim frigate until a new ship design is introduced.
5) Implement a significant change to an Army major acquisition program. Currently, three Services use a variant of the V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft. The Army, however, insists on building its tilt-rotor from scratch. This is costly and time-consuming. The commander-in-chief should bring the Army into the DoD fold by demanding the purchase of the latest CV-22 version to replace the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft program. This would save billions in developmental research. As an incentive, the commander-in-chief would offer id=”listicle-2645629724″ billion to this effort. The Army would benefit from the improvements made by the other Services, while taking advantage of an active production line.
6) Purchase another Arleigh Burke-class Flight III destroyer, specifically designed to fulfill the air defense role, for billion. The Arleigh Burke is the workhorse for the Navy, and should continue for the foreseeable future. The Flight III design serves as the stopgap until the Navy can fill the role that aging cruisers are struggling with.
7) Lastly, the Army must complete upgrading its ground combat vehicles. Usually, this is a multi-year project. But in the light of increased adversaries, it should be completed sooner. 0 million is needed for sixty upgraded Stryker double V-hull combat vehicles with heavier weapon systems; 0 million would convert 168 Bradley vehicles to the new M-2A4 configuration; 0 million would purchase twenty-nine new M-1A2C Abrams tanks (about a battalion’s worth); all part of on-going programs.
The transfer of developmental funding to active, “ready” programs would require Congressional buy-in. But time can also be an enemy; thus, to keep our strategic advantage, it is worth the venture to shift our defense dollars to more meaningful projects. By shifting billion dollars, the president could ease the burden upon the Navy to restore its ship-building schedule; it would help the Air Force keep its fourth-generation fighters ahead of contemporaries; and bring the Army forward in its long-term upgrading process. This shift may slow the development of futuristic weapons, or it may invigorate the program managers to operate more judiciously.
A shift of billion dollars is a small number to Congress. But it is a valuable number in terms of maintaining our decisive edge over our enemies.
What do you take to the shooting range? The most thought generally goes into firearm and ammunition selection, and the contents of your range bag will include most of the other essentials: eye protection, ear protection, and various tools. But in addition to the gun and the projectile, it’s worth taking a few extra minutes to think about what you’re shooting at. While it’s easy to let targets be a part of the “range bag” — a standard piece of equipment that you need but don’t put much thought into — they should be considered for each range session based on your goals.
Targets are important, especially when it comes to defensive handgun training. The target you utilize in this type of training is going to be one of your best learning tools. Not only are they fun and mentally engaging, they also present a great opportunity to incorporate real-world scenarios. Although there are many target companies out there, RE Factor Tactical makes some of the best targets. They have a variety of real-world training targets that have long been used in the professional tactical realm and are available to civilians as well.
The author used RE Factor Tactical Active Shooter Targets during a recent handgun training course.
(Photo by Karen Hunter/Coffee or Die.)
RE Factor offers a great collection of what I consider to be serious training-based targets. These include standards such as the FBI target, FLETC II target, and a Homeland Defense target, as well as some unique targets that have been designed in collaboration with other companies in the firearms and training world.
I put several RE Factor targets to the test during a recent handgun class, and they worked well. From an instructor’s perspective, I appreciated the type of paper that they were printed on. It may sound simple, but many paper targets almost disintegrate like tissue paper in the rain. These help up against the elements, but the paper wasn’t so super thick to make storing and hanging them a pain.
The primary target we used was the Active Shooter Target. This target has a picture of an armed and nefarious individual used for self-defense and close-quarters training. The target has vital zone boxes to help shooters visualize key locations of effective shot placement. I’m partial to this target as it encourages the students to focus on vital shooting points. This target also provides a different mindset as you’re looking at a person to shoot versus a bullseye. Over the weekend class, I incorporated several RE Factor targets and found each one highly beneficial.
Defense Target II, with additional stickers for customization.
(Photos courtesy of RE Factor Tactical.)
Another target that stood out to me was the Defense Target II. This target is designed to give shooters an enhanced training experience by offering stickers for customization. The Defense Target II features an individual that can transform from an FBI agent to an office active shooter to a business no-shoot with the simple change of customized stickers. This allows one target to be used in multiple scenarios. Available sticker areas include the left hand, right hand, hip, and chest. Each sticker perfectly matches up with the target’s hands, chest area, or hip to create a new target scenario that appears natural to the shooter.
There are several benefits of altering aspects of the target while maintaining the same main visual element. Instructors can rapidly change the scenarios, and students are forced to look at different places on the target before deciding whether or not the target is a threat. This is a fantastic tool for scenario training. By modifying the target after a class has run a drill, the students don’t become complacent.
A-Zone Splatter Target.
(Photo courtesy of RE Factor Tactical.)
For less defensive-minded shooting, I like the A-Zone Splatter Target. This design allows users to analyze shot placement with vivid orange and black splatter for improving shooting abilities. It is designed for military, law enforcement, International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC), and everyday shooters. As an instructor who looks at these targets not only by their content or image, but also by their application, I appreciate how quick and easy it is to evaluate the shots. When we don’t have to break between strings to have students go downrange and check targets, it keeps the class rolling. Logistically, it is a winner.
While targets may not seem as important as the firearm or ammunition you take to the range, proper training targets are absolutely necessary to becoming a well-trained shooter. The targets produced by veteran-led RE Factor Tactical are being utilized by those at the tip of the spear — it’s absolutely worth your time to check them out.
Navy SEAL Explains Why They Are Different From Every Other SOF Unit
In September 1940, World War II was a year old. The US was still a noncombatant, but it was preparing for a fight.
That month, the US introduced the Selective Training and Service Act — the first peacetime draft in US history. Mobilizing the millions of troops was a monumental task and essential to deploying “the arsenal of democracy” that President Franklin D. Roosevelt called on Americans to provide.
Inducting millions of civilians and turning them into effective troops — and keeping them happy, healthy, supplied, and fighting — was also a daunting challenge.
In order to find the best way to do that, the War Department mounted an opinion survey, polling nearly a half-million soldiers stationed all around the world throughout the war. Their uncensored responses, given as the war was being fought, are an unprecedented window into how those troops felt about the war, the military, and their role in both.
“Entirely too much boot-licking going on,” one soldier wrote. “Some sort of a merit system should be instituted.”
“Spam, Spam, Spam. All I dream about is Spam,” wrote another.
(National Archives photo)
In an email interview, Edward Gitre, a history professor at Virginia Tech whose project, The American Soldier in World War II, has compiled tens of thousands of responses to those surveys, explained why the Army sought the unvarnished opinions of its soldiers and what those opinions revealed.
Christopher Woody: Why did the War Department conduct these surveys? What did it want to find out about US troops and how did it want to use that information?
Gitre: Henry Stimson, the aged Secretary of War, outright barred the polling of US troops when one of the nation’s leading pollsters, Elmo Roper, first pitched the idea in spring 1941. The War Department was not in the habit of soliciting the “opinions” of foot soldiers.
Yet an old friend of the Roosevelt family, Frederick Osborn—who had already helped to institute the country’s first peacetime draft in 1940—quietly but effectively made the case.
Chiefly, he convinced Stimson and other leery officers that surveys would be for their benefit. Surveys would provide them information for planning and policymaking purposes. Allowing and encouraging GIs to openly air their “gripes” was not part of Osborn’s original pitch.
When George C. Marshall became chief of staff in 1939, he compared the US Army to that of a third-rate power.
With the passage of the draft in 1940, the War Department would face the monumental challenge of rapidly inducting hundreds of thousands, then after Pearl Harbor millions of civilians. Most lacked prior military experience. But this new crop was also better educated than previous generations of draftees, and they came with higher expectations of the organization.
The surveys, then, would help address a host of “personnel” issues, such as placement, training, furloughs, ratings, so on and so forth.
The civilian experts the Army brought in to run this novel research program were embedded in what was known as the Morale Branch. This outfit, as the name suggests, was tasked with shoring up morale. These social and behavioral scientists had to figure out, first, how to define morale, and, second, how to measure it.
Some old Army hands insisted that morale was purely a matter of command, that it was the byproduct of discipline and leadership. But reporting indicated pretty clearly that morale correlated to what soldiers were provided during off-duty hours as well, in terms of recreation and entertainment.
To address the latter, the War Department created an educational, recreational, welfare, and entertainment operation that spanned the globe. The numbers of candy bars and packages of cigarettes shipped and sold were accounted for not in the millions but billions.
If you were coordinating the monthly global placement of, say, two million books from best-sellers’ lists, wouldn’t you want to know something about soldier and sailor preferences? A whole class of survey questions were directed at marketing research.
Woody: What topics did the questions cover, and what kind of feedback and complaints did the troops give in response?
Gitre: The surveys administered by the Army’s Research Branch cover myriads of topics, from the individual food items placed in various rations, to the specific material used in seasonal uniforms, to the educational courses offered through the Armed Forces Institute.
A soldier might be asked a hundred or more multiple-choice and short-answer questions in any one survey. They would be asked to record more their behaviors, insights, and experiences related to service directly. They were asked about their civilian lives as well, including their previous occupation, family background, regional identity, religion, and education. This information could be then correlated with other military and government records to provide a more holistic picture of the average American GI.
One of this research outfit’s most reliable “clients” was the Army’s Office of Surgeon General. The quality and effectiveness of medical and psychiatric care had wide implications, not least in terms of combat readiness. The Surgeon General’s office was interested in more than the care it provided. Soldiers were asked about their most intimate of experiences—their sexual habits and hygiene among them.
Administered in August 1945, Survey #233 asked men stationed in Italy if they were having sex with Italian women, and, if so, how frequently; did they pay for sex, how did they pay, did they “shack” up, use a condom and if not why not, drink beforehand, and did they know how to identify the symptoms of an STI? The battle against venereal diseases knew no lines of propriety.
The Research Branch surveyed or interviewed a half-million service members during the war. The answers they received were as varied as one can imagine, though there were of course common “gripes,” which the old Army hands could have easily ticked off without the aid of a cross-sectional scientific survey.
Yet the scope WWII military operations and the influx of so many educated civilians did create innumerable challenges that were often novel.
But from the soldier’s perspective, it should not come as a shock that so many of them might have taken to heart the premise of the US’s involvement in the war, that the US was committed to defending democracy, and alone if necessary.
Respondent after survey respondent demanded, then, that the US military live up to the principles of democracy for which they were being called to sacrifice. And so, they savaged expressions of the old Regular Army’s hierarchical “caste” culture wherever they saw it, but especially when it frustrated their own hopes and ambitions.
They wanted, in the parlance of the day, “fair play” and a “square deal.” They wanted to be respected as a human being, and not treated like a “dog.”
Woody: The US military drew from a wide swath of the population during WWII. How do you think that affected troops’ perception of the war, of military and civilian leadership, and of what the troops themselves wanted out of their service?
Gitre: The WWII US Army is known as a “citizen soldier” army (as opposed to a professional or “standing” army). It was also at the time described as a “peacetime army.” Compulsory service was passed by Congress in September 1940, roughly 15 months prior to Pearl Harbor. Military conscription was from its inception a civil process.
Photograph taken from a Japanese plane during the torpedo attack on ships moored on both sides of Ford Island shortly after the beginning of the Pearl Harbor attack.
(U.S. Navy photo)
That year-plus gap had a deep and lasting impact on how the War Department approached the rapid expansion of US forces. Just the same, it also shaped the expectations of Americans who were called to serve—as well as of their family members and loved ones, and the wider public.
The success of the Selective Service System would depend on the state in which the Army returned soldiers back to civil life. They would need to feel that they had gained something from the military, in the form of skill training or more education.
“In a larger sense [compulsory military training] provides an opportunity to popularize the Army with our people which is essential for an efficient fighting force,” the secretary of war said. “Maintenance of a high military morale is one of the most important contributing factors to good public morale,” he continued.
This view filtered down into the ranks. Sailors and soldiers expected to receive useful training and additional education. They also believed the military would put the skills, experiences, and practical know-how they already possessed as civilians to good use.
Woody: Was there anything in the troops’ responses that surprised you?
Gitre: What has surprised me most, I think, are the many remarks not about command and leadership but race.
We know that leaders of and activists in the black community pressed the War Department and Roosevelt administration to confront the nation’s “original sin” and strike down legal segregation. How otherwise could the US claim to be a champion of democracy while systematically denying the rights of a population that was liable, as free white citizens were, to compulsory service?
Black leaders embraced the V-shaped hand signal that was flashed so often to signify allied Victory, and they made it their own, calling for “Double V” or double victory: that is, victory abroad, and victory at home.
Participants in the Double V campaign, 1942.
(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)
Surveys from black soldiers demonstrate in rather stark terms how pervasively this message took hold among the rank and file. African Americans were especially well attuned to and critical of the military’s caste culture and to its reinforcement of white supremacy.
It is especially jarring, then, to read commentaries from soldiers defending the continuation of white male supremacy. Not only did some of these respondents opine on the virtues of segregation and the inferiority of blacks. A whole host of them objected likewise to women in uniform.
But undoubtedly the most shocking responses are those that espouse naked anti-Semitism. These cut against the grain of our collective memory of the American GI as liberator of the German death and concentration camps. Statements of these sort are rare. Yet they exist.
Woody: What’s your biggest takeaway from these surveys about troops’ feelings about the war and their attitudes toward the military?
Gitre: When I first encountered these open-ended responses, I was almost immediately captivated by how similarly white and black soldiers wrote about equity in the military. These two populations sometimes used the same exact phrasing.
For so many black soldiers, military service presented itself as an opportunity to break the shackles of structural inequality. They pleaded for merit-based assignments, postings, and promotions. You can flip over to surveys written by white enlisted men and you can see them wrestling with the same involuntary constraints arising from their own submission. They vigorously protested being treated like a “dog,” or a “slave.”
The leveling effect of military service was profound — and not simply for the individual soldier, psychologically. The survey research Osborn’s team conducted on race, merit, and morale demonstrated that not only were black soldiers just as effective in combat, but that the proximity of black and white troops in combat situations improved race relations, instead of destroying morale, as had long been feared. This research fed the 1947 Executive Order 9981 desegregating the US armed forces.
That brings us back to that 1940 peacetime decision to make military service compulsory as a civic duty. You can’t overestimate its significance. This isn’t a plea for compulsory military service. Yet as I continue to read these troop surveys, I am confronted daily by the prospect that we are losing the hard-won insights and lessons of a generation that is passing into its final twilight.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Russia’s new heavy combat drone has flown for the first time alongside the country’s most advanced fighter jet, giving the fighter a new edge in battle, the Russian defense ministry announced Sept. 27, 2019.
“The Okhotnik unmanned aerial vehicle has performed its first joint flight with a fifth-generation Su-57 plane,” the ministry said in a statement, according to Russia’s state-run TASS news agency.
The two Russian aircraft flew together “to broaden the fighter’s radar coverage and to provide target acquisition for employing air-launched weapons,” the ministry added.
Unmanned aerial vehicle “Okhotnik” made the first joint flight with a fifth-generation fighter Su-57
The flight involving both the Okhotnik drone and the Su-57 fighter appears to confirm what some have suspected for months — that the stealthy flying-wing drone was designed to fight alongside and provide critical battespace information to Russia’s new fifth-generation fighters.
In January 2019, shortly after photos of the Okhtonik appeared online, photos of an Su-57 with an interesting new paint job appeared. The redesign featured silhouettes of a Su-57 and a flying-wing aircraft that looked a lot like the Okhotnik.
Russia claims that the Okhotnik has stealth capabilities, a byproduct of its shape and an anti-radar coating, and is equipped with electro-optical, radar, and other types of reconnaissance equipment.
The heavy attack drone is currently controlled remotely, but in future tests, it is expected to perform in a semi-autonomous state and eventually a completely autonomous mode, TASS reports.
Testing with various armaments is expected in the next few years, and the drone will be handed over to Russian troops around 2025.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
College applicants need to take the SAT and/or the ACT. Medical students take the MCAT. Before your orders are cut to attend the Army’s flight school at Fort Rucker, Alabama, prospective aviators will have to pass the Selection Instrument for Flight Training. Better known as the SIFT, both commissioned and warrant officers are required to obtain a score of at least 40 in order to qualify for flight school. The multiple-choice test is broken down into seven sections and can take up to three hours. Full disclosure, I managed a nice SIFT score of 69. Here are some tips to help you achieve the highest score possible so you can be above the best.
1. Study Guides
This one may seem like an obvious answer, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t bother going through the resources that are readily available to them. Books have been published that detail the types of questions that are on the SIFT. While you can take the shotgun method and go through all of them, focus on understanding the reasoning behind the questions you will be asked. Additionally, take the practice tests and, crucially, don’t cheat yourself. Yes, the answers are in the back. But, you’re not learning anything if you peek ahead. Online study guides and quizzes are also available with a quick search. These help to prepare you better since the SIFT is only administered via computer.
2. Play ‘Find It’ Games
Once you’ve exhausted your conventional study resources, it’s time to get creative. The first two sections of the SIFT are Simple Drawings and Hidden Figures. The former requires you to pick out a drawing that is different from the ones around it and the latter asks you to identify an object hidden in a mess of other objects. In both sections, speed, accuracy, and attention to detail are essential. Having a quick eye to spot differences and pick them out in a crowd will help you succeed here. Who knew all that time looking at “Where’s Waldo?” and hidden picture books as a kid would come in handy?
3. Play Video Games
No, I’m not kidding. But, I’m not talking about Call of Duty or Fortnite either. While those games could help with reaction times which will allow you to submit your answers faster, you’ll want to play flight games in preparation for the SIFT. The next two sections are the Spatial Apperception Test and the Army Aviation Information Test. During the SAT, you will be shown a scene from the pilot’s perspective in the cockpit. Using that, you will have to select the image that depicts the aircraft in that same position relative to its surroundings. The AAIT is a little more straightforward and will ask questions about general aviation knowledge, Army Aviation history, aircraft mechanics and components, principles of flight, and common aviation words and phrases. If you’re a military aviation buff, you’ll have a leg up in the knowledge portion. To help with other questions in these sections, arcade flight simulators like Apache Air Assault and Ace Combat can help immensely, especially with the SAT. You don’t have to be a master pilot on Microsoft Flight Simulator, but more detailed simulations like it will help you to understand the more intricate principles of flight.
4. Pay Attention in School
If you’re still in school, do yourself a favor and pay extra attention in math, science, and English. If you didn’t do that well in school and have already graduated, pay extra attention to the SIFT practice tests and seek additional related practice tests. The last three sections of the SIFT are the Math Skills Test, the Mechanical Comprehension Test, and the Reading Comprehension Test. When it comes to the MST, it’s not advanced calculus. But, you will be tested on algebraic expressions, geometric equations and basic trigonometry. You can also expect to calculate percentages and rates over time in word problems. The MCT is a mix of physics, math, and science theory. Be familiar with the laws of physics, simple machines, heat transfer and the inter-connectivity of systems. The best practice for the RCT is to read each passage and the available answers in their entirety. Remember that words have meaning and focus on details to identify context clues and extrapolate the information needed to determine the correct answer.
While the SIFT is not an indicator of how well you will perform in flight school or as an Army Aviator, it does determine your aptitude to train in the skills necessary to fly with the best. A pass/fail result is displayed immediately upon completion of the SIFT and the Test Control Officer/Test Examiner will provide you with the numerical score. Remember that they have to sign your testing letter for your score to be valid. Once you obtain a passing score, you are ineligible to retake the SIFT. Additionally, if you don’t pass on your first try, you will have to wait 180 days before you can retest and a second failure to pass will disqualify you from the Army Aviation Program. As with all tests, study hard, be prepared, and do your best.
“The amazing thing about RDJ is that he’s arguably the most famous movie star on the planet, or the biggest movie star on the planet,” Holland said while participating in a panel at a convention called FanX in Salt Lake City, Utah on Sep. 7, 2019. “But he’s always early, he knows every crew member’s name, he always knows his lines. He’s professional, he’s kind, he’s caring.”
The 23-year-old actor, who made his Marvel Cinematic Universe debut as Spider-Man/Peter Parker in 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War,” went on to say that Downey Jr. was immediately welcoming to him.
“I was sick on set one day and I didn’t really know the guy,” Holland said, adding that Downey Jr. invited him to his trailer and was comforting.
“He was really sweet and he kind of looked after me and took me under his wing a little bit,” the “Spider-Man: Far From Home” star said. “Entering the Marvel Universe is daunting, it’s a big process.”
Robert Downey Jr. and Tom Holland in “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”
(Sony Pictures Entertainment)
He added: “The thing I’ve learned most from him, and I’ve learned from [Chris] Hemsworth and [Chris] Evans and Scarlett [Johansson] and everyone really, is that just because you’re at the top, doesn’t mean you can be a d—.”
Downey Jr.’s character, Iron Man/Tony Stark, acted as a mentor to Holland’s young webslinger throughout the movies he has appeared in. Holland also revealed that he has the veteran actor’s name saved as “The Godfather” in his phone and thought their friendship was over after he accidentally hung up on Downey Jr.
Despite Tony’s heartbreaking death in 2019’s “Endgame,” the two stars have remained close. Amid news that Holland will be departing the MCU due to a deal between Sony and Marvel falling through, the actors met up to spend time together.
“We did it Mr Stark!” Holland captioned a series of photos of the stars taking selfies together, referencing a similar line that Peter said during Tony’s final moments in “Endgame.”
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
World War II was over. Defense manufacturers had armories full of new goodies that they wanted to sell to the U.S. as it entered the Cold War, but America was no longer desperate for every piece of materiel it could get its hands on thanks to Hitler’s suicide and Japan’s surrender.
A company-owned Sikorsky S-51 Dragonfly helicopter lands on the USS Princeton during trials with the U.S. Navy.
So Sikorsky, looking to sell its new helicopters to the Navy in 1947, did the hard work to find customers. It sent a flight team with the Navy in the Mediterranean for exercises and offered to have its helicopter do all sorts of tasks like delivering mail, ferrying personnel, and even rescuing pilots from the sea if it became necessary.
It did become necessary, and so a civilian pilot conducting what was essentially a sales call conducted the first helicopter rescue of a pilot in the water in history while a fleet of sailors looked on in surprise.
The flight was conducted by D. D. Viner, an employee of Sikorsky. He made it to the fleet in his S-51 helicopter and began flying from the carrier USS Franklin D. Roosevelt. Viner was immediately assigned a Navy observer, Lt. Joe Rullo, and the two were told to go and deliver the mail.
So they took the mail bags and began going to all the outlying ships, even landing on the gun turrets of the larger ships like the battleship USS Missouri. But the fleet quickly needed more dire service from the helicopter. On February 9, Lt. Robert A. Shields had to ditch his Curtiss SB2C Helldiver because of an engine failure.
Typically, this would’ve resulted in the pilot and his radioman, Don K. Little, floating for hours until a ship or boat could come alongside for a rescue. Instead, the S-51 roared to life and flew directly to the floating crew, scooping them up and delivering them safely back aboard in less than 10 minutes.
The rescue took fast so quickly that the flight control officer reportedly didn’t initially believe it when Shields reported back aboard the carrier. He thought there was simply no way that the man, who had radioed his distress just minutes prior, could be out of the water.
A U.S. Navy S-51 takes off from the deck of the Australian aircraft carrier HMAS Sydney in 1951.
(R. Miller, Public Domain)
The next rescue took place just nine days later when another Helldiver suffered a failure during a low altitude turn. The helicopter swooped into action again and hovered just over the water. The radioman didn’t make it out of the sinking plane. The pilot, Lt. Cmdr. George R. Stablein was badly hurt, and his life vest didn’t inflate.
Viner got the helicopter over the officer so quickly that Stablein had no chance to sink, and Viner got the rescue hoist directly into the officer’s hands. Stablein got his hands pinched at the top of the hoist and almost fell back into the water, but Viner tipped the helicopter back under him as Rullo, that Navy observer, grabbed onto the superior officer.
The three men flew back to the carrier safely.
Viner conducted a third, more routine rescue later in the exercises and another Sikorsky pilot conducted a fourth.
At the end of Sikorsky’s participation with the fleet, officers were lining up to praise the helicopter’s performance, and the carrier crew decided to honor Viner and Rullo with a Navy tradition. Carriers in World War II had gotten in the practice of gifting 10 gallons of ice cream to any ship crew that rescued one of their pilots.
The carrier counted Viner and Russo as a ship crew and gifted them 30 gallons of ice cream on the day that Viner was scheduled to leave the FDR. They couldn’t possibly consume all of that sugary goodness, so they stashed it all in the ready room and opened it up for anyone to eat.
The Navy soon began buying helicopters to conduct all the same missions that Viner had been doing for the fleet.
The Commandant of the Marine Corps plans to reduce the configuration of Marine Rifle Squads from 13 down to 12 by increasing firepower and adding drone technology.
When are 12 Marines more lethal than 13? That math is the equation informing the recently reconfigured Marine Rifle Squad.
Said to arrive in FY 2020, the new formation will be smaller, shrinking from 13 positions to 12. Yet these newly-configured squads will add a suite of new technology, including tablets and drones, and a significant increase in firepower, including a fully automatic rifle for each of the 12 squad members — up from the three automatic rifles assigned per squad currently. The result? Increased firepower, because now all 12 Marines in the Rifle Squad will be equipped with automatic weapons.
The sum of these changes equals a squad ever “more lethal, agile, and capable” according to Marine Commandant Robert Neller in video posted to Twitter.
Currently, a Marine Infantry Rifle Squad is run by one squad leader who guides three fire teams of four members each, for a total of 13 positions. The breakdown of the current configuration is that each of these three fire teams at present is led by a fire team leader, who guides one automatic rifleman, one assistant automatic rifleman, and one rifleman.
The decision to change this standard Marine Rifle Squad configuration follows a re-evaluation sparked by two modernization initiatives, Marine Corps Vision and Strategy 2025 Marine Corps Vision and Strategy 2025 and Sea Dragon 2025, the active experiment program which, according to a Marine statement, is dedicated to “assess changes to the infantry battalion mandated by Marine Corps Force 2025.”
(US Marine Corps photo)
“To be clear,” explained Neller, “the mission of the Marine Rifle Squad remains unchanged: to locate close with and destroy the enemy by means of fire, maneuver, and close combat.”
The new arithmetic works like this: there will still be three fire teams in each rifle squad, but each of those three fire teams will lose one position, and going forward each fire team will have only have three members each, no longer four. So, what the are other positions that will bring the new Marine Rifle Squad up to 12?
The answer: changes at the top.
As noted above, instead of a squad leader directing three teams of four, we will soon see a squad leader leading three teams of three. Yet, this Rifle Squad Team Leader position will itself now get significant dedicated support from two other newly-established positions assigned to support the Squad Team Leader — and the mission — in the field: an assistant squad leader, a corporal, who, according to the Marines, assists with “increasingly complex squad operations.” The other new position is a lance corporal who serves as “squad systems operator” integrating and operating new technology, according to a statement from the Marines.
The new Marine Rifle Squad Leader, a sergeant, charged with carrying out the platoon commander’s orders, is now expected to have “five to seven years of experience” and will be given “formal training as a squad leader,” according to a statement from Marine Captain Ryan Alvis.
The lighter footprint of this new 12-position formation reflects an approach long-articulated in training materials — “the Marine Corps philosophy of war fighting is based on an approach to war called maneuver warfare.” This legendary maneuverability continues to inform the focus of Neller’s recent changes and explains why the Marine Corps is changing up the math of its long-established Marine Rifle Squad formation.
This “reorganization of the infantry will occur over the next three to five years, although some of the changes are happening now” according to Captain Alvis. This means that in addition to one fewer marine, the changes also bring newer tech. The positions are changing, but so are the assigned equipment and weaponry.
Now each member of the Rifle Squad will be assigned an M320 automatic rifle, designed and built by Heckler Koch, a German company founded in 1949. The M320s will replace the M4 carbine semi-automatic, a legacy weapon developed by the American manufacturer Colt. Heckler Koch also developed and manufactures the M320 grenade launchers that the Marines have determined will be used by each of the three dedicated grenadiers assigned to each newly configured fire team.
Other hardware to be assigned includes a MAAWS, Multi-Role Anti-Armor Anti-Personnel Weapon System, known as the Carl Gustaf. This anti-tank rifle is described by its manufacturer, the Sweden-based Saab corporation, as “light and ruggedized and its multi-purpose capability provides freedom of action. . . in all environments.” The Carl Gustaf has in the past been hailed for its accuracy and portability by tech and design outlet Gizmodo, because the weapon “looks like a Bazooka but shoots like a rifle.”
Each of the new 12-spot rifle squad formations will also get one M38 Designated Marksmanship Rifle. At a range of 600 meters, the M38, a Heckler Koch product, has, in the past, been criticized as not being comparable to the world’s best sniper rifles. Yet it should work well, according to the Marines, as a marksman rifle. The M38, a Marine statement notes, is equipped with a suppressor and also a variable 2.5-8 power optic. Although not intended for sniper use, a Marine statement explains that the “individual employing this weapon (will receive) additional training on range estimation, scope theory, and observation.”
Battles of the future will not be won by firepower alone. General Neller has long been quoted as saying that each infantry squad would one day be assigned its own small unmanned aerial device. That day is coming. A Marine statement confirmed that “each squad will have a . . . quadcopter to increase situational awareness of the squad leaders.”
Another addition to the field? The PRC-117G Radio will be lighter, more portable than the current radio equipment, and will provide more than audio. Encrypted visuals allow “warfighters to communicate beyond the lines of sight,” according to its manufacturer, the Harris Corporation, a publicly traded U.S company that specializes in communications, electronics, and space and intelligence systems.
Also in the mix: a Marine Corps Common Handheld Tablet. As General Neller explains, the mix of technology and weaponry allows the USMC “to move forward and get ready for the next fight. Wherever it is.” A Marine Corps statement notes that the infantry would remain a key focus of Marine Corps strategy because “superior infantry is a Marine Corps asymmetrical advantage.” The statement also quotes Gen. Neller as saying “The surest way to prevent war is to be prepared to dominate one.”
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
Luis Enrique Pinto Jr. joined the Army so he could do something different. But first, he had to do something extraordinary.
Just seven months ago, the 6-foot-1-inch teenager was overweight at 317 pounds and unable to pass the Army’s weight requirements.
The former high school football offensive lineman admitted his diet was full of carbohydrates, but he vowed to slim down so he could sign up.
Luis, 18, recalled being part of something bigger than himself while playing on his football team, and he craved for that again with the Army.
“I transferred that same mentality over to life after high school,” he said Aug. 14, 2019.
Initially, his recruiter, Staff Sgt. Philip Long, was skeptical, but still supported his goal.
Long, who has served as a recruiter for almost four years, said he often sees potential recruits struggle to pass requirements even when they only have a few pounds to lose.
“They never put the effort into it,” he said. “They never actually care enough and they don’t go anywhere. And then you turn around and you got someone like Luis.”
Before and after shots of Luis Enrique Pinto Jr., who lost 113 pounds in seven months in order to pass the Army’s weight requirements. Luis enlisted as a 14E, which is responsible for operating and maintaining Patriot weapon systems, and plans to report to basic training in September 2019.
Luis was born in Oakland, but later grew up in Peru and Las Vegas. He currently works as an electrician at construction sites, but recently decided he wanted to be the first in his family to serve in the U.S. military.
“You’ve got one life. I don’t want to wake up and do the same thing every single day,” he said. “There’s a whole world out there.”
Before he could sign the enlistment papers, he cracked down on his diet and stepped up his fitness to cut his weight.
Cardio was his toughest hurdle, he said. He began to do high-intensity interval training where he switched between jogs and sprints to improve his run time.
“Running wasn’t my strong suit,” he said. “Carrying all that extra weight and trying to run definitely increased my time.”
As the months dragged on, he extended his interval training. He now runs 1 mile in just six minutes and 30 seconds — about half the time he ran it when he first started.
His mother also motivated him to hit the gym, especially on those days when he felt like taking an off day.
“One thing she told me is to just show up,” he said. “Just show up and don’t worry about the workout that’s to come. You show up at the gym and once you’re there, you’re already there so might as well just get it over with.”
The near-daily workouts began to pay off and he shed pound after pound — 113 of them to be exact.
Now at 204 pounds, Luis has also seen a positive change in his attitude.
“When I was big, I was really insecure,” he said. “Now I’m walking with my head up high.”
His recruiter said Luis’ dedication to lose over 100 pounds should be an inspiration to others.
“That’s a human. He lost the equivalent of a human in seven months,” Long said.
Luis Enrique Pinto Jr. with his recruiter, Staff Sgt. Philip Long. Luis lost 113 pounds in seven months in order to pass the Army’s weight requirements. With help from his recruiter, he enlisted as a 14E, which is responsible for operating and maintaining Patriot weapon systems, and plans to report to basic training in September 2019.
With help from his recruiter, Luis was able to enlist as a 14E — responsible for operating and maintaining Patriot weapon systems, one of the world’s most advanced missile systems.
The new job also came with a ,000 bonus.
Luis plans to report to basic training in early September 2019. He started future soldier training this week to learn what to expect in the weeks ahead as well as in his Army career.
He also blew past the Occupational Physical Assessment Test, which the Army now administers to new recruits to ensure they can physically perform a certain job.
“Every event was like it was made for him; it was easy,” Long said.
Whatever the challenge Luis may face in the Army, his recruiter has no doubt he can overcome it.
“To have that heart and that drive to keep pushing forward, it’s impressive. It got him to where he can enlist in the Army,” Long said. “That mentality is going to carry him through his career and through life and he’ll be extremely successful.”
Luis said he looks forward to the extra physical training within the Army lifestyle, as he now aims to drop down to 190 pounds.
“Hitting my goal weight definitely isn’t my end goal,” he said. “There’s still way more to come. I still want to get better.”
But for now, the wardrobe the Army plans to issue him should at least accommodate his current figure.
“I pretty much use my old shirts for blankets at this point,” he said, laughing.
For almost two decades, drone strikes have been the hassle-free, war crime tolerant way to sever the heads of any kind of terror cells operating against the United States in the war on terror. There’s just one big problem with that: Hellfire missiles make a big boom, and when that boom is misplaced, a lot of people die – innocent people. And that just creates more terrorists. Lockheed-Martin has finally created a weapon designed to minimize civilian casualties while taking out the bad guys with pinpoint accuracy.
Actually, knife-point accuracy.
Imagine this hellfire missile, but instead of explosives, it’s filled with pop-out blades.
The Hellfire missile is a staple of drones, helicopters, and fixed-wing aircraft throughout the U.S. military arsenal. The laser-guided, tank-busting workhorse is great for use on a conventional battlefield but not so great when used for surgical strikes.
The term “surgical strike” gets a whole new meaning with the Hellfire R9X projectile, which, according to the Wall Street Journal, has no explosives, but rather it drops 100 pounds of metal blades into a target, which includes long blades that deploy from the missile’s body right before impact. The shards hit with such force that they cut through concrete and sheet metal.
A U.S. airstrike using a Hellfire RX9 to kill al-Qaeda deputy leader Abu Khayr al-Masri in Syria in 2017. Above is the result of the surgical strike.
(New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness)
Also called “The Flying Ginsu” by the people who developed the missile, they say it’s the equivalent of dropping an anvil on a terrorist’s head, minimizing the damage to people and property in the vicinity of the weapon’s detonation. Since the weapon has no explosive effect, it is also sometimes referred to as “the ninja bomb.”
So far, the weapon has only been deployed around a half-dozen times, in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Somalia. It was the weapon of choice to kill a number of al-Qaeda operatives, including Jamal al-Badawi, the bomber behind the USS Cole attack in 2000 and it was the back-up plan to kill Osama bin Laden in his Pakistan compound.
Earlier this week, two letters arrived at the Pentagon. One was addressed to Secretary of Defense James Mattis and the other to Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson. Each letter contained a 5×8 card with something scribbled onto it (what was written has not yet been released publicly) and a castor bean — the base for the deadly toxin, ricin.
Though not officially linked, similar letters containing ricin also arrived at the White House and two offices of Senator Ted Cruz. The letters sent to the Pentagon were detected and set off alarms during routine screening procedures and the area was quickly quarantined. Unfortunately for those at Ted Cruz’s Houston office, two people were hospitalized.
U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman for Salt Lake City, Melody Rydalch, told the Military Times that they have made an arrest in connection with the ricin-laced packages. While the investigation is still ongoing, based entirely on his past record, we feel confident in saying that this guy was a massive piece of sh*t.
Authorities have arrested William Clyde Allen III in Logan, Utah, with Federal charges expected to be levied on Friday. According to the Salt Lake City Tribune, he has confessed to the purchasing of castor beans to make the toxin ricin and to sending the letters.
As reported by the Military Times, he is a U.S. Navy veteran, having served four years as a damage control fireman apprentice. He spent 17 months on a combat support ship, USS Supply, and 15 months on the support ship, USS Detroit.
His military records show that his last obtained pay grade was E-2, meaning that he was demoted at least twice before leaving the service. His medals also indicate that he had done nothing of interest.
After his military service ended, he had many run-ins with the law. In 2004, he plead guilty to two cases of neglect and child-sexual abuse against two girls. He did not have to file as a sexual predator in accordance with his plea deal. He was then arrested for aggravated assault in 2008 and sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison.
He also engaged in a lengthy harassment campaign against and the eventual doxxing of a female veteran that was bad enough to warrant a spotlight by Counter Domestic Terrorism. He made countless death threats against her and her two children, made several fictitious reports to the CIA and FBI, and would share her personal information, including her home address, to social media. In 2017, the Air Force notified Logan police that Allen called in a bomb threat.
Reportedly, his social media accounts were also filled with right-wing conspiracy theories and included several instructional videos on how to create various dangerous materials, including cyanide.
The December 17th, 2017 article on him by Counter Domestic Terrorism concludes with the cryptic caption on a screen-capture of his “how to manufacture cyanide” video, posing the question, “why would he want to make Cyanide?”