Throughout history, the U.S. Military has used a wide variety of guns to win its battles. Prior to the M16, there were several weapons used across the service throughout some of the most devastating wars the world has ever seen.
Here are some of those weapons:
These rifles are still in use by the Danish military as they perform reliably in arctic conditions.
(War Relics Forum)
Model 1917 Enfield
The Lee–Enfield is a bolt-action British rifle that used heavily in the first World War. Americans took that original design and had it modified to fit its needs, thus giving birth to the Model 1917 Enfield, widely referred to as the “American Enfield.” The official name, however, was “United States Rifle, cal .30, Model of 1917.” You can see why it was given a nickname.
This is one of the weapons Sergeant Alvin York, one of the most decorated American Soldiers of WWI, used on the night of October 8th, 1918.
Soldiers in French trenches with Springfield 1903 .30-06s during World War I.
(Imperial War Museums)
The bolt-action Springfield 1903 .30-06 saw service as the standard-issue rifle from the first World War until it was replaced by the M1 Garand in 1936. By the time WWII broke out, it wasn’t standard issue but, despite this, it was a popular sniper rifle during World War II, the Korean War, and even into the early stages of Vietnam.
(U.S. Library of Congress)
One of the most notable rifles used during World War II, the M1 Garand was favored by Soldiers and Marines across the military. As a semi-automatic rifle firing a .30 caliber cartridge, it was useful in a wide variety of military applications.
General Patton even once said it was “the greatest battle implement ever devised.” It was eventually replaced by the M14 during the late 1950s.
Marine Sgt. John Wisbur Bartlett Sr. fires a Thompson submachine gun during the Battle of Okinawa during World War II.
Thompson submachine gun
Favored by gangsters, cops, civilians, and Soldiers alike, the Thompson submachine gun was fully automatic and fired a .45 ACP round from a 20-round stick magazine.
It initially earned its infamy on the streets of Chicago during the Great Depression but was later adopted by the U.S. Military and used from 1938 until 1971. It’s no M16, but the Thompson was well loved.
Marines using M14s in Vietnam.
(American Historical Foundation)
Of all the items on this list, the M14 is the only one still in active service in the military since its introduction in 1959. This rifle fires a 7.62x51mm NATO round (.308 Winchester) and was the first standard-issue rifle to take a 20-round box magazine.
This powerhouse of a weapon saw service during Vietnam as the standard-issue rifle until it was replaced by the M16. Now, it’s a designated marksman rifle.
This baby helped us win independence.
(Norfolk Island Museum)
Land Pattern Musket aka “Brown Bess”
This was the most commonly used long gun during the American Revolution. This .75 caliber musket was originally British-made but many American colonists were required to have this on-hand for militia duty.
The nickname “Brown Bess” is of unknown origin, though there is a lot of speculation about it.
Technology moves ever forward. What one generation of war-fighters trains on will, in many cases, be obsolete when the time comes to train the next. Though the specifics may vary from year to year, the US Military is constantly innovating and upgrading our training tools to reach the same goal: giving troops experiences as near to the real thing as possible, while balancing costs and safety factors.
If you keep all of these elements in mind, there’s a clear, logical next step to take in terms of training technology: augmented reality.
You can only do so many “washer and dime” drills it the point is lost.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Paige Behringer, 1BCT PAO, 1st Cav. Div.)
There’s no replacing actual, rifles-in-hand training. No kind of simulation could ever give troops the same kind of experience as using the weapon that they’ll actually be using in combat. Putting holes in paper or drop-down targets at the range is a valuable experience that can never (and will never) be replaced.
But the supplemental trainings that you’ll find inside an NCO’s book exercise could always use a technological touch-up.
It’s both awkward and fun at the same time.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Joseph Guenther)
Today, it’s not uncommon for troops to play out a few key strategies on video game consoles as the NCO gives step-by-step breakdowns of what’s about to go down. These types of exercises are extremely safe and cost effective, but they’re also not nearly true-to-life.
The next step in achieving realism comes with virtual reality centers, which have already been experimentally fielded at certain installations. It’s called the Dismounted Soldier Training System (or DSTS) and it places troops in a room with a simulated rifle and a few screens all around them. Troops then “shoot” and move around the room in a safe (but expensive) simulation. It’s more effective than video-game training because the troops must use their bodies, learning important physical techniques. Here, they’ll train their responses on what to do when they see an enemy appear on screen.
These are fantastic for leaders looking to monitor a troop’s performance, but they’re still more akin to taking the guys out to an arcade and watching how they do with, essentially, a really expensive version of Time Crisis 3.
At the very least, this will be a far more engaging way to learn tactics than watching a senior NCO scribble on a whiteboard for a few hours.
(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Samantha Whitehead)
Finally, we arrive at augmented reality. Augmented reality is the intersection between digital and physical. It’s when technology is used to place digital elements in real-world spaces. And it’s not future tech — it’s happening right now. An advanced training simulator that leverages this technology is currently being developed by Magic Leap, Inc. It differs from virtual reality in that it brings the simulation into the real world, as opposed to putting real-world troops into the simulation. The current design is called HUD 3.0.
Troops place goggles over their heads as they step into a specially designed environment, similar to MOUT training grounds, that is linked to a central hub. The goggles then intelligently lay digital images over the real world. The program can then place simulated elements in the troop’s vision — like a digital terrorist appearing in a real window. The troop can then raise their training rifle that is synced with the program, pull the trigger, and watch simulated gunfire unfold as it would in actual combat.
The advantage this has over other types of simulations is that it isn’t limited to putting a single troop out there. In theory, an entire platoon could don sets of goggles and train together, getting an experience close to real combat while remaining completely safe.
The Chinese military has deployed military personnel and armored medical vehicles to Germany for joint drills, a first for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army as it attempts to forge closer ties with Europe.
The joint exercise — Combined Aid 2019 — is focused on preparing troops with the medical service units of the Chinese and German armed forces to respond to humanitarian crises, such as mass casualty incidents and serious disease outbreaks, China’s Xinhua News Agency reported.
The exercise follows a cooperative military medical training exercise in 2016 in Chongqing, where the PLA and the German Bundeswehr practiced responding to an imaginary earthquake scenario.
“We’ve seen China increasing its participation in these kinds of activities. It provides a low risk means to demonstrate its commitment to global governance, which may help reduce anxiety about its growing military capabilities,” China watcher Matthew Funaiole, an expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told INSIDER.
“Training exercises also help improve its coordination and logistics, which is helpful for the modernization process,” he added.
Chinese troops in Germany.
The PLA’s paramedical forces have been stepping up their participation in this type of cooperative training. These troops have even been deployed to humanitarian crisis zones, such as the Ebola outbreak in certain parts of Africa.
Yue Gang, a retired PLA colonel, told the South China Morning Post that there may be more to the Chinese military’s activities than preparing for crises.
“The PLA in the future will need to go abroad to protect China’s overseas interests in countries along the Belt and Road Initiative,” he explained. “If there could be some basic mutual trust and understanding with NATO forces, the risk of potential conflict could be greatly mitigated.”
The Belt and Road Initiative refers to a massive Chinese-led project designed to position China at the heart of a vast, far-reaching global trade network.
Wany Yiwei, a European studies expert at Renmin University of China, stressed that uncertainty as a result of the Trump administration’s “America First” policy has created new opportunities for China and Europe.
“As the leader of the EU, Germany has said that Europe should take charge of its own security,” he told the Hong Kong-based SCMP. “It is also a brand new world security situation now, as both China and Europe would want to hedge their risks in dealing with the US.”
Jorge Benitez, a NATO expert with the Atlantic Council, told Stars and Stripes that “the presence of the Chinese military in Germany for this exercise creates very bad optics for Germany, NATO and the US and is a cheap propaganda victory for China.”
Last year, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLAN) conducted its first combined exercise with the European Union Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) in waters near China’s new military base in Djibouti. It marked an unprecedented level of cooperation at that time.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Senate by a vote of 86-9 confirmed Robert Wilkie on July 23, 2018, as the next secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs in a move to bring stability to a department Republicans and Democrats suggested has been in turmoil over political infighting and low morale.
The vote for Wilkie, 55, of North Carolina, an Air Force Reserve colonel with long experience at the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill, capped a tumultuous four months at the VA marked by ongoing leadership shuffles since President Donald Trump fired former VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin in March 2018.
In a sign of continuing questions about the direction of the VA, the Senate’s action in confirming the new secretary — normally a bipartisan event — featured opposition votes.
The vote to confirm Shulkin in 2017 was 100-0 to head a department serving nine million veterans annually with a budget of more than 0 billion and a workforce of more than 350,000.
The “no” votes came from eight Democrats, including Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and one independent, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
Sen. Bernie Sanders
Sanders in early July 2018 cast the first opposition ballot in memory for a VA secretary nominee in the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee vote that sent the nomination to the floor.
Sanders at the time said he was voting more in protest of Trump than he was to Wilkie’s qualifications, saying he feared that Trump and political appointees within the VA would use the recently passed VA Mission Act as a vehicle to press for the “privatization” of VA health care.
In the floor debate leading up to the vote, Sen. John Boozman, R-Arkansas, said he is confident Wilkie can “re-establish the non-partisan approach to serving our veterans” at the VA, a possible reference to political infighting at the department.
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, who voted for Wilkie, was more direct. “We’ve got political forces at play inside the VA. That’s very unfortunate,” said the committee’s ranking member. “When Mr. Wilkie becomes secretary, he has to see that this stops.”
In his stormy departure from the VA, Shulkin said he was the victim of “subversion” by Trump political appointees within the VA and at the White House.
Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, chairman of the committee, said, “We know Robert Wilkie is the real deal,” and he will now have the opportunity “to fix the problems that we have” at the VA.
“This is the opportunity to do the changes of a lifetime,” Isakson said but repeated a warning he gave Wilkie at his confirmation hearing: “You will have no excuses.”
Shulkin’s firing initially led Trump to nominate Rear. Adm. Ronny Jackson, his personal physician and head of the White House medical unit, to head the VA.
Rear. Adm. Ronny Jackson
In an embarrassment to the administration, Jackson withdrew his name over allegations — never proven — that he mishandled prescriptions at the White House medical unit and may have been drunk on duty.
Following Jackson’s withdrawal, Wilkie was moved over from the Pentagon to become acting secretary at the VA. In his time as acting secretary, Wilkie noted the political turmoil and low morale at the department. He said he wanted the staff “talking to each other, not at each other.”
When Trump surprised him by nominating him to the full-time position, Wilkie had to step down as acting secretary to avoid violating a provision of the U.S. Code barring acting secretaries from nomination to cabinet positions.
Peter O’Rourke, a former Trump campaign worker who had been chief of staff at the VA, was moved up to the acting secretary’s position. O’Rourke has since clashed with VA Inspector General Michael Missal over access to whistleblower complaint data.
The major veterans service organizations (VSOs) supported Wilkie’s nomination despite initial reservations that expansion of community health care options for veterans could lead to privatization.
In a statement after the vote, Denise Rohan, national commander of the two-million-member American Legion, said in a statement, “I congratulate Mr. Robert Wilkie on his Senate confirmation to be the 10th secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.”
“We look forward to working closely with Secretary Wilkie and his staff to ensure America’s veterans receive the health care, education, and other benefits they have earned through their selfless service to our great nation,” she added.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
On June 22, 1977, Aleksandr Ogorodnik killed himself with a CIA-supplied suicide pill after the KGB arrested him based on information initially provided by a mole within the Agency. Just over three weeks later, CIA officer Martha (Marti) Peterson — unaware of Aleksandr’s death — was seized in a KGB ambush while servicing a dead drop in Moscow.
The streets of Moscow were one of the most important, and dangerous, battlefields of the Cold War. American intelligence officers like Marti worked with assets like Aleksandr in the shadows to collect Soviet secrets. The Soviets, in turn, closely watched all foreign nationals and their own citizens for signs of espionage.
Although the story of TRIGON ended tragically, the intelligence Aleksandr provided gave US policymakers valuable insights into Soviet foreign policy plans and intentions. It was insights like this which ultimately helped us win the Cold War.
Recruiting a spy:
Aleksandr Ogorodnik was a mid-level official in the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) posted in Latin America and had access to information about Soviet intentions for the region. He enjoyed his life in Latin America and disliked the Soviet system, which he found oppressive.
The CIA recruited Aleksandr in South America in 1973. Upon signing up to spy for the Agency, he was given the codename TRIGON.
TRIGON smuggled documents from the embassy and took them to a safe-house, where Agency officers photographed them. The material he provided gave unique insights into Soviet policies in Latin America, including plans to influence other governments.
Return to the motherland:
In anticipation of his recall to Moscow, CIA officers taught TRIGON operational trade-craft and techniques. He also received training in secret writing, the use of one-time pads, and dead drop techniques.
One of the first female CIA case officer to serve behind the Iron Curtain, Marti Peterson, went to Moscow to be TRIGON’s handler. At the time, the KGB discounted the ability of women to conduct intelligence operations, so Marti went unnoticed for almost 18 months.
TRIGON’s value rose significantly after he returned to Moscow in October 1974. He had agreed to continue spying for the Agency, but he asked that the US government resettle his then-pregnant girlfriend. Before leaving for the Soviet Union, TRIGON requested a suicide device in case he was caught. After high-level deliberations at Langley, his CIA handlers reluctantly gave him a fountain pen containing a cyanide capsule.
(SPYCRAFT, by Robert Wallace and H Keith Melton)
A few months later, per his recontact instructions, TRIGON gave a “sign of life” signal in February 1975. As face-to-face meetings were too dangerous, impersonal operational encounters—using signal sites, radio messages, concealment devices, dead drops, and car drops—began in October and were scheduled monthly.
For nearly two years they worked together, Marti and TRIGON never met. They were only spies passing in the night.
Dead rats for dead drops:
Moscow was a challenging environment to operate within. Even finding one’s way around Moscow proved difficult because Soviet-produced maps of the city were deliberately inaccurate. The Agency had to get creative when communicating with assets, which regularly included the use of dead drops.
(SPYCRAFT, by Robert Wallace and H Keith Melton)
Dead drops are a way for intelligence officers to leave or receive items at a secret location in order to exchange information with an asset without having to meet directly. Everyday items like fake bricks can be used for dead drops. Packed with messages or supplies, the bricks can be deposited at a set location, such as a construction site, for later pickup.
One of the more surprising concealment devices sometimes used by the CIA were dead rats. The body cavity was large enough to hold a wad of money or roll of film. Hot pepper sauce kept scavenging cats away after the “rat” was tossed from a car window at a prearranged drop site.
Marti used a purse to conceal supplies and equipment that she transferred to TRIGON via dead drop exchanges. Because of the KGB’s gender bias, the purse, like Marti herself, did not attract suspicion.
TRIGON soon secured a position in the Global Affairs Department of the MFA that gave him access to incoming and outgoing classified cables to Soviet embassies worldwide. He provided sensitive intelligence about Soviet foreign policy plans and objectives. His reporting went to the President and senior US policymakers.
Meanwhile, Karl Koecher, a naturalized US citizen, was working at CIA as a translator and contract employee. (Unbeknownst to CIA, he was also working concurrently for the Czech Intelligence Service.) He had incidental access to information about TRIGON’s first dealings with the Agency and told his intelligence service, which then notified the KGB.
When that occurred is not known, nor is the time when the KGB began investigating TRIGON. In early 1977, however, his case officers began noticing indications—principally a marked decline in the quality of the photographs—that he had been compromised and was under KGB control.
The Krasnoluzhskiy Most
TRIGON never showed up for a dead drop encounter on June 28, 1977, so another was arranged via radio message for two weeks later.
(SPYCRAFT, by Robert Wallace and H Keith Melton)
On July 15, Marti went to the Krasnoluzhskiy Most — a railroad bridge near Lenin Central Stadium —to set up the dead drop. The bridge spanned the Moscow River with a pedestrian walkway running along the side of the tracks. A spot was prepicked where TRIGON would receive a “drop” from Marti, and leave a package to be retrieved later that same night.
As night fell over Moscow, Marti left a concealment device in a narrow window inside a stone tower on the Krasnoluzhskiy Most. It was a trap.
(SPYCRAFT, by Robert Wallace and H Keith Melton)
A KGB surveillance team was waiting and seized Marti. They took her to Lyubianka Prison, where she was questioned for hours and photographed with some of the espionage paraphernalia Agency officers and TRIGON had used. She was declared persona non grata (an unwelcome person) and sent back to the US immediately.
The Agency later learned that Alexander Ogorodnik had killed himself a month before Marti had been apprehended. He told the KGB he would sign a confession but asked to use his own pen. Marti wrote in her memoir, The Widow Spy, that “Opening the pen as if to begin writing, he bit down on the barrel and expired instantly in front of his KGB interrogators. The KGB was so intent on his confession that they never suspected he had poison….TRIGON died his own way, a hero.”
As of this writing, the deal between the United States and the Taliban for ending the war in Afghanistan is dead. Along with it is National Security Advisor John Bolton, one of the reluctant architects of the deal who (sources say) was never behind the deal to begin with. President Trump was supposed to secretly meet with senior Taliban officials at Camp David to hammer out the final terms of an agreement, but that was also squashed, the final nail in the coffin for such an agreement.
But the United States may still reduce the number of troops fighting its longest war.
As the Trump White House and the Taliban exchange blame for the collapse of peace talks, there are an estimated 13,000 to 14,000 American troops in Afghanistan. This is why Taliban leaders won’t engage with the Afghan government. They believe President Ashraf Ghani’s government is a Western puppet with no legitimacy. The Trump Administration wanted to force the Taliban to recognize Ghani’s legitimacy through a peace agreement with the U.S. but there were a number of outstanding events that would lead to the agreement’s downfall.
First, the United States wanted the Taliban to stop its attacks on U.S. troops in the country to build trust before the deal was made. Senior defense officials say the Taliban actually increased their attacks over the past few weeks, killing a U.S. service member, along with a Romanian service member and ten civilians in a car bomb attack in Kabul. That attack may have been the last straw for President Trump.
The deal is still a major sticking point for Trump, who vowed to bring home American troops from Afghanistan during his 2016 campaign. The peace agreement that was recently killed kept troop strength at 8,600, enough to combat terrorist attacks in the country and didn’t demand a cease-fire from the Taliban. It only asked the terror group to commit to reducing violence in Kabul and Parwan provinces – areas where the United States has a large military presence.
Negotiated by Afghan-American diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad, the deal would have required the U.S. to withdraw 5,000 troops within 135 days of signing. The Taliban would be required to reduce violence in those two areas while preventing the country from being a base for international terrorism, while renouncing its alignment with the al-Qaeda terrorist network.
After the Kabul bombing on Sep. 5, Khalilzad was recalled to Washington and is no longer talking to the Taliban.
For its part, the Taliban say the deal broke down because the group’s leadership wouldn’t sign any agreement that didn’t list the final end date for American troops leaving Afghanistan, which was supposedly November 2020 or January 2021. Secondly, the United States wanted the Ghani government to postpone Afghan Presidential elections set for Sep. 28, 2019. If Ghani won, anti-Ghani factions would undermine the Afghan President’s legitimacy further with the Taliban by protesting the election victory.
The most important reason the agreement failed, however, is trust. No one at the table and no one with an interest in the agreement actually trusted the Taliban to keep their word. In fact, intercepted communications from the Taliban show the terror organization’s negotiators believe they “fooled” the United States. Still, many in the United States believe the best way out of Afghanistan is through a political agreement.
Only no one yet knows what that agreement will look like.
Airman 1st Class Phillip Rock is part of his family’s legacy of military service — a legacy that, in fact, would not have continued if it weren’t for that military service itself.
Stationed at Whiteman Air Force Base, Rock is a B-2 Spirit weapons load crew member in the 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. It is his first Air Force assignment and the most recent in his family’s military history.
“I was raised in Kayenta, Arizona, which is an hour away from the four corners,” said Phillip, who is three-quarters Navajo American Indian. “It is really the heart of the reservation.”
Raised by his grandparents, he learned much about his cultural heritage from them. He also learned where his family’s long military lineage began.
This Rock family tradition started with his great grandfather, Joseph Rock — Grandpa Joe — who served in World War II.
Airman 1st Class Phillip E. Rock, a 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron B-2 weapons load crew member, weaves a dream catcher on Nov. 15, 2018, in his dorm at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White)
“At first, I didn’t know much about what my great grandfather had done,” Phillip said.
Grandpa Joe died in 2004 at age 92 when Phillip was 5 years old. It wasn’t until he was nearly a teen that Phillip realized his great grandfather was a war hero.
One day, when Rock was 12 years old, he was flipping through TV channels with his grandfather, Ernest Rock Sr., in their living room. They stopped to watch a historical documentary about World War II.
Rock recalled asking his grandfather about his great grandfather’s role in the major world conflict which spanned across Europe and the Pacific.
“I said, ‘Isn’t that the war Grandpa Joe fought in? What did he do?'”
His grandfather told Phillip “He was a code talker.”
Western expansion, cultural repression
It was the early 1900s and Joseph Rock was a young boy living on a Navajo reservation in Arizona. As the country expanded westward, much of the tribe’s land was taken by the U.S. government. Joseph was sent to school, where his long hair was cut and his name was changed.
“He went up to a chalkboard, pointed at a random configuration of letters, and that’s how he became Joseph Rock,” Phillip said. “Four generations later, we still carry on that last name.”
Grandpa Joe was also punished in school if he spoke his native language — the same language that would later save countless lives.
By 1941, shortly after the U.S. had entered WWII, the Marine Corps began to recruit Navajo tribal members for a top-secret code-communications program that wouldn’t be declassified until two decades later.
At first, fewer than 30 Navajo Indians were recruited as code talkers. In total, only about 400 of the 44,000 American Indians who served in WWII were Navajo code talkers. Joseph Rock was asked to work among them, and he accepted.
Airman 1st Class Phillip E. Rock, a B-2 weapons load crew member assigned to the 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, poses for a portrait on Nov. 15, 2018 in his dorm at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White)
“He was told if he served, the family would get some of their land back and a house,” Phillip Rock said. “None of that happened.”
But those promises weren’t what enticed Grandpa Joe to join the military. He wanted to serve his country, and did so honorably.
“My great grandfather was proud of his service,” Phillip Rock said. “It’s his legacy.”
This was not the first time American Indians were recruited for U.S. military service, either as combatants or code talkers. During the first World War, American troops relied on messages transmitted in Cherokee and Choctaw tribal languages to pass secret information. However, the languages used were eventually all deciphered by enemy troops.
The Navajo language, though, is considered particularly linguistically difficult. And at that time, it had not been written down. The U.S. government knew it would be nearly impossible for a non-Navajo to learn.
So, in the early 1940s, Navajo code talkers used their language to create more than 200 new words for military terms and then committed them to memory.
“The enemy never understood it,” a Marine general was quoted as saying after the Navajo code was first used in WWII. “We don’t understand it either, but it works.”
The Navajo code is the only spoken military code that has never been deciphered, and Navajo code talkers are credited with saving thousands of Americans’ and allies’ lives.
Winning the war
Before he knew his Grandpa Joe served as a code talker, Phillip learned about his tribe’s role in WWII as a boy in school.
“We were taught that we should be extremely thankful for what they did,” Phillip said. “Without the code talkers, we wouldn’t have won the war.”
During the Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945, Navajo code talkers worked around the clock sending and receiving thousands of messages. One Marine later stated, “Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima,” according to the Naval History and Heritage Command.
Joseph Rock was one of those code talkers involved in the critical battle to claim the Pacific island.
During the battle, a grenade landed only feet away from Joseph Rock, who “watched it hit the ground,” Phillip said. Then, Joseph Rock saw one of his fellow Marines dive on top of it, giving his life to save Grandpa Joe.
“He wanted to save the life of a code talker,” Phillip Rock said. “It’s inspiring what people will do to continue with the mission. My Grandpa Joe owed his life to that man.”
Neither Joseph Rock nor the Rock family was ever able to find out who the Marine was, but know future generations of Rocks have their lives thanks to his valor.
“I owe my life to that man, too,” Phillip said.
Traditional native american jewelry is laid out on the couch of Airman 1st Class Phillip E. Rock, a B-2 weapons load crew member assigned to the 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. Each piece of jewelry was gifted to rock throughout his childhood.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White)
Culture and service
Since Grandpa Joe, many members of the Rock family have answered their nation’s call including his grandfather, his father, uncles and an aunt.
For Phillip, his great grandfather’s service as a code talker influenced Philip’s own decision to join the Air Force.
Phillip is the most recent member of his family to serve in the military.
“I feel like it was a prideful thing to carry on that lineage of service,” said Phillip. “It felt like the right calling. My Grandpa Joe was the first to wear this name on a uniform. I am very proud of this name. I knew I wanted to carry that on and wear it on a uniform.”
Meanwhile, Navajo principles have taught him respect, perseverance, and determination.
“My culture really shapes who I am,” Phillip Rock says. “I wear my culture on my sleeve and my name on my chest.”
This feature is part of the “Through Airmen’s Eyes” series on AF.mil. These stories focus on a single Airman, highlighting their Air Force story.
Melvin Pender was a 25-year-old soldier headed to the 82nd Airborne Division when he first tied on some running shoes to race, but it quickly became clear that he would become a legend in the sport. He was fast. So fast, in fact, that the Army would twice recall him from active duty to train for the Olympics.
A helicopter deposits troops in the Mekong River Delta of Vietnam.
(U.S. Air Force)
The first recall came in 1964 for the Tokyo Olympics, where Pender placed sixth. After the games, he went to officer’s candidate school. A few years later, Pender was sent to the Mekong Delta of Vietnam as a platoon leader.
The fighting was fierce, with rounds tearing through the underbrush to crash into the bodies of American soldiers. One day was particularly bad for Pender and his men.
“You couldn’t see the enemy; they were shooting at us from the jungles,” Pender told his friend Keith Sims during an interview. “And, uh, I had one of my kids killed. This young man died in my arms.”
U.S. Army soldiers take a break during a patrol in Vietnam.
(Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr. Collection, Texas Tech University)
Later that same day, Pender was told that he had to go home. The Army needed him to run in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, this time as part of a four-man relay team. Pender tried to stay, but was told it wasn’t optional.
“And I told my men, I says, ‘I’m going back for you. I’m going to win this gold medal for you guys,'” Pender told Sims.
But the 1968 Olympics were roiling with the same racial tensions that were consuming America as black athletes protested racial violence in the states.
When we got to Mexico, we start getting threats from the president of the Olympic Committee, saying if we demonstrated in the Olympics, ‘I’m going to send all you boys home.’
How are you, how are you going to call someone ‘boy’? I mean, here I just got out of combat, seeing people die defending my country, and you’re going to call me a boy? They don’t make boys like me.
While Pender opposed the restrictions that were being placed on black athletes at the games, he acceded to orders from a colonel to not take part in any protests.
He focused on the games and the promise he had made to his men to win a gold medal for them.
“To be on the relay team, it was my time to shine,” he said. “I ran my heart out. We ended up winning the race at a world record time of 38.2 seconds.
The world record in the event has been beat numerous times since, but only by fractions of a second each time. Pender’s team’s 38.2 second run is still less than two seconds from the current world record of 36.84 set by a Jamaican team (You can see the race on YouTube here).
Despite Pender keeping his head down at the games, he did end up tangentially connected to protests. His roommate was John Carlos, one of the athletes who famously gave the Black Power salute on the podium during the U.S. Anthem, something that the athletes and Pender maintain was about asserting black humanity, not disrespecting the anthem. Pender told Sims:
You know, when Carlos came back to the room, I could see the hurt in his eyes and he just said, ‘I did what I had to do, Mel.’ And that’s when I told him, I said, ‘I’m so proud of you.’
They was not trying to disgrace the national anthem of America. What was happening was wrong. They were trying to show the world. ‘Hey, we are human beings. We are human.’ That changed my life.
Carlos and another demonstrator were stripped of their medals. Pender, meanwhile, went back to Vietnam after the games and received a Bronze Medal for his service. He rose to the rank of captain and served as the first black track and field coach at West Point before retiring with 21 years of service in the military.
Pender lives in the Atlanta area with his wife and recently told the Atlanta Journal Constitution the he still believes America “is the greatest country in the world,” a sentiment he shares with during motivational talks at high schools and other venues.
Most of the quotes in this article came from a recent StoryCorps interview between Keith Sims and Dr. Melvin Pender. A two-minute excerpt from that interview is available here.
There’s probably no greater argument in favor of issuing bottled beer to troops in combat than the story of William Speakman.
In 1951, the 24-year-old Speakman volunteered for service in the Korean War.
He initially joined the Black Watch Royal Highland Regiment, but was attached to the 1st Battalion of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers during his time in Korea.
By 1951, the war had turned on the UN troops fighting in the peninsula. After near annihilation along the Korea-China border, Communist forces were bolstered when China entered the war for North Korea.
Later that year, William Speakman and his unit were somewhere along the 38th parallel – the new front – on a freezing cold, shell-pocked hill along the Imjin River. It was known as Hill 317.
On Nov. 4, 1951, Speakman’s unit was suddenly pummeled by intense Chinese artillery and a tide of overwhelming human wave attacks.
What happened next earned William Speakman the nickname “Beer Bottle VC.”
Speakman, a junior enlisted infantryman acting without orders, led a series of counter-charges to prevent his position from being overrun. He and six other men from the King’s Own fought an estimated 6,000 oncoming Chinese infantry troops. Speakman himself began to hurl as many grenades at the Chinese waves as he could, even after suffering multiple wounds.
“It was hand-to-hand; there was no time to pull back the bolt of the rifle,” he told the Telegraph. “It was November, the ground was hard, so grenades bounced and did damage.”
His cache of grenades didn’t last forever, of course. When he exhausted his unit’s explosives supply, he turned to any other material he could find to throw at the enemy horde, which included rocks and a steady supply of empty beer bottles. He and his six buddies were able to hold off the Communist onslaught long enough for the KOSB to withdraw safely.
“I enjoyed it, actually, it’s what I joined up to do,” Speakman said in an interview with the Royal British Legion. I volunteered for Korea and joined the KOSB… we did what you’re trained to do as a soldier. We fought that night and did what we had to.”
“When I got it, the king was alive,” Speakman said. “But he was very ill. He awarded me the VC but he died. So I was the queen’s first VC… I think she was nervous. And I was very nervous.”
Only four VCs were awarded during the Korean War and Speakman is the only living Victoria Cross recipient from that war. Though Speakman went on to serve until 1967 and fought in other conflicts in places like Italy and Borneo, he wants his ashes to be scattered in the Korean DMZ.
The call followed Netanyahu’s approval of Israeli settlements outside the country’s borders, something which Trump reportedly thought would needlessly anger Palestinians.
“The President has an extremely close and candid relationship with the Prime Minister of Israel and appreciates his strong efforts to enhance the cause of peace in the face of numerous challenges,” the White House told Axios.
“The President has great relationships with a number of foreign leaders but that doesn’t mean he can’t be aggressive when it comes to negotiating what’s best for America,” Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders added.
Trump has often discussed a “deal” to be had in the Israeli-Palestine conflict that has raged for decades, but made little tangible progress towards securing peace.
Rear Adm. Brian Fort, commander, Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific, announced that U.S. Navy ships and submarines based in Hawaii not currently undergoing maintenance availabilities have begun to sortie as Hurricane Lane travels toward the Hawaiian Islands.
Ships that sortie will be positioned to help respond after the storm, if needed.
“Based on the current track of the storm, we made the decision to begin to sortie the Pearl Harbor-based ships,” Fort said. “This allows the ships enough time to transit safely out of the path of the storm.”
Units will remain at sea until the threat from the storm subsides and Hawaii-based Navy aircraft will be secured in hangars or flown to other airfields to avoid the effects of the hurricane.
A satellite image of Hurricane Lane at 10:45 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time. At 11 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time, the category 4 hurricane, which was located about 350 miles south of Honolulu, Hawaii, was moving northwest at 7 mph with maximum sustained winds of 145 mph.
(US Navy photo)
The Navy orders a sortie during potentially extreme weather conditions to reduce the risk of significant damage to ships and piers during high winds and seas. Some ships will not get underway, due to various maintenance availabilities, and are taking extra precautions to avoid potential damage. Commanding officers have a number of options when staying in port, depending on the severity of the weather. Some of these options include adding additional mooring and storm lines, dropping the anchor, and disconnecting shore power cables.
Personnel in Navy Region Hawaii, including on Oahu and Kauai, should follow hurricane awareness and preparedness guidelines established by city/county and state government. Navy Region Hawaii and its installations provide updated information on Facebook sites:
At the beginning of hurricane season in early June 2018, Navy Region Hawaii provided detailed information in the region/base newspaper Ho’okele for service members, civilian workforce and families. Information included preparing a disaster supply kit, creating a family emergency communication plan and knowing where to go if ordered to evacuate:
Even the band’s name is a reference to medieval knight’s armor – the Swedish metal band Sabaton makes music about war, history’s greatest battles, and daring feats of combat badassery. Their latest album, The Great War, features songs about just World War I. If you’ve never had an interest in military history, Sabaton might make the difference for you.
Also, their music videos are pretty great.
Their songs are poetic and thoughtful, about real historical events. From the Serbians fighting in World War I, to Poland’s legendary Winged Hussars, and even the Russians at Stalingrad – the heroes aren’t Swedish, they’re anyone who did something amazing for their comrades on the battlefield. Other songs are about the Night Witches (Russian female aviators who terrorized the Nazis), the Brazilian Expeditionary Force in World War II, and Audie Murphy’s postwar struggle with PTSD.
I know the video below looks like a broken link, but it’s really a music video for a Sabaton’s heavy metal song about the 101st Airborne at Bastogne, called “Screaming Eagles.” The music video begins with Gen. Anthony MacAuliffe’s now-famous reply to the German surrender demand – “Nuts.”
The band’s entire fourth album was inspired by Sun Tzu’s Art of War, another album is about World War II and the Finnish-Russian Winter War. They have released singles about the World War II-era battleship Bismarck and World War I’s Lost Battalion; nine companies of the United States 77th Infantry Division who lost more than half its manpower at the Argonne Forest in 1918.
Sabaton has won almost every metal award for which they were nominated, including Best Breakthrough Band, Best Live Band, and they were nominated for the 2012 “Metal as F*ck” Award for their album Carolus Rex, which actually was about the rise of the Swedish Empire under King Charles XII.
The song below is about 189 Swiss Guards who defended the Vatican during the Sack of Rome in 1527.
The US military is shifting its focus toward preparing for great-power conflict, and on the ground in Europe, where heightened tensions with Russia have a number of countries worried about renewed conflict.
That includes new attention to short-range air-defense — a capability needed against an adversary that could deploy ground-attack aircraft, especially helicopters, and contest control of the air during a conflict.
Between late November and mid-December 2018, Battery C of the 1st Battalion, 174th Air Defense Artillery Regiment from the Ohio National Guard maneuvered across southeast Germany to practice shooting down enemy aircraft.
US soldiers from Battery C, 1-174 Air Defense Artillery Regiment conduct an after-action review during Combined Resolve XI at Hohenfels Training Area, Dec. 7, 2018.
(US Army photo by Charles Rosemond)
The unit worked with 5,500 troops from 16 countries during the first phase of Combined Resolve XI, a biannual US-led exercise aimed at making US forces more lethal and improving the ability of Allied militaries to work together.
At Hohenfels training area, soldiers from Battery C engaged simulated enemy aircraft with their Avenger weapons systems, which are vehicle-mounted short-range air-defense systems that fire Stinger missiles.
The unit outmanuevered opposition forces, according to an Army release, taking out 15 simulated enemy aircraft with the Avengers and Stingers.
Battery C also protected eight assets that their command unit, the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team from the 1st Cavalry Division, deemed “critical.”
An Air Defense Artillery Humvee-mounted Avenger weapons system from Battery C, 1-174 Air Defense Artillery Regiment during Combined Resolve XI at Hohenfels Training Area, December 7, 2018.
(US Army photo by Charles Rosemond)
Capt. Christopher Vasquez, the commander of Battery C who acted as brigade air-defense officer for the exercise, linked his unit’s performance to its experience with armor like that used by the 1st ABCT.
“It’s given us some insight into how they fight, and how they operate,” Vasquez said. “The type of unit we are attached to dictates how we establish our air defense plan, so if we don’t understand how tanks maneuver, how they emplace, then we can’t effectively do our job.”
The second phase of the exercise, which will include live-fire drills, will take place from January 13 to January 25, 2019, at nearby Grafenwoehr training area, where Battery C is deployed.
A Bradley fighting vehicle provides security for Battery C, 1-174 Air Defense Artillery Regiment during Combined Resolve XI at Hohenfels Training Area, Dec. 7, 2018.
(US Army photo by Charles Rosemond)
Reestablishing air defense in Europe
The unit arrived in Europe in 2018 to provide air-defense support to US European Command under the European Deterrence Initiative, which covers Operation Atlantic Resolve.
During Operation Atlantic Resolve, the US Army has rotated units through Europe to reassure allies concerned about a more aggressive Russia, particularly after Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and incursion in Ukraine.
Air Defense Artillery units like the 1-174th were for a long time embedded in Army divisions, but the service began deactivating them in the early 2000s, as planners believed the Air Force would be able to maintain air superiority and mitigate threats from enemy aircraft.
But the Army found in 2016 that it had an air-defense-capability gap. Since then it has been trying to correct the shortfall.
An FIM-92 Stinger missile fired from an Army Avenger at Eglin Air Force Base, April 20, 2017.
(US Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)
US soldiers in Europe have also been relearning air-defense skills that were deemphasized after the threat of a ground war waned with the end Cold War.
In January 2018, for the first time in 15 years, the US Army in Europe started training with Stingers, which have gained new value as a light antiaircraft weapon as unmanned aerial systems proliferate.
Operation Atlantic Resolve rotations have included National Guard units with Avenger defense systems to provide air-defense support on the continent. (The Army is also overhauling Avengers that were mothballed until a new air-defense system is ready.)
The service also recently reactivated the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment in southern Germany, making it the first permanent air-defense artillery unit in Europe since the end of the Cold War.
The battalion, composed of five Stinger-equipped batteries, returned important short-range air-defense abilities to Europe, said Col. David Shank, head of 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, of which the unit is part.
“Not only is this a great day for United States Army Europe and the growth of lethal capability here,” Shank said at the activation ceremony. “It is a tremendous step forward for the Air Defense Enterprise.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.