The country known as Georgia derives its name – “Gurgan,” the land of the wolves – from the Persian word for the “frightening and heroic people of that territory.”
Heroic doesn’t even begin to fully describe the Georgians. This fact was evident at the outset of World War I when a troop of crusader knights – in full Medieval armor – marched right up to the governor’s house in the Georgian capital, then called Tiflis (modern-day Tbilisi).
“Where’s the war?” They asked. “We hear there’s a war.”
In 1914, the Russian Empire declared war on Turkey as part of its alliance with the Triple Entente in Western Europe. The news of the outbreak apparently took some time to filter to the countryside because it took until the spring of 1915 for the Georgian knights to arrive.
In his 1935 book, “Seven League Boots,” the American adventurer Richard Halliburton wrote of the knights.
“In the spring of 1915, some months after Russia’s declaration of war against Turkey, a band of twelfth-century Crusaders, covered from head to foot in rusty chain armour and carrying shields and broad-swords came riding on horseback down the main avenue of Tiflis. People’s eyes almost popped out of their heads. Obviously this was no cinema company going on location. These were Crusaders – or their ghosts.”
The Knights were known locally as Khevsurs, a group of fighters allegedly descended from Medieval Crusaders, whose armor bore the motto of the Crusaders, as well as the Crusader Cross (which now adorns the flag of the modern Republic of Georgia). The truth behind the Khevsurs’ Crusader origins is disputed, but what isn’t disputed is that they showed up to fight World War I wearing Crusader armor.
Though the Khevsurs did fight alongside the Russian army on many occasions, not just WWI, it’s unlikely their Russian allies would let them run into battle with broadswords and chain mail armor. Then again, it wouldn’t be the only time the allied powers used strange body armor in brutal trench warfare.
Whisper is a mobile app which allows its users to post anonymous messages (called “Whispers”) out into the ether and receive replies from other users who might be interested in what they have to say. The messages are text superimposed over a (presumably) related photo to illustrate the point.
A recent update allowed Whispers to be categorized into a few firm subcategories: Confessions, LGBTQ, NSFW, QA, Faith and Military. Military members and those with an interest in the military can “anonymously” (quotes included because the app still tracks users with their phone’s GPS) post their thoughts, feelings, and interactions with military members. Some of the confessions can be funny, but others give insight into real struggles veterans face when they feel alone and have no one to turn to and the struggles their families face trying to help their loved ones reintegrate after war.
In the months leading up to the summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Donald Trump in Finland, Moscow appears to have ramped up activity in its Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad.
Satellite imagery gathered by Planet Labs and reported by Defense One shows activity around bunkers in Baltiysk, a town that hosts a major Russian port and two air bases.
Between March and June 2018, “the visible change … appears to be the fortification of buildings, characteristic of explosive storage bunkers, utilizing earthen berms to further insulate these structures,” Matt Hall, a senior geospatial analyst at 3Gimbals, told Defense One.
Hall said other structures shown in the images appeared to have been reinforced over that period. Activity in a forested area was partially obscured by foliage, but there appeared to be more structures among the trees, some covered and some uncovered with different levels of fortification.
Aerial photo of Baltiysk
“In this area some of the structures have changed, potentially showing roofing structures or tarps that have since been removed to reveal caches of items,” Hall said. “Additionally, there appear to be new or redistributed items — potentially identifiable as shipping containers.” Hall also told Defense One a railroad line was visible in the photos.
Kaliningrad — 86 square miles of land bordered by Poland and Lithuania — was an important asset to the Soviet Union, and military activity there has grown amid Russia’s recent military buildup. It also hosts Russia’s Baltic Fleet and its 11th Army Corps.
Russian weapons in Kaliningrad have been a point of contention with NATO. In late 2016, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said the transfer of nuclear-capable Iskander missiles to the exclave “means an aggressive, open demonstration of power and aggression against not the Baltic states but against European capitals.”
Iskander missiles have a range of about 310 miles and in the past were stationed in Kaliningrad on a temporary basis. But in February 2018, Grybauskaite said Russia had deployed more of the missiles there “for permanent presence.”
The head of Russian parliament’s defense committee confirmed that deployment, saying it was a response to NATO’s buildup in Eastern Europe. A Kremlin spokesman said at the time that Russia had the “sovereign right” to station military forces on its territory.
(Russian Defense Ministry)
Satellite imagery of another area within Kaliningrad showed renovations of what appeared to be an active nuclear weapons storage site, according to a June 2018 report by the Federation of American Scientists.
Images “show one of three underground bunkers near Kulikovo being excavated in 2016, apparently renovated, and getting covered up again in 2018 presumably to return operational status soon,” the report said.
The imagery provided few conclusive details, but “features of the site suggest it could potentially serve Russian Air Force or Navy dual-capable forces,” the report said. “But it could also be a joint site, potentially servicing nuclear warheads for both Air Force, Navy, Army, air-defense, and coastal defense forces in the region.”
The missiles deployed to Kaliningrad have raised concern about threats to Western Europe, but the exclave also positions Russian forces near the Suwalki Gap, a weak point in the NATO alliance, according to a recent report from the Center for European Analysis, coauthored by retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, who was head of US Army Europe.
The gap, stretching between eastern Kaliningrad and western Belarus, is the only land connection between NATO and its three Baltic member states: Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.
“The Suwałki Corridor is where the many weaknesses in NATO’s strategy and force posture converge,” the report says.
“If Russia attempted to establish control over the Suwałki region, or even threatened the free movement of NATO personnel and equipment from within the borders of Kaliningrad and Belarus, it could cut the Baltic states off from the rest of the Alliance” and hinder reinforcement efforts. NATO forces did exercises focused mobility and interoperability in the Suwalki region early 2018
Suwalki Gap crossing
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Kevin Wang)
A dispute over the gap “could escalate with alarming speed,” the report says, though Hodges believes a Cold War-style Russian ground invasion is unlikely.
“I don’t think that Russia intends to invade Europe as though its 1991. They don’t have the capacity to do that anymore,” he told Defense One.
Moscow may instead look to use a crisis in the area to undermine NATO by showing it was unable to response effectively, or at all, to a threat.
“If you accept that premise, that they might do a limited attack to demonstrate that NATO cannot protect its members,” he told Defense One. “That would create a problem.”
Russia is believed to have a substantial military force stationed along NATO’s eastern border, and its ability to deploy it quickly could make it harder for Western forces to distinguish between a military exercise and an actual military operation.
During the Zapad war games in 2013 and 2017, Russian troops simulated advances on the gap, cutting off the Baltic states from the rest of Europe. There has also been an increase in close encounters between NATO and Russian aircraft in the skies over the Baltics.
In the years since Russia’s 2014 incursion in Ukraine, Baltic countries have warned about possible aggression against them.
In 2017, Lithuania said it worried Russia was laying the groundwork for “kinetic operations” through propaganda and misinformation — a manner similar to what preceded Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
Lithuania, which is under pressure from Moscow to allow a permanent Russian-controlled transit corridor to Kaliningrad, has also called for a permanent US troop presence on its soil and started building a fence along its border with Kaliningrad.
The CEPA report lays out several scenarios through which Russia could provoke a crisis to justify action against Suwalki, using disinformation and hybrid-warfare techniques to deflect blame and confuse observers.
“If [Russian forces] ever tried anything, they would do it asymmetrically so that they could achieve whatever they wanted to achieve before the alliance caught on,” Hodges told Defense One.T
his article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
House lawmakers have introduced legislative amendments to promote two military pilots who made great contributions to aerial battles during World War II.
Reps. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, and Ruben Gallego, D-Arizona, recently created an amendment to the Fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization legislation that would posthumously promote Richard “Dick” Cole from lieutenant colonel to colonel.
Cole, who died in April 2019 at age 103, was the last surviving Doolittle Raider and flew alongside then-Lt. Col. James “Jimmy” Doolittle. The raid was famously named after Doolittle, who led 16 B-25 bombers and 80 crew members from the aircraft carrier Hornet in the western Pacific on a strike targeting factories and military installations in and around Tokyo on April 18, 1942.
Cole, a lieutenant at the time, received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his role in the bombing.
Rep. Chip Roy, a Republican from Texas, introduced similar legislation. The news was first reported by Air Force Magazine on July 10, 2019.
Separately, Rep. Anthony Brown, a Democrat from Maryland, created a measure to promote retired Air Force colonel and distinguished combat aviator Charles McGee to brigadier general. McGee, who was a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, flew 409 fighter combat missions in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
Retired Col. Elmer Jones and retired Col. Charles McGee address an audience during an open forum at the 2009 Air Force Association Air Space Conference and Technology Exposition Sept. 15, 2009.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Andy Morataya)
“This distinguished, decades-long career in the Air Force, which saw Col. McGee become the first African-American to command a stateside Air Force wing and base, serves as an inspirational legacy to hundreds of African-American service members and aviators,” Brown told Military.com in a statement July 10, 2019. “This honorary promotion would be well-deserved recognition of a dedicated patriot.”
Both McGee and Cole spoke to Military.com in recent years about their service.
“The flight was designed to do two things: One, to let the Japanese people know that they could be struck by air. And the other thing was the morale, and we did that, so we were very proud of that,” Cole told Military.com in 2016.
That year, the Air Force announced it would name its next-generation B-21 Long Range Strike Bomber the Raider after the Doolittle Raiders. Cole made the announcement for the service.
(U.S. Air Force graphic)
The experience was much different for the Tuskegee Airmen: They were the first African-American pilots, navigators and support personnel to serve during World War II, often escorting and protecting bombers.
McGee said he was just doing his job.
“It came from the basis of doing something for our country — for me, doing something I liked, knowing that’s what I’d pass on to young people now,” he said during an interview in 2017.
“We accomplished something that helped lead the country,” McGee said. “We didn’t call this civil rights. It was American opportunity.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
A World War II veteran who served with the U.S. Army’s 1st Infantry Division in multiple campaigns, including Normandy where he landed on Omaha Beach with the second wave of troops on D-Day, was awarded the French Legion of Honor.
Edward H. “Ed” Morrissette, age 96, was presented the award by France’s Consul General from Chicago, Guillaume Lacroix, during a special ceremony Oct. 30, 2019, at the Omaha Army Reserve Center, surrounded by dozens of family, fellow veterans and distinguished guests.
“It means a lot to be here in Omaha, Nebraska, with you 75 years after you landed on Omaha Beach,” Lacroix said. “Our gratitude, sir, is forever because you changed the destiny of France and the destiny of Europe forever.”
Hon. Guillaume Lacroix, Consul General of France in Chicago, shakes the hand of WWII veteran Edward Morrissette after presenting him the French Legion of Honor medal Oct. 30, 2019, at the Omaha Army Reserve Center.
(Photo by Maj. Scott Ingalsbe)
The medal pinned on his jacket, Morrissette walked slowly to the lectern, thanked everyone, and said he accepted the award for others who served and many who never returned home.
“I don’t know that I particularly deserved it, but I know that the men and women of the First Division that landed in Europe deserve it, especially those that are not back with us now,” Morrissette said. “I had some friends that didn’t make it off of that shore, and I miss them terribly. But I want to say one thing: I’m glad that we helped France… got them out from under the heels of Nazi boots.”
WWII veteran Edward Morrissette shares thoughts with the audience after receiving the French Legion of Honor in a special ceremony Oct. 30, 2019, at the Omaha Army Reserve Center.
(Photo by Maj. Scott Ingalsbe)
On June 6, 1944, Morrissette was a squad leader in charge of machine gun crews with the 16th Infantry Regiment headquarters. It was his third beach landing, having already landed and fought in North Africa and Sicily.
Speaking with reporters after the award ceremony, he shared a story of what happened as he and his men jumped out of the landing craft just short of French soil.
A photo of Edward Morrissette is displayed at a ceremony in which he was presented the French Legion of Honor Oct. 30, 2019, at the Omaha Army Reserve Center.
(US Army photo)
“It was difficult for our boat to get into shore, and when it did we jumped out into water up to our chest,” Morrissette said. He and another soldier were carrying a roll of telephone wire above their heads, in addition to their rifles, and as they realized the roll of wire was drawing the aim of enemy gunners they decided to jettison the extra load.
“If they need to communicate, I guess they’ll just have to holler,” Morrissette said, holding his arms above his head and reenacting the struggle to get ashore.
WWII veteran Edward Morrissette tells a story of jumping out of landing craft into chest deep water off Omaha Beach while carrying a rifle and a roll of telephone wire above his head, speaking to reporters Oct. 30, 2019, at the Omaha Army Reserve Center.
(Photo by Maj. Scott Ingalsbe)
On the beach he found cover behind a concrete block, and eventually crawled the rest of the way to higher ground.
By the time Germany surrendered in May 1945, Morrissette and the Big Red One fought their way through Northern France, the Ardennes, and were headed to Prague.
“This country should be proud of our soldiers,” he said. “They are remarkable people, and they can do remarkable things.”
Nebraska Army National Guard Soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division’s Main Command Post – Operational Detachment gather for a photo with Big Red One WWII veteran Edward Morrissette after he received the French Legion of Honor in a special ceremony Oct. 30, 2019, at the Omaha Army Reserve Center.
(US Army photo)
Morrissette was nominated for France’s Legion of Honor by his family. Although the number of medals awarded each year is limited, most American veterans of World War I and II can be inducted. Past American recipients include Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, Gen. Douglas MacArthur and Adm. Michael Mullen.
It’s well known that in the American military, the green beret is the exclusive headdress of soldiers qualified as Army Special Forces. The only way to don one of these distinctive berets is to complete the arduous “Q Course” and be awarded a Special Forces tab.
In fact, Army Special Forces soldiers are often called “Green Berets” based on that specific Army green “Shade 297” cap.
But how America’s premier unconventional warfare force got that iconic headwear is as much a testament to the force’s tenacity as it is a tribute to the founding soldiers who challenged at Big Army’s authority.
The beret is said to be somewhat derived from America’s ties to the British Commandos of World War II, who wore a green beret as their standard-issue headdress beginning in 1941.
So it’s not surprising that according to the official history of the Army Special Forces Association, America’s green beret was first designed by SF major and OSS veteran Herbert Brucker about two years after the unit was formed, likely due to the close work between the OSS — the predecessor to the Special Forces — and Royal British Commandos during the war.
But that all changed in the early 1960s, when then-President John F. Kennedy adopted the Special Forces as America’s answer to the guerrilla wars that marked the first decades of the Cold War. Before a visit to Fort Bragg in 1961, Kennedy reportedly ordered then Special Warfare School commander Brig. Gen. William P. Yarborough to outfit his soldiers with the distinctive caps, arguing these unconventional warriors deserved headgear that set them apart from the rest of the Army.
In a twist of irony, just weeks before Kennedy’s visit, the Army officially adopted the green beret for Special Forces soldiers.
Kennedy was said to have asked Yarborough whether he liked the new berets, with the SF general telling him, “They’re fine, sir. We’ve wanted them for a long time.”
Later, Kennedy sent Yarborough a message thanking him for the visit to Bragg and remarking, “The challenge of this old but new form of operations is a real one, and I know that you and the members of your command will carry on for us and the free world in a manner which is both worthy and inspiring. I am sure that the Green Beret will be a mark of distinction in the trying times ahead.”
The bond between the late president and the Special Forces community are so strong that on Nov. 25, 1963, as Kennedy was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, a Special Forces sergeant major placed his green beret on the grave of the fallen president. Silently, steadily 42 other Special Forces Soldiers laid their berets alongside, the Army says.
Since then, the SF lays a wreath at Kennedy’s grave in Arlington National Cemetery on the anniversary of his death.
Soviet propaganda poster which reads, “Our triumph in space is the hymn to Soviet country!”
In the decades since the fall of the Soviet Union, many Americans have taken to assuming that victory for the United States was assured. From our vantage point in the 21st century, we now know that the Soviet Union was, in many ways, a quagmire of oppression and economic infeasibility — but in the early days of mankind’s effort to reach the stars, it was the Soviets, not the Americans, who seemed destined for the top spot.
On October 4, 1957, it was the Soviet Union that first successfully placed a manmade object in orbit around the earth, with Sputnik. Less than a month later, the Soviets would capture another victory: Launching a stray dog named Laika into orbit. While the dog would die as it circled our planet, Laika’s mission seemed to prove (at least to some extent) that space travel was possible for living creatures. On September 14, 1959, the Soviet space probe Luna II would be the first manmade object to land on the moon, but the Soviet’s greatest victory was yet to come.
Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin (WikiMedia Commons)
When the Soviets were winning the Space Race
On April 12, 1961, the Soviet Union once again affirmed to the world that they were the global leader in space technology, launching cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin into orbit where he remained for 108 minutes before reentering the earth’s atmosphere.
To the Americans, these early victories in the Space Race were about far more than international prestige. Each victory for the Soviets not only represented a greater lead in securing “the ultimate high ground” for the Soviet military, they also served as proof of the validity of the Soviet Communist economic and political model — making the Soviet space program as much an ideological threat as it was a military one.
Despite assuming an underdog status in the early days of the Space Race, however, the U.S. leveraged its post-World War II industrial and economic might to begin closing the gap created by these early Soviet victories, launching their own satellite less than four months after Sputnik. America’s first astronaut in space, Alan Shepard, would follow behind the Soviet Gagarin by less than a month.
Buzz Aldrin on the moon (NASA)
America’s come-from-behind victory
By 1969, America’s technological prowess, coupled with a massive influx of spending, would secure victory for both the U.S. and, in the minds of many, its capitalist economic model. On July 20, 1969, two former fighter pilots, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, triumphantly landed on the moon.
Just like that, the Soviets went from leading the way in orbital space to lagging behind, and in the midst of an ongoing nuclear arms race, the Soviets saw this shift as a significant threat. Furthering their concern were reports of the American Manned Orbital Laboratory (MOL) program, which was intended as an early space station from which crews could conduct orbital surveillance, or even mount operations against Soviet orbital bodies.
In response to the MOL program, the Soviets poured funding into Almaz, which was an early space station design of their own. Hidden behind a public-facing civilian space station effort, the program called for a number of military-specific space stations in orbit around the earth, each capable of conducting its own high-altitude reconnaissance. Although the Americans canceled their MOL program in 1969, the Soviet effort continued, reaching even further beyond America’s canceled program with plans to equip these space stations with the world’s first ever cannon in space.
The Soviet Space Cannon: R-23M Kartech
The Soviets were not mistaken when they considered America’s MOL program a threat. In fact, within the corridors of the Pentagon, a number of plans and strategies were being explored that would enable the Americans to spy on, capture, or otherwise destroy Soviet satellites.
It was with this in mind that the Soviet Union decided they’d need to equip their space stations for more than just taking pictures of the earth below. Instead, they wanted to be sure their orbital habitats could fight whatever the Americans threw their way.
Line drawing of the Russian Almaz space station (NASA)
The decision was made to base this new secret space cannon on the 23-millimeter gun utilized by their supersonic bomber, the Tupolev Tu-22 Blinder. For its new purpose as the world’s first true space cannon, the Soviet government looked to the Moscow-based KB Tochmash design bureau responsible for a number of successful aviation weapons platforms.
Soviet Tu-22PD tail turret equipped with a R-23M (WikiMedia Commons)
Engineer Aleksandr Nudelman and his team at KB Tochmash changed the design of the cannon to utilize smaller 14.5-millimeter rounds that could engage targets at distances of up to two miles with a blistering rate of fire of somewhere between 950 and 5,000 rounds per minute (depending on the source you read). According to reports made public after the fall of the Soviet Union, the cannon successfully punctured a metal gas can from over a mile away during ground testing.
The cannon was to be mounted in a fixed position on the underbelly of the Soviet Almaz space stations, forcing operators to move the entire 20-ton station to orient the barrel toward a target. The weapon system was first affixed to a modified Soyuz space capsule, which was then dubbed the “Salyut” space station, and launched in 1971. By the time the Salyut was in orbit, however, interest in these manned reconnaissance platforms was already beginning to wane inside the Kremlin, as unmanned reconnaissance satellites seemed more practical.
The only cannon ever fired in space
While American intelligence agencies were well aware of the Soviet plan to field military space stations, it was still extremely difficult to know exactly what was going on in the expanse of space above our heads. Under cover of extreme secrecy, the Soviet Union successfully completed a test firing of the R-23M on Jan. 24, 1975 in orbit above the earth. There was no crew onboard at the time, and the exact results of the test remain classified to this day. Uncomfirmed reports indicate that the weapon fired between one and three bursts, with a total of 20 shells expended. In order to offset the recoil of the fired rounds, the space station engaged its thrusters, but it stands to reason that the test may have been a failure.
Screen capture of the R-23M space cannon taken from Zvezda TV, per the Russian Ministry of Defence
In fact, any footage of the test firing of the weapon was lost when the Salyut 3 platform was de-orbited just hours later, burning up upon reentry into the earth’s atmosphere. When the Soviet Union designed an upgraded Almaz space station for future launches, they did away with cannons in favor of interceptor missiles — though the program was canceled before any such weapons would reach orbit.
Jimi Hendrix is undoubtedly one of the greatest guitarists to ever step on stage. The man who headlined 1969’s Woodstock Festival was responsible for defining American rock as we know it. But when he was a young, dumb kid, he was given the choice of going to war or going to jail — he chose the Army.
He served for just 13 months before being discharged, leaving many to speculate (and start rumors about) how and why he didn’t fulfill his original 3-year contract. Well, we think this rock legend (who is also a constant talking point in 101st Airborne trivia) doesn’t deserve to have his name dragged through the mud. Let’s dive a little deeper.
One of the rumors that has persisted is that Jimi Hendrix was discharged for displaying homosexual tendencies. Some say he put on an act in order to avoid going to Vietnam. This can be easily disproved by the fact that he was already out of the Army by the time President Kennedy signed the Foreign Assistance Act — he had no real reason to believe that American troops would be sent to Vietnam to stop the fall of Communist dominoes. Hendrix was also highly vocal about his hatred for communists, so he likely wasn’t dodging a fight on any philosophical grounds.
Others say it wasn’t an act — that Jimi Hendrix was, indeed, attracted to men. Contrary to this school of thought, his experiences with his “foxy ladies” were highly publicized. Preferences aside, there’s just no evidence to support this myth, even if it appears in his highly-criticized biography. The simple fact is that his discharge documents say otherwise.
Another rumor states that he was dishonorably discharged because he got caught masturbating and was, generally, a sh*tty soldier. If you look through his documents, it’s easy to see that he was no Captain America. He barely passed PT standards, was a sub-par marksman, and he got in trouble three times for missing bed checks on three different weekends.
To be honest, that sounds a lot like an average 19-year-old private — a lazy, apathetic troop who skims by doing the absolutely bare minimum. He was just your average Joe who’d rather be playing guitar than working.
There are nuggets of truth here: His NCOs did try to kick him out and they did submit a request for discharge after he was caught masturbating in the latrine. Make no mistake, the hammer was swiftly coming down on Private Hendrix. He stood a good chance of receiving a bad conduct discharge — but was instead given a discharge on the grounds of “unsuitability — under honorable conditions” on July 2, 1962.
After his 26th airborne jump, he suffered an ankle injury. His chain of command then had the perfect opportunity to get rid of him — and he wasn’t fighting it. It’s important to realize that while his superiors did submit a request for discharge on the grounds of bad behavior, that request was never fulfilled.
Hendrix didn’t leave the military with the highest esteem for his chain of command, but he never bad-mouthed the Army as a whole. He regularly played in front of an American flag and performed the national anthem at many of his concerts (leaving behind nearly 50 live recordings outside of his iconic Woodstock ’69 rendition).
He did it. He finally did it. Secretary of the Army Mark Esper has recently signed a memorandum that states the high-visibility belt, better known as the PT belt, isn’t required in the daytime. On top of this, he removed pointless PowerPoint presentations, implemented a fitness test that revolves around a soldier’s combat readiness potential, and has pushed for a return to training focused on military operations as opposed to training for training’s sake.
Madness. This is absolute madness. What’s next? Is walking on grass going to be okay? What about weekly PMCSs where soldiers kick the tires and say they’re good? Will the Army acknowledge that a leader’s evaluation report should also be created with input from randomly-selected direct subordinates to discourage asskissery and brown-nosing, providing an accurate reflection of that leader’s ability? These are indeed dark times, according to the people who say the Old Army died a few years after they ETSed.
Sarcasm aside, the Good-Idea Fairy has finally been questioned and wearing reflective belts during the daytime has been ruled officially useless.
(Department of Defense photo by Bill Orndorff)
Secretary Esper’s first official statement, issued back in November, 2017, emphasized his goals of promoting readiness, modernization, and reforming the way the Army conducts itself. This reevaluation of the effectiveness of the reflective belt is just one of the many items on the docket.
The Army is also using common sense in how it conducts inventories. As opposed to performing 100% inventories that require countless hours in the motor pool realigning conex boxes, now, if boxes are secure and there’s no evidence of tampering, it’s automatically accounted for, allowing the troops to focus efforts elsewhere.
Don’t be that idiot who thinks the PT belt is gone for good. You still want to be seen by cars before sunrise.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Timothy Lenzo)
Logically speaking, this makes absolute sense. The PT belt was implemented in the mid-’90s as a knee-jerk reaction to a horrific accident that killed several airmen. Several factors led to this horrible accident, including the driver driving on a designated route for PT, a lack of a traffic light at an intersection, and a lack of street lights in the area. But instead of focusing on the issues that actually led to the deaths of several airmen, reflective belts were implemented across the board.
Reflective belts will still be required in the morning, before the sun comes up, or in low-visibility conditions, like fog. A shiny thing that costs .50 at the PX can save lives, but little things, like ground-guiding a vehicle around the motor pool, don’t require a belt. Also, if soldiers are exercising on an enclosed track in the afternoon, a PT belt is not going to make a difference. Also, this entire memorandum leaves the discretion up to the commanders themselves.
The only thing that’s changing is that young soldiers won’t be getting an ass-chewing for something completely arbitrary.
Who knew the President’s mobile command post was an E-4? With all the latest and greatest gear to keep flying in the midst of all-out nuclear war and all its top secret countermeasures, it should come as no surprise that each of the Air Force’s four converted 747s cost $159,529 per hour to fly.
The largest of the USAF cargo haulers, the C-5 can carry two Abrams tanks, ten armored fighting vehicles, a chinook helicopter, an F-16, or an A-10 and only costs $100,941 an hour to get the stuff to the fight.
4. OC-135 Open Skies
This plane was designed to keep tabs on the armed forces belonging to the 2002 signatories of the Open Skies Treaty, which was is designed to enhance mutual understanding and confidence by giving all participants, regardless of size, a direct role in gathering information about military forces and activities of concern to them. At $99,722 an hour, it’s one expensive overwatch.
5. E-8C Joint STARS
The airborne battle platform costs $70,780 to keep flying. The E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, or Joint STARS, is an airborne battle management, command and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform. Its primary mission is to provide theater ground and air commanders with ground surveillance to support attack operations and targeting that contributes to the delay, disruption and destruction of enemy forces.
6. B-52 Stratofortress
Squeaking in just under the JSTARS cost, The B-52 BUFF (look it up) runs $70,388 per flying hour.
7. F-35A Lightning II
A 33rd Fighter Wing F-35A Lightning II powers down on the Duke Field flightline for the first time. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Sam King)
Despite its ballooning development costs, the F-35 isn’t as expensive to fly as one might think, at only $67,550 an hour. (And that fact is one of the airplane’s selling points.)
8. CV-22 Osprey
The USAF’s special operations tiltrotor will run you $63,792 per hour.
9. B-1B Lancer
The B-1 makes up sixty percent of the Air Force’s bomber fleet and runs $61,027 per flying hour.
The U.S. Military is full of rules and regulations, so much so that it gives the lower enlisted plenty to complain about. But some of the things that seem like annoying POG tasks actually make a lot of sense and, in some cases, could be lifesaving.
Here are some of the tasks service members complain about doing that, realistically, make good sense.
This often feels like an annoying task only POGs worry about but, when you think about it, the purpose is to keep dirt and other unwanted particles from getting inside one’s boot.
It gets stupid, though, when higher-ups prefer to see them sit near or at the top of the boot, which may look good, but ultimately defeats the purpose.
4. Buckling the chin strap of a helmet
When troops of the modern age wear their combat gear, they like to call back to times of World War II and Vietnam, when troops would go on patrols with the chin strap of their helmets unbuckled.
But, when you look at why those troops did that, it becomes clear that, with the modern helmets and straps, it makes more sense to buckle up.
3. Police call
This is the practice of picking up every little piece of trash in front of the battalion headquarters until it looks pretty for the base commander — what a beautiful practice. After all, who doesn’t like standing in a straight line and combing the lawn for used gum and cigarette butts? But, when you think about it, this is good practice for when you’re leaving a bivouac site or sleeping area.
You want to pick up every piece of trash — yes, even the gum and cigarette butts — to make sure there’s little to no evidence of human occupation because it makes your unit harder to track.
This is a common complaint because everyone just wants to be an operator. But the truth is, having a clean shave can save your life. The requirement started during World War I to ensure a perfect seal when the gas masks go on to prevent, you know, dying from a cloud of mustard gas.
These days, having a clean shave is a part of military uniformity and discipline. It takes some discipline to wake up and shave every morning and takes no effort to just let it grow.
On the other hand, special operators are allowed to grow beards because they’re immune to chemical weapons and don’t need gas masks.
“Stand-to” is a command that means to stand guard or be prepared for an enemy attack. This is especially annoying since it usually happens from before until after dusk, and before until after dawn.
No one likes being woken up half an hour before the sun rises to stand guard but, realistically, these are the times where attacks have been known to happen. The enemy likes to strike when you’re either focused on going to bed or getting up.
On June 8, 1956, U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Richard Fitzgibbon died of gunshot wounds sustained in South Vietnam. He was the first casualty of what would be known to history as the Vietnam War.
Except it wasn’t a Viet Cong bullet that killed Fitzgibbon — it was a fellow airman.
Fitzgibbon was assigned to the Military Assistance Advisory Group, training South Vietnamese airmen in Saigon. A crew chief, he confronted the plane’s radio operator when they came under fire mid-flight, making sure the operator did his job.
After the mission, the radio operator stewed over the altercation, heading to a bar to have a few drinks and loosen up. Except he drank heavily, and the incident only intensified his anger.
Later that day, the man approached Fitzgibbon on the porch of his barracks room as he handed out candy to Vietnamese children and shot the crew chief to death.
Fitzgibbon was a Navy veteran of World War II who later joined the Air Force. His son Richard joined the Marines and fought in Vietnam. He was killed in combat near Quang Tin in 1965.
Richard Fitzgibbon Jr., left, and Richard Fitzgibbon III. The father was killed in Vietnam in 1956, while the son died there in 1965. (Photo from Sen. Ed Markey)
Technical Sergeant Fitzgibbon’s name wasn’t added to the Vietnam Memorial Wall until 1999, after a lobbying campaign from his family, with the help of Senator Ed Markey. The Department of Defense had to first change the criteria for adding a name — specifically identifying the start of the war.
Veterans are a diverse group filled with all sorts of different types of people. Much like any other group, there tends be a lot of disagreements among its members over all sorts of things, like if growing a beard means you’re no longer a Marine or whether Okinawa is a real deployment (it’s not). But, at the end of the day, some people get out of the military acting a lot like they did when they first showed up.
When you first get out of boot camp, you’re called a “boot.” You’re the new employee — the FNG, if you will. As a freshly minted service member, there are some traits you likely exhibit, like being covered head to toe in overly-moto gear or telling every single person you meet that you’re a part of the military.
Most of us outgrow these tendencies as we settle into the routine of life in service. But we’ve observed a strange phenomenon: After service, some veterans regress to their boot-like behaviors. Specifically, the following:
You can make fun of them, but remember that it’s just that — fun.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman First Class Rylan Albright)
Insulting other branches
It’s one thing to joke around with other veterans by calling the Air Force the “Chair Force” or the Coast Guard “useless,” but it’s another thing entirely to be a genuine a**hole because you actually think your branch is best.
As a boot, you might really feel this way — after all, you just endured weeks of pain to get where you are and pride fools even the best of us. But if you still feel this way after you get out… You’re still a boot.
Dismissing someone else’s status as a veteran or a patriot because they don’t share your views is just dumb. Boots think people aren’t real patriots if they don’t join the military, but there are plenty of other ways to be patriotic outside of joining the armed forces.
Neither of these two are superheroes — but both might think so.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)
Talking up your service
Being in the military doesn’t make you some kind of superhero. You’re not the supreme savior of mankind because you’re a veteran. You’re a human being who made a noble choice, but that doesn’t make you Batman.
Telling everybody you meet about your service
Boots, for some reason, will tell every man, woman, child, and hamster that they’re in the military.
Some veterans are guilty of this, too, but it usually comes in the form of replying to any statement with, “well, as a veteran…” It’s not any less annoying.
You know this is where most of your time went.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. M. Bravo)
Exaggerating your role
Some veterans love seeing themselves as modern-day Spartans or Vikings. In reality, a lot of us ended up cleaning toilets and standing in lines. Boots have the same tendency to over-glorify what they do in the military, making their role in the grand scheme of things seem much more important than it actually is.