General James Mattis once called Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations the one book every American should read. Marcus Aurelius was a philosopher, but he was also a Roman emperor, who bore trials and tribulations throughout his life with a quiet strength that continues to inspire us.
Here are seven things to know about the life of Marcus Aurelius.
1. He was adopted into the imperial family
In the Roman Empire, it was common for the emperor to adopt the man who would later become his heir. At just seventeen years old, the philosophically-minded Marcus Annius Verus was adopted by Antoninus Pius, himself the adoptive son of then-emperor Hadrian. Marcus was renamed Marcus Aurelius, or Marcus the Golden. After Hadrian died and Pius became the emperor, Marcus and his adoptive brother Lucius became successors to the throne. During his time as the imperial heir, the emperor taught Marcus the importance of self-discipline and civic virtue, qualities he would later come to exemplify.
2. He was a co-emperor with his brother
When Antoninus Pius died in 161 AD, Marcus and Lucius became co-emperors. Marcus was an impressive man of impeccable character, who shared his power with Lucius and the Roman Senate and used his power for the benefit of the empire. He was keen on administration but naive in war, having never commanded his own army or province during Pius’ long and peaceful reign. But when war came to Rome, Marcus did not fail in his duty.
3. He faced threats from all directions
In the same year Marcus and Lucius became emperors, the king of Parthia invaded the Roman-controlled Kingdom of Armenia, and replaced its king with a puppet. Despite the presence of hostile German tribes across the Danube River, Marcus withdrew three legions from the Danube front and sent them to Armenia under Lucius’ command. Lucius defeated the Parthians and pushed them out of Roman territory for the next thirty years. Only five years later Rome was invaded by the Marcomanni, a confederation of German tribes. Marcus raised two legions for war, but an epidemic in the empire forced him to wait an entire year before advancing.
4. He was forced to fight Rome’s enemies alone
In 168 Marcus and Lucius finally left for the German front, but were forced back due to the spread of the disease. One year later, Lucius was dead of smallpox and Marcus was the sole emperor of Rome. He never took this responsibility lightly. Now alone, Marcus marched to push the Germans back across the Danube. After a rocky start, the Romans were able to turn the tide of the invasion. Marcus and his legions crossed the Danube, fighting some tribes and negotiating with others to turn the Marcomanni against one another. In 175 he negotiated a peace that allowed thousands of Roman soldiers to return home along with many Germanic warriors to serve in Rome’s legions.
5. He never had the chance to relax
Just as Marcus made his peace with the Germans, there was a rebellion in Syria. Marcus started the journey east to quell the rebellion, only for it to be suppressed before he arrived. Nevertheless he continued his tour of the east to provide the people with an image of strength. He would need his own strength when on the tour his wife Faustina died in 175. Their relationship had been difficult, but he faithfully mourned her death. For the first time in eight years, and now completely alone, Marcus returned to the city of Rome. He could enjoy a brief respite, but it would not last.
6. He spent the rest of his life at war
In the year 177 there was another Germanic rebellion which forced Marcus Aurelius to leave Rome. He would never step foot in the city again. For the next few years, the Romans fought the rebellious tribes in their own territory. The war seemed to be going well until March 17, 180, when Marcus Aurelius died from a mysterious illness in the military outpost of Vindobona. His years of warfare brought him no pleasure, but his sacrifices bought time for an empire that in the coming years would descend into chaos.
7. He is still remembered today
Marcus Aurelius is known as the last of the Five Good Emperors. Even in his own time he was considered an ideal philosopher-king, who always placed his duty above himself. Today he is most famous for his Meditations, the modern name for the private journal he kept during his time on the German front. In this journal he shared his deepest thoughts, on the challenges he faced as an emperor and as a man, and how he struggled to overcome them. Marcus’ Meditations was written to himself, but is really a universal letter to humanity about life and holding one’s head up despite it all.
Congratulations, you’ve just become a parent. In order to survive basic training, you must now not only cover your own ass, but watch out for this guy’s as well. Because if you don’t, your platoon is going to get slapped with mass punishment, and no one wants that. Bryan somehow managed to make it through his young life without developing skills of any kind. He’s the kind of guy who hesitates when you ask him how to spell his own name.
You will watch him struggle to make his bed with his gangly 18-year-old arms and be torn between the desire to help him or to strangle him with his own sheets. But you will help Bryan, because he needs you. And because if you don’t, he will forget his kit, wear white socks to inspection, and make your life a living hell. And who knows, maybe after a few days he’ll start to pick up on things. Totally kidding — you’re probably stuck with this kid for the long haul.
Something Bryan might say: “Hey … hey guys? Can somebody show me how to shave?”
2. Renaissance Richard
The antithesis of Baby-Faced Bryan, Renaissance Richard is a super-smart, talented, and accomplished guy. Unfortunately for you, this also makes him a bit of an annoying a–hole. Richard is usually around 30, and he won’t let you forget how he managed to be the valedictorian at his private college, build his own house, and become a brain surgeon in the time between high school graduation and now.
Richard can do anything — except keep his mouth shut. He’s the guy who makes a big show of “helping” recruits, and letting everyone know how he would do something. No one asked you, Richard. He’s also notorious for crashing your conversations so he can chime in on things like his opinions on Syria, when all you were discussing is what’s for dinner. Rich is a fine recruit, but your drill sergeant will hate him. Why? The same reason you do: he’s a pretentious a–hole. Nobody wants to work with someone who can’t accept rank and needs his ego stroked.
Something Richard might say: “Sure it would be interesting to invade Easter Island, but you need to consider the political ramifications … ”
3. The Dreamer
The Dreamer has wanted to join the military since he first saw “Saving Private Ryan” at an elementary school sleepover. He dreams of not only becoming a great soldier, but the greatest soldier America — and the world — has ever seen. Just a teenager, he’s the guy who gets too distracted by his daydream of running through battle in slow-motion to shine his shoes, and can be heard quoting “Top Gun” and “Band of Brothers” in the DFAC.
The Dreamer’s all talk, and has no real-world experience when it comes to surviving anything more than a Hot Pocket shortage. Because of this, he will often take on tasks that are way too much for him to handle, bringing down your drill sergeant’s wrath on all of you when he fails. Think of him as Baby-Faced Bryan’s annoying half-brother. Eventually he should focus a little more on the task at hand instead of his “military destiny,” but until then you’ll just have to tune him out.
4. Shady Steve
Steve’s a little older than some of the guys in basic training, but you’re never positive what this dude’s age is — and that’s just the way Steve likes it. When pressed about his past, his stories never quite match up, leaving you wondering just what is true (hold up, did he say that he was a parole officer, or was he talking about his own parole?).
You don’t know him at all, but he just seems like the type of guy who decided to enlist because his meth ring went south. One thing you do know for sure is the fact that any outing with Steve quickly devolves into “Hangover”-level catastrophe, so you better steer clear of that. He’s not a bad trainee. And he’s probably not a bad guy — but he’s got your drill sergeant keeping an eye on him, so you probably should too.
5. The Old Dude
This salt and pepper recruit may not actually be that old by civilian standards, but 34 is pretty ancient in basic. And since it took a colonel to approve his age waiver, maybe he should have just stayed home and played Risk instead. Whether he enlisted because the Army’s his last chance to retire before 65 or because of a mid-life crisis is anyone’s guess, but don’t write this guy off right away.
The Old Dude is usually in surprisingly great shape, and that’s because he’s old school. While most of the recruits in their twenties have spent their pre-military lives playing Call of Duty and chowing down on Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, he’s been downing raw eggs for breakfast and running five miles a day. Also, The Old Dude has lived a lot longer than you — he’s seen things, and he’s wiser for it. When you need some advice or perspective on life, he’s the person you’ll want to turn to.
6. Gun-Happy Garret
Garret is a simple man. He joined the military because it allowed him to pursue his three passions: shooting, chewing dip, and spitting. Garret does not know that tobacco isn’t allowed in basic. He is furious when he finds out. Garret barely managed to complete his GED, and it shows. You are not confident that he can spell America, and are terrified of the day this neanderthal gets his hands on an automatic weapon.
To your surprise, however, Garret is actually kind of a genius when it comes to weapons. He can disassemble and reassemble his weapon with his eyes closed. He can tell you every part of his rifle and how it works, and help you with your own. Your rifle will never shine quite like his does. He is a weapons savant, and you start to wonder if there’s more to Garret than meets the eye. Trust us, there isn’t. He’s the best mark in the platoon because he spent his childhood shooting mice and raccoons behind a trailer park, not because he’s the chosen one.
7. The Blue Falcon
This guy. This guy is the absolute worst. If you could combine a weasel and that stoner kid from your Spanish class who would constantly beg you for test answers, you’d have something close to a Blue Falcon. The Blue Falcon of your platoon is lazy, disloyal, and just a textbook pain in the ass. Can’t find your extra pair of socks? Did part of someone’s kit go missing? Check the Blue Falcon’s nest. And God forbid you screw up in front of this guy — he’ll rat you out to your drill sergeant faster than you’ll know what’s happening.
The Blue Falcon’s sneaky, so it sometimes takes a while to know who yours will be. But every unit has one, and they will become the bane of your existence.
Something The Blue Falcon would say: “First sergeant, first sergeant! Private Snuffy is … ”
Associate Editor David Nye contributed to this article.
For hundreds of years, humans have developed technologies that yield the maximum amount of enemy fatalities in efforts to protect the home front. As time progresses, so, too, do the methods military leaders use to strike fear into the hearts of their deadly opponents.
One such threat that dates back hundreds of years is that of a chemical attack that can strike in an instant and indiscriminately kill.
Chemical attacks were deployed on the battlefields of World War I and, although they’re looked down on by much of today’s international community, they can still be deployed at any time. Now more than ever, U.S. troops are trained to protect themselves from potential hazards using specialized gear. This gear is ranked by Mission Oriented Protective Posture (MOPP) levels, which ensure that troops have proper protection against any amount of chemical threat.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Demetrius Morgan)
MOPP levels range from zero to four. They’re based on current chemical and biological threats and can elevate in minutes, so troops must always be prepared. Over garments, gas masks and hoods, boot covers, and gloves round out the gear necessary to protect troops.
MOPP level zero is simply having all the gear stated above on-hand and ready to don. Though chemical threats are unlikely, they do exist and service members need to be ready.
MOPP level one requires the troop to don over garments. This means a chemical threat is present, so troops must remain alert, as the hazard could escalate at any time.
As the threat increases, so do MOPP levels. MOPP level two mandates that ground pounders quickly put on the both over garments and boot covers.
Moving on to MOPP level three. Service members must don over garments, a gas mask and hood, and boot covers. At this level, the threat of coming in contact with hazardous vapors is high.
Lastly, MOPP level four — which is, by far, the scariest of them all. This level requires over garments, gas masks and hoods, gloves, and boot covers to be worn as a chemical or biological threat is present in the area.
If the B-52 was a person it’d be old enough to retire and collect social security, but instead we’re using it to bomb America’s haters in the Middle East.
As the cliché saying goes — it’s like a fine wine, it only gets better with age. And in the case of the B-52, it’s true. Boeing’s B-52 Stratofortress was made in 1952 and was supposed to be in service for only a decade. But constant updates have made it a relevant weapon 60 years later.
Its low operating costs have kept it in service despite the advent of more advanced bombers, such as the canceled B-70 Valkyrie, B-1 Lancer and the B-2 Spirit.
With a payload of 70,000 pounds and a wide array of weapons, including bombs, mines and missiles, the B-52 has been the backbone of the manned strategic bomber force for the U.S. for the past 40 years, according to the U.S. Air Force. The B-52 is expected to serve beyond the year 2040.
Here’s the B-52 Stratofortress throughout the years:
The first B-52H Stratofortress delivered to Minot Air Force Base
B-52D dropping 500-lb bombs
A B-52H Stratofortress of the 2d Bomb Wing takes off from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam
The aircrew inside the B-52 cockpit
A view of the lower deck of the B-52, dubbed the battle station
The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit conducted an amphibious landing in Alvund, Norway, Oct. 29, 2018, during Exercise Trident Juncture 18. The exercise allowed the MEU to rehearse their amphibious and expeditionary capabilities in a unique environment in support of partner nations.
Norway is a NATO Ally and hosted this year’s exercise which provided challenging terrain and weather for the participating Marines. Training in challenging conditions helps acclimate the forces to the elements and enhances their combat readiness.
The amphibious landing consisted of a surface assault and an air assault to display the MEU’s ability to rapidly project combat power ashore. Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Division arrived ashore with roughly 700 Marines, 12 Amphibious Assault Vehicles, six Light Armored Vehicles, and 21 High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles, all designed to increase the lethality of the infantry Marines. Marines arrived at the beach landing site and transitioned to follow on operations at subsequent objectives around Alvund. All operations were conducted within the exercise scenario against mock enemy forces which required the Marines to make decisions in real time.
Marines establish a bivouac location during Trident Juncture 18 on Alvund Beach, Oct. 29, 2018 after being delivered ashore from USS Iwo Jima.
“We came to the North Atlantic looking for a challenge and Trident Juncture delivered; throughout the exercise the environment forced us to be flexible and adaptive,” said Maj. Anthony Bariletti, the 24th MEU operations officer.
“It is the adaptability that makes Marine Expeditionary Units such a lethal crisis response force. As Marines, we gain our lethality from the ability to operate as part of a naval integrated team. The ability to conduct amphibious operations in the premier core competency of our service and this exercise provided an outstanding opportunity for the 24th MEU to hone its skills and prepare for combat as a forward deployed, sea-based Marine Air-Ground Task Force.”
A landing craft air cushion lands on Alvund Beach, Norway during an amphibious landing in support of Trident Juncture 18, Oct. 29, 2018.
Throughout the training exercise, the MEU was able to provide strategic speed and agility while operating in international waters and retaining flexibility in support of NATO Allies and partners. Trident Juncture allowed the Marines to operate from the sea with their Navy counterparts and increase interoperability. The success of Trident Juncture will lead to more combat-ready forces capable of proficiently supporting combat operations and humanitarian activities across the globe.
A Marine guides vehicles off of a landing craft air cushion during an amphibious landing in support of Trident Juncture 18 on Alvund Beach, Norway, Oct. 29, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Margaret Gale)
“I’m extremely proud of how hard the Marines and sailors have been working throughout the exercise,” said Sgt. Maj. Christopher Garza, the 24th MEU sergeant major.
“They have endured the challenging cold weather conditions and long work days. It’s great to come together and display our capabilities as a MEU and the Marines and sailors are the ones who make it happen. All the training and preparation they put in has paid off and my hat’s off to them on a job well done up to this point.”
In London’s Westminster Abby there is St. George’s Chapel, where on one of the chapel’s walls hangs the Commando Association Battle Honors flag that lists where the Commandos fought and died during World War II from 1940 to 1945.
Under the word COMMANDO in gold letters is a stylized portrayal of a singular knife – the Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife.
Soldiers throughout history have always carried blades as weapons and as tools. Yet, no other knife is more commonly associated with WW II elite forces or possesses more mystique than the Fairbairn-Sykes knife.
Commonly referred to as the “F-S knife” or “F-S dagger,” it is still issued to British Royal Marine Commandos, the Malaysian Special Operations Force, Singapore Commandos and Greek Raiders. In addition, the image of the knife is part of the emblem of United States Army Special Operations Command (Airborne) as well as the emblems of special forces units in Holland, Belgium and Australia.
Yet, it is a weapon born out the experience of dealing with 1930’s knife fights in Shanghai and developed by two men who had no scruples about dirty fighting. In fact, William Fairbairn and Eric Sykes taught an entire generation of warriors that one of the quickest, quietest and deadliest ways to kill Germans was cold steel thrust into Nazi vitals – preferably from behind.
“The Commando dagger would become a symbol not just to the men who were issued it, but also to British civilians at a time when Britain was on the back foot, and any deadly way to strike back at the Germans was considered a boost for morale,” wrote Leroy Thompson is his book Fairbairn-Sykes Commando Dagger.
Whether it was the Roman pugio (a short-bladed dagger that served as a legionnaire’s backup weapon), bowie knives wielded on both sides of the U.S. Civil War, or the “knuckle duster” trench knives of the Great War, soldiers have always carried blades for use in close-quarters fighting.
However, from the late 19th century until World War II many European generals thought it was unseemly for soldiers to bring personal knives into combat. Some thought it would reduce reliance on the bayonet and diminish the fighting spirit of soldiers.
Other commanders deemed rough-and-tumble knife fighting downright “ungentlemanly” – there’s a reason why betrayal is often called a “stab in the back.” Killing face-to-face with the bayonet was considered the more honorable way to dispatch the enemy.
However, the beginning of World War II reinvigorated belief in the close-combat knife as an essential weapon.
Prime Minister Winston Churchill was less fussy about how British troops killed the soldiers of the Third Reich. He placed great stock in commando forces, covert operations, and what he called “ungentlemanly warfare.”
The newly created Special Operations Executive taught knife-fighting as part of agents’ training. So did the British Commandos and airborne forces.
That meant there was a demand for a specific kind of knife that would be used to quietly kill the enemy, preferably in a surprise attack.
“In close-quarters fighting there is no more deadly weapon than the knife,” Fairbairn wrote in his manual Get Tough! How to Win in Hand-to-Hand Fighting (1942). “An entirely unarmed man has no certain defense against it, and, further, merely the sudden flashing of a knife is frequently enough to strike fear into your opponent, causing him to lose confidence and surrender.”
Fairbairn would have known: During his 20-year career with the Shanghai Municipal Police, he fought in hundreds of street fights against assailants armed with knives and daggers. His friend and colleague Sykes served on the same police force and faced the same adversaries in what was at the time one of the most dangerous cities in the world.
In 1941, both men collaborated on the knife’s original design. Although the knife went through several variations during the war, it remained a double-edged stiletto well-balanced like a good sword and suited to thrusting and cutting more than slashing an opponent.
The models made by high-quality cutlers were manufactured from carbon steel so they could be honed razor sharp.
David W. Decker, a U.S. Navy veteran, knife-fighting expert, and collector of F-S knives, said a man trained in the use of the Fairbairn-Sykes knife learned confidence and aggression. In the hands of a properly-trained individual, it is a fearsome weapon.
“The knife has tremendous capacity for penetration of an enemy’s clothing, web gear and person,” Decker said. “A vital part of the training was the instruction in hitting lethal targets on the human body. Many of these targets had to be reached through the rib cage, so the slender blade was most efficient. The approximately seven-inch blade is capable of reaching all vital organs. Fluid in the hands, the grip was designed like that of a fencing foil to enhance the maneuverability of the knife.”
Another advantage of the F-S dagger was its ease of carry, said Decker, whose website chronicles the development of the knife and has photographs of many examples.
Relatively lightweight compared to other combat knives of the time, it was easily concealed or secured in a battle dress cargo pocket. Some men carried them strapped to their legs, tucked behind their pistol holster, or in a boot.
The needle-nosed point and razor-like edges of the dagger sometimes caused problems, Decker said. For example, one British commando could not pull the dagger out of the body of a German sentry because the knife was stuck in his ribs.
“At least one knife-maker was quoted as saying he made knives for stabbing Germans, not peeling potatoes,” Decker said, indicating some manufacturers made F-S knives with smooth edges so a soldier could remove the blade more easily from the enemy’s body.
Despite differences in quality and manufacture, the F-S knife gained popularity with both British and American soldiers during the war.
Members of the U.S. Army Rangers and Marine Raiders carried versions of the knife. U.S. Army Gen. Robert T. Frederick, commander of the 1st Special Service Force known as The Devil’s Brigade, based his design for the V-42 stiletto issued to his troops on the F-S knife.
Today, the F-S knife remains an iconic symbol on both sides of the Atlantic of what it means to qualify as an elite soldier.
At Fort Benning, Georgia, there is the Ranger Memorial. Behind two stone pillars holding a stylized Ranger tab are two smaller pillars and a knife sculpted in stone – a Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife.
Creative geniuses behind digital humans and human-like characters in Hollywood blockbusters Avatar, Blade Runner 2049, Maleficent, Furious 7, The Jungle Book, Ready Player One, and others have U.S. Army-funded technology to thank for visual effects.
That technology was developed at the U.S. Army Institute for Creative Technologies at the University of Southern California. The ICT is funded by the RDECOM Research Laboratory, the Army’s corporate research laboratory (ARL).
Developers of that technology were recently announced winners of one of nine scientific and technical achievements by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
A Technical Achievement Award will be presented at the Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills on Feb. 9, 2019, to Paul Debevec, Tim Hawkins, and Wan-Chun Ma for the invention of the Polarized Spherical Gradient Illumination facial appearance capture method, and to Xueming Yu for the design and engineering of the Light Stage X capture system during the Academy’s annual Scientific and Technical Awards Presentation.
Creative geniuses behind digital humans and human-like characters in Hollywood blockbusters have U.S. Army-funded technology to thank for visual effects. Pictured here, engineers work on the Light Stage X capture system’s recording process.
(U.S. Army Institute for Creative Technologies)
The Scientific and Technical Academy Awards demonstrate a proven record of contributing significant value to the process of making motion pictures.
The Academy Certificate reads: “Polarized Spherical Gradient Illumination was a breakthrough in facial capture technology allowing shape and reflectance capture of an actor’s face with sub-millimeter detail, enabling the faithful recreation of hero character faces. The Light Stage X structure was the foundation for all subsequent innovation and has been the keystone of the method’s evolution into a production system.”
The new high-resolution facial scanning process uses a custom sphere of computer-controllable LED light sources to illuminate an actor’s face with special polarized gradient lighting patterns which allow digital cameras to digitize every detail of every facial expression at a resolution down to a tenth of a millimeter.
A Soldier demonstrates the Light Stage X capture system technology.
(U.S. Army Institute for Creative Technologies)
The technology has been used by the visual effects industry to help create digital human and human-like characters in a number of movies and has scanned over one hundred actors including Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie, Zoe Saldana, Hugh Jackman, Brad Pitt, and Dwayne Johnson at University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies.
Additionally, the Light Stage technology assists the military in facilitating recordings for its Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program through a system called the Digital Survivor of Sexual Assault (DS2A). DS2A leverages research technologies previous created for the Department of Defense under the direction of the U.S. Army Research Laboratory and allows for Soldiers to interact with a digital guest speaker and hear their stories. As part of the ongoing SHARP training, this technology enables new SHARP personnel, as well as selected Army leaders, to participate in conversations on SHARP topics through the lens of a survivor’s firsthand account. It is the first system of its kind to be used in an Army classroom.
All four awardees were members of USC ICT’s Graphics Laboratory during the development of the technology from 2006 through 2016.
Paul Debevec is one of the designers and engineers of the Light Stage X capture system.
(U.S. Army Institute for Creative Technologies)
Paul Debevec continues as an Adjunct Research Professor at USC Viterbi and at the USC ICT Vision Graphics Lab. Wan-Chun “Alex” Ma was Paul Debevec’s first Ph.D student at USC ICT and Xueming Yu joined the USC ICT Graphics Lab in 2008 as a USC Viterbi Master’s student. Tim Hawkins now runs a commercial light stage scanning service in Burbank for OTOY, who licensed the light stage technology through USC Stevens in 2008.
This is the second Academy Sci-Tech award being given to the Light Stage technology developed at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies. The first, given nine years ago, was for the earliest light stage capture devices and the “image-based facial rendering system developed for character relighting in motion pictures” and was awarded to Paul Debevec, Tim Hawkins, John Monos, and Mark Sagar.
Established in 1999, the Army’s ICT is a DOD-sponsored University Affiliated Research Center working in collaboration with the Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) Research Laboratory’s UARCs are aligned with prestigious institutions conducting research at the forefront of science and innovation.
The RDECOM Research Laboratory is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to ensure decisive overmatch for unified land operations to empower the Army, the joint warfighter and our nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.
Max Beilke was in the Army for 20 years already by the time he deployed to Vietnam in 1972. His time there would be much shorter than the many others who did tours in the Vietnam War. His last day in Vietnam was the U.S. military’s last day in Vietnam. What made his last footstep on Vietnamese soil so unique was that it was captured on tape for the world to see.
On March 29, 1973, Master Sgt. Beilke was given a rattan mat before he boarded a C-130 bound for home. The giver of the gift was Bui Tin, a North Vietnamese observer, there to ensure the last hundred troops at Saigon’s Tan Son Nhut Airport left as agreed. Back home, his family watched live as the man they loved, drafted to fight in Korea in 1952, headed for home from the next American war.
His service didn’t stop when he landed back in the United States. Beilke retired from the Army and, in the next phase of his life, he worked to support American veterans. Eventually, he became the deputy chief of the Retirement Services Division, with an office in Virginia. But it was part of his duties that brought him to the Pentagon on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.
Max Bielke’s funeral at Arlington National Cemetery.
Beilke was meeting with Lt. Gen. Timothy Maude and retired Lt. Col. Gary Smith. Just as they were sitting down to begin talking, United Airlines flight 77 hit the outer ring of the Pentagon. The three men never knew what hit them. They were all killed instantly. Traces of their remains could only be found through DNA tests on the disaster site, according to the Beilke family.
Max Beilke was 69 years old. Three months later, his remains were interred at Arlington National Cemetery. The man who had survived the ends of two American wars was one of the first casualties of a new one, the longest one in American history. He left behind a legacy of gentleness and fondness for everyone who met him – including the North Vietnamese colonel sent to ensure he and the other Americans left Vietnam.
According to his biography on the Pentagon’s 9/11 Memorial site, he traveled extensively for his work and ended every presentation with the same Irish blessing,
“May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, the rain fall soft upon your fields and, until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.”
Soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division’s 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team started arriving in Europe this week for a nine-month rotation as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve.
The 2nd ABCT’s rotation is the fifth one by an armored brigade in support of Atlantic Resolve, which started in 2014 to show US commitment to Europe’s defense after Russia’s interference in Ukraine.
But the unit is the first “in recent memory” to use the port of Vlissingen in the Netherlands, where soldiers, Army civilians, and local workers started unloading the first of three shipments of equipment early on Oct. 11, 2019.
A 2nd ABCT soldier directs an M1A2 Abrams tank as vehicles are offloaded at the Port of Vlissingen, Netherlands, Oct. 11, 2019.
(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)
Armored units deployed for Atlantic Resolve rotations are typically stationed in Germany or elsewhere in Eastern Europe and have in the past arrived at ports closer to their bases.
But the 2nd ABCT’s arrival at Vlissingen — like that of the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team at the nearby port of Antwerp last spring — is part of an Army effort to practice navigating Europe’s bureaucratic and geographic terrain.
NATO has been trying to operate out of more ports in Europe since around 2015, according to Ben Hodges, who led the US Army in Europe between 2014 and 2017.
There was a need to “to reestablish capabilities in all these ports” and “to demonstrate that we could come [into Europe] at a variety of different places,” Hodges, who is a retired lieutenant general, told Business Insider in 2018.
Vlissingen is the “first main juncture point” for the 2nd ABCT’s current deployment, and its troops and gear will arrive at ports in Poland, Latvia, Belgium, Greece, and Romania throughout October, the Army said in a release.
First Lt. Quanzel Caston, a unit movement officer with the 2nd ABCT, examines M1A2 Abrams tanks at the Port of Vlissingen, Netherlands, Oct. 11, 2019.
(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)
In total, the unit will deploy about 3,500 soldiers, 85 tanks, 120 Bradley fighting vehicles, 15 Paladin self-propelled howitzers, 500 tracked vehicles, 1,200 wheeled vehicles and pieces of equipment, and 300 trailers.
Massing forces across the Atlantic Resolve area of operation “displays the US Army’s readiness, cross-border military mobility and speed of assembly,” the release said.
The Army’s 598th Transportation Brigade will move the 2nd ABCT’s gear a variety of ways, including by “low-barge, rail-head, line-haul and convoy operations.”
It’s the first time the Army has used a low-barge inland cargo ship to transport tracked armored vehicles across Europe for Atlantic Resolve.
“The significance of using the low-barge is it enhances readiness in the European region by introducing another method of movement to the Atlantic Resolve mission,” said Cpl. Dustin Jobe, noncommissioned officer in charge of lifting provisions for the 647th Expeditionary Terminal Operations Element.
Sgt. Julian Blodgett, a senior mechanic with the 2nd ABCT directs an M1A2 Abrams tank for loading on a low-barge cargo ship at the Port of Vlissingen, Netherlands, Oct. 12, 2019.
(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)
‘Better than it was’
The US Army in Europe shrank after the Cold War. Since Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in 2014, however, the Army has beefed up its presence with exercises along NATO’s eastern flank and back-to-back rotations of armored units.
But returning to Europe in force has highlighted NATO’s problems getting around the continent, where customs rules and regulations, insufficient infrastructure, and shortages of transports for heavy vehicles inhibit movement.
These obstacles would present issues for any peacetime mobilization effort and led NATO to conclude in a 2017 internal report that its ability to rapidly deploy around Europe had “atrophied since the end of the Cold War.”
A local contractor attaches lift chains to an M1A2 Abrams tank for lowering into a low-barge ship at the Port of Vlissingen, Netherlands, Oct. 12, 2019.
(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)
European countries, working through the European Union and NATO, have sought to reduce or eliminate the hurdles.
A new NATO command based in Germany now oversees the movement of alliance forces in Europe, and the EU has set up Permanent Structured Cooperation, or PESCO, to address security issues by “integrating and strengthening defence cooperation within the EU framework.”
The logistical skills of the US and its NATO allies will face their biggest test yet next year, during Defender 2020 in Europe — the US Army’s largest exercise in Europe in 25 years. It will range across 10 countries and involve 37,000 troops from at least 18 countries.
The point of Defender 2020 “is to practice the reinforcement of US forces in Europe for the purposes of collective defense of the alliance,” Lt. Gen. Christopher Cavoli, the head of US Army Europe, said on Monday during a panel hosted by Defense One at the Association of the US Army’s annual conference in Washington, DC.
A 2nd ABCT M1A2 Abram tank is raised over the pier at Vlissingen to be lowered onto a low-barge ship for transportation to another location in Europe, Oct. 12, 2019.
(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)
“That’s something that requires practice, because you’re moving large forces great distances through complicated infrastructure and across a variety of different national lines,” Cavoli added.
“We call this strategic readiness, the ability to strategically deploy and to project a force,” he said. “It’s a significant concatenation of small things that have to go right in order to do this well.”
Asked about Europe’s railways, which vary in rail size and have differing regulations, Cavoli said there were procedural and infrastructural issues that had to be addressed.
“Procedurally, we’ve made a great deal of progress across the alliance. Some countries, they’ve relaxed some of their restrictions, shortening the notification times required,” Cavoli said. “We, as an alliance, have gotten much more practice scheduling and moving and loading rail, and we’re able to move very, very quickly across great distances.”
US Army Reserve Cpl. Dustin Jobe watches a 2nd ABCT M1A2 Abram tank as it’s raised over the pier to be lowered onto a low-barge ship for transport elsewhere in Europe, at Vlissingen, Netherlands Oct. 12, 2019.
(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)
But infrastructural problems remain, Cavoli said, pointing specifically to a difference in rail gauge between Poland and Lithuania. But Lithuania plans to buy dual-gauge rail cars for heavy equipment, Cavoli added.
“In addition to that, across the alliance, there’ve been some challenges with bridge classification, with the strength of rail heads … can it take a tank driving off a train there?” Cavoli said. “The EU has really stepped in using prioritized … shopping lists, prioritized by NATO, and it has been investing throughout the alliance in mobility infrastructure.”
Cavoli said recent exercises had exposed challenges to mobility but had also prompted NATO members “to get after those challenges. So I think we’re in a fairly good place right now.”
Asked to assign the alliance a letter grade for mobility, Cavoli demurred, saying only that it’s “better than it was previously.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Shrinking ice coverage in the Arctic has drawn the attention of NATO, Russia, and other countries to the high north, where the promise of more accessible waterways means potential military and commercial competition.
Since Russia’s 2014 seizure of Crimea and incursion in Ukraine, however, NATO members have been concerned about Moscow’s actions closer to home, and developments in recent weeks indicate the alliance is focusing on securing waterways around Europe, in the Baltic and Mediterranean seas and the eastern Atlantic — all areas that could be contested in a conflict with Russia.
Below, you can see what NATO is being warned about, and what the alliance is and isn’t doing to address it.
A Russian Ilyushin Il-22 Bizon and a Su-27 Flanker, flying along the Baltic coast, May 14, 2019.
(UK Ministry of Defense)
The Baltic Sea, bordered by six NATO member countries and with Russia’s second-largest city, St. Petersburg, at its eastern end, has always been a busy area.
Encounters between NATO forces and Russian forces at sea in the Baltic and in the skies over Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, where NATO members carry out air patrols, have been on the rise since 2014. (The air policing mission has actually been going on since 2004.)
That encounters include an incident this summer in which a Russian Su-27 fighter escorting Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s plane turned into a NATO jet, forcing it away.
These tensions have come with military buildup as well.
Starting in 2016, NATO deployed some 4,500 troops in battle groups to the Baltics and Poland. Since the end of 2017, Sweden, which like Finland is not part of NATO, has sent new military forces to Gotland Island, which it had withdrawn from in 2005.
In Kaliningrad, an exclave that is home to Russia’s Baltic Fleet, Moscow has deployed new weaponry, including nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, and upgraded facilities, including what appear to be active nuclear-weapon storage bunkers.
Summer 2019, Russia also set up a helicopter base on Gogland, a small island between Finland and Estonia. Estonian officials played down the military significance, but the base is still seen as a Russian move to assert its power in the region and keep its neighbors guessing.
The guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge participates in a photo exercise during exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) in the Baltic Sea, June 9, 2018.
(US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist 1st Class Theron J. Godbold)
NATO countries along the Baltic have sought a more robust presence, and Germany has taken the lead.
Among NATO members, Germany, which has been criticized for the paucity of its defense spending and the quality of its armed forces, has taken the lead and tried to bring NATO and the EU closer together on Baltic security.
Vice Adm. Rainer Brinkmann, deputy chief of the German navy, said in September 2019 that Russia was the “one main challenge” in the Baltic and that Western partners “must take appropriate measures to cope” and “to prevent the Baltic Sea from being a ‘mare clausum,'” or “closed sea.”
Like its neighbors, Russia has legitimate reasons to be in the Baltic, but the number of actors there, each with their own national and commercial interests, make it a delicate situation, according to Christopher Skaluba, director or the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council.
“I think [the Russians] know that aggressive actions in the Baltic are likely to get the attention, in a way they probably didn’t want, of the NATO nations and Sweden and Finland.”
“The Baltic is pretty small place. There’s a lot of players. That piece of it gets really ugly really quick,” Skaluba told Business Insider in October 2019. “I think for lots of reasons, there are more incentives to avoid [conflict] than there are to … catalyze it.”
An F-35B fighter jet aboard the British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, Oct. 13, 2019.
(LPhot Kyle Heller/UK Ministry of Defence)
A new battle of the Atlantic.
Russia’s navy is increasingly active in the North Atlantic, and though the level of that activity and the size of Russia’s navy don’t appear to reach that of the Cold War, it has set NATO on edge.
Growing tension between NATO members and Russia in the Atlantic has been called “the fourth battle of the Atlantic,” following World War I and II and the Cold War.
The UK in particular has struggled to keep up, calling on NATO allies to help track Russian subs thought to be lurking in and around British waters.
“In 2010, a Royal Navy ship was called on just once to respond to Russian navy ships approaching UK territorial waters. Last year we had to respond 33 times,” the UK’s then-defense minister, Gavin Williamson, said in May 2018.
The Royal Navy has built new aircraft carriers, equipping them with Britain’s first F-35s, and acquired US-made maritime patrol aircraft after scrapping its Nimrod patrol aircraft in 2010.
Royal Navy frigate HMS St Albans is currently the Nations on call warship for escorting foreign warships.
The UK and its allies in Europe want to keep “a critical choke point” between them open.
While any conflict in the Atlantic today is likely to look much different than previous battles, it’s likely to involve the English Channel and waters around it, especially the North Sea — at least that’s the concern of the five European countries who effectively revived the Cold War-era “Channel Committee” November 2019.
The pact signed on Nov. 7, 2019, by senior navy leaders from Germany, France, the UK, Belgium, and the Netherlands pledges to “harmonize” naval purchasing plans, potentially to include common procurement, according to Defense News.
But the countries also want to increase personnel exchanges and joint training and eventually recognize the professional qualifications of service members across the group.
“The Channel area is the front door to Central Europe and an important gate to the Baltic Sea,” the text of the pact says. “It is the critical choke point for the maritime traffic between the United Kingdom and continental Europe.”
The committee is also another military tether between mainland Europe and the UK, whose future relations with the rest of the continent remain in doubt amid the turmoil of Brexit.
The Mediterranean has also become a venue for what the US and others see as an emerging great-power competition.
NATO members in southern Europe have been focused on immigration from the Middle East and North Africa and the threat of terrorism emanating from those regions.
But Russian naval forces are a constant presence in the Mediterranean, traveling to and from Moscow’s bases in the Black Sea and and its base in Tartus, Syria, which is Russia’s only such facility outside the territory of the former Soviet Union.
With the ongoing civil war in Syria, the eastern Mediterranean has also become a venue for military operations, with Russian subs demonstrating their new ability to strike targets on land with missiles.
The Russian presence around the Mediterranean and Black seas, Iran’s presence in Syria, and antagonistic intra-alliance relations with Turkey all present security challenges for NATO, according to a recent Atlantic Council report.
“As the south becomes more congested and contested, and great-power competition intensifies, NATO defense, deterrence, and containment mission in the south is increasingly urgent and more complex,” the report states.
US Navy destroyer USS Carney fires it MK 45 5-inch lightweight gun at night while on patrol in the Mediterranean Sea, Sept. 11, 2016.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Weston Jones)
The lack of a strategy in the Mediterranean could have more serious consequences for the alliance as a whole, according to one deputy secretary general.
NATO has made a lot progress improving its defense and deterrence against Russia since 2014, “but it was more talk than action when it came to addressing problems in the south,” Alexander Vershbow, a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council and coauthor of the report, said during its presentation October 2019.
“This theme figured prominently in my farewell address to the North Atlantic Council three years ago, and unfortunately the situation hasn’t changed all that much since then,” added Vershbow, who was deputy secretary general of NATO and US ambassador to Russia.
According to the report, “many of the conventional defense and deterrence challenges associated with NATO’s east are now reemerging in the south,” including enhanced Russian anti-access/area-denial capabilities, provocative actions in the Black Sea, and hybrid activity on the ground.
Though NATO has taken steps to remedy its shortcomings in the Mediterranean — such as setting up a “hub of the south” at Joint Forces Command in Naples, Italy — establishing a maritime-focused enhanced southern presence there could be a way to counter Russia and sharing the burden of doing so among members, Vershbow said.
“Russia is back with a vengeance in the eastern Mediterranean and in the Black Sea,” which adds a geopolitical dimension to NATO’s need to project stability and bolster defense and deterrence, Vershbow added.
“The lack of an effective southern strategy could put alliance solidarity at risk if the publics in the southern NATO countries see the alliance as failing to address what they consider to be their priority concerns,” Vershbow said. “It could undermine their willingness to share the burdens of collective defense against Russia, and everybody loses in that scenario.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
You may have noticed a select few Marines and sailors walking around in their uniforms with a green rope wrapped around their left arm — it’s not just for decoration.
That green rope is called a “French Fourragere,” and it was awarded to the members of the 5th and 6th Marine Regiments for their heroic actions during the Battle of Belleau Wood from the French government in WWI.
This rite of passage extends to Marines who serve in those respected units today to commemorate their brothers in that historic battle.
The Fourragere is authorized on all service uniforms, and dress coats or jackets where medals or ribbons are prescribed.
During the bloody summer months of 1918, the Marines and the Germans fiercely fought one another just northwest of the Paris-to-Metz road. For weeks, German Gen. Erich Ludendorff had his troops attack U.S. forces with artillery, machine guns, and deadly gas.
Although the Marines sustained thousands of casualties during the skirmish, the infantrymen charged their opposition through the wooded area with fixed bayonets.
It’s reported the French urged the Marines to turn back, but the grunts proceeded onward frequently engaging the enemy in hand-to-hand combat.
By June 26, 1918, the war-hardened Marines confirmed that they secured the woods from German forces and took many prisoners.
And the French Fourragere reminds Leathernecks in this storied units of their World War I bravery.
Airmen from Joint Base Charleston and Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, supported Battalion Mass Tactical Week at Pope Army Airfield, North Carolina, Aug. 18-23, 2019.
BMTW is a joint exercise designed to enhance servicemembers’ abilities by practicing contingency operations in a controlled environment. The exercise incorporated three Air Force C-130J Super Hercules, three Air Force C-17 Globemaster IIIs and Army paratroopers assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The exercise allowed all parties to quickly complete training tasks, such as personnel drops and cargo air drops, to better prepare joint forces to operate during global mobility missions.
“We do these types of exercises quarterly throughout the year,” said Lt. Col. Justin Warner, 437th Operations Support Group director of operations and the BMTW air mission commander. “The goal of the BMTW is to have a joint collaboration between the Air Force and the Army. We want not just C-17s, but also other airframes to take part in the same formations to support the Army in whatever their specific scheme of maneuvers may entail. This is a great training opportunity for airlift loadmasters and pilots to see and understand Army procedures, tactics and how they’re organized.”
An Air Force C-17 Globemaster III airdrops equipment onto a landing zone during Battalion Mass Tactical Week at Fort Bragg, N.C., Aug. 20, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cody R. Miller)
Starting in 1917, the 82nd Airborne Division’s mission has evolved to strategically deploy, conduct forcible entry parachute assault and secure key objectives in support of U.S. national interests within 18 hours of notification. However, without the help of transport aircraft, the 82nd Airborne wouldn’t be able to execute this mission and get where they need to go. Air Force assets like the C-130J and C-17 allow for soldiers to safely get to their drop points and complete the mission.
While working with the 82nd airborne soldiers, airmen were able to complete training tasks with a focus on joint operations, readiness and interagency operability.
“Any type of repetition to help us stay proficient and current helps aircrew,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Justin Hampton, a 16th Airlift Squadron loadmaster. “We could be deployed in a matter of weeks or days so training like this really helps us prepare for anything we might face while in a deployed environment. Coming out to work with Army is great because we get to learn their way of doing things and how to work in a joint environment.”
Air Force Capt. Peter Callo, a 621st Mobility Support Operations Squadron air mobility liaison officer from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., inspects communications equipment during Battalion Mass Tactical Week at Fort Bragg, N.C., Aug. 20, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cody R. Miller)
BMTW implemented a mixed formation with the C-130Js and C-17s to target small drop zones in a restricted and austere environment, challenging the expertise of the mission planners and those executing the mission. Despite challenges of weather, timelines and effective communication, participants continued to be flexible and resilient to successfully complete BMTW.
“A mission is only as good as the plan that’s been developed for it,” Warner said. “The planners that have worked here to learn both Army and Air Force terminology and understand how both branches communicate have greatly enhanced our ability to get us to that next level of training and execution.”
Exercises like BMTW are held regularly to keep airmen current and up-to-date on current joint tactics. This specific BMTW was to prepare participants for the upcoming Exercise Mobility Guardian 2019, Air Mobility Command’s premier, large-scale mobility exercise. Mobility Guardian, which is scheduled for Sept. 8–28, 2019, provides a realistic training environment for more than 2,500 airmen to hone their skills with joint and international partners and keep a competitive edge in future conflicts.