Mary Walker, the only woman to be issued a Medal of Honor, is about to get some prime-time coverage, thanks in part to a graphic novel series produced by the Association of the U.S. Army. The latest edition of “Medal of Honor,” shines a light on the bravery and valor of Mary Walker, the first woman in the U.S. to earn a medical degree and the only woman ever to receive the Medal of Honor.
Dr. Mary Walker attended Syracuse Medical College before the start of the Civil War. Her parents encouraged her to pursue her education, and she graduated in 1855 with a medical doctor degree – the first woman to do so in the almost 100-year-old United States.
She knew she wanted to serve her country, she just didn’t know how it would happen. Dr. Walker worked in private practice for a few years until the Civil War broke out in 1861. Despite her best efforts to join the Army, she was denied on the grounds of being a woman. And since she’d worked so hard to earn a medical doctorate, Dr. Walker was nonplussed at the suggestion that she join the Army as a nurse.
Instead, she decided to volunteer and work for free at a temporary hospital set up at the U.S. Patent Office in Washington, D.C. There, Dr. Walker continued to face discrimination, as the male surgeons refused to address her as “Dr.” and instead regulated her duties to that of an assistant.
By 1862, Dr. Walker was living in Virginia and working at field hospitals throughout the state. A year later, her medical credentials were finally accepted by the Army. This was only because of the recommendation of Maj. Gen. William Sherman and Maj. Gen. George Thomas. Without their letters of recommendation, it’s likely that Dr. Walker would have continued to work as an unpaid surgical assistant, despite being a highly trained doctor.
With her recommendation letters in hand in hand, Walker moved to Tennessee and was appointed as a War Department surgeon, which is equivalent to today’s rank of either a First Lieutenant or Captain. Her position in Tennessee was paid.
Dr. Walker quickly became well-known among the troops and units. She would routinely risk crossing enemy lines to tend to wounded personnel or civilians. It was during one of these forays into enemy territory that Dr. Walker was captured by Confederate forces. Dr. Walker was sent to the infamous Castle Thunder Camp, located in current-day Richmond, Virginia. She was held as a POW for about four months and was eventually exchanged in a POW swap for Confederate medical officers.
Castle Thunder was mainly used for civilian prisoners, not POWs, so it’s not entirely clear what Dr. Walker witnessed and experienced during her time as a POW, but it probably wasn’t pleasant. But, true to her nature, Dr. Walker saw an opportunity instead of internment. While imprisoned, she cared for the ill and the wounded at Castle Thunder. She is credited with having saved several lives while waiting for her own life to resume outside the prison walls.
After being released by the Confederate Army, Dr. Walker worked as a medical director at a hospital for women prisoners in Kentucky. She was routinely seen wearing men’s clothes and was arrested several times for impersonating a man, always stating that the “government” gave her permission to dress that way. She was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Andrew Johnson even though she’d never officially been commissioned as an officer. That’s why her medal was rescinded in 1917, just two years before she died. Dr. Walker refused to return the medal and wore it until she died.
Due in part to the efforts of her family, President Jimmy Carter restored her Medal of Honor in 1977. As part of the Army’s efforts to bring to light the courageous acts of service personnel, Dr. Walker’s story is now available in graphic novel form. Her story is the third installment of 2020. A final issue for 2020 will feature Holocaust survivor and Korean War veteran Cpl. Tibor Rubin. Read Dr. Walker’s graphic novel here.
This week in 1974, the country saw both the Watergate scandal come to an end and Richard Nixon’s presidency come to a close. The scandal that began on June 17, 1972, took two long years to unfold. In the end, the sitting President was impeached and subsequently resigned the office of the presidency, making him the first and only President ever to do so.
It’s been 46 years, but to this day, Watergate remains one of the most infamous political scandals in American history, complete with intrigue, cover-ups, money trails, secret informants and proverbial smoking guns.
For today’s history lesson, here’s a quick refresher and a timeline of events in the Watergate Scandal leading up to the resignation of former President Richard M. Nixon.
June 17, 1972
Five men — James McCord, Frank Sturgis, Bernard Barker and two accomplices — were arrested while trying to bug the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters at the Watergate hotel. Among their possessions were rolls of film, bugging devices and thousands of dollars in cash.
Bob Woodward, a young Washington Post reporter, was sent to the arraignment of the Watergate burglars, and another young reporter, Carl Bernstein, starts to do some digging of his own.
June 20, 1972
Bob Woodward had his first contact with “Deep Throat,” his source and informant for the story. Deep Throat’s identity remained hidden for 30 years. In 2005, (at the age of 91) Mark Felt, the Associate Director of the FBI (as the scandal played out), admitted that he was, in fact, Deep Throat.
Alfred Baldwin, a former FBI agent involved with the scandal, agreed to cooperate with authorities in the investigation. Baldwin names E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy as two of Nixon’s campaign aides who were involved in the burglary.
Aug. 1, 1972
The Washington Post reported that a ,000 check (funds intended for Nixon’s 1972 re-election campaign) was deposited in the bank account Bernard Barker — of one of the Watergate burglars.
In the same news conference, Nixon insists that there is no need for a special Watergate prosecutor.
Deep Throat told Bob Woodward that the money for the burglary was controlled by assistants to Former Attorney General John Mitchell, who incidentally was now serving as the chief of Nixon’s re-election campaign. In words that would become Rule #1 in any good investigation, Felt told Woodward to “follow the money.”
September 29, 1972
The Washington Post reports that John Mitchell did, in fact, have control over that secret fund, while he was serving as Attorney General. When they reached out to Mitchell for comment, instead of cooperating, an enraged Mitchell threatened the reporters and Katherine Graham (publisher of The Washington Post). Woodward and Bernstein did not back down; instead, they printed Mitchell’s threat in the Post.
Oct. 10, 1972
Woodward and Bernstein report that the FBI made the connection between Nixon’s aides and the Watergate break-in.
November 7, 1972
Richard Nixon is elected to a second term in office; winning by a landslide against George McGovern.
Jan. 8, 1973
The Watergate break-in trials begin. Seven men go on trial, five of whom plead guilty.
Jan. 30, 1973
G. Gordon Liddy and James McCord were convicted for their roles in the Watergate break-in.
March 23, 1973
James McCord wrote a letter to Judge Sirica, who presided over the Watergate trial. The letter points to a conspiracy and a cover-up in the White House. The letter is read in open court.
April 30, 1973
President Richard Nixon accepted responsibility for the scandal but maintained that he had no prior knowledge of it.
Archibald Cox was appointed as a special prosecutor to lead the investigation into both Nixon’s re-election campaign and Watergate.
July 23, 1973
President Nixon was known to have recorded his calls in the Oval Office. It was believed he was in possession of dozens of tapes that proved his involvement in the cover-up; those tapes became known as the “Nixon Tapes.” The Senate Watergate Committee issues subpoenas for The Nixon Tapes after the President refused to turn them over.
July 27 -30, 1974
The articles of impeachment were approved by The House Judiciary Committee and proceedings begin. The articles of impeachment included obstruction of justice (impeding the Watergate investigation), abuse of power and violating public trust, and contempt of Congress by failing to comply with congressional subpoenas.
August 5, 1974
Folding under intense pressure, President Nixon finally releases the transcript of his conversations with then chief-of-staff, H. R. Haldeman. These transcripts proved that the President ordered a cover-up of the burglary at the Watergate Hotel on June 23. 1972, six days after the burglary.
August 8, 1974
In a nationally televised speech, the 37th President of the United States formally resigned, making him the first and only President ever to do so.
August 9, 1974
Richard Nixon signed his letter of resignation, and Gerald Ford was sworn in as the 38th President of the United States.
For many years, U.S. troops have hunted our nation’s enemies under the blanket of complete darkness, scoring some impressive kills due, in part, to our outstanding ability to see at night — just ask Osama bin Laden.
Oh, wait. You can’t.
Today, you can head to a tactical store and pick up a relatively inexpensive set of NVGs for a few hundred bucks. Although many models seem to have issues with depth-of-field, cheaper night optics can still get you from A to B on a somewhat clear night.
Although this impressive piece of tech can be used by anybody, not many people look into how this technology works or how it came to be. Let’s fix that.
Despite the fact that we defeated the Germans in WWII, they can still claim credit over many important technological advancements. For example, they manufactured the first nighttime image enhancer. The concept was worked on as early as 1935 but wasn’t put in the hands of German soldiers until 1939.
However, only the most highly trained soldiers were issued this new technology to employ in night attacks. By the end of the war, Hitler’s army had also equipped nearly 50 Panther tanks with this tech. These tanks saw combat on both the Western and Eastern Fronts.
When you look into a set of NVGs, you’ll immediately notice the green display. This isn’t some arbitrary color choice on the part of the manufacturer — your eyes are more sensitive to that particular color.
When we say “sensitive,” we’re not referring to your current emotional status. It means our eyes detect this color naturally, making it easier to pick out shapes in the otherwise dark. In short, it’s easy on the eyes.
How NVGs work
The device detects low levels of light and amplifies them. You want a little more of a breakdown? Okay, let’s get scientific.
When dim light enters the NVGs, it hits an internal layer, called the “photocathode,” which releases electrons. These electrons then hit a second layer called a “micro-channel plate,” where they get multiplied before hitting the third layer, called the phosphor screen.
After passing through that layer, the electrons are converted back into light. The more electrons the device produces, the higher the image quality. Check out the video below for a full breakdown.
You can build your own set at home
Although high-quality NVGs require some real ingenuity and tech to produce, Superhero Armory built a rudimentary set using a pair of LCD sunglasses, a small night-vision camera, and some LED lights.
The role of the Dustoff is sacred, enshrined in both the relationship between medical personnel and their patients as well as treaties that underlie the Law of Armed Conflict, but the practical concerns of providing medical care to troops under fire will be sorely tested in a war with a modern foe.
An Army air ambulance picks up a simulated Marine casualty during a 2018 exercise in Romania.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alexander Sturdivant)
Currently, the U.S. and most of its allies — as well as many of its greatest rivals — enjoy nearly unquestioned air superiority in their areas of operations and responsibility. So, a commander of a modern military force, whether they’re Italian, French, Chinese, or American, can request a medical evacuation with near certainty that the wounded or sick person can be picked up quickly.
Even in active theaters of war like Afghanistan, wounded personnel can often be delivered to advanced medical care within the “Golden Hour,” the first hour after injury when medical intervention will make the biggest difference between life and death, recovery, and permanent disability.
But the advanced medical capabilities available across NATO and in Russian and Chinese forces rely on an evacuation infrastructure built for uncontested environments, where the worst threat to aircraft comes from IEDs and machine gun fire.
In a new paper from RAND Europe, defense analyst Marta Kepe dovetails recent speeches from military leaders, war game results, and scholarly work. They all point to a conflict wherein troops may have to wait days or longer for evacuation, meaning that providing care at the point of injury, possibly while still under threat of enemy attack, will be the only real chance for life-saving intervention.
Take the case of war with North Korea, a much “easier” hypothetical conflict than one with China or Russia. While North Korea lacks advanced air defense assets and electronic warfare assets, that simply means that they can’t jam all communications and they likely can’t shoot down fifth-generation fighters.
But medevacs rely on helicopters that, by and large, are susceptible to North Korean air defenses. Fly too high and they can be targeted and destroyed by nearly any surface-to air missile that North Korea has. Fly too low and infantrymen with RPGs and machine guns can potentially kill them.
An M113 ambulance drives through the Kuwaiti desert during a demonstration.
And that’s before the helicopters’ traditional escorts in Afghanistan and Iraq, AH-64 Apaches that’re armed to the teeth, are tasked for more urgent missions, like taking out air defense and artillery sites.
All this combines to form a battlefield where command teams will need to use ground ambulances and standard vehicles to get their wounded far from the front lines before they can be picked up, tying up assets needed for the advance, taxing supply lines that now have competing traffic, and extending the time between injury and treatment.
Some battlefields, meanwhile, might be underground where it’s nearly impossible to quickly communicate with the surface or with air assets. People wounded while fighting for control of cave networks or underground bunker systems would need to be carried out on foot, then evacuated in ground vehicles to pickup sites, and then flown to hospitals.
The hospital ship USNS Mercy pulls into port.
(U.S. Military Sealift Command Sarah Buford)
And the closest hospitals might be ships far offshore since role 3 and 4 hospitals on land take time to construct and are vulnerable to attack. While deliberately targeting a hospital is illegal, there’s no guarantee that the treaties would be honored by enemy commanders (Remember, Russia’s annexations of South Ossetia and Crimea were violations of international law, as were China’s cyber attacks and territory seizures in the Pacific).
But China and Russia would be worse since they have the assets necessary to shutdown American communication networks, making it impossible for ground commanders to call for medical aid. They’re also more likely to be able to pinpoint signal sources, making it risky for a platoon leader to call for medical aid for wounded troops.
And China and Russia’s air forces and air defenses, while not quite as large as America’s, are much more potent and well-trained that Iran or North Korea’s. They could likely hold out for months or years while inflicting heavy casualties to American air assets, preventing the establishment of a permissive medevac capability for even longer.
Air Force special operators render simulated medical aid during an exercise at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2017. The ability for non-medical personnel to render aid under fire is expected to become more important in the coming years.
There is good news, though. The U.S. military has acknowledged these shortcomings and is trying to lay the framework for what a medical corps in a contested environment should look like.
The Army is expanding it’s “Tactical Combat Casualty Care,” or TC3, program where combat lifesavers are trained in military first aid. DARPA is working on autonomous or remotely piloted pods that can fly medical capsules with supplies in or casualty evacuation capsules out without risking flight crews. The Marine Corps already has an experimental autonomous helicopter for logistics.
They could also be more dispersed. Instead of building a few large hospitals with large staffs on easily targeted installations, surgical teams and other care providers could operate in small groups. That way, if one or two teams are destroyed or forced to retreat, there would still be a few groups providing medical care.
In addition to more dispersed and forward-positioned medical personnel, there’s room for expanding the medical capabilities of non-medical personnel.
Historically, those types of rotations have been limited to medics and other specialized troops. Medical personnel, meanwhile, would see an increased number of rotations into civilian trauma centers in the U.S. and allied countries.
But the most important aspect of medical care under fire in tomorrow’s war will be the same as it is today: Achieve and maintain fire superiority. The best way to open a window to evacuate your own personnel is by killing everyone on the enemy side wounding your troops and trying to prevent it.
Air Force joint terminal attack controllers, JTACS for short, are airmen who go forward with special operators, infantry, and other maneuver forces to call down the wrath of god on anyone with the cajones to engage American troops while they’re around.
Here’s what they do and what makes them so lethal:
A Joint Terminal Attack Controller from the 116th Air Support Operations Squadron, 194th Wing, Washington Air National Guard, observes a U.S. Air Force F-35 Lightning during close air support training at the Utah Test and Training Range, April 11, 2018.
(U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Jason Kriess)
JTACs are an outgrowth of the “forward air controllers” who tipped battles in World War II through Vietnam. Their job is to keep track of all aircraft available in the area they’re sent into while supporting any maneuver force to which they’re attached. If that maneuver force comes into contact with the enemy, intentionally or otherwise, the JTAC gets to work.
They can fire their personal weapons quickly and accurately if needed, but their priority is fixing the locations of all friendly forces, enemy elements, and civilians on the battlefield. Once the tactical air control party, or TACP, has a map of where he can’t shoot and where he should, he starts calling in help from planes, helicopters, and drones flying overhead.
U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Clayton Eckstrom, Train, Advise, and Assist Command-Air Joint Tactical Air Controller advisor, observes the target accuracy of an Afghan Air Force training strike on Forward Operating Base Hunter, Afghanistan, June 18, 2018.
(Operation Resolute Support)
With the powers of all U.S. air assets at their command, JTACs can do a lot of damage. One of the most common weapons dropped in Iraq and Afghanistan is the JDAM, an older, dumb bomb upgraded with a kit that allows it to be guided to a target. JDAMs can be a 500, 1,000, or 2,000-pound bomb.
But JTACs can also call for bunker busters against hardened targets or strafing runs against personnel and light vehicles. If they think the best way to end the threat to friendlies under their umbrella is to call for attack helicopters to lay down a cloud of rockets, then all they have to do is set it up and tell the pilot that they’re “cleared hot.”
But the Air Force puts a priority on training their JTACs to not only call in fires from the air to the surface, but also “surface-to-surface” fires, employing artillery, like howitzers and rockets. In other words, JTACs are expected to be able to call in Army, Marine Corps, and naval artillery with just as much lethality as they call down fires from the air.
A joint terminal attack controller from the 18th Air Support Operations Group checks an M4 Carbine during an exercise aimed at pushing JTACs to their limit, Aug. 3, 2018, at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia.
(U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Janiqua P. Robinson)
So, for those keeping score at home, TACPs can kill you with nearly any artillery that rolls on the ground as well as any bombs and bullets that can be fired from the sky. And they can also kill you with AC-130s, which are planes that fire artillery from the sky.
But, of course, these are also special operations airmen, so even if all of those weapons aren’t available, they’re also well-trained in shooting you in the face.
All of this can quickly become more complicated than it might sound, because the JTAC has to organize all of this chaos, making sure that he never requests artillery that will cross the line of flight of the helicopters and aircraft in the area, since that would end with the aircraft being shot down by friendlies.
A Slovenian Armed Forces joint terminal attack controller moves through a building during training in Slovenia June 4, 2018.
(U.S. Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Michelle Y. Alvarez-Rea)
But the JTAC community has proven itself equal to the tasks, and often surpassed the call of duty while supporting their friends on the front lines.
For instance, Master Sgt. Thomas Case is the recipient of two Silver Stars, both awarded for actions taken as a JTAC-certified member of the TACP. The first award came for directing hundreds of strikes over a three-day battle in 2003, and the second award came for exposing himself to enemy fire while directing danger-close support from an AC-130.
And Tech Sgt. Robert Gutierrez received the Air Force Cross for directing air strikes in 2009 that saved his entire team, despite the fact that he was severely wounded with a “softball-sized” hole in his back that he didn’t expect to survive. At the time, Guteirrez was just shy of full JTAC certification, and had to get another operator to give the final OK for the mission. But it was his math and decision making, calculated while under fire and medical treatment, that saved the day.
Meanwhile, when British Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, went to war in Afghanistan, he went as a JTAC. And even he ended up deep in the fight, once manning a .50-cal. machine gun to fend off an insurgent attack alongside a bunch of British Gurkhas.
Working in a hotel is no joke – those jobs are hard. Think about how hard you worked in basic training under the latrine queen, using a dirty sock to dust the day room, and how clean the barracks had to be to pass a drill sergeant’s inspection. Even if you’re looking to work in management, Hilton hotels host hundreds of thousands of event every year. It’s suddenly your job to manage that. Wherever you’re working in a hotel, it takes grit, organization, and attention to detail.
Do those traits sound familiar? They do to Hilton Hotels.
And to Hilton founder Conrad Hilton, a World War I veteran who served in France.
This might be part of the reason Hilton is all aboard with the mission of hiring 20,000 veterans by 2020. That is a good chunk of the hotel brand’s overall employees. As a matter of fact, when Hilton completes its most current mission, hires from the military-veteran community will comprise more than 17 percent of the company’s overall workforce. It first launched the initiative to hire 10,000 vets and spouses by 2020 but upon completing that mission two years early, Hilton set the goal to hire an additional 20,000 in the same time frame. That’s an astonishing dedication to the community of veterans.
It’s part of an initiative named Operation: Opportunity. The company and its CEO Chris Nassetta believes in what they call “the military skill set.” The hotel chain believes veterans bring incredible assets to their team and are affecting the company culture for the better as a result. So it makes sense for Hilton to hire as many veterans as possible. These skills include discipline, organization, problem solving, and teamwork.
Yeah, vets might know a little something about all that.
The company says hiring veterans is not only the right thing, but is also helping the company achieve its own goals.
“Operation: Opportunity is a shining example of the convergence of doing something that is good for society, good for our business, and good for our culture,” says CEO Chris Nassetta.
Hilton has a long history of supporting veterans, dating back to founder and Army vet Conrad Hilton’s postwar years. The elder Hilton had a knack for hiring vets after World War II, giving Korean War veterans and their families free nights (and spending money!) at some of his most popular hotels. Even during Vietnam, troops could get a free RR stay at the Hiltons in Hawaii.
The decision to hire veterans picks up where Conrad’s legacy left off, ensuring veterans have sustainable employment in a growing industry with one of the world’s top hospitality brands. Hilton is even supporting a number of veteran-related non-profits, no more appropriate than the Military Influencer Conference.
These days, Hilton may not be able to give veterans their own Hilton to run, but they do provide opportunity and training to run their own businesses through donating to events like the Military Influencer Conference. If you’re interested in starting your own business and don’t know where to begin, the Military Influencer Conferences are the perfect place to start. There, you can network with other veteran entrepreneurs while listening to the best speakers and panels the military-veteran community of entrepreneurs can muster. Visit the Military Influencer Conference website for more information.
While there are plenty of American veterans who might scoff at the idea that book learnin’ can effectively convey the experience of soldiering and combat, former US Secretary of Defense and decorated Marine Gen. Jim Mattis knows a little something about war, and this is his take on the subject:
“Reading is an honor and a gift from a warrior or historian who, a decade or a thousand decades ago, set aside time to write. He distilled a lifetime of campaigning in order to have a conversation with you. We have been fighting on this planet for 10,000 years. It would be idiotic and unethical to not take advantage of such accumulated experiences. … Any commander who claims he is too busy to read is going to fill body bags with his troops as he learns the hard way.”
I would take Mattis’ critique a step further and say that, in some instances, the novelist or fiction writer is even better equipped to capture something like a higher “Truth” about war. American fiction contains an endless repository of brilliant literary passages about soldiering and war, and we’re on a mission to share some of our favorites.
So here’s our inaugural list of some of the most profound passages about soldiering and combat in American fiction.
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.
Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.
How To Tell a True War Story by Tim O’Brien
As I’ve written previously, How To Tell a True War Story is one of the greatest American short stories ever written, and this succinct passage is a masterful expression of war’s infinite complexity and contradiction in the human experience. It had to top this list.
“War is hell, but that’s not the half of it, because war is also mystery and terror and adventure and courage and discovery and holiness and pity and despair and longing and love. War is nasty; war is fun. War is thrilling; war is drudgery. War makes you a man; war makes you dead.”
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.
Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield
Steven Pressfield’s novel about the battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC is a classic piece of historical fiction that contains a seemingly endless trove of truisms that speak especially to the warrior class. The novel is on the Marine Corps Commandant’s Professional Reading List and is taught at the US Military Academy at West Point and the US Naval Academy. Here are just a few of the book’s countless standout passages:
“When a warrior fights not for himself, but for his brothers, when his most passionately sought goal is neither glory nor his own life’s preservation, but to spend his substance for them, his comrades, not to abandon them, not to prove unworthy of them, then his heart truly has achieved contempt for death, and with that he transcends himself and his actions touch the sublime.”
“Here is what you do, friends. Forget country. Forget king. Forget wife and children and freedom. Forget every concept, however noble, that you imagine you fight for here today. Act for this alone: for the man who stands at your shoulder. He is everything, and everything is contained within him. That is all I know.”
“The secret shame of the warrior, the knowledge within his own heart that he could have done better, done more, done it more swiftly or with less self-preserving hesitation; this censure, always most pitiless when directed against oneself, gnawed unspoken and unrelieved at the men’s guts. No decoration or prize of valor, not victory itself, could quell it entire.”
East of Eden by John Steinbeck. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.
Blood Meridian (or The Evening Redness in the West) by Cormac McCarthy
Cormac McCarthy is one of America’s greatest novelists. Known for his dense, lyrical prose; dark, heady themes; and disdain for commas, McCarthy is a literary powerhouse, and Blood Meridian is one of his most revered novels. The book’s primary antagonist, Judge Holden, is easily one of the creepiest, most evil villains ever conceived. Archetypically speaking, “The Judge” is literally Satan. He is a complete sociopath, but also a literal genius whose affinity for killing and war is matched by his enthusiasm for waxing philosophical. In one scene from the novel, he sits around a campfire with his band of Old West mercenaries and preaches his own gospel of war in an old-school dialectic whose efficacy is slightly unnerving.
“It makes no difference what men think of war. War endures. As well ask men what they think of stone. War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner. That is the way it was and will be. That way and not some other way … [War] endures because young men love it and old men love it in them. Those that fought, those that did not … War is the truest form of divination. It is the testing of one’s will and the will of another within that larger will which because it binds them is therefore forced to select. War is the ultimate game because war is at last a forcing of the unity of existence. War is god.”
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
East of Eden is — in my not-so-humble opinion — one of the greatest novels ever written. Steinbeck considered it his greatest work, and it’s hands-down my favorite book. It’s a truly transcendent work of fiction.
While it’s not necessarily a war novel, East of Eden does deal with the topics of military service, war, and its aftermath, and Steinbeck’s prose shines in those sections. In one early scene, Cyrus Trask tells his son Adam what to expect before he ships off to the Army:
“I’ll have you know that a soldier is the most holy of all humans because he is the most tested — most tested of all. I’ll try to tell you. Look now — in all of history men have been taught that killing of men is an evil thing not to be countenanced. Any man who kills must be destroyed because this is a great sin, maybe the worst sin we know. And then we take a soldier and put murder in his hands, and we say to him, ‘Use it well, use it wisely.’ We put no checks on him. Go out and kill as many of a certain kind or classification of your brothers as you can. And we will reward you for it because it is a violation of your early training.”
Steinbeck has a great deal more to say about soldiering, and all of it is incredibly poignant and “True,” but if you want more literary awesomeness, you’ll have to go read (or reread) the novel. Same goes for the others. They are all worth the time.
When your slogan is “World’s most battle-proven firearms,” you had better be able to back it up, right? While introducing the question of what company actually has that to a random set of gun guys might yield a lot of answers, most of them would be wrong. Like cars and shoes, people tend to be brand loyal with their firearms without actually crunching the data. But the data in this case leaves only one answer: FN.
FN Herstal, and its subsidiary FN America, have made the weapons that were carried across the beaches of Normandy all the way to the mountains of Afghanistan. While we could have chosen from many arms best suited to back up FN’s claim, these top 6 are absolutely stunning in depth. Any one of them could be number one, so consider these in no particular order. A great amount of FN’s contributions to this list come from the brilliant mind of John Moses Browning. Later in his life, Fabrique Nationale, now known simply as FN, became the go-to for Browning and is also the owner of his namesake company, Browning.
So here we go, in an order that no one could call descending, 6 guns that are battle-proven and stunning:
Browning High Power
The very first iteration of this pistol was called the GP 35 or Grand Puissance and was completed by Dieudonne Saive, a protege of John M. Browning, who took over the design when JMB died at their factory in 1926.
Saive is also the engineer that developed the modern double-stacked magazine, first introduced on the FN High Power.
Known as the High Power (and, later, the “Hi Power”) because when it was created it carried 13 rounds of 9mm, when most handguns carried 7, the High Power was ahead of its time. It has been used in conflicts from 1935 to the present, from WW2 to the Falklands to Syria. It was the classic favorite of not only the SAS but many Commando Units from across the world. These guns are still highly prized.
Canadian military still uses the High Power. They have an interesting connection to the design after the plans were secreted out of Belgium before the German occupation of FN’s factory. The Canadians, under the Inglis brand, produced their own.
A version of the FN FAL used by West German soldiers in 1960.
FN FAL, aka “ The Right Arm of the Free World”
Right Arm of the Free World is not an easy nickname to get, but it is well earned with the FN FAL. FAL stands for Fusil Automatique Leger, which is French for “Light Automatic Rifle.” Prototyped in 7.92x33mm Kurz and again in 280 British, most examples historically are 308 (7.62x51mm). At a time the world was recovering from WW2, and in desperate need of a new rifle, the FAL entered service in an eventual 90 nations as their service rifle.
The British called it the L1A1, and it stood across the Cold War from the AK-47. So many FAL’s were produced that on occasion, opposing armies have both been carrying them. It was a favorite worldwide and is still in use today. I had a captured Paratrooper model in Iraq that I was absolutely in love with, and sadly had to leave behind due to its auto switch.
M2 50 Caliber BMG, aka The Ma Deuce
This is a weird one, because it isn’t an FN exclusive design, nor does FN currently hold the contract for the M2. Due to World War requirements, dozens of companies made M2 machine guns, much the same way Singer sewing machines made 1911’s. But, FN has been producing M2’s since the 1930s, and you may have actually used one in the service. Arguably the longest serving weapon in U.S. history, the M2 needs no introduction. From an anti-aircraft role in WW2, to Kandahar last week, the M2 has served on every battlefield imaginable.
FN currently produces the M2 in a Quick Change Barrel or QCB model for vehicle or boat pintle mounts. They also produce the FN M3M designated as the GAU-21 which is in service with the U.S. Navy.
I am counting this as one weapon, though it is a family of weapons. Something that may surprise you: If you were in the military after 1988, odds are pretty good that your service rifle was an FN. FN first won the contract, beating out Colt, for M-16 production in 1988. They created the M16A4 for the USMC in the Global War on Terror out of whole cloth, and again beat Colt for the M-4 contract in 2013. In addition to serving the U.S. military, FN has armed what can only be called a metric grundle of other nations with M-16/4 weapons over the decades. FN’s production tops one million units of M16/M4 carbines for DoD.
Again this could count as multiple weapons, but I’m considering it one since the M249 is basically a scaled down M240. It might surprise you to learn it has been in service (240 version) since 1958. It is issued in 80 militaries, and has been made under license by FN in Canada, India, Egypt and the United Kingdom. It has many names, such as the GPMG for you Brits, and sets the standard across the globe as the medium machine gun of choice. While the M240 (7.62x51mm) is older, the smaller M249 (5.56x45mm) has actually been around for some time as well. It was designed in 1976, and entered US service in 1984.
It is well known enough to also have many names, such as “Minimi” to our cousins across the pond. It has been used in every U.S. conflict since the invasion of Panama in 1989, and was a personal favorite of mine in the GWOT. I think a great many of us GWOT veterans, including myself, can say this. I came home on my feet instead of in a body bag more than once because I was carrying an FNH machine gun.
U.S. Navy SEAL with a SCAR.
SCAR- aka “ Special (operations forces) Combat Assault Rifle”
This one hasn’t seen quite as many conflicts, having been only produced in 2004. But it does represent the future for FN. Available in either 5.56 (Light Variant) or 7.62×51 (Heavy Variant), and as of January 2020, 6.5 Creedmoor, the SCAR has been a rising star. It won the SOCOM service trials for the U.S., and entered service in 2009. The Heavy version became very popular among troops headed to Afghanistan, and has entered the service of 20 nations. Rapidly user configurable for various mission roles, the SCAR continues to evolve. Considering FN’s previous reputation, I think we can expect this one to be around for a good long time.
Living up to a slogan that proclaims the world’s most anything might be tough to do, until you’ve held an FN product.
You may have heard that President Trump signed an executive order Friday, March 27 allowing the military to recall members of the selected reserve and some former service members to active duty in support of the government’s response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
While this sounds ominous, the executive order is mainly a formality giving the Pentagon the authority to recall reserve members as necessary. A federal law (10 U.S. Code § 12302) that has been around since 1953 authorizes the president to recall up to one million reservists for up to two years in times of national emergency.
The military branches have also started to gauge interest from recently separated members on volunteering to return to active duty in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Army, for example, recently contacted 800,000 retired members asking about their willingness to return to active duty and help the service fight the pandemic. More than 17,000 retirees, representing various specialties, have responded at the time of this writing.
Maryland National Guard Transports Citizens During COVID-19 Pandemic.
If the coronavirus pandemic worsens and requires a major military mobilization, an involuntary recall would begin only if there aren’t enough active-duty members, selected reserve and guard members and volunteers returning to active duty. The order of recall is as follows:
Retirees and inactive reservists under 60 who have been off active duty for less than five years
Retirees and inactive reservists under 60 who have been off active duty for five years or more
Retirees and inactive reservists, including those retired for disability, who are over 60 years old
Again, the needs of the service are tantamount, and some military specialties may have different rules than others. A medical officer who has been out of the military for 15 years may be recalled before an aircraft mechanic who separated last month.
PA National Guard support COVID-19 test site in Montgomery County.
10 U.S. Code § 12302 also says that recall consideration will be given to:
the length and nature of previous service, to assure such sharing of exposure to hazards as the national security and military requirements will reasonably allow;
family responsibilities; and
employment necessary to maintain the national health, safety, or interest.
That means if you are a health care professional and can do society more good as a civilian, you may be exempted from recall. Also, if you have serious family responsibilities you may be exempted.
The law may also exempt veterans with some disabilities or medical conditions from any involuntary recall. Those with less than honorable discharges and certain separation codes may also be exempted from involuntary recall.
What Happens If You Are Recalled?
You will most likely get a certified letter from the military directing you to an intake center. If you don’t answer the letter, they will send another one to your home of record. If you still don’t respond, you will be identified as a deserter and possibly face legal action.
If you are recalled, you have the same responsibilities as any active-duty member: no drug use, adherence to grooming and physical readiness standards, support of the needs of the military and obedience to the chain of command.
Even if you meet those obligations, you won’t be eligible for any promotions as a recalled member. Instead, you will be paid at your current rank or the rank at which you separated. Your retirement pay and any VA disability benefits will also stop for the duration of your revitalized active duty service.
Military uniforms have been made from a variety of fabrics over the years: Cotton, wool, polyester blends… all have had their turn as what uniforms are made of. Now a new spin on one of the oldest fabrics could come into play.
That fabric, of course, is silk, which first entered the scene in China almost four millennia ago. Only this isn’t the silk that is used for the high-fashion dresses you see on the red carpet. That is from silkworms. According to a report from Marketplace.org, this silk is from spiders.
Okay, before you get carried away – no, this is not quite like the Spider-Man suits. The key, though is that the spider silk is strong. It has to be. Spider silk makes webs, which spiders usually use to catch food.
There’s just one problem. You need a lot of spiders to make silk, and spider’s just don’t get along with each other. We’re not talking things that can be worked out. Face it, when the critters you are counting on to produce material try to eat each other, productivity’s gonna be taking a nosedive. That doesn’t get the uniforms made.
So, the answer has been to genetically engineer silkworms to produce spider silk. This is not the only method in operation. Michigan State University researchers have figured out how to make a silk-like product from the deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, of spiders, and DNA sequencing is becoming much cheaper than it was in the past.
Either way, the material that is produced will have far more applications than the Kevlar used in the uniforms of present day. The spider silk could also be used to make protective underwear as well as improved body armor. That’s good news for the troops.
Not all uniforms are created equal. If you need any proof of that, just look at an American airman standing next to a United States Marine while both are in their dress blues. Or check out the Navy’s old “blueberries.” Hey, we all make mistakes, but the important thing is that we handle it and fix what we need to. Some militaries don’t. This is about the ones who don’t.
To be perfectly clear, winning a war isn’t about the coolest or sharpest uniform. But respecting an adversary might help prevent a war, and wearing a uniform that looks like Willy Wonka designed it isn’t going to earn respect. For the record, I fully acknowledge all of these guys are badass and would easily murder me in any altercation.
They’re probably on their way to my house now.
All I want is gin.
While the Beefeaters are a real military unit (and can probably totally kill me with a matchstick if they wanted to), I still have to question their use of the throwback jersey. The Yeomen Warders of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London, and Members of the Sovereign’s Body Guard of the Yeoman Guard Extraordinary (their full name) is comprised completely of British soldiers who have at least 22 years of service under their belt but there is nothing utilitarian about their choice of dress. Is that guy going to impale someone with the replica of a palace?
Greek Evzones guarding the Ministry of Funny Walks.
Greek Presidential Guard
I question any uniform that has little balls on the toes. The Greek Presidential Guard – also known as the Evzones – still wear the uniform of an elite Greek soldier from yesteryear. And while I praise other units who do this, like U.S. Marines, and the French Foreign Legion, the outfit’s foustanella (the skirt-like item) has 400 folds, one for each year of Turkish occupation. I genuinely question any uniform that has their undying grudge sewn into it. Also, I have to say if you’re going to wear a 100-year-old-plus military uniform, it’s weird to carry an M1 Garand rifle.
Italy’s Carabinieri police force are totally awesome crime fighters who are now part of the country’s official armed forces. Although that’s a relatively new development, the Carabinieri have been around since the mid-1800s. They look like they should be the captains of wooden sailing ships back then.
Ugandan People’s Defense Forces Air Force
Uganda’s air force work uniform looks like they couldn’t decide if they wanted to blend in with the ground or with the water and decided not to make a choice. To make it worse, the dress uniform looks like it hasn’t changed much since the days of Idi Amin.
While I totally respect traditions, I will always question the efficiency of wearing two uniforms at the same time. I don’t mind the look of a skirt-like uniform, but when the wearer is already wearing pants, I begin to question how this uniform came to pass.
The Spanish Legion
I genuinely love the history of the Spanish Legion, but their dress uniforms make them look like a cheap male stripper who came to Kathy the secretary’s bachelorette party or someone’s mother accidentally shrank the entire unit’s shirts while doing laundry this week.
North Korean dress uniforms are what people who steal valor think dress uniforms are supposed to look like. I can only think of two countries North Korea has fired shots at since Kim Il-Sung was born from a star’s vagina or whatever they say his origin was, and most of the North Korean soldiers who fought in the Korean War were killed in it. What the hell are all these medals and orders for? Fewest calories consumed?
Do some people call you a Space Cowboy? Or do they call you a Gangster of Love?
Well, if they do, have we got the job for you!
NASA recently announced that it is accepting candidates for its next astronaut class. The goal is to have humans on the Moon by 2024 with the next step of setting foot on Mars by the mid-2030s.
Dubbed the Artemis Generation, this new class of space cadets will make up the core of what should be the most historic period of space exploration since the Apollo Program.
“America is closer than any other time in history since the Apollo program to returning astronauts to the Moon. We will send the first woman and next man to the lunar South Pole by 2024, and we need more astronauts to follow suit on the Moon, and then Mars,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “We’re looking for talented men and women from diverse backgrounds and every walk of life to join us in this new era of human exploration that begins with the Artemis program to the Moon. If you have always dreamed of being an astronaut, apply now.”
The last time NASA took applications, over 18,000 people applied for what would end up being 11 spots.
The odds are against you right?
Probably! (Successfully applying through USAJobs is the first difficult hurdle. View the job here.)
You may be a genius when it comes to knowing everything during comment wars on Facebook, but to be an astronaut, you have to be educated in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) field with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university. (the University of Hard Knocks doesn’t count sorry) plus at least three years of proficiency in your field. Advanced degrees go a long way.
If you want to be a pilot (the new Orion might be the new transport for Americans), you must have over 1,000 hours of command pilot experience under your belt.
People usually focus on the science and education portion of being an astronaut without realizing that physical fitness is a major part of being accepted. Astronauts used to be only military men, but with the expansion of applicants into the civilian side, NASA makes sure that everyone that makes it into the interview stage (by this time down to 120 from 18,000) can pass a strenuous physical and medical exam.
It will probably be a bit more complicated than this.
As a civilian, you get paid GS11 to GS14 wages. If you are in the military still, you will get your typical military pay based on your rank and time in service.
If you made it past the initial selection, interviews and physical and medical exams, then you have to go through nearly two years of Astronaut training. What does that entail?
Here are some of the things you will have to learn and show proficiency in:
Candidates must complete military water survival and become SCUBA qualified to prepare them for spacewalk training. Astronaut Candidates must pass a swimming test in their first month of training. They must swim three lengths of a 25-meter pool without stopping, and then swim three lengths of the pool in a flight suit and sneakers. They also have to tread water for 10 minutes wearing a flight suit.
Candidates are exposed to problems associated with high (hyperbaric) and low (hypobaric) atmospheric pressures in the altitude chambers and learn to deal with emergencies associated with these conditions.
Additionally, candidates are given exposure to space flight during training in modified jet aircraft (the Vomit Comet) as it performs maneuvers that produce weightlessness for about 20 seconds. This sequence is repeated up to 40 times in a day.
Finally, Astronaut Candidate Program will require successful completion of the following:
International Space Station systems training
Extravehicular Activity skills training
Robotics skills training
Russian Language training (We beat the Ruskies to the Moon but now have to ask them for a ride…. Until the Orion is ready)
Thanking those who served is always appreciated. Nearly every single veteran signed on the dotted line to contribute to something bigger than themselves and, when civilians extend their gratitude, the good will is reciprocated — that is, on any day outside of the last Monday in May.
Yes, the gratitude is always welcomed, but Memorial Day isn’t the time. If prompted, nearly every veteran will give a polite response along the lines of, “thank you for your sentiment, but today is not my day.”
Memorial Day is a day that’s often confused with Veteran’s Day (November 11th) and Armed Forces Day (the third Saturday in May). While most countries around the world remember their fallen troops on Armistice Day (which commemorates the signing of the treaty that ended World War I — also November 11th), the United States of America began its tradition of taking a day to remember the fallen shortly after the end of the American Civil War.
In its infancy, the holiday was also called “Decoration Day” and generally fell on or around May 30th — depending on where you lived. It was a time when troops, civilians, family, friends, and loved ones would visit the graves of fallen Civil War troops and decorate them with flowers in remembrance.
The date was chosen because no major battles had taken place on that day — instead of honoring those died in a single battle, mourners could remember all who fell. It was also around the time most flowers started to bloom in North America.
After World War I, the country gradually transitioned to using Memorial Day as a way to honor fallen troops from every conflict. The celebration was kept around the same date and, on this day, the nation still decorates the graves of fallen troops with flags and flowers.
The final Monday in May became a federal holiday with the creation of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act and was chosen out of convenience. It gave every American a federally recognized, three-day weekend in order to continue the tradition of honoring those who sacrificed everything for our freedoms.
(Photo by Senior Airman Brett Clashman)
The convenience of this three-day weekend was noted in a 2002 speech by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, who said the change undermined the meaning of the day to the general public. To many, it also marks the unofficial beginning of summer, a time filled with barbecues and trips to the lake.
Now, that’s not to say that these pleasantries should ever stop — Americans enjoying their freedoms is what many troops fought to uphold. It’s important to remember, however, that day has, and always will be, in remembrance of the fallen. It’s a day of solemn reflection most troops and veterans spend thinking of their fallen brothers- and sisters-in-arms.
(Photo by Senior Airman Phillip Houk)
To properly thank a veteran this Memorial Day, visit one of the many national cemeteries and join them in placing flags, flowers, and wreaths on the graves of those who deserve our thanks. To find a national cemetery near you, please click here.