Operation Deep Freeze is one the largest but lesser-known peacetime operations that the U.S. military conducts.
Every year, from August to March, the Air Force, Navy, AND Coast Guard conduct hundreds of sorties to Antarctica and the South Pole, transporting materiel, supplies, and people to the U.S. bases there.
During the 2020-2021 season, C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft shouldered the majority of the load for Operation Deep Freeze.
More specifically, C-17 IIIs from the 446th and 62nd Airlift Wings delivered more than three million pounds of supplies and materiel, conducted two emergency aeromedical evacuations, and transported more than 1,000 people. Impressively, there was not even a single accident despite the hundreds of sorties. Indeed, Operation Deep Freeze is traditionally accident-free, with an ongoing 21-year streak without any major mishaps.
“I’ll certainly miss working with the staff and crew, and the Kiwi folks that work so hard in support of the Antarctic mission. Of course, flying over the continent of Antarctica never gets old. I won’t miss the cold though,” Chief Master Sergeant Ty Brooks, a loadmaster from the 313th Airlift Squadron, said in a press release.
“With all the changes and difficulties that had to be endured for COVID-19 operations this last ODF season, everyone involved was ready and willing to do what was asked of them for total mission success.”
Chief Master Sergeant Brooks knows a thing or two about Operation Deep Freeze. An Air Force Reserve troop, he has been participating in the exercise for almost 18 years.
The 446th and 62nd Airlift Wings are based out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.
Operation Deep Freeze is an annual, recurrent operation that supports U.S. forces stationed in Antarctica and South Pole. Besides the US military footprint there, the National Science Foundation (NSF) also has a significant presence and is supported by Operation Deep Freeze.
“The difference this year was COVID-19. We had to send each rotation into New Zealand two-weeks early in order to do a two-week isolation. Once we were released from isolation and started flying the missions to Antarctica, we had to ensure anytime we were next to cargo or passengers that we had masks and gloves on. The United States Antarctic Program (USAP) and NSF did not want to take any chances on letting the virus enter Antarctica,” Senior Master Sergeant Thomas Emmert, the superintendent for Operation Deep Freeze from the 446th Operations Group, said.
Operation Deep Freeze has been going on since 1955. It is considered one of the toughest peacetime operations that the US military undertakes, mainly because of the treacherous environment.
When veterans of World War II returned home to McMinn County, Tennessee, they probably weren’t surprised to find that many of the same politicians from before the war were still running the place. A local political machine run by Paul Cantrell had been suspected of running the county and committing election fraud since 1936.
However, when the sheriff’s deputies began targeting the veterans with fines for minor arrests, the vets suspected they were being taken advantage of. One veteran, Bill White, later told American Heritage magazine:
“There were several beer joints and honky-tonks around Athens; we were pretty wild; we started having trouble with the law enforcement at that time because they started making a habit of picking up GIs and fining them heavily for most anything—they were kind of making a racket out of it.
“After long hard years of service—most of us were hard-core veterans of World War II—we were used to drinking our liquor and our beer without being molested. When these things happened, the GIs got madder—the more GIs they arrested, the more they beat up, the madder we got …”
By early 1946, the vets and the townspeople were tired of what they saw as corrupt practices by Paul Cantrell and his lackeys. The vets started their own political party with candidates for five offices. The focus of the contest was the race for sheriff between Paul Cantrell and Henry Knox, a veteran of North Africa.
Everyone knew that the election could turn violent. Veterans in nearby Blount County promised 450 men who could assist in any need that McMinn County had on election day. In response, Cantrell hired two hundred “deputies” from outside the county to guard polling places.
What happened next would go down as the “Battle of Athens,” or the “McMinn County War.”
Tensions built on election day as the veterans faced off with the special deputies. By 3 p.m., an hour before the polls closed, violence broke out. Deputies beat and shot a black farmer who tried to vote and arrested two veterans who were then held hostage in the Athens Water Works. Other veterans responded by taking hostage deputies who were sent to arrest them. Still, Cantrell was able to fill most of the ballot boxes with purchased votes and get them to the jail, ensuring he would win the election.
While the sheriff and his lackeys counted the votes in the jail, White and the other veterans were getting angry. Finally, sometime after 6 p.m., White led a raid on the National Guard armory to get guns.
White said in a 1969 interview that they “broke down the armory doors and took all the rifles, two Thompson sub-machine guns, and all the ammunition we could carry, loaded it up in the two-ton truck and went back to GI headquarters and passed out seventy high-powered rifles and two bandoleers of ammunition with each one.”
The veterans set siege to the jail, firing on deputies that were outside the jail when they arrived. One deputy fell wounded into the building while another crawled under a car after he was hit in his leg. But, Cantrell and others were safely locked behind the brick walls of the jail. The veterans needed to get through before other police or the National Guard arrived.
Molotov cocktails proved ineffective but at 2:30 in the morning, someone arrived with dynamite. At about the same time, an ambulance arrived and the veterans let it through, assuming it was there for the wounded. Instead, Paul Cantrell and one of his men escaped in it.
A few minutes later, the vets started throwing dynamite. The first bundle was used to blow up a deputy’s cruiser, flipping it over. Then, three more bundles were thrown. One landed on the porch roof, one under another car, and one against the jail wall. The nearly simultaneous explosions destroyed the wall and car and threw the jail porch off of its foundation.
The deputies in the jail, as well as some hiding out in the courthouse, surrendered immediately. The veterans were then forced to protect the deputies as local townspeople attempted to kill them. At least one deputy had his throat slit and another of Cantrell’s men was shot in the jaw.
The veterans established a patrol to keep the peace. To prevent a counterattack by Cantrell, the vets placed machine guns at all the approaches to Athens, where the jail and courthouse were located.
The rest of the incident played out without violence. Henry Knox took over as sheriff Aug. 4, 1946 and future elections dismantled what was left of Cantrell’s machine.
Feature image: Screen capture from YouTube/ Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions
Terrence Popp is a 20+ year salty veteran who runs a website and YouTube channel called Redonkulas. As you would expect, he’s seen some screwed up stuff, which gives him a unique perspective on the world and life in general.
They were made of wood, carried no heavy guns, and would sink at the drop of a hat. But they were fast, hard to hit, and could kill nearly anything afloat. Pound for pound, the deadliest boats of World War II weren’t the carriers or the legendary battleships, they were the humble patrol torpedo boats.
Battle Stations: PT Boats (War History Documentary)
America invested heavily in capital ships in the inter-war years, concentrating on battleships and carriers that could project power across the deep oceans. Combined with destroyers and cruisers to protect them, this resulted in fleets that could move thousands of miles across the ocean and pummel enemy shores. It was a good, solid investment.
But these large ships were expensive and relatively slow, and building them required lots of metal and manpower. There was still an open niche for a fast attack craft like the Italian motor torpedo boats that had famously sunk the SMS Szent Istvan in World War I.
Boat builders who had made their name in racing lined up to compete for Navy contracts. They held demonstrations and sea trials in 1940 and 1941, culminating in the “Pinewood Derbies” of July 1941.
PT-658 transits the water at the Portland Rose Festival in 2006. The boat was restored by volunteers and features its full armament and original engines.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ralph Radford)
These were essentially races between different boats with either weapons or copper weights installed to mimic combat armament, allowing the Navy to see what designs were fastest, most nimble, and could survive the quick turns with a combat load.
Not all the vessels made it through. Some experienced hull and deck failures, but others zipped through the course at up to 46 miles per hour. A few boats impressed the Navy, especially what would become the ELCO Patrol Torpedo Boat. Higgins and Hulkins also showed off impressive designs, and all three contractors were given orders for Navy boats.
The Navy standardized the overall designs and armament, though the contractors took some liberties, especially Higgins. They were all to be approximately 50 tons, made of mahogany, and carry two .50-cal. machine guns. Many got up to four torpedo tubes and a 20mm anti-aircraft gun, while a few even got mortars or rockets.
They were powered by aviation fuel and three powerful engines.
U.S. Navy patrol boats zip through the water during exercises of the U.S. east coast on July 12, 1942.
All of this combined to create a light, powerful craft that was fast as hell. Two gunners on a PT boat at Pearl Harbor were credited with the first Japanese kill by the U.S. in World War II when they downed an enemy plane.
But it was during island hopping across the Pacific where the torpedo boats really earned their fame. As Japan’s fleet took heavy losses in 1942 and 1943, it relied on its army to try and hold islands against the U.S. advance, and the Navy’s “Mosquito Fleet” was sent to prey on the ships of the “Tokyo Express.”
Japan’s destroyers and similar vessels could slaughter torpedo boats when they could hit them, but the U.S. patrols generally operated at night and would hit the larger ships with their deadly torpedoes, using their speed to escape danger. It wasn’t perfect, though, as Lt. j.g. John F. Kennedy would learn when PT-109 was rammed by a Japanese destroyer, forcing Kennedy and 11 survivors to swim through shark-infested water for hours.
The patrol boats served across the world, from the Pacific to the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, and thousands of sailors from the Coast Guard and Navy served on these small vessels, downing tens of thousands of tons of enemy shipping.
Ask any military historian: Tactical aggression is a game changer. Throughout history, forces who were more aggressive in combat saw a lot more success compared their predecessors. Ulysses S. Grant’s determination to take the war to the Confederates led to a win for the Union in the Civil War. When Maj. Gen. Lloyd Fredenhall was soundly beaten by the aggressive Nazi Afrika Corps in Tunisia, he was replaced by the famously aggressive George S. Patton, who saw resounding success. The U.S. strategy of building an overwhelming force to push Iraq out of Kuwait led to a decisive victory in a mere 40 days during the Gulf War.
In a game of strategy like NFL football, the same kind of aggression pays off.
For anyone who saw the Bengals-Chiefs game on Oct. 21, 2018, watching Cincinnati opt to take a field goal in the 3rd quarter while down by 30-plus points was a real head-scratcher. Why not risk the turnover when you’re running out of the time it takes to score the four touchdowns you need?
That call — still a bad one — is one made over and over by conservative coaches, even in situations not quite as extreme as the one Cincinnati faced that Sunday night. If a team is facing a 4th down with 4 yards to go on their opponent’s 40 yard line, there’s a good chance they’ll still opt to punt the ball away.
Well, maybe the Bengals always should. Anyway…
Kicking the ball, either for a punt or a field goal, is the safe choice. Whenever a team opts for the kick, fans and sportscasters alike praise the coach for making that decision. Economists and statisticians, on the other hand, lose their minds.
Why? Because there’s no real reason for a coach to be so conservative. Brian Burke, a former Naval aviator who used to fly the F-18C, is a nationally recognized expert on advanced sports analytics. Burke is currently an analyst for ESPN. In 2014, he published a study on Advanced Football Analytics that took a look at 4th-down decision making.
The longitudinal study assumes that coaches want to maximize the number of points they score while minimizing the number of points the other team scores. Then, it took thousands of real NFL plays on 4th down to calculate the potential value of each situation. Every down versus yardage situation has an “expected point” value and a value attached to the result of previous play, which affects the value of that play.
For example, the expected points value of a touchdown is actually 6.3 points because the opponent gets the ball back on the next play, whose value is .07. If you understand the value of the situation a team is in on 4th down, then you can find the statistically-driven decision the coach should make on that down.
If you don’t understand the math, don’t worry about it. People who do understand math created a handy graphic for the New York Times, based on Burke’s calculation. So we can look at the Bengals horrible performance in Kansas City a different way.
The horrible ball handling that led to the turnover aside, the Bengals tried for a fake punt on 4 and 9 from their own 37-yard-line with almost the entire second quarter remaining. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis tried a play that worked against the Chicago Bears in a preseason matchup. No matter how the ball was handled, the Times‘ 4th Down Bot says they should have punted it away.
Later in the game, with 6:20 left in the 3rd quarter and the Bengals down 28-7, Lewis opted to kick the field goal from the Kansas City 15-yard-line. Bengals fans everywhere were livid, given the score. While the the bot created by Burke’s formula and the New York Times doesn’t account for what to do in a blowout situation, Lewis made the mathematically correct call.
Too bad math isn’t enough to make Bengals fans hate Marvin Lewis any less.
Looking at the 2018 season, let’s see if there’s a correlation between game-winning success and 4th down aggression.
As of week 7, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a staggering 4-4 when comes to first downs on 4th down — but their record is still a measly 3-3. That doesn’t correlate, but the teams with the next-highest percentages in 4th down conversions are the Saints (at 87.5 percent) and the Chiefs (at 80 percent). New Orleans and Kansas City are first in their respective divisions. Five of the ten most successfully aggressive teams on 4th down also lead in total yardage, points per game, and total points this season.
One caveat: the least successful on 4th down conversions are also the least successful teams so far this year. So… know your own limitations.
Marine One is an icon of the presidency and for the most part, one helicopter has carried that load for almost 60 years: The VH-3, which first carried President Eisenhower in 1961. The current D model of the VH-3 entered service in 1978 and was later backed up with the introduction of the VH-60N in 1987. But, the fact remains that both of these helicopters are getting older by the day.
The first effort to replace them was the VXX program. This program got started in the wake of the 9/11 attacks when some possible shortcomings in the current Marine One airframes were identified. The program was marred by frequent delays, cost overruns, constantly changing requirements, and unresponsiveness on the side of the U.S. government. In 2009, the program was called off.
The need for a new Marine One remained.
The VH-3D Sea King has been used as Marine One since 1978.
(White House photo by Paul Morse)
So, the Corps started work on a new Marine One program in 2010, culminating with a requests for proposals in 2012. Sikorsky, now a division of Lockheed, won the second round of the competition in 2013. This time around, the Marines are going about getting their new Marine One very differently. The Marine One replacement’s acquisition strategy is centered on two main principles: First, well-defined and achievable requirements, and second, a low-risk, technical approach.
The latter is epitomized by the use of the S-92 helicopter (in essence, a souped-up UH-60) that has seen service with a number of civilian, government, and military operators ranging from China Southern Airlines to the Canadian Navy (as the CH-148 Cyclone). Plans call for 23 VH-92s, as it is designated, to replace both the VH-3 and VH-60 by 2023. These choppers can be hauled anywhere in the world on a C-17 Globemaster III or C-5 Galaxy cargo plane.
The other Marine One, the VH-60N, has been used since 1987.
(White House photo by Eric Draper)
Now, you may wonder why so the US government wants so many of these helicopters? Well, the current composition of HMX-1’s Marine Ones is a total of 11 VH-3Ds and 8 VH-60Ns. That’s because, these days, Marine One never flies alone. Often, as many as five “Marine Ones” will be in the air, creating, in essence, a five-card monte game for a terrorist. While Marine One hasn’t been attacked in real life, it was shot down by a narco-terrorist in the 1990 novel Under Siege written by Navy veteran Stephen Coonts. Of course, the new Marine One is equipped with multiple countermeasure systems to protect against such an attack should the worst happen.
The VH-92 will be expected to handle the important duty of Presidential transport for a long time. It certainly will have big shoes to fill coming after the distinguished service provided by the VH-3 and VH-60.
NATO allies agree that Russia is in material breach of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, and have decided to start planning for a post-INF Treaty world, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in Brussels Dec. 4, 2018.
The secretary general spoke following a meeting of foreign ministers at NATO headquarters. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo represented the United States at the meeting.
“All allies have concluded that Russia has developed and fielded a new ground-launched cruise missile system — the SSC-8, also known as the 9M729,” Stoltenberg said. “Allies agree that this missile system violates the INF Treaty and poses significant risks to Euro-Atlantic security. And they agree that Russia is therefore in material breach of its obligations under the INF Treaty.”
Tensions raised in Europe
The treaty — signed by President Ronald Reagan and then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987 – was a pillar of European security. The treaty eliminated an entire category of destabilizing weapons. Russia’s deployment ratchets up tension on the continent.
“This is really serious, because, of course, all missiles are dangerous, but these missiles are in particular dangerous because they are hard to detect, they are mobile [and] they are nuclear-capable,” the secretary general said at a news conference.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks with reporters during a foreign ministers meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Dec. 4, 2018.
The new Russian missiles can reach European cities, thus reducing warning time. “And they also reduce the threshold for nuclear weapons in the event of a conflict,” he said. “That’s the reason why the INF Treaty has been so important, and that is why it is so serious that this treaty risks breaking down because of the Russian violations.”
Stoltenberg said the United States has made every effort to engage with Russia, and to seek answers about the new missile. “The U.S. has raised the matter formally with Russia at senior levels more than 30 times,” he said. “Other allies have raised it with Russia, too. We did so, a few weeks ago, in the NATO-Russia Council here in Brussels.”
Violation undermines allied security
But Russia has not listened and continues to produce and deploy the missiles. This violation “erodes the foundations of effective arms control and undermines allied security,” Stoltenberg said. “This is part of Russia’s broader pattern of behavior, intended to weaken the overall Euro-Atlantic security architecture.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The United States fully complies with the INF Treaty. “There are no new U.S. missiles in Europe, but there are new Russian missiles in Europe,” he said. “Arms control agreements are only effective if they are respected by all sides. A situation where the U.S. abides by the treaty and Russia does not is simply not sustainable.”
The NATO allies call on Russia once again to comply with the treaty. At the same time, the alliance will take appropriate actions to ensure the credibility and effectiveness of NATO’s deterrence and defense strategy, he said. “We will continue to keep Russia’s military posture and deployments under close review,” Stoltenberg said.
No one in NATO wants a new Cold War with a new arms race, he said. “We seek dialogue, not confrontation, with Russia,” the secretary general said. “Russia now has a last chance to come back into compliance with the INF Treaty, but we must also start to prepare for a world without the treaty.”
“Kick his ass!” was one of the multiple jeers I heard through the litany of booing as I stepped on the mat at Dragoon Fight Night, the 2d Cavalry Regiment’s combative showcase. A few weeks prior, I had posted a video on social media to over 4,000 Dragoons challenging any Soldier to fight their Command Sergeant Major. My opponent, Sergeant Zach Morrow, stood across the ring, he was 50 pounds heavier, nearly 20 years younger, and had a cage fighting record. I was about to be punched in the face.
Getting punched in the face is exactly what I needed and what the 700 people in attendance and those watching online needed to see. Often young leaders hear, “Never ask Soldiers to do something you are not willing to do,” but how do leaders, echelons above the most junior Soldiers on the front line, demonstrate this?
As NCOs and officers move up in positions the number of opportunities to exhibit leadership by example diminishes. Getting past the fear of failure, identifying opportunities to highlight priorities with action, and understanding Soldiers are always watching their leaders provides us the chance to inspire and positively impact the formation.
As leaders, we cannot be afraid of failure. When Sergeant Morrow approached me about my challenge, I knew the odds were against me. I was overmatched and fully understood I could be twisted into a pretzel or even worse, knocked out in front of my entire formation. But why shouldn’t I step into the ring? I didn’t make it to this position without losing a few battles or failing occasionally. Fear of defeat or failure cannot dissuade leaders from setting the example, it should inspire them to be better!
Recently, two majors in the 2d Cavalry Regiment attempted to get their Expert Soldier Badge (ESB). As they passed event after event the staff buzzed with excitement. Here were two staff primary officers who had taken time out of their schedule, risking failure to earn something they didn’t even need. They accepted risk and delegated responsibilities to ensure they could accept a challenge. Even after they failed on the third day of testing, their peers and subordinates saw them with a level of respect and admiration.
It would have been easier for those officers to avoid a challenge or risk of failure using busy work schedules as an excuse. Their evaluations were already written by their senior rater at that point. But they stepped in the ring and took a punch in the face earning respect and loyalty of their Soldiers even in failure. Any leader taking a risk and puts their reputation on the line is more inspirational than one who just shakes Soldiers’ hands after a fight.
There are many ways officers and NCOs can set the example at all echelons of leadership. As leaders accept challenges, it provides them with an opportunity to highlight command emphasis. Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Fortenberry (United States Army Infantry School) earned his Ranger Tab between battalion and brigade command. It echoed the importance his command team placed on the fundamentals and leadership lessons all Soldiers, regardless of rank, can learn at Ranger School.
Recently, Command Sgt. Maj. Frank Lopez (Brigade Support Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division) earned his ESB. He didn’t need it for a promotion or another badge on his chest. By earning it, he demonstrated to the NCOs and Soldiers the ESB is important and if he is willing to take a figurative punch in the face, so should every subordinate below him.
Soldiers always watch their leaders. They see the ones who “workout on their own” instead of joining them for challenging physical fitness training. Soldiers notice leaders who are always in their office while they face blistering wind during weekly command maintenance in January or scorching heat during tactical drills in July. In addition, senior leaders have fewer chances to lead from the front. They must actively look for opportunities to get punched in the face.
After three brutal rounds, Sergeant Morrow connected with a perfect strike to my upper eye. While the physician assistance superglued my eyebrow back together an unsettling quietness took over the gym. When I stepped back onto the mat the crowd erupted, it wasn’t about the Sergeant Major getting his “ass kicked” it was about a leader who accepted a challenge and wouldn’t quit or accept defeat. A few minutes later, I stood beside Sergeant Morrow, the referee raised his hand. The standing ovation was the loudest of the evening. The audience didn’t care their Command Sergeant Major was defeated, they were excited to see a good fight and a leader enter the ring and take a punch to the face.
When you think about tanks, images of the German Tiger, the American M1 Abrams, or the Russian T-72 come to mind.
But tanks can be homemade, Mad Max affairs as well. And while they may not be packing the firepower of an Abrams, they can still be very hard to stop, and make for nightmare for opposing forces without any armor.
Why would someone want a homemade tank? Well, the reasons can vary. In 2008, a Kettering University student wanted a decisive advantage during paintball tournaments. So, he and some friends built a half-scale Tiger tank with an air cannon and 360-degree turret. Yeah… if you see this, you know you’re coming out second-best in the paintball competition, the only question is if you will be clean or dirty when you collect your participation trophy.
Other times, the home-made tanks are made for movies. In one case, movie directors made a full-scale replica of a Tiger tank. The movie was called “White Tiger,” and it featured a Tiger tank as the villain. It is of interest to note the video below features a number of Tiger tanks in it, whether they are 40 percent scale models or full-size.
The Tiger tanks came in two main varieties. Each had an 88mm main gun and two 7.92mm machine guns.
Other home-built tanks were done as shells for wheelchairs or even a full-sized car. The fact is, these home-build tanks bear a resemblance to the earliest tanks built – in essence, armored tractors. One was an original design, and another was based on a go-kart.
In any of these cases, we imagine the local police have had some interesting thoughts on the matter.
Airman 1st Class Phillip Rock is part of his family’s legacy of military service — a legacy that, in fact, would not have continued if it weren’t for that military service itself.
Stationed at Whiteman Air Force Base, Rock is a B-2 Spirit weapons load crew member in the 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. It is his first Air Force assignment and the most recent in his family’s military history.
“I was raised in Kayenta, Arizona, which is an hour away from the four corners,” said Phillip, who is three-quarters Navajo American Indian. “It is really the heart of the reservation.”
Raised by his grandparents, he learned much about his cultural heritage from them. He also learned where his family’s long military lineage began.
This Rock family tradition started with his great grandfather, Joseph Rock — Grandpa Joe — who served in World War II.
Airman 1st Class Phillip E. Rock, a 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron B-2 weapons load crew member, weaves a dream catcher on Nov. 15, 2018, in his dorm at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White)
“At first, I didn’t know much about what my great grandfather had done,” Phillip said.
Grandpa Joe died in 2004 at age 92 when Phillip was 5 years old. It wasn’t until he was nearly a teen that Phillip realized his great grandfather was a war hero.
One day, when Rock was 12 years old, he was flipping through TV channels with his grandfather, Ernest Rock Sr., in their living room. They stopped to watch a historical documentary about World War II.
Rock recalled asking his grandfather about his great grandfather’s role in the major world conflict which spanned across Europe and the Pacific.
“I said, ‘Isn’t that the war Grandpa Joe fought in? What did he do?'”
His grandfather told Phillip “He was a code talker.”
Western expansion, cultural repression
It was the early 1900s and Joseph Rock was a young boy living on a Navajo reservation in Arizona. As the country expanded westward, much of the tribe’s land was taken by the U.S. government. Joseph was sent to school, where his long hair was cut and his name was changed.
“He went up to a chalkboard, pointed at a random configuration of letters, and that’s how he became Joseph Rock,” Phillip said. “Four generations later, we still carry on that last name.”
Grandpa Joe was also punished in school if he spoke his native language — the same language that would later save countless lives.
By 1941, shortly after the U.S. had entered WWII, the Marine Corps began to recruit Navajo tribal members for a top-secret code-communications program that wouldn’t be declassified until two decades later.
At first, fewer than 30 Navajo Indians were recruited as code talkers. In total, only about 400 of the 44,000 American Indians who served in WWII were Navajo code talkers. Joseph Rock was asked to work among them, and he accepted.
Airman 1st Class Phillip E. Rock, a B-2 weapons load crew member assigned to the 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, poses for a portrait on Nov. 15, 2018 in his dorm at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White)
“He was told if he served, the family would get some of their land back and a house,” Phillip Rock said. “None of that happened.”
But those promises weren’t what enticed Grandpa Joe to join the military. He wanted to serve his country, and did so honorably.
“My great grandfather was proud of his service,” Phillip Rock said. “It’s his legacy.”
This was not the first time American Indians were recruited for U.S. military service, either as combatants or code talkers. During the first World War, American troops relied on messages transmitted in Cherokee and Choctaw tribal languages to pass secret information. However, the languages used were eventually all deciphered by enemy troops.
The Navajo language, though, is considered particularly linguistically difficult. And at that time, it had not been written down. The U.S. government knew it would be nearly impossible for a non-Navajo to learn.
So, in the early 1940s, Navajo code talkers used their language to create more than 200 new words for military terms and then committed them to memory.
“The enemy never understood it,” a Marine general was quoted as saying after the Navajo code was first used in WWII. “We don’t understand it either, but it works.”
The Navajo code is the only spoken military code that has never been deciphered, and Navajo code talkers are credited with saving thousands of Americans’ and allies’ lives.
Winning the war
Before he knew his Grandpa Joe served as a code talker, Phillip learned about his tribe’s role in WWII as a boy in school.
“We were taught that we should be extremely thankful for what they did,” Phillip said. “Without the code talkers, we wouldn’t have won the war.”
During the Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945, Navajo code talkers worked around the clock sending and receiving thousands of messages. One Marine later stated, “Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima,” according to the Naval History and Heritage Command.
Joseph Rock was one of those code talkers involved in the critical battle to claim the Pacific island.
During the battle, a grenade landed only feet away from Joseph Rock, who “watched it hit the ground,” Phillip said. Then, Joseph Rock saw one of his fellow Marines dive on top of it, giving his life to save Grandpa Joe.
“He wanted to save the life of a code talker,” Phillip Rock said. “It’s inspiring what people will do to continue with the mission. My Grandpa Joe owed his life to that man.”
Neither Joseph Rock nor the Rock family was ever able to find out who the Marine was, but know future generations of Rocks have their lives thanks to his valor.
“I owe my life to that man, too,” Phillip said.
Traditional native american jewelry is laid out on the couch of Airman 1st Class Phillip E. Rock, a B-2 weapons load crew member assigned to the 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. Each piece of jewelry was gifted to rock throughout his childhood.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White)
Culture and service
Since Grandpa Joe, many members of the Rock family have answered their nation’s call including his grandfather, his father, uncles and an aunt.
For Phillip, his great grandfather’s service as a code talker influenced Philip’s own decision to join the Air Force.
Phillip is the most recent member of his family to serve in the military.
“I feel like it was a prideful thing to carry on that lineage of service,” said Phillip. “It felt like the right calling. My Grandpa Joe was the first to wear this name on a uniform. I am very proud of this name. I knew I wanted to carry that on and wear it on a uniform.”
Meanwhile, Navajo principles have taught him respect, perseverance, and determination.
“My culture really shapes who I am,” Phillip Rock says. “I wear my culture on my sleeve and my name on my chest.”
This feature is part of the “Through Airmen’s Eyes” series on AF.mil. These stories focus on a single Airman, highlighting their Air Force story.
Here at We Are The Mighty, we can understand if people are worried about getting their ass kicked by SEAL Team 6.
So, as a public service, here are some pointers on how to stay off DevGru’s Naughty List:
1. Don’t be a terrorist
SEAL Team 6 is the Navy’s dedicated counter-terrorist group. If you’re not a terrorist, they have no professional interest in giving you an ass-kicking at all. But if you are a terrorist, they will have a very professional interest in ruining your day and going through your stuff.
So, you may ask, “Why might they think I am a terrorist?” Well, if you join a terrorist group, they might think you are a terrorist. Here is a very handy list of groups, courtesy of the State Department, to not hang out with:
Abu Nidal Organization (ANO)
Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG)
Aum Shinrikyo (AUM)
Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA)
Gama’a al-Islamiyya (Islamic Group) (IG)
Harakat ul-Mujahidin (HUM)
Kahane Chai (Kach)
Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) (Kongra-Gel)
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)
National Liberation Army (ELN)
Palestine Liberation Front (PLF)
Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLF)
Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army (CPP/NPA)
Jemaah Islamiya (JI)
Lashkar i Jhangvi (LJ)
Ansar al-Islam (AAI)
Continuity Irish Republican Army (CIRA)
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (formerly al-Qa’ida in Iraq)
Islamic Jihad Union (IJU)
Harakat ul-Jihad-i-Islami/Bangladesh (HUJI-B)
Revolutionary Struggle (RS)
Kata’ib Hizballah (KH)
al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
Harakat ul-Jihad-i-Islami (HUJI)
Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP)
Army of Islam (AOI)
Indian Mujahedeen (IM)
Jemaah Anshorut Tauhid (JAT)
Abdallah Azzam Brigades (AAB)
Haqqani Network (HQN)
Ansar al-Dine (AAD)
Ansar al-Shari’a in Benghazi
Ansar al-Shari’a in Darnah
Ansar al-Shari’a in Tunisia
ISIL Sinai Province (formally Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis)
Mujahidin Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem (MSC)
Jaysh Rijal al-Tariq al Naqshabandi (JRTN)
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s Branch in Libya (ISIL-Libya)
Al-Qa’ida in the Indian Subcontinent
2. Don’t support terrorists
If you provide money, supplies, or even a place to stay to a member of a group on the State Department’s list, you’ve supported terrorism. This is bad.
Other activities, like drug trafficking, money laundering, recruiting members of terrorist groups, training new members of terrorist groups, and other forms of facilitating can get you on the official ass kicking list.
If terrorists approach you and ask you for help, mutter an excuse and GTFO.
Once you’ve fled, check out the Rewards for Justice web site; turning a terrorist in could be a way to set yourself up for life. Some terrorists could get you up to $25 million.
Wouldn’t you rather have $25 million than an ass-kicking courtesy of SEAL Team 6?
3. If the SEALs pay a visit, don’t resist
Seen through the greenish glow of night vision goggles, Navy SEALs prepare to breach a locked door in Osama Bin Laden’s compound in the hyper-realistic action thriller from director Kathryn Bigelow, “Zero Dark Thirty.” (Image: Columbia Pictures)
Now, let’s assume that you were dumb enough to attract the professional attention of the SEALs by ignoring Rules 1 and 2. You can still avoid an ass-kicking, but you need to use the common sense you have failed to use up to the point where the SEALs are kicking in the door.
Do not resist. Keep your hands where the SEALs can see them. Do not struggle.
You may get yourself taken to Guantanamo Bay for a while, and yes, the SEALs will take your stuff and look for anything with intelligence value (and some of it may become trophies), but you should be safe from a beating.
Here’s the deal. SEALs are professionals. They’re not gonna kill you just for sh*ts and giggles. But they also intend to go home to their families.
If a SEAL thinks there’s danger present, he’s gonna mitigate that threat.
Don’t threaten Navy SEALs, dude. Just…don’t.
4. Be very cooperative
In addition to not resisting, it would be very helpful to cooperate with the SEALs. Answer their questions. Here are a few phrases to practice:
“I will answer your questions.”
“This is the boss’s laptop and cell phone.”
“I can show you where the booby traps are.”
“Our cash is over there.”
“Our records are in these filing cabinets.”
“My password is [tell them your password].”
“The combination to the safe is [tell them the combo]”
You may still get the all-expenses paid trip to Gitmo, but the SEALs will note that you were highly cooperative. Your stay there will be much more comfortable than if you clam up.
Follow these rules and you might not get your ass kicked by SEAL Team 6.
The U.S. military comes up with some amazing aircraft to meet its battlefield requirements. And American defense contractors are not afraid to think outside the box when it comes to U.S. air superiority.
But not every idea is a hit. No one is 100-percent perfect every time, but sometimes it makes a pilot wonder, “how the hell did this get made?”
Its biggest issue was its nose-driven, underpowered design, which sounds like it might be a problem for taking off from a carrier — which it was. The Cutlass — aka “The Ensign Eliminator” — went away almost as fast as it appeared.
4. McDonnell XF-85 Goblin
This thing looks like the Smart Car of fighter aircraft. It was designed to fly with a bomber fleet, detach, fight off enemy fighters, and then reattach for the trip home. It was a pretty big problem for the Air Force when the Goblin couldn’t re-attach. It was a bigger problem because it also didn’t have landing gear.
Gretchen, stop trying to make parasite fighters happen. It’s not going to happen.
3. The Brewster F2A Buffalo
The appropriately named Buffalo fighter went into action against the nimble fighters Japan fielded in the early days of WWII. They went in, but they never came out because they ambled like an awkward pack animal right into the teeth of superior aircraft.
The Buffalo had a number of mechanical flaws, including — but not limited to — machine guns not actually firing. So, naturally, when the Navy replaced most of their fighters, the Buffalo was given to the Marines, who quickly dubbed it the “Flying Coffin.”
2. Douglas TBD Devastator
When the Devastator was first ordered by the Navy in 1938, it was the most advanced aircraft of its kind. Unfortunately, by the time WWII came around, it was horribly obsolete. It was a slow-mover with a top speed of just over 200 mph and could only drop its torpedo while flying in a straight line… and only if it was flying at less than 115 mph.
Also, sometimes the plane’s torpedo didn’t even explode on impact, negating the whole point of a torpedo bomber.
1. The Cantilever “Christmas Bullet”
Look at this thing; it looks like a refrigerator box with wings. It’s an early airplane, built in 1919 by Dr. William Whitney Christmas, but it looks like it was designed to kill anyone who might fly it. It featured no strut supports for the wings, which were designed to flap in flight. The designer swore it could travel to Germany to kidnap the Kaiser.
Unsurprisingly, no pilot wanted to test fly the Christmas Bullet once they actually saw it. One brave man decided to give it a shot… and he was instantly killed when the wings twisted and tore away.
President Donald Trump has engaged China in a trade war that has global markets holding their breath, but his administration recently challenged Beijing on an issue Chinese officials have promised to go to war over.
Buried in the paper, which charts China’s efforts to build up a military fortress in the South China Sea and use its growing naval might to coerce its neighbors, is a reference to Taiwan as a “country.”
“As democracies in the Indo-Pacific, Singapore, Taiwan, New Zealand, and Mongolia are reliable, capable, and natural partners of the United States,” the strategy said. “All four countries contribute to US missions around the world and are actively taking steps to uphold a free and open international order.”
President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping.
China views Taiwan as a breakaway island province that has its own democratic government. Beijing sees this as an existential threat and the factor most likely to upset the Communist Party’s absolute hold on power in the mainland.
In July 2018, China threatened to blacklist airlines that referred to Taiwan as a country. US airlines fell in line, but the White House protested the strong-arm tactic as “Orwellian nonsense.”
But now the US itself has clearly said it: Taiwan is a country, and the US will treat it as such.
‘The Chinese military has no choice but to fight at all costs’
In another unprecedented step, a high-ranking Taiwanese minister was allowed to meet with Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, in May 2019. This move predictably enraged China.
At the Shangri La Dialogue, the top defense summit in Asia, Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe made clear the stakes of China’s Taiwan problem.
“Any interference in the Taiwan question is doomed to failure,” Wei said, according to Channel Asia News. “If anyone dares to split Taiwan from China, the Chinese military has no choice but to fight at all costs.”
Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe.
Taiwan is “the hot-button issue” in US-China relations, John Hemmings, the director of the Asia Studies Centre at the Henry Jackson Society, told Business Insider.
China has always maintained that it would prefer to reunify with Taiwan peacefully but would do so by force if needed. Additionally, China’s navy has increasingly patrolled the waters around the island and flown nuclear-capable bombers nearby.
But the US has also sailed warships through the narrow strait separating China and Taiwan and has gotten allies to pitch in.
The arms are already moving
The US’s rhetorical escalation follows the Trump administration normalizing arms sales to Taiwan and the news that it will sell billion in tanks, anti-tank weapons, and air defenses to the island.
According to Hemmings, these weapons have a clear purpose: to fight back against a Chinese invasion of the island.
Bonnie Glaser, a senior adviser for Asia and the director of the China Power Project at Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider that the US had now entered “uncharted territory” by acknowledging Taiwan.
A US Marine Corps M1A1 Abrams tank during Arrow 2019 at the Pohjankangas Training Area near Niinisalo, Finland, on May 12, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)
The US under Trump has been the most pro-Taiwan administration in decades, Hemmings said. Trump demonstrated this during his presidential transition period when he had a call with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen.
For years, China has slowly stepped up pressure on the US in areas like forcing companies to transfer technology, building up military sites on artificial islands in the South China Sea, and naval challenges.
Hemmings mentioned a popular anecdote in China, in which a frog is cooked by putting it in a pot of cold water and then slowly turning up the heat. The frog doesn’t realize it’s getting cooked until it’s too late. China’s gradual pressure campaign against the US has been compared to this practice.
With the US now quietly acknowledging Taiwan in a strategy document, it may have found its own small way to turn up the heat on Beijing.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.