This is what it felt like to be the 'FNG' in Vietnam - We Are The Mighty
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This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam

Intense humidity, leeches, and snakes were just a few of the dangers our Vietnam Veterans faced while in the jungle — besides getting shot by bad guys. In all, 2.7 million Americans suited up for The Nam, and the average age of an infantryman was just 19-years-old.


And every single one of them at one time or another claimed the title of “f*cking new guy,” or “FNG.”

Patton, Schwarzkopf, and Mattis didn’t start out on day one of their military careers by making all the right decisions, they had to learn from their mistakes time and time again, adapting to them before ultimately succeeding.

Like every story, every man whose served has a beginning — a seed.

“I didn’t know squat, I wasn’t prepared for this,” Larry “Doc” Speed, a Combat Medic from 173rd Delta Company, explains in an interview about his first few days in the bush.

This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam
Doc Speed takes a moment for a photo op during his time in Vietnam. (Source: Mark Joyner/YouTube/ Screenshot)

Entering the grunt world as an “FNG” is a stressful time in every new infantryman’s life.

Having to prove your worth from the moment you step onto the battlefield was just as difficult as shaking off those first dramatic moments of being pinned down by accurate enemy gunfire. Until you prove yourself, you’re just another blood bag with a name stenciled on a uniform.

“It’s a different world when you’re brand new, you’re just scared,” Jesse Salcedo, an M60 machine gunner admits. “It took three or four firefights before I could function before I could see the enemy.”

Also Read: That time American POWs refused a CIA rescue mission in Vietnam

Watch Mark Joyner‘s video below to hear the direct words from Vietnam Veterans about their first days in “The Nam.”

(Mark Joyner, YouTube)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Everything you need to know about the Army’s ‘third arm’

When engineers from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory brainstormed on how to improve soldier lethality, the idea of a third arm seemed like something that might help.

Mechanical engineer Dan Baechle carefully planned out a device that doesn’t need batteries, is lightweight and can evenly distribute the load of a heavy weapon.

“It can help stabilize the weapon and take the load off of their arms,” he said. “It’s made from composite materials to make it as light as possible, but also to ensure the range of motion that soldiers need.”

The device, officially called the Third Arm helps take the weight of the weapons off of a soldiers’ arms. It weighs less than four pounds, and because of the innovative design, the weight of the device and the weapon are evenly distributed.

“We’ve actually tested it with the M249 and M240B machines guns. The M240B weighs 27 pounds, and we were able to show that you can take the weight of that weapon completely off of the soldiers’ arms,” Baechle said.

This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam
Army researcher Dan Baechle (right) briefs Sgt. Michael Zamora on how to use the Third Arm exoskeleton device from the Army Research Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.
(U.S. Army photo by Conrad Johnson)

Soldiers testing the device pointed out that initial versions didn’t make it possible for them to use the device and go into the prone position. But that’s not an issue with the current version.

At a recent test with a soldier at the Military Operations in Urban Terrain site at APG, a sergeant wore the device with an M-4 type weapon and dove into a prone fighting position from a sprint. The Third Arm provided immediate stabilization to improve marksmanship for the soldier.

“Right now it’s a prototype device, and it’s a fairly early stage prototype device,” Baechle said. “It’s been getting a lot of interest higher up in the Army, but also online with some of the stories that have come out. We’re using some of the interest to help motivate further development of the device.”



Baechle said that the Army modernization priorities include “soldier lethality that spans all fundamentals — shooting, moving, communicating, protecting and sustaining.” Further documentation specifically mentions the fielding of “load-bearing exoskeletons.”

“It falls in line with the direction that the Army wants to be heading in the future,” Baechle said. “We get comments from Soldiers who tell us different things about the way it feels on their body … about the way it redistributes the load. Some like it, some give us tips about the ways it could be improved, and we’re using that input to improve the device and improve the design so that it not only works well, but it also feels good.”

This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam
Army Sgt. Michael Zamora assumes a prone fighting position using a prototype Third Arm exoskeleton device during testing at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, March 14, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Conrad Johnson)

In 2017, the lab conducted a small pilot study of active-duty troops using Third Arm in live-fire trials. The results showed the device can improve marksmanship, reduce arm fatigue and muscle activation for some soldiers.

“We’re using that small study to motivate a larger study this year with more soldiers taking a look at dynamics, shooting scenarios,” Baechle said. “We’re still refining the device. We’re starting to look at heavier weapons.”

Baechle stressed that what you see now may not be what gets to future soldiers.

“What we have right now is a very specific device, but we can learn from that device,” he said. “I hope in the future what we’ll end up with is something that will help the soldier. Whether or not it’s in the form you see today, that’s less important. Helping the soldier is what I really hope for. I think this year is really going to be a good one and an important one in showing what this device can do.”


The U.S. Army Research Laboratory is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities that provide decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the joint warfighter and the nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These are the first units to get Army’s cutting-edge night vision technology

Army Futures Command on Sept. 25, 2019, began equipping the first of two combat brigades, selected so far, to receive the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Binocular (ENVG-B), a capability that modernization officials promise will improve marksmanship, day and night.

The ENVG-B is a wireless, dual-tubed technology with a built-in thermal imager that is part of a capability set modernization officials started fielding to soldiers from 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, at Fort Riley, Kansas.

The Army has also selected 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, as the next unit to receive the new capability in March 2020, Bridgett Siter, spokeswoman for the Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team, told Military.com. The service plans to buy as many as 108,251 ENVG-Bs to issue to infantry and other close-combat units.


Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston and senior modernization officials celebrated the fielding as the first major achievement of Army Futures Command.

This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam

The Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Binocular (ENVG-B).

(US Army photo)

“This is a historic event; I am really proud to be here,” Grinston said during a discussion with reporters at Riley. “So, we can say we stood up the Army’s Futures Command, and then today we are delivering a product in two years.”

The service announced its plan to create the command in 2017, but didn’t activate it until August 2018.

During the process, the Army has conducted 11 user evaluations, known as Soldier Touchpoints, in which soldiers and Marines have field-tested the prototypes of ENVG-B and “helped us get this right,” said Brig. Gen. Dave Hodne, director of the Soldier Lethality Cross Functional Team and chief of infantry at Fort Benning, Georgia.

In addition to the creation of Army Futures Command, officials credited the work of the cross-functional teams — made up of requirements experts, materiel developers and test officials — that make it possible to field equipment much faster than in the past.

This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam

Sgt. 1st Class William Roth, Technical Advisor, Soldier Lethality-Cross Functional Team, gets ready to step off for an overnight hike to the summit of Mount Monadnock, New Hampshire using the Enhanced Night Vision Google- Binocular during a Soldier Touchpoint on the system July 10-12, 2019.

(Photo by Photo by Patrick Ferraris)

The structure “really enables us to move faster as an enterprise than we have ever been able to move before, in being able to derive and deliver capabilities for our soldiers,” said Brig. Gen. Anthony Potts, commander of Program Executive Office Soldier.

The binocular function of the ENVG-B gives soldiers more depth perception, and the thermal image intensifier allows soldiers to see enemy heat signatures at night and in the daylight through smoke, fog and other battlefield obscurants, Army officials say.

But when the system is teamed with the Family of Weapon Sights-Individual (FWS-I), which is being fielded with the ENVG-B, soldiers can view their sight reticle as it’s transmitted wirelessly into the goggle.

This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam

Sgt. Gabrielle Hurd, 237th Military Police Company, New Hampshire Army National Guard, shows her team the route they will take before embarking on an overnight hike to the summit of Mount Monadnock, New Hampshire, during an Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Binocular Soldier Touchpoint, July 10-12, 2019.

(Photo by Photo by Patrick Ferraris)

“Now we are able to move that targeting data straight from that weapon, without wires, up in front of a soldier’s eyes,” Potts said, adding that the process is much faster and “makes a soldier far more lethal.”

“What you are seeing today is the first iteration of a capability fielding … and we are going to continue to grow this capability out so that we really treat the soldier as an integrated weapon platform,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Articles

Whether it’s used in space or in Afghanistan, the Makarov pistol is out of this world

This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam
A Russian Makarov PM pistol with its 9×18 mm ammunition, a common sidearm anywhere in the world where the Soviet Union had influence. Public domain photo.


If you are a Russian cosmonaut, you’ve got more than a space suit to protect you.

The Russians have been packing heat in low Earth orbit for decades.

Along with fishing gear and a first aid kit, the Granat-6 survival kit in every Soyuz spacecraft has a Makarov PM semi-automatic pistol and plenty of ammunition.

Presumably available to hunt game or provide a self-defense option, the pistol is just one more tool for the space-faring Russian to use if things go wrong.

But the Makarov PM – for Пистолет Макарова, or pistolet Makarova in honor of its chief designer Nikolay Makarov – has plenty of down-to-Earth uses.

Concealable and compact, it fires the Russian 9 x 18mm Makarov round, which is slightly shorter and fatter than the 9-mm NATO pistol round used throughout the rest of the world. It has a double-action mechanism – if a round is already chambered the pistol can be fired by pulling the trigger without manually cocking the hammer.

Even though it is heavy for its size and has a stiff trigger pull, it’s a natural for police work and covert operations. The designer even copied features from the Walther PP (police pistol) designed in 1929, including its size and the shape of the pistol’s frame.

Not surprisingly, since its introduction in 1951 the Makarov was frequently the handgun brandished by state security agents in the U.S.S.R. or the old Eastern Bloc when they said, “Comrade, come with us.”

Even in the age of polymer-frame pistols, the Makarov has its adherents.

Spetsnaz (Russian special forces) team members often carried the Makarov as their sidearm, particularly team commanders, deputy commanders, and radiomen. They sometimes carried a suppressed version of the weapon for so-called “wet works” – kidnappings and assassinations where stealth, surprise, and silence were necessary for mission success as well as personal survival.

With the fall of the Soviet Union, many Makarovs flooded the market and eventually ended up in the hands of shooters in the United States.

“The Makarov is more reliable than most of the more expensive small pistols, is well made of good material, and is surprisingly accurate,” writes Matthew Campbell, author of 21st-Century Stopping Power: What Works, What Doesn’t, and Why. “This makes the Makarov a superior choice to most of the double action first-shot .380 ACP pistols in this size and weight class.”

Despite the fact it was officially phased out in 2003 by the Russian Ministry of Defense, thousands of the pistols remain in service with police officers, soldiers, and intelligence personnel. It is frequently in the hands of combatants fighting the Russia-Ukraine War, serving as the sidearm for both sides.

And like many weapons, the Makarov has a “bad boy reputation.”

Noted terrorist Ilich Ramírez Sánchez  (a.k.a. Carlos the Jackal) carried a Makarov. During the Vietnam War, many senior ranking North Vietnamese Army officers and Communist Party officials carried the pistol – special operators from the U.S. military or the CIA often found the weapon when they searched live prisoners or dead bodies.

To this day, Makarovs frequently appear on the battlefield in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria – a testament to the staying power of a rugged, Soviet-era pistol with few frills but incredible reliability.

Articles

It looks like Syrian rebels are using Nazi-era artillery

A new video uploaded on Facebook likely shows German Wehrmacht artillery being used by Syrian rebels in that nation’s current civil war:



The video description doesn’t identify who is operating the weapon, but it is likely the Syrian rebels. They’ve used this tactic before. A video surfaced in May 2015 showing them using Wehrmacht artillery and they’ve also pressed valuable, antique German guns into service. And the artilleryman’s clothing bears some striking differences from government uniforms.

MIGHTY MEMES

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of March 1st

With the first of the month comes a whole new promotions list across the board. To each and every one of you who made it, bravo zulu. You’re going to take the next step in your career. May your slight increase in pay help soothe over the mountain of sh*t that comes with the added responsibility.

And let’s be honest. When you’re the lowest guy on the totem pole, it seems like it sucks, but there’s nothing really demanded of you — outside of performing your assigned duties, cleaning the company area, and keeping out of trouble that is. No one is calling you into the MP station at 0300 on a Sunday night because someone you assumed was an adult did something you never thought to add to a safety brief. No one bothers seriously chewing your ass out for something someone else did.


So if you didn’t get promoted today, don’t sweat it. It could be worse. Regardless, one thing’s for sure: the memes have arrived.

This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam

(Meme via Broken and Unreadable)

This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam

(Meme via Not CID)

This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam

(Meme via Do You Even Comm, Bro?)

This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam

(Meme via Untied Status Marin Crops)

This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam

(Meme via ASMDSS)

This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam

(Meme via Military Memes)

This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam

(Meme via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

Articles

This is what battle was like for airmen during World War II

 


The Air Force today takes a ribbing from the other services for being soft, so it’s easy to forget that historically their mission has been one of the most dangerous. This was on display in World War II when Allied aircrews were tasked with bombing Nazi-occupied Germany and Imperial Japan.

In this clip, a World War II Royal Air Force veteran discusses what it was like flying bombers to Berlin through a wall of flak so thick that, as he describes it, it sounded like driving a car through a hailstorm. He also tells of the mission where their bomber was chased down by German fighters and forced to crash land.

Articles

This is how British pilots made beer runs for troops in Normandy

To keep the many men and machines in fighting shape during the World War II invasion of France, logistics technicians sure had their work cut out for them. Bomb, bullets, planes and tanks were top priorities, so there was little room for luxury items that’d keep the troops in good spirits while fighting Nazis.


And when a British brewery donated gallons of beer for troops on the front, there was no way to get it to the men by conventional means.

Enter Britain’s Royal Air Force.

In the early days after the Normandy invasion of June 1944, British and American troops noticed an acute shortage of adult beverages — namely beer. Many British soldiers complained about watery cider being the only drink available in recently liberated French towns. Luckily for them, the Royal Air Force was on the tap (pun intended) to solve the problem.

With no room for cargo on their small fighter planes, RAF pilots arrived at a novel solution – using drop tanks to transport suds instead of fuel.

This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam

The drop tanks of a Spitfire each carried 45 gallons of gas, meaning a plane could transport 90 gallons of extra liquid. When carrying fuel, the tanks were used and then discarded.

For the purposes of ferrying beer, ground crews set about steam cleaning the tanks for their special deliveries. These flights became known as “flying pubs” by the troops they served. A few British breweries, such as Heneger and Constable, donated free beer for the RAF to take to the front. Other units had to pool their funds and buy the beer.

As the desire for refreshment increased in Normandy, the RAF began employing the Hawker Typhoon which could carry even more than the Spitfire. Unfortunately, the Typhoon was often mistaken by inexperienced American pilots as the German Focke-Wulf 190.

This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam

According to one British captain, the beer deliveries were attacked twice in one day by U.S. P-47 Thunderbolts. The Typhoon had to jettison its tanks into the English Channel to take evasive action, costing the troops on the ground dearly.

The drop tanks also had a serious disadvantage. While they could carry large amounts of beer, the initial runs still tasted of fuel. Even after the tanks had been used several times and lost their fuel taste, they still imparted a metallic flavor to the beer.

To counter this problem, ground crews developed Modification XXX, a change made to the wing pylons of Spitfire Mk. IXs that allowed them to carry actual kegs of beer.

This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam

These kegs, often called ‘beer bombs,’ were standard wooden kegs with a specially-designed nose cone and attachments for transport under the wing of the Spitfire. Though they carried less beer, it arrived tasting like it just came out of the tap at the pub, chilled by the altitude of the flight over the channel.

To ensure their compatriots remained satisfied, pilots would often return to England for rudimentary maintenance issues or other administrative needs in order to grab another round. As the need for beer increased, all replacement Spitfires and Typhoons being shipped to airfields in France carried ‘beer bombs’ in their bomb racks to the joy of the thirsty crews manning the airfields.

This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam

When the Americans learned of what the British were doing they joined in, even bringing over ice cream for the GIs as well.

As the practice gained popularity, Britain’s Custom and Excise Ministry caught wind and tried to shut it down. Thankfully by that time, there were more organized official shipments of beer making it to the troops. However, the enterprising pilots kept up their flights with semi-official permission from higher-ups, they just kept it a better secret.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

Soon after America set off its largest-ever nuclear blast on Bikini Atoll in the Pacific, one of the scientists behind the weapon’s design aimed for something even bigger: a 10,000-megaton blast that would’ve been 670,000 times as powerful as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, so large it would’ve destroyed a continent and poisoned the earth.


The story of the unnamed weapon centers around one man. Edward Teller was born in Hungary and was one of the European-Jewish physicists who escaped to the U.S. as Nazi Germany began its rise. He was one of the authors of the letter signed by Albert Einstein and sent to President Franklin D. Roosevelt that spurred America’s nuclear program in World War II.

But even while working on the atomic bomb during World War II, Teller and a few others were urging for a much larger “super bomb” than the first atomic weapons. They believed that, while the atomic bombs were aiming for about 10-15 kilotons of power, weapons that would boom at 10-15 megatons were possible.

While Teller’s first proposal for the super bomb would later be proven impossible, a 1951 design he created with Polish mathematician Stanislaw Ulam was the basis of thermonuclear weapons. The Teller-Ulam design was first detonated at Enewetak Atoll in 1952, creating a 10.4-megaton blast that dug out a 6,240-foot-wide crater at the test site. Some of the military men at the test responded with dread, certain that such a weapon could never be used.

Teller, on the other hand, wanted to think bigger.

This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam

The Castle Bravo test was the largest nuclear blast ever created by the U.S.

(U.S. Federal Government)

He proposed linking together multiple thermonuclear devices to create larger blasts. Slight permutations on this idea led to the U.S. CASTLE Bravo test with a 15-megaton yield—the largest America ever set off, and the Tsar Bomba display by Russia—the largest nuclear blast ever created by man at 50-megatons.

But at the Castle test series in 1954, while Teller and Ulam’s overall concept of thermonuclear devices was being proven over and over, the only individual bomb actually designed by Teller himself was a dud. It went off at only 110-kilotons, a tiny fraction of power compared to every other weapon tested in the series.

And Teller had a lot riding on success. The U.S. had split its nuclear efforts into two labs, adding Livermore National Laboratory to Los Alamos where the original atomic bombs had been created. Teller was one of the founders of Livermore, and his friends were helping run it. There were rumors that the government might stop funding Livermore efforts, effectively killing it.

So Teller went to the next meeting with the General Advisory Committee, where the nuclear scientists proposed new lines of effort and weapon designs, with two proposed ways forward for Livermore. He wanted the laboratory to look into tactical nuclear weapon designs on one hand, and to create a 10,000-megaton nuclear weapon on the other hand.

That would be a 10-gigaton blast. Alex Wellerstein, the nuclear history professor behind the NUKEMAP application, calculated that kind of destruction.

A 10,000 megaton weapon, by my estimation, would be powerful enough to set all of New England on fire. Or most of California. Or all of the UK and Ireland. Or all of France. Or all of Germany. Or both North and South Korea. And so on.

But that only accounts for the immediate overpressure wave and fireball. The lethal nuclear fallout would have immediately lethal levels of radiation across multiple countries, and likely would have poisoned the earth. We would show you what this looks like on NUKEMAP, but Wellerstein programmed it to “only” work with blasts up to 100 megatons, the largest bomb ever constructed. Teller’s weapon would have been 100 times as powerful.

This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam

The NUKEMAP application shows the damage from a 100-megaton blast on Moscow. The orange and yellow ovals going northeast are the fallout from the blast. While this may look safe for America, Teller’s proposed design would’ve been 100 times larger.

(NUKEMAP screenshot. Application by Alex Wellerstein)

When Teller went to the GAC with this proposal, they quickly threw cold water on it. What would be the point of such a weapon? It would be impossible to use the weapon without killing millions of civilians. Even if the bomb were dropped in the heart of the Soviet Union, it would poison vast swaths of Western Europe and potentially the U.S.

The GAC did endorse Livermore’s work on tactical nuclear weapons, and Teller eventually moved on to other passions. But the weapon is theoretically possible. But hopefully, no one can assemble a team sufficiently smart enough to design and manufacture the weapon that’s also stupid enough to build it.

After all, we already have nuclear arsenals large enough to destroy the world a few times over. Do we really need a single bomb that can do it?

(H/T to The Pentagon’s Brain, a book by Annie Jacobson where the author first learned about Teller’s proposal.)

Articles

These 12 historical photos vividly show where the Navy’s term “salty” came from

“Salty” is a term from the United States Navy used to describe an experienced sailor – someone for whom the romanticized idea of ship life is gone and replaced with sea salt.

Recently WATM published photos from the 1898 Spanish-American War that were found during a U.S. Navy archive office renovation. One of our readers asked if we could find historical photos of the  U.S. Navy’s saltiest sailors throughout history, so we did.


Check these sea dogs out:

This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam
An older sailor with a young one, circa 1917.

 

This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam

 

This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam
Exchanging seas stories, circa 1900

 

This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam
Sailors aboard the USS Oregon, circa 1900

 

This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam
These are U.S. Navy sailors from the Spanish-American War period. This photo was recently found in an archival building.

 

This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam
The crew of the Holland, the Navy’s first commissioned Submarine in 1899

 

This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam
Sailors from the USS Hartford, circa 1876

 

This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam
Sailors aboard the USS Ohio circa 1870.

 

This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam
Sailors of the Union Navy during the Civil War, 1865

 

This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam
Confederate officers aboard the CSS Alabama, 1863

 

This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam
Admiral DD Porter, 1860

 

This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam
A Mexican-American War Era Navy Commander, circa 1850

MIGHTY TRENDING

The President joked about the US leaving NATO but no one laughed

During a private meeting with President Donald Trump in March 2018, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven explained that while his country was not a member of NATO, it regularly partnered with the defense alliance.

Trump, who has clashed with NATO leaders since taking office, responded by saying that was the kind of relationship with NATO that the US should consider, a European diplomat told Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin.


A senior administration official told Rogin that the remark was a joke, but the comment is one of many before and since that hint at disinterest, and, in some cases, hostility from the US president toward the trans-Atlantic alliance of which the US was a founder and is the largest member.

The US is the most powerful military in the 29-member alliance, and US withdrawal would dramatically reduce NATO’s power to deter potential adversaries like Russia at a time when Russian President Vladimir Putin is using cyberattacks and his military to threaten European neighbors.

This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam
Russian President Vladimir Putin

Trump’s criticisms have centered around financing, and he has often rebuked NATO members for falling short of the 2%-of-GDP defense-spending level to which alliance members have agreed.

He reiterated that criticism in letters sent to some of the NATO members that fell short of that spending threshold in the weeks ahead of the organization’s summit on July 11 and July 12, 2018.

The only one to be made public was sent to Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg. The June 19, 2018 letter, published by Norwegian newspaper VG, said Norway was “the only NATO Ally sharing a border with Russia that lacks a credible plan to spend 2 percent of its gross domestic product on defense.”

In the letter, Trump said he “understand[s] domestic political pressures,” having faced them in the US, but it would “become increasingly difficult to justify to American citizens why some countries continue to fail to meet our shared collective security commitments.”

The letter followed a general template, tailored with language specific to the recipient country, US and foreign officials told Foreign Policy. The officials said the letter sent to Germany contained some of the harshest language —Trump himself has directed some of his most withering scorn at German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Concerns about Trump’s commitment to the alliance have grown during his second year in office, especially as he continues to criticize NATO leaders and pursue rapprochement with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Many of the Trump administration officials who tried to reassure NATO allies have departed.

NATO officials are also worried by what seems to be the increasing isolation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who is regarded as one of the administration’s steadier hands and a vocal NATO proponent.

This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis

Julianne Smith, director of the Trans-Atlantic Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, told The New York Times that Trump questioned other leaders about their opinions of Mattis during the G7 meeting in Canada in May 2018.

Smith, who was deputy national security adviser to former Vice President Joe Biden, said the exchange was “awkward” for those leaders, who felt praise “might be the kiss of death” for Mattis. “So they said deliberately that he is being so tough on us on 2% defense spending, to try to save the guy.”

“There’s overwhelming anxiety, and it’s been punctuated with very specific concerns. That has a profound impact on what our Europeans friends think he thinks about them,” Biden told Rogin. “The consequence is disastrous for our national security and economic interests.”

The US continues to back NATO and its initiatives, particularly the alliance’s efforts to counter Russia.

The US remains an active participant in NATO military exercises, leads one of the multinational battle groups now deployed to Eastern Europe, and has volunteered to host NATO’s new Atlantic Command in Norfolk, Virginia, to oversee operations in the northern Atlantic.

The bloc also recently agreed to the NATO Readiness Initiative, a plan pushed by Mattis requiring NATO to have 30 land battalions, 30 fighter aircraft squadrons, and 30 warships ready to deploy within 30 days of being put on alert.

But continued cooperation doesn’t mean the ties established between North America and Europe since the end of World War II will endure, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in June 2018.

“It is not written in stone that the trans-Atlantic bond will survive forever,” Stoltenberg said in London. “But I believe we will preserve it.”

“We may have seen the weakening” of some of those bonds, Stoltenberg said. He added that differences had been overcome in the past and said maintaining the partnership “is in our strategic interests.”

“We must continue to protect our multilateral institutions like NATO, and we must continue to stand up for the international rules-based order,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

One of the first Ironman Triathletes was a Navy SEAL who hydrated with beer

What is now considered the gold standard of endurance competitions started out with an idea from a sailor who was stationed in Hawaii in 1978. That first race had 15 competitors, and among them was John Dunbar, a former Navy SEAL who might have finished first had he had water to hydrate with. Instead, he drank Budweiser. He still finished a strong second.


Spoiler alert: the first winner of the now-legendary race was Naval Reserve Lieutenant Gordon Haller. He was just 34 minutes ahead of Dunbar.

The Ironman Triathlon was the brainchild of Naval Officer John Collins and his wife. While stationed in Hawaii, they and their friends used to talk trash about who was more fit – who was the better swimmer, biker, runner, etc., as some military members are apt to do. Collins decided he would create a competition to make everyone put their money where their mouth is. Knowing about the new triathlons that were gaining popularity in the Mainland United States, the Navy guys decided theirs would be the most fitting test of might and endurance.

On Feb. 18, 1978, 15 people showed up to the shores of Waikiki at 0700 to tackle the first Hawaiian Iron Man Triathlon, looking for the promise Collins wrote out in the first-ever rule book: “Swim 2.4 miles! Run 26¼ miles! Bike 112 miles! Brag the rest of your Life!”

This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam

The first Ironman Triathletes enter the ocean for the swim competition.

(Ironman)

Back then, there were few monitors for the race as military personnel can usually be trusted to maintain their integrity. But times were different. The toughness of an Ironman Race is well-known today. Then, the competition was unlike anything they could have prepared for, so each participant was expected to have a crew with them to ensure their needs were met as the race progressed. Dunbar ran out of water because his team ran out of water, but he hydrated with beer and finished the race. Other participants weren’t exactly using the scientifically-formulated nutrition of today’s races, either.

One runner ate candy to get the energy he needed. Race founder John Collins actually stopped to eat a bowl of chili as the race’s lore tells us. Another runner got his sugar and caffeine fix from drinking cokes…in an Ironman Triathlon. Imagine seeing that on television today.

This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam

The first Ironman Trophy.

(Ironman)

In the end, only 12 of the original participants finished the grueling race (no word on whether the Coke drinker made it across the finish line). Finishers received a small trophy consisting of an iron tube formed into the shape of a stick figure with a hexagonal nut for a head – an Iron Man. The next year was even more raucous, with another 15 racers and 12 finishers, but this time the winner was a bar owner from San Diego. Dunbar again finished second, but this time he did it in a Superman costume. Haller finished fourth.

Sadly, this epic origin story ends with a falling out and a legal battle. As Collins’ idea grew into a worldwide phenomenon, he would end up selling it for millions. Due to the wording of the paperwork signed by the original participants, there is a controversy over the original 15 owning a small part of the Ironman event, an interpretation that had been rejected by the courts. They never got a cut of the money from the event, which is now owned by Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group, who paid 0 million for it in 2015.

The Ironman runs some 260 races in 44 countries, and while they may be an incredible achievement for those who run it, there will never be an Ironman like the ones run by a group of Navy friends in the early years.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here is why the Cheyenne failed to replace the Cobra

The AH-64 Apache has become a legendary helicopter — proving to be more than a capable replacement for the AH-1 Cobras in United States Army service, but this gunship almost didn’t see the light of day.


This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam
The Apache racked up 240 hours of combat during Operation Just Cause. (Photo from U.S. Army)

Back in the late 1960s, the Cobra was seen as just a stopgap. The Army ran a competition for an Advanced Aerial Fire Support System and, ultimately, selected Lockheed’s entry, designating it the AH-56 Cheyenne and ordering ten prototypes.

This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam
Cobra AH-1 attack helicopters were often deployed with Loaches to provide greater firepower. (Photo from U.S. Army)

The Cheyenne was not a conventional helicopter. It had a top rotor and a tail rotor, but it also added a pusher propeller. This gave it a top speed of 245 miles per hour, according to MilitaryFactory.com. By comparison, the AH-64 has a top speed of just under 189 miles per hour. The Cheyenne had a single 30mm cannon and could carry BGM-71 TOW missiles, 2.75-inch rockets, and external fuel tanks.

This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam
AH-56 Cheyenne hovering over a helipad. (Photo from U.S. Army)

So, why didn’t the Cheyenne become a staple? First, a fatal crash and numerous delays marred the project. Additionally, the Army’s Cheyenne was seen as a violation of the Key West Agreement, causing further friction. Plans to buy 600 Cheyennes were quickly scaled down to 375 as costs climbed.

Ultimately, the Army scrapped the Cheyenne when the Air Force began the A-X project, which eventually lead to fielding the A-10 Thunderbolt II close-air support plane. The Cheyenne was officially cancelled on August 9th, 1972. Eight days later, the Army began the Advanced Attack Helicopter program, which eventually produced the AH-64 Apache.

This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam
An A-10C Thunderbolt II assigned to the 75th Fighter Squadron performs a low-angle strafe using its 30mm GAU-8 rotary cannon during the Hawgsmoke competition at Barry M. Goldwater Range, Ariz., June 2, 2016. The entire A-10 platform was designed around the tank-killing cannon. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Chris Drzazgowski)

The Cheyenne hasn’t failed entirely, though. Sikorsky’s S-97 Raider prototype looks like a more advanced version of the Cheyenne. In a real sense, the Cheyenne was almost five decades ahead of its time.

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