During World War II, the U.S. Navy had some of the most advanced weapons available, like artillery shells with proximity fuses that detonated at set distances from their target. But they also had a secret weakness: Many of their torpedoes would explode too early, would swim under their targets without exploding, or might even circle back around to hit them.
It wasn’t the only flawed torpedo, but most of the Navy’s torpedo problems centered around the Mk. 14. It was supposed to be the most advanced and deadly anti-ship weapon in the U.S. fleet. They ran on steam and could travel over five miles and hit speeds of almost 53 mph and then detonate under an enemy ship’s hull with up to 643 pounds of high explosives.
In tests and in theory, this would break the keel of an enemy ship, ripping it in half or opening massive holes in the hull, quickly sending it to the deep.
American submarine commanders headed out with their boats filled with Mk. 14s. They were supposed to use their deck guns as much as possible, since they carried a limited number of torpedoes and each cost ,000 (about 1,000 in today’s money). But when the tactical situation called for firing a torpedo from stealth, like when facing a destroyer or launching a surprise attack against a convoy, they were supposed to fire a few torpedoes and watch the show.
But submarine commanders quickly began reporting problems with their weapons after Adm. Harold Rainsford Stark ordered unrestricted submarine warfare. The Navy’s Bureau of Ordnance thought the weapons should work 98 percent of the time. Submarine commanders were seeing much different results.
The older Mk. 10 was two for two while the Mk. 14 had failed completely. This wasn’t the Seawolf’s first issue with the Mk. 14, either. It had six previous tours under its belt, all plagued by torpedo issues, including that time it fired eight Mk. 14s, which accounted for seven misses and a dud hit.
Worse, the Mk. 14s had a pesky habit of detonating properly when they circle ran, the worst possible situation. A circle run occurs when a torpedo follows a curved instead of straight path. And uneven drag, propulsion, or warping of a torpedo can cause a circle run and, like the name implies, it sends the torpedo in a circle, back to its starting point.
The Bureau of Ordnance dragged their feet about assessing the problem, and then it took a while to get definitive solutions. So, for two years, submarines went on patrols with faulty weapons that could swim right under the target, pierce it without detonating, or even sink their own submarine.
But the Navy did eventually find the causes of the faults. The circle runs were caused by faulty gyros that failed to straighten the path. The torpedo sometimes swam right under the target because the torpedoes had been tested with faulty depth-measuring equipment and with warheads that didn’t reflect their real buoyancy. The failures to detonate were caused by faulty magnetic and mechanical initiators.
In fact, the mechanical initiator was an especially galling failure as far as submarine commanders were concerned, because they had been told for years that the real problem was them firing from bad angles while a 90-degree hit was most effective. In reality, the mechanical failures were most common at exactly 90 degrees, failing 70 percent of the time in later lab tests.
The Mk. 14 had been in the fleet for nearly 20 years by this point, so it might seem impossible that these faults hadn’t been discovered earlier. But it had been developed during the Great Depression when budget constraints severely constricted the tests and experiments scientists and engineers could do.
Changes were eventually made. The torpedoes were re-calibrated for the proper depth and the magnetic initiators were thrown out entirely. The mechanical ones were faulty thanks to heavy firing pins that couldn’t achieve the right momentum when the torpedo was at full speed, so they were replaced with a lighter metal alloy.
The USO is bringing back its viral social media challenge again this year with 2018’s #Flex4Forces campaign. Running from now until Independence Day, using the hashtag #Flex4Forces will help bring awareness to the USO and its continued contributions to the troops.
The challenge is simple: Snap a photo or video of yourself flexing, post it on any social media platform, and be sure to caption it with #Flex4Forces. Next, tag four of your friends (or celebrities) to flex next and keep the challenge going. Finally, you can donate $4 at USO.org/Flex.
The USO debuted the challenge last year to overwhelming success. Troops, veterans, civilians, companies, communities, sports teams, and more joined in on the fun. Chris Pratt, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Tim McGraw, and many more celebrities also helped spread the challenge.
USO CEO and President J.D. Crouch II said,
“At the USO, we believe service members should feel connected and supported, no matter where they serve, and Flex4Forces encourages Americans to recognize the service of the one percent who protect and defend our nation. This campaign is a simple way to bring the American people closer to service members and to show them our strong support.”
It’s all in good fun and it’s the perfect way to mix both the military’s love of the USO and love of showing off that deployment body. Even if you’re not as jacked as Dwayne Johnson, you can still join in. At the end of the day, it’s not really about gloating — it’s about sharing the goodwill that the USO has shown to our troops over the decades.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. March Tighe, 60th Maintenance Squadron gives a briefing to Dr. Richard Joseph, Chief Scientist of the United States Air Force, Washington, D.C., during his visit to Travis Air Force Base, Calif., July 12, 2018. Joseph toured David Grant USAF Medical Center, Phoenix Spark lab and visited with Airmen. Joseph serves as the chief scientific adviser to the Chief of Staff and Secretary of the AF, and provides assessments on a wide range of scientific and technical issues affecting the AF mission. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // LOUIS BRISCESE)
Senior U.S. Air Force leaders are embracing and promoting the concept that if their Airmen are not failing, then they are, more than likely, not moving forward.
They believe pushing the envelope is necessary to keep the U.S. Air Force dominant and the occasional failure should be viewed by supervisors not as a negative, but as part of a greater positive.
In this series, we hear senior Air Force leaders give examples of how taking calculated risks and failing throughout their careers taught them valuable lessons, propelled them to future success and made them better leaders.
Dr. Richard J. Joseph, Air Force chief scientist, believes failure is a necessary component and result of the scientific method. The failures of ideas and theories, when tested through experimentation and prototyping, inform, and are often the root of, future successes.
However, he also believes that project failures are often rooted in past successes of large technological bureaucracies. Large organizations with far-reaching strategic plans often stifle the creativity, experimentation and risk acceptance necessary to achieve game-changing technological advances.
Dr. Richard J. Joseph, Chief Scientist of the U.S. Air Force, looks through virtual reality goggles at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Nov. 29, 2018. The harness training was a requirement before flying on a B-52 Stratofortress with the 20th Bomb Squadron. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // SENIOR AIRMAN PHILIP BRYANT)
Joseph serves as the chief scientific adviser to the chief of staff and secretary of the Air Force, and provides assessments on a wide range of scientific and technical issues affecting the Air Force mission. He has more than 40 years of experience as a physicist, directed energy researcher, senior program manager, national security advisor and executive.
DR. WILL ROPER, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF THE AIR FORCE FOR ACQUISITION, TECHNOLOGY AND LOGISTICS
As the Air Force’s Service Acquisition Executive, Dr. Will Roper oversees Air Force research, development and acquisition activities with a combined annual budget in excess of billion for more than 465 acquisition programs.
He promotes the concept of “Fail Fast, Fail Forward” as a foundational culture shift necessary to keep the U.S. Air Force dominant.
This philosophy is manifested in his promotion of rapid prototyping and funding innovative ideas through Air Force Pitch Day and AFWERX’s Spark Tank.
Roper believes that by spending money to develop fledgling technologies and ideas quickly, and then prototyping them rapidly, flaws are found much earlier in the development process.
Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, speaks to a crowd of small businesses, venture capitalists, and Airmen during the Inaugural Air Force Pitch Day in Manhattan, New York, March 7, 2019. Air Force Pitch Day is designed as a fast-track program to put companies on one-page contracts and same-day awards with the swipe of a government credit card. The Air Force is partnering with small businesses to help further national security in air, space and cyberspace. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // TECH SGT. ANTHONY NELSON JR.)
This method avoids committing to the huge cost of the much longer traditional system and weapons development and acquisition where flaws are only found years and hundreds of millions of dollars later. Then the Air Force is stuck with that flawed system for decades.
However, in order for “Fail Fast, Fail Forward” to work, Roper believes the Air Force must adjust its attitude towards risk.
He points out that his own success actually points to a persistent flaw in the Air Force’s tolerance for risk – people are only rewarded for taking a risk that pays off. Roper insists that to foster an innovative culture, people must be rewarded for taking a good risk in the first place.
“Why are the people who succeed the only people we cite when we talk about risk taking as a virtue?” Roper said. “I’m trying to be very mindful with Air Force program managers and people taking risk that they get their evaluation and validation for me at the point that they take the risk.”
But as YouTuber “Bloke on the Range” shows in the video below, it’s actually very unlikely that the enemy would gain any real advantage from the M1 Garand’s sound.
And many veterans of World War II interviewed after the wars said they actually preferred to have the sound as a useful reminder to reload.
To get a grip on the controversy, imagine being a young G.I. in combat in World War II. You’re moving up on a suspected Japanese position with a fully loaded M1 Garand. You catch a bit of movement and realize the small mounds on the ground in front of you are actually enemy helmets poking up from a trench.
You drop into a good firing position and start throwing rounds down range. With seven shots, you kill one and wound another. Your eighth shot reinforces the man’s headache, but it also causes the ping, telling the attentive third Japanese soldier that you’re completely out of ammo.
The theory states that that’s when the third soldier jumps up and kills you. But there are a couple issues with the theory.
First, in the chaos of combat, it would be uncommon for an enemy to hear the clip ejecting over the sound of the fight. Second, soldiers typically fight as a group, so the G.I. in the hypothetical should actually have five to nine other soldiers with him, and it’s unlikely that more than one or two of them would be out of ammo at the same time.
Third, as the Bloke demonstrates, it doesn’t take long for the shooter to reload, putting them back in the fight and ready to kill any enemy soldiers running to take advantage of the ammo gap.
ArmamentResearch.com found a 1952 Technical Memorandum where researchers asked veterans who carried the rifle what they thought of the ping. Out of 315 responders, 85 thought that the ping was helpful to the enemy, but a whopping 187 thought it was more useful to the shooter by acting as a useful signal to reload.
An article by a Chief Warrant Officer 5 Charles D. Petrie after he reportedly spoke to German veterans of D-Day who found the idea of attacking after a ping laughable. They reported that, in most engagements, they couldn’t hear the ping at all, and the rest of the time they were too aware of the rest of the American squad to try to take advantage of it.
The night is dark and cold in the French countryside. The sky is moonless and your headlights are dimmed to hide you from enemy planes. You’ve never driven this route before, but the troops at the front desperately need the supplies you’re carrying, so you hurtle down the bumpy dirt road at 60 mph in your 2.5-ton truck. As the sounds of battle ahead grow louder, you realize you’re nearing your destination; and greater danger.
Overhead, the thunderous roar of airplane engines add to the cacophony of gunfire. You pray that the planes are friendly and that you won’t be strafed or bombed, and drive on into the night.
Red Ball Express trucks move through a Regulating Point (U.S. Army photo)
To streamline the flow of supplies, two one-way routes were utilized between the port at Cherbourg to the forward logistics base at Chartres, near Paris. The northern route brought supplies to the front while the southern route was used by returning trucks. These roads were closed to civilian vehicles and both the trucks and the route were marked with red balls. Outside of the designated route, the red balls also gave the trucks priority on regular roads.
An MP waves on a Red Ball Express convoy next to a sign marking the route (Photo from the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)
At the height of its operation, the Red Ball Express consisted of 5,958 vehicles carrying about 12,500 tons of supplies a day. In order to staff this massive logistical effort, soldiers were drawn from other support units and trained as long-haul drivers. For some, it was their first experience behind the wheel. A majority of these men came from the Quartermaster Corps and 75% of Red Ball Express drivers were African-American.
Soldiers of the Red Ball Express make quick repairs to their deuce-and-a-half truck (U.S. Army photo)
One such driver was James Rookard who was just a teenager when he was assigned as a Red Ball Express driver. “I’ve driven when I couldn’t hardly see, just by instinct. You sort of feel the road,” Rookard recalled. “There were dead bodies and dead horses on the highways after bombs dropped. I was scared, but I did my job, hoping for the best.” In the midst of all the danger, Rookard and other drivers endured a 54-hour long round trip to the front and back with very little rest between trips.
Rookard with a display case of his medals and mementos from the war (Photo by Brian Albrecht)
To increase their efficiency, drivers often removed the governors from their carburetors which normally restricted their speed to 56 mph. Some drivers even learned to switch seats with their relief driver on the move. “When General Patton said for you to be there, you were there if you had to drive all night,” Rookard attested. The drivers of the Red Ball Express had an important job to do and they got it done.
Soldiers of C Company, 514th Truck Regiment. From left, James H. Bailey, Clarence Bainsford, Jack R. Blackwell, and John R. Houston, father of late singer/actress Whitney Houston (Photo from U.S. Army Transportation Museum)
Their exemplary performance drew the attention and respect of Allied commanders. “Few who saw them will ever forget the enthusiasm of the Negro drivers, hell-bent whatever the risk, to get Patton his supplies,” one British brigade commander wrote. Even Hollywood took notice, and in 1952, the film Red Ball Express was released. However, the film was not without controversy.
Promotional poster for the film (Universal Pictures)
During production, the Department of Defense sent a letter to director Budd Boetticher and Universal insisting that the presentation of race relations be modified and “that the positive angle be emphasized.” Boetticher was displeased with the interference.
In 1979, Boetticher explained, “The Army wouldn’t let us tell the truth about the black troops because the government figured they were expendable. Our government didn’t want to admit they were kamikaze pilots. They figured if one out of ten trucks got through, they’d save Patton and his tanks.”
A soldier fills a tire with air alongside the Red Ball Express highway (Photo from the U.S. Army Transportation Museum)
By November 1944, the port facilities at Antwerp, Belgium were open and enough French rail lines were repaired that the Red Ball Express was no longer required. After shifting 412,193 tons of supplies, the Red Ball Express was shut down on November 16, 1944.
The men of the Red Ball Express were given an enormous task. Only through their enthusiasm, determination, and many sleepless nights were they able to bring their comrades at the front what they needed to fight. The next time you watch Patton, remember the brave men who brought him the supplies to keep his tanks rolling. After all, bullets don’t fly without supply.
Artillery is the king of the battlefield, but the big artillery pieces can’t be everywhere at once – and sometimes their response time is pretty long. Thankfully, for the grunts of today, the mortar is available. Think of this as portable artillery – capable of providing some very quick-response fire support for grunts.
The M252 Medium Weight Extended Range Mortar fits right into a vital niche, especially for lighter infantry units like the 10th Mountain Division, 82nd Airborne Division, and Marine units. According to a fact sheet from the Minnesota National Guard, this system weighs 91 pounds and is operated by a crew of three. That said, usually there will be other guys assigned to help carry additional rounds.
The system can fire up to 30 rounds a minute, but you’re more likely to sustain a rate of 16 rounds a minute. A wide variety of ammo is available as well – anything from high explosive rounds to illumination flares to smoke rounds to white phosphorous. In short, this mortar, usually held at the battalion level of the light units, can do anything from concealing friendly troops to marking targets to blowing bad guys to smithereens.
As is the case with Ma Deuce and machine guns, mortar crews need proper training and plenty of practice to make the most of these systems. The procedures can be rehearsed sometimes using the M880 short-range round, but other times, you need to go out to the range and do the live-fire “full Monty.”
You can see troops train on the M252 at the mortar range at the Grafenwoehr training area in the video below.
It’s been 10 years since the United States Air Force retired the F-117 Nighthawk (an aircraft so secret, Nevada folklore labeled it a UFO).
“The Nighthawk pilots were known by the call sign ‘Bandit,’ each earning their number with their first solo flight. Some of the maintainers were also given a call sign,” said Wayne Paddock, a former F-117 maintainer currently stationed at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico.
“The people who maintained the coatings on the aircraft radar absorbent material were classified as material application and repair specialists (MARS). MARS morphed into Martians,” Paddock said. “MARS was a shred out from the structural repair/corrosion control career field.”
The technology for the F-117 was developed in the 1970s as a capability for attacking high value targets without being detected by enemy radar. It had up to 5,000 pounds of assorted internal stores, two engines, and could travel up to 684 mph.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Colbert)
“It was the first airplane designed and built as a low-observable, stable, and therefore precise platform,” said Yancy Mailes, director of the history and museums program for Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, and a former F-117 maintainer.
“It was the marriage of the GBU-27 to the F-117 that had a laser designator in its nose that made it such a precise, deadly platform,” Mailes said. “It was best demonstrated during Operation Desert Storm when pilots snuck into Iraq and dropped weapons down the elevator shaft of a central communications building in Iraq.”
(Airman Magazine photo)
The first Nighthawk flew June 18, 1981, and the original F-117A unit, the 4450th Tactical Group (renamed the 37th Tactical Fighter Wing in October 1989) achieved initial operating capability in October 1983. The Nighthawk originally saw combat during Operation Just Cause in 1989, when two F-117s from the 37th TFW attacked military targets in Panama. The aircraft was also in action during Operation Desert Shield.
Retired Col. Jack Forsythe, remembers being excited when he initially flew a Nighthawk while stationed at Holloman AFB in 1995.
“It was a unique experience,” he said. “It’s probably the same feeling that a lot of our (single seat) F-22 and F-35 pilots feel today.”
After 25 years of service, the Nighthawk retired April 22, 2008. Forsythe led the four-ship formation to Palmdale, California, where Lockheed Martin staff said their farewells.
“We lowered the bomb doors of each aircraft and people signed their names to the doors,” Forsythe said. “It was really just kind of neat; they had designed it, built it, and maintained it for these 25 years, so it really hit home – the industry and Air Force partnership that made the Nighthawk great. I think the four of us were just really struck by that and have some really great memories of that flight.”
The American flag was painted on the entire underside of his F-117 by the maintainers to help celebrate American airpower.
“I think we all recognized that this was something historic,” he said. “We retired an airplane that people still reference today. We really understood that, so it was a sentimental flight to say the least. It was a great weapon system, very stable and easy to fly. It’s still a memorable experience.”
The names Elmer Keith, Jeff Cooper, and Jack O’Connor are legend in the shooting world. If you Google “famous gun writers,” they’re among the top results. If you scroll a good ways, you’ll come to a fella named Ed McGivern. The only thing he ever wrote of note is a tough-to-find book called Fast and Fancy Revolver Shooting, published in 1938. However, a lot of police officers and federal agents across the US back in the 1930s knew McGivern well from the training they received from this one-time trick shooter and legendary pistol expert.
When it came to pistol shooting, especially revolvers, there were few who wielded a hand cannon with more speed and skill than McGivern. His shooting feats were nothing short of superhuman: The man clearly had eyesight and reflexes that were far keener than the average person’s. The fantastical shooting and quick-draw abilities of fictional pistoleers were present in the very real-life McGivern, though he didn’t exactly cut the typical figure of a gunslinger. At just 5-foot-6, he was a small, barrel-shaped man who was the fastest gun on the planet during the years between the two world wars.
A traveling trick shooter
McGivern bolstered his income performing as a trick shooter in the 1920s and ’30s, traveling all over the United States to put on astonishing displays for giddy crowds. He routinely shot at an assortment of stationary and airborne targets, like clay pigeons and lead disks the size of a quarter. You want to really understand how good McGivern was? Go to a safe shooting area, throw a tin can in the air, and see if you can draw and hit it before it lands on the ground. Unless you’re Jerry Miculek or Julie Golob, you probably didn’t even get close.
McGivern could hit the can six times before it hit the dirt, on the draw. He could also throw playing cards in the air and cut them in two, edgewise, with a bullet. He could hit two aerial targets with two revolvers at the same time. Like I said, he was superhuman.
He set a revolver world record while on tour in 1932 that remains unbroken to this day and got him into the Guinness Book of World Records, until Guinness removed all shooting records a few years ago. McGivern fired two consecutive, five-shot groups from a revolver at a distance of 15 feet that “could be covered by a half-dollar piece” in a blinding 0.45 seconds (as clocked by shot timer). The diameter of a half-dollar was a hair over 1.2 inches.
But this pistol prodigy went largely unnoticed for much of his life, working primarily as a sign painter in the small Montana town where he lived for 30 years.
Unfortunately, arthritis eventually put an end to McGivern’s trick shooting career in his late 50s, so he decided to travel around and spread his knowledge instead of entertaining folks.
He worked with law enforcement personnel all over the country. He taught marksmanship to police officers and federal agents from various LE agencies, including at the FBI’s training headquarters in Quantico, translating his exhibition-shooting experience into practical skills that focused on putting a lot of rounds on a target, accurately and quickly, under varying circumstances. At the time, most law enforcement in the US were still carrying double-action revolvers, McGivern’s specialty.
When it came to training law enforcement, McGivern taught them how to shoot fast and accurately at close targets, but he was a firm believer that a .357 Magnum revolver, with proper technique, could be used to effectively engage man-sized targets with repeatable accuracy at distances of 600 yards. He preferred to use a gun outfitted with a small-diameter rear aperture sight with a gold bead front sight for this kind of shooting, though he experimented with various peep sights and telescopic scopes.
In fact, McGivern was friends with Elmer Keith and was instrumental in creating the earliest magnum revolver cartridges. While Keith was (most likely) integral to the creation of the .357 Magnum, he ultimately went on to deride it when he developed the .44 Special into what would become the .44 Remington Magnum, a superior cartridge in his mind. McGivern, on the other hand, believed the .357 Mag was the ultimate revolver cartridge and devoted a whole lot of his time and effort to pushing the round to its limits with what would have been considered a service revolver at the time, both in terms of speed and close- and long-range accuracy.
Time has proved that McGivern may have ultimately been correct in his assessment of the .357 Magnum. Despite Keith’s proselytizing, the .44 Mag was always considered too overpowered for law enforcement use, while many departments and agencies adopted .357 wheelguns as replacements for or as an alternate option to .38 Special revolvers.
Today, despite a foray into use of the more powerful .40 S&W for semi-autos, the 9 mm chambering, with modern ammunition, reigns supreme in the LE and military worlds—and the characteristics of a 9 mm +P cartridge are more similar to a .357 load than they are to a .44 Mag. Perhaps McGivern was more on the money because he focused on volume of fire and LE applications, whereas Keith was more hunting focused.
Here’s a quick list of some of McGivern’s most famous shots with a double-action revolver. Think you could pull off any of them?
Hang a target, like a clay pigeon or lead quarter, from a string. Cut the string with the first shot, and hit the falling target with a second before it hits the ground.
String up three clays, one stationary, and set the other two swinging back and forth so they cross in front of the stationary target. Break all three clays with a single shot.
Drop a coin from shoulder height, and with the same hand, draw and fire as many shots as possible before the coin lands. (McGivern could fire two to three shots.)
Lay 10 revolvers on a bench with five rounds loaded in each. Proceed to shoot them in succession in double action for a total of 50 rounds in less than 21 seconds, with no misses on the target. McGivern could also do this with 20 guns, 100 shots, and 47 seconds.
McGivern did this reaction-time display with real guns and blanks, but if you want to try it,definitely use airsoft guns, safety glasses, and protective clothing. Face an opponent who is holding an aimed, cocked airsoft revolver at about 5 yards. Draw and fire from a regulation holster before your opponent can pull the trigger.
Balance two clays on top of each other with their edges facing the shooter. Break the bottom clay with the first shot, and break the top one with the second before it hits the bench.
Throw a target in the air, have a friend toss you a pistol, and hit the target before it hits the ground.
Shoot a 5-inch bull’s-eye pasted on a 24-inch square of plywood that’s tossed in the air at distances of 25 to 50 yards.
Draw, fire, and score a lethal hit on a man-sized target 15 to 18 feet away in 0.4 seconds or less. McGivern set a one-time record with this often repeated mainstay.
McGivern died on Dec. 12, 1957, at the age of 83 in Butte, Montana.
Jerry Miculek is one of the most remarkable competition shooters of our day, and it’s a privilege to see him shoot in person, as I imagine it must have been to see McGivern put on one of his trick-shooting displays.
Miculek has broken several of McGivern’s long-standing records, but there’s one he can’t beat. When Miculek tried to top the record of 10 shots in 0.45 seconds, he couldn’t score a better time than 0.57 seconds. McGivern set that record back in 1932 when he was 57 years old — and if Miculek can’t beat it, I don’t know who can.
A helicopter doesn’t fly; it beats the air into submission.
With the capacity to lift 88,000 lbs, the Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion is a true workhorse. It’s primed to be the premier lift helicopter by leveraging the lessons learned from its predecessors, the CH-53A, D and E.
The new metal beast of the air had its first flight on October 27, 2015. The 55-minute flight at Sikorsky’s West Palm Beach flight test center was a real milestone considering the technical delays since 2014, mainly from the main gearbox.
The King Stallion will replace the current largest and heaviest helicopter in the military, the Marine Corps’ CH-53E Super Stallion, which has been in service since 1980. Like the CH-53E, the King Stallion will also serve in the Corps. Although it’s not a game changer, it’s an overall improvement in power, speed, lift, structure, and more.
Even Navy SEALs and Army Special Forces need heroes at times — those times when the fighting gets too thick and there are wounded that need attention on the ground. Those heroes are the Air Force’s Pararescue Jumpers; highly-trained airmen who will come retrieve anyone who needs it, almost anywhere, and in nearly any situation.
Just earning the title of what the Air Force affectionately calls a “PJ” is a grueling task. Dubbed “Superman School,” Pararescue training takes two years and has a dropout rate of around 80 percent. And PJs put all of this rigorous training to use in their everyday duties, when it matters the most. It’s not exaggeration to say they are among the most decorated airmen in the Air Force — and none of them are more decorated than Duane Hackney.
Over the course of his career, Hackney stacked on an Air Force Cross, a Silver Star, four distinguished flying crosses (with combat V), two Purple Hearts, and 18 Air Medals, just to name a few highlights of the more-than-70 decorations he amassed in his life.
His achievements made him the most decorated airman in Air Force history.
Like the rest of his fellow Pararescue Jumpers, he was in the right place at the right time to earn those accolades. Unfortunately, “right place at the right time” for a PJ means “terrible time to be anywhere in the area” for everyone else. Jumping into the dense jungles of North Vietnam to recover downed pilots and special operators was incredibly dangerous work.
With the rest of the allied ground forces in South Vietnam, once lowered into the jungles, PJs were truly on their own down there.
Duane Hackney had no illusions about the dangers he faced when on a mission. The Michigan native joined the Air Force specifically to become a Pararescueman — and the NVA made sure Duane and his fellow PJs had their work cut out for them. The North Vietnamese air defenses were good — very good. Despite the massive air campaigns launched over Vietnam, the U.S. couldn’t always count on complete air superiority. Massive surface-to-air missile complexes and well-trained NVA pilots flying the latest Soviet fighters ensured plenty of work for the Air Force. Whenever a pilot went down, they sent the PJs to find them
Duane Hackney went on more than 200 search-and-rescue missions in just under four years in Vietnam. He lost track of how many times he went into those jungles or how many times the enemy opened up a deadly barrage as he went. It was part of the job, and it was a job Hackney did extremely well.
It wasn’t easy. Just days into his first tour in Vietnam, Hackney took a .30-caliber slug to the leg. He had another PJ remove it and treat the wound rather than allow himself be medically evacuated out of the country. He was in five helicopters as they were shot down over North Vietnam, putting himself and those aircrews in the same risk as the pilots they were sent to rescue — captured troops could look forward to a quick death or a long stay in the “Hanoi Hilton.”
On one mission in February, 1967, Hackney jumped into a dense area of North Vietnam, in the middle of a massed enemy force. He extracted a downed pilot and made it back to his HH-3E Jolly Green Giant Helicopter. As they left, the NVA tore into the helo with 37mm flak fire. Hackney secured his parachute to the downed pilot and he went to grab another parachute. The rest of the people aboard the helicopter would be killed in the explosion that shot Hackney out the side door.
Hackney managed to grab a chute before being fired out the side. He deployed it as he hit the trees below, fell another 80 feet, and landed on a ledge in a crevasse. The NVA troops above him were jumping over the crevasse, looking for him. Hackney managed to make it back to the wreckage of the helicopter to look for survivors. Finding none, he signaled to be picked up himself.
That incident over the Mu Gia Pass earned Hackney the Air Force Cross. At the time, he was the youngest man to receive the award and the only living recipient of it. But Hackney didn’t stop there. Despite that close call, he stayed in Vietnam for another three years — as a volunteer for his entire stay in country.
He stayed in the Air Force until his retirement as Chief Master Sergeant Hackney in 1991.
In this day and age, allowing a minor to enlist in the military and be sent off to war is practically impossible — especially with our modern tracking systems.
But at the start of the 20th century, an accurate method of recording individual troop movement hadn’t been invented; thousands of soldiers would eventually go missing through the course of the war, many of whom were actually children.
After WWI reared its ugly head, military recruiters were paid bonuses for every man they enlisted. Countless young men, many of them orphans or just seeking adventure, would simply lie about their ages to join up.
The recruiters saw dollars signs and looked past any age issues as they wrote the coercible young boy’s names down, signing them up on the spot. Many feared the thought of going off to war but thought they would look weak if they didn’t take part with their friends — the ultimate peer pressure.
These young boys swear in to join the fight. (Source: The Great War/ YouTube/ Screenshot)
The idea was extremely controversial at the time, but it didn’t stop the boys from volunteering as they showed up to the local recruiting offices in droves. It’s estimated that 250,000 boys under the age of 18 served in the British Army alone.
Once they signed up, they were sent through some basic infantry training then whisked off the front lines.
Most famously was John Condon, an Irishman who is believed to have been the youngest combatant killed; at the age of 14, he died during a mustard gas attack in Belgium while serving in the third battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment.
The Aztecs had the largest pre-colonial empire in the Americas and ruled with an iron fist. Mexico derives its name from the Mexica people, a migratory bloodline that settled in Lake Texcoco and founded the city of Tenochtitlan. These spiritual people engineered aqueducts, constructed artificial islands, and created the Nahuatl language and temples to their Gods to feed a growing empire.
In order for kings to cement their power, they relied on their warriors to produce a steady supply of human sacrifices to offer to the God of war. A commoner, born to humble beginnings, could climb up the ranks and into the nobility by showing bravery, leadership, and skill in combat. However, professional competence was not the only requirement for promotion.
“I’m tired of living in this POS hut, I can’t wait to deploy!” – some Aztec lance corporal
When a male was born in the Empire, he was born with a specific purpose: to become a warrior and serve the God of war until death. All were drafted into service; everyone served the empire. They believed that if they did not provide Huitzilopochtli (the God of war) with “precious water” (human blood), the sun would not rise the following day. Their culture did not recognize the ideology of peace because, to them, war was an ongoing event, one necessary to the continuation of the planet.
Because of this belief, the empire marshaled a standing army to hunt down their enemies, collecting persons for daily sacrifices. On a male’s fourth birthday, he was given an arrow and a shield to start his journey into warriorhood.
“I’m tired of living in this POS hut, send me on the next deployment” – some jaded Aztec lance corporal
When a male reached adolescence, they were segregated into one of two military academies: Telpochalli, for the enlisted, and Calmecac, for officers. The latter was reserved for the nobility, but the enlisted could be promoted into the nobility and achieve an officer rank during their career.
While the students trained in these academies, it was mandatory to provide community service in the capital. As they advanced in their military studies, they squired under senior warriors and were responsible for carrying their superiors’ gear into combat until the age of 15. At this point, they were trained in the practical application of clubs, slings, blowguns, and bows and arrows.
Once the male completed his training, it was time for him to get his feet wet. At 18, he was allowed to witness his first battle and watch his seniors kick some ass. After two battles, the junior warriors were assembled into 5-6 man teams and tasked with taking a prisoner of war.
If the team returned with an enemy captive, they would begin their first promotion ritual: cut out the still-beating heart and offer it to the God, Huitzilopochtli. Then, they dismembered the body and consumed the flesh. The juniors were now officially full-fledged warriors and attained the rank of Tlamani. If they did not return with a prisoner, they were separated from the military and tasked with commoner jobs. One could return to the army a year later and try their luck again.
That boot had to cut someone’s heart out before he got to your unit.
The newly minted warriors were inserted into a company-sized element consisting of about 400 men from the same district or village. Promotions from this point forward were based on individual effort. Prisoners of war were sacrificed alive on an altar by a priest atop one of the numerous pyramids. Nearly all captured men were sacrificed and about one-quarter of the women shared the same fate. Those who were spared became slaves or concubines.
After one captured a second prisoner, they received another promotion to cuextecatl and donned a black uniform called a tlahuiztli. Upon the third, they were given command of a team and a papalotl banner to wear on their back that served as rank insignia. A fourth P.O.W. earned them the rank of cuauhocelotl and they were entered into a knighthood-like order of the Eagle or Jaguar.
This gave the warrior the right to drink an alcoholic drink called pulque, wear jewelry, have concubines, and dine as royalty at the palace during ceremonies. Their rank was displayed by tying their hair with a red band decorated with green and blue feathers.
As you can imagine, promotions were hard to come by.
Hold the line! Stay with me!
Eagle and Jaguar warriors were sent to two other advanced academies to further learn tactical operations, respective to the path they chose. Members of this rank also enforced the law as police officers and answered directly to the king.
The special forces and officer corps were called the Otomies and the Shorn Ones. Otomies inherited their namesake from the original settlers of the Valley of Mexico, and The Shorn Ones were the Emperor’s officer corps. They wore a tlahuiztli, a white or yellow uniform, unique to officers, and shaved their heads except for a single lock of hair on their left side.
Both organizations were only open to the nobility and received specialized training in strategy, logistics, and diplomacy. These warriors had to fight on the front lines to maintain their authority and right to command.
Let’s play rock, paper, chevrons. I win.
Success in one’s military career was the only avenue of upward mobility in the Aztecs’ strict hierarchical society. If you were not of noble birth, you could earn it and all the privileges that it entailed. The culture placed immense importance on training their fighters because if they failed to bring in daily sacrifices, the world would end with the reincarnation of a snake God named Quetzalcoatl.
He would appear as a white man with a dark beard coming across the ocean and bring about the destruction of their civilization.
Army Spc. Charles Choi, 32, originally from South Korea, has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s in statistics from Cornell University. He has education and skills that make him a highly valued prospect for the military, but he hasn’t made it to Basic Combat Training after signing up with the Army Reserve.
He has been waiting for two years.
Yes, I’m in limbo,” Choi said in an interview with Military.com. “I’m still waiting for the security clearance to be completed.”
Choi is one of several non-citizen enlistees who joined the military through the Military Accessions Vital To National Interest program, and spoke with Military.com about how they’ve been stuck waiting months or years for clearances and security screenings to process.
The program, created to attract those with highly sought skills for military service, has been essentially suspended amid political battles over immigration policy. Of the estimated 10,400 troops who have signed up to serve through MAVNI since 2008, more than 1,000 now face uncertain futures. Some can’t risk the wait.
For Choi, that’s especially true.
“Delays are so long and we have a finite length to our visas and that’s where the real problem comes in,” he said.
His visa will expire in less than a year.
“So if they just keep us in limbo and if we run out of visa status, then we cannot work or drive,” he said. “It’s a very screwed-up situation.”
The complex history of MAVNI
In 2012, well before MAVNI fell victim to the nation’s ever-shifting immigration policies, then-Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno invited Sgt. Saral Shrestha to his Pentagon office for a photo op and a congratulatory grip-and-greet. Shrestha, who was born in Nepal, had just won the Army’s “Best Warrior” competition.
Shrestha, who earned citizenship through MAVNI, was honored later that year at the annual Association of the U.S. Army’s convention as the “Soldier of the Year.”
(U.S. Army photo by Teddy Wade)
Shrestha’s motto is “Mission first, soldiers always.” He said that “MAVNI was a blessing” in his progress from student visa to the Army and then to taking the oath as a citizen.
In March 2018, Army Sgt. Santosh Kachhepati, a combat medic with the 62nd Medical Brigade with two tours in Afghanistan, was selected for the Enlisted to Medical Degree Preparatory Program, or EMDP2. He will begin his studies to become a doctor at George Mason University in Virginia in the fall.
“I consider this opportunity to be an Army physician an honor and a privilege to serve the medical needs of our soldiers who risk their lives protecting this nation,” Kachhepati said, according to a release from Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
JBLM said that Kachhepati, also from Nepal, “came to the United States to attend college at the University of Texas at Arlington. He graduated U.T.’s Nursing Program with Honors in 2013.”
“He enlisted in Army in 2014 through the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest program, which allows certain qualified non-citizens to enlist in the U.S. military and thereby gain eligibility for U.S. citizenship,” JBLM said.
MAVNI began in 2008 as a one-year pilot program with the goal with the goal of bringing in non-citizen recruits with language or medical skills for the nation’s counterinsurgency wars and giving them a fast track to citizenship in return.
Adm. Eric Olson, then-commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, said at the time that MAVNI recruits were “operationally critical” to the military’s needs. But the program from the onset was caught up in political immigration debates and the high command’s security concerns.
The program was suspended in 2009 over fears of insider threats in the ranks when Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hassan, a psychiatrist born in the U.S., shot and killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 others in a rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, on Nov. 5 of that year.
The restrictions were lifted again in 2012, shortly after Shrestha won the “Soldier of the Year” award. Since then, MAVNI recruits have performed higher on entrance tests and had lower attrition rates than native-born troops, according to military data. But the program reached a turning point in September 2016.
(U.S. Army photo by Cain Claxton)
The beginning of the end for MAVNI came in the form of a September 2016 memo to the service secretaries from Peter Levine, then the acting under secretary for personnel and readiness.
Levine said that the MAVNI pilot program “is currently set to expire on Sept. 30, 2016.”
As it turned out, that wasn’t quite so.
In the same memo, Levine said that “changes in the enclosed guidance will strengthen and improve the execution of the MAVNI program.”
He said that for MAVNI in the coming year, “the maximum number of accessions will be: Army — 1,200; Navy — 65; Marine Corps — 65; and Air Force — 70.”
Despite the language suggesting the program’s continuation, Pentagon spokespeople said the program was effectively allowed to end October 2017, when tighter screening procedures were put in place for MAVNI recruits who had already signed up.
Mattis looks to save MAVNI
In a memo in July 2017, to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Pentagon personnel and intelligence officials warned of the “espionage potential” from foreign-born recruits.
“While the Department recognizes the value of expedited U.S. citizenship achieved through military service, it is in the national interest to ensure all current and prospective service members complete security and suitability screening prior to naturalization,” the memo said.
Foreign-born recruits would have to “complete a background investigation and receive a favorable military security suitability determination prior to entry in the active, reserve, or Guard service,” the memo said. “Those in the MAVNI program and other foreign-born recruits may have a higher risk of connections to Foreign Intelligence Services.”
(DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr)
However, Mattis, in a session with defense reporters in October 2017, said he was looking for ways to keep MAVNI alive despite the 2016 Levine memo that had again suspended the program.
“We are taking the steps obviously to save the program, if it can be saved,” Mattis said. “And I believe it can.”
In January 2018, on board his plane en route to Vietnam, Mattis held out the possibility that MAVNI could be renewed once enhanced vetting procedures were ironed out.
Mattis said that an internal examination had found that procedures were lax in screening MAVNI recruits.
“We were not keeping pace with our usual standard,” he said.
“We’ve got to look people’s backgrounds, and if you have a lot of family members in certain countries, then you come under additional scrutiny,” he added. “Until we can get them screened, we can’t bring in more.
“You’ve got to be able to screen them as they come in, rather than get them in and then you send them off to a unit and they say, ‘By the way, they don’t have security clearance yet.’ And then they say, ‘Well, thanks very much, but I can’t use them.’
“So it’s simply a matter of aligning the process, the recruiting process with the usual screening process,” Mattis continued. “There’s nothing more to it.”
Don’t go climbing Mount Kilimanjaro
The changes in the rules since 2016 have left more than 1,000 recruits already accepted into the military in a state of bureaucratic limbo with time running out on their visas while they await security clearances.
Choi, the Korean Army specialist, described filling out a form that required him to list his travel to foreign countries over the last seven years. He didn’t list a trip to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, which had occurred more than seven years before he filled out the form.
Six months later, an Army investigator gave him a call. They had found out about the trip to Tanzania and needed some “points of clarification,” Choi said. “The way they do it is just really not organized at all. It’s kind of clear this was made up on the fly.”
Choi said his battalion commander has urged him to look at the possibility of attending Officer Candidate School.
Army Reserve Pfc. Alan Huanyu Liang, 24, is also caught up in the same screening logjam while waiting to report to BCT. He was born in China, has been living in the U.S. for six years and has a bachelor’s degree from University of California, Los Angeles.
He signed his contract under the MAVNI program in May 2016.
“Since then, my life has been drastically changed by this program,” he told Military.com. “From the day I signed my contract, I have been eagerly waiting for my ship day [to BCT].”
(U.S. Navy photo by Scott Thornbloom)
Now, he said, it has been almost two years and no progress has been made since he signed his contract.
“I have been drilling every month since I was in-processed into my unit, and I witnessed people coming later to the unit than I did get shipped and came back with a uniform,” he said. “I really, really envy them. I wish one day I can be in that uniform and serve like a real soldier. I keep asking my recruiter and all I am told is to wait.”
Another MAVNI recruit, who didn’t want her name used, told Military.com that she has been at a training base for two years after completing BCT while awaiting additional screening that would let her go to AIT, or Advanced Individual Training.
In the meantime, she does paperwork.
“You need the favorable adjudication [Military Service Suitability Determination] to go to AIT,” she said. “I’m between a rock and a hard place. It’s kind of ridiculous, but I am still motivated by the idea of serving.”
Lawyer who built MAVNI pushes to save it
“There’s an epic bureaucratic fight going on,” said Margaret Stock, a lawyer and former Army lieutenant colonel who was instrumental in planning and initiating the MAVNI program while still in the service.
“It’s an appalling example of bureaucratic incompetence,” she said of the efforts to kill the MAVNI program and subject those who have already signed up to endless screening.
“They’re saying the MAVNIs are some kind of security threat,” Stock told Military.com, but “there is no specific threat” that justify strictures that would kill a program that has already proven its worth.
“They pose the same threat that U.S. citizens would,” said Stock, the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius Grant” fellowship.
To meet a range of emerging threats, “we need these people,” she said. “What we don’t need is people sitting on a base for 18 months doing nothing because of background checks.”