If these 13 things sound familiar, odds are you’re an infantryman:
If fighting the well-defended Viet Cong on their home turf wasn’t dangerous enough, imagine having to crawl your way through a series of extremely tight and narrow underground tunnels to capture or kill them.
Armed with only a flashlight, a single pistol, or maybe just a knife, a “Tunnel Rat” didn’t have much in the way of defense.
“The most dangerous part would be psyching up to get into the tunnel,” Carl Cory says, a former 25th Infantry Div Tunnel Rat. “That was the part that was most frightening because you didn’t what you were getting into.”
In 1946, the Viet Minh were the Viet Cong resistance fighters who began digging the tunnels and bunkers to combat the French, whom they would eventually defeat.
By the time the Vietnam War broke out, the Viet Cong had over 100-miles of tunnels with which to spring deadly ambushes on American and South Vietnamese forces before vanishing.
The numerous spider holes (as the tunnel entrances were sometimes called) were conveniently located and well camouflaged — nearly impossible to detect.
It was the duty of the brave Tunnel Rat to slide alone into the tunnel’s entrance then search for the enemy and other valuable intelligence. Due to the intense and dangerous nature of the job, many Tunnel Rats became so emotionally desensitized that entering a spider hole was just another day at the office — no big deal.
With danger lurking around every corner, the Tunnel Rat not only had to dodge the various savage booby traps set by the Viet Cong, but typically only carried 6-7 rounds of ammunition with him even though the tunnels were commonly used to house up to a few dozen enemy combatants.
With all those physical dangers to consider, the courageous troop still needed to maintain a clear and precise mental state of mind and not let the fear get the best of him.
After completing a search, many American and South Vietnamese units would rig the tunnels with C-4 explosives or bring in the always productive flamethrowers to flush out or kill any remaining hostiles.
Army veteran Russell Davies knows all about taking the big plunge back into civilian life after military service. As a member of the Army’s 101st Airborne Division, he served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and became a recipient of the Purple Heart.
Now a professional whitewater kayaker, Davies has made a name for himself both in competition and as a dominator of the biggest, burliest whitewater on the planet.
“Yeah, sometimes Class V just isn’t enough.” “Totally.” (Go90 Oscar Mike screenshot)
“Oscar Mike” host Ryan Curtis caught up with Davies in Horseshoe Bend, Idaho, to see what a day on the water is all about, but what he found there goes a whole lot deeper.
As a civilian, Davies has given himself a new mission: to help returning veterans address the challenges of PTSD and depression through participation in extreme sports. His organization aims to connect vets to the kind of positive, purpose-driven adrenaline rush that he found through kayaking.
But, lest you fear the day was all mutual support and quiet healing, our host — true to form — came through with an 11th hour challenge that once again pushed him to the brink of washing out.
Watch as Davies shows Curtis why real men wear (spray) skirts and the only water worth knowing is white in the video embedded at the top.
Watch more Oscar Mike:
Philadelphia is one of the oldest cities in the country — its foundation predates that of the United States by nearly 100 years. The historic city is the birthplace of the Marine Corps and was home to the first brigades of professional firemen.
After time in the military, many service members find a career in firefighting, as it reflects some similar characteristics to being on active duty, like brotherhood and a sense of adventure. Like the military, firefighting puts individuals into uncontrollable situations that can wear them down, both emotionally and physically.
But Marine veteran and South Philly firefighter Bill Joerger uses his culinary talents to help his men combat the stress of their everyday environment.
After a catastrophic heart condition, Joerger exited the Marine Corps and spent months bedridden in the hospital, recovering.
Throughout his lengthy treatment, Lt. Joerger watched a variety of cooking shows that sparked his culinary interest. Lt. Joerger explains,
Being in the military and [having] the heart issues, I had no control over those situations. But for cooking, I have complete control.
Joerger enjoys cooking for his firefighting brothers, and it gives him the means to express himself and find catharsis.
Although Bill is an officer, he doesn’t allow his rank to stop him from serving up one incredible meal after another for his troops.
The only thing that stops Bill from cooking in the firehouse is when a fire breaks out.Firemen never truly get time off. (Image via Giphy)
Check out the fifth full episode of We Are The Mighty’s original show, Meals Ready to Eat, below and watch how this Marine veteran uses his cooking skills to provide a special boost in morale.
(Meals Ready to Eat | KCET)
New episodes of Meals Ready to Eat are posted on KCET’s site every Wednesday night. And they’re awesome.
John Daniel was an Army infantryman who remembers his Iraq deployment as long, hard, and constantly on the move.
Though is unit suffered its share of casualties, miraculously there were no fatalities. So to celebrate a KIA-free deployment, he and his men snuck some bootleg hooch and had a toga party.
Daniel has many tattoos — from a Roman helmet atop modern combat boots to his staff sergeant’s favorite phrase “Pain and Repetition.” He points to the one on his shoulder with particular pride. It reads: “The Real 1%ers.”
“We’re the ones in America who will stand up to fight and defend our country,” Daniel explains.
Daniel’s story is part of a video series presented by We Are The Mighty. War Ink: 11 for 11 features 11 combat veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan using tattoos to tell their stories on and off the battlefield. Each week for the next 11 weeks, a different tattooed veteran will share his or her story.
Do you have a tattoo that tells the story of your war experiences? Post a photo of it at We Are The Mighty’s Facebook page with the hashtag #WeAreTheMightyInk. WATM will be teeing up the coolest and most intense ones through Veteran’s Day.
Video Credit: Rebecca Murga and Karen Kraft
As Americans, we love to the hear stories and watch the videos of our service members coming home and surprising their families at the most unexpected times, especially during the holiday season.
Whether a troop shocks their son or daughter with a school visit, surprises their family by taking the field a professional sporting event, or simply shows up, unexpected, at a social gathering — the specifics don’t matter so long as we get to watch the joy spread.
This Marine corporal decided to surprise his family by showing up for a reunion in his well-pressed uniform.
His whole family lights up with complete joy, but his mother is elated into borderline-shock, as she hasn’t seen her baby boy in two years.
Check out Daily Picks and Flicks’ video below to see this U.S. Marine surprise his loving mom at a family union and try not to tear up — we dare you.(DailyPicksandFlicks | YouTube)
WATM hosted groups of veterans to answer several questions about their time in the military. The vets kept it real when responding to topics ranging from relationships to recruiters.
In this episode, our group of veterans talks about their experiences going to college after serving in the military.
Editor’s note: If you have ideas for questions that you’d like to see a group of veterans answer, please leave a comment below.
The U.S. Armed Forces widely uses the M249 SAW light machine gun, as it’s tried and tested on the battlefield — but all weapons have limitations, as a new video from West Coast Armory shows.
To test the durability of a suppressor, a device used to mask muzzle flash and muffle sound from firearms, the guys at West Coast Armory, a Washington state-based gun range, set up the M249 on a bipod and fed a belt of 700 rounds through it.
To be clear, this qualifies as ridiculously overdoing it and is not advisable in any but the most controlled scenarios.
In the clip below, watch the suppressor get utterly destroyed and the M249’s barrel become red hot.
The F-15C has a very enviable combat record. Aviation historian Joe Baugher notes that during Operation Desert Storm, United States Air Force F-15s scored 36 kills in air-to-air combat.
The Royal Saudi Air Force notched two more kills with the F-15, and Israel has a number of kills with this plane as well.
But at the same time, the F-15 has been facing increasingly better competition. Perhaps the most notable is the from the Flanker family of aircraft (Su-27/Su-30/Su-33/Su-34/Su-35/J-11/J-15/J-16), which has been receiving upgrades over the years.
Boeing, though, hasn’t been standing still, even as it lost the Joint Strike Fighter competition. Instead, it has been pursuing F-15 upgrades.
The Eagle 2040C is one for the F-15C air-superiority fighter, which has been asked to continue soldiering on with the termination of F-22 production after 187 airframes.
In the video, one of the planes is seen carrying 16 AIM-120 AMMRAAMs — enough to splash an entire squadron of enemy planes! (“You get an AMRAAM! You get an AMRAAM! EVERYONE gets an AMRAAM!” a la Oprah)
Check out Boeing’s Eagle 2040C video above. Seems like they missed an opportunity for one hell of a Super Bowl commercial.
During the Vietnam War, the North Vietnamese were trying to find ways to force the United States out, as they had the French. In December 1967 they figured the Marine base at Khe Sanh would be the perfect place to replicate Dien Bien Phu, their decisive victory against the French in 1954.
Well, the French didn’t have the air power of the United States Air Force and United States Marine Corps. Nor did they have cargo planes like the C-130 Hercules and the C-123 Provider.
This was one of two big game-changers in the years since Dien Bien Phu. The cargo planes France had back then were C-119 Flying Boxcars – which could haul almost 14 tons of cargo. The French had as few as nine planes in that theater.
The American C-123s could carry 12 tons, but the C-130s could carry over 22 tons – and the Americans had a lot more airlift assets. This meant a lot of supplies got to the Marines – 12,430 from just the Air Force, and another 4,661 tons via Marine helicopters.
One other big difference: The B-52 Stratofortress. Yes, BUFFs were at Khe Sanh, compared to second-hand A-26 Invaders. A B-52 could drop 51 M117 750-pound bombs on a target. The A-26 could carry 6,000 pounds of bombs – or up to 12 500-pound bombs.
That did not include the support from other planes like the F-4 Phantom and A-4 Skyhawk.
Over 20,000 sorties were flown in defense of Khe Sanh – 2,500 of which were flown by B-52s. When all was said and done, the North Vietnamese lost 15,000 personnel trying to take Khe Sanh – making the siege a costly error. The base was eventually relieved, and a lot of abandoned gear was captured.
The video below from the DOD provides an excellent outline of just how American air power caused the siege of Khe Sanh to fail.
This year Los Angeles hosted the first ever LA Fleet Week at the LA Waterfront in San Pedro.
The four-day long festival hosted active military ships along the waterfront and held public ship tours, equipment demos, live entertainment, and more!
We Are The Mighty’s August Dannehl, a Navy veteran himself, went down to join the festivities and participate in Los Angeles’ inaugural Fleet Week.
Bryan Anderson is a triple-amputee veteran who sees challenges rather than limitations. When his injuries left him out of playing video games, he broke it down #BryanStyle.
Participant Media’s powerful documentary That Which I Love Destroys Me kicked off a nation wide screening tour at the LA Film School theater and WATM was there to cover it!