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, to annoying stereotypes.
In this episode, our group of veterans discusses the various military stereotypes they’ve encountered from civilians over the years.
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.
When the former Soviet Union collapsed, many of the former Soviet republics had sizable stocks of military gear. Much of it ended up being sold at bargain prices around the world. One of the countries that had a large stockpile was Moldova.
According to the NationalInterest.org, the former Soviet republic didn’t have much population. They did have a number of MiG-29s, as well as helicopters, and there was a very big worry that Iran, with its bank accounts bloated with oil money, would seek to bolster its force of MiG-29s. This was bad, but some of Moldova’s MiG-29s had been equipped to deliver tactical nukes.
To prevent this, the United States opened its checkbook. According to a New York Times report in 1997, 21 of Moldova’s MiG-29s – including all of the MiG-29 Fulcrum Cs – were taken apart and shipped to the United States on board cargo planes. Yemen and Eritrea were left to pick over the remainder of the airframes.
After purchase, the MiG-29 were “exploited.” Now, that pervy-sounding term is also somewhat accurate. But really, a lot of what happened with the MiG-29 was a lot of test flights and mock dogfights. In other words, pretty much the standard practice when America gets its hands on enemy gear.
Through that testing, it was discovered that the MiG-29 had its virtues: It was easy to fly. The plane also had the ability to help a pilot recover from vertigo. It had great technology to assist in landings. Not to mention the fact that the AA-11 Archer and its helmet-mounted sight made the Fulcrum a very deadly adversary in a dogfight.
A longtime saying in war is that artillery is the king of the battlefield.
But some artillery are better than others, but the best are those that can drive themselves to battle.
For a long time, all artillery was towed. First the towing as done by horses, then by trucks or other vehicles. But there was a problem. The artillery took a while to set up, then, when the battery had to move — either because troops advanced or retreated – or the enemy found out where the artillery was located, it took time to do that.
Fighter pilots say, speed is life.” Artillerymen would not disagree. Towed artillery had another minus: It had a hard time keeping up with tanks and other armored fighting vehicles.
The way to cut the time down was to find a way a howitzer could propel itself. The advantage was that these guns not only could support tanks and other armored units, but these guns often had an easier time setting up to fire. They could also be ready to move much faster, as well.
This ability to “shoot and scoot” made them much harder to locate.
Most self-propelled howitzers fire either a 152mm round (usually from Russia and China, but also from former communist countries like Serbia) or a 155mm round (NATO and most other countries). Often these guns are tracked, but some have been mounted on truck chassis, gaining a higher top speed as a result.
Some of the world’s best self-propelled howitzers include the American-designed M109A6 Paladin, the Russian 2S19, the South Korean K9 Thunder, and the German PzH-2000.
You can see the full list of the ten deadliest self-propelled howitzers in the video below.
The communist forces of Vietnam were largely successful, and for a lot of reasons. They were willing to undergo extreme discomfort and suffer extreme losses for their cause, they were resourceful, and they became more disciplined and well-trained over time. But there was a nightmare infrastructure that they created that also led to success: Those terrifying tunnels.
The fighting in Vietnam dated back to the 1940s when corrupt democratic officials turned the population largely against it. Communist forces preyed upon this, rallying support from the local population and building a guerrilla army, recruiting heavily from farming villages.
The ruling democratic regime patrolled mostly on the large roads and through cities because their heavy vehicles had trouble penetrating the jungles or making it up mountains.
By the time the U.S. deployed troops to directly intervene, regime forces had been overrun in multiple locations and had a firm foothold across large patches of the jungle, hills, and villages.
And while U.S. forces were establishing a foothold and then hunting down Viet Cong elements, the Viet Cong were digging literally hundreds of miles of tunnels that they could use to safely store supplies, move across the battlefield in secret, and even stage ambushes against U.S. troops.
The original Viet Cong tunnels were dug just after World War II as Vietnamese fighters attempted to throw off French colonial authority. But the tunnel digging exploded when the U.S. arrived and implemented a heavy campaign of airstrikes, making underground tunnels a much safer way to travel.
And with the increased size of the tunnel network, new amenities were added. Kitchens, living quarters, even weapon factories and hospitals were moved underground. The Viet Cong now had entire underground cities with hidden entrances. When the infantry came knocking, the tunnels were a defender’s dream.
The tight tunnels limited the use of most American weapons. These things were often dug just tall and wide enough for Viet Cong fighters, generally smaller than the average U.S. infantryman, to crawl through. When corn-fed Nebraskans tried to crawl through it, they were typically limited to pistols and knives.
Even worse for the Americans, the Viet Cong were great at building traps across the battlefield and in the tunnels. Poisoned bamboo shoots, nails, razor blades, and explosives could all greet an attacker moving too brashly through the tunnel networks.
This led to the reluctant rise of the “Tunnel Rats,” American warfighters who specialized in the terrible tasks of moving through the underground bases, collecting intelligence and eliminating resistance. Between the claustrophobia and the physical dangers, this could drive the Tunnel Rats insane.
Once a tunnel was cleared, it could be eliminated with the use of fire or C4. Collapsing a tunnel did eliminate that problem, and it usually stayed closed.
But, again, there were hundreds of miles of tunnels, and most of them were nearly impossible to find. Meanwhile, many tunnel networks had hidden chambers and pathways within them. So, even if you found a tunnel network and began to destroy it, there was always a chance that you missed a branch or two and the insurgents will keep using the rest of it after you leave.
And the tunnels even existed near some major cities. Attacks on Saigon were launched from the Cu Chi Tunnels complex. When U.S. and South Vietnamese troops went to clear them, they faced all the typical traps as well as boxes of poisonous snakes and scorpions.
And the clearance operation wasn’t successful in finding and eliminating the bulk of the tunnels. The Cu Chi Tunnels were the ones used as staging points a weapons caches for the Tet Offensive.
During the Vietnam war, America and its South Vietnamese allies forces faced a deadly enemy that not only fought on the jungle’s surface but could raise up from concealed underground bunkers and tunnels to ambush troops as well; the Viet Cong tunnel.
Travel an hour from Ho Chi Minh City, and you’ll arrive at the Cu Chi District where Communist guerrilla soldiers dug elaborate tunnels to store and transport supplies to combat American and South Vietnamese forces.
With an abundance of data points on COVID-19 — the news, your friend from high school who has turned into a respiratory and infectious disease expert on social media despite never going to med school, your family, your neighbors, that group text — it’s difficult to discern what is relevant and what is truthful.
Finally, here’s one source that absolutely nails it. Three-year-old toddler “Dr. Big Sister” Hannah Curtis delivers a spot on briefing from her very own White House.
The guys at Infinity Ward have released the reveal trailer for “Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare” and it looks amazing (and features a great version of Bowie’s “Major Tom”).
The newest game in the iconic Call of Duty series opens with a Pearl Harbor-type attack, a massive surprise that cripples the defenders. The trailer reveals some new experiences for Call of Duty players like the ability to pilot ships in space combat as well as the standard ground warfare in the series.
An epic storyline plays out in the trailer and will hopefully correlate to a similarly-epic campaign mode. The video description from Call of Duty promises that the new game is a return to the franchise’s roots, “large-scale war and cinematic, immersive military storytelling.”
Since the original Call of Duty focused on the combined arms warfare of World War II, it’s appropriate that it opens with a surprise attack before throwing the player into a global fight. Infinity Ward has said the game will feature few visible loading periods, so players shouldn’t be ripped out of the story too often.
The game is slated for release on Nov. 4 for Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
When Gabe Greiss graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1995, he went on to fly the C-130 Hercules as part of a career that lasted 20 years and two months. He commanded a squadron that sent advisors across Latin America, and also served in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.
An Australian SA70 Black Hawk helicopter clipped a rotor blade during a counterterrorism exercise in the harbor of Sydney and had to perform an emergency landing in a nearby park.
The SA70 Black Hawk chopper was taking part in a maritime counterterrorism exercise, fast-roping commandos on top of a small cruise ship in the middle of Sydney harbor. It was holding station above the ship, having just placed its commandos on the vessel when one of its main rotor blades clipped a communications mast. Upon impact, debris scattered all over the scene.
But the pilots remained calm and coolly flew the aircraft to nearby Robinson Park for an emergency landing.
The Black Hawk helicopter was from the 6th Aviation Regiment (and most probably from the unit’s 171st Aviation Squadron). The 6th Aviation Regiment is specially trained and equipped to support special operations units.
Maritime counterterrorism is one of the toughest special operations mission sets. It involves numerous moving parts, from boats to helicopters, and has all the potential to go wrong. The goal is to reach the hostages and neutralize the terrorists as soon as possible. To achieve that in the fastest way possible, special operations units often use several insertion methods simultaneously. The skill required by the pilots and crews of the helicopters and boats is tremendous, especially if you consider that the target vessel might be moving and also account for the sea state.
This isn’t the first time an Australian Black Hawk supporting special operations troops is involved in an accident. In 1996, two Black Hawks supporting a Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) counterterrorism exercise in Queensland collided. As in the Sydney Harbor incident, one of the S70A Black Hawks clipped a rotor blade but this time against another Black Hawk. The first Black Hawk immediately went down, while the second crash-landed and went up in flames. In total, 18 troops (15 SASR operators and 3 aviators) were killed, making it the worse single loss of life in Australian special operations history.
The 6th Aviation Regiment is the Australian equivalent of the US 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, better known as the “Night Stalkers.”
However, the Australian unit has more limited lift capabilities, currently operating only the S70A Black Hawk. In comparison, the Night Stalkers fly both the light AH/MH-6 Little Birds, MH-60 Black Hawks, and MH-47 Chinooks, thus providing light, medium, and heavy-lift options to their special operations customers.
Although the Special Air Service Regiment—the Australian military’s Tier 1 special operations unit and the equivalent of Delta Force and SEAL Team Six—used to be wholly responsible for domestic counterterrorism, that mission set is now been shared with the 2nd Commando Regiment, a unit similar to the U.S. 75th Ranger Regiment.
SASR operators man the Tactical Assault Group-West (TAG-W), which is responsible for domestic counterterrorism operations in the West part of Australia (the SASR is headquartered in Perth, West Australia). Commandos man the Tactical Assault Group-East (TAG-E), which is responsible for domestic counterterrorism operations in the East part of Australia, including the capital, Canberra.
Considering the location of the exercise, it is safe to say that these operators were from TAG-E.
The M1 Abrams main battle tank gets a lot of attention and respect. As well it should; it has a very enviable combat record — not to mention a reputation that is simply fearsome.
After all, if you were facing them and knew that enemy shells fired from 400 yards away bounced off the armor of an M1, you’d want to find some sort of white fabric to wave to keep it from shooting at you.
But the Abrams doesn’t operate alone. Often, it works with the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, or BFV. The “B” could also stand for “badass” because the Bradley has done its share of kicking butt alongside the Abrams, including during Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Marine Corps veteran Brett Hundley was shocked when three fellow veterans showed up at his work and helped him fulfill his dream of going to the World Series. In this short video, we get to learn about his experiences while serving in the military.