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5 Times HQ Really Tried To Screw Over Frontline Troops
There are times that make you wonder which side the brass is on. As Homer made clear in The Iliad, it’s the ground pounders who suffer the consequences when headquarters makes bad decisions. Here are five instances in which “The Good Idea Fairy” paid the U.S. military a visit with some terrible, terrible gear ideas.
No repeating rifles: At the battle of Gettysburg, Union Army Brig. Gen. John Buford’s cavalry proved that Union soldiers firing prone with carbines could cut down numerically superior enemy forces. But Maj. Gen. James Ripley, the head of the U.S. Army Ordnance Department at the time, delayed the Union army’s adoption of repeating rifles because he felt soldiers could not be trusted with repeating rifles, according retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, author of “Scales on War.”
Ripley was forced to retire in September 1863 after he refused President Lincoln’s order to buy Sharps rifles and carbines for the whole army, Scales said.
“Ripley thought soldiers were unsophisticated,” Scales told Task & Purpose. “So he thought if we gave the infantry a repeater they would simply shoot all their bullets and go home. Also he thought that infantry couldn’t deal with the complexity of a repeater. Finally, because he was an ordnance officer who spent his time teaching at West Point, he really didn’t understand the battlefield.”
Before The M16, there was the Krag: During the Spanish-American war, U.S. troops were issued the infamous Krag-Jorgensen rifle, which was difficult to reload, had a barrel that often failed, and had other problems that made it inferior to the German-made Mausers used by the Spanish.
“Teddy Roosevelt was so angry with the Army’s love affair with the Krag during the Spanish War that he personally ordered a new rifle when he became president,” Scales told Task & Purpose. The Springfield Armory eventually cannibalized much of the Mauser’s design for its Model 1903 rifle.
Crappy camouflage: There have been no shortage of uniform disasters since the turn of the century, but two of the most prominent has been the Army Combat Uniform, which was the service’s attempt to field a single camouflage pattern that would work both in the desert as well as forests and jungles.
First fielded in February 2005, the gravel grey pattern, “proved to provide ineffective concealment for operations in Afghanistan,” the Government Accountability Office determined in 2012.
“The Army used a decision process for the development of a new uniform that did not produce a successful outcome, and it had to replace that uniform in 2010,” the report found. “While the Army conducted some testing on camouflage patterns, it did not complete the testing before selecting a pattern.”
Mefloquine: Once widely used by the U.S. military to prevent malaria, mefloquine is now only prescribed to troops who cannot tolerate other drugs because the Food and Drug Administration issued a 2013 warning that the drug can cause permanent psychiatric and neurological damage, including paranoia, depression, and audio and visual hallucinations. Attorneys for former Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, who was convicted in 2013 of killing 16 Afghan men, women, and children, have argued that Bales was suffering from the psychiatric side effects of mefloquine at the time of the massacre.
In 2003, military doctors wrote nearly 50,000 prescriptions for mefloquine, but that fell to 216 prescriptions in 2015, Military Times reported. The Army also determined in 2015 that symptoms of “mefloquine intoxication” closely mimic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Veterans can file for disability compensation for health problems that they believe have been caused by mefloquine, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, which decides such claims on a case-by-case basis.
Humvees, also known as the Rumsfeld-mobiles: The Humvee epitomized everything that was wrong with the U.S. military when it crossed the berm into Iraq in 2003. It was too light and highly vulnerable, and U.S. troops initially welded scrap metal to the vehicles – dubbed “Hillbilly Armor” – to give them a little more protection.
When Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was embarrassed by soldiers’ questions about the ad hoc protections in December 2004 —awkwardly responding with, “You go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you might want, or wish to have, at a later time,” — the Pentagon up-armored thousands of the vehicles. But even the extra armor could not protect U.S. troops from the Humvees’ Achilles heel: It’s vulnerability to explosions from underneath, which the Pentagon had known about since 1994 when the Defense Department inspector general’s office called the vehicle a “deathtrap.”
Although Mine Resistant Ambush-Protected (MRAP) vehicles were available at the outbreak of the Iraq war, it was not until Defense Secretary Robert Gates mobilized industry in 2007 to mass produce MRAPs that the Humvee began to be used mostly inside the wire.
Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher will retire as a chief petty officer now that President Donald Trump has restored his rank.
"Before the prosecution of Special Warfare Operator First Class Edward Gallagher, he had been selected for promotion to Senior Chief, awarded a Bronze Star with a "V" for valor, and assigned to an important position in the Navy as an instructor," a White House statement said.
"Though ultimately acquitted on all of the most serious charges, he was stripped of these honors as he awaited his trial and its outcome. Given his service to our Nation, a promotion back to the rank and pay grade of Chief Petty Officer is justified."
The announcement that Gallagher is once again an E-7 effectively nullifies the Navy's entire effort to prosecute Gallagher for allegedly committing war crimes. It is also the culmination of Trump's support for the SEAL throughout the legal process.
On July 2, military jurors found Gallagher not guilty of premeditated murder and attempted murder for allegedly stabbing a wounded ISIS fighter to death and opening fire at an old man and a young girl on separate occasions during his 2017 deployment to Iraq.
Trump orders dismissal of murder charge against former Green Beret accused of killing a suspected Taliban bomb maker
President Donald Trump has ended the decade-long saga of Maj. Matthew Golsteyn by ordering a murder charge against the former Green Beret dismissed with a full pardon.
The Army charged Golsteyn with murder in December 2018 after he repeatedly acknowledged that he killed an unarmed Afghan man in 2010. Golsteyn's charge sheet identifies the man as "Rasoul."
President Donald Trump has signed a full pardon for former 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, who had been convicted of murder for ordering his soldiers to open fire on three unarmed Afghan men, two of whom were killed.
Lorance will now be released from the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where he had been serving a 19-year sentence.
"He has served more than six years of a 19-year sentence he received. Many Americans have sought executive clemency for Lorance, including 124,000 people who have signed a petition to the White House, as well as several members of Congress," said a White House statement released Friday.
"The President, as Commander-in-Chief, is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the law is enforced and when appropriate, that mercy is granted. For more than two hundred years, presidents have used their authority to offer second chances to deserving individuals, including those in uniform who have served our country. These actions are in keeping with this long history. As the President has stated, 'when our soldiers have to fight for our country, I want to give them the confidence to fight.'"
Additionally, Trump pardoned Maj. Matthew Golsteyn, who was to go on trial for murder charges next year, and restored the rank of Navy SEAL Chief Edward Gallagher, who was found not guilty of murdering a wounded ISIS prisoner but convicted of taking an unauthorized photo with the corpse.
Fox News contributor Pete Hegseth first announced on Nov. 4 that the president was expected to intervene in the Lorance case was well as exonerate Army Maj. Matthew Golsteyn, who has been charged with murder after he admitted to killing an unarmed Afghan man whom he believed was a Taliban bomb maker, and restore Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher's rank to E-7.
For the past week, members of Lorance's family and his legal team have been holding a constant vigil in Kansas anticipating his release, said Lorance's attorney Don Brown.
Now that he has been exonerated of committing a war crime, Lorance wants to return to active duty, Brown told Task & Purpose on Wednesday.
"He loves the Army," Brown said prior to the president's announcement. "He doesn't have any animosity. He's hoping that his case – and even his time at Leavenworth – can be used for good to deal with some issues regarding rules of engagement on a permanent basis so that our warfighters are better protected, so that we have stronger presumptions favoring warfighters and they aren't treated like criminals on the South Side of Chicago."
In the Starz documentary "Leavenworth," Lorance's platoon members discuss the series of events that took place on July 2, 2012, when the two Afghan men were killed during a patrol in Kandahar province.They claim that Lorance ordered one of his soldiers to fire at three Afghan men riding a motorcycle. The three men got off their motorcycle and started walking toward Afghan troops, who ordered them to return to their motorcycle.
At that point, Lorance ordered the turret gunner on a nearby Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle to shoot the three men, according to the documentary. That order was initially ignored, but the turret gunner eventually opened fire with his M-240, killing two of the men.
But Lorance told the documentary makers that his former soldiers' account of what happened was "ill-informed."
"From my experience of what actually went down, when my guy fired at it, and it kept coming, that signified hostile intent, because he didn't stop immediately," Lorance said in the documentary's second episode.
Brown argues that not only is Lorance innocent of murder, he should never have been prosecuted in the first case.
"He made a call and when you look at the evidence itself, the call was made within a matter of seconds," Brown said "He would make that call again."
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You can watch video of the awesome gameplay for CoD above, and make sure to follow the Task & Purpose team on Twitch here.
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