From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY FIT

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties

The National Football League has been plagued by questions of patriotism in the last few years. But whether or not the NFL kneels or stands this year, it’s important to remember that some of the players and coaches have served, too.


From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties

1. George Halas

Halas was instrumental in the creation of the NFL and responsible for founding the team that went on to be the Chicago Bears in 1920. Nicknamed “Papa Bear,” Halas coached the Bears for 40 seasons, leading them to six NFL titles. Halas served in the Navy during World War I and returned to Navy service from 1942-1945.

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties

2. Ralph Wilson, Jr.

Enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 2009, Wilson founded the Buffalo Bills following his service in the Navy during World War II. He was also instrumental in the merger between the AFL and the NFL in 1970.

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties

3. Kevin Greene

Greene retired from the NFL in 1999 and ranks third among all-time sack leaders. He led the NFL twice in that category with an impressive career playing for the Steelers, Rams, Panthers, and 49ers, with five appearances in the Pro Bowl. Greene was a member of ROTC at Auburn and served 16 years in the Army Reserves.

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties

4. Alejandro Villanueva Martínez

Villanueva is an offensive tackle for the Steelers. A veteran Army Ranger, Villanueva was a captain in the Army, served in Afghanistan, and was decorated with a Bronze Star.

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties

5. Tom Landry

Hall of Famer Tom Landry was a coaching phenom for the Dallas Cowboys. He led his team to two Super Bowl titles and had 20 straight winning seasons. Equally impressive was Landry’s service in the Army Air Corps during World War II. The B-17 co-pilot flew 30 missions and survived a crash in Belgium. He passed away in 2000 at age 75 as a legend and a hero.

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties

6. Dick “Night Train” Lane

The Hall of Famer had an incredible 68 career interceptions during his time with the Los Angeles Rams, Chicago Cardinals, and Detroit Lions. For nine straight years (1954-1963), Lane earned first or second-team All-NFL honors. He played in seven Pro Bowls and during his rookie season, had an unprecedented 14 interceptions – a record that still stands today. Lane served in the Army during both World War II and the Korean War.

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties

7. Roger Staubach

Staubach, nicknamed “Captain America,” won the 1963 Heisman Trophy during his time as quarterback at the U.S. Naval Academy. After graduation, Staubach served his commitment in the Navy, which included a tour in Vietnam. Following his service, Staubach joined the Cowboys and played in Dallas for all 11 seasons of his professional football career. During his tenure, the Cowboys won two of their five Super Bowl appearances.

The list of NFL greats who served their country continues with inspiring men like Pat Tillman, George McAfee, Mike Anderson, and so many more. But for every big name in the NFL, there are countless men that gave up their football dreams to serve their country.

You may not have heard of Jack Ankerson, but he only played three NFL exhibition games in 1964 before Uncle Sam called him up to serve his time. By the time his commitment was done, so was his chance to play in the NFL. But Jack, like so many others who chose service above self, is everything that’s right with America and the sports we love to watch.

Whether they’re a hometown hero or a household name, we salute all of our football playing and football-loving veterans.

MIGHTY CULTURE

‘The Mandalorian’ episode 8 recap: This is the Why

The eighth chapter is finally here and this time it’s directed by Thor: Ragnarok’s Taika Waititi – and it’s everything you thought a Star War directed by Taika Waititi would be. Everything we hoped it might be.

Even the scout troopers got a touch of personality in this episode. Consider this your spoiler warning.


From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties

With an appearance by Jason Sudeikis and Adam Pally.

(LucasFilm)

In this chapter of The Mandalorian, we learn a lot about Our Mandalorian. After we learn the scout troopers have murdered Kuiil and taken the Yoda Baby. We see one of the troopers actually punch the Yoda Baby before getting murdered themselves by the avenging nurse droid, IG-11. Back in the city, we find the heroes still trapped by a legion of Stormtroopers, led by everyone’s favorite villain Giancarlo Esposito, Moff Gideon, who gives them until nightfall to decide if they’re going to cooperate with the Imperial leader’s demands.

IG-11 rides into town like a one-droid army on a speeder bike, dropping stormtrooper bodies all over the streets until he reaches the square where our heroes are pinned down. IG, with the Yoda Baby on his back, continues his rampage as our pinned-down heroes break out of the building. Our Mandalorian even picks up an E-Web Heavy Repeating Blaster that looks like something Carl Weathers might have used in Predator.

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties

(LucasFilm)

But before this amazing gunfight takes place, we learn a lot about our heroes – from Moff Gideon. It turns out the Moff was more than just an Imperial leader, but was part of an intelligence network. He knew the names of Cara Dune, and that she was from Alderaan, which explains why she hated the Empire so much. We also learn Our Mandalorian has a name, Din Djarin and he wasn’t born on Mandalore. In fact, Mandalorian isn’t even a race, it’s a creed. More importantly, we learn how Our Mandalorian became Mandalorian and why the Yoda Baby means so much to him.

In a flashback, we learn Djarin’s village and his parents were massacred by B2 Super Battle Droids when he was a boy. Just before meeting his own death at the hands of these droids, the young Djarin is rescued by a band of Mandalorian warriors who destroy the droids and carry the young boy off, presumably to Mandalore. Back on Nevarro, however, things look grim for our heroes.

Until the Yoda Baby comes into play.

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties

“I’ma stop you right there.”

(LucasFilm)

Moff Gideon critically wounds Our Mandalorian by shooting the power cell of the E-Web blaster. He is rescued by his compatriots but they are once again trapped in the building with certain death outside. As Our Mandalorian lays dying, he refuses Dune’s help as it would require removing his helmet. IG-11 opens the sewer grate right as an Incinerator Stormtrooper walks in to blast the room. Instead of burning the room, however, the flames blast him right out the door, thanks to the Yoda Baby, who stepped up to defend his injured father. Once all the humanoids are in the sewer, IG-11 convinces Djarin that since the droid is not alive, he can take his helmet off to receive medical treatment and for the first time, we see our antihero’s face.

Once healed and looking for the Mandalorians in the sewer, they instead find the remnants of their armor. The remaining Mandalorians had been hunted or killed after the Imperials arrived, though some may have escaped. The Armorer survived, however, and after hearing about the Yoda Baby’s strange powers, tells Djarin about the Jedi. Unable to determine the baby’s race, Karga reminds Djarin that his mission will now be to raise the baby or find his home world – reminding him that “this is the way.”

She also give him his earned signet. Oh, and a jetpack called “Rising Phoenix.” She tells them the way out and covers their exit with the dopest slaughter of stormtroopers seen in the Star Wars universe since IG-11 and the Yoda Baby in the town square fifteen minutes before.

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties

Can we talk about this most brutal stormtrooper kill?

(LucasFilm)

Our heroes make their way down a river of lava, thanks to a boat propelled by a droid. IG-11 sacrifices himself so that the group isn’t killed by a platoon of stormtroopers waiting to ambush them, and then Mando takes on Moff Gideon flying a TIE Fighter, thanks to his handy new jetpack. Every thing is reset for season 2, as Cara Dune decides to stay on Nevarro and become a member of the Guild and Karga forgives Mando, offering him the choice picks of the bounty hunter jobs.

But our Mandalorian is now a full warrior, with a mission. He returns to his ship and flies into the sunset, presumably determined to find the Yoda Baby’s home.

Articles

The US just obliterated this al Shabab base in Somalia

A US military airstrike destroyed an al-Shabab training camp, killing eight suspected militants, officials said.


The US military in Africa says it carried out an airstrike in southern Somalia that killed eight alleged al-Shabab militants at a rebel command and logistics camp, 185 miles southwest of the capital Mogadishu.

The Pentagon said the operation occurred at approximately 0600 GMT “in coordination with regional partners as a direct response to al-Shabab actions, including recent attacks on Somali forces.”

The statement emphasised that the strike was carried out as part of US President Donald Trump’s March authorization of American forces “to conduct legal action against al-Shababwithin a geographically defined area of active hostilities in support of (the) partner force in Somalia.”

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties
The US military confirmed an early June strike killed eight al-Shabab militants in Somalia. (AP photo via News Edge)

Somali president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmaajo confirmed the airstrike, saying that Somali and partner forces destroyed an al-Shabab training camp near Sakow, in the Middle Juba region.

“The mission which was successfully ended destroyed an important training camp where the group used to organise violent operations,” said Mohamed. “This undermines their ability to mastermind more attacks.”

Neither statement mentioned casualties.

There was no immediate comment on the airstrike from Somalia’s homegrown extremist group, al-Shabab, which is allied to al-Qaeda.

In early May an American SEAL was killed in a nighttime raid in Somalia.

It appeared to be the first US military death in combat there since the infamous events of “Black Hawk Down” 24 years ago, when 18 American servicemen died in what is called the Battle of Mogadishu.

US special forces have been deployed in Somalia for years. Drone and missile strikes have also been used against al-Shabab commanders and foot soldiers.

The militant group has been fighting to overthrow the internationally backed government in Somalia since 2007.

Meanwhile, in the north, al-Shabab militants stormed a military base in Somalia’s semi-autonomous state of Puntland on Thursday, leaving 70 dead and many more injured according to officials.

Civilians – including women – were beheaded during the rampage, which has been one of the deadliest extremist attacks in years.

Puntland also faces a growing threat from IS-linked fighters who have split from al-Shabab, which grew out of the Horn of Africa country’s quarter-century of chaos.

Last year, al-Shabab became the deadliest Islamic extremist group in Africa, with more than 4,200 people killed in 2016, according to the Washington-based Africa Center for Strategic Studies.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Exercise Keen Sword kicks off with thousands of sailors

Units from the U.S. military and Japan Self-Defense Force (JSDF) began exercise Keen Sword at military installations throughout Japan and surrounding waters, Oct. 29, 2018.

The biennial exercise is the latest in a series of joint/bilateral field training exercises since 1986 designed to increase combat readiness and interoperability of U.S. forces and the JSDF.

“Keen Sword will give U.S. and Japanese forces an opportunity to practice critical air, maritime and amphibious capabilities essential for Japan’s defense and for regional security,” said Lt. Gen. Jerry P. Martinez, commander of U.S. Forces Japan. “Just as important, the exercise is a visible demonstration of the strength and durability of the U.S-Japan alliance and our shared pursuit of a free and open Indo-Pacific region.”


Approximately 10,000 U.S. service members from commands such as U.S. Pacific Fleet, U.S. Forces Japan, 7th Fleet, 5th Air Force, 374th Airlift Wing, 18th Wing, 35th Fighter Wing, and III Marine Expeditionary Force will take part.

Two Royal Canadian Navy ships will participate in the maritime portion of the exercise for the first time, along with observers from several other partner nations. Martinez said, “These developments are a positive sign of our shared interest in expanding partnerships and increasing multilateral cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.”

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties

U.S. Navy and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ships are underway in formation during Keen Sword 15.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Chris Cavagnaro)

The U.S.-Japan alliance has been the cornerstone of regional peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region for nearly 60 years, and events like Keen Sword ensure that we will remain ready for the next sixty years,” Martinez added.

Exercises like Keen Sword provide the JSDF and U.S. military opportunities to train together across a variety of mission areas in realistic scenarios to enhance crisis response capabilities.

“On behalf of the 54,000 men and women of U.S. Forces Japan, I am proud to be a part of this alliance that is so essential to our two nations’ shared interests,” Martinez said. “We look forward to working side by side with our Japanese allies to make this important bilateral exercise a success.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

Articles

These wounded Marines hunted the Taliban in Afghanistan. Now they hunt child predators online.

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties


The fist bump was their thing in Afghanistan, where both Marines lost legs in the same attack, and the fist bump is still their thing in the hunt for child predators under a special law enforcement program to train and hire medically retired veterans.

Cpl. Justin Gaertner and Sgt. Gabriel Martinez in their dress blues bumped fists at an event earlier this year in Florida, just as they bumped fists while recovering from their wounds.

Gaertner, 26, of Tampa, Fla., has been partnered for the last two years with retired Army Special Forces Staff Sgt. Nathan Cruz, 42, executing the computer forensics to track down sex traffickers in the ICE/HERO program.

Working out of the Tampa, Fla., Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office, Gaertner and Cruz use their newly-acquired computer skills to determine probable cause and go on raids to seize evidence hidden in computer hard drives, software programs and cell phones, much of it involving disturbing images of young children.

Martinez has just committed to training for the same job that falls under the Department of Homeland Security’s mandate in a program that began two years ago.

He was expected to start the year-long training in the fall for the program that was initially limited to U.S. Special Operations Command veterans but now is open to medically retired vets from all the services, said Tamara Spicer, an ICE spokeswoman.

Martinez and Gaertner were both wounded while on a route clearance mission outside Marjah in Afghanistan’s southwestern Helmand province on Nov. 26, 2010.

An improvised explosive device went off and “my best friend blew up right in front of me,” Gaertner said. He was wounded when he stepped on a mine while trying to clear a medevac landing zone.

STUNNED AT THE SCOPE

In phone interviews last week, Gaertner, who served five years in the Marines, and Cruz, a 15-year Army veteran, said they were both channeling the discipline and determination they brought from the military into going after child predators and pornographers. Despite their training, both admitted they were stunned at the scope of the problem.

“I don’t think we ever realized fully what we were getting into or the nature of the suspects we were going after,” Gaertner said. “We don’t really understand them. There’s no character to the people who do these crimes.

“We’ve seen schoolteachers to daycare workers to sports photographers to diplomats – there’s really no face to these crimes,” Gaertner said. “It’s been hard and it’s been a long road but luckily Nathan and I are in the same office and we have each other to fall back on.”

Cruz also said “I didn’t know what I was going to get into” at the start. “I wasn’t working, I wasn’t doing anything,” but “I heard from some SOCOM buddies about this so I thought I’d give it a shot.”

Now, as the father of three children, “I think there’s nothing better I should be doing,” Cruz said. “Kids are being victimized over and over. They need someone to get their back. We just want to put the guys that are hurting them behind bars.”

Cruz and Gaertner were part of the first HERO Corps (Human Exploitation Rescue Operations Corps) in 2013 working with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) to meet the growing backlog of sex trafficking cases.

2,300 CHILD PREDATORS

Last year, ICE seized more than 5.2 million gigabytes of data related to child exploitation and pornography and arrested more than 2,300 child predators on criminal charges.

“The HERO program, and the resulting hiring of Nathan and Justin, has paid great dividends for HSI Tampa across the board,” said Susan L. McCormick, special agent in charge of HSI Tampa. “We gained skilled employees with valuable experience and training.”

In October 2013, the first class of 17 HEROs graduated from the initial training as computer forensic analysts and in October 2014 a second class of 13 HEROs graduated. In August, ICE was expected to begin training another 50 candidates for the HERO Corps.

In May, Congress passed a bill to make the ICE/HERO program a permanent part of Homeland Security and its budget. The bill was quickly signed into law by President Obama as the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015.

The program had been partly funded by a five-year, $10 million contribution from individuals and foundations through the non-profit National Association to Protect Children.

At a Washington ceremony last month, Homeland Secretary Jeh Johnson and ICE Director Sarah Saldana swore 22 new vets into the HERO Corps designed “to allow wounded, ill or injured warriors the chance to continue serving their country on a new battlefield – the fight against child predators.”

“These heroes have all served their country with honor and distinction and, despite the traumas of war they all have endured, they have answered the call yet again,” Johnson said.

“The main thing we’re focusing on is child exploitation,” Cruz said. “I’d say maybe 80 percent of our cases are child pornography.” The average suspect might have about 1,000 images but “we’ve seen cases with more than 40,000 images. They trade them with their buddies so they can get more – that’s how it works. The more I find, the more years you’re going to get.”

RESCUING CHILDREN

Once they have zeroed in on an offender, the hardest, and most rewarding, part of the job begins – finding and rescuing those children in the images, Cruz said.

“We try to save that kid, try to see where he or she is from. That brings more satisfaction, knowing those kids are not going to be harmed anymore.”

Gaertner said that a recent case in which a suspect had 28,000 images led to the rescue of 130 children nationwide.

Cruz and Gaertner also said that part of the job was focusing on themselves and the potential effects of constantly dealing with the worst of society and the images of exploited children. “Luckily, Nathan and I are in the same office and we have each other to fall back on,” Gaertner said.

“We cannot bring work home, we were taught that during our military careers,” Cruz said. “I tell everybody that when I went to SERE school (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape), the one thing they stress the most is ‘stay in the circle.’ I stay in the circle. Work stays at work, when I go home it’s Nathan the dad.”

While partnering with Gaertner, “we talk about it all the time,” Cruz said of the potential psychological effects. “He knows what I do, I know what he does. Me and Justin, we’re lucky that we’re here together.”

— Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@military.com

More from Military.com

This article originally appeared at Military.com Copyright 2015. Follow Military.com on Twitter.

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A former Marine officer retells his journey from ‘fortunate son’ to hero in the Battle of Fallujah

Former Marine officer Elliot Ackerman is now an accomplished author living in Istanbul, but prior to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he considered himself a “fortunate son” of privilege who chose to serve while many of his peers did not.


“The best and the brightest didn’t show up for Vietnam. And I understand. I get that it was an unpopular war,” he told photographer Brandon Stanton for his popular Humans of New York project. “But they chose to not show up and there was a consequence for that. There were leadership failures. Standards were lowered and people were killed because of bad decisions.”

He graduated from Tufts University in 2003 and decided to join the Marine Corps as an infantry officer. He was assigned as a platoon commander in 1st Battalion, 8th Marines.

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties
Wikimedia

“I was a fortunate son of this country,” Ackerman told Stanton. “I went to a private school. I graduated from a great college. A lot of the guys who served under me didn’t have those advantages. They relied on me to make tough decisions in dangerous situations. And I’m glad I was there to make those decisions.”

One of those tough decisions came in Nov. 2004, during the bloody second Battle of Fallujah during the Iraq War. He and his platoon of 45 men moved across a highway in the middle of the night on Nov. 10 to establish a fighting position in what they called “the candy store.”

It was only about 150 meters away from the rest of his company.

“The guys were excited at first because the place was filled with chips and soda,” he said. “And we were starving and thirsty. But all hell broke loose when the sun came up.”

At dawn, the insurgents had figured out where they were and surrounded them, while opening fire on the platoon with everything they had. The Marines were getting razed by AK-47 and RPG fire from all sides, with every exit blocked.

“You couldn’t even poke your head out,” he said. “We were pinned down all day. And suddenly my company commander is on the radio saying that we’ve got to advance. And I’m shouting into the radio over the gunfire that we’re probably going to die if we leave the store. I’m shouting so loud and for so long that I lost my voice for four days. But he’s saying that we have no choice.”

He repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire while trying to pull wounded Marines to safety, and coordinated four separate medical evacuations, despite being wounded by shrapnel himself.

In order to get out, he ordered his men to set up explosives on a back wall. Once it blew, he and his men — with nearly half the platoon having been wounded — were able to escape, alive.

“Twenty-five guys were wounded, but everyone survived,” he said. “A lot of that was luck. And a lot of that was our platoon and how good those guys were. But I also feel that my decisions mattered that day. And if I had decided not to serve, and stayed home, it could’ve ended much worse. So no, I don’t have any regrets about going to Iraq.”

He was awarded the Silver Star for his heroics in the battle, along with the Purple Heart for his wounds. He later received the Bronze Star for valor in 2008 while leading a Marine special operations team in Afghanistan.

Humans of New York is featuring a number of stories from veterans on its page, in partnership with non-profit The Headstrong Project (Full disclosure: The author is a friend of the executive director).

See more of Ackerman’s story below:



MIGHTY TRENDING

The A-10 vs. F-35 showdown could happen this spring

As the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program barrels toward its final major testing process before full-rate production, program leaders say a much-discussed comparison test between the beloved A-10 Thunderbolt II and the new 5th-generation fighter is very much still in planning and could kick off as soon as April 2018.


In a roundtable discussion with reporters at the F-35 Joint Program Office headquarters near Washington, D.C., on Feb. 28, the director of the program said the final test and evaluation plan is still being constructed. That will determine, he said, when the A-10 vs. F-35 test begins, and whether it happens in the main test effort or in an earlier, more focused evaluation.

Also read: Mattis wants the F-35 to be part of the US nuclear triad

“The Congress has directed the [Defense Department] to do comparison testing, we call it,” Vice Adm. Mat Winter said. “I wouldn’t call it a flyoff; it’s a comparison testing of the A-10 and the F-35. And given that the department was given that task … that is in [the] operational test and evaluation plan.”

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties
The F-35A performs a test flight on March 28, 2013. (Lockheed Martin)

Initial Operational Test and Evaluation, or IOTE, is set to begin for the F-35 in September 2018. But two new increments of preliminary testing were recently added to the calendar to evaluate specific capabilities, Winter said.

The first increment, which was completed in January and February 2018, took place at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska and evaluated the ability of the aircraft to perform in extreme cold weather conditions, with a focus on the effectiveness of alert launches. The results of those tests have yet to be made public.

The second increment, set to begin in April 2018, will focus on close-air support capabilities, reconnaissances, and limited examination of weapons delivery, Winter said. The testing is expected to take place at Edwards Air Force Base in California and other ranges in the western United States.

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties

Questions surrounding the F-35’s ability to perform in a close-air support role are what prompted initial interest in a comparison between the aging A-10 “Warthog” and the cutting-edge fighter in the first place.

The requirement that the two aircraft go up against each other was included as a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act for 2017 amid congressional concerns over plans to retire the A-10 and replace it with the F-35.

Related: This pilot landed her shot-up A-10 by pulling cables

In an interview with Military.com in 2017, Air Force Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus, then-director of the F-35 program’s integration office, said he expected the A-10 to emerge as a better CAS platform in a no-threat environment.

But the dynamics would change, he said, as the threat level increased.

“As you now start to build the threat up, the A-10s won’t even enter the airspace before they get shot down — not even within 20 miles of the target.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This Israeli plane was so good the Marines used it as an aggressor

Israel faced a problem in the 1970s. The Yom Kippur War had seen them take heavy aircraft losses. They needed more planes – and they wanted to get some better performance as well. After all, Syria was acquiring advanced MiG-23s (the Flogger was advanced at the time).


The Israelis had been forced to steal the plans for the Mirage 5 from France after an arms embargo. Mossad had managed to get the Mirage 5 plans in a very brilliant operation, but it was just an interim solution. Israel built 50 Neshers, which correlated to the number of aircraft it had ordered from France. The Nesher was flown by Giora Epstein when he took on 11 MiGs by himself.

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties
An air-to-air right side view of an F-21A Kfir (young lion) aircraft. The Israeli-built delta-wing tactical fighter is being used as part of the Navy’s aggressor training. (US Navy photo)

Israel did get lucky when they acquired a license to produce the J79 engine most commonly known as the powerplant of the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II. While Mossad was trying to swipe the plans for the Mirage 5, Israel had a backup plan: figuring out how to make the J79 work with the Mirage airframe.

Israel had been hoping to pull off one of those ideas, but they soon were in a pleasant quandry after both of their plans succeeded. MilitaryFactory.com notes that the first Kfirs entered service in 1974, just missing the Yom Kippur War. The planes, though, proved to be excellent – and so good that the United States Navy borrowed a number of them to serve as aggressors at schools like Top Gun.

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties
Three F-21 Kfirs in flight. (USMC photo)

The Kfir saw action with the Israelis, mostly in ground attack roles. The Ecuadorian Air Force planes did rack up three air-to-air kills in the 1990s while fighting the Peruvians. Sri Lanka’s Kfirs fought the Tamil Tigers. You can see more about this Israeli lion of the skies in the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tnNbNAyrrY
popular

These quirky tanks helped the British crack Hitler’s Atlantic Wall

The Allied invasion of Normandy was a challenge on a grand scale. Every single aspect of the plan drew new challenges for commanders. Luckily, the greatest military minds of the day were leading the Allied forces. They came up with some ingenious solutions. For example, in the absence of securing a usable harbor, they created the Mulberry, a harbor that could be shipped and built on site to keep the flow of supplies going.


To confuse the Germans as to where the D-Day attacks would come, Operation Fortitude created an entire fake army aimed at the Pas-de-Calais. The soldiers on the invasion beaches still faced the many natural and man-made obstacles that would hinder their ability to effectively storm the beaches. One man was tasked to create overcome these obstacles and protect the assault forces.

Major General Percy Hobart, an unconventional yet very successful armored and engineering officer, created specialized vehicles designed to help amphibious forces overcome the natural and man-made obstacles common during a landing. These vehicles helped the British and Canadians during their assaults on Gold, Juneau, and Sword beaches. Collectively these vehicles were known as “Hobart’s Funnies.”

Sherman DD Tank

 

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties
Pictured: The Sherman DD (Duplex Drive) amphibious tank with waterproof float screens. When in the water, the float screen was raised and the rear propellers came into operation.

The most well-known of Hobart’s Funnies was the Duplex Drive Sherman Tank — or Sherman DD. This tank had a large canvas floatation screen that was erected to make the tank seaworthy and included a secondary drive mechanism that powered a propeller to drive the tank through the water. The idea was to launch these tanks a few miles from shore and have them come ashore with the infantry without the need to bring a large landing craft too close to shore. Their use on D-Day saw mixed results.

Churchill Crocodile

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties
A Churchill Crocodile fires its flame thrower in August 1944.

The Crocodile was a British Churchill tank that replaced the hull mounted machine gun with a flamethrower. An armored trailer behind the Croc carried fuel for the weapon. This weapon was adept at clearing German fortifications and later inspired American versions used in the Pacific.

Crab Tank

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties
A British M4 Sherman Crab in Normandy

The Crab was a Sherman tank fitted with a cylindrical flail with weighted chains. When activated, the flail cleared a tank-width path by detonating any mines in its way with the weighted chains. This tank was an improvement over previous versions as the Sherman’s engine drove the flail, rather than needing to fit a separate engine on the tank. It was also equipped with numerous ways to mark the cleared path for the following infantry or tanks.

AVRE (Armored Vehicle Royal Engineers)

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties

The AVRE were a family of engineering vehicles designed for specific tasks. All AVRE were Churchill tanks with the main gun removed and replaced with a Petard mortar that could fire 40-pound shells against German fortifications. The British then attached various equipment for specific tasks. One tool was a Bobbin, a canvas sheet that was rolled down in front of and then under the tank to provide a path to keep it, and following tanks, from sinking into the soft ground of a beach. There were also attachments for dealing with gaps such as a fascine, a bundle of wooden poles that could be dropped into a ditch for the tank to drive over, or a small box girder bridge that could clear 30-foot gaps. For breaching, there was an attachment the British called the Double Onion, two explosives on a metal frame that could be pressed against a bunker or fortification to breach it.

ARK (Armored Ramp Carrier)

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties
Look closely.

The ARK was a Churchill tank with the turret removed and folding ramps installed in both front and back. The tank could drive up to an obstacle, extend a ramp, and have other vehicles drive up it and over the obstacle. It could also drive into a gap and act as a bridge if necessary.

All of the vehicles Hobart created were assigned to the 79th Armoured Division under his command. All these designs were offered to the Americans as well, but since they did not have a specialized unit to operate the vehicles, they turned them down with the exception of the Sherman DD tanks. The 79th did not fight as a unit on D-Day but was instead assigned to support different elements making the assault. After the success of Hobart’s Funnies on D-Day, the 79th remained in action and used its special vehicles many times throughout the remainder of the war.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia may finally scrap its only aircraft carrier

Russia is admitting it may be forced to scrap its only aircraft carrier as the troubled flagship suffered a catastrophic shipyard accident in 2018.

The Admiral Kuznetsov, Russia’s sole aircraft carrier which was built during the Soviet-era, was severely damaged October 2018 when the massive Swedish-built PD-50 dry dock at the 82nd Repair Shipyard in Roslyakovo sank with the carrier on board.

The carrier was undergoing an extensive overhaul at the time of the incident.

While the ship was able to pull away from the sinking dry dock, it did not escape unscathed. A heavy crane fell on the vessel, punching a large gash in the hull and deck.


By Russia’s own admission, the dry dock was the only one suitable for maintenance on the Kuznetsov, and the sudden loss of this facility “creates certain inconveniences.”

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A view shows the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov at a shipyard.

(Flickr photo by Christopher Michel)

“We have alternatives actually for all the ships except for [the aircraft carrier] Admiral Kuznetsov,” Alexei Rakhmanov, head of the United Shipbuilding Corporation, told the state-run TASS news agency in November 2018.

At that time, observers began to seriously question whether or not it was worth attempting to salvage the carrier given its history of breakdowns and poor performance. As is, the Kuznetsov is almost always accompanied by tug boats, preparation for practically inevitable problems.

The ship is rarely seen at sea. Between 1991 and 2015, the Kuznetsov, sometimes described as one of the worst carriers in the world, set sail on patrol only six times, and on a 2016 mission in Syria, the carrier saw the loss of two onboard fighter jets in just three weeks.

Now Russian media is discussing the possibility of scrapping the Kuznetsov, putting a Soviet vessel plagued by many different problems out of its misery once and for all, The National Interest reported April 7, 2019, citing Russian media reports revealing that the carrier “may be written off.”

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Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov.

“Not everyone considers the continuation of repair to be appropriate,” one military source told Izvestia, a well-known Russian media outlet. “There are different opinions,” the source added, explaining that it might be better to invest the money in frigates and nuclear submarines, a discussion also happening in the US Navy, which is pushing a plan to retire an aircraft carrier decades early.

Another source revealed that even if the ship does return, it may simply serve as a training vessel rather than a warship. Whether or not it will return is a big if given the almost insurmountable challenges of recovery.

The Kuznetsov currently sits along the wall of the 35th Repair Plant in Kola Bay.

Rather than attempt to salvage a ship that offers limited capabilities to the Russian navy, Russia could instead invest more in smaller, potentially more capable vessels that can be maintained more easily than a carrier that has been problematic since it was first commissioned in 1990.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 4 rules of being a good wingman

In the Air Force, we call them wingmen. In the Army, they’re called battle buddies. In the Marines, they’re swim buddies. Name aside, the idea is simple and clear: Accompany your wingman in all possibly dangerous or questionable situations. You keep your wingman out of trouble or, in some cases, make sure they don’t get in trouble alone.

For the most part, the concept is well understood and regularly executed. There are, however, a few absolutely unacceptable areas of failure when it comes to implementing the concept. Here’s a tough pill to stomach: Sexual assault is, unfortunately, all too common throughout the military.

Having a few good wingmen can play an instrumental role in preventing such behavior. And while, ultimately, only the assaulter is responsible for their actions, it’s up to you, the wingman, to keep a watchful eye. Implementing these techniques will help make the military a safer culture for everyone.


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It’s that simple.

(Photo by sholefet.com)

Consent is not optional

If you see any kind of behavior that’s flirting with the line, don’t take (or let anyone take) a chance.

This one’s simple enough, and it deserves to be at the top of this list.

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Have a plan.

Establish your team and roles before you go out

It doesn’t matter if it’s just the two of you going out or an entire group, build set of rules for everyone to stick by. Know exactly who is responsible for watching who and make sure everyone has at least one person accountable for their safe return. Set up a triple-check system for when someone is breaking away from the group.

As long as everyone sticks with the established rules and takes care of who they are expected to take care of, everyone will get home fine.

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Actual footage of the new Sergeant’s first weekend off.

Know your limits… and your team’s limits

It’s almost as if they issue you a stronger liver and a standard-issue drinking habit upon swearing in. As a result, many of us tend to carry on as if liquor isn’t impairing our judgement and decision-making abilities. Here’s a fact: it is.

Knowing what you can actually handle (and what your buddies can handle) is crucial to having an incident-free night. Know your team.

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It is a yes? An undeniable and clear yes? Does it ever become a no? Please understand consent.

Consent. Again.

Consent should be simple. No means no, and that’s that.

While you’re out partying and sparks fly with someone, typically, there’s some amount of intoxication involved, and that can muddle things up. What might start as a “yes” might morph as the night goes on. It’s simple: When you hear a “no” (or anything that isn’t explicitly a “yes”) stop immediately. Do not slow down and creep on creepin’ on. Do not try to guilt or coerce the other party into continuing. Do not do anything other than stopping. Just stop.

Use your words and have a conversation that may (or may not) lead to a sober and completely consensual hook-up down the line. Or better yet, maybe you’ll leave the conversation with an understanding of one another. Best of all, you’ll come away without inflicting or sustaining any horrifically permanent scars.

To keep it very simple, just remember: No means no.

That’s all there is to it. Nobody should stop you from having a good time, but it’s up to you to be a good wingman and keep your buddies out of trouble.

Articles

Pentagon lifts ban on transgender troops serving openly in military

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The Pentagon celebrates Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, and Transgender Pride Month. | US Navy photo by Chad J. McNeeley


In another historic change for the military, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Thursday lifted the ban on transgender persons serving openly in the ranks, calling the move “the right thing to do” both practically and as a matter of principle.

Starting immediately, “Otherwise qualified service members can no longer be involuntarily separated, discharged, or denied re-enlistment or continuation of service just for being transgender,” he said at a Pentagon news conference. “Our military, and the nation it defends, will be stronger” as a result, he said.

The secretary said he was acting to ensure that the military of the future had access to the widest talent pool. “We don’t want barriers unrelated to a person’s qualification to serve preventing us from recruiting or retaining the soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine who can best accomplish the mission,” he said.

Another reason for lifting the ban was to end discrimination against those who are transgender and currently serving, Carter said.

He cited Rand Corp. statistics estimating that about 2,500 people out of approximately 1.3 million active-duty service members and about 1,500 out of about 825,000 reserve service members are transgender. The upper range estimates put the number of transgender persons on active duty at 7,000 and at 4,000 in the reserves, he said.

Most importantly, allowing transgender persons to serve openly was a matter of fairness and living up to the American principles of equal treatment and opportunity under the law, Carter said.

“Americans who want to serve and can meet our standards should be afforded the opportunity to compete to do so,” he said.

Carter quoted Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, who said, “The United States Army is open to all Americans who meet the standard, regardless of who they are. Embedded within our Constitution is that very principle, that all Americans are free and equal.”

The lifting of the transgender ban was the latest in a series of rapid and wide-reaching social and cultural changes in the military going back to the 2011 action to end the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy against gays serving openly in the military and continuing through Carter’s move last January to lift restrictions on women serving in combat.

Critics have scorned the changes as “social engineering” that would impact readiness and the ability to fight, and the transitions have been adopted reluctantly by many in the upper ranks.

Significantly, Carter was standing alone at the podium when he made the transgender announcement. In matters of major policy statements, the defense secretary is usually joined by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but Gen. Joseph Dunford was absent.

Dunford was also absent when Carter announced that he was opening combat military occupational specialties to women. As commandant, Dunford had urged closing some combat positions in the Marine Corps to women.

When asked about Dunford’s absence, Carter did not respond directly.

“This is my decision,” he said.

Carter said the decision was supported by the “senior leadership,” but did not say whether Dunford was included in the senior leadership.

Criticism of Carter’s action from Capitol Hill was immediate. Rep. Mac Thornberry, a Texas Republican and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, called the announcement as “the latest example of the Pentagon and the President prioritizing politics over policy.”

“Our military readiness — and hence, our national security — is dependent on our troops being medically ready and deployable,” Thornberry said. “The administration seems unwilling or unable to assure the Congress and the American people that transgender individuals will meet these individual readiness requirements at a time when our armed forces are deployed around the world.”

However, Carter had the authority to change the policy on his own, and it appeared that Congress could do little to block him. Thornberry was vague on whether Congress might seek to act. His statement said that “Congress would examine legislative options to address any readiness issues that might be associated with the new policy.”

OutServe-Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, or SLDN, a group supporting the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender military community, praised the lifting of the ban. “Transgender service members have been awaiting this announcement for months and years. It has been long overdue,” said Matt Thorn, executing director of the group.

Thorn said Carter “has given a breath of relief and overdue respect to transgender service members who have been and are currently serving our country with undeniable professionalism, the utmost respect and illustrious courage, with the caveat to do so silently. Today, we mark history, once again, by ending the need to serve in silence.”

Carter had made his position on the transgender ban clear last July, when he called the ban “outdated” and ordered a study on lifting it.

“I directed the working group to start with the presumption that transgender persons can serve openly without adverse impact on military effectiveness and readiness, unless and except where objective, practical impediments are identified,” he said.

The study looked at other militaries that already allow transgender service members to serve openly. Currently, about 18 militaries allow transgender service, including those of Britain, Israel, Australia, Brazil and Chile.

Based on the analysis of other militaries, Rand concluded that there would be “minimal readiness impacts from allowing transgender service members to serve openly,” Carter said. Rand also estimated that health care costs would represent “an exceedingly small proportion” of the department’s overall health care expenditures, he said.

The Pentagon signaled it plans to pay for costs associated with transgender health care.

“Medically necessary” gender reassignment surgery and medications will also be covered beginning in about 90 days, Carter said.

“Our doctors will give them medically necessary procedures as determined by the medical professions,” he said. “In no later than 90 days, the DoD will issue a commanders’ guidebook for leading transgender troops, as well as medical guidance to military doctors for transgender-related care.”

The success of changing the policy on transgender service will be determined by how the changes are put in place, said Carter, who set out a year-long course of gradual implementation.

Within three months, the department will issue a commanders’ guidebook on how to deal with currently-serving transgender service members, along with guidance to doctors for providing transition-related care if required to currently-serving transgender service members, Carter said. Also within that time period, service members will be able to initiate the process for officially changing their gender in personnel management systems, he said.

Following the guidance period, the focus will turn to training the entire force on the new rules — “from commanders, to medical personnel, to the operating force and recruiters,” Carter said.

By the one-year mark, all service branches will begin allowing transgender individuals to join the armed forces, assuming they meet accession standards. Also, an otherwise-qualified individual’s gender identity will not be considered a bar to admission to a military service academy, or participation in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps or any other accession program if the individual meets the new criteria.

Immediately, however, transgender soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen will no longer have to live with the possibility of being booted from the service or denied re-enlistment solely because they are transgender, Carter said. “Service members currently on duty will be able to serve openly,” he said.

On the subject of “gender re-assignment” surgery, Carter said the Pentagon will not pay for recruits to have it. “Our initial accession policy will require an individual to have completed any medical treatment that their doctor has determined is necessary in connection with their gender transition and to have been stable in their identified gender for 18 months, as certified by their doctor, before they can enter the military,” said.

The decision on whether to allow those already in the ranks to have gender re-assignment surgery paid for by DoD would be up to the individual’s military doctor, Carter said. “The medical standards don’t change,” Carter said, and all service members will be entitled to “all the medical care that doctors deem necessary.”

— Amy Bushatz contributed to this report.

— Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy is starting its own community college

Education will be a key part of maintaining America’s might upon the sea, Navy officials said Feb. 12, 2019, as they unveiled their comprehensive look at education in the service.

Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer signed a memorandum that will lead to the establishment of a Naval University System that will help develop America’s ultimate competitive advantage: the minds of its service members.

The memo is an outgrowth of the Education for Seapower Study — the first comprehensive “top to bottom” look at Navy education in 100 years.


The effort looks to maintain America’s lead in military affairs.

Protecting competitive advantage

The impact of education can be huge. Education will lead to America’s competitive advantage, Navy officials said. Technology — as good as it is — can only go so far if the people operating it do not understand the implications.

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Vice Adm. Timothy “T.J.” White, commander of U.S. Fleet Cyber Command and U.S. 10th Fleet, delivers a lecture to midshipmen in Alumni Hall at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., Oct. 16, 2018.

(Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Samuel Souvannason)

“The last remaining advantage that we have will be our minds,” Navy Undersecretary Thomas Modly said during an interview. “We have to make sure we are getting the best people and that we are training them and educating them to be agile and adaptable so they can deal with uncertainty in a better way.”

The effort will go from the deckplates to the flag and general officer ranks, with the service establishing a Naval Community College system and putting in requirements for masters degrees in strategic studies for all unrestricted line flag and general officers.

The memo calls for the service to have a chief learning officer — a senior executive service civilian — in place by June 2019. That person will develop the education strategy by December 2019. Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, is reorganizing the Naval Staff to create the position of director of warfighting development.

Building an educational system

The creation of the Naval Community College is first on the agenda and there could be people in the program by 2020, officials said.

Spencer called for the review when he first came into office in 2018. He was concerned that the Navy, because of the operational requirements, was not getting the right people, the right education for their position.

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Thomas B. Modly, undersecretary of the Navy, and Rear Adm. Jeffrey A. Harley, Naval War College president, listen to a presenter at the “Breaking the Mold; A Workshop on War and Strategy in the 21st Century,” held in Newport, R.I., March 7, 2018.

(Navy photo by Edwin L. Wriston)

Panel members looked at the Marine Corps University and the Army and Air Force equivalents in forming the recommendations.

Part of this effort is to consider the way delivery methods for education have changed over time. The service has to get the mix of distance education and in-residence time right. The Navy has people all over the world and it will be a huge advantage for them to be a part of this, officials said.

The Navy and Marine Corps have world-class faculty in their institutions and the rest of the fleet needs to be exposed to them, Navy officials said. Distance learning gives sailors and Marines the opportunity to learn from them.

Tailored education

The Navy wants the system to be tailored to the way the force fights, officials said. The U.S. military is a joint force and the Navy and Marine Corps cannot be separate from the Army and Air Force, officials said.

The panel consulted with Army and Air Force in setting up the system, because “frankly the Army and the Air Force have been doing a much better job of putting a high value on education,” officials said. “We took a lot of lessons from the way they are structured and addressing it to inform this study.”

A large part of the effort is establishing a Navy community college system. The idea is to get sailors and Marines have educational programs delivered to them wherever they are. This will develop into a system that will be a mix of online learning and at schools to fulfill the needs of the individuals and the services.

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