The USS Ford, the lead ship of the new Ford-class aircraft carrier series, is expected to join the US Navy by February 2016, according to CNN. Once deployed, the ship will be the largest carrier ever to ply the seas and will feature a number of changes and advancements over the United States’ current Nimitz-class aircraft carrier.
Here’s a look at this multi billion-dollar beast:
The USS Gerald Ford is expected to cost upwards of $13 billion by the time it is deployed.
The USS Gerald R. Ford.
The Ford, and the accompanying Ford-class carrier fleet, are intended to relieve stress and over-deployment within the US Navy. Currently, the Navy operates 10 carriers but wants an additional vessel to take pressure off of the rest of the fleet.
Photo: US Navy Chris Oxley
The ship will feature a host of changes over the current Nimitz-class carrier. Ford-class carriers will be capable of generating three times more electrical power than the older carrier classes, for example.
Photo: US Navy 3D model
A 3D model of the USS John F. Kennedy, the second ship the Ford-class carrier series.
This increased electrical power supply allows the Ford to use the newly designed Electro-Magnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), which will allow the vessel to launch 25% more aircraft a day than the previous steam-powered launch systems.
A successful test of the EMALS launch system.
The amount of electricity onboard also makes the Ford-class carriers ideal candidates to field laser and directed-energy weapons in the future, like rail guns and missile interceptors.
A demonstration of a rail gun.
Once launched, the Ford will be the largest warship in the world. It will be 1,092 feet long and displace upwards of 100,000 tons.
Photo: US Navy John Whalen
Shipbuilding floods Dry Dock 12 to float the first in class aircraft carrier, Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford
This size will allow the carrier to house about 4,400 staff and personnel while also carrying more than 75 aircraft.
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Aidan P. Campbell
The aircraft carrier Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) gets underway beginning the ship’s launch and transit to Newport News Shipyard pier 3 for the final stages of construction and testing.
The Ford is expected to carry F-35s and, once available, carrier-based drone aircraft.
A U.S. Navy Lockheed Martin F-35C Lightning II conducts it’s first arrested landing aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68) in the Pacific Ocean November 3, 2014. The F-35C was conducting initial at-sea developmental testing.
But for all the advances within the Ford-class carrier group, some have questioned the wisdom of continuing an astronomically expensive carrier-heavy naval strategy in a time when inter-state warfare is rare and nations like China continue to develop potentially carrier-killing long-range anti-ship cruise missiles.
The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is reportedly looking into allegations that a company which runs military housing at one of California’s largest bases is scamming its residents out of money they don’t owe.
Lincoln Military Housing has reportedly been trying to get military residents to pay hundreds of dollars more than they owe for energy bills, according to statements from families obtained by We Are the Mighty. And if the residents don’t pay up, the Lincoln Military Housing’s San Onofre district office allegedly threatens to have the service members and their families evicted, these families claim.
The exact number of families who have received these eviction notices is unknown, though WATM spoke with multiple military spouses and service members who had been notified by their commands that Lincoln was ordering them out of their homes just before the Christmas holidays.
The residents, all of whom claim they are paid up on rent, all spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal from the housing office in question.
According to one couple who spoke to WATM, an eviction notice was sent to them in early December in response to an article that appeared on the website USMC Life, which is run by military spouse Kristine Schellhaas.
“This program has been hurting our military families since its inception,” Schellhaas told WATM in a statement. “Our families should be able to live on base without the financial burden and threat of eviction from poorly executed billing.”
Schellhaas wrote about the couple on her site in December, calling for the housing office to look into its exorbitant energy bills over the previous two months. Though Schellhaas declined to use their real names, the couple had posted about their frustrations in a Facebook neighborhood group page after being threatened with eviction.
Schellhaas indicated that NCIS was investigating the allegations. When reached for comment, NCIS said it was “unable to comment on an ongoing investigation.”
The residents of the San Onofre II district aboard Camp Pendleton claim that, until roughly two months prior, their bills had been at or below the grace period, meaning they were not billed for utilities.
According to documents obtained by WATM, the residents all saw extreme hikes that had nothing to do with increased power usage.
Lincoln Military Housing declined to respond to multiple requests for comment on these allegations.
Lincoln Military Housing takes part in a program where, if residents manage to conserve energy, they can receive money back from the housing office. If they go over the allotted amount, they pay extra.
The energy bills are managed by a company called Yes Energy Management. The premise behind the company is simple — they are essentially a paid middleman for the middleman. Basically, Lincoln Military Housing — who is contracted by the Department of Defense to manage the housing on some military installations — pays Yes Energy Management to send an electric bill to the base residents.
Rather than having the actual electric company send the bill directly to the residents, both Lincoln Military Housing and Yes Energy Management oversee these bills privately — effectively eliminating any contact between the resident and the electric company.
Each of the homes is fitted with a third party Yes Energy meter that the company uses to determine how much electricity has been used.
The way the system works is that each neighborhood gets their energy usages during a trial period combined and an average is determined by Yes Energy. Those who are above that average get penalized. Those who are below it get rewarded.
Once the residents pay their bills every month, Yes Energy pays the actual energy company, takes its fee from the remainder, and sends what’s left back to Lincoln Military Housing, according to residents.
One of the problems, according to the residents of San Onofre II, is that the neighborhoods they live in weren’t built to have their energy usage measured individually. The residents say that an unnamed employee at their housing office explained that things like Camp Pendleton street lights are wired into their houses, which means that the residents are responsible for paying much more than just their own electric bill.
One resident told We Are the Mighty, “It’s just me and my husband, so when we received the outrageous bills we said something about it and come to find out, our house was hooked up to several street lights.”
Other residents allege that, in addition to paying for the streetlights, empty houses around them drive their monthly usage allotments down. Because there are no residents in those homes, according to neighbors, there is no usage – severely impacting the average usage in that community.
That isn’t a hard thing to imagine, considering Yes Energy has this on its website:
Neither of these theories exactly explain why an entire group of residents suddenly saw a significant increase in their bills despite not having changed anything in their homes, residents say.
Several residents say they questioned their bills, first going directly to Yes Energy; they claim that Yes Energy told them that the issue was not with them or the energy provider and that they should be speaking with the housing office regarding the way the communities were built.
These same residents allege that they then took their concerns to base housing, where it took months for just a handful of them to receive any type of response. Those that were fortunate enough to get a response also received messages that hinted Yes Energy was to blame for the outrageous bills.
Chelsea Levin, a service coordinator for Lincoln’s San Onofre Housing office, wrote in an email to a resident dated Dec. 7, “I am e-mailing as a follow up regarding the issues you have been having in the home with the Yes Energy account. I wanted to let you know that we are now waiting on the utility company to make the changes.”
The email is in response to a phone call placed to the housing office in September, according to the resident who provided the original email.
So where does that leave the residents?
Right where they were, for now.
The resident who originally spoke with Schellhaas alleges that they were served an eviction notice the day after Schellhaas’s post went live. According to that resident and the resident’s active duty spouse, the housing office contacted the service member’s command to deliver the notice.
In a Facebook post, the resident said that Lincoln cited the resident’s use of salty language in a phone call with the office as the reason they were being evicted.
The resident claimed that the office gave that reason directly to the service member’s command.
“They’re saying I was verbally abusive,” the resident wrote.
When We Are the Mighty reached out to the couple, the resident responded, “I feel as if the housing office saw the article that was posted in USMCLife and that is what caused them to call this morning as well as tell us we were being evicted.”
Other residents who spoke with us cited a fear of retaliation after it became public information that the original residents in Schellhaas’s story were being evicted. One resident wrote: “If you wouldn’t mind, could you please not mention our names or resident IDs? He’s a Marine.”
And another resident wrote to us regarding her husband’s concern about her speaking with us, “He’s terrified we will get evicted. I kept trying to reassure him, but the longer I was looking [at our bill] the more he started to freak out. … He says he’d rather get screwed than be homeless.”
Recently, Schellhaas was tasked with updating Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joe Dunford’s wife Ellyn on “hot-button” issues facing the military community.
In preparation for that meeting, she collected energy data from 17 base homes and four off base homes. What she found was that base residents were charged nearly 45 percent more for comparable energy usage off base. An entire breakdown of her findings can be reviewed here.
Schellhaas issued this statement to We Are the Mighty in regards to the entire energy program:
“I believe there hasn’t been enough due diligence in its implementation and no one authority has demonstrated that the organizations can be made accountable for their actions,” she said. “Privatized housing blames Yes Energy and vice-versa, meanwhile our families are suffering.”
The British Army suffered its worst losses in a single day with over 57,000 casualties on Jul. 1.
The Allied Powers received little in exchange for all this blood, taking bits of German-held territory but falling short of their main objectives. The British were forced to rethink their tactics because of their stunning losses during the fight.
Now, 100 years after the battle ended, YouTube user MC C has released a video with classic Somme footage superimposed on the modern spots where the footage was originally filmed.
Check out the full video below. It’s all gripping footage, but our favorite moments are at 18:02, one of the most massive explosions of the war; 27:12, a group of fusileers preparing for what would end up being their final attack; 31:05, artillery crews pounding German lines; and 36:30, a group of cheering soldiers marching together.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
The U.S. Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team performs during halftime at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., Dec. 14, 2016. The routine was part of the Washington Wizards’ Air Force night, where the team took on the Charlotte Hornets.
A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor passes over the Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., flightline during a morning training mission Dec. 14, 2016. Six Air Force installations contributed air and ground support assets to the 2016 Checkered Flag 17-1 and Combat Archer 17-3 large scale aerial total force integration exercise.
1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division Soldiers carry a simulated casualty to the casualty collection point during a training rotation at the National Training Center/Fort Irwin.
A U.S. Soldier with Scout Platoon 2D Battalion (Airborne) 503D Infantry “The Rock” repels down a steep ravine during a German Mountain Warfare Training in Seinsbach Gorge, Mittenwald, Germany, Dec. 8, 2016.
YOKOSUKA, Japan (Dec. 20, 2016) Sailors assigned to the Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), deliver gifts to Shakai Fukushi Kotobuki childcare center during a community relations project. Twenty-five Ronald Reagan Sailors and multiple Sailors’ family members travelled to the center in Yokohama to interact with the children and celebrate the holiday season. Ronald Reagan, the flagship of Carrier Strike Group 5, provides a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interests of its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
ATLANTIC OCEAN (Dec. 19, 2016) An AV-8B Harrier from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (22nd MEU) launches off the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1). Wasp is deployed as part of the Wasp Amphibious Ready Group, which is offloading the 22nd MEU after completing a six-month deployment to the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operations.
GULF OF ADEN (Dec. 17, 2016) U.S. Marines assigned to the 2nd Platoon, Maritime Raid Force, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (11th MEU), position their rigid-hull inflatable boat to conduct a visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) mission as part of Exercise Alligator Dagger, Dec. 17. The unilateral exercise provides an opportunity for the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group and 11th MEU to train in amphibious operations within the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. The 11th MEU is currently supporting U.S. 5th Fleet’s mission to promote and maintain stability and security in the region.
Infantry squad leaders assigned to School of Infantry West, Detachment Hawaii, provide security during the Advanced Infantry Course aboard Kahuku Training Area, September 21, 2016.
The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Alder clears ice from the deck of the cutter as the ship transits through Lake Superior Dec. 14, 2016. The Alder and other Great Lakes Coast Guard cutters commenced Operation Taconite, the Coast Guard’s largest domestic ice-breaking operation, encompassing Lake Superior, the St. Mary’s River, the Straits of Mackinac and Lake Michigan, Dec. 19, 2016.
Capt. Malcolm McLellan, deputy commander of Sector Houston-Galveston, presides over the swearing in of new Coast Guard recruits during the halftime event at the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas, Dec. 23, 2016. The Navy Midshipmen played the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl at the Amon G. Carter Stadium.
The American Forces Press Service reports that payday loans have become a $40 billion business and are especially prominent outside military bases. David VanBeekum, a market manager for a local bank near Hill Air Force Base helps to educate Airmen about how payday loans work. He said Utah has 350 payday lenders and almost 10 percent of them are located just outside the base’s gates.
But you don’t have to physically go to the stores. The Internet has 2.5 million links for payday loans, 4 million for cash advance sites; and 31 million for check advance sites. In addition, the Hill Air Force Base Airman and Family Readiness Center, which offers financial counseling services for military members, found that in California the payday loan outlets outnumber McDonalds and Burger King restaurants combined.
Typically, payday loans are for relatively small amounts of money in increments of $100, up to $1,000. It’s easy to obtain one of these loans. All anyone needs is a bank account, proof of a steady income such as a pay statement, and a simple form of identification. It takes about 20 minutes to secure a loan.
Payday lenders target women, those who earn $25,000 or less per year, minorities, and military members. The borrower writes a personal check or grants electronic access for the amount of the loan and a finance charge. However, these loans are not long term and become due on the borrower’s next payday, either in one or two weeks. The interest compounds quickly and calculates to an average of 390 to 780 percent annual percentage rate. There’s no payback installment plan so the borrower must pay the entire amount due in order to avoid another finance charge associated with an extension of the entire loan principle.
This style of business traps the borrower into a repetitive cycle. On average, a person choosing a payday lender ends up with eight to 12 loans per year. A successful payback of the loan is not reported to the credit bureaus and there are documented cases of companies resorting to unlawful or questionable collection tactics.
Each state establishes its own regulations, finance fees and interest rate limits, not the federal government, Mr. VanBeekum said. There’s even a lender in Utah who charges as much 1,335 percent, and even though they’re required by law to advertise the interest rate, 75 percent of them do not.
The Consumer Federation of America, a non-profit advocacy group, has studied the payday loan industry for the past 10 years and said the industry meets the criteria for predatory lenders who have abusive collection practices, balloon payments with unrealistic repayment terms, equity stripping associated with repeated refinancing and excessive fees, and excessive interest rates that may involve steering a borrower to a higher-cost loan.
Besides the high interest rates, CFA surveyors found they misrepresent themselves as check cashers even though they are not registered with the state as a check cashing entity. They will not cash your personal check. Instead, they are only willing to hold your check until payday. The lenders will threaten or badger the client into paying the loan and many people end up rolling over the entire balance of the loan, and thus incur the finance fees again. A number of payday lenders have also ignored the Electronic Fund Transfer Act and found ways to access a consumer’s account when not authorized or when authorization was withdrawn.
The PenFed Foundation’s Asset Recovery Kit (ARK) provides a no-interest alternative to predatory lending for active duty, reserve, and National Guard military.
Fees for predatory payday loans can be an astronomical $19 for each $100 borrowed until payday. Through ARK, one can borrow up to $500 with a flat fee of $5 and no interest for one month.
ARK is a hassle-free, confidential, and smart way to deal with money problems.
Active duty, reserve, and National Guard military are eligible
No credit report is pulled because those with emergency cash needs have already exhausted their options.
No interest is charged, just an application fee of $5. With ARK, you don’t fall further into debt.
Immediate cash loans up to $500 (or 80 percent of net pay) are available for one month.
There’s minimal paperwork just a simple one-page form.
It’s completely confidential, meaning we don’t tell anyone who has come to see us.
Up to three loans in six months are available, but after the first ARK loan, the recipient must sit down with a local Consumer Credit Counselor identified by the foundation.
ARK was designed to be as easy as a payday loan, but without the negative consequences. The goal is to rebuild or repair credit, improve cash flow and increase money-management skills.
PenFed partners with credit unions across the country to bring the ARK program to military men and women. They welcome new credit union partners. Please contact them to learn more.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff is the body of the most senior uniformed leaders within the Department of Defense. These eight men advise the president of the United States, the Secretary of Defense and the Homeland and National Security Councils on military matters. The chair, General Mark Milley, was appointed by President Trump in 2018.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff, in keeping with their creed of service, is not a political entity, and today, they issued a rare joint memo to remind the force of exactly that. The memo, signed by all eight members of the body, condemned last week’s riot at the Capitol building and affirmed President-elect Joe Biden as the next Commander in Chief. The memo was addressed to the joint force, which is comprised of approximately 1.3 million active-duty service members and more than 811,000 National Guardsman and reservists.
The text of the memo says:
MEMORANDUM FOR THE JOINT FORCE SUBJECT: MESSAGE TO THE JOINT FORCE
The American people have trusted the Armed Forces of the United States to protect them and our Constitution for almost 250 years. As we have done throughout our history, the U.S. military will obey lawful orders from civilian leadership, support civil authorities to protect lives and property, ensure public safety in accordance with the law, and remain fully committed to protecting and defending the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
The violent riot in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021 was a direct assault on the U.S. Congress, the Capitol building, and our Constitutional process. We mourn the deaths of the two Capitol policemen and others connected to these unprecedented events.
We witnessed actions inside the Capitol building that were inconsistent with the rule of law. The rights of freedom of speech and assembly do not give anyone the right to resort to violence, sedition and insurrection.
As Service Members, we must embody the values and ideals of the Nation. We support and defend the Constitution. Any act to disrupt the Constitutional process is not only against our traditions, values, and oath; it is against the law.
On January 20, 2021, in accordance with the Constitution, confirmed by the states and the courts, and certified by Congress, President-elect Biden will be inaugurated and will become our 46th Commander in Chief.
To our men and women deployed and at home, safeguarding our country-stay ready, keep your eyes on the horizon, and remain focused on the mission. We honor your continued service in defense of every American.
Mark A. Milley General, U.S. Army Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
John E. Hyten General, U.S. Air Force Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
James C. McConville General, U.S. Army Chief of Staff of the Army
David H. Berger General, U.S. Marine Corps Commandant of the Marine Corps
Michael M. Gilday Admiral, U.S. Navy Chief of Naval Operations
Charles Q. Brown, Jr. General, U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff of the Air Force
John W. Raymond General, U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations
Daniel R. Hokanson General, U.S. Army Chief of the National Guard Bureau
In the field, everyone is working to ensure that nothing goes wrong. But, when the mission goes sideways, everyone thanks the heavens for the medic. The one who rushes through fire to save their patients.
Here are 10 medics who saw patients in danger and rushed to their aid, sometimes sustaining serious wounds or even dying in their attempt to save others.
Spc. Bryan C. Anderson was part of an Army Ranger assault force sent after a high-value target in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan on Oct. 5, 2013. When the team landed, an insurgent successfully fled the target building and began running away. An element of soldiers moved to catch him but they were struck by a suicide bomber and triggered two pressure plate IEDs.
Anderson rushed to the aid of the wounded even though he knew they were in the middle of a pressure plate IED belt. Over the next few hours, Anderson crisscrossed the IED belt treating the wounded. During a particularly harrowing 30 minutes, seven IEDs detonated within 10 meters of Anderson, according to his official award citation. Though some of his patients from that night died, two severely injured Rangers survived because Anderson continued rendering aid despite experiencing his own traumatic brain injuries. Anderson was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
2. Corpsman riddled with shrapnel pulls 4 injured comrades from vehicle while under fire
During an American-Afghan convoy, Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Benny Flores was in a vehicle struck by an IED. Despite having his own shrapnel injuries and taking incoming enemy fire, Flores began treatment of a Marine in his vehicle and then aided the Marine in taking cover. He ferried to and from the vehicle three more times, treating and moving to cover a wounded Afghan police officer and two more Marines, all while under enemy fire and without receiving treatment for his own wounds. Flores received the Silver Star.
3. Pararescueman drops into IED field to save Army Pathfinders
On May 26, 2011, a squad of U.S. Army pathfinders was crippled when it struck multiple IEDs during a mission. Air Force Staff Sgt. Thomas H. Culpepper, Jr. was voluntarily hoisted down to the battlefield only 25 meters from a known IED. Culpepper and his teammate stabilized the pathfinders and then began hoisting them into the helicopter. On the last lift, Culpepper and the final patient were nearly dropped from the helicopter when it experienced a sudden loss of power.
4. Corpsman continues treating casualties after being shot in the back
On April 25, 2013, Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Kevin D. Baskin was part of a Marine task force pinned down by enemy fire outside Kushe Village, Afghanistan. Baskin treated an initial casualty under heavy fire and then moved him to a casualty evacuation vehicle. Immediately afterwards, Baskin was shot in the back. He continued to treat new casualties and refused medical treatment for his own. He supervised the evacuation of the wounded and laid down cover fire for the evacuation of the team. His actions were credited with saving the lives of four Marines and he was awarded the Silver Star.
5. Medic bounds up to wounded casualties under fire, then treats them until he dies of his own wounds
On March 29, 2011, a group of soldiers with the 101st Airborne Division were clearing a known insurgent strong point when they came under a complex ambush from enemy fire. Three members of the lead element were injured immediately. Spc. Jameson L. Lindskog bounded from the rear of the element to the troops in contact while under fire so heavy that the bullets destroyed cover whenever he moved behind it.
Lindskog triaged the casualties and began treatment. While working on an Afghan National Army soldier, Lindskog was struck in the chest by an enemy round. He remained lucid and refused treatment, asking to stay on the battlefield and give instructions to those rendering aid. His instructions saved the lives of two other men, but he died of his wounds before being evacuated. He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star.
6. Pararescue jumper treats nine casualties by moonlight while under withering enemy fire
The 101st Airborne called for support during an operation after they took two casualties on Nov. 14, 2010. Air Force Para rescue jumper Master Sgt. Roger D. Sparks was on the response team. His helicopter arrived and was circling the objective when the situation on the ground suddenly intensified and the 101st took four new casualties. Sparks and another airman began a 40-foot descent to the battlefield below despite the increased enemy activity.
While descending, they came under intense enemy fire and their lowering cable was struck three times by bullets. Immediately after landing, the pair was attacked with an RPG round that knocked them both from their feet. Running across the objective while under increasing machine gun and RPG fire, Sparks treated nine wounded soldiers by moonlight, many with serious problems like punctured lungs, eviscerations, and arterial bleedings. He returned to the landing area but stayed on the ground, coordinating the evacuation until the last soldier was loaded. His actions saved five lives and resulted in the remains of four Americans making it back to their families. He was awarded the Silver Star.
7. Medic shields casualties from mortar fire until forced to move, continues treatment throughout
Spc. Monica Lin Brown was an airborne medic on a combat patrol in Afghanistan on April 25, 2007, when an up-armored Humvee struck an IED. The IED was the first part of a complex ambush on the column. Brown moved 300 meters under enemy fire to the burning vehicle and began caring for the wounded. She triaged them onsite and then moved them with the help of the platoon sergeant into a nearby wadi. She continued to render aid and used her own body as a shield while 15 enemy mortar rounds landed within 100 meters of her position.
The mortar fire eventually forced her to move the wounded two more times as she continued treating and shielding them. The wounded men were eventually medically evacuated and Brown was awarded the Silver Star.
8. Medic dies after treating casualties under ‘barrage of RPG fire’
On Nov. 12, 2010, Spc. Shannon Chihuahua was part of a blocking position in Kunar Province, Afghanistan. A squad providing overwatch suddenly came under a complex enemy attack with small arms, machine guns, and RPGs. Chihuahua ran from a relatively safe position into the heat of the fighting to treat the wounded.
Moving from soldier to soldier providing care, Chihuahua eventually found himself the focus of the enemies’ attacks. Chihuahua went down under a “barrage of RPG fire,” according to Sgt. Kevin Garrison, the squad leader whose position was the focus of the first attack. Chihuahua was awarded the Silver Star.
9. Stryker medic pulls three casualties from a burning Bradley
Staff Sgt. Christopher Bernard Waiters was the senior medic in his Stryker company when a Bradley Fighting Vehicle struck an IED and began to burn with its crew still inside on April 5, 2007. He parked his vehicle in a security position and immediately engaged two enemy fighters.
He then ran to the burning Bradley on his own and pulled the driver and vehicle commander out. He treated both and escorted them back to his own Stryker. That was when he learned another soldier was in the troop compartment. He ran back and entered the burning vehicle, falling back only for a moment when the 25-mm ammunition began to explode. He re-entered, saw the deceased soldier and went for a body bag. Another medic retrieved the body while Waiters drove the wounded back for further treatment.
10. Medical sergeant performs surgery in the open while under fire
As the medical sergeant on a civil affairs team, Staff Sgt. Michael P. Pate was part of a patrol in Afghanistan. The group came under heavy fire from multiple machine gun positions and at least six other enemy shooters. Early in the ensuing firefight, the rear man of the element was shot in the back. Pate and his team leader rushed to the man and drove him to what little cover was available, a six-inch deep ditch. Though his patient was slightly covered, Pate was fully exposed as he performed surgical interventions on the wounded man. During this time, Pate also assisted the joint-terminal attack controller with directing airstrikes and coordinated the medical evacuation for the wounded. He was awarded the Silver Star.
The A-10 Thunderbolt II, known affectionately as the Warthog, is the U.S. Air Force’s most beloved and capable close air support craft. Its low airspeed and low altitude ability give it an accuracy unmatched by any aircraft in the Air Force fleet. No matter what anyone in an Air Force uniform tells you.
For one A-10 pilot, the CAS world was turned upside down in the First Gulf War. Captain Bob Swain was flying anti-armor sorties in central Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm. After dropping six 500-pound bombs and taking out two Iraqi tanks with Maverick missiles, he saw potential tangos several miles away, just barely moving around.
He was tracking what he thought was a helicopter. When his OV-10 Bronco observation plane confirmed the target, Swain moved in for the kill. One of the targets broke off and moved north (back toward Iraq), the other moved south. The A-10 pilot tracked the one moving south but couldn’t get a lock with his AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles because the target was too close to the ground, just 50 feet above.
So he switched to the A-10’s 30mm GAU-8 Avenger cannon – aka the BRRRRRT.
It would be the first air-to-air kill in the A-10’s operational history. But Swain didn’t know that. He was just concerned with taking it down and started firing a mile away from the helicopter. His shots were on target, but the helicopter didn’t go down.
“On the final pass, I shot about 300 bullets at him,” Swain recalled to a press pool at the time. “That’s a pretty good burst. On the first pass, maybe 75 rounds. The second pass, I put enough bullets down, it looked like I hit with a bomb.”
Swain’s A-10 became known as the “Chopper Popper” in Air Force lore and is now displayed on the grounds of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.
“Sir, my father was an Islamic State militant, but he divorced my mother in 2013,” said Jassem Mohammad, 21, pulling out his identification card and presenting it to the camp manager. “He now has two other wives.”
In a tiny patch of shade on the edge of a blistering desert camp outside of Mosul, the manager listened as Mohammad made his case. He wanted to leave the camp and go back to college. He had good scores, he said, and was never involved with IS.
Militant rule in Mosul has collapsed and IS fighters here are dead, fled, arrested, or in hiding. But as their relatives try to re-integrate into society, Iraqi authorities face impossible questions with only bad answers.
If someone loved or even tolerated an IS militant, is that person guilty? How do the relatives of the perpetrators make peace with the relatives of the victims?
Officially in Iraq, the answer to the first question is “no,” especially when speaking of small children. Women and children fleeing areas IS occupied are checked for bombs, and when cleared, they are considered civilians.
Unofficially, families of militants are shunned, feared and often separated from the “regular” people, all traumatized by violence and extreme poverty under IS. Many IS families now live in camps, like Mohammad, where they are not quite sure if they are being detained or protected. And both, in fact, are true.
“We’d need to see the divorce papers,” the camp manager explained to Mohammad. If Mohammad offered evidence that his father was not in his life during IS rule in Mosul, it might be possible for him to go back to school.
“I want to study and do humanitarian work,” Mohammad continued, pleading his case to a nearby journalist.
As Mohammad and the reporter chatted, the camp manager looked nonplussed and strolled away. A security officer, in contrast, was visibly annoyed and abruptly ended the conversation.
“You cannot talk to him without official permission,” he said, ushering all journalists out of the camp. Other Iraqi officers said they worry that news about camps set aside for IS families will make them look like monsters, locking up women and children.
“What can we do as the Iraqi government?” said a member of a community police force who didn’t want to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media. “We are exposed to danger. They are families, but we can’t loose them without rehabilitation.”
Inside the city, at the base of a long-dormant Ferris wheel, a short row of tents served as a collection point for families fleeing Mosul in the final days of battle.
Women and children filed into the tents, some collapsing where they sat. Medics treated injuries and food and water alleviated some of the most pressing pains. Many of the people had been hiding in basements for weeks, after months of water shortages. The smell of unwashed bodies was pungent and the heat in the stagnant tents was overwhelming.
“We were imprisoned,” said Khalifa, 46, a mother of three. Unlike the rest of the women in the tent, she wore no veil and her curly hair was tousled. “We tried to run away and militants locked us in a basement. For the past three days we’ve had no food or water.”
“Once they brought us food in the basement,” adds Hoda, 25, her daughter. “He came down wearing a suicide vest.”
Their story echoed tales from families all over Mosul and, even if their husbands or fathers were IS fighters, it could still be true. However, local authorities worried they were lying, casting themselves as victims, rather than somehow complicit.
One man peppered Hoda with questions about the neighborhood she said she was from. IS militants in Mosul were often not stationed near their original homes. Hoda failed to identify the most famous church, mosque, and graveyard in the area.
“See, they are an IS family,” the man said. “They are lying.”
Another woman, Fatima, a mother of eight, said for relatives of IS omitting certain truths is a matter of survival. Sitting with an intelligence official, Fatima admitted she had two brothers that fought with IS. Both, she said, are now dead and she never supported their decision to join IS.
But when the officer walked away, she said at least one of her brothers is alive and now in Tal Afar, an Iraqi city still held by IS.
“We are afraid to tell them when we talk to family members who are with IS,” she whispered. “We don’t want to be blamed for what they did.”
A senior Air Force commander revealed that airmen flying drones over ISIS-controlled areas in Syria and Iraq are directing close air support strikes supporting allied troops on the ground using unmanned aircraft.
Flying primarily out of Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, the pilots use pairs of MQ-9 Reaper drones where one designates the targets and the other drops ordnance on it, said Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, the head of Air Combat Command — a mission he calls “urban CAS.”
“What we’re finding is some of what we can do multi-ship with the MQ-9 is really paying dividends just because of the attributes of those airplanes with the sensor suite combined with the weapons load and the ability to buddy and do things together,” Carlisle said during a Feb. 24 breakfast meeting with reporters in Washington D.C. “We’re finding that as we’re able to practice this more sometimes we can bring them together and pair them off.”
Usually, Air Force Joint Tactical Air Controllers, Combat Controllers or Tactical Control Party airmen paint targets and walk aircraft into a strike, including Reapers. But in terror battlefields like ISIS-held Syrian cities or hotbeds in Iraq, the risk to American boots on the ground is too great to deploy terminal controllers, officials say.
Carlisle added that American unmanned planes are closely linked with ground forces fighting ISIS militants in the battle for Mosul, “doing great work with that persistent attack and reconnaissance.”
“And their interaction with the land component is increasing in the Mosul fight,” he added, hinting that even attack helicopters are now able to link into feeds from Reaper drones.
And there’s more Carlisle wants to do with his MQ-9 fleet.
With recent bonuses of up to $175,000 paid to Air Force unmanned aerial vehicle pilots, the service now has the breathing room to do more with its Reaper fleet than just surveillance or precision strikes with one drone, Carlisle said.
“Some of that [growth] is bearing fruit in that we’re getting a little bit of an opportunity to do some training and get to some other missions,” Carlisle said. “So we’re learning a lot about the MQ-9 and what it can do for us.”
Inspired by his favorite hero Audie Murphy, Pfc. John Baker, an assistant machine gunner, found himself getting ready to battle enemy forces in the Tay Ninh Province, South Vietnam, in the fall of 1966.
Assigned to Company A of the 27th Army infantry, Baker’s unit was sent out on a mission to help support a sister company trapped by an aggressive and well-supplied Viet Cong force.
Shortly after Baker and his unit arrived at the combat zone in the early morning, intel reports suggested that the enemy had grown to nearly 3,000.
Without regard for their own lives, 257 allied troops loaded their weapons and proceeded into the heart of the jungle.
“The jungle itself was so thick, it looked like going into a wooded area at night,” Baker recalls.
As the sun began to rise, enemy gunfire rang out in multiple directions. Baker removed his gear and used his 5-foot 2-inch build to crawl approximately 20-yards undetected, where he discovered several enemy bunkers. Baker quickly returned to brief his CO.
Enemy gunfire was again broke out, temporarily trapping Baker and his squad.
“The only way we could get out was fight our way out,” Baker proudly states.
As the chaos mounted, Baker bravely took the left flank and blew up a few enemy bunkers. Then he spotted several wounded soldiers and carried him to the rear for medical treatment.
Baker replenished his ammo and ran back into the fight killing a few VC snipers along the way.
Then, it happened. Boom!
An enemy grenade detonated nearby causing Baker to sustain multiple fragmentation injuries. He dusted himself off and got right back into the fight. At the end of the intense firefight, Baker was credited for killing 10 enemy troops, destroying six enemy bunkers and saving eight allied troops.
After Baker returned from Vietnam, he worked as a drill sergeant in Fort Jackson in South Carolina. During his time there, he was informed by his company commander that President Johnson was to award him with the Medal of Honor for his bravery.
At age 55, the King of Jordan is still ready to lead from the front — literally, the front of any given war.
A video released by the Royal Court on Apr. 17 shows him leading Jordanian troops in a live-fire exercise, taking down buildings, clearing rooms, and covering his squad’s rear. Military action is nothing new to Jordan’s reigning monarch.
The King attended the UK’s Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in 1980, entering the British Army as a commissioned second lieutenant. He became a first lieutenant in the Jordanian armed forces after deploying with the British to West Germany. By 1986 he was the captain of a tank company.
He worked his way up the officer’s ranks. By the time he was promoted to general grade, he was in Jordan’s Special Forces Command.
Major General ibn Al Hussein became King Abdullah II in 1999 upon the death of his father. Since then, he has been a liberal reformist, making Jordan an island of stability in a sea of Middle East turmoil. The Jordanian King even introduced governmental reforms that will lead Jordan to a more parliamentary democracy.
His reforms made him a popular figure in his country and around the world. In terms of geopolitics, Abdullah, like his father Hussein, decided to be a peacemaker, maintaining Jordan’s peace with Israel, taking in more than a million Syrian refugees, and keeping Jordan a bulwark against Islamic extremism.
The monarch never forgot his military roots. Keeping Jordan secure is something the King has always been ready to fight for — at times, even personally. When ISIS burned a downed Jordanian pilot alive, King Abdullah vowed to bombard the Islamic State until his military runs “out of fuel and bullets.”
Check out his room clearing skills in the video below, and contemplate what it must be like for junior enlisted Jordanian troops to fight alongside their freaking king.
It’s NFL playoff time — the part of the season that TV sports commentators refer to as “life or death” for teams that still have a chance to win the Super Bowl. But in the league’s history a number of players have learned about real matters pertaining to life and death as a result of serving in the military during wartime.
Records show that 638 NFL athletes joined the military during World War II. Of those, 23 died. Over 200 NFL players fought during the Korean War, but there were no casualties. Twenty-eight players fought in Vietnam; two of them were killed in action. And one NFL player — the only one to sign up — was killed during the War in Afghanistan.
Here are details of four of these heroes of the gridiron who sacrificed their lives while answering a call that extended well beyond the lines on the field:
1st. Lt. Jack Lummus, Marine Corps, (end, New York Giants, 1941-1942) – Killed on Iwo Jima in 1945
Lummus was a defensive end for the New York Giants before earning his commission in the Marine Corps. In March of 1945 he fought with extreme valor at the Battle of Iwo Jima in the Pacific Theater of World War II, helping his platoon take out well-fortified enemy positions despite being wounded. He was eventually felled by a landmine, and before succumbing to his wounds he famously told the medic that was trying to save his life, “Well, doc, the New York Giants lost a mighty good end today.”
Lummus posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his actions.
Major Don Steinbrunner, Air Force, (Cleveland Browns, 1953) – Killed in Vietnam in July 1967
Steinbrunner, who joined the ROTC while in college, was called to active duty following his rookie season with Cleveland in 1953. Upon completion of a two-year tour of duty as an Air Force navigator, he considered returning to the Browns but opted to pursue a military career due to concerns that he would aggravate a knee injury he’d sustained during his first season.
In 1966, Steinbrunner received orders to Vietnam. Not long after his arrival, he was shot in the knee during an aerial mission. Due to his injury, he was offered an opportunity to accept a less dangerous assignment, but declined, preferring to return to his unit. On July 20, 1967, Steinbrunner’s C-123 was shot down over South Vietnam during a defoliation mission that involved spraying Agent Orange on the jungle canopy.
Posthumously, Don Steinbrunner was awarded the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross. His citation read in part, “Disregarding the hazards of flying the difficult target terrain and the opposition presented by hostile ground forces, he led the formation through one attack and returned to make a second attack. The outstanding heroism and selfless devotion to duty displayed by Major Steinbrunner reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.”
2nd Lt. Bob Kalsu, Army, (guard, Buffalo Bills, 1968-1969) – Killed in Vietnam in July 1970
Kalsu entered the Army as a second lieutenant following his promising rookie season with the Bills. Unlike many professional athletes who were draft eligible or had ROTC military commitments during those years, Kalsu did not seek the help of the Bills organization to arrange for a non-combat assignment in the reserves.
On July 21, 1970, following eight months of heavy fighting with enemy troops, Lieutenant Kalsu was killed when his unit came under heavy fire while defending Ripcord Base on an isolated jungle mountaintop. Two days later back in Oklahoma City his wife gave birth to their second child.
Cpl. Pat Tillman, Army, (defensive back, Arizona Cardinals, 1998-2002) – Killed in Afghanistan in April 2004
Pat Tillman gave up a multimillion-dollar contract to serve his country, motivated by the 9/11 terrorist attacks. When he enlisted and started his training that eventually earned him his Ranger Tab, Tillman was just 25 years old and entering his fifth NFL season with one All-Pro season under his belt.
On April 22, 2004 Tillman was on his second combat tour when he was killed by gunfire in Afghanistan near the eastern border. The incident was originally reported as enemy action but eventually the Army admitted that Tillman had been killed by friendly fire during a patrol where another element of his squad lost spatial awareness and directed fire toward him. Tillman was posthumously awarded the Silver Star (that the Army justified in spite of the fact it was awarded before the facts emerged) and Purple Heart.