5 ways to handle a holiday deployment during a pandemic - We Are The Mighty
Articles

5 ways to handle a holiday deployment during a pandemic

Underneath layers of holiday ads and last-minute shopping, family remains the steadily beating heart of the holidays. This year, the pandemic has given families around the globe a taste of what military families have gone through for years; separation. For civilians, this may be the first year spent apart from parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and good friends. For military spouses, the pandemic means something more. 

If your loved one is deployed, this is likely the first time you have to deal with a holiday deployment in isolation. While being kept apart from loved ones is never easy, you’re not alone- even if it feels that way. Drawn from the experiences of fellow military families, these tips can help restore your holiday cheer this winter. 

  1. Embrace the tissue box
    Grab the tissues or a roll of tp from the economy pack you bought back in March. Go on, we’ll wait. Feeling emotional when you’re separated from your favorite person in the world over the holidays is normal. Don’t bottle it up! If you’re feeling sad, express those feelings. Call a friend who has been there. Talking it out won’t erase the sadness, but a good friend can help shoulder some of the weight. You don’t have to carry difficult feelings alone!

    If you have children, you don’t have to put on a happy face. By being open about your own feelings, you’re letting your kids know that it’s healthy to share their own. Bring out the tissue box and talk. Even if you don’t feel like it, trust us. It helps.
  2. Stay connected however you can
    Let’s face it; the irritating Mariah Carey song is true. All your partner wants for Christmas is you. While care packages are always welcome, the most meaningful gifts are the ones that are personal and thoughtful. Get the kids together to write love notes, record a song or video, or design a picture book. Fill the pages with drawings, hand prints, happy memories, and anything else that will remind your deployed partner how much they are loved.

    Video chat whenever you can, too. Try to include your partner on special days by sharing a meal together or letting them watch while they kids open their gifts. That way, they’re still a part of the experience even if they’re miles away.
  3. Practice mindfulness
    As much as you miss your partner, there is a day in front of you waiting to be lived. Whether it’s the day you want or not, it’s the one you have. Instead of pining after the people you miss, cherish the time you have with the people you’re actually with. Focus on bringing joy to those around you, and look for the happiness in the simple things. Siblings taking a break from fighting to read a book together. A call to a relative you haven’t had time to catch up with in years. A hot cup of coffee with extra cream and sugar. Ordinary moments are often the ones that stand out in memory, so don’t miss the ones happening right under your nose.
  4. Look to the future
    Living in the moment doesn’t mean you have to leave your partner out of the celebration. Turn your wishes into memories. With the whole family, write down what you can’t wait to do with your loved one when they return home. You can put your wishes in a jar or on a garland, or write them on ornaments to hang on the tree. Next year, you can read those wishes together and make them come true.
  5. Give
    If the season feeling a little cold and dark this year, giving to others is one of the easiest ways to make your heart feel a little warmer. While extra precautions should be taken with any in-person visits, simple, safe gestures can make brighten someone’s day- and your own! 


Bake cookies or make care packages with your kids to deliver to elderly neighbors. Surprise them with a hot meal, shovel their driveway, or offer to run errands for them. Put together boxes for your closest friends and relatives filled with small gifts and photos. Donate to military families in need, or volunteer virtually. 

Whether you’re cheering up a friend or helping a complete stranger, giving to others is one of the most heartwarming gifts you can give yourself. 

If you need extra support this year, the military community is ready to help. For a list of resources to help you along your journey as a military fam, click here.

Articles

The first man killed in the Vietnam War was murdered by a fellow airman

On June 8, 1956, U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Richard Fitzgibbon died of gunshot wounds sustained in South Vietnam. He was the first casualty of what would be known to history as the Vietnam War.


Except it wasn’t a Viet Cong bullet that killed Fitzgibbon — it was a fellow airman.

Fitzgibbon was assigned to the Military Assistance Advisory Group, training South Vietnamese airmen in Saigon. A crew chief, he confronted the plane’s radio operator when they came under fire mid-flight, making sure the operator did his job.

5 ways to handle a holiday deployment during a pandemic
An early aircrew patch from MAAG Vietnam.

After the mission, the radio operator stewed over the altercation, heading to a bar to have a few drinks and loosen up. Except he drank heavily, and the incident only intensified his anger.

Later that day, the man approached Fitzgibbon on the porch of his barracks room as he handed out candy to Vietnamese children and shot the crew chief to death.

Fitzgibbon was a Navy veteran of World War II who later joined the Air Force. His son Richard joined the Marines and fought in Vietnam. He was killed in combat near Quang Tin in 1965.

5 ways to handle a holiday deployment during a pandemic
Richard Fitzgibbon Jr., left, and Richard Fitzgibbon III. The father was killed in Vietnam in 1956, while the son died there in 1965. (Photo from Sen. Ed Markey)

Technical Sergeant Fitzgibbon’s name wasn’t added to the Vietnam Memorial Wall until 1999, after a lobbying campaign from his family, with the help of Senator Ed Markey. The Department of Defense had to first change the criteria for adding a name — specifically identifying the start of the war.

The DoD now recognizes the date the MAAG was set up, Nov. 1, 1955, as the start of the conflict in Vietnam — the earliest date to qualify for having a casualty’s name added to the memorial wall.

5 ways to handle a holiday deployment during a pandemic
Richard Fitzgibbon’s name on the Vietnam Memorial Wall.

The Fitzgibbons were one of three father-son pairs who died in the Vietnam War.

Articles

A US congressman is making AK-47 rifles like the ones he faced in Iraq

A U.S. congressman and former Army infantry officer has started a company that makes an exact replica of the rifle wielded by soldiers he fought against in Iraq.


Dubbed the “Tabuk,” the Iraqi-made AK-47-style rifle remains a rare collectible and cannot be brought back to the United States. However, veterans who want a souvenir of their service in Iraq can get one made in detail to look and act the part.

5 ways to handle a holiday deployment during a pandemic

And best of all, they have Iraq veteran to thank.

Army Lt. Col. Steve Russell is one of the founders and owners of Two Rivers Arms in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and is making the replica Tabuk rifles and other Iraqi-designed arms. Retired from the Army in 2006 after helping lead the mission to capture Saddam Hussein in Iraq during Operation Red Dawn, Russell is now a Republican congressman representing Oklahoma’s 5th district.

5 ways to handle a holiday deployment during a pandemic
Two Rivers Arms co-founder Steve Russell, retired in 2006 after 21 years of service. In that time, he served in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq receiving the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star Medal with Valor Device and Oak Leaf Cluster. While serving in Iraq Lieutenant Colonel Russell’s unit played a key role in Operation Red Dawn, the capture of Saddam Hussein. (Photo from Jorge Amselle)

The replica Tabuk his company makes is a semi-automatic, long-stroke gas piston operated rifle chambered in 7.62×39 mm with a rotating bolt and firing from a detachable 30-round box magazine. And all of the original markings on an Iraqi Tabuk have been replicated to exacting detail.

In the Late 1970s Saddam Hussein ordered his Ministry of Defense to start production on a domestically made variant of the AKM. This was in the middle of the on again, off again war between Iraq and Iran and a reliable supply of small arms was needed. As the Iraqi military already had a good relationship with the former (at that time current) Yugoslavia an easy partnership was formed and tooling and training delivered.

The new Iraqi made AKMs were dubbed the Tabuk and were identical copies of the Yugo M70B1 and M70AB2 rifles.

Russell and his company spared no expense in making the replica Tabuk as close to the ones U.S. troops saw in Iraq as possible. In fact, they’re so authentic looking, Two Rivers Arms-made Tabuk rifles were used in the movie “American Sniper.”

The right side of the rear sight base on the Two Rivers-made rifle is marked “Tabuk” and “Cal. 7.62x39mm” in English just as on the original. Two Rivers Arms took special care to match the style, size and font of all the engravings using original samples. On the left side of the rear sight block is found the same text as on the right but in Arabic.

5 ways to handle a holiday deployment during a pandemic
(Photo from Two Rivers Arms)

In between the name and caliber designation is the lion circle emblem that appears on all Tabuks. This is supposed to represent the Lion of Babylon standing in front of a pyramid and surrounded by a circle. The lion is standing over a prostrate man and has a saddle on its back as in legend it was ridden by Ishtar the Babylonian goddess of love and war.

A final touch of authenticity is that every rifle comes with an exact reproduction of the Iraqi instruction manual issued to troops and manufactured from an original and hard to find manual. It is of course in Arabic.

The Two Rivers Arms Tabuk replica rifle comes in at about $1,200.

 

Articles

‘Lion Capturing’ was the worst military work detail in history

Work details and additional duties are a part of military life — always have been and likely always will be.


We’ve all been on a terrible detail. Some of us get stuck vacuuming the flightline or doing some other kind of FOD cleanup.

Others have it worse.

5 ways to handle a holiday deployment during a pandemic
Way worse.

In Basic Training, I was on the Day Room Crew, which meant I had to chase dust bunnies for a half hour twice a day. It’s much better than having to chase real bunnies. Or lions. I wouldn’t want to chase real lions, either.

Luckily for me, that is not (usually) a detail that happens in the modern U.S. military.

5 ways to handle a holiday deployment during a pandemic
Most of the time, anyway. (Texas State photo)

In the Roman Legions, however, it was a fairly common practice. While many are aware of the Roman propensity for forcing people to fight animals of all kinds for fun and profit, few actually consider the logistics of getting animals to Rome – or who catches those animals.

In 2002, The Guardian newspaper talked to Roger Wilson of Nottingham University about where these animals originated and who set out to take them alive. Archeologists discovered the logistical network through a series of bone fragments, mosaic art, and written records dating back to the days of the Roman Empire.

Interestingly enough, some of these troops weren’t on a special work detail. This was their job.

5 ways to handle a holiday deployment during a pandemic
Good thing he’s wearing a reflective belt.

The troops caught lions in what is today known as Armenia. They captured bears and boars from Northern Europe as well as elephants; giraffes; ostriches; leopards; and hippos from the African frontiers. All of them had to be subdued without spears, knives, or even tranquilizers. The legions could not risk killing the animals.

“Such was the ferocity of these beasts that their capture demanded special skills and the creation of a special post. An inscription in Cologne talks of the capture of 50 bears in a six-month period,” Wilson told The Guardian.

Wilson also said that posting men at the empire’s frontier to capture exotic animals was a good way to keep them occupied. It may have taken the troops quite a bit of time. But like modern forces, they could be very resourceful in completing the mission.

They would beat drums and drive the animals toward legions carrying nets. Sometimes they trapped the animals in deep pits. Other times they wore sheepskins and constantly distracted the animals until they dropped from exhaustion.

5 ways to handle a holiday deployment during a pandemic

The troops would be constantly on the move, as the games required a seemingly unending number of animals. In the year 80 alone — the opening days of the Colosseum in Rome — Romans used more than 5,000 animals in the games.

When the animals were killed, they were likely thrown into mass graves with humans killed in the games.

Articles

How the WW2 bomber Memphis Belle got its wings back

For the first time in 14 years, one of the most iconic planes in American history has earned its wings.


Restorers have reattached the wings to the B-17F Memphis Belle, under restoration at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. Wednesday, the museum provided a behind-the-scenes look as aircraft workers reattached more pieces to the bomber’s wings in preparation for a public unveiling next year.

5 ways to handle a holiday deployment during a pandemic
(Photo: NASA)

“It’s amazing,” said Casey Simmons, a restorer who has labored on the project since 2008 . “I don’t know if there’s words that really say it because you’re little and you build this kit as a little model (airplane) and now you’re actually doing the real thing.

“My favorite part about working on it is just the fact that I get to work on it,” added Casey, 36, of Dayton. “It’s the Memphis Belle. It’s one of the most famous planes. Everything about it, it doesn’t seem like a job. It’s what I’d be doing in my free time if I got to do whatever I wanted to do.”

Related: This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again

The Army Air Forces plane is set to make its debut among fabled aircraft inside the World War II gallery at the museum on May 17, 2018, the date that marks the 75th anniversary of the 25th and final wartime mission of the storied bomber that battled Nazi Germany.

The final crew and the bomber gained fame on a nationwide wartime bond tour, which stopped in Dayton, and for a 1944 movie “Memphis Belle” that documented its combat exploits over Europe.

“The big significance of the Belle is it’s an icon and it represents those heavy bomber crews that helped win the war against Germany,” said Jeff Duford, a museum curator.

The Memphis Belle will sit as the centerpiece of a large-scale exhibit on strategic bombing. Archival footage of the historic plane’s missions retrieved from the National Archives, crew artifacts flown in combat and interactive screens will tell the tale of thousands of bombers and their crews in the bloody aerial battles that killed more airman than any war American airmen have fought in.

Crews have roughly 13,000 hours of work left, said Greg Hassler, restoration supervisor. The museum was not able to provide a cost estimate or how many hours workers and volunteers labored so far to bring the Belle back to its former end of combat luster.

Also read: This is why the F-4 Phantom II had so many fans

Restorers have labored to meticulously off and on to scrape paint, bend metal and fabricate parts since the Boeing built-bomber arrived in 2005 hauled in on a truck from near Memphis, Tenn.

“You get lots of parts and boxes and things that aren’t marked and it’s trying to figure out where things go (you) look at the drawings and it’s like a puzzle,” Simmons said.

The plane will be repainted to reflect how it looked at the end of its combat bombing runs and before flying across the nation on the war bond tour, Duford said. The paint on the plane today is not the original markings, he said.

“The skin all over the the fuselage is engraved with the names when it went on its war bond tour so you want to try and keep all that as much as you can because if you replace that, that’s history gone,” Simmons said.

The reborn Belle will have a woman in a red dress on one side of the plane and in a blue dress on the other side of the nose to reflect the original look. A row of swastikas added for the war bond tour will be removed because they weren’t on the bomber immediately after it finished its days in combat, Duford said

The wings were last attached in 2003, officials said.

Articles

This could be the new replacement for the US Army’s Blackhawk helicopter

5 ways to handle a holiday deployment during a pandemic
Bell’s V-280 Valor | Bell Helicopter Textron Inc.


After several decades of service, the US Army might finally replace their lineup of UH-60 Blackhawk and AH-64 Apache helicopters.

Unveiled at the Farnborough Air Show in England, Bell Helicopter — in conjunction withLockheed Martin — debuted their latest creation, the V-280 Valor.

5 ways to handle a holiday deployment during a pandemic
Bell Helicopters

Similar to the V-22 Osprey currently in service by the US Marine Corps and Air Force, the V-280 applies a tiltrotor mechanism to fly similar to normal helicopters and aircraft. However, the similarities seem to end there, as significant upgrades look to eclipse its predecessor’s capabilities.

Bell claims that the new V-280 will now be capable of flying at twice the speed and range of current helicopter platforms. Features of the helicopter include a 500-800 nautical miles range, aerial refueling, a crew of 4 and 14 troops, carrying capacity of 25% more cargo than a Blackhawk, and its signature 280 knots true airspeed (KTAS).

According to Aviation Week, the Valor will also have a forward-firing capability and a technologically advanced glass cockpit — like Lockheed Martin’s F-35.

5 ways to handle a holiday deployment during a pandemic
Bell Helicopters

In addition to its performance, the V-280 will be more affordable than the V-22: due to the nature of its straight wing design, the V-280 would not only take half the time to construct compared to the V-22’s swept wing, but also half as cheaper — costing about $20 million, similar to the UH-60.

Other nations, such as Australia, UK, and Canada, have also followed suit in expressing interest in the helicopter. So far, the construction of the helicopter is about 60% completed and is slated to take its inaugural flight on September 2017.

Articles

Watch Jimmy Fallon and Adam Sandler do a hilarious version of a country fave for troops at Fleet Week NYC

There are lots of Fleet Weeks held around the country every year, but there’s only one New York City Fleet Week. And as Bill Murray’s character said in “Ghostbusters,” right before they flame-sprayed the Sta-Puff Marshmellow Man: “New York City knows how to take care of a sailor.”


Last night Jimmy Fallon filled his Late Night audience seats with troops from all branches, and then Adam Sandler and he serenaded them with this hilarious (and too true) version of “I’ve Got Friends in Low Places.”

Watch:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4hsVgykjg0
(h/t: Nancy Berglass)
Articles

The most important guy in military aviation history you’ve never heard of

5 ways to handle a holiday deployment during a pandemic


The scramble to attain the top of the opposite hill is a familiar cinematic theme that binds American’s filmmaking tradition with our military history. Famous battles do indeed make for great filmmaking, but the story of Allen Touring’s epic code cracking of Germany’s enigma machine as told in the recent film “The Imitation Game” illustrates a whole other facet of warfare that has been neglected for years. As the film shows, there are important people who remain unrecognized for their contributions to America’s winning military history. One such figure is Alexander Kartveli, perhaps the greatest among the early pioneers in military aviation.

Kartveli emigrated from his home country of Georgia to pursue a dream to design aircraft.  In the 1920s and 1930s, aviation captured the imagination of entrepreneurs and financiers looking for glory and riches – not unlike today’s Internet boom. Fleeing the Bolsheviks, Kartveli moved to Paris, studied aviation and, in his early 20s, designed an aircraft for Louis Bleriot that established a world speed record.

As a result of early success in the Paris aviation scene, Kartveli met and eventually moved to the United States to work with entrepreneur Charles Levine. When Levine’s aviation company failed, Kartveli joined forces again as chief engineer for Alexander de Seversky, another early aviation pioneer who also happened to be born in Tbilisi, Georgia. Seversky Aircraft eventually became Republic Aviation, a major force in aircraft manufacturing through World War II and the conflicts that followed shortly thereafter.

At Republic Aviation, Kartveli oversaw the design of some of the era’s most important fighter planes including the A-10 Thunderbolt II (nicknamed the “Warthog”), the P-47 Thunderbolt (nicknamed the “Jug”), the F-84 Thunderjet (nicknamed the “Hog”) and the F-105 Thunderchief. In fact, the A-10 remains in service today, nearly five decades after it was introduced, despite quantum leaps in aviation technology.

5 ways to handle a holiday deployment during a pandemic

Kartveli’s P-47 Thunderbolt shows the power of design genius at work long before the A-10 was conceived. It was the largest, heaviest and most expensive fighter aircraft in history to be powered by a single piston engine. Its design encompassed advances in both edges of a sword – it was simultaneously one of the most lethal planes in the air and was also the safest for pilots. The P-47 could carry half the payload of a B-17 on long-range missions, yet it was effective in ground attack roles when armed with five-inch rockets.

Kartveli’s contributions were not limited to Republic Aviation. His capacity to translate ideas into reality led to his role as an advisor to the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics, the predecessor to NASA, where he contributed designs that proved to be the seed concepts for the space shuttle. Here is a reference to Kartveli’s work on ramjet technology as described by NASA’s History Office in “The Space Shuttle Decision” published in 1999. Kartveli and Antonio Ferri collaborated on some notable early ramjet designs.

The heads down, thinking man stereotype associated with engineers partly explains why Kartveli remains obscured from history. What’s also an important factor is the alienation imposed on Kartveli due to unfounded fears of espionage. Despite these strictures, publications such as Time Magazine, the Washington Post and Think Magazine captured Kartveli’s immutable sense of imagination in articles where he expounded on the future of aviation and space flight.

A breed of people with new ideas and a determination to succeed proved that it takes all kinds to win a modern war. Starting with World War II, the power of innovation and advances in early computers opened up a whole new front of warfare that put scalable technology to work in the hands of individuals like Kartveli. What emerged was a group of people whose contributions formed an essential pillar of military supremacy and who ushered in foundational technologies that today impacts every military and civilian industry.

Aviation Media, LLC is the curator of AlexanderKartveli.com, a website dedicated to collecting, preserving and sharing all things related to Alexander Kartveli. Please visit the site to learn more about this great innovator and military aviation pioneer.

Articles

North Korea tests missiles after South suspends anti-missile system

North Korea test fired another missile, just one day after South Korea suspended the deployment of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system.


The early morning launch occurred June 8th from the coastal city of Wonsan.

“Multiple projectiles that appear to be short-range, land-to-ship cruise missiles” were fired and flew about 200 kilometers before landing in the Sea of Japan, or East Sea as it is called in Korea, according to South Korea’s Office of Joint Chiefs of Staff.

5 ways to handle a holiday deployment during a pandemic

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last month ordered his military to develop the missile capability to precisely target enemy vessels at sea, according to North Korean state media.

During the first week of June, two US aircraft carrier strike groups, the USS Carl Vinson and the USS Ronald Reagan, conducted military exercises in international waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.

The South Korean JCS said the test on June 8th was a direct response to the recent US naval exercises.

“It was to show off the capability of various types of missiles and is an armed protest to show off its precise strike capability against enemy warships regarding the (recent) joint naval training of the U.S. carriers, or to secure an advantage in US and North Korea or inter-Korean relations,” said JCS Chief of Public Affairs Roh Jae-Cheon.

The JCS also noted that North Korea’s test of low-altitude cruise missiles is not a violation of United Nations Security Council sanctions, which specifically prohibit high-altitude ballistic missile and nuclear weapons development.

5 ways to handle a holiday deployment during a pandemic
USS Carl Vinson. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sean M. Castellano

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga also said this cruise missile test did not warrant a response by the United Nations.

“The government has dealt with actions of North Korea based on responses of the international community, however, we don’t think this ( North Korea’s missile launch this time) is something we need to protest against,” he said.

He also confirmed that the North Korean missiles did not reach his country’s exclusive economic zone that extends 370 kilometers from the coast.

The June 8th launch is the fourth missile test by North Korea since South Korean President Moon Jae-in took office May 10, pledging to reduce tensions with Pyongyang through dialogue and engagement. His conservative predecessor, former President Park Geun-hye, was impeached for her alleged ties to a multi-million dollar corruption scandal.

President Moon convened his first meeting of the National Security Council, where he ordered heightened military readiness to respond to any North Korean provocation.

5 ways to handle a holiday deployment during a pandemic
President of South Korea, Moon Jae-in. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

” President Moon condemned [North Korea’s provocation by saying that] what North Korea will gain from this provocation is international isolation and economic difficulties and it will lose the opportunity for development,” said Park Soo-hyun, the spokesman of the presidential office after the NSC meeting.

On June 7th, the Moon administration suspended the further development of THAAD until an environmental survey, required by law, has been completed. A presidential aide was reported to have said that the survey could take up to two years.

THAAD uses six mobile launchers and 48 interceptor missiles to target long-range ballistic missiles using high-resolution radar and infrared seeking technology. Two of the launchers were installed in March.

5 ways to handle a holiday deployment during a pandemic
Photo courtesy of DoD.

During the campaign, Moon called for a full review of the THAAD agreement before authorizing deployment.

US President Donald Trump also raised concerns about the agreement when he demanded $1 billion for the American weapons system in April. Officials in both Washington and Seoul subsequently clarified the US would bear the cost of THAAD system’s deployment and South Korea would provide the land and supporting facilities.

Washington considers the advanced anti-missile battery critical for defense against North Korea’s growing nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities.

However China adamantly opposes the THAAD regional deployment that could potentially give the US the means to counter its missile capabilities as well.

And many residents living near the deployment site have raised concerns over the possible negative health effects of the system’s powerful radar, and over the increased danger of North Korea targeting their region if hostiles break out.

5 ways to handle a holiday deployment during a pandemic
South Korean Minister of Defense, Han Min-goo. DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith.

Last week, the South Korean Defense Ministry approved the delivery of four remaining launchers without informing the presidential office. The president suspended a deputy defense minster for his role in bypassing the executive oversight function. Kang Kyung-hwa, Moon’s Foreign Minister designate, also called for the National Assembly to debate this national security matter.

On Thursday, the Defense Ministry declined to comment on the status of THAAD because of an internal investigation under way.

In the National Assembly Thursday, conservative Rep. Lee Cheol-woo with the opposition Liberty Korea Party said delaying THAAD is “neglecting the country’s duty,” while fellow party member Rep. Chung Woo-taik accused the Moon government of undermining the US alliance, “while taking no measures whatsoever against North Korea’s missile launches.”

The South Korean presidential spokesman also said that Moon will reaffirm South Korea’s strong commitment to the US alliance when he meets with Trump in Washington later this month.

Articles

Number of American troops wounded fighting ISIS spikes

Newly-released data from the Department of Defense shows an alarming spike in the number of American personnel wounded in the fight against ISIS.


Since October, at least 14 US troops were wounded in combat operations under Operation Inherent Resolve — nearly double the number wounded since the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria began in August 2014. At least 8 Americans were killed in combat since the campaign began, while 23 have died in “non-hostile” events.

5 ways to handle a holiday deployment during a pandemic
Green Berets rehearse close quarters combat. (U.S. Army photo by 3rd Special Forces Group)

The Pentagon’s quiet acknowledgement of a spike in casualties was first reported by Andrew deGrandpre at Military Times.

The increase in combat wounds — which can be caused by small-arms fire, rockets, mortars, and other weaponry, though the Pentagon does not release specifics of how troops are injured — lines up with ongoing offensives against ISIS in the Iraqi city of Mosul and its Syrian capital of Raqqa.

US military officials have often downplayed the role of American troops in the region, saying they are there mainly to “advise and assist” Iraqi and Kurdish personnel fighting on the front lines.

The military has more than 5,000 troops on the ground in Iraq currently, a number which has steadily crept up since roughly 300 troops were deployed to secure the Baghdad airport in June 2014.

With 15 combat injuries, the Marine Corps has the most wounded in the campaign so far. The Army, Navy, and Air Force had 11, 3, and 1 wounded, respectively.

Articles

Ronda Rousey is spending tonight at a Marine Corps Ball

Ronda Rousey will be attending a Marine Corps ball tonight as she famously agreed back in September after Marine Jarrod Haschert invited her via viral video:


Rousey accepted back in Sep. 2015 for the ball on Dec. 11. There was wide speculation after her defeat against Holly Homs that she might not attend, especially after a relative of Haschert said that Jarrod hadn’t yet heard back from the UFC fighter.

But journalists caught up to Rousey on her way to the airport Dec. 11 and she told them she was flying to meet the young Marine. Expect her to be all over #marinecorpsball tonight.

Articles

National Guard chief says ‘tie goes to the soldier’ in California re-enlistment bonus scandal

The head of the National Guard said Oct. 26 that the Pentagon will continue to investigate re-enlistment bonuses paid to thousands of California National Guard soldiers a decade ago and will force those who wrongfully accepted them to pay the money back.


Chief of the U.S. National Guard Bureau Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel said his office is looking into more than 13,600 cases that could be fraudulent, but he admitted investigators have to prove that the soldier knew they were accepting upwards of $15,000 they didn’t qualify for.

5 ways to handle a holiday deployment during a pandemic
Sgt. Jeffrey Nelan, a Infantryman with the 184th Security Force Assistance Team, California National Guard, plays with Afghan children during a leadership engagement at the Afghan Uniformed Police headquarters in Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan, Sept. 25, 2013. | U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Harold Flynn

“The tie goes to the soldier,” Lengyel said at a breakfast meeting with defense reporters in Washington. “If their hands are clean where this soldier is doing their duty and doing their job, it is not our intent to try to enforce this hardship on them 10 years later.”

A nationwide furor erupted after a Los Angeles Times story revealed the California National Guard was demanding repayment with interest for some bonuses it doled out to its Guard troops as an incentive to re-enlist during the height of the Iraq war. The former head of the  state’s Guard incentive program was later convicted of filing over $15 million in false claims and the bureau began looking into the scope of the problem in 2012.

Some soldiers, the Times story alleges, have been forced to pay pack tens of thousands of dollars to the government after nearly a decade — some who sustained severe injuries during their subsequent deployments and have been financially ruined by the errors.

President Obama weighed in on the scandal Oct. 25 and reportedly ordered the Pentagon to speed up the audits, but he stopped short of asking for a blanket amnesty, the Times said.

Pentagon chief Ash Carter said in a statement the next day that he’s ordered a suspension of the paybacks and has asked his office to establish a more streamlined process to investigate fraud claims and allow Guard soldiers a speedier appeal.

“This process has dragged on too long, for too many service members,” Carter said. “Too many cases have languished without action. That’s unfair to service members and to taxpayers.”

[poll id=”7″]

Guard officials claim over 13,600 questionable bonuses were paid out to California soldiers in the mid-2000s — some for re-enlistment incentives, others for education reimbursement. About 1,100 bonuses were given to soldiers who officials allege were not entitled to them, about 4,000 were error free and about 5,300 had paperwork errors. There are still about 3,200 that Guard officials are still trying to track down.

So far about 2,000 soldiers have been asked to pay back all or part of their bonus cash, Guard officials say.

Lengyel explained some of the more egregious cases included officers who took the cash to re-up when the money was intended to help fill the enlisted ranks, some who took bonuses to stay in certain jobs even though they were already in the process of changing their roles in the Army Guard and others who took re-enlisted bonuses despite being on track to take a slot at officer candidate’s school.

“Was there an intent to trick the system, to take advantage of the fact that apparently there’s some new sheriff in town who’s handing out bonuses?” Lengyel wondered. “Unfortunately with all of this was mixed in some proven intent to defraud the government, in some cases. There was some intent to take money knowingly that you weren’t entitled to by some people.”

But he added that likely the vast majority of soldiers who took the bonuses didn’t have any intent to illegally work the system.

“We think there are a lot of people out there who were 22-year-old soldiers who were given information that they thought by all means they were entitled to the money,” Lengyel said. “They were told they could take this money, they were told that they were entitled to this money, they took the money, the re-enlisted and they went about whatever they were doing and they were given bad data.”

Guard officials say there are more cases of alleged fraud in the re-enlistment bonuses for National Guard troops in other states, but that they pale in comparison to the California errors. Lengyel said in all about $50 million in questionable bonuses were paid out in California during the period, and the Guard is investigating each one individually.

The National Guard is granting exceptions, he added, particularly for those who were paid bonuses without submitting records that they were actually eligible. Lengyel said, for example, a bonus paid out to a soldier that didn’t forward a copy of a high school diploma will likely be given a pass since he couldn’t have joined the Guard without it in the first place.

“That’s a technicality by which this member shouldn’t be levied a fine,” Lengyel said. “The blanket rule is to do the right thing.”

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have been outraged by the story, with some already calling for an investigation into the issue and forwarding language to an upcoming defense bill that would give some bonus recipients amnesty. National Guard officials say they did notify Congress of the potential for bonus fraud but nothing was done.

Vet groups have been quick to side with California guardsmen, arguing it’s unfair to put so many soldiers in financial peril due to a former military official’s malfeasance.

“If any of these people were misled about their own eligibility for the bonus with the intent to keep them on, they shouldn’t be held responsible for that,” said John Hoellwarth, National Communications Director for AMVETS. “We think the benefit of the doubt has to be with the soldiers,”

Lengyel said his office is sending investigators to California to help speed up the process of determining whether a bonus or incentive was paid in error in hopes of helping affected soldiers get on with their lives.

“We’re focused on helping those service members who were doing the right thing and served their country and thought they were entitled to a bonus to get this out of their past and out of their way,” Lengyel said. “And we want to help California do that, and help the service members do that as quickly as we possibly can.”

Articles

This video shows a bizarre part of North Korean fighter pilot training

The 24-hour Korean-language YTN News Network based in Seoul, South Korea broadcasted video of North Korean dictator and alleged Swiss chocolate enthusiast Kim Jong Un looking at the “unusual” fighter training methods of the North Korean Air Force.


The video, from North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency, the media mouthpiece of the regime, shows pilots using what looks like cardboard cutouts of their cockpits along with toy fighter models, walking over a large map of the country.

The training is purportedly for what the pilots should do in a low fuel situation, which probably happens a lot in the North.

Kim is not only watching the pilots train. It’s customary for the dictator, like his father Kim Jong-Il, and grandfather Kim Il-Sung before him, to administer “on the spot guidance.” The dictators conduct what are known as business inspections. They visit critical areas of the North Korean defense, industrial, and agricultural centers, and offer advice on how to better perform their job functions.

5 ways to handle a holiday deployment during a pandemic

This is why so many photos of the leaders include them standing around talking while any number of aides are standing around taking notes. Accompanying military officers and leaders of the local area are expected to take meticulous notes of everything the leader says. When the guidance is given, it is usually memorialized with a plaque, including a quote from the leader’s advice.

5 ways to handle a holiday deployment during a pandemic
Kim Jong-il visited the Songjin Iron and Steel Complex in the city of Kim Chaek, making that day either the best or worst of that factory worker’s life.