Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina - We Are The Mighty
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Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina

When Master Sgt. Mike Maroney was a staff sergeant he rescued 3-year-old LeShay Brown a few days after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005. An Air Force Combat Photographer happened to be on the mission, and snapped a now-iconic photo.


Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina

“They just happened to snap a photo of this little girl who really, for me, made the day. It was a rough day,” Maroney told the cast of The Real, a nationally syndicated daytime talk show. “It was seven days into Katrina. Earlier in July, I just got back from a deployment to Afghanistan, it was my worst deployment. To see New Orleans under water and destroyed just really took a toll on me, so when she gave me that hug I wasn’t even on the planet at that point.”

Maroney saved 140 people in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina but the memory of that hug stayed with him. Maroney, now 40 years old and a 19-year Air Force Veteran kept that photo on his wall for the past decade which he says helped him through a lot of dark times stemming from his service.

He never knew that little girl’s name. One day, he decided to find her and posted the photo on Facebook, hoping it would go viral. Someone reached out to Maroney after noticing the search for the girl had not gone very far.

“I had the idea to put it on Facebook to see if anyone is looking for her,” Maroney said. “It got 42 likes. Nothing. Up ’til last year, nothing. Then a young man named Andrew [Goard] wrote me and said, ‘Hey, its my life’s goal. I’m gonna help you find this little girl.”

Goard is a high school student in Waterford, Michigan whose grandfather served in Vietnam, and he idolized Pararescue Jumpers (he even has an Instagram page devoted to them). He helped the hashtag #FindKatrinaGirl go viral. The story was eventually picked up by Air Force Times and distributed around to smaller news outlets, until it ended up in front of LeShay Brown, who is now 13 and living in Waveland, Mississippi.

“I wish I could explain to you how important your hug was,” Maroney told LeShay Brown. “Your small gesture helped me through a dark phase. You rescued me more than I rescued you.”

Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina

“In my line of work, it doesn’t usually turn out happily,” Maroney said. “This hug, this moment, was like – everybody I’ve ever saved, that was the thank you.”

Watch the full reunion on The Real.

 

NOW: The definitive guide to U.S. Special Ops

OR: 10 incredible post-9/11 medics who risked their lives to save others

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Common weaknesses you must improve in military fitness performance

Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jonathan Wright


You do not have to be a world-class athlete to join the military. Even within the ranks of Special Ops, you will not be required to be a master of any element of fitness — above average maybe, but not world class.

My observations from training many military members over the past two decades has shown me that we all come from different foundations of fitness. We all excel in different events, and suffer weaknesses in others. It takes a mature and ego-free team player to realize that your preparation to be 100 percent ready for your job may be lacking. When you make the decision to go Special Ops, you must be prepared to research your future profession and acknowledge there are elements of fitness you will have to attempt that you may have never been exposed to.

Your best bet is to be competent in as many of the following elements of fitness as possible.

Strength: Being strong and having a foundation of strength is critical to ALL of your other abilities. This does not mean that you have to bench press a truck. It means that having strong muscles, bones, and connective tissues will assist in your ability to make power when you need it. The most basic way to measure strength is to record the amount of weight lifted in one repetition. Don’t skip leg day!

Power: You cannot have power without strength and speed. The faster you move an object or yourself through space is power. Power usually requires a full body movement generated from your feet and legs and transferred across the body to its end point. For instance, a powerful knockout punch starts from the feet as the fighter steps into a punch, shifts the hips, torques the torso, and extends the arm until the moment of impact with her or his fist. That is power. In physics, power is defined as power equals force times velocity or work divided by time. It is a combination of technique, speed, and strength.

Endurance: Cardiovascular endurance is necessary for nearly any activity, including running, rucking, and swimming. Technique helps with the amount of energy you use, but being able to move and move fast is one element that has to be continually practiced. If you do not lift for a week, you will typically come back stronger. If you do not run for a week, it feels like you are starting over when you run again. Whether you like fast interval cardio or long, slow distance cardio — just get it done. You need both depending upon your job. How fast you can run, ruck or swim longer distances will be the typical measure for your endurance ability.

Muscle Stamina: Combine high repetition muscle stamina with endurance and you are building a PT test-taking machine. A two minute calisthenics fitness test is one way to test your muscle stamina, but another marker is putting in a full day of hard physical work. Having the ability to continuously move your body weight and more over longer periods of time is required in the typical selection programs. Strength is handy. You need it. But being able to work all day is a physical skill and mindset that needs to be fostered daily.

Speed: Testing speed with short runs can save your life when having to quickly run for cover. Speed can be enhanced by adding in faster and shorter runs to your running days.

Agility: Accompanied with speed and balance, agility is how quickly you can move from side to side and change direction quickly. Both speed and agility can be practiced with cone drills arranged in less than 10 second drills, where full speed and changes of direction are measured.

Mobility / Flexibility: Do not forget to warmup and stretch for flexibility, but also to move your joints through a full range of motion for mobility. Like many elements of fitness, if you don’t use it, you lose it. So make stretching and moving in a full range of motion part of your day.

Hand / Eye Coordination: Whether it is shooting, driving, flying, throwing, or lifting objects to be placed a certain way, having a background with hand eye coordination is helpful to any tactical athlete. Sports can be a great for building this skill, but obtaining good hand / eye coordination requires practice.

Running / Rucking: Being prepared to run and ruck takes time. Time spent logically progressing your weekly mileage in running and building time under the weight with rucking has to be a foundation of your training if attempting most military and any Special Ops training program. Lack of preparation will mean injury and possibly failing to meet the standard within a few months of training. If you don’t practice several days a week to build your endurance, you will lose it.

Swimming / Water Confidence Skills: Not having a pool to train in or not being comfortable in the water is not only a physical fitness issue, but a huge mental block for many. Technique is critical to your success in the water. Watch videos and practice, practice, practice if you need to get better in the water for your swimming, drown-proofing, and treading tests. Several days a week of technique training is required, along with building your cardiovascular endurance to maintain any speed.

Specializing in too few of these elements above can lead to neglecting others. World class athletes specialize in only a few of the above for their athletic events. For instance, take the competitive Olympic swimmer or power lifter. Both are incredible to watch, but both would fail miserably at each other’s events on an Olympic stage.

The reason I am focusing on comparing world class athletes to those in the military is that far too many regular Joe’s attempt workouts and training programs designed for world class athletes. There is no need to try an Olympic swim or running plan used by your favorite Gold Medalist to help you pass a fitness test of a 500m swim or a 1.5 mile timed run — even if you are trying to be a Special Ops team member. Trying to deadlift 600+ pounds, which is a massive amount but still nowhere near world class, may cause injury or interfere with your ability to run, ruck, or swim with fins for long distances. You need to ask yourself what you have to give up to compete in an Ironman Triathlon, do a body building competition, or power lifting meet. If your answer involves too many other elements of fitness, you may want to reconsider whether this is a necessary step toward a tactical profession.

There is a quote often used in Tactical Fitness Training: A world-class athlete needs to be an A+ in his/her activity, which may only focus on 1-2 elements of fitness. A tactical athlete needs to be a B in ALL the elements of fitness to best do his/her job. Make your annual training plan so that you can arrange the elements of fitness into your year accordingly. Learn about periodization and do it logically, with smart progressions so that you do not start off with too much, too soon, too far, or too fast, and end up hurting yourself with challenging programs designed for something not related to the Tactical profession.

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5 of the worst US Navy ship collisions in history

The recent collisions involving the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) and USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) have generated a lot of headlines.


But there have been other collisions – though they are certainly rare events, according to a June USA Today article. But even one is far too many, and some have been even worse than that suffered by those two destroyers.

Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina
The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Wasp (CV-18) in drydock at Bayonne, New Jersey, showing the damage to the carrier’s bow from her 26 April 1952 collision with USS Hobson (DMS-26). Wasp collided with Hobson while conducting night flying operations in the Atlantic, en route to Gibraltar. Hobson was cut in two and sank, 61 men of her crew could be rescued, but 176 were lost. (US Navy photo)

April 26, 1952: The USS Wasp (CV 18) collides with the USS Hobson (DD 464)

While making her way to the Mediterranean Sea, the Wasp was conducting night-time flight operations when she made a course change. A deadly combination of a surface-search radar and a poorly-thought out course-change by the destroyer caused the Wasp to ram the Hobson. The impact broke the Hobson in half and killed 176 sailors, including the Hobson’s captain.

The Wasp was repaired and back in action within 10 days. The Navy ultimately blamed the commanding officer of the Hobson for the collision.

Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina
What was left of USS Frank E. Evans (DD 754) after her collision with the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne. (US Navy photo)

June 3, 1969: The HMAS Melbourne rams the USS Frank E. Evans (DD 754)

For over two decades, the United States was a member of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization. This alliance also included Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Thailand, the Philippines, France, and the United Kingdom. SEATO was hoped to be a NATO for the region, but it never reached that potential — although allies did hold exercises.

Five years previously the Melbourne had rammed and sunk an Australian destroyer.

During an anti-submarine warfare exercise, there was a near-miss between the Melbourne and the destroyer USS Everett F. Larson (DD 830). Despite that near-miss, tragedy struck when in the early-morning hours of June 3, the Frank E. Evans cut in front of the Melbourne. Her bow was sheared off and sank, causing the deaths of 74 American sailors.

The collision resulted in a Navy training film, “I Relieve You, Sir,” or “The Melbourne-Evans Incident,” that was used to disseminate the lessons learned from this tragedy.

Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina
Damage done to USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67) after her collision with USS Belknap (CG 26). (US Navy photo)

November 22, 1975: The USS Belknap (CG 26) collides with the USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67)

This collision is notable for the extensive damage the Belknap sustained. During operations in the Ionian Sea, the Belknap and John F. Kennedy collided. A burst pipe sent fuel onto the guided-missile cruiser, and a massive fire melted the Belknap’s aluminum superstructure.

Eight sailors died, and 48 were injured. This collision actually has shaped the ship that is the backbone of the fleet today. After studying the collision and fire, the Navy decided to make the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers out of steel.

The Belknap was rebuilt over the course of four years, and served as the flagship of the Sixth Fleet from 1986 to 1994, before she was sunk as a target in 1998.

Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina
USS Greeneville (SSN 772) in dry dock after her collision with the Japanese fishery training ship Ehime Maru. (US Navy photo)

February 9, 2001: The USS Greeneville (SSN 772) rams the Ehime Maru

The Improved Los Angeles-class nuclear attack submarine USS Greeneville collided with the Ehime Maru, a fishery training ship for a high school while surfacing. The Ehime Maru sank very quickly, with nine people dead as a result.

A number of civilian visitors were aboard the sub at the time, and the failure of the Greeneville’s captain to ensure that their presence didn’t hamper military operations was a contributing factor to the fatal incident.

The next year, the Greeneville would collide with the amphibious transport dock USS Ogden (LPD 5), and suffer minor damage.

Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina
Sailors aboard the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768) wait for the brow to be lowered during the ships return home to Submarine Base New London after a month-long surface transit from Bahrain in 2009. The sub’s sail is askew as a result of her collision with USS New Orleans (LPD 18). (US Navy photo)

March 20, 2009: The USS Hartford (SSN 768) collides with the USS New Orleans (LPD 18)

Navigational chokepoints are called that because maritime traffic has to go through them, and they are very narrow. This doesn’t leave a lot of room for error or complacency.

According to a 2009 Military Times report, though, the crew of the Hartford got complacent, and the Los Angeles-class submarine and the San Antonio-class amphibious transport collided.

The Hartford suffered over $100 million in damage, while the New Orleans had a ruptured fuel tank and spilled 25,000 gallons of diesel fuel into the sea. There were 15 sailors injured on the Hartford, which was almost knocked onto its side.

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China and Japan locked in Coast Guard arms race

China and Japan are redefining the nature and purpose of the Coast Guard. Americans still think in terms of air-sea rescue or chasing drug smugglers when they think about their Coast Guard. China and Japan think about their Coast Guards in terms of realpolitik.


The two nominally civilian services are on the front lines of territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas. Both countries are adding to their coast guard fleets at a breakneck pace. One could almost call it a Coast Guard arms race, except that the vessels are lightly armed if armed at all.

Japan is reinforcing its Coast Guard contingent in the waters around the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea with 10 new 1,500-ton patrol craft and two new helicopter- equipped vessels. This is in addition to six other cutters already in the region. Tokyo will no longer have to borrow vessels from other Coast Guard districts allowing them to concentrate on routine Coast Guard duties such as rescuing ships in distress.

Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina

Tokyo is also overhauling its main operational base on the island of Ishikagi, the closest Japanese island to the Senkakus, with enlarged port facilities to handle the new vessels. It is close to another small island where Japan recently opened an army garrison to protect a new radar base (a well as asserting sovereignty in case China expands its designs on other islands in the Ryukyu chain.)

Both Japan and China assert their claims to the uninhabited Senkaku islands with coast guard cutters rather than ships of their regular navies.  On an average of once every two weeks, two or three Chinese Coast Guard vessels enter Japanese territorial waters. They stay for a couple hours then leave. Meanwhile, Japanese Coast Guard vessels regularly patrol the disputed waters ordering anyone inside the territorial zone to leave.

China is also expanding its fleet and building ports of call to maintain them. The growing fleet allows Beijing to assert its claim and support its interests over the entire South China Sea. At present, Coast Guard ships are stationed near the Scarborough Shoal claimed by the Philippines; another routinely patrols the Laconia Reefs off the coast of Malaysia.

While it once depended on former naval frigates, China is now commissioning purpose-built cutters. It is currently commissioning two of the world’s largest Coast Guard cutters, ships that could alter the balance of power in the South and East China Seas (one ship is to be stationed in each sea).

Known only by their hull numbers, in this case Haijing 2901 and Haijing 3901 (the first digit denotes which sea it is to patrol). They displace 10,000 tons, possibly more when fully outfitted. That makes them larger than the U.S. Navy’s Ticonderoga- class cruisers and Japan’s 6,500-ton Shikishima- class Coast Guard cutters previously the largest in the world.

The U.S.S. Forth Worth, a Littoral Combat ship based in Singapore, which has undertaken Freedom of Navigation patrols in the Spratly islands, displaces a mere 1,200 tons. A warship like the Fort Worth could, of course, defend itself from a Chinese maritime enforcement vessel on a collision course, but it would mean firing the first shot.

This may be a coast guard “arms race” except that the competing vessels are not heavily armed. The new Japanese cutters are armed with 20 mm cannons and water cannons. The new Chinese super cutters are not necessarily heavily armed either. Pictures that have been published so far show that they lack gun turrets. It is not armaments that make these two Coast Guard Dreadnaughts so formidable; it is their sheer size.

Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina

The military version of the People’s Daily, the press organ of the Chinese Communist Party, boasted that these powerful new ships could ram and possibly sink a 9,000-ton vessel without damaging itself. That makes them a potential threat to regular naval vessels of the U.S. and Japanese navies.

Ramming has been a tactic in territorial disputes in both the East and South China Seas, harkening back to the days of the Romans and Carthaginians. A large Chinese fishing vessel rammed a Japanese Coast Guard cutter near the Senkakus in 2011. Earlier this year another Chinese Coast Guard vessel rammed one of its own fishing trawlers that had been taken into custody by Indonesian authorities for allegedly illegally fishing in Jakarta’s 200-nautical miles exclusive economic zone.

Retired USN Captain James Fanell, formerly chief of intelligence for the U.S. Pacific Fleet, calls the Chinese Coast Guard,  “A fulltime marine harassment organization. Unlike the U.S, Coast Guard, the Chinese service has no other mission but to harass other nations into submitting to China’s extravagant claims,” he says.

Fanell notes that China is building new Coast Guard vessels, like the two super cutters, at “an astonishing rate.”

The regular navies of Japan and China generally stay in the background, but Tokyo is also suspicious about the recent activities of the regular Chinese Navy in waters near the disputed islands. A contingent of Chinese frigates now hovers about 70 km away from the Senkaku, close enough to come to the aid of any of its coast guard vessels that gets in trouble.

For its part, the Japanese government recently made public what the cabinet had decided earlier in the year, that Japanese naval vessels might intervene should the Coast Guard be unable to do its normal “policing” duties. “If it becomes difficult for the police and the Japan Coast Guard, then the Maritime Self Defense Force (navy) could respond,” said defense minister Gen Nakatani. That could happen if Chinese navy ships actually entered Senkaku waters.

The use of “white hulls,” mostly unarmed or lightly armed Coast Guard cutters, rather than “gray hulls,” has been a stabilizing element in the numerous territorial encounters of the past few years. But the recent remarks suggest that Tokyo expects to see more gray hulls than white hulls in the coming year.

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The 13 funniest military memes for the week of Jul. 29

After another week of keeping the barracks secure from enemy attack, Pokemon, and —most importantly—the staff duty NCO, you deserve some funny military memes. Here are 13 of the best that we could find:


1. Wait, you can get out of PT just because you’re already dead?

(via The Salty Soldier)

Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina
My drill sergeant lied to me.

2. Look, some objects on the runway are hard to see. It was an honest mistake (via Sh-t my LPO says).

Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina
Do you think it damaged the engine?

SEE ALSO: The top 6 reasons civilians back out of military service

3. In the dog’s defense, typing those six words takes him more time than it takes most humans to type six paragraphs (via Sh-t my LPO says).

Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina

4. Just 3 more years of hibernation and he’ll emerge as a salty civilian (via Marine Corps Memes).

Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina
Or a super salty staff NCO.

5. “I just can’t even. Can’t. Even.”

(via The Salty Soldier)

Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina

6. Stop your jokes. That’s a vessel of the United States Coast Guard (via Coast Guard Memes).

Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina
Respect its authority!

7. That buffalo is only wearing the branch to get you to stop throwing Pokeballs at it (via Air Force Nation).

Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina

8. “I also spent plenty of time studying for my advancement exams.”

(via Military Memes)

Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina
BTW, why did Pinocchio’s nose grow? That’s a really specific punishment for lying.

9. Be careful. They sometimes hide them under objects on the side of the road (via Military Memes).

Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina
Also in potholes. And dead bodies. And ….

10. As soon as a soldier pulls off this move, they’ve won the smoke session, so stop (via Devil Dog Nation).

Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina

11. He just wanted to get rid of his Pidgey rank and become a “full-Charizard colonel” instead (via Air Force Memes Humor)

Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina
BTW, yes. There will probably one Pokemon meme per list for the foreseeable future. I am trying to keep it to just one, though.

12. Uh, you’re not done until I can see my face in those things (via Sh-t my LPO says).

Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina
That joke was funny for probably 10 minutes. That boot was stained for the rest of its existence.

13. “It was my turn to go through the intersection!”

(via Military Memes)

Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina

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This is what an air-to-air war between Russia and the US in Syria would look like

After the US downed a Syrian jet making a bombing run on US-backed forces fighting ISIS, Russia threatened to target US and US-led coalition planes West of the Euphrates river in Syria.


But while Russia has some advanced surface-to-air missile systems and very agile fighter aircraft in Syria, it wouldn’t fare well in what would be a short, brutal air war against the US.

The US keeps an aircraft carrier with dozens of F/A-18E fighters aboard in the Mediterranean about all the time and hundreds of F-15s and F-16s scattered around Turkey, Qatar, and Jordan.

According to Omar Lamrani, a senior military analyst at Stratfor, a geopolitical analysis firm, Russia has “about 25 planes, only about ten of which are dedicated to air superiority (Su-35s and Su-30s), and against that they’ll have to face fifth-gen stealth fighters, dozens of strike fighters, F-15s, F-16s, as well as B-1 and B-52 bombers. And of course the vast US Navy and pretty much hundreds of Tomahawks.”

Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina
USS George H.W. Bush. Photo courtesy of the US Navy

“Russians have a lot of air defenses, they’re not exactly defenseless by any means,” Lamrani told Business Insider, “But the US has very heavy air superiority.” Even though individual Russian platforms come close to matching, and in some ways exceed the capability of US jets, it comes down to numbers.

So if Russia did follow through with its threat, and target a US aircraft that did not back down West of the Euphrates in Syria, and somehow managed to shoot it down, then what?

“The US coalition is very cautious,” said Lamrani. “The whole US coalition is on edge for any moves from Russia at this point.”

Lamrani also said that while F/A-18Es are more visible and doing most of the work, the US keeps a buffer of F-22 stealth jets between its forces and Russia’s. If Russia did somehow manage to shoot down a US or US-led coalition plane, a US stealth jet would probably return fire before it ever reached the base.

Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina
USAF photo by Greg L. Davis

At that point the Russians would have a moment to think very critically if they wanted to engage with the full might of the US Air Force after the eye-for-an-eye shoot downs.

If US surveillance detected a mass mobilization of Russian jets in response to the back-and-forth, the US wouldn’t just wait politely for Russians to get their planes in the sky so they can fight back.

Instead, a giant salvo of cruise missiles would pour in from the USS George H. W. Bush carrier strike group, much like the April 7 strike on Syria’s Sharyat air base. But this time, the missiles would have to saturate and defeat Russia’s missile defenses first, which they could do by sheer numbers if not using electronic attack craft.

Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams

Then, after neutering Russia’s defenses, the ships could target the air base, not only destroying planes on the ground but also tearing up the runways, so no planes could take off. At this point US and Coalition aircraft would have free reign to pass overhead and completely devastate Russian forces.

Russia would likely manage to score a couple intercepts and even shoot down some US assets, but overall the Russian contingent in Syria cannot stand up to the US, let alone the entire coalition of nations fighting ISIS.

Russia also has a strong Navy that could target US air bases in the region, but that would require Russia to fire on Turkey, Jordan, and Qatar, which would be politically and technically difficult for them.

This scenario of a hypothetical air war is exceedingly unlikely. Russia knows the numbers are against them and it would “not [be] so easy for the Russians to decide to shoot down a US aircraft,” according to Lamrani.

Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina
Photo courtesy of Russian state media

And Russia wouldn’t risk so much over Syria, which is not an existential defense interest for them, but a foreign adventure to distract from Russia’s stalled economy and social problems, according to Anna Borshchevskaya, an expert on Russia’s foreign policy in the Middle East at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

“Russia is not a great power by most measures, like GDP, population, living standard,” Borshchevskaya told Business Insider. “Russia has steadily declined. It’s still a nuclear power, but not world power.”

In Syria, “a lot of what Putin is doing is about domestic policies,” said Borshchevskaya, and to have many Russian servicemen killed in a battle with a US-led coalition fighting ISIS wouldn’t serve his purposes domestically or abroad.

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Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire

Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina
Silver Star | Public Domain


An airman who braved enemy fire to save fellow troops during a river evacuation in Afghanistan in 2009 will receive a Silver Star for his bravery, a general said.

Airman First Class Benjamin Hutchins, a tactical air control party airman supporting the 82nd Airborne Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, was approved for the military’s third-highest valor award in April and will receive the honor during a ceremony Nov. 4 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, an official said.

Also read: Possible Medal of Honor upgrade would be the first based on drone imagery

His heroic actions during a three-day period through Nov. 6, 2009, were recounted during a speech by Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, the head of Air Combat Command, on Tuesday at the Air Force Association’s annual Air, Space Cyber Conference near Washington, D.C.

“This is an example of our airmen,” Carlisle said.

Hutchins and a team of soldiers were on the west bank of the Bala Murghab River looking for a supply airdrop, Carlisle said. One of the canisters fell off target into the swift-moving river, and two soldiers swam out to retrieve it.

But Taliban militants on the east side of the river were watching.

The soldiers were swept out by a “strong current they weren’t anticipating,” Carlisle said. “Airman Hutchins jumps into the river after [them] … but the Taliban start[ed] shooting at the last man in the water.”

Hutchins, swimming around the frigid waters for roughly an hour, evaded Taliban fire by skimming the surface “with [only] his nose and mouth” while diving back down to find the troops.

Additional soldiers with the 82nd Airborne soon came to the aid of all three men. But the Taliban began another firefight — with machine guns, sniper fire and rocket-propelled grenades — on the east bank the following day.

“They come out, and start running across an open field and take on the Taliban. They take out the rocket propeller, the machine gun. There’s still dealing with the snipers, but Hutchins, being a TACP, gets on the radio … calls in a [strike] from an MQ-1 Predator in a danger-close situation, but … it takes out the Taliban,” Carlisle said.

The award’s narrative, written by the airman’s former supervisor, Master Sgt. Donald Gansberger, describes the action in even more detail.

“Airman Hutchins moved under heavy and accurate rocket propelled grenade, machine gun and sniper fire across an open field with little to no cover or concealment,” it states. “While continuing to move forward, he managed to direct the sensors of overhead close air support while simultaneously providing accurate supporting fire with his M-4 rifle.”

“He killed one enemy armed with a rocket propelled grenade launcher, at close range, before the enemy could fire and wounded an additional enemy fighter all while providing targeting and controlling information to an overhead unmanned aerial vehicle that destroyed a second enemy fighting position with a Hellfire missile,” the document states.

“Airman Hutchins’ quick, decisive actions, tactical presence and calm demeanor enabled friendly forces to eventually overwhelm the enemy stronghold,” it states. “His actions forced the enemy fighters to break contact and relinquish critical ground to friendly forces which enabled the safety of the recovery efforts for the two missing Soldiers.”

In an ironic twist, Carlisle said, “they did eventually get their container back.”

The Air Force previously said Hutchins had been submitted for the Bronze Star Medal with Valor. However, the service later clarified Hutchins had instead been submitted for two Bronze Star medals for his actions, which instead were combined into one Silver Star award.

Hutchins medically retired from the Air Force in 2014 with injuries sustained as a result of enemy attack during a separate deployment in 2012, Air Combat Command told Military.com.

The Defense Department is reviewing more than 1,100 post-9/11 valor citations to determine if they warrant a higher award such as the Medal of Honor, officials announced in January.

In 2014, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered a review of all decorations and awards programs “to ensure that after 13 years of combat the awards system appropriately recognizes the service, sacrifices and action of our service members,” officials told USA Today at the time.

The latest review is due to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter by Sept. 30, 2017.

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It turns out that bringing a flag to Arlington Cemetery can get you a year in jail

Guests and family members who flock to the Arlington Cemetery this Independence Day week will have to leave their America flags at home.


Current law does not permit people to bring American flags to grave sites after Congress passed legislation following protests from the Westboro Baptist Church at service members funerals, The Washington Post reported July 4.

Former Michigan GOP Rep. Mike Rogers helped pass the Respect For America’s Fallen Heroes Act in 2006, making it illegal to protest funerals within 300 feet of a cemetery. The legislation had the unintended consequence of barring the bringing of “any placard, banner, flag, or similar device.”

Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina
Lizzy Yaggy visiting the Arlington National Cemetery gravesite of her father. (Photo: Erin Yaggy)

Flags are permitted, however, if they are “part of a funeral, memorial service, or ceremony.”

Violating the law can bring penalties of up to a year in jail. While the bill received bipartisan support, the ACLU contended the law violated the First Amendment based on censorship.

“If someone is in there with the colors in a respectful way, or paying homage in a respectful way, then they should allow it,” Paul Rieckhoff founder of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

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Iran wants to join the ‘carrier club’

Iran has decided it wants to join the aircraft carrier club, with Tehran’s Deputy Navy Commander for Coordination making a statement to Iran’s Fars News Agency.


According to a report by the Times of Israel, Adm. Peiman Jafari Tehrani reportedly said, “Building an aircraft carrier is also among the goals pursued by the navy and we hope to attain this objective.”

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jason Noble

Currently, the United States, India, China, Russia, Brazil, and France operate conventional aircraft carriers. Spain, Japan, Italy, and Thailand operate aircraft carriers for short take-off, vertical landing aircraft — with the United Kingdom in the midst of building two. India also operates an old V/STOL carrier.

Iran has a substantial domestic arms industry and has built its own warships, including the Peykan-class missile boats and the Jamaran-class frigates.

Iran also claims to have deployed the Bavar 373, a knock-off of the SA-10 anti-aircraft missile, and to have copied the RQ-170, an example of which was captured in 2011. Iran also has built modified versions of the Northrop F-5, known as the Saeqeh.

Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina
Iranian fast-attack boats during a naval exercise in 2015. | Wikimedia photo by Sayyed Shahaboddin Vajedi

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has ordered the Iranian navy to look into constructing nuclear-powered military vessels, according to a report by the Daily Caller. Currently, only the United States, India, China, Russia, the United Kingdom, and France have such vessels in service.

2016 was notable for a number of incidents where Iranian forces harassed or threatened United States Navy personnel.

In January, Iran held a number of U.S. sailors for 15 hours after one of the boats there were on had engine trouble. This past summer, Iranian harassment reached the point where USS Squall (PC 7) fired warning shots.

United States Navy aircraft received threatening messages from Iran in September. The following month, Iranian-backed rebels damaged HSV 2 Swift, a former U.S. Navy vessel, then carried out multiple attacks on the guided-missile destroyer USS Mason, prompting retaliation from the Mason’s sister ship, USS Nitze (DDG 94).

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13 funniest military memes for the week of Feb. 17

The week is over, but the memes are neverending. Check out 13 of our favorite military memes of the week below:


1. This woobie is my woobie, and we have seen unspeakable things together (via Pop smoke).

Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina
Just take the statement of charges, dude. It’s worth it.

2. “Build a wall over the tunnel!”

(via Military World)

Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina
Yeah, that doesn’t stop Marines.

3. The flight line plays by its own rules. Like criminal gangs do (via Air Force Memes Humor).

Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina

ALSO SEE: The CIA just declassified these 11 Russian jokes about the Soviet Union

4. Admit it, when you’re in contact, you would rather those Chair Force fellows were in the chairs than in the gym (via Military Memes).

Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina
Course, they could go practice some ruck marching when they’re off duty.

5. Dream away, fellows. Dream away (via Pop smoke).

Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina
Take a look at the age of that baby. You left her newly pregnant when you deployed and thought you would come back to her full of energy?

6. First sergeants were trying to save your life, Bubba (via Team Non-Rec).

Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina
Also would have helped if you kept your dang feet dry, like L-T told you to.

7. Oh yeah, sir? Those were your accomplishments?

(via Shit my LPO says)

Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina
Guess I’ll just go over here and keep typing your reports for you.

8. Just give it some liberty, man. Those claws look sharp (via Pop smoke).

Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina
Maybe throw in some donut holes for free.

9. D-mnit, Carl. You never learned to secure your weapon? (via Military World)

Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina
Guess who’s going swimming?

10. When you find out where Jodie goes after the housing area:

(via The Salty Soldier)

Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina

11. Turns me on (via NavyMemes.com).

Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina
Haze grey and underway.

12. Ummmm … I’m fine, bro. Keep your motivation to yourself (via The Salty Soldier).

Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina
And if that cadence caller could shut up, too, that’d be great.

13. You can tell the safety NCO is phoning it in when:

(via Coast Guard Memes)

Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina
Maybe keep some water bottles handy for the foreseeable future.

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This is the Israeli version of the dogfighting wargame Red Flag

A number of elite units from multiple nations are gathered to train at an air base, with over 100 aircraft sitting on the flightline for a two-week exercise.


Sounds like just another Red Flag, right? Wrong.

This exercise is a “flag,” but it’s not at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. Instead, it’s taking place in Israel. And appropriately enough, it’s known as Blue Flag.

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F-16I Sufa (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

While several Red Flag exercises are held each year in the U.S., the Israelis hold one Blue Flag every two years. In 2013, four countries took part. This year, according to DefenseNews.com, seven will be in the skies over the Middle East nation: the United States, France, Germany, India, Italy, Poland, and of course, Israel.

One big difference between Red Flag and Blue Flag is the fact that Blue Flag doesn’t have a lot of head-to-head action between the participants. The exercise usually puts the 100 or so planes in as a multi-national “Blue Force” dealing with an external “Red Force.”

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(U. S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)

Week one of Blue Flag is spent getting familiar with the area. The second week is the actual combat exercise, usually involving the Red Force trying to hit friendly targets. The Blue Force tries to stop them, in a variety of missions, both air-to-air, and air-to-surface.

Past Blue Flags have drawn rave reviews from the United States Air Force.

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Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald

“The Israelis provided an excellent training environment, which offered us the opportunity to learn from each other and to take advantage of good airspace, surface threat replicators, and challenging scenarios,” said Lt. Col. John Orchard after Blue Flag 2013 in an Air Force release. “It was a real pleasure integrating with our Israeli, Italian and Greek partners who all offer unique tactical, strategic and cultural perspectives.”

While the nightlife may be very different from the Vegas strip — and it’ll be a little harder to find a good ham sandwich between sorties — Blue Flag 2017 promises to be very interesting for the participants.

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7 things ‘Hollywood’ Marines will always remember

There are only two recruit depots where U.S. Marines are made, and one of them has a reputation for being “Hollywood.”


Due to their close proximity to Tinseltown, Marines who graduate from MCRD San Diego are usually called “Hollywood Marines” by their MCRD Parris Island, S.C. counterparts and often ridiculed as having an easier training and lifestyle.

Regardless of who you think has the tougher training, here are some things only ‘Hollywood’ Marines will always remember about their initial training.

1. The Yellow Hell

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Photo: Marine Corps

While standing on the yellow footprints is a tradition at both locations, MCRD San Diego takes it much further. The base is a sprawling 388 acres and every building on base is yellow. The renowned architect Bertram Goodhue designed the buildings in a Spanish colonial revival style, and while there are currently 28 of those buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, the only history recruits will remember is that they are in yellow hell.

2. Planes, planes, and more planes!

Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina
Photo: Flickr

No matter how long or short your flight is from your home to MCRD, the drive from the airport to base is a mere five minutes. By checking out this Google satellite view you can see that the base is literally on the opposite side of the runway fence. At first the constant deafening noise of airplanes taking off and landing every few minutes is annoying, but recruits get used to it real quick. In fact, some use it to their advantage, by counting the planes as if they were sheep to go to sleep at night dreaming about their next flight home. Recruits endure the mental kick in the stomach while running along side the runway fence watching planes take off with happy newly graduated Marines and their families.

The planes also provide a symbolic sense of comfort. I went to MCRD in August 2001 and one month later the 9/11 attacks occurred. When first told of the attacks by our drill instructors, we felt it may have been some sort of trick. However, once they pointed out the airport was shut down and no planes were taking off, the sky all of a sudden seemed desolate with an eery silence. When the planes were allowed to fly again days later, a sense of relief was felt by all.

3. Perfect Weather

Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina
Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Katalynn M. Rodgers

San Diego enjoys gorgeous weather year-round with an average temperature of 70.5 degrees and minimal humidity. However, recruits don’t go there for a vacation, they go to become Marines. Drill instructors are quick to remind recruits of the many beautiful women in bikinis sunbathing at one of the several beaches within a short distance from the base. No matter how difficult things may get, recruits can find comfort in knowing tomorrow will be another beautiful day with clear skies to train.

4. Bus Trips

Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina
Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Joshua Young

Not all recruit training takes place at MCRD San Diego. To complete the second of three phases, they are moved 45 minutes north to Camp Pendleton. The ride takes recruits through San Diego’s beautiful north county and it’s the first time recruits are off base since arrival. They are supposed to keep their heads down but it’s common to sneak a glimpse at the beautiful landscape around them and think about home or what’s in store for them at Camp Pendleton. Similarly, on the way back to MCRD to finish the last phase, it gives recruits a time of reflection on completing the demanding training they just endured during second phase and realize they are that much closer to graduation.

5. Mountains, hills, and ridges

Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina

 

Second phase recruit training takes place at Edson Range, Camp Pendleton and includes marksmanship, rifle qualification, close combat, field training, and the gas chamber. But ask any recruit and the one memory that first comes to mind are the many hills they had to hike creating many feet blisters. Camp Pendleton is notorious for its mountains, hills, and ridges that are perfect for grueling hikes. The most famous of which is known as ‘The Reaper’, or ‘Grim Reaper’. With full packs on, it is the last and final monumental hill to climb during the 54 hour exercise known as The Crucible in which they have already climbed several with only eight hrs of sleep.

6. Padres Baseball

Although not every platoon or company at MCRD gets this luxury, those who do get a chance to be recognized by the local community for their newly committed service to this great nation. Although the seats are in the highest sections of the stadium and they are strictly guarded by their drill instructors, it’s a welcome change of pace from the intense and stressful daily training.

7. The San Diego Skyline

 

Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina
Photo: Wikipedia

It’s hard to believe that just outside the gates of MCRD sits beautiful downtown San Diego. For three months, recruits have dreamt of exploring all the reasons why San Diego is called “America’s Finest City.” Now that they have graduated, it’s common for the nation’s newest Marines to proudly wear their dress uniforms as they eat and celebrate with friends and family throughout the city.

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US troops are deploying to a newly captured ISIS airfield

More U.S. troops are headed to Iraq where they will be occupying an airfield that was just recently wrested from ISIS control.


Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced the new deployment of 560 service members, bringing the total to 4,647, during a surprise visit to Iraq. The Syrian rebels benefitted from a recent troop plus-up as well, climbing from 50 U.S. special operators to 300.

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US Soldiers calibrate their weapons in Iraq on May 23, 2016. The weapons will be used to protect coalition forces and support Iraqi Army advances. (Photo: US Army Sgt. Paul Sale)

The future arrivals in Iraq will head to Qarayyah Airfield, which sits 25 miles south of Mosul and will serve as the staging area for coalition efforts to retake the important city. Qarayyah was retaken from ISIS during fighting on Jul. 9-10, 2016.

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GIF: Google Earth Pro by WATM

According to reporting in CNN, the U.S. forces will primarily provide logistics support but could also assist with intelligence tasks or provide advice to Iraqi commanders.

Iraqi forces have retaken Fallujah, Ramadi, and Tikrit in just over year and the fall of Mosul would provide another major victory for Iraqi forces. Meanwhile, Syrian rebels and government forces under Bashar al-Assad have squeezed the terror group from the other side.

Air Force Pararescue Jumper reunites with girl he saved after Hurricane Katrina
Iraqi soldiers train in April 2015 to fight ISIS. (Photo: US Army Sgt. Deja Borden)

But ISIS has remained a potent threat despite losing ground on nearly all fronts. On Jul. 3, they managed to launch some of their deadliest attacks yet on Iraq’s capital in Baghdad, killing 215 in a single bombing.

Their ability to inspire attacks internationally remains potent as well. Most ISIS-inspired attacks have been against Muslim nations in the Middle East, but France, America, Germany, and other western countries have all suffered as well. The shooter who attacked Pulse Nightclub in Orlando claimed to have been inspired by ISIS and other terrorist organizations.

Meanwhile, ISIS has managed to direct a few attacks overseas. The deadly bombings in an Istanbul airport on Jun. 28 were not claimed by ISIS, but officials have signaled that they believe the attack was at least supported by ISIS and probably coordinated by ISIS leadership.

Retaking all of ISIS’s ground will not end the threat the group poses, but it should degrade it. ISIS relies heavily on income that would be challenging to keep flowing without territory.

It’s nearly impossible to sell large quantities of black market oil without oil fields. And while they could still take donations or blackmail individuals, they can only tax entire cities if they control the cities.

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