Tis the season to be grateful! We know 2020 has been hard but we can all unite around the joyous performances from our US Army Field Band! And we’ve made a holiday special for you all to enjoy!
The Army Field Band (not to be confused with the Army Band — that’s different) plays over 100 concerts annually, culminating with their holiday event, Sound the Bells. The President and dignitaries always attend, but given the restrictions of COVID, a live concert isn’t possible. Working with the Army, We Are The Mighty produced an alternative that everyone can enjoy! Watch the video below or on Fox Business and Fox Nation from 12/23 to 12/26.
Hosted by military supporter and A-Lister Joe Mantegna (Criminal Minds, The Simpsons), the run of the show includes seven holiday songs with vignettes from Army Leadership as well as a special interview with Harry Miller, a WW2 Veteran of the Battle of the Bulge. The special has seven featured songs, including such holiday favorites as I’ll be Home for Christmas, It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year and Silent Night, an animated version of the Nutcracker and a special portrayal of Christmas 1914, sung by SSG Megan Pomales. When a fellow soldier and producer shared that he wanted Pomales to sing Christmas 1914 for the holiday special, Pomales said she listened to it and was “completely undone.”
Written by Catherine Rushton in 2004, the song is an emotional and haunting walk down the experiences of ground troops fighting during World War I. In 1914 the Pope suggested a truce for Christmas. Taking the suggestion to heart, the Germans and allied troops entered into an unofficial cease fire. Tales were told of Christmas carols being sung and words of goodwill echoing through the night. The lyrics of the song tell a story of the beauty of Christmas and the reality of war that followed the celebration: For three days we played football, three nights we drank and sang, ‘til it came time to say farewell. Then we went to ground; each side fired three rounds. And just like that we all were back in hell.
Don’t miss Sound The Bells! This incredible holiday special honoring our military community is a must see.
While everyone talks about D-Day, what’s often forgotten is that getting past the Atlantic Wall was only the first step. The Allies had to fight their way out of Normandy and into the rest of France — not to mention across Germany.
This wasn’t easy. Germany had some very well-trained troops who were determined to put up a fight. One of the places where the Nazis held up the Allies was Villers-Bocage — a village to the southwest of Caen, a major objective of the initial staged.
According to Battle of Normandy Tours, on June 13, 1944, a force of British tanks from the famous 7th Armoured Division — also known as the “Desert Rats” — headed towards Villers-Bocage. At that village, a company of German Tiger tanks, under the command of Michael Wittman, fought the British force of Cromwell and Sherman Firefly tanks.
When all was said and done, Wittman’s force had destroyed 27 Allied tanks, according to WarfareHistoryNetwork.com. The Germans had also killed, wounded, or captured 188 Allied troops.
This video shows some of the fighting that took place during the Battle of Villers-Bocage. Warning: It does show some of the consequences of when armored vehicles are destroyed.
A UN report says cases of torture and mistreatment of detainees in Afghanistan have increased despite promises from President Ashraf Ghani and new laws enacted to curb the widespread practice.
At least 39 percent of the conflict-related detainees interviewed by UN investigators “gave credible and reliable accounts” of being tortured or experiencing other mistreatment at the hands of Afghan police, intelligence, or military personnel while in custody, the report says.
That compares with 35 percent of interviewees who reported such ill-treatment in the last UN report, released in 2015.
The Afghan government has acknowledged that problems could be caused by individuals but not as a national policy.
“The government of Afghanistan is committed to eliminating torture and ill-treatment,” the government said in a statement.
The report by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) is based on interviews with 469 conflict-related detainees conducted over the past two years in 62 detention facilities administered by the National Directorate of Security (NDS), Afghan National Police, and other Afghan national-defense and security forces across the country.
“Torture does not enhance security,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said in a statement. “Confessions produced as a result of torture are totally unreliable. People will say anything to stop the pain.”
The UN report comes as senior Afghan officials prepare to appear before the UN Committee Against Torture in Geneva late April during a review of Afghanistan’s record of implementing anti-torture laws.
The International Criminal Court in The Hague is conducting a separate review of torture in Afghanistan.
“Notwithstanding the government’s efforts to implement its national plan…the present report documents continued and consistent reports of torture and ill-treatment of conflict-related detainees, mainly during interrogation, and highlights a lack of accountability for such acts,” UN officials concluded.
The document notes a 14 percent increase in reports of torture by Afghan National Police, at 45 percent of those interviewed.
The report says that more than a quarter of the 77 detainees who reported being tortured by the police were boys under the age of 18.
A force known as the Afghan Local Police severely beat almost 60 percent of their detainees, according to the interviews carried out by UN investigators.
Nearly 30 percent of interviewees held by Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, the NDS, said they had faced torture or mistreatment.
Afghan National Army soldiers were also accused of mistreating some detainees.
Most detainees who reported being tortured said it was to elicit a confession, and the ill-treatment stopped once they signed a written confession. In many cases, they could not read the confession, the report says.
Torture methods included severe beatings to the body and soles of the feet with sticks, plastic pipes, or cables; electric shocks, including to the genitals; prolonged suspension by the arms; and suffocation.
Without an immediately adjacent staging area from which to launch an invasion American and its allies will have to build up forces in the region once a fight comes. This means that for the first time since World War II, American troops will have to invade a country from over the horizon.
The Fifth Fleet, based at NSA Bahrain, would have the initial task of fighting off Iranian naval forces. With Tehran’s limited power projection this would be the largest impediment to building up forces near Iran.
With the natural bottleneck at the Strait of Hormuz, this is likely where the Iranian’s would make their stand. Iran’s conventional navy has little means of dealing with the powerful American fleet. Bested by America before, they would likely suffer a second ignominious defeat.
The real naval threat comes from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Navy. The IRGC has procured numerous agile speedboats armed with ship-killing missiles. Manned by fanatical defenders of the Islamic Republic of Iran their mission is to swarm a hostile force, unleashing a barrage of missiles, and hoping to score a victory with sheer numbers.
While the U.S. Navy will not emerge unscathed, their force of destroyers and patrol ships will utterly destroy the threat. Phalanx Close-In Weapon Systems will deal with many of the missiles, though there is likely to be extensive damage to some ships. Navy and Marine Corps aircraft will blow the boats not caught in the hellfire out of the water.
Those aircraft will also be actively engaging the Iranian Air Force as the battle for air superiority begins. Heavily outnumbered the planes will also have to rely on the anti-aircraft capabilities of the Navy ships below.
The Air Force will divert planes already operating in the area while other squadrons proceed to friendly bases within range of the fight. The Air Force’s B-52 and B-2 bomber forces will also begin flying strikes against critical Iranian infrastructure, particularly Iran’s nuclear capabilities.
While this fight rages over the Persian Gulf, ground forces will begin deploying to fight. The 82nd Airborne will have the Global Response Force wheels up in 18 hours though they will not immediately jump into action. The rest of the division will soon follow.
The Marines will look to I Marine Expeditionary Force to be the backbone of their fighting capability. Elements of the III Marine Expeditionary Force will bolster this force.
As the buildup of ground forces continues, and as the Navy eradicates Iranian naval resistance, Marine Raiders and Navy SEALs – supported by Marine infantry – will assault and reduce Iranian naval forces on several islands in the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf. This will clear the way for the invasion fleet to strike.
Launching from bases in Kuwait and Bahrain the invasion fleet will then steam towards the port of Shahid Rejeai, adjacent to the city of Bandar Abbas. Striking here will allow for the capture of a large port facility while simultaneously conducting a decapitation strike against the Iranian Navy headquartered at Bandar Abbas.
Prior to the landings at the port itself, Army Rangers supported by a brigade from the 82nd Airborne Division will conduct a parachute assault on Bandar Abbas International Airport in order to establish an airhead.
The remaining two brigades of the 82nd will secure the flanks of the invasion against counterattack by conducting parachute assaults onto critical road junctions and bridges.
At dawn, the Marines will spearhead the assault. The Marines’ armor will be critical in supporting the light infantry forces as they storm ashore to capture facilities for follow-on armor. Staged on numerous ships offshore Navy and Marine helicopters will carry troops in air assaults against positions while others land ashore in landing craft and AAVs.
By evening, armored units aboard roll-on/roll-off ships will be unloading in the ports while Marine units will have driven forward to link up with the paratroopers. Light infantry and Stryker forces will be airlanding at the recently secured airport.
With the beachhead established the invasion force will launch a massive sustained drive on Tehran. While an armored thrust storms up highway 71, the 101st Airborne, held in reserve until now, will conduct an air assault from NSA Bahrain onto Bushehr airport to open the way toward Shiraz, an important military city.
The Iranian military, long-suffering from embargoes and sanctions lacks the technology and wherewithal to put up serious resistance. Iranian armor will lay smoldering in the wake of American firepower.
The largest threat will come from the irregular forces of the IRGC and the Islamic militias, or Basij, which are prepared to defend Iran to the death. However, after years of counterinsurgency operations American forces will be ready to defend against such threats.
Light infantry and Special Forces will capture Shiraz eliminating a serious threat and providing a logistical support base for continued operations. Other special operations forces will be operating throughout Iran to bolster friendly forces.
The long supply line from Bandar Abbas to the front lines will mean the 82nd Airborne will be busy capturing more air bases to bring in more troops and sustain the prolonged ground assault.
Eventually, all necessary forces will be positioned around Tehran for a final push to destroy the Ayatollah’s regime. Thunder runs and air assaults will criss-cross the city as American and allied forces seek to drive out the last remnants of resistance.
With the Ayatollah deposed and victory declared American forces will settle in for a nation-building campaign while a new government gains its strength.
Easton LaChappelle, a 19-year-old from Cortez, Colorado, has created the most technologically advanced prosthetic the world has ever seen.
LaChappelle began experimenting with robotics when he was 17, creating a moveable robotic arm out of legos and other equipment found in his bedroom. Since then, he and his friends have created Unlimited Tomorrows, a robotics company that specializes in 3D printed prosthetics.
LaChapelle’s prototype possesses a range of motion that is nearly identical to that of a human hand, all controlled by the user’s thoughts. With more than 1,500 military service members having had major limb amputations since 2001, this device may be a game-changer for wounded troops.
And the best part? While most prosthetic limbs cost around $60,000, Chapelle’s prototype was created for only $350. This kid is going places.
To see more of Chapelle and his prosthetic, watch the video below:
The Pentagon has suspended its multi-billion dollar trial blimp program outside of Washington, DC, after one of the blimps broke loose and floated around the country, The Los Angeles Times reports.
The rogue blimp, which eventually landed in Pennsylvania after being trailed by F-16 fighter jets from New Jersey, was part of the Army’s trial JLENS program — Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor Systems — which was built and designed by Raytheon.
Before the blimp escaped, the JLENS program was taking part in a three-year operational exercise that was intended to determine the program’s utility. However, following the escape, the Army has said that it will halt the program until it completes an investigation into what had happened.
“It’s going to be a complete and thorough investigation, and it takes time,” Army spokesman Dov Schwartz told The Times.
This suspension of the program was reiterated by Army Maj. Beth R. Smith — who said, on behalf of NORAD, that “[f]uture actions regarding the JLENS exercise will be made following the conclusion of the investigation.”
The loose blimp caused major disturbances throughout the northeast of the US. The blimp had an estimated 6,700 feet of cable dangling from behind it. As the blimp slowly lowered toward the ground, the dangling tether knocked down power lines and caused power outages for more than 20,000 people.
The blimp also disrupted air traffic, necessitating the two trailing F-16s to update the FAA with the blimp’s location.
Before breaking loose, the blimp was tethered alongside another JLENS airship in the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. The blimps were intended to be responsible for defending against possible cruise-missile attacks and other potential threats to Washington, DC, and other East Coast cities through the use of high-detailed radar imaging.
The two JLENS blimps were designed to operate in concert. One of them provides constant 360-degree scanning, covering a circular area from North Carolina to central Ohio to upstate New York, even as the blimp remains stationary over suburban Baltimore. The other focused on more specific targets. Together, the blimps were intended to track missiles, aircraft, and drones in a 340-mile radius.
As of the end of 2014, the JLENS project cost the government $2.8 billion. Congress had approved another $43.3 million for the first year of the JLENS operational test.
Despite the supposed capabilities of JLENS, the program had been plagued with roadblocks even before one of the blimps managed to escape.
According to a previous investigation by The Los Angeles Times, the blimps have faced such issues as being unable to distinguish friendly and threatening aircraft, being grounded by bad weather, and being incapable of providing continuous surveillance for 30-day periods.
War prisoners are expected to just survive day-to-day. But some prisoners say screw that and find ways to make the prison easier for their peers and more frustrating for their enemies.
1. A Navy officer saves his camp from both Japanese and U.S. attacks.
The Japanese in World War II considered surrender dishonorable and expected Americans to fight to the death. So, when they started taking American prisoners, they were exceptionally cruel. Cmdr. Richard Antrim was in a prison camp when a guard began savagely beating a prisoner. Antrim tried to convince the guards to discuss the man’s case, but they couldn’t understand one another.
He allowed Antrim to begin overseeing prisoner work details. Antrim used this new trust to redraw the pans for trenches for the prisoners, creating the letters “US” in the sand so that Allied bombers would know to avoid those trenches during bomber raids. Antrim was awarded the Medal of Honor for risking his life for his fellow prisoner and a Bronze Star for redrawing the trenches.
2. Special Forces officer beats up his executioners and escapes with the help of his beard.
Then-1st Lt. James N. Rowe was the military advisor to a group of South Vietnamese civilian irregulars who stumbled into an ambush in 1963. Rowe was captured in the fighting and spent the next five years in captivity.
He attempted escape three times, but was recaptured each time. The North Vietnamese decided to execute him, and took him into the jungle on New Year’s Eve in 1968. Luckily, an American helicopter came by at that moment and Rowe beat up his guards. He flagged down the helicopter whose pilot initially thought he was an enemy fighter until he saw Rowe’s beard and decided it looked American.
3. Senior officer in “Hanoi Hilton” beats himself with a stool and cuts his scalp and wrists to resist North Vietnamese propaganda attempts.
Vice Adm. James Stockdale was leading his carrier group back to the USS Oriskany after a bombing run over North Vietnam. He was downed by anti-aircraft fire, broke his back and dislocated his knee, and was sent to the infamous prison camp known as the “Hanoi Hilton.” There, as the senior officer he took over efforts to build morale and resist Vietnam efforts to create propaganda.
When the Vietnamese attempted to use him in a parade for foreign journalists, Stockdale slashed his own scalp and beat himself with a stool, bruising himself so severely that he was useless for propaganda purposes. Later, he learned that another prisoner had been tortured to death and slashed his own wrists to convince his captors that Americans would rather die than give up information. The captors then ceased their torture. For his efforts, Stockdale was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1976, three years after his release.
4. Double amputee begins his escape attempts while his second prosthetic leg was still damaged.
Douglas Bader had to fight his way into the cockpit in 1939 since he left the Royal Air Force in 1931 after a crash that took both of his legs. He spent the first 18 months of the war commanding formations of RAF fighters before he was downed and captured. One prosthetic was damaged in the incident, but Bader still attempted to escape the prison on the damaged leg. After the Nazis — who saw Bader as a celebrity — allowed him a replacement leg air dropped by the British, he made a few more attempts and was sent to the “inescapable” Colditz Castle.
Bader didn’t spend all of his time in prison attempting to escape. He would also regularly bait the guards until they aimed their pistols at him, just to hurt their morale. He once refused to go to roll call saying, “My feet would get cold in the snow.”
5. French general escapes an inescapable prison to celebrate Hitler’s birthday.
French Gen. Henri Giraud was experienced at escaping German prison camps, having slipped out of one in North Africa during World War I. When he was captured in World War II, he faced more challenging conditions at Konigstein Castle, which sits 240 meters above the surrounding valley and had thick stone walls.
6. Holocaust survivor escaped his Korean War prison camp every night to forage for food for fellow prisoners.
Hungarian-American Tibor Rubin was a Korean War hero before he was captured, once holding a hilltop for 24 hours on his own against determined Chinese attacks. When he was captured in a later engagement, the Chinese offered to send him home to Hungary instead of keeping him prisoner. Rubin had been saved from a concentration camp when he was a child by American troops, and decided to stay in the prison.
He began sneaking out of the camp every night and back in every morning, stealing food and medical supplies from Chinese soldiers and local farms. His actions were credited with saving the lives of 40 other prisoners and he was awarded the Medal of Honor.
7. Czechoslovakian draftee escapes prison hundreds of times to visit his girlfriend.
Horace Greasley was a British soldier taken prisoner by the Germans early in World War II*. While that is a horrible start to a love story, Greasley managed to turn it around by wooing the daughter of the quarry manager at the camp. A year later, he was transferred to another camp. Rather than let the romance die, he began sneaking out of his camp to visit the young Rosa Rauchbach.
He would visit his girlfriend overnight and then sneak back into his own camp. The arrangement ended with the war when the pair separated and Greasley returned to Britain. In the above photo, Greasley stares down Heinrich Himmler like it’s no big deal.
*Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article stated that Greasley was Czech. Though he was called up after the invasion of Czechoslovakia, he was called up by his own native country, Britain, to serve in its army. The post has been corrected.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative has recently observed, via satellite imagery, China placing radar outposts and weapons, including antiaircraft and antimissile systems, on the islands in international waters.
In the past, China has unilaterally declared “no sail” and “no-fly zones” in the region, despite a ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague that its claims to the South China Sea, based on old maps, lacked merit.
China flouting international law has strained relations with the US.
Those ties took another big hit when President-elect Donald Trump broke with decades of US foreign-policy tradition and accepted a call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and later tweeted about China’s “massive military complex in the middle of the South China Sea.”
In response, China flew bombers along the perimeter of its contentious claims in the South China Sea in what it intended as a “message” to Trump, though it has flown the same bombers in a similar fashion before.
Harris characterized Beijing’s activity as “aggressive” and vowed to act against it if needed, Reuters reports.
The US has repeatedly challenged China’s claims in the region with freedom-of-navigation patrols, in which guided-missile destroyers sail near the disputed islands.
In July, Chinese officials warned that these patrols could end in “disaster.”
“We will not allow a shared domain to be closed down unilaterally no matter how many bases are built on artificial features in the South China Sea,” Harris said. “We will cooperate when we can, but we will be ready to confront when we must.”
On Wednesday, the Government Accountability Office released a scathing report about the US Air Force’s half-baked plan to replace the A-10, essentially concluding that the Air Force had no good end game in sight.
“The Department of Defense (DOD) and Air Force do not have quality information on the full implications of A-10 divestment, including gaps that could be created by A-10 divestment and mitigation options,” the report from GAO, a nonpartisan entity, states.
The A-10, a relic of the Cold War-era, flies cheap, effective sorties and is well suited to most of the US’s current operations. But surprisingly, it’s not really the plane itself that’s indispensable to the Air Force — it’s the community.
Ground forces know A-10 pilots as undisputed kings of close air support, which is especially useful in today’s combat zones where ground troops often don’t have an artillery presence on the ground.
But there are other planes for close air support when it comes down to it. The B-1 Lancer has superior loiter time and bomb capacity compared to the A-10, but it turns out, close air support is only one area where the A-10s excel.
The report finds that A-10 pilots undergo many times more close air support, search and rescue, and forward air control training than any other community of pilots in the force.
While the Air Force seems determined to replace this community, and reallocate their resources elsewhere, the report finds that the cost estimates used to justify the retirement of the A-10 just don’t make the grade.
According to the GAO, “a reliable cost estimate is comprehensive, well-documented, accurate, and credible.”
The report finds that the Air Force’s cost estimates for replacing the A-10 are almost comprehensive, minimally documented, and just plain not credible.
Indeed we have seen some pivots on the Air Force’s official position on the A-10. At one point, they wanted to retire it stating that the F-35 would take over those capabilities, but then the Senate told them to prove it.
More recently, we heard that the Air Force wants to replace the A-10 with not one, but two new planes, one of which would be developed specifically for the role.
What the GAO recommends, however, is that the Air Force come up with a better, more concrete plan to mitigate the losses in capability caused by the A-10’s mothballing.
Lawmakers were not shy about the relief the report brought to the complicated question. Perhaps the best testimony came from Congresswoman Martha McSally, a former A-10 pilot herself:
“Today’s report confirms what I’ve argued continuously — the Air Force’s flawed and shifting plan to prematurely retire the A-10 is dangerous and would put lives in danger… I’ve fought for and won full funding for our entire A-10 fleet and to make the retirement of any A-10 condition-based, not-time based.”
Pennsylvania State Rep. Rick Saccone’s bill that would make it a misdemeanor for someone to benefit from lying about military service or receiving decorations or medals unanimously passed the state Senate on June 20th and now heads to Gov. Tom Wolfs desk to be signed into law.
House Bill 168, introduced by Saccone, R-Elizabeth Township, in January, bans anyone from economically benefiting from lying about their service or decorations. Violators could be charged with a third-degree misdemeanor for doing so.
“Our men and women of the armed forces and their families deserve the utmost respect and praise, and criminals who disguise themselves as illegitimate veterans demean our true American heroes,” Saccone said.
Some people have actually tried to make money by falsely claiming veteran status, said Saccone, an Air Force veteran and a 2018 US Senate candidate. They will now be brought to account.
Saccone said lying about military service or medals to make money is truly an insult and discredit to the men and women who have selflessly sacrifices their lives on the battlefield.
Saccone introduced the same legislation in May 2016, calling it the Stolen Valor Act. It unanimously passed the state House in June 2016, but did not advance out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
When the new legislative session started in January, Saccone re-introduced his bill and it passed the House 190-0 in April.
In 2013, Congress passed the federal Stolen Valor Act, which addressed those who might lie about having military decorations and medals, such as the Congressional Medal of Honor or Purple Heart, in order to obtain benefits.
Those convicted of violating the federal law can face fines and up to a year in jail.
Sebastian Junger spent nearly twenty years writing about dangerous professions, most notably those surrounding war and other conflicts. Although he retired from war reporting after longtime collaborator Tim Hetherington was killed during the Libyan Civil War, he has a lot of experiences on which to reflect. In his new book, Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, he contextualizes a life spent close to death and danger and provides lessons for modern societies that have struggled with the fact that technological improvements and material wealth haven’t necessarily made their populations happier.
Tribe is the 54-year-old Junger’s own homecoming of sorts. He was a Vanity Fair contributor when he spent time in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley, which was also his first collaboration with photographer Tim Hetherington. That collaboration led to three films based on the pair’s time in the valley: “Restrepo,” “Korengal,” and “The Last Patrol,” as well as Junger’s book, War. After Hetherington was killed in Misrata, Libya in 2011, Junger produced “Which Way is the Front Line From Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington” for HBO documentary films.
Junger’s lifetime of covering conflict led him to write Tribe, the theme of which is how modern society has isolated individuals and marginalized the value of groups – a phenomenon to which returning warfighters can relate. Junger notes there are positive effects of war on mental health and long-term resilience, using examples of war trauma from Sri Lanka to Israel and Liberia to Cote d’Ivoire to illustrate the effects of war. He explains the utility of the “shared public meaning” and why it’s crucial for warriors to return to a society that understands them. He argues that “honoring” veterans at sporting events, letting uniformed service people board planes first, and formulaic phrases like “thank you for your service” only serve to deepen the divide between the military and civilians by highlighting the fact that some serve and some don’t.
Junger’s main discussion about combat veterans is that they require three things: a society that is egalitarian and gives them the chance to succeed, to not be seen as victims, and to feel as necessary and productive as they were on the battlefield. According to his findings, the U.S. ranks very low on all of these because there’s no cultural perception of any shared responsibility. The shared responsibility of the whole for the one is what Tribe is all about.
The book isn’t about just veterans or victims of conflict. The recurrence and spread of individualism have an effect on all of us. Junger delves into the history of the native tribes of the United States to illustrate his points: tribal societies were more socially progressive and conscious of the suffering of its members, especially those who went to war. Collective societies tended to be happier units because they cultivated collectivized happiness. Everyone in a tribe has a role to play, and everyone feels useful.
Sebastian Junger’s newest book isn’t about veterans, but Tribe is full of lessons all veterans should heed when seeking their tribes. More broadly, Tribe’s lessons should be heeded by the entire nation, especially during this election season that seems to be more divisive with each step in the process of finding those who would lead us in bringing us all together.
In 2006 I was attending a Field Training Officer Class. Field Training Officers, or FTOs, train new police officers after they leave the academy on how to do field police work. As I perused the class syllabus I saw a topic which surprised me. A one hour block on dealing with military veterans who are training to be police officers.
In law enforcement its generally accepted that veterans make good cops. They are recruited heavily and are often given preference during hiring. They adapt well to the job and are well respected.
So I was surprised to see it as an instructional topic. When we got to that point in the class the instructor, not a veteran, began discussing the difficulties FTOs would have with teaching vets. This included:
-How vets would handle dealing with people of Middle Eastern Decent
-How vets would react to loud noises like explosions
-What to do if a vet has a “flashback”
Adding fuel to the fire was a student in the class who regaled the rest of us with stories of dead bodies he had seen in Iraq and how it haunts him to this day. I later met a guy who served with him and he said the necromancer never left the wire. Must of have been scores of bodies seen during marathon Call Of Duty sessions.
Needless to say I was appalled. I voiced my concerns, called bullshit to the “out of control veteran” theory. I added that vets are used to things like gunfire, stress, death, etc. and they should probably be more concerned with the 22 year olds who still live at home with little or no life experience that we often have to train. I see young cops all the time who have never even been in a fist fight! That’s generally not the case with veterans.
The crazy veteran theme pops up time and time again and is used as by criminals, the media and others to explain or rationalize bad behavior. I sat in court one time during the trial for a man accused of robbing a drug store of OxyContin. His lawyer argued that his exposure to dead bodies (the corpse argument again!) during a tour in Bosnia 10 years prior caused PTSD, leading to his addiction and subsequent crimes.
In 2005 a “Marine” got into a shootout with the Ceres Police Department in California. He killed one officer and wounded another. He was also a Norteno gang member but the media chose not to focus on that. Later reports showed he never saw any significant combat. The news painted him to be John J Rambo, the mentally unstable veteran, rather than the gangster criminal piece of shit that he really was.
Now it has been brought up again in the Ft Lauderdale shootings. A mentally ill person with possible ISIS leanings is being touted as yet another example of a crazy veteran gone bad, driven insane by his war experiences. The reality is his military experience has nothing to do with it. It just makes good press. There has been no evidence reported that he was involved in any actual combat. Just stories from family members that he came back from the war changed and that he saw, “bodies”(again with the bodies…).
He was kicked out of the Alaska National Guard which, I’m sure, will undoubtedly be blamed on his wartime experiences…
Preliminary reports show that he had reported to the FBI that an “intelligence agency” had forced him to watch ISIS videos. He is also a convicted wife batterer and had previously brought a loaded gun to an FBI Office. NEWSFLASH: He is mentally ill, not suffering from some war induced PTSD.
I’m not trying to downplay the effects of PTSD. It is a very real ailment that effects many. But, as we have seen time and time again, vets who are afflicted with it turn their suffering inward. This manifests itself in drug and alcohol abuse and, in the worst cases, suicide.
As a cop I routinely see crooks blaming outside influences for their behavior. From, “I didn’t get enough love as a child” to, “I got too much love as a child”. They blame their race, my race, their gender, my gender, their religion, my religion, and so on.
And, on occasion, when they are veterans (or claim to be veterans), they sometimes claim wartime experiences as the cause for their abhorrent behavior. Or their friends, family or the media provide that excuse for them.
Service to one’s country is one of the finest things a person can do. It shouldn’t be tainted by the criminal behavior of those who use their service as an excuse to harm others.