Army veteran Christy Gardner finalist for Stick Tap for Service - We Are The Mighty
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Army veteran Christy Gardner finalist for Stick Tap for Service

Navy Federal Credit Union and the National Hockey League have announced their chosen veteran finalists for the Stick Tap for Service campaign. Retired Army Sergeant Christy Gardner was one of them.

A multi-sport athlete growing up, she was attending college in New York when 9/11 occurred. “The idea of serving and the impact that had on our nation was always in the back of my mind. Military service was a family affair,” she explained. 

Gardner’s grandfather was a proud Marine who served during the Korean War and she also had uncles serving in the Marine Corps for the Gulf War. There were also a few cousins who were in the Navy, she said.

“While in college I went into the delayed entry program. As soon as I graduated in 2004 I left and went to basic training and AIT,” she said. Gardner chose Military Police as her MOS. At the time, female soldiers were not allowed combatant positions and MP was as close as she could get. 

Deployed overseas for peacekeeping in July of 2006, she was on foot patrol in a still classified location somewhere in Asia when everything went black. Gardner woke up several days later to skull fractures, spinal cord damage and severe internal injuries. Her legs were paralized below the knees and she’d go through dozens of surgeries and years of rehabilitation before being medically retired from the Army in 2007.

Her legs were eventually amputated.  

Gardner credits her time in service with changing how she approaches challenges, including the ones stemming from her injuries. “My time in the military taught me to adapt very well and easily to a lot of things,” she said. “Going through it and experiencing so many things doesn’t make you invisible or insensitive but it kind of does. The minor stuff just doesn’t phase you anymore.”

As she began navigating her new life, a dog changed everything. “While I was rehabbing on active-duty they suggested that I look into getting a service dog for myself. I was placed with Moxie in 2009 and she’s phenomenal,” Gardner shared. Moxie is trained in mobility assistance and is a seizure alert dog for her. “She’s made a huge impact on my life. Not only saving it but making things easier for me too.”

Working with service dogs became her new passion and turned into a purposeful career for her. Gardner shared she began training service dogs nine years ago for her community in Maine but quickly realized she couldn’t keep up with the need. “We founded Mission Working Dogs in the middle of the pandemic and had our first graduating class this April,” she said. 

When the Stick Tap for Service nomination came around, she was surprised. “I had never heard about it until this year when I was nominated. The money that they are giving to the charity of my choice is going to make such a huge impact. It’s really exciting,” Gardner said. 

The awarded funds will go to Mission Working Dogs, allowing her to serve even more of her community members and veterans in need. 

When asked what she would want readers to take from her story, her response was simple. “I think it’s really important to find your purpose when you get out. A lot of us struggle to adapt to civilian life, if you will. A lot of people feel a little lost,” Gardner said. “One of my big things is to help give people purpose. Don’t give up until you find it.”

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On the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, remembering the tragedy

Army veteran Christy Gardner finalist for Stick Tap for Service
Sailors stand amid wrecked planes at the Ford Island seaplane base, watching as USS Shaw (DD-373) explodes in the center background. | US Navy photo


In the decades that followed World War II, the attack on Pearl Harbor had faded somewhat in the American public’s memory.

The attacks of 9/11 changed all of that. “All those bad memories surged forward again,” said James C. McNaughton, who served as command historian for U.S. Army Pacific from 2001 to 2005. Today, he is the director of Histories Division at the Army Center of Military History.

Just weeks after the 9/11 attacks, McNaughton attended a ceremony commemorating the 60th anniversary of Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. At the ceremony, he found himself among a large number of World War II veterans and Pearl Harbor survivors. Both attacks, McNaughton believes, were on all of their minds.

McNaughton attributes the fading memory of the events that transpired at Pearl Harbor 75 years ago, in part, to World War II veterans’ reticence to share their own wartime memories.

McNaughton’s own father, who served as a Marine participating in the Central Pacific campaign, was reluctant to discuss his wartime experiences.

Three missions

The story of the devasting Japanese air strike on U.S. naval forces that day has been well documented, McNaughton observed — less so the Army’s role in the response.

At the time of the attack, 43,000 Soldiers were on active duty in Hawaii, where they were tasked with three primary missions, the first of which was to protect the territory of Hawaii from an invasion. (Hawaii remained a territory until statehood in 1959.)

“It was not beyond the realm of possibility that the Imperial Japanese Navy could carry out an invasion,” he explained. “They didn’t do so, but the Army could not be sure, so it deployed combat troops to defend the beaches.”

The second was to defend the fleet with coast artillery and anti-aircraft artillery. Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George C. Marshall Jr. had made it very clear to the highest ranking Army officer, Lt. Gen. Walter Short, commander, U.S. Army Hawaiian Department, that his No. 1 mission was to protect the fleet, McNaughton said.

Army veteran Christy Gardner finalist for Stick Tap for Service
oeing B-17D Fortresses of the 5th Bombardment Group overfly the main gate at Hickam Field, Hawaii territory during the summer of 1941. 21 B-17C/Ds had been flown out to Hawaii during May to reinforce the defenses of the islands. | Photo Credit U.S. Army Air Corps

Before 1940, the U.S Pacific Fleet had been based in San Diego. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, for his own diplomatic reasons, had ordered the Navy to re-base itself at Pearl Harbor, according to McNaughton. The move added to the Army’s defensive responsibilities.

The third mission was training, he said.

By 1940, World War II had already engulfed much of Europe and the Pacific, and Americans were beginning to realize their involvement might be inevitable. For the Army’s part, they were organizing and training units — from squad to regiment and division. They were even conducting field exercises and basic training concurrently.

Besides ground forces, the Army at that time also included the Army Air Corps. “They were trying to train flight crews and mechanics and use the limited aircraft they had on hand,” McNaughton said. “This was a fairly green Army.”

Army veteran Christy Gardner finalist for Stick Tap for Service
Retired Army Master Sgt. Thomas V. Panettiere Sr., from the Bronx in Hawaii, several months after the Pearl Harbor attack with his unit (he’s the one holding the guitar). He was one of the millions of Soldiers, Sailors and Marines who were in Hawaii during World War II, on their way to various island campaigns in the Pacific. | Photo courtesy of Thomas V. Panettiere Jr.

The National Guard and Organized Reserve had been mobilized as recently as 1940 and the draft, known as the Selective Training and Service Act, wasn’t instituted until Sept. 16 that same year.

In 1940, fewer than 270,000 Soldiers were on active duty. That number would climb to about 7 million by 1943.

Set up for failure

By late 1941, the Army in Hawaii was trying to juggle all three missions. “In my judgment, they couldn’t do all three,” McNaughton said. “They spread themselves too thin. Ultimately they failed.”

Coordination between the services was also poor, he said. The Army and the Navy on Hawaii had separate chains of command, and they engaged in very little coordination, at least in practical terms.

Early Sunday morning, the day of the attack, Adm. Husband E. Kimmel, commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet based at Pearl Harbor and his counterpart, Short, were preparing for their weekly golf game, McNaughton explained. Every Sunday morning, the two flag officers would play golf, enabling them to “check the box” for joint coordination.

“Well, you need more than that,” McNaughton said. “And that’s what they didn’t do.”

Army veteran Christy Gardner finalist for Stick Tap for Service
Hickam Field, Hawaii, under attack Dec. 7, 1941. An Army B-17 Fortress is in the foreground. | Photo credit: National Archives

In 1946, according to the Army’s official history, “Guarding the United States and Its Outposts,” the Congressional Pearl Harbor Joint Committee concluded:

“There was a complete failure in Hawaii of effective Army-Navy liaison during the critical period and no integration of Army and Navy facilities and efforts for defense. Neither of the responsible commanders really knew what the other was doing with respect to essential military activities.”

Senior Navy and Army leaders relieved Kimmel and Short of their commands within days after the attack, and they were never fully exonerated.

Early warning signs

Failure of the services to coordinate had real consequences on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941.

In the pre-dawn hours, a submarine periscope was spotted near Pearl Harbor, where there shouldn’t have been any submarines. At 6:37 a.m., the destroyer USS Ward dropped depth charges, destroying the submarine. The incident was then reported to the Navy chain of command.

Meanwhile, at the Opana Radar Site on the north shore of Oahu, radar operators Pvt. Joseph L. Lockard and Pvt. George Elliott detected an unusually large formation of aircraft approaching the island from the north at 7:02 a.m.

At the time, radar was experimental technology, and operators manned it just 3 to 7 a.m., McNaughton said. Usually, the radar was shut off at 7 a.m. for the rest of the day. It was only because the truck that took Lockard and Elliott to breakfast was late that the radar was still on at 7:02 a.m.

The operators had never seen such a large number of blips before, according to McNaughton. They called 1st Lt. Kermit A. Tyler, an Air Corps pilot who was an observer that morning at Fort Shafter’s Radar Information Center.

“Don’t worry about it,” Tyler told them. He had heard that a flight of B-17 bombers was en route from Hamilton Field, California, that morning.

If the Army and Navy had been in communication, McNaughton believes, they might have recognized the signs of the coming attack: the sighting of a large aircraft formation coming in from the north and the sighting of a submarine at the mouth of Pearl Harbor.

“If you put those two together, you might want to put everyone on full alert. But they didn’t,” he said. “There was no integration of intelligence from the two services. So the only warning they got was when the bombs started to fall.”

The attack commences

The first of two waves of some 360 Japanese fighters, bombers and torpedo planes began the attack at 7:48 a.m., having launched from six aircraft carriers north of Oahu.

Army veteran Christy Gardner finalist for Stick Tap for Service
An Aichi D3A Type 99 kanbaku (dive bomber) launches from the Imperial Japanese Navy aircraft carrier Akagi to participate in the second wave during the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. | Photo courtesy of the Makiel Collection via Ron Wenger

While many of the Imperial Japanese Navy aircraft attacked the fleet, other planes attacked all the airfields on the island, including Wheeler Field next to Schofield Barracks.

Among the 2,403 Americans killed, 2,008 were Sailors, 218 were Soldiers, 109 were Marines and 68 were civilians, according to a National World War II Museum Pearl Harbor fact sheet.

Of the aircraft destroyed, 92 were Navy and 77 were Army Air Corps. Two battleships were destroyed and six were damaged; three cruisers were damaged; one auxiliary vessel was destroyed and three were damaged; and three destroyers were damaged, according to the fact sheet.

Army veteran Christy Gardner finalist for Stick Tap for Service
The USS Arizona (BB-39) burning after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. | Creative Commons photo

The carriers USS Enterprise, USS Saratoga and USS Lexington were out on maneuvers and were not spotted by the Japanese.

Within minutes of the attack, Navy anti-aircraft guns opened up. The guns were firing at planes in all directions. A number of stray Navy anti-aircraft gun rounds fell in populated areas of Honolulu, killing more than a dozen civilians.

However, the Army’s anti-aircraft gunners at first struggled to engage the enemy because their guns were not in firing positions and the guns’ ammunition was in a separate location, where it was under lock and key.

“You can imagine them looking for the ammunition sergeant who had the keys at 8 a.m. Sunday,” McNaughton said. “It took them a while, but some guns did eventually get into action.”

Why weren’t the Army guns in position?

Short complained afterward that he had received ambiguous guidance from Washington. He said he was instructed to be prepared to defend against an attack but not to alarm the civilian population, which setting the anti-aircraft guns in position might have done.

Even so, the Army, with four regiments of anti-aircraft artillery in Oahu, had rehearsed defense against air raids. “They knew it was a possibility,” McNaughton said. “But certainly they were caught by surprise.”

Nevertheless, Soldiers found some means to counter-attack. At Army installations, Army men fired back with machine guns and other weapons at attacking enemy dive bombers and fighters, according to “Guarding the United States and Its Outposts.”

One of the Soldiers who lived through that day at Schofield Barracks was Cpl. James Jones, who later depicted the chaos in a 1951 novel, “From Here to Eternity,” which was eventually made into a movie that garnered eight Academy Awards.

As for the Army Air Corps, they eventually got 12 aircraft in the air and shot down a few Japanese planes. Ultimately, though, the Army Air Corps was overwhelmed. The vast majority of Soldiers killed in action that day were in the Army Air Corps, McNaughton noted.

The Army Air Corps flight of 12 B-17 Fortress Bombers — the aircraft that Tyler thought the radar operators had spotted — arrived in the middle of the attack. They were unarmed and almost out of fuel.

The aircraft landed at various airfields, and one landed on a golf course. One of the aircraft was destroyed by the Japanese, and three were badly damaged, according to “Guarding the United States and Its Outposts.”

“Just imagine, it’s supposed to be a routine peacetime flight and you show up in the middle of the biggest air battle the U.S. had ever seen,” McNaughton said. “Not a good situation.”

No plan for invasion

In fact, the Japanese never planned to invade Hawaii, McNaughton said. Rather, they wanted to cripple the U.S. Pacific fleet so it could not interfere with their plans to seize European colonies in Southeast Asia.

At the time, Army and Navy signals intelligence personnel were working hard to break the Japanese code, he said. They were intercepting communications and decrypting what they could, but the communications they intercepted gave no clear warning of the impending attack.

What the Japanese misjudged was the tremendous anger of the American people, which gave President Roosevelt and Congress the excuse they were looking for to declare war against Japan as well as Germany, McNaughton noted.

Army veteran Christy Gardner finalist for Stick Tap for Service
One of many posters produced by the War Department during World War II, designed to get the public behind the war effort. | Photo Credit: Department of Defense

In the aftermath of the attack, the Army immediately took over the territory of Hawaii, declaring martial law, which lasted until October 1944. In this unprecedented situation, all local police, courts and government operated under Army supervision. The Army, Navy and FBI placed the local Japanese-American population under close surveillance and placed many community leaders under arrest.

During the war, the Army Soldiers in Hawaii — as in various places along the coasts on the U.S. mainland — never had to fire artillery guns to repel an enemy fleet, McNaughton said. The Army eventually disbanded the Coast Artillery branch, and today it uses sophisticated air and missile defense, in coordination with the other services.

Among the lessons to be taken from Pearl Harbor attack, according to McNaughton, is the crucial importance of operating as part of the joint force. Another is that of striking a fine balance between training and readiness. “You just don’t know when your unit will be called to mobilize,” he said.

The forced internment of Japanese Americans on the West Coast in 1942, in the aftermath of the attack, was a further tragedy.

“It was really painful to the Japanese-American community at the time,” he said. “The vast majority of Japanese Americans were loyal citizens, those who had the opportunity fought for America. And many of those died for their country.”

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The ‘Finest Hours’ captures old school Semper Paratus

Disney’s “The Finest Hours” tells the story of a Coast Guard motorboat crew dispatched into an Atlantic storm after two 500-foot tankers break apart in 1952.


The crew is led by Boatswain’s Mate Bernard Webber, played by Chris Pine. Webber is second string, the junior ranking boatswain assigned to Chatham lifeboat station in Massachusetts.

The senior boatswain leads the rescue effort to the first tanker reported broken in the storm, the Fort Mercer. So when a Coast Guard plane spots the broken Pendleton, it falls to Webber and a few volunteers to attempt to rescue the 33 survivors in a small motorboat.

The movie does a good job of showing the perils of a rescue at sea in a severe winter storm. The waves crash onto a deadly sandbar with ominous booms, the boat is flipped in the waves, and the compass is ripped from the boat by a severe wave crash.

Crossing the sandbar was one of the most dangerous parts of the mission. Attempts to cross it could have easily destroyed the boat and left the crew drowning in the icy waters.

Army veteran Christy Gardner finalist for Stick Tap for Service
Photo: Youtube/Disney Movie Trailers

These details and others come from the factual book the movie is based on, and they’re brought to life by Craig Gillespie, the film’s director who spent his young life near the ocean.

“I grew up on the water in Australia, and I have a lot of respect for the ocean,” Gillespie told We Are The Mighty. “I sailed, I grew up surfing.

“When there’s a huge swell, you can hear it a mile and a half from the ocean, and it’s scary,” he said.

While the movie depicts the events on the boat and the Pendleton largely right, it takes more liberties with the story of Webber’s girlfriend, Miriam. During the real rescue, Miriam and Bernard were already married and Miriam was too ill to comprehend when told of Bernard’s mission.

But the movie Miriam is healthy and attempts to aid Bernard from the shore. She first argues with his commanding officer. When that doesn’t help, she seeks ways of ensuring that Bernard, if he’s successful in the rescue, will be able to make it home without a compass or any visible stars to follow.

Actress Holliday Grainger shaped her portrayal of Miriam after speaking to the Webber family and spending time at Chatham lifeboat station that the Coast Guard still operates.

Army veteran Christy Gardner finalist for Stick Tap for Service
Photo: Youtube/Disney Movie Trailers

She said that Miriam’s journey in the movie is about learning what it takes to be a Coast Guard wife.

“He will always be in danger,” Grainger told We Are The Mighty when discussing Miriam’s attitude toward Bernard, “and if she wants to be with him, she has to live with that, because he does it for the greater good. He can’t always put their family first. He has to put others lives first.”

“The Finest Hours” deftly weaves Bernard and Miriam’s stories, breaking up the chaos at sea with the tension on the coast.

“The Finest Hours” opens in theaters nationwide on Jan. 29.

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The future of warfare is coming, and it’s bringing lasers

This week, both the British Ministry of Defense and the US Navy have made strides towards directed energy weapons that could change the face of warfare as we know it.


The British, for their part, are eyeing a laser system that could compliment the Phalanx close-in anti-missile system, which detects, tracks, and can destroy approaching threats at closer ranges than other missile defense platforms.

Currently, the Phalanx is a computer-guided system that relies on a 20 mm Gatling gun. The British are looking to do away with the gun and substitute a laser.

“It’s better to spend money on the laser than on the mount,” Andy Rhodes, a business development executive at Raytheon UK told Defensenews.com.

Lasers offer a number of advantages over traditional guns. As they rely only on electricity, lasers can be fired for less than $1 a shot. Also, no round will ever travel anywhere near as fast as a laser, which obviously travels at the speed of light.

As military powers around the world race to create hypersonic weapons that can foil missile defenses through speed alone, the need for laser-aided missile defense becomes clear.

“The potential of laser-based weapons systems has been identified as an opportunity and offers significant advantages in terms of running costs as well as providing a more appropriate response to the threats currently faced by UK armed forces,” the British MoD stated.

Additionally, lasers on lower power settings can be used to overwhelm enemy sensors and instruments.

Army veteran Christy Gardner finalist for Stick Tap for Service
The Phalanx Close-In Weapons system.

The US Navy for their part has also taken a step towards directed energy weapons. On Monday, Raytheon delivered pulse power containers for the Navy to test out on a new railgun design.

Unlike lasers, railguns fire actual projectiles, however, they use directed energy to do it.

Raytheon says the pulse power containers, when incorporated into a completed railgun design, will be able to launch projectiles at speeds in excess of Mach 6, or about 4,600 mph. At those speeds, there is little need for an explosive round with a chemical charge.

“Directed energy has the potential to redefine military technology beyond missiles and our pulse power modules and containers will provide the tremendous amount of energy required to power applications like the Navy Railgun,” said Colin Whelan, vice president of Advanced Technology for Raytheon’s Integrated Defense Systems business.

Army veteran Christy Gardner finalist for Stick Tap for Service
The USS Zumwalt. | Raytheon

The Navy’s railgun could find itself aboard the Futuristic USS Zumwalt as soon as 2018,Reuters reports.

“The Navy is determined to increase the offensive punch of the surface warships,” said Loren Thompson, a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute. “To do that with a limited budget, it needs to look at everything from smart munitions to railguns to lasers.”

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Iraqi pilot killed in F-16 crash during training in southeastern Arizona

An Iraqi student pilot was killed when an F-16 jet crashed during a training mission in southeastern Arizona, authorities said Sept. 6.


First Lt. Lacey Roberts of the Arizona Air National Guard’s 162nd Wing said the Air Force has activated a team to investigate the crash, which occurred Sept. 5 about 80 miles (129 kilometers) northwest of Tucson.

The pilot’s identity was not released. His death was the second of an Iraqi pilot flying an F-16 that crashed in Arizona in recent years.

Army veteran Christy Gardner finalist for Stick Tap for Service
USAF photo by Senior Master Sgt. Gary J. Rihn

Roberts said the plane belonged to the Iraqi air force and that the routine training mission was being conducted in conjunction with the 162nd Wing, which is based at Tucson International Airport.

The US military is training Iraqi pilots to fly F-16s at the request of Iraq’s government, Roberts said.

In July 2015, an Iraqi brigadier general flying from the 162nd died when his F-16, a newer model recently delivered to the Iraqi air force, crashed during night training near Douglas.

Army veteran Christy Gardner finalist for Stick Tap for Service
US Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Hayden Johnson

In January 2016, a Taiwanese pilot on a training flight from Luke Air Force Base near Phoenix was killed when his F-16 went down in Yavapai County.

The 162nd Wing is the Air Guard’s biggest F-16 training operation and conducts training missions across military ranges in southern and central Arizona.

The wing has hosted training for allied nations since 1990 and trained pilots from nations such as Iraq, Singapore, Poland, Norway, Denmark, Oman, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

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That time 120 Indian troops destroyed an entire Pakistani tank battalion

In 1971, Pakistan launched a preemptive air strike against 11 Indian airbases, touching off that year’s Indo-Pakistani War. The air attacks failed but dragged India into Bangladesh’s (then called East Pakistan) Independence War from Pakistan. The Indo-Pakistan War was one of the shortest wars in history, lasting less than two weeks.


The day after its surprise air attack, Pakistan moved 2,000 troops, a mobile infantry brigade, and 45 tanks to an Indian border post at Longewala. The post was manned by 120 Indian troops with an M-40 recoilless rifle – and access to strike aircraft.

Army veteran Christy Gardner finalist for Stick Tap for Service
(Indian Army photo)

The Indians were heavily outnumbered, outgunned, and surrounded. The Air Force couldn’t help until dawn because the pilots didn’t fly at night. The defenders were given the choice between abandoning the post or making a gutsy stand at their position. They decided to stay and fight. It was just after midnight, and dawn was at least six hours away.

It was going to be a long night.

Pakistan’s artillery opened up on the Indians immediately. As the enemy infantry approached the Longewala outpost, the defenders held their fire until the tanks were 40-100 feet away.

Army veteran Christy Gardner finalist for Stick Tap for Service
(Indian Army photo)

They fired on the thinly-armored tanks with the 106mm recoilless rifle, which turned out to be a devastating weapon. Advancing infantry ran into the Indian’s barbed wire and — believing they had walked into a minefield — freaked out.

The burning and exploding tanks lit the battlefield for the defenders while the smoke added to the Pakistani’s confusion on the ground. They wasted two hours waiting for sappers to clear mines that didn’t exist.

Army veteran Christy Gardner finalist for Stick Tap for Service
A Pakistani T-59 tank, destroyed at Longewala (Indian Army photo)

With the field lit up and a full moon overhead, the tanks attempted to encircle the defenders but found themselves stuck in the soft sand — east targets for the Indian M40.

Army veteran Christy Gardner finalist for Stick Tap for Service
One of the three HAL Marut used by the IAF against Pakistani armor at Longewala (used by permission)

The attackers were routed and their armored column became a turkey shoot for Indian pilots. They lost 500 vehicles, 34 of those were tanks. The infantry lost 200 troops. Indian armor soon launched their counteroffensive to relieve Longewala. The defenders lost only two men.

After two weeks, Pakistan was forced to surrender to India, which led to the formation of an independent Bangladesh. Major Kuldip Singh Chandpuri was awarded India’s second highest medal for gallantry for directing the defense of Longewala. The actions of the men in at Longewala were portrayed  in the (slightly stylized) Bollywood film, “Border.”

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6 superheroes who were also Air Force officers

They aren’t the shoot-em-up kind of superheroes, but equally awesome in their own way.


1. Maj. Carol Danvers (Ms. Marvel)

Major Danvers is a trained military intelligence officer and erstwhile spy. She’s one of the most distinguished officers in the superhero universe, a graduate of the Air Force Academy, where Nick Fury recruited her for the CIA. Retiring from the Air Force as a Colonel to be Chief of Security at NASA before becoming half-Kree (a militaristic alien race in the Marvel Universe) and then becoming Captain Marvel after meeting a Kree alien named Mar-Vell, but she acquired superpowers after an explosion merged her DNA with the first Captain Marvel… well, it’s complicated. She is an author and feminist and her powers include flight, enhanced strength and durability, shooing energy bursts from her hands, and being able to verbally judo one Tony Stark.

Army veteran Christy Gardner finalist for Stick Tap for Service

2. Capt. Hal Jordan (Green Lantern)

He was an elite pilot  who joined the Air Force on his 18th birthday and immediately became a test pilot (it doesn’t have to be realistic, it’s a comic, ok?) before joining the Green Lantern Corps. He was also a hot shot fighter pilot who fought aliens as well as North Koreans. He was kicked out after decking his superior officer, who wouldn’t let him take leave.

Army veteran Christy Gardner finalist for Stick Tap for Service

3. Sam Wilson (Falcon)

Falcon is actually an enlisted airman, not an officer. He’s a former Air Force Pararescue Jumper (PJ), which makes him a great candidate for the superhero’s tendency to jump into the middle of a combat situation to ice evildoers and save lives. Not content with all that, he also counsels veterans with post-traumatic stress issues in his free time.

Army veteran Christy Gardner finalist for Stick Tap for Service

4. Ben Grimm (The Thing)

Another Air Force test pilot (those guys are pretty ballsy, so it makes sense to turn them into superheroes), Grimm was also a Marine and an astronaut, which is how he became the Thing in the first place. For all the clobberin’ and poor use of the English language depicted in the films, Grimm is clearly the superhero with  the most book learnin’ and the most distinguished military career. Ben Grimm’s rock skin gives him super strength, durability, and resistance to extreme temperatures.

Army veteran Christy Gardner finalist for Stick Tap for Service

5. Lt. Col. James  Rhodes (War Machine)

What better Air Force job could there be than to be the USAF Liaison to Genius, Billionaire, Playboy, Philanthropist — and your best friend, Tony Stark. That job is so awesome, it led to him being the only other person on Earth who gets to pilot a suit of armor on the level of Iron Man’s.

Army veteran Christy Gardner finalist for Stick Tap for Service

6. Travis Morgan (Warlord)

Flying a recon mission over the North Pole led to a plane malfunction and an ejection over what should have been Northern Canada. when Morgan touched down, he found himself in the land of Skartaris, a barbarian world in another dimension, hidden inside the Earth’s core. He defeated an evil magician attempting to conquer Skartaris and became Warlord. He was able to return to Earth on occasion, which makes all of this sound like a deployment to Afghanistan.

Army veteran Christy Gardner finalist for Stick Tap for Service

 

NOW: These military veterans created your favorite comic books

OR: 8 pilots who flew into hell to save ground troops

 

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This airman has advice for anyone working to be an Olympic lifter

For Tech. Sgt. Kate Barone, competitive weightlifting became more than just a way to break the monotony of a desk job as an Air Force information analyst. Instead, the Ohio native turned her after-work hobby into a new lifestyle that changed her life forever.


“For any type of competition – powerlifting, CrossFit, Olympic lifting, bodybuilding – the thing is to be focused on only that,” Barone told WATM. “If you want to do really well, it’s got to be on the same level as breathing, eating, sleeping. … That is your goal and you have to change your life around that.”

As an NCO in the Ohio Air National Guard, an Olympic lifter, and bodybuilding competitor, life in the service can be difficult for someone who’s trying to be competitive in a sport.

Army veteran Christy Gardner finalist for Stick Tap for Service

“For me, sitting in front of a computer a lot, it is hard to not snack,” the 25-year-old says. “I know that as long as you are able to pack your food, bring it to work, still get to the gym, you can maintain your fitness and even compete.”

She joined the Ohio ANG at 17, right out of high school. The Cincinnati native comes from a military family — her grandfathers are Air Force and Army veterans and her uncles serve in the Army and Navy. She joined to challenge herself and get a nursing degree. She loves the Air Force lifestyle but wanted to stay around her family.

Army veteran Christy Gardner finalist for Stick Tap for Service

Barone worked as a full-time Air National Guardsman for two years, even deploying to Korea for the annual joint training exercises there. It was on that deployment Barone realized she had to make a change. She loved the Air Force lifestyle, but went back to Guard service.

When she returned to Ohio, she finished nursing school and got into CrossFit. While Barone recalls CrossFit was rough at first, she eventually began competing in the sport, which led her to Olympic weightlifting competition, and later, bodybuilding.

In her first Olympic competition, the Strongest Unicorn, she competed in the 64-kilogram weight class against the likes of Holly Mangold of the U.S. Olympic Lifting Team. The next year, she dropped her weight class and finished second.

Army veteran Christy Gardner finalist for Stick Tap for Service

“When you sign up for an Olympic lifting competition, you are supposed to put in your estimated total that you will lift,” Barone says. “You look at that and wonder how you are going to do against other people.”

“It’s not just the Olympic movements,” she adds. “You’ve got to do front squats all the time, back squats, jerks — a lot of that just to build up your muscle strength so you can lift a lot of weight.”

Bodybuilding is an entirely different kind of lifestyle change.

“You have to be in the right state of mind to do the bodybuilding part,” she says. “There are so many aspects. Unlike CrossFit or Olympic lifting, I can eat what I want, as long as I make my weight class the day of.”

But that doesn’t mean she can just go out and scarf down an entire pizza with the crew.

“It literally took up my life,” Barone recalls. “I can’t have drinks with friends because alcohol is cut out. I can’t go out to eat with my friends because I will be eating raw vegetables, egg whites, tilapia … it’s really hard to have that mindset and be focused on something without people supporting you.”

Army veteran Christy Gardner finalist for Stick Tap for Service

A lot of her support comes from the people in her squadron. Even so, it’s tough to eat fish and veggies while the rest of the unit is downing food from the local barbecue joint.

“They call me Bro-rone because I like to lift with them and I’m like a gym bro,” she says. “But then they bring that [food] in and I’m like oh my god I love barbecue, why are you all doing this to me?”

Barone says her sister proved pivotal to her success.

“She helped me pick out my suit, I wanted to know which one is going to look the best on me,” Barone says. “She picked the skimpiest red one with all the bling on it. You have to be prepared to show your ass in competitive bodybuilding.”

Barone says the trick is to make your training preparation a habit. Once you achieve that, missing a day at the gym becomes abnormal.

“Anyone can do it, as long as you are able to get to the gym at least once a day,” says Kate Barone.

Army veteran Christy Gardner finalist for Stick Tap for Service

In Barone’s part-time civilian life, she’s a nurse at a local hospital and is excited to be taking a new position helping veterans at the local VA hospital. But fitness remains her biggest escape.

“When I’m sad, I’m depressed, I just don’t feel like things are right, I go to the gym,” she says. “It doesn’t matter if I’ve had a shitty day or something is going on in my life. … If I go to the gym, I lift some weight with my music blaring in my ears …  it’s therapy to me, it feels so good.”

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6 nice perks of joining Special Forces while in the US Army

Everyone knows special operators are an elite warfighting team. Not to take anything away from conventional forces, we’re just saying that everyone has their place and special operations is a hard job. 

Sometimes sending 10,000 warfighters into a country with all their support units just isn’t feasible. They get the job done, sure, but when you’re conducting heart surgery, you want a doctor with a scalpel, not an axe. Also, a mission calling for a small force would require each member of the unit to have multiple specialties, so the Special Forces (SF) side of the Army gets a lot more training than the rest of big Army. 

When the United States has that much invested in you, you get a little bit more leeway when it comes to daily Army life, as former Green Beret Mark Giaconia noted on Quora in June of 2021. He admits he can only speak for the U.S. Army’s Special Forces, but you have to admit the everyday perks are pretty good.

1. No Formations

Special Forces soldiers don’t really have the same work or life schedules as the rest of the U.S. Army. They also likely have a whole host of pretty important things to do — some of them secret, others ordinary. 

This means they don’t have time for all the formations most military units often have. Some Army units have as many as three formations a day. Giaconia says his SF unit had one formation a day at most, and usually when something important needed to be discussed.

Army veteran Christy Gardner finalist for Stick Tap for Service
A formation this big, odds are someone is going to lock their knees and pass out (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Brian A. Barbour)

2. No Inspections

Ever see Special Forces guys out in the field or catch a photo of one of them at work? They don’t look like soldiers in the United States Army most of the time, and that’s a really important point. They aren’t necessarily supposed to look like soldiers while they’re deployed, so grooming standards are usually much more relaxed.

If this is the case, then it doesn’t really make much sense to have a uniform inspection. The same goes for their nonstandard equipment (which we’ll delve into later). 

Army veteran Christy Gardner finalist for Stick Tap for Service
Special Forces have leveled up past this nonsense ( (U.S. Air Force photo by Adam Bond)

3. Better Training and Pay

Green Berets get a number of stipends, Giaconia writes. On top of those special stipends, they also get extra pay for any number of special trainings they received. This includes jump pay, HALO (high altitude, low opening) pay, scuba certification and literally anything else you can get trained to do and receive specialty pay for. These guys see it all and they get paid for knowing how to handle it. 

On top of the pay, they also receive better per diem rates, as they mostly live off the local economy while deployed. 

Army veteran Christy Gardner finalist for Stick Tap for Service
Being this awesome is going to cost Uncle Sam a little more (U.S. Army)

4. Better Gear

What is probably best known about how Army Special Forces operates is that they have a lot of leeway in choosing what equipment and which weapons work best for any given mission. In his own experience, Giaconia says he had a different kit setup for carrying a SAW than when carrying an M4 or M21.

Army veteran Christy Gardner finalist for Stick Tap for Service
And then… like teenagers watching their favorite pop star, gear-dos will copy your setup… to go quail hunting (U.S. Army)

5. Flying Commercial Air

Depending on the mission and which Special Forces Group they’re in, America’s Green Berets don’t always have to rely on military aircraft to hitch a ride to where they’re going. In some cases, a military aircraft won’t even be an option, as they may not want anyone to know they’re with the U.S. military anyway.

Army veteran Christy Gardner finalist for Stick Tap for Service
Though, if we’re comparing to Spirit Airlines, we might prefer the C-130 ride (U.S. Air Force photo/ Staff Sgt. Patrick Dixon)

6. Drinking Is Part Of The Job

Special Forces are often exempt from the U.S. military’s no alcohol rules, where they’re applied, especially while working with foreign units whose culture centers around drinking. Giaconia says while in Bosnia and Kosovo, he and his fellow Green Berets were attached to a Russian liaison, and needed to drink vodka with them.

Giaconia says this is called “building rapport.”

Army veteran Christy Gardner finalist for Stick Tap for Service
“C’mon… you don’t want all the cool countries to think you’re a nerd, DO YOU?” (Image by lannyboy89 from Pixabay)

Feature image: U.S. Army

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The Air Force is running out of bombs to drop on ISIS

The United States Air Force is dropping so many bombs on Daesh (aka ISIS) targets in Iraq and Syria, that it’s running out of them. Not that there are no bombs at all in the Air Force arsenal, but the Air Force’s supply chain is having a hard time keeping up with the number of bombs the ISIS threat requires.


“We are now expending munitions faster than we can replenish them,” Air Force chief of staff Gen. Mark Welsh said in a statement.

Army veteran Christy Gardner finalist for Stick Tap for Service
Master Sgt. Adam, middle, NCO-in-charge of conventional maintenance, preps the KMU-572 fins for assembly onto the MK-82 munition in Southwest Asia. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Master Sgt. Carrie Hinson)

The top Air Force General estimates at least 20,000 bombs were dropped on ISIS targets since the air campaign against the terrorist organization started last year. B-1 bombers are dropping bombs in record numbers, leaving munitions supplies in the region at record lows. Gen. Welsh called the need to replenish funds and munitions a “critical need.”

The Air Force now has an estimated 142,000 guided munitions and 2,300 Hellfire missiles, used in drone strikes.

Army veteran Christy Gardner finalist for Stick Tap for Service
From America, with love: Six GBU-38 munitions are dropped by a B-1B Lancer aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway)

In the first ten months of the American response to ISIS in 2015, Air Force fighters and bombers dropped munitions during half of their 18,000 sorties (a sortie is a single air mission with a takeoff and landing). In 2014, one third of sorties flown used weapons.

The White House recently signed the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, which allowed for more funding to fight the air campaign in Iraq and Syria. In a televised statement to the nation, President Obama also asked Congress for a new Authorization for Use of Military Force in early December to provide funding for further operations against ISIS.

Army veteran Christy Gardner finalist for Stick Tap for Service
Good thing the Air Force upgraded its B-1 Bomber fleet in 2011 so it carries three times the payload.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Shannon Hall)

The American public is ready for an expanded fight against ISIS, including looser rules of engagement and a more aggressive air campaign. Congressional Republicans are even calling for an American ground force, which the Iraqi government has repeatedly denied.

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This is “The World’s Leading Distributor of MiG Parts”

The McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom acquired many nicknames over its storied career: Snoopy, Old Smokey, St. Louis Slugger, the Flying Anvil, and many more. The best, by far, came from the sheer number of Soviet-built MiGs taken down by the plane.

The F-4 was truly an amazing aircraft. Even at the end of its service life, it was winning simulated air battles against the United States’ latest and greatest airframes, including the F-15 Eagle, which is still in service today. Even though it was considered an ugly aircraft by pilots of the time, it’s hard to argue with 280 enemy MiG kills — which is how it acquired its best nickname, “The World’s Leading Distributor of MiG Parts.”

After being introduced in 1960, it was acquired by the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Navy as an interceptor and fighter-bomber. In Vietnam, the Phantom was used as a close-air support aircraft and also fulfilled roles as aerial reconnaissance and as an air superiority fighter.

Army veteran Christy Gardner finalist for Stick Tap for Service
U.S. Air Force Col. Robin Olds lands his F-4 Phantom II fighter, SCAT XVII, on his final flight as Wing Commander of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, Ubon Thailand in Sept. 1967.

All of the last American pilots, weapon systems officers, and radar intercept officers to attain ace status did so in F-4 Phantom II fighters over Vietnam — against MiGs.


And the MiG fighters flown by the North Vietnamese were no joke, either. The Navy’s Top Gun school was founded because of the loss rate attributed to VPAF pilots — and that’s only the opposition in the air. North Vietnam’s air defenses were incredibly tight, using precise, effective doctrine to thwart American air power whenever possible. Air Force Col. Robin Olds used this doctrine against them in Operation Bolo, the first offensive fighter sweep of the war and a brilliant air victory.

Now Read: This is how triple-ace Robin Olds achieved his perfect victory over Vietnam

Olds found the loss rate to VPAF MiG-21s to be unacceptable when taking command of the 8th TFW in Ubon. With the F-4’s success in Operation Bolo, Olds and the 8th TFW grounded the entire Vietnamese People’s Air Force for months.

The F-4 Phantom II was eventually replaced, but it took a number of different planes to compensate for the absence of this versatile airframe. It was replaced by the F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F/A-18 Hornet, and F-14 Tomcat. The F-14 was also the most widely produced aircraft, with more than 5,000 built.

Today, the Phantom still out there with the air forces of Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and Iran, and was last seen blowing up ISIS fighters in a close-air support role.

Army veteran Christy Gardner finalist for Stick Tap for Service
You don’t have to cheer for Iran, but you can cheer for American-made F-4s still kicking ass.

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This Iron Man-like exoskeleton is designed to keep operators alive

U.S. Special Operations Command is making progress researching, developing and testing a next-generation Iron Man-like suit designed to increase strength and protection and help keep valuable operators alive when they kick down doors and engage in combat, officials said.


The project, formally called Tactical Light Operator Suit, or TALOS, is aimed at providing special operators, such as Navy SEALs and Special Forces, with enhanced mobility and protection technologies, a Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, statement said.

“The ultimate purpose of the TALOS project is to produce a prototype in 2018. That prototype will then be evaluated for operational impact,” Lt. Cmdr. Matt Allen, SOCOM spokesman, told Scout Warrior.

Army veteran Christy Gardner finalist for Stick Tap for Service
An early TALOS prototype

Industry teams have been making steady progress on the technologies since the effort was expanded in 2013 by Adm. William McCraven, former head of SOCOM.

“I’m very committed to this because I would like that last operator we lost to be the last operator we ever lose,” McCraven said in 2013.

Defense industry, academic and entrepreneurial participants are currently progressing with the multi-faceted effort.

The technologies currently being developed include body suit-type exoskeletons, strength and power-increasing systems and additional protection. A SOCOM statement said some of the potential technologies planned for TALOS research and development include advanced armor, command and control computers, power generators, and enhanced mobility exoskeletons.

Army veteran Christy Gardner finalist for Stick Tap for Service

Also, scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are developing a next-generation kind of armor called “liquid body armor.”

It “transforms from liquid to solid in milliseconds when a magnetic field or electrical current is applied,” the Army website said.

TALOS will have a physiological subsystem that lies against the skin that is embedded with sensors to monitor core body temperature, skin temperature, heart rate, body position and hydration levels, an Army statement also said.

“The idea is to help maintain the survivability of operators as they enter that first breach through the door,” Allen added.

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Homes for our Troops builds homes while rebuilding lives

Army veteran Christy Gardner finalist for Stick Tap for Service
Sgt. Mendes in his new Homes for our Troops home.


On a chilly May morning, the city of Murrieta, CA dispatched a firetruck to a new home. Dozens of men, women and children congregated the driveway. The sounds of  Rolling Thunder could be heard in the distance. As if on cue, the wind picked up and the huge American flag streaming from the ladder of the firetruck began to wave. American Legion Riders escorted wounded Army veteran Sgt. Nicholas Mendes to his new specially adapted home, and the community was there to welcome him.

This is the work of Homes for our Troops.

HFOT builds mortgage-free, specially adapted homes across the United States for those who have been severely injured in theater of combat since September 11, 2001. The non-profit’s purpose is to assist wounded warriors with the complex process of integrating back into society.

Army veteran Christy Gardner finalist for Stick Tap for Service
Army Sergeant Nicholas Mendes, who was a gunner with the 10th Mountain, 3rd Brigade, is one of 214 veterans to thus far be living in one of these homes. On April 30, 2011, an IED detonated beneath his vehicle in Sangsar, Afghanistan. The explosion, set off by a 1200-pound command wire device, caused multiple fractures to his vertebrae and rendered him paralyzed from the neck down. Mendes had previously served in Iraq in 2008.

After being presented with the key to his new home, Mendes’ wife held the microphone up to his mouth so he could address the audience of well-wishers.

“Bear with me, I didn’t write anything down – because my arms don’t work.” Mendes joked. “It’s just crazy looking back on everything, this all started with a Google search, and then putting in an application to a foundation that I didn’t know if they’d ever write me back…”

Not only did they write him back and build him a home, Homes for our Troops is working with Mendes to allow him to reclaim his independence. The adapted features in his home remove much of the burden from his wife and family and allow him to focus on recovery and his plans to  pursue a career in real estate.

“These men and women are not looking for pity. They’re looking to rebuild their lives.” said Bill Ivy, Executive Director of HFOT.  “We have an extremely talented group of men and women who are either in homes or that we are building homes for. The whole idea is to get them back going to school, back into the work force, raising families. Since 2010 we’ve had over 100 children born to families living in our homes. So it is about the next generation and moving forward. We have a tremendous amount of successes out there.”

Homes for Our Troops lays a foundation for these men and woman to continue on after their injuries. Although their way of life has undergone major changes, their spirit and desire to serve remains. Many of these home recipients are able to rehabilitate to the point where they enter the workforce and give back to their community as teachers and counselors.

Two HFOT recipients started a non-profit together called Amputee Outdoors.  Another recipient, Joshua Sweeny is an American gold medal sledge hockey player and Purple Heart recipient who competed in 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi, Russia. Four recipients participated in the recent Invictus games, and one even spent a month in a tent to raise awareness for veteran homelessness.

“There’s duty, there’s honor and self sacrifice. Death nor injury does not diminish those qualities in our soldiers. It is a testament to the love of this country” said David Powers of Prospect Mortgage – one of the key ceremony speakers. “Duty is the mission, the lesson is the sacrifice for our country, and for our freedom.”

For more information visit the Homes for Our Troops website.

Army veteran Christy Gardner finalist for Stick Tap for Service
HOFT Executive Director, Bill Ivy raising a flag outside Sgt. Mendes’ new home.

 

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