The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here is the best of what they shot this week:
F-16 Fighting Falcons taxi down the runway March 3, 2015, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The F-16s are assigned to the 18th Aggressor Squadron at Eielson AFB. Aggressor pilots returned after completing a mobile training team exercise.
Sailors aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) heave line during an underway replenishment and ammunition onload with the Military Sealift Command fast combat support ship USNS Arctic (T-AOE 8). Theodore Roosevelt deployed from Norfolk and will execute a homeport shift to San Diego at the conclusion of deployment.
EAST CHINA SEA (March 17, 2015) Sailors assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) and Marines assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (31st MEU) taxi an AV-8B Harrier assigned to Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 238.
Bach, a military working dog, takes down an Army military policeman during a demonstration at Fort Sill, Okla., March 12, 2015. The demonstration showed how Fort Sill’s K9 Unit assists with searches for narcotics, explosives and assists in apprehending suspects.
Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unitconduct a daytime boat operation exercise using Combat Rubber Raiding Crafts as part of amphibious integration training aboard the USS Green Bay, at sea, March 11, 2015. The Marines and sailors are currently conducting their spring patrol of the Asia-Pacific region.
Marines with 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit conduct a nighttime boat operation exercise using a Combat Rubber Raiding Craft as part of amphibious integration training aboard the USS Green Bay, at sea, March 11, 2015. The Marines and sailors are currently conducting their spring patrol of the Asia-Pacific region.
Petty Officer 1st Class Denis Butierries holds his son Jacob so he can get a view of Honolulu Harbor during a tour of the Coast Guard Cutter Rush Dec. 23. 2014. Six-year-old Jacob was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy when he was four months old and was given between four months and one year to live. His longtime wish was to see the Rush where his grandfather served as the engineering officer.
Coast Guard Station Golden Gate lifeboat crews conduct surf training in Sausalito, Calif., Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014. The crews train in high surf to ensure they are prepared to respond to any maritime emergency during rough weather conditions.
Most people know about the French Foreign Legion, a military unit for foreigners to take part in combat on behalf of the French people. Turns out, one group of people has no need for foreign legions because they’ll just create their own brigade to fight on whichever side of any war they like.
Since the late 1600s, Irish brigades have fought in everything from English wars of succession to the American Civil War to World War II, often in conflicts where Ireland was a neutral nation.
While the Catholics failed to return James II or his son James III to the throne, the French and Spanish monarchs had sent armies on the same side as the Irish brigades to the war and had helped organize and equip them as the war dragged on. Many of the Irish veterans returned to France and Spain and created permanent Irish units there.
Other units were formed in other European countries such as Austria and Russia. Like the French Foreign Legion, the Irish Brigades were often kept deployed as much as possible.
Irish forces — then organized as three separate regiments — fought on behalf of American colonists after the French openly threw their weight behind the revolution in 1778. Irish marines served on Capt. John Paul Jones Bonhomme Richard during his attacks on British shipping.
Just over a decade later, Irish brigades fought on both sides of the Civil War, though they overwhelmingly favored the Union. An estimated 150,000 to 160,000 Irish soldiers fought on behalf of the Union while approximately 20,000 fought on behalf of the Confederacy.
But it’s important when looking at those numbers to remember that some regiments assigned to the Irish brigade — such as the 116th Pennsylvania and the 29th Massachusetts — were non-Irish units.
During World War I, Ireland was still subordinate to the Kingdom of Great Britain and so Irish units were sent directly to the British Expeditionary Force. Still, most volunteers from within Ireland served in units either officially designated as Irish or named for the Irish areas where the unit was formed.
After he parked and got out of his car, he didn’t introduce himself or offer any welcome. The unnamed instructor just said, “okay everybody get over here and sign your death waivers.”
This was my first introduction to a GoRuck Challenge, a team endurance event run by former U.S. military special operators. It was the 83rd challenge to take place in Dec. 2011 — running around Tampa, Fla. with 24 people. Since then, it’s grown to more than 2,500 events that now comprise various skill levels.
GoRuck Challenges usually attract a certain demographic of people: Former military personnel, law enforcement, and fitness enthusiasts. Especially with the ominous intro from our instructor, a former Green Beret, anyone taking part in a GoRuck event knows it will be rough, to say the least.
“We want to promote the sport of rucking,” Kit Klein, partnership manager for GoRuck based in Jacksonville, Fla., told The Tampa Bay Times. “We’re trying to put it on the map.”
The “sport of rucking” that GoRuck promotes now consists of “GoRuck Light,” a four to five hour challenge that covers seven to 10 miles, “GoRuck Tough,” a 10 to 12-hour challenge covering 15 to 20 miles, and “GoRuck Heavy,” a much more demanding 24-hour-plus challenge that can cover more than 40 miles.
But those times and distances can vary, as one of the company’s mottos is to “under-promise, over-deliver.” (For the GoRuck Tough challenge I was on in Tampa, we did roughly 23 miles over 15 hours).
“Your class is led from start to finish by a Special Operations Cadre whose job is to build a team by pushing you to overcome, together,” reads the description of the challenges on the GoRuck website. “You stay with your class the entire time aka a true team event, never in any way confused with a road race or a mud run. And no, your Cadre is not a drill sergeant and no, this is not bootcamp. That stuff belongs to the military, this is simply an event about your team.”
All of the challenges require participants to carry around weights or bricks in a backpack, which is why these events exist in the first place.
In 2008, GoRuck was a new company making rugged backpacks designed to withstand the rigors of military combat. Founded by former Special Forces soldier Jason McCarthy, he sent his bags to friends in the field to test out and he quickly realized selling backpacks may not be his only business.
McCarthy spent two years developing the bags that make up most of GoRuck’s product line (four styles, starting at $195). Early on, he battle-tested his prototypes, literally – sending them to Green Beret buddies in Afghanistan and Iraq. Then he grew concerned about sending unproven gear to men in danger, so he established another proving ground: the GoRuck Challenge. In these team-oriented endurance runs, which are led by combat veterans and incorporate Special Forces training, participants carry a GoRuck sack loaded with rocks or bricks.
“The original intent was very nearsighted,” McCarthy told The Cincinnatti Enquirer of starting his first challenges. “I had a bunch of inventory and wanted people to know about our bags.”
People did learn of GoRuck, and more: “People kept describing this as a life-changing event,” McCarthy told the Enquirer. “I got more and more and more requests to host events.”
An Iraq war veteran, McCarthy began the events in 2010 while attending business school at Georgetown University, according to The Washington Post. Beyond marketing his bags, he told The Post, his goal is “to build better Americans” with his challenges. He does this by promoting leadership, teamwork, and honoring the sacrifices of military service members.
“It’s spiritual, emotional experience they take away,” Derek Zahler, a GoRuck cadre and former Special Forces soldier, told News4Jax. “They get to learn a lot more about themselves. Especially their goals and what they perceive their ability to achieve those goals are.”
The company has moved beyond backpacks and challenging events, however. It now sells apparel, fitness items, and even firearms gear, which it developed in 2014. In that year, the company had $10.8 million in revenue — nearly 30 percent more than the previous year’s figures.
When America needs to break its way into an enemy country, these are the people who slip, kick, or explode their way past the defenses and blaze the way for follow-on forces.
1. Marine Raiders
Marine Raiders are the rank and file of the Marine Special Operations Command. MARSOC fields three Raider battalions that conduct special reconnaissance, counterinsurgency, and direct action missions. The Raiders trace their lineage to World War II where Marine Raiders led beach assaults, conducted raids, and used guerrilla tactics against Japanese defenders.
2. Green Berets
The Army’s special forces soldiers were famously some of the first troops in Afghanistan where they rode horses to get to the enemy. They guarded Hamid Karzai when he was an unknown politician putting together a militia to aid an American invasion, and they’ve served in dozens of unpublicized conflicts around the world.
They got Bin Laden in Pakistan, saved Capt. Richard Phillips from Somali pirates, and produced “American Sniper” legend Chief Petty Officer Chris Kyle. Navy SEALs are the sea services’ most capable fighters on terra firma.
5. Army Rangers
U.S. Army Rangers first led the way into combat in 1775. These elite infantrymen took out key positions on D-Day, led the way into Panama in Operation Just Cause, played a huge role in Somalia, and conducted airborne assaults into both Afghanistan and Iraq.
6. Force Recon Marines
Recon Marines work for Marine ground commanders, moving ahead of other forces into any area where the commander needs “eyes on” but can’t otherwise get them.
The popular miniseries “Generation Kill” followed a group of these Marines spearheading the invasion of Iraq and feeding information up the chain to Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis and other senior leaders.
7. Carrier-based aircraft
The Navy’s carrier groups provide an awesome platform for launching jets against American enemies, quickly conducting air strikes when the wars opened in Afghanistan, Iraq, and then Syria. This is done primarily by Navy Super Hornet air wings, though Marine Corps Harriers fly missions from carriers as well.
8. F-22 fighter wings
While the F-22 has not yet fought in the first wave of an invasion, it’s proven that it’s capable in Syria. When it entered the fight about a month after airstrikes against ISIS began, it slipped past enemy air defenses to take out protected targets. It now escorts other jets past enemy air defenses, using its sensors to detect threats and targets.
9. Naval ships
While U.S. ships rarely get to mix it up with enemy navies these days, they still get to launch the opening blows in a fight by using long range cruise missiles, especially the Tomahawk Block IV. Navy destroyers, cruisers, and submarines have launched Tomahawks against Syria, Libya, Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan, Kosovo … ( actually, just see the full list at the Naval History Blog).
10. 509th Bomb Wing
The 509th Bomb Wing operates most of America’s B-2s, the stealth bomber that can slip into enemy airspace, destroy air defenses and runways, and then leave without the enemy knowing what happened. The B-2 has been used in strikes in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq and flew many of its missions from Missouri to the target and back, taking about 30 hours for each mission.
So this guy is one of my favorite people ever. His life story sounds like a Dos Equis commercial. His full name is John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill, better known as Jack Churchill or “Mad Jack”. A few of my favorite qualities and accomplishments of his up front:
Officer in the British Army from 1926-1936 and 1939-1959. During WWII, he was a Lieutenant-Colonel.
Worked as a newspaper editor and male model in Nairobi, Kenya between 1936 and 1939.
His motto was, “Any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed.”
When the war in Europe ended, he was sent to Burma to fight the Japanese but by the time he arrived, the war was over. He really, really didn’t like this because he wanted to keep fighting.
After the war he served as an instructor at the land-air warfare school in Australia, he became an avid surfer.
After retiring from the army in 1959, he regularly scared train conductors and pedestrians by throwing his briefcase from the train. Why? He threw it into his own backyard because he didn’t want to carry it home from the train station.
So now for my favorite part: he carried bagpipes, a Scottish broadsword, and a longbow with arrows into most battles. His unusual gear choices followed him into battle wherever he went, and even played a key role in the Battle of France.
When Hitler invaded Poland in September 1939, Mad Jack Churchill gave up his roles as a male model and newspaper editor in Kenya to resume his service in the British Army. As part of an expeditionary force to France, he led his unit – the Manchester Regiment – into battle in May 1940. Near the Belgian border, Churchill and his men set up an ambush on a German patrol, where he instructed his men to begin the ambush once they saw his arrow fly.
As a Nazi sergeant came into range, he fired an arrow from his traditional longbow and killed the German officer. In doing so, Churchill became the last known person to kill an enemy in battle using a longbow.
In 1941, Churchill was second in command for a raid on a German garrison on the west coast of Norway. As the landing craft hit the beaches and the ramp went down, Churchill was standing there blasting his bagpipes. When he finished his song, he launched a grenade toward the German fortifications and sprinted into battle.
Churchill’s bagpipe skills were on display again as the Allies invaded Sicily and also when they invaded the Italian peninsula near Salerno. At the latter, Churchill led an attack on a German observation post and captured 42 German soldiers with only the help of a Corporal.
In 1944, Churchill’s forces were tasked with assisting Tito’s Partisan forces in Yugoslavia. Here they were expected to retake the island of Brač. While the Partisan forces remained on the beach, Churchill and six others reached the objective alone. While he again played his bagpipes, his six fellow soldiers were killed by a mortar and he was knocked unconscious by a grenade and captured. He was then sent to Berlin for interrogation, after which he was sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp just north of Berlin.
You would think that was the end of his hilarious eccentricity, but it wasn’t. Being the badass he was, Churchill and another British officer escaped from the concentration camp and headed north to the Baltic coast. He was captured again just before he got to the coast and sent to an SS-guarded prison in Tyrol, Austria in April 1945. Once released, he walked over 90 miles to Verona, Italy, where he ran into an American armored group, who helped him get back to Britain.
That was the last action he’d see in World War II, as his arrival in the Pacific was too late. Churchill then went on to serve in British Palestine until 1948, after which he moved to Australia to be an instructor at the land-air warfare school. He eventually retired from the Army in 1959, and lived to the age of 89 in Surrey, England.
On September 17, 1944, the Allies launched an ambitious mission to cross the Rhine River into Germany dubbed “Operation Market Garden.” Allied leaders hoped the mission would lead to end of World War II by Christmas.
Known to many as the operation that was “a bridge too far” and for being a strategic failure, it was not without incredible tales of personal courage, grit, and determination. Here are four of those amazing stories.
1. Pvt. Joe E. Mann
Private Mann was a scout assigned to the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division when it jumped into Holland. During fighting around the city of Best, Mann crawled within bazooka range of a German artillery emplacement and single-handedly knocked it out. He then began picking off Germans one-by-one with his rifle before he was wounded four separate times. Despite gunshots to both shoulders and one of his arms, he wasn’t out of the fight, insisting on standing guard through the night.
When a German attack came early the next morning, a grenade landed near Mann. Unable to raise his arms because they were bandaged to his body, he did the only thing he could — he jumped on the grenade and absorbed the blast to save his friends. Private Mann was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.
2. Maj. Julian Cook
Three days into the operation, stiff German resistance managed to hold onto the Nijmegen Bridge despite efforts by the 82nd Airborne to dislodge them. With the timetable of the British XXX Corps advance in jeopardy Gen. Gavin ordered an assault crossing of the river to seize the bridge from the far side.
With 26 collapsible canvas boats, the 307th Engineers rowed two battalions of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment across the river under heavy German fire. Some of the men had to use their rifle butts as paddles. Major Julian Cook led the 3rd Battalion across first and established a beachhead. The engineers in the boats then returned and re-crossed the river four more times, delivering the first battalion. Cook pulled several men from the water and tended to several wounded. He then led the remnants of his battalion in a 2.5 mile assault to capture German positions and secure the bridgehead.
Major Alison Digby Tatham-Warter, often just called “Digby,” was an eccentric character and hard-charging officer. Troops knew Digby by the umbrella he carried because, as he said, he “couldn’t remember passwords and anyone would recognize the bloody fool carrying the umbrella as an Englishman.”
He used the umbrella in one instance to stop a German armored car by shoving it through a gap and incapacitating the driver. When a fellow officer questioned his carrying of the umbrella he humorously replied, “My goodness Pat, what if it rains?” Another time, Digby led a bayonet charge wearing a bowler hat while wielding a pistol and his trusty umbrella.
Eventually, not even Digby’s courageous antics could stop the inevitable. With no options left, Digby transmitted his last radio message “out of ammo, God save the King” before being captured by the Germans. Digby’s captivity would not last long. He was transported to a hospital for his wounds and escaped that evening. He then helped organize Operation Pegasus, the rescue of British paratroopers trapped across the Rhine. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order upon his return to the United Kingdom.
4. Pvt. John Towle
Private Towle was only 19-years-old when he entered combat in the Netherlands as part of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment. He survived the Waal River crossing led by Maj. Julian Cook, but it was when German tanks attacked the paratroopers’ bridgehead that Towle sprang into action.
Towle left his foxhole with a bazooka and rifle to engage the German tanks. It took several bazooka rounds each before the tanks retreated in the face of the lone paratrooper. Towle then started taking fire from a building the Germans made into a strongpoint. One well-aimed shot eliminated all nine German soldiers.
When a German half-track appeared, Pvt. Towle advanced again. Just as he was preparing to fire, an enemy mortar round struck his position and killed him. Towle’s tenacity and bravery single-handedly broke up the German attack and earned him the Medal of Honor.
Staring at the fire blazing in front of him, the airman basic began to sweat — a reaction that could only partly be blamed on nerves and adrenaline. It was an oven inside of the aircraft, and Daniel Brum knew the temperature was only going to rise when the fire hose turned on. His studies had taught him that water expands to 1,700 times its original volume when it turns to steam, and sure enough, as he shot water at the base of the fire, the air around him turned into an instant sauna.
For a brief moment, Brum freed one hand to wipe at his face shield. It had fogged up with mist. Once he could see again, he redoubled his efforts to calm the intense flames lighting up the cargo hold.
Though the aircraft interior fire was staged – a scenario intended to aid with training – Brum treated it like it was the real thing. The training was indicative of a possible situation the apprentice firefighter might come across in the future and he needed the experience.
“There’s a big painting on the wall out there that says, ‘Train as if someone’s life depends on it, because it does,” Brum said. “So when it’s training, it’s all serious. You have to learn what you’re doing, so that way … when you’re in a fire situation and someone’s life depends on you, you will be able to help that person out.”
The phrase Brum recited is prominently displayed above one of the Louis F. Garland Department of Defense Fire Academy building’s main entryways. The words state a responsibility accepted by the men and women who walk those halls. Within the academy at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, are firefighters from every branch of the military, as well as those training in hopes of one day joining their ranks.
The academy provides entry-level fire protection instruction for all DOD firefighters, and it’s also a location for advanced training courses within the career field. Each year, the school accepts nearly 2,500 students, 1,400 of which are initial entry, or apprentice, firefighters, said Lt. Col. Mathew Welling, the 312th Training Squadron commander. The training accomplished here is predicated on standards set by the National Fire Protection Association but is also tailored to fit the military mission.
“We have unique aircraft, munitions, and other special requirements that really (make it necessary for) us to provide a different level of training than your civilian firefighter would be used to,” Welling said, indicating an additional emphasis on airport firefighting applications and a joint effort between all DOD firefighters.
Students may come from the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps, but in class they are all integrated together. During deployments, military firefighters work as joint service teams, and therefore the academy reinforces that concept throughout their instruction with a lack of service specific courses and a strong emphasis on teamwork.
Tech. Sgt. Jeff Trueman, an emergency medical response course instructor, is able to impart to his students the importance of the joint training via his own experiences. During his first deployment he worked hand in hand with the Navy to provide crash fire rescue for aircraft assigned to a drug interdiction mission. Trueman has been embedded with the Army as well.
“It’s interesting to be able to combine both of those worlds, and to see the differences and nuances between the services,” he said. “It’s definitely career broadening. Until you actually have that opportunity to work with other services, I don’t think you fully develop within your profession.
“That’s why I like being here,” Trueman said of the technical school. “We have instructors from so many different services and they bring a lot of different information.”
With a “train as you do” philosophy, the academy students are given an education that sets them up for success in most situations they might face while serving at their home stations and abroad. To ensure apprentice firefighters are prepared to do their jobs upon graduation, the entry-level course is split into three blocks, with each gradually addressing a more advanced set of skills.
According to Welling, block one introduces the students to firefighting basics, such as ropes, knots and ladders, how to put on personal protective equipment, and how to create ventilation. Block two continues with more in-depth firefighting principles like water supplies, fire hoses, vehicle extraction, fire department communications, interior fires, wildfires, etc. By block three, the students begin EMR certification.
The trainees learn to race into situations others would run from when everything in their bodies is telling them to go in the other direction.
“I think it takes a lot of courage, especially for 18-19 year olds coming out of high school,” said Marine Corps Staff Sgt. George Preen, a hazmat instructor and supervisor within block three of the training course. “We’re teaching them to do something that’s basically the opposite of their normal instinct, which is (to flee from danger). We’re essentially trying to reprogram them to go in and do the right thing.”
The firefighting instruction begins in-classroom and through hands-on exercises at the academy’s outdoor training pad. The area resembles a flightline, but instead of expanses of hangars and rows of aircraft lining the concrete strip, there are towers with zip lines and ladders, buildings made to fill up with smoke, and charred aircraft frames simulating possible crash and recovery scenarios.
The profession is well known for combatting blazes; however, firefighters constantly delve into another area of expertise.
“It’s a big misconception,” Trueman said. “Out there, people think firefighters just put the wet stuff on the hot stuff, when in fact, about 70 percent of our calls as firefighters in the Department of Defense are actually medical.”
Though unusual, Trueman first fell in love with the EMR aspect of the fireman’s job before that of fighting fires. As a child he’d won a coloring contest hosted by his local fire station, and, as a reward, he was given a tour of the fire house. When a call came in requesting a response to a medical situation, the assistant fire chief let him jump in the car and ride along to the incident. From that moment on, he was inspired, and now he instructs on the subject that first captured his attention.
Being a firefighter is anything but easy, and after serving 12 years in the career field, Trueman knows that while on call his students will be exposed to many traumatic situations that will test their ability to bounce back.
“The most difficult response that I went on involved an individual who’d attempted suicide,” he said. “It was a young lady, and being a father myself, I put myself in her parent’s shoes, and you know it’s just something that I hadn’t experienced. I’d trained for it, I had the skills to handle it, but emotionally … it’s one of those things where I had to talk to my mentors to kind of get me over that hump, because it definitely affects you the next day.”
Dealing with the emotions and trauma firefighters experience individually can be overwhelming, so that’s why they learn to look to each other for support.
In just about any type of training or military situation teamwork is critical, but Brum believes that his fellow classmates have gone beyond simply helping one another, they’ve become like family.
“All I hear is that when you’re at a base, at a fire station, it’s like a second family to you,” Brum said.
Even though he wasn’t actively working at a fire station yet, the young Airman had already found support through a team of fellow apprentice firefighters. At the academy and faced with stressors ranging from academics to physical fitness requirements, the students learned to lean on each other.
Though it is a strenuous course, the most difficult part for Brums was being away from family for nearly six months during the combination of basic training and technical school. Though he could Skype them or call, the separation sometimes tested his resolve. His teammates, however, were able to make the separation more bearable.
“If you’re serious all the time you’re just going to go crazy, so we like to have fun with each other, lighten the mood,” Brum said. “Having my friends in class, (when) I’m having a bad day … they know how to cheer me up to keep me going.
Even with his classmates’ support, Brum says life without his family can be stressful. But with a bit of technology and a dose of imagination and patience, he says he will be able to see it through.
“My wife and daughter, they are the reason I’m here,” he added. “After a hard day of training … my first thought is, ‘Oh, I have to wake up at 3:30 tomorrow morning and start it all over again. But then going to the dorm and being able to sit at a computer to Skype with my family – just seeing them and knowing how proud I’m making them, it gives me the motivation to get up that next morning and give my all.”
Trueman believes that despite the long hours, stress of learning new things and separation from family and friends, his students end up with a set of skills and values they will carry with them throughout their careers. He added that the aspect of his job he values the most is the difference he can make through each new student he teaches.
“Now I’m influencing the future of our career field and I really get to shape it by sending out quality (DOD firefighters),” he added. “The folks we send out there aren’t going to falter the first time they see a real world incident. They’ll be able to fall back on their training, and use that framework to push them over that hump.”
But Trueman made clear that this technical training is really only the beginning. He said a combination of advance courses, on-the-job training and experience in the field will be key to their successful future as firefighters.
“We produce a lot of graduates every year for the entire DOD,” Welling said. “One of the things we try to impress upon them as they graduate is ‘your training’s not done.’ You may be able to wear the firefighter badge, but you need to continue to train and prepare, because you never know what … situation you’re going to be responding to. When the bell goes off and you’re asked to go do your job, you need to be ready, because someone’s life does depend on it.
The Navy also posted promising reviews of the drone’s performance in land-based tests at Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu, California. The Fire Scout C-model demonstrated a range of over 150 nautical miles and the ability to remain in flight for approximately 12 hours.
“The C model will greatly impact how we monitor, understand and control the sea and air space around small surface combatants,” Navy Capt. Jeffrey Dodge, the program manager for Fire Scout, said in a 2015 press release.
The MQ-8B, the predecessor model to the MQ-8C, has flown over 16,000 hours and has participated in flights with manned helicopters at sea without serious incident.
The Sherp all-terrain Russian adventure-mobile looks like a Tonka truck. The two-passenger ATV with 63-inch wheels is deceiving in that it appears much larger than it actually is from far away.
The Sherp’s all-terrain capabilities are impressive. With nearly two feet of ground clearance, it can roll over brush fields, swamps, forest floors, and even fallen trees — it can clear anything up to 27.5 inches tall. Its ridged wheels are grapplers in rocky terrain and act as water paddles in the river.
The truck is way underpowered, however, sporting a 1.5-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel with 44 hp. The engine gives it a head-spinning speed of 28 mph on land and 3.7 mph in the water. Despite the power let down, it looks incredibly fun to drive.
Love him or hate him, Matt Bissonnette (aka Mark Owen) is a certified badass.
As part of the legendary SEAL Team 6, Owen (we’ll use his pen name) was a top-tier special operator who knew how to kick in doors, snatch HVTs and dispatch tangos with precision marksmanship.
Mark Owen throws some .308 downrange for a personal pew-pew party in the desert. (Photo screenshot from YouTube)
In fact, he was part of the daring raid that snuck into Pakistan and landed on terror mastermind Osama bin Laden’s lair to bring Public Enemy #1 to justice.
His story is chronicled in two awesome books, including “No Easy Day,” which delivers a blow-by-blow of the mission to kill bin Laden, dubbed “Operation Neptune Spear,” and “No Hero,” which chronicles his extensive career as a senior NCO in the SEAL teams.
In the years since the May 2010 raid, Own has remained in the shadows, posting some cool pics to Instagram and doing some trigger pulling on the side for a couple companies in the shooting sports industry. He’s still all secret squirrel about his true identity, so it’s rare to see him out in the wild.
But this video shows the ST6 frogman’s still got it, slinging lead with several ARs and dinking close-range steel with a dialed out Glock.
He’s even throwing some hate in the dark, decked out with NODs and loaded up with tracers that just make you want to shout “‘Merica!”
Hussein Farrah Aidid left the United States Marine Corps and attempted to be a warlord like his father, Mohamed Farrah Aidid, who is a central figure in the story of Black Hawk Down.
Mohamed Aidid was the leader of the Habr Gidr clan, who vied for power in the wake of the fall of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre’s Somali regime. Aidid not only diverted food aid and relief supplies, his fighters ambushed 24 Pakistani peacekeepers. The United Nations offered a $25,000 reward for his capture, and he was targeted by Task Force Ranger. TF Ranger’s hunt for Aidid led to the ill-fated Battle of Mogadishu that resulted in the death of 18 American troops.
Aidid had four wives. His first wife, Asli Dhubad, gave birth to five children. Hussein Farrah Aidid was the first of those five. He was born in a remote area of Somalia in 1962. At the age of 14, he emigrated to the United States at a time when Somalia was ruled by the dictator Barre whose authoritarian government was enjoying a brief thaw in relations with the U.S. Hussein graduated from high school in Covina, California two years later before enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Aidid was an artilleryman, assigned to Battery B, 14th Marines at the Marine Corps Reserve base in Pico Rivera, California. He deployed in support of Operation Restore Hope, the U.S.-led task force in Somalia whose aim was to disrupt the personal army of Mohamed Farrah Aidid. The elder Aidid controlled the strongest faction in the ongoing power struggle in the country.
The UN mandate was to “establish as soon as possible a secure environment for humanitarian relief operations in Somalia.” Essentially, Restore Hope aimed to protect the delivery of food and other humanitarian aid, keeping it from falling into the hands of Aidid’s personal army. The Marines deployed the younger Aidid because he was the only one in the ranks who could speak Somali.
He returned to the U.S. and became a naturalized citizen. In 1995, Aidid told his command he would miss drill for a while because he was traveling outside the U.S. He returned to Somalia and began preparing for his role in the Habr Gidr militia.
The elder Mohamed Farrah Aidid continued his struggle for power, even declaring himself President of Somalia in 1995, a declaration no country recognized. He was shot in a battle against former allied warlords in July 1996 and died of a heart attack during surgery.
The younger Aidid vacillated between being more conciliatory than his father to being as warlike as his father. Initially he vowed to crush and kill his enemies at home and overseas. He continued his father’s policies, especially the pacification of the countryside, which most saw as an authoritarian power grab. Forces loyal to Aidid were known to rob and kill civilians in their controlled territories. Other allied factions left the young leader’s camp because they did not see dedication to the peace process.
The younger Aidid eventually softened, renouncing his claim to the presidency and agreeing to UN-brokered peace agreements in 1997. An ardent anti-Islamist, he assisted the Bush Administration in tracking down the flow of arms and money through Mogadishu, gave up the sale and use of landmines, and helped Somali government forces capture the capital from the al-Qaeda-allied Islamic Courts Union in 2006. He was hired and fired as deputy Prime Minister, Minister of the Interior, and Minister of Public Works. He defected to Eritrea in 2007.
”I always wanted to be a Marine,” he told The Associated Press. ”I’m proud of my background and military discipline. Once a Marine, always a Marine.”
The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is reportedly looking into allegations that a company which runs military housing at one of California’s largest bases is scamming its residents out of money they don’t owe.
Lincoln Military Housing has reportedly been trying to get military residents to pay hundreds of dollars more than they owe for energy bills, according to statements from families obtained by We Are the Mighty. And if the residents don’t pay up, the Lincoln Military Housing’s San Onofre district office allegedly threatens to have the service members and their families evicted, these families claim.
The exact number of families who have received these eviction notices is unknown, though WATM spoke with multiple military spouses and service members who had been notified by their commands that Lincoln was ordering them out of their homes just before the Christmas holidays.
The residents, all of whom claim they are paid up on rent, all spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal from the housing office in question.
According to one couple who spoke to WATM, an eviction notice was sent to them in early December in response to an article that appeared on the website USMC Life, which is run by military spouse Kristine Schellhaas.
“This program has been hurting our military families since its inception,” Schellhaas told WATM in a statement. “Our families should be able to live on base without the financial burden and threat of eviction from poorly executed billing.”
Schellhaas wrote about the couple on her site in December, calling for the housing office to look into its exorbitant energy bills over the previous two months. Though Schellhaas declined to use their real names, the couple had posted about their frustrations in a Facebook neighborhood group page after being threatened with eviction.
Schellhaas indicated that NCIS was investigating the allegations. When reached for comment, NCIS said it was “unable to comment on an ongoing investigation.”
The residents of the San Onofre II district aboard Camp Pendleton claim that, until roughly two months prior, their bills had been at or below the grace period, meaning they were not billed for utilities.
According to documents obtained by WATM, the residents all saw extreme hikes that had nothing to do with increased power usage.
Lincoln Military Housing declined to respond to multiple requests for comment on these allegations.
Lincoln Military Housing takes part in a program where, if residents manage to conserve energy, they can receive money back from the housing office. If they go over the allotted amount, they pay extra.
The energy bills are managed by a company called Yes Energy Management. The premise behind the company is simple — they are essentially a paid middleman for the middleman. Basically, Lincoln Military Housing — who is contracted by the Department of Defense to manage the housing on some military installations — pays Yes Energy Management to send an electric bill to the base residents.
Rather than having the actual electric company send the bill directly to the residents, both Lincoln Military Housing and Yes Energy Management oversee these bills privately — effectively eliminating any contact between the resident and the electric company.
Each of the homes is fitted with a third party Yes Energy meter that the company uses to determine how much electricity has been used.
The way the system works is that each neighborhood gets their energy usages during a trial period combined and an average is determined by Yes Energy. Those who are above that average get penalized. Those who are below it get rewarded.
Once the residents pay their bills every month, Yes Energy pays the actual energy company, takes its fee from the remainder, and sends what’s left back to Lincoln Military Housing, according to residents.
One of the problems, according to the residents of San Onofre II, is that the neighborhoods they live in weren’t built to have their energy usage measured individually. The residents say that an unnamed employee at their housing office explained that things like Camp Pendleton street lights are wired into their houses, which means that the residents are responsible for paying much more than just their own electric bill.
One resident told We Are the Mighty, “It’s just me and my husband, so when we received the outrageous bills we said something about it and come to find out, our house was hooked up to several street lights.”
Other residents allege that, in addition to paying for the streetlights, empty houses around them drive their monthly usage allotments down. Because there are no residents in those homes, according to neighbors, there is no usage – severely impacting the average usage in that community.
That isn’t a hard thing to imagine, considering Yes Energy has this on its website:
Neither of these theories exactly explain why an entire group of residents suddenly saw a significant increase in their bills despite not having changed anything in their homes, residents say.
Several residents say they questioned their bills, first going directly to Yes Energy; they claim that Yes Energy told them that the issue was not with them or the energy provider and that they should be speaking with the housing office regarding the way the communities were built.
These same residents allege that they then took their concerns to base housing, where it took months for just a handful of them to receive any type of response. Those that were fortunate enough to get a response also received messages that hinted Yes Energy was to blame for the outrageous bills.
Chelsea Levin, a service coordinator for Lincoln’s San Onofre Housing office, wrote in an email to a resident dated Dec. 7, “I am e-mailing as a follow up regarding the issues you have been having in the home with the Yes Energy account. I wanted to let you know that we are now waiting on the utility company to make the changes.”
The email is in response to a phone call placed to the housing office in September, according to the resident who provided the original email.
So where does that leave the residents?
Right where they were, for now.
The resident who originally spoke with Schellhaas alleges that they were served an eviction notice the day after Schellhaas’s post went live. According to that resident and the resident’s active duty spouse, the housing office contacted the service member’s command to deliver the notice.
In a Facebook post, the resident said that Lincoln cited the resident’s use of salty language in a phone call with the office as the reason they were being evicted.
The resident claimed that the office gave that reason directly to the service member’s command.
“They’re saying I was verbally abusive,” the resident wrote.
When We Are the Mighty reached out to the couple, the resident responded, “I feel as if the housing office saw the article that was posted in USMCLife and that is what caused them to call this morning as well as tell us we were being evicted.”
Other residents who spoke with us cited a fear of retaliation after it became public information that the original residents in Schellhaas’s story were being evicted. One resident wrote: “If you wouldn’t mind, could you please not mention our names or resident IDs? He’s a Marine.”
And another resident wrote to us regarding her husband’s concern about her speaking with us, “He’s terrified we will get evicted. I kept trying to reassure him, but the longer I was looking [at our bill] the more he started to freak out. … He says he’d rather get screwed than be homeless.”
Recently, Schellhaas was tasked with updating Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joe Dunford’s wife Ellyn on “hot-button” issues facing the military community.
In preparation for that meeting, she collected energy data from 17 base homes and four off base homes. What she found was that base residents were charged nearly 45 percent more for comparable energy usage off base. An entire breakdown of her findings can be reviewed here.
Schellhaas issued this statement to We Are the Mighty in regards to the entire energy program:
“I believe there hasn’t been enough due diligence in its implementation and no one authority has demonstrated that the organizations can be made accountable for their actions,” she said. “Privatized housing blames Yes Energy and vice-versa, meanwhile our families are suffering.”
Cannabis advocates are criticizing the Department of Veterans Affairs for wasting time and resources on recently published research that produced inconclusive results on the effects of medical marijuana in treating pain and post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I find the funds spent on regurgitating these studies to be worthless,” said Sean Kiernan, a veteran and advocate for the Weed for Warriors project.
VA researchers last week published two studies that reviewed previous analyses and evaluations of the effects of marijuana on treating chronic pain and PTSD. The meta-analysis was led by researchers at the VA Portland Health Care System.
Mr. Kiernan, a combat veteran who served in Central America in the 1980s and ’90s, has advocated for access to medical marijuana for veterans since 2013. Today, he works with Arizona-based physician Dr. Suzanne Sisley, who is enrolling veterans in a clinical trial evaluating cannabis in treating PTSD.
He accuses the VA of frustrating Dr. Sisley’s efforts to recruit veterans for her trial.
“Couple that with the active blockade the VA has undertaken with [Dr. Sisley’s] study and one is left scratching one’s head on what is really going on. It doesn’t make sense unless the screams for research are intended to be words only,” he said. “They say, ‘We don’t have research,’ and then they’re blocking the rigorous research.”
Dr. Sisley said the published article was “not helpful.”
Dr. Suzanne Sisley. Photo from High Times.
“[The VA researchers are] just retreading all the same material. There’s been so many meta-analyses. The fact that government money was wasted, again…” she said, her voice trailing off.
“These aren’t controlled trials, they’re all observational studies fraught with tons of human bias,” Dr. Sisley said of the research.
The VA researchers reached the same conclusion, writing that the available studies were insufficient to make recommendations on the medical benefits of marijuana. The researchers were barred from talking with the media to discuss their results.
Media inquiries were directed to a previous statement made by Veteran Affairs Secretary David Shulkin during a White House press conference in May. At that time, he tread lightly on endorsing medical marijuana because of its status as an illegal substance under federal law.
“My opinion is, is that some of the states that have put in appropriate controls, there may be some evidence that this is beginning to be helpful,” Mr. Shulkin said. “And we’re interested in looking at that and learning from that. But until the time that federal law changes, we are not able to be able to prescribe medical marijuana for conditions that may be helpful.”
The National Institutes of Health lists at least 18 completed clinical trials with results that analyze the effects of cannabis on pain. For cannabis and PTSD, Dr. Sisley’s is one of about 10 studies underway, but hers is the only study evaluating military veterans and specifically those with chronic and treatment-resistant PTSD.
“It’s the most rigorous kind of science you can do — triple blind, everybody’s blinded in the study. Vets don’t know what they’re getting, I don’t know what anybody’s on, the independent raters don’t know what anybody is getting, so that way we eliminate any chance of human bias,” she said.
Completion of the phase two trial and positive results will set researchers on the path of phase three — replicating the findings in a larger test pool. But that’s years down the road and Dr. Sisley first is concerned with what the science will show in this study.
“I don’t know what this data will show. As much as I believe, there are certain studies that suggest cannabis could be helpful, we know we’re on the right track with this,” she said. “Until there’s a controlled trial, you can’t make any definitive conclusions.”
About 10 percent to 11 percent of veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have PTSD, with similar numbers of Vietnam-era veterans, according to the VA. At least 20 veterans kill themselves every day.
Advocates for marijuana say bureaucratic and legal barriers hinder access for a substance that could have immeasurable benefits for this population.