China is deploying advanced anti-aircraft missiles on its South China Sea bases - We Are The Mighty
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China is deploying advanced anti-aircraft missiles on its South China Sea bases

The Chinese are illegally deploying missiles on at least one of its island bases in the disputed waters of the South China Sea.


According to recent analysis, the People’s Liberation Army Navy has been deploying SA-21 “Growler” surface-to-air missiles. The system is also known as the S-400 Triumf, and is considered to be one of the most advanced Russian designs in the world.

China is deploying advanced anti-aircraft missiles on its South China Sea bases
Launch vehicle for the SA-21, which has a range of about 250 miles. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The news of the deployment comes days after the Center for Strategic and International Studies reported that China was building what appeared to be underground structures at three of their bases, including Mischief Reef and Fiery Cross Reef. The Chinese bases are capable of supporting a number of aircraft, and serve as unsinkable aircraft carriers. China also has launched its first Type 55 destroyer, a vessel roughly comparable to the Arleigh Burke-class of guided missile destroyers, and also deployed new maritime patrol aircraft to the disputed region.

China’s seizure of the uninhabited islands in the South China Sea was ruled illegal by the Permanent Court of Arbitration last year. The proceedings prior to the sweeping ruling, though, were boycotted by China, which has been aggressively asserting its nine-dash-line claims on the maritime flashpoint.

China is deploying advanced anti-aircraft missiles on its South China Sea bases
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63) receives fuel from the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204) during a replenishment-at-sea in the western Pacific. The U.S. Navy has patrolled the Indo-Asia-Pacific routinely for more than 70 years promoting regional peace and security. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kelsey L. Adams/Released)

The U.S. has been determined to challenge the Chinese claims in the region. This past weekend, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63) carried out an “innocent passage” through the South China Sea, coming within six miles of Triton Island. FoxNews.com reported that the Stethem was shadowed by a Chinese vessel.

A Flight IIA Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, USS Dewey (DDG 105), came within six miles of Mischief Reef this past May, after a pair of buzzing incidents between Chinese and American aircraft.

The White House has been calling out China on multiple fronts. Last month, at a conference in Singapore, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said China needed to stop “militarizing artificial islands and enforcing excessive maritime claims” in the maritime flashpoint. A report also hammered China for failing to stop human trafficking.

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First SEAL to reach the rank of admiral dies at 93

Retired Navy Rear Adm. (Lower Half) Richard Lyon, the first SEAL in the Navy Reserve to reach flag rank, passed away Feb. 3. He was 93.


According to a report by the San Diego Union-Tribune, Lyon, a veteran of the World War II-era Underwater Demolition Teams — the forerunners to the SEALs — served 41 years in the Navy Reserve and also saw action during the Korean War.

Lyon is believed to have been among the first troops to land on the Japanese mainland as Tokyo surrendered.

China is deploying advanced anti-aircraft missiles on its South China Sea bases

In 1951, Lyon was recalled to active duty for the Korean War and worked on destroying enemy mines and later would help destroy enemy tunnels and railways – part of the evolution of the UDTs into the SEALs.

“He was one of the most impressive men I’ve ever met,” Doug Allred, a former officer in Underwater Demolition Team 11, told the Union-Tribune. “It was 1961 and he was a reservist. This old man shows up at our unit and asked if he could go out with us.

“By golly, we were swimming and diving and doing all these hard things and he was destroying all of us young guys.”

China is deploying advanced anti-aircraft missiles on its South China Sea bases
Retired Rear Adm. Dick Lyon, the first Bullfrog, left, passes the Bullfrog trophy to Capt. Pete Wikul, the 13th Bullfrog, during the passing of the Bullfrog ceremony. The title Bullfrog recognizes the UDT/SEAL operator with the greatest amount of cumulative service. Wikul retired after 39 years and 4 months of Navy service. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joshua T. Rodriguez)

After the Korean War, Lyon returned to the reserves, and built a very successful civilian carer, being promoted to Rear Adm. (Lower Half) in 1975. In 1978, he was recalled to active duty to serve as deputy chief of the Navy Reserve.

In 1983, he retired from the Navy Reserve, ending a 41-year career. He went on to serve two terms as mayor of Oceanside, California.

The cause of death was reported as renal failure. The family has asked that donations be made to the Navy SEAL Foundation.

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Veteran launches ‘The War Horse’ to tell stories of Iraq, Afghanistan

China is deploying advanced anti-aircraft missiles on its South China Sea bases
Cindy Schepers | The War Horse


One Marine veteran is on a mission to make sure the war stories of his generation are told — and told right.

Thomas Brennan, a medically retired sergeant-turned-journalist, is preparing for the launch of The War Horse, an independent journalism site dedicated to chronicling the effects of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The website brands itself “the authority on the post-9/11 conflict and the ONLY digital magazine profiling all men, women, interpreters, and dogs killed since 9/11.”The idea for the site came to Brennan while he was working as a staff writer for The Daily News out of Jacksonville, North Carolina, a town adjacent to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.

“It all started with me getting aggravated that stories weren’t being gathered about World War II vets and World War I vets and we’ve waited so long to tell the stories of years prior,” Brennan, 30, told Military.com. “War has been a constant in human existence since the very beginning, and I just think it’s about time that we really report on it and understand and conceptualize everything that war is.”

Brennan is in a unique position to tell those stories, as someone who has experienced the realities of war as a Marine and who has reported on the military as a civilian. Brennan served nearly nine years in the Marine Corps as an infantry assaultman before retiring in 2012. On Nov. 1, 2010, Brennan was wounded on a deployment to Afghanistan when a rocket-propelled grenade detonated next to him. He was diagnosed with a mild traumatic brain injury, and has since also documented his struggles with post-traumatic stress.

He began freelancing for The New York Times’ At War blog while still in uniform, documenting his medical appointments, his combat memories, and even, wrenchingly, of his suicide attempt in November 2013 as he battled war wounds and feelings of worthlessness.

In 2014, determined to hone his craft as a writer, he enrolled in the investigative program at Columbia University’s School of Journalism.

“I like to think that [The War Horse] is my master’s thesis that I was working on,” Brennan said. “I used everything up there to my advantage.”

Brennan envisions his project as a collaboration of freelance writers and photographers to produce long-form stories about veterans complete with photographs and multimedia elements. He has assembled a board of advisers including Bruce Shapiro, director of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at Columbia, and Kevin Cullen, a journalist and columnist at the Boston Globe and Pulitzer Prize recipient.

The Institute for Nonprofit News is assisting him with the administrative elements of running a startup. To fund the first phase of his site, he is launching a Kickstarter campaign in early 2016 aimed at raising $50,000. That money will fund the first four long-form stories and assist with grant-writing and development to allow the website to grow, Brennan said.

Early stories on the site will focus on redefining intimacy after genital mutilation from war, military sexual trauma, and the military awards system, among other topics, he said. Brennan is also planning a special project on Marine veteran Kyle Carpenter, who received the Medal of Honor in 2014.

In addition to the works of journalism, the site will also feature a compilation of multimedia profiles for all US personnel killed in combat since Sept. 11, 2001. Called the Echoes Project, it will also provide an opportunity for those who knew the fallen service members to share stories about them.

While good reporting on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and those who fought in them already exists, Brennan said his background and goals may give troops and veterans more confidence to come forward and tell their stories.

“I think the one common thread that I bring to the table is I know the fear that exists [among troops] when it comes to approaching journalists,” he said. “Having people who are personally involved in these different worlds is going to open up the possibilities.”

Learn more about the project at http://www.thewarhorse.org/

MIGHTY CULTURE

This VA patient portal will save you all kinds of time

When the closest VA clinic is miles away, or you have a hard time traveling from place to place, the last thing you want to do is make a trip to the doctor’s office. We get that. Your time is valuable.

In 2005, VA created My HealtheVet next to a coffee shop inside the Portland VA Medical Center. The small kiosk (and floppy disk drives) are long gone. However, the concept remains the same. Give veterans’ the opportunity to play an active role in their health care while saving them time in the process.


Today, over 4.9 million veterans have registered online for VA’s patient portal, My HealtheVet, to refill their prescriptions, download and share their medical records, schedule and view appointments, and send secure messages to their health care teams.

China is deploying advanced anti-aircraft missiles on its South China Sea bases

Over 140 million prescriptions refilled

Get this: My HealtheVet has refilled more than 143-million prescriptions over the last 14 years. It could take you just a couple of clicks to order your next prescription. And it will be delivered right to your doorstep.

It’s easy to sign up for an account, and it’s completely free! You can even upgrade your account the next time you’re at a VA clinic to access all of My HealtheVet’s features:

  • Refill prescriptions online
  • Schedule and view VA appointments
  • Download and share your medical records, including medical images
  • Send secure messages to your health care teams
  • Access to mental health resources
  • Gain knowledge through the Veterans Health Library

Click to learn more information about My HealtheVet and start saving time today!

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

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This is everything you need to know about Army Rangers

Assuming you haven’t been living under a rock for the past year or so, you probably know that a handful of female officers made history by graduating the US Army’s prestigious Ranger School and that one female Soldier tried (and failed) to join the Ranger Regiment.


You may have also noticed that there are, all of a sudden, a lot of “internet experts” on Rangers, or anything to do with Rangers. If you actually do know a thing or two about Rangers, then you know all these so-called experts are creating mass confusion and hysteria on the interwebz. So, in an effort to set the record straight, I thought I would lay out the pertinent information that anyone needs to know about this topic.

Although I have not attended every course I am about to speak of, I served in the US Army from 2005 until my separation in 2013. Of that time, I served in 1st Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment for over four years, where I completed three deployments to Iraq and two to Afghanistan. The remainder of my time I spent in the Syracuse Recruiting Battalion, where I am proud to say that I mentored sixteen different young men who made it into the 75th Ranger Regiment. Outside of my military experience, I am also the author of Ranger Knowledge: The All Inclusive Study Guide For Rangers and Violence of Action: The Untold Stories of the 75th Ranger Regiment in the War on Terror.

China is deploying advanced anti-aircraft missiles on its South China Sea bases
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Benjamin Jebb, a 7th Infantry Division Ranger, reaches for the ranger tab to complete an obstacle during the Best Ranger Competition 2017 in Fort Benning, Ga., April 9, 2017. USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos.

Ranger Training and Assessment Course (RTAC) – The RTAC course is a 16-day preparatory course for Ranger School. It is run by the Army National Guard Warrior Training Center, and primarily used by National Guard students, but open to students of any unit. It is located on Fort Benning, Georgia and is divided in to two phases: RAP phase and Patrolling phase. All National Guard soldiers who want to attend Ranger School must pass this course first. It should be noticed that many Army installations run a similar course to prepare their soldiers for Ranger School in a similar way.

US Army Ranger Course (Ranger School) – Ranger School is 62 days long with a 42% graduation rate, and is considered the Army’s toughest leadership course. Ranger School is a mentally and physically challenging course that teaches small unit infantry tactics and develops leadership skills under austere conditions meant to simulate the exhaustion of real combat operations. The course falls under the US Army Training and Doctrine Command, and is run by the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade, which also runs the Army’s Airborne School, Jumpmaster School, and Pathfinder School.

The course incorporates three phases (Benning, Mountain, and Swamp), which follow the crawl, walk, run training methodology. After completion of these three phases, Ranger School graduates are considered proficient in leading squad and platoon dismounted operations in a variety of climates and terrain. Upon graduation, they are awarded and authorized the black and gold “Ranger Tab” on their left shoulder.

China is deploying advanced anti-aircraft missiles on its South China Sea bases
Second Lt. Jorge Ramirez, a member of Joint Task Force Domestic Support-Counterdrug, receives his Ranger tab after completing Ranger School July 16, 2010. USNG photo by 2nd Lt. Kara Siepmann.

After completion of the course, graduates return to their units and are expected to take leadership positions shortly after their return. Soldiers of any military occupational specialty (MOS), and any branch of service, as well as some allied nation service members can attend this course. There are no formal pre-requisite courses for attendance at Ranger School. Ranger School does not require students to be airborne qualified before attending. It should be noted that although soldiers are considered “Ranger Qualified,” graduation of this course does not qualify a service member for service in the 75th Ranger Regiment.

75th Ranger Regiment – The 75th Ranger Regiment is a special operations unit that falls under the US Army Special Operations Command, which falls under the US Special Operations Command – the parent organization of other SOF units such as Navy SEALs, Marine Raiders, and Army Special Forces “Green Berets.” The 75th Ranger Regiment’s mission is to plan and conduct special missions in support of US policy and objectives. They are considered the go-to direct action raid unit, and have killed or captured more high value targets in the War on Terror than any other unit. The Regiment is composed of four Ranger battalions: 1st Ranger Battalion on Hunter Army Airfield, GA, 2nd Ranger Battalion on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA, and 3rd Ranger Battalion and Regimental Special Troops Battalion on Fort Benning, GA. They are readily identified by their tan beret’s and red, white, and black “Ranger Scroll.” All soldiers assigned are graduates of either RASP 1 or 2.

Rangers assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment are expected to go to the US Army Ranger School before taking a leadership position, but are not required to attend before serving in the Regiment. It should be noted that Ranger School and the 75th Ranger Regiment are completely different entities under completely different commands with completely different missions, and one is not needed for the other.

China is deploying advanced anti-aircraft missiles on its South China Sea bases
Lt. Col. Dave Hodne, the commander of 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., pins an Army Commendation Medal on one of the battalion’s Soldiers. Photo from Sgt. Christopher M. Gaylord, 5th Mobile Public Affiars Detachment.

Ranger Assessment and Selection Program 1 (RASP 1) – RASP 1 is an 8-week course ran by the 75th Ranger Regiment and boasts an approximate 33% graduation rate (that number can vary based on time of year as well as other factors). It selects and trains soldiers in the rank of Private through Sergeant for service in the 75th Ranger Regiment. Upon completion of this course, graduates have the basic capabilities to conduct operations as a junior member of a Ranger strike force or command element.

RASP 1 is divided into two phases. Phase 1 is the primary “weeding out” phase, as well as conducts initial standard testing, such as the timed road marches and PT and swim tests. Phase 1 also includes the notoriously brutal “Cole Range” week of training. Phase 2 focuses more on the special operations-peculiar skills needed for service in the Regiment, such as explosive breaching, advanced marksmanship, and advanced first-responder skills. Upon graduation of RASP 1, the new Rangers are awarded the Black, Red, and White “Ranger Scroll” as well as the Khaki (tan) Beret. At this point, they are considered full-fledged Rangers and are assigned to one of the four Ranger Battalions of the 75th Ranger Regiment. It should be noted that Ranger School is not required before attendance at RASP 1, but some students are Ranger School graduates already. Airborne School is a required pre-requisite though, as all soldiers need to be airborne-qualified for service in the 75thRanger Regiment.

China is deploying advanced anti-aircraft missiles on its South China Sea bases
Pvt. Howard Urban is congratulated by his father Sgt. Maj. Howard Urban, guest speaker, at the 75th Ranger Regiment RASP Class 05-15 Graduation at Fort Benning. Photo by Pfc. Eric Overfelt, 75th Ranger Regiment documentation specialist.

Ranger Assesment and Selection Program 2 (RASP 2) –RASP 2 is a 21-day course that is ran by the 75th Ranger Regiment. It is for soldiers in the rank of Staff Sergeant and above, and all officers volunteering for assignment to the 75th Ranger Regiment. This course assesses and selects mid- and senior-grade leaders for assignment to the 75th Ranger Regiment and teaches them the operational techniques and standards needed for their time in the Regiment. Upon successful completion of this course, graduates are awarded the Black, Red, and White “Ranger Scroll” as well as the Khaki (tan) Beret and are assigned to one of the four battalions in the 75th Ranger Regiment. It should be noted that Ranger School is not required before attendances at RASP 2, but most students are already Ranger School graduates.

Small Unit Ranger Tactics (SURT) – SURT, formerly known as “Pre-Ranger Course (PRC),” is a three-week program that is run by the 75th Ranger Regiment, for Rangers already in the Regiment who will be attending the US Army Ranger School. Because the 75th Ranger Regiment and the Ranger School are so different, this course is designed to prepare Rangers for the “School” way of doing things, and ensure they have the best shot at success in Ranger School.

Hopefully this short primer explains all the nuances of anything relating to the Army Rangers, and maybe even answers a few questions that are floating around in response to the pending female graduates of Ranger School. Chief among them, “Why aren’t they going to the Ranger Regiment if they passed Ranger School?” Because Ranger School has nothing to do with the 75th Ranger Regiment and is definitely not the selection course for service in the 75th.

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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.

China is deploying advanced anti-aircraft missiles on its South China Sea bases
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.

China is deploying advanced anti-aircraft missiles on its South China Sea bases
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.

China is deploying advanced anti-aircraft missiles on its South China Sea bases
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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Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission

The 1968 World War II film “Where Eagles Dare” thrilled some viewers — and scared the bejesus out of others — with its tale of commandos storming a snow-covered mountain fortress and a scene of Richard Burton wrestling with Nazi thugs on the roof of a swaying cable car.


But for an Omaha teen named James Stejskal, seeing the movie inspired his life’s work as an Army Green Beret.

“I was always interested in that kind of life,” said Stejskal, 63, now retired from careers as a soldier and CIA agent and living in Alexandria, Virginia. “A small unit fighting against the bigger enemy (using) a combination of military and intelligence operations, not just brute force.”

China is deploying advanced anti-aircraft missiles on its South China Sea bases
Green Berets standing proud.  (U.S. Army photo)

This spring, Stejskal published a book called “Special Forces Berlin: Clandestine Cold War Operations of the U.S. Army’s Elite, 1956-90,” about the secret unit with which he spent nine of his 23 years in the Army. Its work was so sensitive that the Pentagon didn’t acknowledge its existence until 2014.

“That’s when we finally came in from the cold,” said Tom Merrill, 63, of Martinsburg, West Virginia, who served with Stejskal in Berlin and remains a friend.

Stejskal enlisted in the Army in 1973, a year after graduating from Central High School. Soon he became a Green Beret, serving on small special ops teams. He was a weapons sergeant and a medic, known to his buddies as “Styk.”

“He was the consummate operator — natively smart, well-educated, thought well on his feet,” said Merrill, who lived in Council Bluffs as a boy.

The Berlin unit, created in 1956, was blandly named Detachment “A.” It disbanded in 1990, after the Berlin Wall fell and the Cold War ended.

China is deploying advanced anti-aircraft missiles on its South China Sea bases
Berlin Wall, 1989 (Photo by Wikimedia Commons)

The soldiers of Detachment “A” didn’t look much like soldiers. They dressed in modish clothes, wore beards and long hair, made local friends, lived in off-base apartments. All spoke German, many of them fluently.

“Working in civilian clothes, blending in with the locals, doing cool stuff in West Berlin and the middle of (Communist) East Germany,” recalled Stejskal, who served in the unit from 1977 to 1981, and from 1984 to 1989. “It was a very ambiguous kind of duty.”

They were expert at soldierly skills like marksmanship, wilderness navigation, rappelling from helicopters, urban combat. But they also learned the tradecraft of spies, including surveillance and secret messaging.

In the event of a Soviet-led invasion of Western Europe, the detachment’s job was to melt into the population of Berlin and engage in acts of sabotage behind enemy lines. In his book, Stejskal describes it as a “Hail Mary plan to slow the (Soviet) juggernaut they expected when and if a war began.”

Each of the detachment’s six teams was to be responsible for sabotaging bridges and railroads, harassing the enemy in designated slices of East Berlin and East Germany.

China is deploying advanced anti-aircraft missiles on its South China Sea bases
Berlin during the Cold War.

The work evolved as new threats emerged in Europe, and encompassed training in guerrilla warfare, direct-action precision strikes, and counterterrorism.

As radical groups spread terror across Europe with kidnappings, mass shootings and hijackings in the 1970s, Detachment “A” practiced rescuing hostages from trains and airplanes. Pan Am let them drill using airliners stored in its hangars at Berlin’s Tegel airport.

The detachment’s highest-profile mission had little to do with the Cold War and didn’t even take place in Europe. In 1980, the detachment was tapped to help rescue 52 U.S. diplomats held hostage in Tehran by radical Iranian students.

Soon after the embassy was captured Nov. 4, 1979, the U.S. military began developing a plan to seize the hostages. Most were held in the main embassy compound, but the job of Detachment “A” was to snatch three who were being held separately at the Iranian Foreign Ministry.

The first rescue attempt, Operation Eagle Claw, ended in disaster when a plane and a helicopter collided in the dark in the Iranian desert.

China is deploying advanced anti-aircraft missiles on its South China Sea bases
Operation Eagle Claw ends in failure, 1989. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

The military quietly began planning a second rescue attempt, again including members of Detachment “A.” Stejskal and Merrill, who hadn’t been part of Eagle Claw, were involved in the second, Operation Storm Cloud. It involved using Air Force transport planes to fly partly disassembled helicopters into an airfield commandeered in the desert. The helicopters would be quickly reassembled and used to assault the Foreign Ministry.

The team traveled to Florida to conduct live-fire drills and spent weeks rehearsing with helicopter crews. They honed their weapons skills with extra-long hours on the shooting range.

“We were blowing (our weapons) up, we were firing them so much,” Stejskal said.

They ran a dress rehearsal in late November 1980, but soon the word came down: The mission had been scrubbed.

“It was deflating, extremely,” Stejskal said. “It’s like preparing for a big game and then being told you can’t play.”

The hostages were released Jan. 20, 1981, the same day President Ronald Reagan was inaugurated.

China is deploying advanced anti-aircraft missiles on its South China Sea bases
President Reagan’s inauguration, 1981. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Stejskal soon rotated out but returned to the unit in 1984. The 1980s are remembered now as the death throes of the Soviet empire. But at the time, it wasn’t clear whether popular movements like Poland’s Solidarity might provoke a Soviet crackdown.

“No one was really sure how it would all play out,” he said.

Stejskal left Berlin in the spring of 1989, but he flew back in November when he heard that the Wall had fallen. He wanted to see the end of the Cold War icon that had shaped his life.

“In one way, it was a relief: The mission as I knew it in Berlin was over, or soon would be,” Stejskal said. “On the other hand, there was a bit of nostalgia for the way things were.”

Not that his life on the razor’s edge ended when the Wall fell. In December 1992, Stejskal was badly wounded when his car drove over a land mine in Somalia.

Stejskal suffered a serious head injury and a shattered leg.

“I basically had 3½ inches of bone that was turned to confetti,” he said.

Stejskal returned to duty a year later. But he knew he would never regain his former strength. So he retired in 1996.

China is deploying advanced anti-aircraft missiles on its South China Sea bases
Green Berets. (U.S. Army photo)

That was the same year he married Wanda Nesbitt, a State Department foreign service officer he had met five years earlier during an evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa, in the country then known as Zaire.

At his first overseas posting with Nesbitt, Stejskal said, someone handed him a sticky note with a telephone number on it and said to call if he wanted a job. That led to a 13-year stint with the CIA.

In recent years, Stejskal has attended Detachment “A” reunions, where the stories flow along with the beer.

“Somebody said, ‘We need to get this down on paper. We’ve got a history. Who’s going to write it down?'” he said.

Stejskal volunteered. Merrill said the book, published in March by Casemate Publishers, has taught him a lot he didn’t know about the unit’s history.

“He gave it the respect it deserved,” Merrill said. “He was able to take his insider knowledge and transfer it to something an outsider can understand.”

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Major changes are in the works for Marine Corps Scout Snipers

Since the days of Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock and his exploits in Vietnam, the image of Marine Corps Scout Snipers has struck fear in the hearts of America’s enemies.


China is deploying advanced anti-aircraft missiles on its South China Sea bases
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

And for good reason.

The Corps has one of the most comprehensive — and toughest — training schools for its sniper teams, with a grueling curriculum of long-range shooting, covert reconnaissance and advanced camouflage.

And that’s the problem, Corps infantry leaders say.

Marine officials have confirmed that Commandant Gen. Robert Neller is considering a plan that would make being a Scout Sniper a primary military occupational specialty in the Marine Corps, a move infantry leaders say would help units better meet the increasing demand for these highly-skilled specialists.

A Marine spokesperson declined to comment on whether the Commandant would sign off on the changes but said the Corps is looking into how to improve its Scout Sniper cadre.

“The Marine Corps is currently assessing the best way to train and sustain its Scout Snipers,” Marine spokesperson 1st Lt. Danielle Phillips told WATM. “It’s important we are thorough in our review to determine the best way the Corps can improve this vital capability.”

China is deploying advanced anti-aircraft missiles on its South China Sea bases
Marine Scout Snipers play a key role in forward reconnaissance and observation for infantry battalions. Marine leaders say they can’t get enough of them the way the training is set up today. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

According to officers familiar with the process who spoke to We Are The Mighty on background, the way the Corps staffs its sniper platoons falls far short of the authorized goal of around 20 per platoon. One leader said on average a platoon has four trained snipers “if we’re lucky.”

Read More: This is what makes Marine Scout Snipers so deadly

“A lot of kids come to the sniper school not prepared or not fully qualified, so they fail out,” the infantry leader said. “So we’re just not able to maintain the number of snipers we need in a battalion.”

That’s why Neller was forwarded a plan to make the 0317 Scout Sniper MOS a primary one, in hopes that the Corps will do more to make sure enough of the sharpshooters get to the fleet where they’re needed.

“There’s a struggle to find Marines who have the time to train up and get to a ‘school level’ of success,” said a senior Marine sniper familiar with the MOS change proposal. “Right now it’s almost impossible.”

The senior Scout Sniper, who spoke on background to We Are The Mighty, said if the change is approved, a Marine who signed on as an 0317 would go through boot camp and the School of Infantry then would immediately be sent to a Basic Scout Sniper course. After that, the Marine would go back to the fleet to fill a Scout Sniper job in a platoon rather than leaving to chance the option of being pulled into another combat arms job.

China is deploying advanced anti-aircraft missiles on its South China Sea bases
If infantry leaders and senior Scout Snipers have their way, new Marines entering the Corps will have the option to enlist as an 0317 and go directly to sniper training after the School of Infantry. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Today, Marines who are selected for Scout Sniper have already completed one deployment and are approaching their end of active service, making it hard to keep snipers in the Corps even if they get the secondary MOS, the sniper leader said.

“There’s no way to make sure they stay in the sniper community,” he said.

As part of the change, the Corps is looking into modifying the Basic Scout Sniper course to focus more on the “scout” part of the training as opposed to shooting skills, the senior Marine leaders said.

Over the years, scout snipers have played an increasing role in reconnaissance and clandestine observation of targets where infantry leaders need “eyes on” key areas. Additionally, it’s been increasingly difficult to teach the advanced marksmanship skills that were once part of the basic sniper curriculum, contributing to the wash-out rates and making it harder for Marines to prepare for the sniper school.

The senior sniper said a lot of the advanced shooting techniques and other sniper-specific skills can be taught by senior NCOs once the new 0317 gets to his platoon. After a deployment in a sniper platoon, the Scout Sniper is better prepared for an advanced course and will help form a more seasoned cadre of leaders back at the platoon, he said.

But there are critics, senior Marine leaders acknowledge, particularly when it comes to the training changes.

“The old timers are pointing a bony finger at us and saying the new plan waters down sniper training,” the senior sniper said. “That’s an emotional response to how it used to be.”

“Nobody’s watering down what the Scout Sniper is and what he can do,” he added.

Articles

Two U.S. troops killed in 2 days of war operations

Two U.S. troops have been killed in two days of fighting, one in Afghanistan and one in Iraq, according to press releases from the Department of Defense.


China is deploying advanced anti-aircraft missiles on its South China Sea bases
(U.S. Army photo by Spc.Christopher Brecht)

The Pentagon has not released the names of the casualties. It is standard policy to not release names until 24 hours after the notification of the next of kin.

On Oct. 19, a military service member was killed in Kabul when an attacker fired on an entry control point at Camp Morehead, according to a U.S. Central Command Press release. The incident is currently under investigation.

“Anytime we lose a member of our team, it is deeply painful,” said Gen. John W. Nicholson, commander of U.S. Forces – Afghanistan and Resolute Support. “Our sympathies go out to the families, loved ones and the units of those involved in this incident.

Then, on Oct. 20, another U.S. service member died from wounds sustained in Northern Iraq. The Operation Inherent Resolve press office released the following tweet:

Reuters has reported that an anonymous official said that the wounds were sustained near Mosul where the U.S. is supporting a massive offensive by the Iraqis, the Kurds, and other local forces. Most U.S. troops there are staying away from the front lines, but ISIS has attempted to take the fight to Americans in artillery and logistics camps according to notes in the Operation Inherent Resolve strike releases.

Humor

7 of the top superpowers every Airman possesses

Look! It’s a bird! It’s a plane!


No, it’s just your local veteran Airman. Undoubtedly, this Airman can pull off some amazing feats, like going days and days without sleep, surviving endless attempts at Enlisted Performance Report sabotage, and pulling a reflective belt out of seemingly nowhere.

It’s true, every Airman leaves service with a certain set of special abilities. Below are 7 of the top superpowers that every Airman possesses.

Related: 7 of the top surprises veterans face going to school

7. Sleep? What is that?

Careers across all the branches require us to stretch our body’s limitations. Depending on the circumstance and specific requirements, different aspects of our selves are tested. One of the most common sacrifices, though, is sleep. Airmen quickly learn to operate on minimal sleep.

8 hours per night? Right.

In some cases, you’ll be lucky to get 4.

China is deploying advanced anti-aircraft missiles on its South China Sea bases
12 hour shift, followed by PT… then an appointment… and another… then another 12 hour shift. (Image from How Stuff Works)

6. Turbo dieting

Physical fitness is definitely a part of military culture. In this regard, the Air Force is a bit later to the party than some of our older, more steeled brethren.

On any given morning on the posts of our older brothers, you’ll likely find a squad or two doing some type of PT. This is true on Air Force bases, too. Well, kinda.

You’re just as likely to see a squadron doing regular PT as you are to see a cardio room full of crash-dieting Airmen trying to prepare for their Air Force Physical Training test… which is next week.

China is deploying advanced anti-aircraft missiles on its South China Sea bases
Fat boy, fat boy, where you been? (Image from Warner Bros.’ Full Metal Jacket).

5. Built Ford tough

We are good and strong, for the most part. At least for a while.

China is deploying advanced anti-aircraft missiles on its South China Sea bases
Right? Right. (Image from New Line Cinema’s Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery)

4. “Grin and bear it” champions

There is a common misconception that Airmen are akin to teenagers: quick to talk back and rebel. There are kernels of truth in this, as there are in most myths.

In today’s Air Force, it is much easier to have your career cut off by a simple mistake. It really is a one-mistake Air Force.

You are constantly on edge, so if you value your time in uniform and want it to continue, you might have to eat a bit of humble pie.

Well, actually, a lot of humble pie.

Like, the whole pie.

China is deploying advanced anti-aircraft missiles on its South China Sea bases
Wanna stick around? Eat up, Airman!

3. Acronym deciphering specialty

The U.S. Air Force, like the rest of the military, has fallen in unabashed love with acronyms.

Living in this environment turns your mind into an acronym making and breaking beast.

It is totally possible to get an email with the title, “USAF USN TRNG CQB SF Amn in AETC.”

China is deploying advanced anti-aircraft missiles on its South China Sea bases
Actual footage of higher up thinking up more acronyms. (Image from Warner Bros. Pictures’ Hangover Part III)

2. Adaptability

The only constant is change.

Every Airmen, Marine, Sailor, and Soldier know this. It is embedded into us, if not through instruction, then certainly through the swift and immediate changes of course we experience without much notice.

It really is sink or swim. Adapt or die.

China is deploying advanced anti-aircraft missiles on its South China Sea bases
Pff! Who’s afraid of a little change? (Image from Bold Films’ Nightcrawler)

Also related: 5 of the top excuses MPs hear during traffic stops

1. Selflessness

One of the USAF core values is “service before self.” That mentality will stay with you if it ever got through to you. Airmen will always put others and the big picture before self.

This is sometimes a detriment, but it’s a wonderful ability nonetheless.

Articles

Commissary savings overhaul might cost shoppers extra

A recent overhaul of the defense commissary program aboard military installations will result in higher costs for its customers, according to a recent MilitaryTimes report.


New rules, which were put in place as part of the latest annual defense authorization act allow the defense commissaries, or DeCA, to up the prices on about 1,000 products in 10 stores. Additionally, all 238 commissaries were authorized to raise prices on national brand products.

According to MilitaryTimes, this will allow officials to explore how the overall impact of raising these prices might help them to reduce operating costs that taxpayers cover, which currently sits at about $1.3 billion annually.

Before the rollout of the overhaul, DeCA was able to sell items at the commissaries at cost plus 5 percent. Under the new system, DeCA is able to purchase items at a reduced rate, but sell them at their previous rates or higher.

For example, if DeCA purchases a product at $.10 cheaper than before, it might not sell that product for the reduced price at the commissary, MilitaryTimes explains.

That extra cash might go, instead, toward operating costs or toward lowering the price of a different product, or both.

One of the issues with this new system, according to MilitaryTimes, is that the consulting company who designed it may be benefitting financially. MilitaryTimes claims that “unofficial reports from members of industry” say that Boston Consulting Group (or BCG) stands to make between 50 and 60 percent of the amount prices are reduced.

So that dime savings per sale of a particular item might net BCG between a nickel and 6 cents per unit sold.

DeCA officials are unable to confirm those claims, saying instead that the details of extra awards, fees or incentives for BCG won’t be available until they are “determined at a later date”, MilitaryTimes says.

Chris Burns, the executive director of business transformation at DeCA, told MilitaryTimes that the money DeCA saves is going toward reducing product prices or toward operating costs, but MilitaryTimes could not determine if consulting fees were included in those operating costs.

The effects of the overhaul are being felt elsewhere, as well. Some national brands who are pressured to lower prices below cost are pulling their items from the commissary altogether, MilitaryTimes reports. They claim that “multiple sources” are saying that other programs, like scholarship donations, could be cut.

Some good news does come out of the overhaul, however. DeCA will begin rolling out store brand items later this month that should be cheaper than national name brands.

While Congress approved the Department of Defense’s DeCA program, they are keeping a close eye on it and on whether it actually saves anyone money, MilitaryTimes says.

MIGHTY HISTORY

What to know about the Combat Controller who will get the Medal of Honor

President Donald Trump will posthumously award the Medal of Honor to the family of a fallen U.S. Air Force Special Tactics Combat Controller at a ceremony on Aug. 22, 2018, for his extraordinary heroism in March 2002 while deployed to Afghanistan.

According to the medal nomination, Tech. Sergeant John Chapman distinguished himself on the battlefield through “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity,” sacrificing his life to preserve those of his teammates. Chapman was part of a joint special operations reconnaissance team deployed to Afghanistan in 2002 that came under overwhelming enemy fire during a heroic rescue attempt on Takur Ghar mountain, Afghanistan, March 4, 2002.


“Tech. Sgt. John Chapman earned America’s highest military award, the Medal of Honor, for the actions he performed to save fellow Americans on a mountain in Afghanistan more than 16 years ago,” said Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson. “He will forever be an example of what it means to be one of America’s best and bravest Airmen.”

During the initial insertion onto Afghanistan’s Takur Ghar mountaintop, the MH-47 “Chinook” helicopter carrying Chapman and the joint special operations reconnaissance team flew into an enemy ambush. Intense enemy small arms and rocket propelled grenade fire significantly damaged the helicopter, throwing Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts into the “hornet’s nest” of enemies below. Following a controlled crash landing a few miles away, the remaining team members elected to fly back to the enemy-infested mountaintop in a heroic attempt to rescue Roberts.

China is deploying advanced anti-aircraft missiles on its South China Sea bases

Tech. Sgt. John Chapman

During the rescue attempt, Chapman and his teammates once again received heavy enemy fire from multiple directions. Chapman, despite the enemy fire, charged uphill through thigh-deep snow to directly assault an enemy position. He took the enemy bunker, cleared the position, and killed the enemy fighters occupying the position.

Then, with complete disregard for his own life, Chapman deliberately moved from the bunker’s protective cover to attack a second hostile bunker with an emplaced machine gun firing on the rescue team.

During this bold attack, he was struck and temporarily incapacitated by enemy fire.

Despite his wounds, Chapman regained his faculties and continued to fight relentlessly, sustaining a violent engagement with multiple enemy fighters before paying the ultimate sacrifice. In performance of these remarkably heroic actions, he is credited with saving the lives of his teammates.

“Tech. Sgt. John Chapman fought tenaciously for his nation and his teammates on that hill in Afghanistan,” said Air Force Chief of Staff General David L. Goldfein. “His inspiring story is one of selfless service, courage, perseverance, and honor as he fought side by side with his fellow Soldiers and Sailors against a determined and dug-in enemy. Tech. Sgt. Chapman represents all that is good, all that is right, and all that is best in our American Airmen.”

China is deploying advanced anti-aircraft missiles on its South China Sea bases

John Chapman holding a child in Afghanistan.

He continued, “I extend my deepest thanks to the members of Tech. Sgt. Chapman’s family, his military family, and the Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines who were his brothers on the battlefield and who have remained committed to honoring his legacy. He is a true American hero.

“This is a reflection of our commitment to recognizing the heroic actions of our Airmen,” said Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright. “As Chapman’s story reminds us, we have a sacred duty to honor the actions and sacrifices of all our service members. I share our Airmen’s deepest gratitude to the Chapman family, as well as the family members of all those who gave their lives serving our great nation.”

The Medal of Honor is the nation’s most prestigious military decoration. It is awarded by the president, in the name of Congress, to military members who have distinguished themselves conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life, above and beyond the call of duty, while engaged in action with an enemy of the United States.

Chapman will be the 19th Airman awarded the Medal of Honor since the Department of the Air Force was established in 1947. He will be the first Airman recognized with the medal for heroic actions occurring after the Vietnam War.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This retired General weighed in on the war crimes pardon controversy

If there’s one thing retired Gen. Martin Dempsey knows, it’s leadership. The West Pointer and career Army officer offers an insight into good leadership almost every day via his Twitter account. From Aristotle to Dwight D. Eisenhower, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff tweets a constant workshop on the subject.

With an account so full of leadership quotes interpreted by the wisdom of a man with more than 40 years leading the United States Military, it’s rare — and odd — to see a comment on a news story sweeping across the military and political landscape.


It’s highly unlikely Dempsey meant to throw his opinion into the political arena. A career officer of Dempsey’s stature doesn’t often comment on those things publicly. It’s more likely he was speaking to the leadership of the United States as a country, the moral beacon that enforces the rule of law around the world, rather than breaking it. In a tweet on May 9, 2019, Dempsey wrote:

“It is easier to exemplify values than teach them”(Theodore Hesburgh). And much more effective. Leaders create an atmosphere by modeling behavior. They include or exclude, encourage or discourage, collaborate or confront. In the end, they reap what they sow. #Leadership

Dempsey’s tweets only ever single out an individual when quoting them and then giving his interpretation of the meaning of that quote, as it pertains to leadership in general. Sometimes, it’s just sound advice.

As 2019 starts to turn to spring and summer, it’s difficult to escape election coverage and early issues for the next year. One of the early talking points is about presidential pardons for U.S. troops serving time for war crimes. President Trump is considering a blanket pardon for military personnel and contractors who had been convicted of, or were facing charges for, committing war crimes. The announcement was set to come on Memorial Day. But the military’s top brass is pushing the president not to do that.

Related: President Trump just pardoned a soldier who killed an Iraqi prisoner

Other former officers were much less kind than Dempsey, but Dempsey’s tact and framing of the issue gives his response the most weight. Dempsey’s response considers the fact that the President thinks he’s doing the right thing to protect American service members, but his generals are reminding him that there is more at stake than a few prison sentences being waived away. As former Commandant of the Marine Corps Charle Krulak put it, a pardon for these offenses “relinquishes the United States’ moral high ground and undermines the good order and discipline critical to winning on the battlefield.”

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