Actor and karate king Chuck Norris is adding himself to the list of skeptics questioning whether a U.S. Special Forces exercise is a government ruse to impose martial law over several states including Texas.
“The U.S. government says, ‘It’s just a training exercise.’ But I’m not sure the term ‘just’ has any reference to reality when the government uses it,” said Norris, who said Texas Gov. Greg Abbot was right to order his state National Guard monitor the exercise in Texas to ensure civil rights are protected.
This is the second time Norris has weighed in on controversial national security debates. Norris threw his support behind the A-10 Thunderbolt and criticized the Air Force for pushing to retire the aircraft.
Norris gained his celebrity status after leveraging his championship karate skills into an acting career when Hollywood jumped into the Kung Fu craze of the 1970s and ’80s. Norris had previously served in the Air Force. He took up martial arts as an airman stationed in South Korea.
He made numerous movies in which he played a soldier, including the “Missing in Action” trilogy, about an Army colonel who returns to Vietnam to rescue American prisoners of war who had been left behind.
In 2007, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway made Norris an honorary Marine. A few years later, after several seasons playing the lead role on the TV series, “Walker: Texas Ranger,” Texas Gov. Rick Perry made Norris an Honorary Texas Ranger.
U.S. Army Special Operations Command said there is nothing unusual about Jade Helm, though the scope of the event sets it apart for skeptics.
“To stay ahead of the environmental challenges faced overseas, Jade Helm will take place across seven states,” officials wrote on the exercise’s website. “However, Army Special Operations Forces will only train in five states: Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado. The diverse terrain in these states replicates areas Special Operations soldiers regularly find themselves operating in overseas.”
Abbot’s ordering the Guard to monitor the exercise has fanned the flames of citizens who believe the operation is part of a plan to impose martial law on the country.
Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show on Comedy Central, poked fun at the spreading rumor with quick TV clips of newscasters throwing about the term “Texas Takeover.”
“You know who calls it a ‘Texas Takeover?’ Lone Star lunatics,” he quipped.
Stewart also noted that when the Army, Marine Corps and Air Force held Operation Roaming Sands in Texas in 2005 — at the time the largest exercise in the state’s history — there were no concerns about the event being a move to impose martial law.
“I don’t’ know what’s changed since then,” he said, as a picture of President Obama appeared on screen. “Oh, right…”
Norris, in his column for World Net Daily, said “Concerned Texans and Americans are in no way calling into question our brave and courageous men and women in uniform. They are merely following orders. What’s under question are those who are pulling the strings at the top of Jade Helm 15 back in Washington.,” he wrote.
On the eve of the November 2012 elections Norris and his wife, Gena, went on television to tell voters that “Our great country and freedom are under attack … [and] could be lost forever if we don’t change the course our country is headed.”
Obama’s re-election, Gena Norris added, will be “the first step into 1,000 years of darkness.”
— Bryant Jordan can be reached at email@example.com.
There was a row of wheelchairs and walkers for these men as they gathered to dedicate the Chosin Few Battle Monument in the new Medal of Honor Theater in the National Museum of the Marine Corps. Yet, when the flag trooped in, they struggled out of their chairs and steadied themselves on their walkers in respect to the flag. Not one remained seated.
‘The Toughest Terrain’
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff spoke of that dedication in his remarks. Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford knows the story of the battle, as all Marines do. The 1st Marine Division, two battalions of the Army’s 31st Infantry Regiment and British Royal Marines from 41 (Independent) Commando were attacking north, chasing a defeated North Korean Army up to the Yalu River, when an estimated 120,000 Chinese Communist troops attacked and surrounded the force around the Chosin Reservoir.
It was a battle “fought over the toughest terrain and under the harshest weather conditions imaginable,” Dunford said, and Marines since that time have been living up to the example the Chosin Few set in 1950.
“It is no exaggeration to say that I am a United States Marine because of the Marines who served at Chosin,” Dunford said. “In all sincerity, any success I have had as a Marine has been as a result of attempting to follow in their very large footsteps.”
One set of footprints belonged to Joseph F. Dunford, Sr. who celebrated his 20th birthday while carrying a Browning Automatic Rifle with the Baker Bandits of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines in the ridges over the reservoir Nov. 27, 1950.
“He spent the night in close combat as three regiments of the Chinese 79th Division attempted to annihilate the 5th and 7th Marines,” the general said.
Growing up, Dunford’s father never discussed how he spent his 20th birthday. “He never spoke of the horrors of close combat or the frostbite that he and many Marines suffered on their march to the sea,” he said. “I was in the Marine Corps for seven years before we had a serious conversation about his experiences in the Korean War.”
The Legacy of Chosin
Still, even as a youngster, the general knew what pride his father felt in being a Marine and a member of the Chosin Few and vowed to join the force. “I am still trying to get over the bar that he set many, many years ago,” Dunford said.
So, his father was his reason for joining the Marine Corps, but it was another Chosin veteran that was responsible for him making the Corps a career.
Dunford served as the aide to Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Stephen Olmstead on Okinawa, Japan, in the early 1980s. Olmstead was a private first class rifleman at Chosin in G Company 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines. “I would say that to a young lieutenant, there was something very different about General Olmstead — his character, his sense of calm, a father’s concern for his Marines, a focus on assuring they were well-trained, well-led, and ready for combat. He knew what they might have to experience.”
Olmstead’s example was a powerful one for young Lieutenant Dunford, and he started to think about making the Marine Corps a career. “I wanted to serve long enough to be a leader with the competence, compassion, and influence of General Olmstead,” he said.
The Chosin Few have this effect on the Marine Corps as a whole, Dunford said. Their real legacy is an example of valor, self-sacrifice, and camaraderie that units hand down as part of their DNA, he said.
The battle was a costly one, with U.S. forces suffering more than 12,000 casualties — including more than 3,000 killed in action. The nation awarded 17 Medals of Honor, 64 Navy Crosses, and 14 Distinguished Service Crosses to Marines and soldiers for heroism in that battle. 41 Commando received the same Presidential Unit Citation as the Marines of the 1st Marine Division.
Young Marines all learn about the battle, from recruits in boot camp to those striving to be officers at Quantico.
In Afghanistan’s Farah province, Reza Ghul watched her son’s murder before her eyes, then reportedly picked up arms and helped wax 25 Taliban militants in response to the attack on the local police checkpoint.
Now, we write reportedly because at the moment, the story is sourced only to Khaama Press and Tolo News, which are both local newspapers in Afghanistan. No western sources have picked up on it yet, so a healthy dose of skepticism should apply here.
Still, this is definitely a “whoa if true” story. Seema, Gul’s daughter-in-law, told Tolo News: “We were committed to fight until the last bullet.”
She was supported by her daughter and daughter-in-law during the gun battle which lasted for almost 7 hours that left at least 25 Taliban militants dead and five others injured.
Sediq Sediq, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior (MoI) said the armed campaign by women against the Taliban militants is a symbol of a major revolution and public uprising against the group.
“It was around 5 a.m. when my son’s check post came under the attack of Taliban,” Reza Gul told Tolo News. “When the fighting intensified, I couldn’t stop myself and picked up a weapon, went to the check post and began shooting back.”
If other Afghans fight back against the Taliban with just half the apparent ferocity of this family, things may be alright.
HillVets has announced a new Congressional Fellowship program exclusively for veterans seeking to begin careers in Washington, called HillVets House. Phase I of the program will feature six Congressional Fellows to be hosted and placed in staff positions on Capitol Hill and is set to begin with the first cohort in July 2016.
HillVets is a bipartisan group of veterans, service members, and supporters focused on empowerment through networking, community involvement, and education. HillVets strives to increase veterans involvement in government and advocacy. This is the first time the effort is being made to get more veterans onto Capitol Hill.
The program is the result of a survey taken by the organization in 2014 in an effort to connect vets on Capitol Hill. The surveyors found that not many veterans were active in Congress. The veterans organization says if they were to rank agencies by number of veterans, the Federal legislative body would be dead last. They are making this effort to change that with the help of the Atlantic Council and the Bob Woodruff Foundation.
Capitol Hill experience is largely considered a key component and invaluable experience for a long-term career in government and politics. Currently, less than three percent of staff members working for the United States Congress are military veterans. As hundreds of veterans continue to come to the Washington, D.C. area, they are often frustrated by an inability to quickly build an adequate network and open the initial doors necessary for long-term success.
HillVets House is designed to help veterans overcome the many challenges they face beginning second careers by providing a comprehensive introduction to government, politics, and advocacy. HillVets says this program will provide the first premiere access point for veterans wishing to continue their service in unique roles across all government agencies and branches.
Veterans with honorable discharges, Bachelor’s degrees, or who will be in their final semester at the time of the fellowship, and are ready and able to take permanent employment will receive preference. HillVets will focus on recently-separated vets or those who just completed school.
The HillVets Fellowships will start twice a year, with the first class to start in July 2016 and the second in January 2017. Fellows will have a mandatory commitment to their host offices for a period of three months, the second three month period is to focus on finding a permanent, paid position on Capitol Hill, while continuing to work in the Congressional Host office. The placement will be sensitive to the individual’s political party affiliation.
In addition to full-time placement, Fellows will receive housing and/or a living stipend, educational and career development programs, and extensive networking opportunities.
Look for the program application on the HillVets House website by November 17, 2015. All applications are due by March 25, 2016 and should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
As North Korea draws ever closer to possessing a nuclear weapon that could hit the US mainland, President Donald Trump and his top military advisers must weigh whether or not they’d launch a preemptive strike on North Korea and risk potentially millions of lives in the process.
At a National Committee on US-China Relations event in New York City, Samuel J. Locklear, the former head of the US military’s Pacific Command made it clear: “Just because it’s tragic doesn’t mean he won’t do it.”
“If the national interests are high enough, and I think this is the mistake that [North Korean leader] Kim Jong Un needs really to think about, if you start pressing on an issue that has to do with the survival of the United States against a nuclear attack, the tragic becomes conceivable to stop it,” said Locklear. “It could be tragic.”
Adm. Timothy J. Keating, another former commander of Pacific Command, echoed Locklear’s statement.
“There are a wide range of options” that are “readily available to the president and the secretary of defense resident in the planning warrens at Pacific command,” Keating said at the event.
The discussion between two former top military commanders shows what a difficult situation the US is in with regard to North Korea. Pyongyang may wield up to 15 or so nuclear weapons, and they repeatedly threaten to use them against US forces, South Koreans, and Japanese.
Though the US has in place the world’s most advanced missile defenses, there are no guarantees when it comes to stopping ballistic missiles. Even a single nuclear warhead touching down near Seoul could kill millions of innocent South Koreans in an instant.
But the US has its own citizens to worry about. Experts contacted by Business Insider have spoken with near unanimity saying North Korea wants a thermonuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile to hold the US at risk.
What exactly the US military planners discuss behind closed doors rightly remains classified, but if they calculate that a relatively small tragedy today could avert a massive tragedy tomorrow, then the US may see war with North Korea at some point.
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 are the best military photos of the week:
U.S. Army Paratroopers assigned to 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade conduct an airborne operation from a U.S. Air Force 86th Air Wing C-130 Hercules aircraft at Juliet Drop Zone in Pordenone, Italy, June 8, 2017. The 173rd Airborne Brigade is the U.S. Army Contingency Response Force in Europe, capable of projective forces anywhere in the U.S. European, Africa or Central Command areas of responsibility within 18 hours.
Oregon Air National Guard Capt. Jamie Hastings, (Left), and Lt. Col. Nick Rutgers (right), assigned to the 123rd Fighter Squadron, 142nd Fighter Wing, prepare for an afternoon sortie in their F-15 Eagles at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., to support the Weapons Inspector Course, June 6, 2017.
A High Mobility Artillery Rocket System crew from A Battery, 1st Battalion, 94th Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Field Artillery Brigade fires a rocket off of the Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif. dirt landing strip, June 7, 2017. 62nd Airlift Wing flew a HIMARS from Joint base Lewis-McChord to Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif. to off load and fire a six round mission.
Maj. Gen. John Gronski, the deputy commanding general for the Army National Guard for U.S. Army Europe, participates in a ceremony honoring World War II veterans held at the Omaha Beach memorial in St. Laurent-Sur-Mer,, France, June 6, 2017. The ceremony commemorates the 73rd anniversary of D-Day, the largest multi-national amphibious landing and operational military airdrop in history, and highlights the U.S.’ steadfast commitment to European allies and partners. Overall, approximately 400 U.S. service members from units in Europe and the U.S. are participating in ceremonial D-Day events from May 31 to June 7, 2017.
U.S. Navy explosive ordnance disposal technicians assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 5, and a member of the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force, dive off the wreck of the Tokai Maru, a sunken WWII Japanese freighter in the Apra Harbor, off the coast of Guam June 9, 2017, as part of the Western Pacific Naval Symposium Diving Exercise (WPNS-DIVEX) 2017. WPNS-DIVEX 2017 is a biennial diving exercise conducted by WPNS nations to enhance cooperation, interoperability, and tactical proficiency in diving operations in support of disaster response.
PHILIPPINE SEA (June 6, 2017) Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) 1st Class Jesus Garcia stands safety observer as an F/A-18E Super Hornet, from the “Royal Maces” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 27 launches from the flight deck of the Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). Ronald Reagan, the flagship of Carrier Strike Group 5, provides a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interests of its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
VENTSPILS, Latvia – Marines with 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, transfer Marines with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division and 4th Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, Force Headquarters Group, Marine Forces Reserve, to the shores of Ventspils, Latvia, for a beach-assault training operation during Exercise Saber Strike 17, June 6, 2017. The beach landings took place concurrently between exercise Saber Strike and Baltic Operations. Exercise Saber Strike 17 is an annual combined-joint exercise conducted at various locations throughout the Baltic region and Poland. The combined training prepares NATO Allies and partners to effectively respond to regional crises and to meet their own security needs by strengthening their borders and countering threats.
ADAZI, Latvia – Marines with Alpha Company, 4th Tank Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, fire from a M1 Abrams tank during Exercise Saber Strike 17 in the Adazi Training Area, Latvia, June 4, 2017. Exercise Saber Strike 17 is an annual combined-joint exercise conducted at various locations throughout the Baltic region and Poland. The combined training exercise keeps Reserve Marines ready to respond in times of crisis by providing them with unique training opportunities outside of the continental United States.
Seaman Mia Mauro, stationed on the Coast Guard Cutter Winslow Griesser, prepares to shoot the .50 cal machine gun during a joint gunnery exercise between allied and partner nations in the Caribbean Sea, June 8, 2017 during Tradewinds. Tradewinds 2017 is a joint combined exercise conducted in conjunction with partner nations to enhance the collective abilities of defense forces and constabularies to counter transnational organized crime and to conduct humanitarian/disaster relief operations.
Petty Officer 1st Class Justin Cimbak, an aviation maintenance technician at Coast Guard Sector San Diego, hoists a simulated survivor from the Secretaría de Marina vessel Centenario de la Revolucion to an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter during a joint search and rescue exercise with the Mexican navy off the coast of Ensenada, Mexico on June 7, 2017. The exercise simulated a vessel fire that required a coordinated international search and rescue effort.
Operation Desert Storm kicked off 24 years ago on Jan. 17, 1991.
The Gulf War officially lasted from August 2, 1990 to February 28, 1991. It consisted of two phases; Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. Desert Shield was the codename used for the part leading to the buildup of troops and defense of Saudi Arabia and Desert Storm was the combat phase by the coalition forces against Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.
15,000 Western civilians – including 3,000 Americans – living in Kuwait were rounded up and taken to Baghdad as hostages. In this YouTube screen capture, 5-year-old Briton, Stuart Lockwood refuses Saddam Hussein’s invitation to sit on his knee … Awkward.
700,000 American troops were deployed to the war; that’s more than 2015’s entire population of Nashville, TN.
Desert Storm was the largest military alliance since World War II; 34 nations led by the United States waged war in response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.
American troops prepared for every scenario since Iraq was known for employing chemical weapons in the past.
Untested in combat, Desert Storm would be the first time the M1 Abrams tank saw action; 1,848 of them were deployed to the war.
The Iraqi Army used T-55, T-62, and T-72 tanks imported from the Soviet Union and Poland.
But they were no match for U.S. forces.
More than 1,000 military aircraft were deployed to the Gulf War.
One of the key players in Desert Storm was the stealthy F-117 Nighthawk.
Coalition forces flew over 100,000 sorties and dropped more than 88,500 tons of bombs.
You can’t hit what you can’t see. Iraq’s anti-aircraft guns were useless against the F-117.
Here’s the aftermath of a coalition attack along a road in the Euphrates River Valley…
General Charles Denis Bourbaki forged a long career fighting in the French Second Empire’s wars in North Africa, the Crimea, and Italy. He served as a lieutenant with the Zouaves from 1836 to 1838 and received a promotion to captain in June of 1842. He quickly rose to the rank of Colonel by 1851 and received advancement to general of division in 1857. He served with distinction at the Battles of Alma, Inkerman, and the assault of Sebastopol during the Crimean War. He fought in the Franco-Austrian War of 1859 and in July of 1870, was nominated as aide-de-camp to Emperor Napoleon, earning renown as one of his most resourceful generals.
With the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War, he took command of the First Army of the North. Like most of Napoleon III’s most senior generals, he too proved to be unprepared and unqualified for the war. The Prussian superiority in modern firearms and tactics proved to be too much for the French, who at one time seemed to possess the best army in the world. The Franco-Prussian War ended the myth of French military superiority.
Famed Marxist philosopher and war correspondent Friedrich Engels called the January 1871 Battle of the Lisaine “Bourbaki’s shipwreck.” The battle and subsequent flight of Bourbaki and his army left most of his surviving soldiers without winter clothing, ammunition, or provisions.
Five days after his First Army of the North met defeat at the hands of the Prussians, Bourbaki and 80,000 surviving troops reached the French city of Besançon on their way to the Swiss border in search of sanctuary. They were cold and dispirited.
The choices were grim: flight across the neutral Swiss border or surrender to the victorious Prussians. The condition of his shattered ranks, coupled with the censure for his indecisiveness and poor decision-making during the battle, proved to be unbearable for Bourbaki. In thirty-plus years of campaigning, the general had never experienced defeat on this scale.
“The whole behaviour of Bourbaki, from the 15th to the 26th, seems to prove that he had lost all confidence in his men and that consequently he also lost all confidence in himself,” Engels reported in The Pall Mall Gazette on February 18, 1871. No one ever questioned Bourbaki’s bravery, but his ability to command an army left much to be desired.
Bourbaki’s staff officers worried about his mood over the days leading up to January 26. They intentionally hid his sidearm from him because they were afraid that he would attempt to take his life. Bourbaki located a gunsmith in the city to purchase another weapon, but the gunsmith turned him away, warned of Bourbaki’s suicidal intentions.
But the stubborn general was resolute. He would not be joining his men on their journey to Switzerland.
He commandeered a pistol from one of his aides and retired to his quarters. It was exactly seven o’clock on the evening of January 26, 1871 when his aides heard the single crack of a gunshot echo from Bourbaki’s room.
Bourbaki likely used a weapon like this “Pistolet Cavaliere Modele 1822 TBIS” – the sidearm issued to French officers at the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War.
One of Bourbaki’s aides burst through the door of his room and discovered the general slumped over on his bed with his face and head covered with blood. He was miraculously still alive, still able to speak but unable to recall the names of his staff officers.
Two doctors rushed to perform immediate surgery. They discovered a 12mm ball lodged into his temporal muscle. No fracture of the skull was found and the general appeared to only suffer slight amnesia from the concussion of the bullet’s impact.
Bourbaki attributed his attempted suicide to the fact that he was denied a glorious death in battle. But by June, the war was over and he resumed his duties in the French Army.
He lived another 26 years and died in Cambo-Les-Bains on September 22, 1897, well-established among the public as the French general whose failed suicide became his legacy.
“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:
Today, a U.S. service member died fr/ wounds sustained in an improvised explosive device blast in northern Iraq. Further info when available
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.
One by one, the veterans made their inaugural trip up the steep mountainside armed with harnesses and ropes. For most of them, rock climbing was a brand new experience, yet they were scrambling up and repelling down the cliff face at Hartman Rocks in Gunnison, Colorado, with barely a semblance of a beginner’s nerves. Amid shouts of encouragement and good-humored banter, the Airmen were bonding. While they’d been strangers just the day before, they’d already become a team.
Traveling from different areas of the U.S., the eight Air Force wounded warriors, sponsored by Team Racing for Veterans’ (R4V), arrived at an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colorado, to participate in three unfamiliar sports: rock climbing, fly fishing and mountain biking. The biannual camps give wounded veterans a chance to prove to themselves they can adapt to and overcome any current limitations, from amputations to post-traumatic stress.
For those attending the camp, it was a chance to network with other wounded warriors who wanted to get out of their comfort zones, take on new challenges, and pursue a sense of normalcy.
In addition to sharing their common goals and adaptive sports experiences at the camp, the wounded warriors had a chance to get to know each other in a relaxed setting during their down time. Instead of staying in a hotel where they would be scattered throughout the building, the Airmen stayed in a large ranch-style home that was donated for the camp’s use. During some of their meals and at the close of each day, the wounded warriors could gather in a common area and talk.
Military veterans share their individual stories during dinner at an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colo. Each night of the camp ended with reflection and therapeutic conversations. | Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.
While engaging in one such casual conversation in the living room with four other veterans, Staff Sgt. Gideon Connelly, a 175th Wing chaplain assistant with the Maryland National Guard, found himself smiling and feeling at ease. The openness he displayed was something new, because Connelly had grown up building walls around himself that no one could get through.
As a child, his experiences in the foster care system left him unwilling to depend on others. Though he was eventually taken in by his aunt and uncle, Connelly still found himself disappointed after witnessing his relatives getting robbed by other children they had adopted.
“Watching those kids grow up, how cruel and jagged they could be, it just pushed my trust in people away a lot more,” Connelly said.
“Before these guys,” he indicated the other wounded warriors, “you had no shot for me to trust you.”
Unexpectedly, the injuries that brought Connelly into the wounded warrior family were causing him to change for the better, he said.
On July 5, 2011, Staff Sgt. Gideon Connelly’s life took an abrupt turn after a motorcycle accident on the streets of Baltimore. As a result of the crash, Connelly lost his left leg below the knee, his right knee required a partial replacement, and his right arm had to be artificially restructured.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Richard W. Rose Jr. (Ret.) and Staff Sgt. Gideon Connelly celebrate after climbing a 50-foot mountain. | Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.
“The first couple years were hard,” he said. “It was like gut-wrenching pain in my arm when I was lifting weights, curling, or anything like that, just because there wasn’t much muscle around the metal.”
Eventually he was able to build his strength back up, but by the time the doctors could take out the hardware in his arm, bone had grown over it and become fused to the metal. Because of this, Connelly opted not to have it removed.
“I’ve adapted to it,” he said. “I’ve adapted with my leg, my knee, and the arm was another thing. I just had to get over it. Cold affects it, but you move your wrist around a little bit and keep going. I’m all about adapting and overcoming everything. I’m not going to let anything stop me from doing what I want to do.”
Three years after his injury, Connelly became involved in the world of adaptive sports and attended an AFW2 camp. Striving for more, he was also selected to represent the Air Force during the 2014 Warrior Games in shot put, discus, and the 100- and 200-meter sprints. It was at this competition that he met a group of wounded warriors and began to finally let down his guard.
Two years later, his wounded warrior family remains important to him – it is a group of people he keeps in touch with nearly every single day.
Although Connelly is busy training in pursuit of his dream of running track at the Paralympic Games, he leapt at the opportunity to try new sports at a Team R4V mountain adventure.
“Mountain biking: that was the sport that brought everybody together today,” Connelly said. He found it inspiring to watch the guys zooming down the mountain tracks on hand cycles.
“The trails are probably 20 inches wide – the same as their wheel base – and they are just flying,” he added. “Watching them struggle, but still make it up and down the hills, it was awesome! It was definitely team building and it brought us that much closer together.”
Ricky Rose Jr. knew that the sports therapy aspect of Team R4V’s camps would help him physically, but he hesitated to participate.
After being medically discharged from the Air Force as a staff sergeant, Rose thought about attending a wounded warrior camp. It was an idea that had run though his mind many times before but what always stopped him were questions: Did he deserve to go? Would he even fit into the group?
When Team R4V invited him to their fall camp, Rose decided to set those doubts aside and give it a go.
At first he was nervous, but after realizing many people in the house shared the same medical conditions he did, Rose began to feel more comfortable. He found there was relief in being surrounded by people who’d gone through tough situations — from battling cancer to being shot in Afghanistan – because they could all relate to one another.
“While each individual’s circumstances are different in the grand scheme, we’re all fighting the same demons,” Rose said. “That’s been the most beneficial part of this camp; you feel comfortable talking to somebody that you know has been there and done that.”
At the camp, much of the conversation and bonding begins over food.
With a focus on overall wellness, Team R4V cooks healthy meals for the wounded warriors each day, and encourages them to eat breakfast and dinner together. At the kitchen table, sharing a meal and talking about the day’s events, the Airmen got to know each other better. As they talked, Rose felt a sense of camaraderie return, one that he’d missed since the last day he’d hung up his Air Force uniform.
“I wasn’t expecting us to come together as a family as quickly as we did,” he said. “We all realized pretty quickly that we’re all Airmen and we’re all in this together.”
Surrounded by people who could empathize with his journey, Rose spoke about his experiences in the Air Force and the daily challenges he continues to face as a wounded warrior.
During his time in service, Rose deployed three times, once to Kuwait and twice to Iraq. Employed as a combat photographer, his objective was to document the war through the experiences of the troops with whom he was embedded – the good times, the bad times, and everything in between.
“They didn’t send us on missions where we would just sit on base all day,” he said. “They’d send us on missions where crap was going to hit the fan, or there was a really good chance of it. More times than not, we were attacked … we got blown up what seemed like almost every mission. It felt like almost every day could have been the day you died because we lost a lot of people too. War is just nasty, and I got to help show that as honestly as I could to people.”
While deployed, Rose captured thousands of images, braving firefights and mortar attacks to accomplish his job. In 2007, Rose was named one of the Air Force’s 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year, in part for his dedication in the combat zone – a place seared into his memory by the very tool he used to perform his mission.
“The hardest thing, and I didn’t know this until after a lot of therapy and a lot of different doctors, but I didn’t realize, as a photographer, how many of those images I took were just going to stay in my brain,” Rose said. “I just kind of thought I’d take a picture and then they’d go away, but they don’t.”
Even at home, he was unable to turn his mind away from the combat zone. Feeling unstable, Rose asked for help. He went to see a doctor and was ultimately diagnosed with a TBI and PTSD.
PTSD is an anxiety disorder that presents a variety of negative effects, such as flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive thoughts and memories. Military members with PTSD can become hyper-vigilant, angry and depressed. Sights and sounds, such as large crowds, random crazy noises, and sudden flashes of light – can mentally bring them back to the combat zone and trigger an unconscious response.
“PTSD is horrible,” Rose said. “Imagine never being able to feel comfortable or like everything is alright. Every day is a challenge because I don’t know how my body and mind will react to whatever happens that day. Will I see, touch, or smell something that will give me an instant flashback and turn me into a different person? Will my conversations lead to nightmares? Do I feel like killing myself today? That’s what it’s like.”
The temporary home in Colorado is quiet and isolated from outside stimuli. The intensity and focus needed to learn new sports is designed to wear the Airmen out and give them the ability to be calm.
“I haven’t really had a bad thought since I’ve been here, other than being exhausted and tired (from the day’s activity),” he laughed, adding, “I haven’t really had a trigger or nightmare or anything since I’ve been here. It’s been peaceful, very peaceful.”
The physical, mental and emotional benefits of regular exercise have been proven time and time again, which is why Team R4V staff said they provide support to veterans through a wide variety of physical activities. Rehabilitation though adaptive sports has been an idea at the forefront of the organization since its conception.
Inspired by a friend who coached the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program’s team for the Warrior Games, a Defense Department competitive adaptive sports event for injured, ill and wounded service members, Bethany Pribila, Team R4V’s founder and CEO, decided to start a non-profit organization that would enable veterans from every branch of the military to benefit through participation in sports.
Team R4V provides wounded warrior athletes with funding for races and events, but it is their own sports camps, which they host in partnership with the Crested Butte Adaptive Sports Center, that holds a special place in the heart of the organization.
At the camp’s end, Pribila reflected that everything had gone as envisioned. She had witnessed the wounded warriors supporting one another, cheering each other on, and forming lasting bonds. Though the Airmen had arrived as strangers, when they left, it was as friends and as family.
Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate is consolidating territory in a major clash with a rival rebel group and could make the terror group a more formidable threat in the longer term than the Islamic State, US-based intelligence advisory firm The Soufan Group warns.
The warning comes amid a major clash between al-Qaeda affiliate, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, and another Islamist rebel group in the province that the Syrian regime and its allies do not largely control. The US, by and large, is focused on defeating ISIS in other areas of Syria and has largely given over a leadership role for post-ISIS Syria to Russia, Iran, and the Syrian regime.
“The prospect of a sustained de facto governing presence by al-Qaeda in Idlib is a grave national security concern,” The Soufan Group noted. “The prospect may lead to US airstrikes, though the air space over Idlib is far more complicated and crowded than over Raqqa. Idlib is just to the east of Latakia, an Assad regime stronghold with a sizable Russian military presence,” the group added.
US-backed, anti-ISIS fighters have retaken approximately 40 percent of ISIS’s capital of Raqqa, but continue to have a long and grueling fight ahead of them. The fight consumes the majority of US resources in Syria.
HTS and the Islamist rebel group have now struck a tenuous truce giving HTS control of the city of Idlib. The terrorist group has changed its name several times and falsely declared to cut ties with the global al-Qaeda network in order to court less extreme opposition groups on the ground in Syria.
Experts fear the terrorist group will deepen its roots in Syria and may able to launch external terror plots against the West using its new sanctuary.
“The battle against the Islamic State in Raqqa is not to be the most consequential ongoing fight in Syria,” The Soufan Group lamented.
North Korea’s military escapades were back in the headlines in December, after state media in the secretive country reported news of two large-scale military drills involving rocket launchers and fighter jets.
In either case, the country’s missile development and huge artillery stocks pose a significant danger to South Korea and the rest of the world.
It is one of the world’s most secretive countries, so the information largely comes from other sources, but the state’s propaganda efforts mean there are plenty of pictures of the country’s colossal military capacity. Take a look.
*Mike Bird contributed reporting to an earlier version of this article.
At age 18, Cpl. Andrew Richardson was serving in the Marine Corps in Iraq. His squad maintained a perimeter around a medical sanctuary where local civilians could get treatment. Doing so gave Richardson an overwhelming sense of satisfaction and value.
Returning to civilian life, Richardson struggled to find that same sense of value. For five years he floated from job to job, doing construction and working as a roadie and security guard, among other gigs.
Today, he enjoys a fulfilling career in the tech industry, working at Microsoft, and has discovered a passion for programming — all thanks to a chance encounter while tending bar and an intensive 18-week technical training and career-development program.