After months of impassioned pleas from troops on the ground, hand-wringing from Air Force leadership, and a blur of questions from Congress about the Air Force’s plans for the future, lawmakers have decided enough is enough: the A-10 Thunderbolt II will stay in the USAF arsenal.
On Monday, The House Armed Services Committee released its $612 billion Fiscal 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, which contains a provision called “Prohibition on Availability of Funds for Retirement of A-10 Aircraft,” which obliges the Secretary of the Air Force to:
“commission an appropriate entity outside the Department of Defense to conduct an assessment of the required capabilities or mission platform to replace the A-10 aircraft.”
This means the Air Force’s can no longer ignore Congressional concerns about the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and how it can fill the A-10’s close-air support (CAS) role. The provision in the new defense budget means the Air Force will have to actually hire an independent researcher from outside of DoD and acquire hard data on how to replace the A-10, instead of just asserting everything is fine and forcing Airmen to say nice things about the $1.5 trillion F-35.
In the meantime, the Air Force must maintain a mission-capable 171 A-10s and Congress provides $467 million for it in the 2016 bill.
The John Q. Public blog, run by retired Air Force officer Tony Carr, went through the ten paragraphs of the Congressional directive in detail, where Congress list the ways the A-10 bests the F-35 (without mentioning the F-35), directing the Air Force to study and answer for things like the “ability to remain within visual range of friendly forces and targets to facilitate responsiveness to ground forces and minimize re-attack times … the ability to operate beneath low cloud ceilings, at low speeds, and within the range of typical air defenses found in enemy maneuver units … the ability to deliver multiple lethal firing passes and sustain long loiter endurance to support friendly forces throughout extended ground engagements.”
Not only does the provision make the Air Force answerable for attempting to shelve its only CAS solution, it also takes back a compromise between the service and Congress made last year, which allows the Air Force to mothball 36 A-10s and move their maintenance and funding to other areas.
The House of Representatives issued a fact sheet specifically slamming the Air Force for trying to kill the A-10 with an adequate replacement.
“Rigorous oversight, endorsements from Soldiers and Marines about the protection only the A-10 can provide, and repeated deployments in support of OIR have persuaded many Members from both parties that the budget-driven decision to retire the A-10 is misguided…” it reads. “The NDAA restores funding for the A-10 and prohibits its retirement. Unlike past efforts to restore the platform, the NDAA identifies specific funding to restore personnel, and preserve, the A-10 fleet.”
While this sounds like good news for A-10 supporters, the fight isn’t over yet. According to DoD Buzz, Defense Secretary Ash Carter has said he is recommending President Obama veto the bill, which is being voted on by the House on Thursday.
Last year Wing Nut Wick published a compilation of the best Naval aviation footage captured from the cockpits of Navy jets called Hornet Ball 2014. This year a similar video compilation surfaced from Navy West Coast squadrons published by Joe Stephens.
In similar fashion, some of the most incredible Hornet footage was captured in HD and paired with some of the sickest EDM beats (Electronic Dance Music). The latest version features precision video editing and could stand on its own as a music video. Too bad MTV no longer plays that sort of stuff; it would surely give any artist in the top 20 list a run for their money.
It opens with a breathtaking flyover of the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) that perfectly displays the might of a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier. There’s nothing like a floating fortress of freedom that projects power over any horizon.
It follows the Aviation Ordnancemen (AOs) — the sailors in red jerseys — loading the Hornets with bombs.
The plane captain — sailors in brown jerseys — gives the pilot a greeting salute before the officer proceeds to his final plane check before climbing into the cockpit. It is the plane captain’s responsibility to have the jet ready to fly. These men and women are usually some of the youngest in a squadron.
After all of the preflight inspections, the Hornet is handed off to the ship’s aircraft handlers in yellow jerseys for launch positioning.
Final flight systems check.
Full afterburners and FIRE!
The footage is awesome! Here’s a screen grab from the cockpit.
Refueling in mid air.
Refueling up close.
Super slo-mo firing.
You’ll never see a sunset quite like this.
Approaching the flight deck.
A breakaway into the sunset.
A missile launch from a destroyer.
A daring landing in thick fog.
An incredible flyby viewed from the air.
A view of Mount Fuji.
From the flight deck to the insane aerial acrobatics from our finest men and women, this video truly captures the Navy fighter experience. The video is 13 minutes long but it’s worth watching.
Two Kurdish peshmerga troops were killed in the attack, and two French special operators were also seriously wounded. One is still in critical condition. Both were whisked away back to France immediately.
Due to the rapid proliferation of drone technology and the fact that component prices have dropped significantly over the past few years, militant groups are quickly adopting drones as a new weapon.
And yet, the use of drones with explosives, much less against Western forces, is uncommon. In many cases, ISIS simply uses drones for surveillance footage to use in propaganda films.
U.S. forces in Iraq now carry the equipment to bring down these kinds of drones, such as a Battelle DroneDefender, which actually doesn’t even use bullets. Rather, the technology works by disrupting the communication line between the drone and its operator.
It’s unclear if France possesses the same counter-drone technology in the field.
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A mere mention of the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial in D.C. is enough to evoke emotional thoughts of the living remembering their fallen. On a daily basis, veterans, family members, friends and strangers alike are visibly impacted by the seemingly endless stretch of black granite that bears the names of 58,307 men and women who lost their priceless lives – or remain missing – due to that war. Some reach out their hand to touch the wall, some reverently read names, and thousands each year will leave behind an item in tribute (NPS approximates that 400,000 items have been kept in the collection since 1982). Eight summers ago, one visitor walked away with an experience that compelled her to help others literally see the veterans whose names were represented on that wall.
During a vacation with her husband to Washington, D.C. in 2008, Janna Hoehn of Kihei, Maui was one of the 4 million a year who visit “The Wall”. This was an important visit for her. She purposed to write down one name and learn more about that individual.
“Vietnam was my entire high school years, I recall the way the returning Veterans were treated. It always has stayed with me.” said Hoehn, “I have always had a huge place in my heart for Vietnam Veterans. Standing in front of the Vietnam Wall profoundly changed my life … I never dreamed how it would affect me.”
As she read through the etched names of soldiers, she noticed some had a diamond carved between the names, but a few had a cross. The explanation of those symbols would aid her in choosing a soldier’s name:
“I asked a man standing next to me why most the names had a diamond carved between the names, but a few had a cross, he explained to me the cross was an MIA. If the remains were ever returned to America then the cross could be easily made into a diamond. That is why I chose the name I did, I wanted an MIA after he explained it to me.”
She chose the name of Major Gregory John Crossman from Michigan. She found out that he was a 26-year-old pilot whose plane went down. April 25, 2016 marked 48 years that he has been missing in action.
She wanted to put a face to this name and story. “Putting a face with a name changes the whole dynamic of the Vietnam Wall. It makes that person real. [It is] someone’s loved one, a son, husband, father, grandfather, uncle, cousin, nephew, best friend…” she said.
Later, she heard about Faces Never Forgotten, an effort by the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Wall Foundation to “put a face and a story to each name on The Wall”. Hoehn sent over Gregory’s photo, and about a week later, was contacted by Jan Scruggs, the program’s founder and president. He called to thank her for the photo, and enlisted her to help find photos of Maui’s fallen. “I was honored to do so.”, Hoehn said. In 6 months she found all 42 photos for the Maui fallen, then went on to help complete the entire state of Hawaii.
Her mission was far from over. She is committed to the difficult task of tracking down these photo of the fallen state by state. At the time of writing, she has to find photos of fallen Vietnam veterans in seven states. Those being: California (many), Texas (many), Washington (16), Colorado (15), Alaska (4), Utah (3), and Nevada (1).
The photos are displayed online on the “Wall of Faces”. The VVMF hopes to break ground by 2018 on a physical museum site. They will further recognize the fallen heroes by enlarging their photos on a floor to ceiling display on their birthdays.
Learn more about The Wall of Faces here. To provide missing information from the Wall of Faces (photos, biographical information), you can email Janna directly.
Isolated and sealed off from the rest of the world, North Korea doesn’t exactly shine as a beacon of hope and light. But for a half dozen American soldiers serving after the Korean War ended, it apparently seemed that way.
The war came to a halt with an armistice in 1953, though the North has often threatened to back out, while it’s not blustering about destroying its neighbor or lobbing artillery shells over the de-militarized zone. Since that time, both sides have occasionally come close to war once again. But with U.S. soldiers still stationed in and supporting the South, that probably wouldn’t work too well for the Hermit Kingdom.
So what happens when an American soldier decides to switch teams? In 1962 we got an answer, along with five others who defected to North Korea (There are many others who defected during the war listed here).
1. Pvt. Larry Allen Abshier
On May 28, 1962, Pvt. Abshier walked off his post and meandered through the minefields of the Korean DMZ and fled to North Korea, becoming the first post-war defector. According to a defector who came across later, Abshier was a bit of a troublemaker and was caught smoking marijuana on a number of occasions. So rather than face Army discipline, he chose the most repressive regime on earth, according to NK News.
Once he got there, he was used for his obvious propaganda value. The North broadcasted on June 13 that Abshier could no longer stand his “humiliating life” in the American military, and then later, as other defectors showed up, he became a big-time star of propaganda films, usually playing as Evil American #1. Seriously, he even has his own IMDB page.
Abshier did end up getting married — twice. His first wife was taken away from him when his captors found out she was pregnant. His second wife was a Thai woman who was kidnapped by Pyongyang agents. But despite plenty of hype about American defectors being treated to lavish rewards, Abshier was forced to read propaganda about Kim Il Sung for 11 hours a day and lived in a crappy house. He died of a heart attack on July 11, 1983.
2. Pfc. James Joseph Dresnok
Just like Abshier, Pfc. James Dresnok wasn’t the recruiting poster soldier (yes, we know you’re shocked). After serving two years in West Germany, he found himself on the South Korean DMZ, facing a court-martial. According to “60 Minutes,” his wife had left him and he had left his base without permission, and the Man was about to drop the hammer.
So he just walked through a minefield instead, joining Abshier (although they didn’t know each other). Like him, Dresnok was later plastered on magazines, books, and made appearances in movies. After four years of that, he (and others) finally figured out their new life sucked, and sought asylum in the Soviet embassy. And the Soviets told them to pound sand.
Luckily, the North Koreans didn’t shoot him, and he decided to just conform. “Oh, I gotta think like this, I gotta act like this. I’ve studied their revolutionary history, their lofty virtues about the Great Leader. Little by little, I came to understand the Korean people,” Dresnok told “60 Minutes.”
He’s still there, alive and kicking. Dresnok, who goes by Joe, taught English for some time and now lives in a small apartment in Pyongyang, living off his government check. He’s been married twice, and even has three kids. His oldest son James considers himself Korean, and wants to be a diplomat, according to CBS.
3. Cpl. Jerry Wayne Parrish
In Dec. 1963, Cpl. Jerry Parrish walked across the DMZ, according to NK News. The why for Parrish wasn’t as clear cut as the others, though Charles Jenkins (who defected next) wrote in his book that he cited personal reasons, but “didn’t elaborate about them much except to say that if he ever went home, his father-in-law would kill him.”
There’s much less known about Parrish’s time in North Korea until Jenkins showed up in 1965. At that point, the North now had four American mouths to feed, and it stuck them into a crappy house and pitted them against each other so they would become indoctrinated.
“At first the four of us lived in one house, one room, very small, no beds — we had to sleep on the floor,” Jenkins told Far Eastern Economic Review. “There was no running water. We had to carry water approximately 200 metres up the hill. And the water was river water.”
He added: “If I didn’t listen to the North Korean government, they would tie me up, call Dresnok in to beat me. Dresnok really enjoyed it.”
Like the others, he was used mostly for propaganda. He starred as “Lewis” in the 1978 cult classic (only in North Korean minds) film “Unsung Heroes.” He married a Lebanese woman — who swears she wasn’t kidnapped or anything — and had three sons, all of whom remain in North Korea. Parrish died of “massive internal infection” in 1997, according to the Far Eastern Economic Review.
4. Sgt. Charles Robert Jenkins
Jenkins is perhaps the most well-known of the American defectors, since he’s still around, unrepentant, and still giving interviews. But his story of defection was basically your Army buddy’s version of “I got drunk and went to get a tattoo and I don’t know what happened.” According to The Atlantic, on Jan. 4, 1965 Jenkins pounded 10 beers then decided to desert his infantry squad while leading them on patrol, in an effort to avoid going to Vietnam. Well, mission accomplished, bro.
It wasn’t long before the beer wore off. “I made a lot of mistakes in my life, maybe, but that was the worst mistake anybody ever make,” he told CBS News. “That’s for sure.”
Once he got there, he was put into a small home with the others and slept on the floor, forced to memorize propaganda all day. This was a far cry from his real plan, hoping the North Koreans would send him to Russia and the Russians would swap him back to the U.S. (on what planet does this make sense?).
Among one of the worst things to happen to Jenkins involved his choice of ink: On his forearm he had the letters “U.S.” underneath infantry crossed rifles. The North Koreans held him down and cut off those letters, according to Far Eastern Economic Review.
He lived in North Korea for nearly 40 years, teaching English, translating, and of course, starring in propaganda. He married a Japanese woman who had been kidnapped and had two daughters. In 2002, she was freed in a rare act of diplomacy on Kim Jong Il’s part, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe offered Jenkins the same courtesy. He took it in 2004.
Though the Army did throw him in the stockade for a whopping total of 24 days and gave him a dishonorable discharge, a hilarious twist from his time of desertion before he was tried qualified him for all the service medals during the period. So he actually showed up to his court-martial wearing a Global War on Terrorism Service Medal. Thanks for your service, Chuck.
Jenkins now lives with his wife in Japan, where he works at a historical museum, The Atlantic reported.
5. Pfc. Roy Chung
There’s some controversy over what actually happened to Chung. Born in South Korea as Chung Ryeu, he moved to the U.S. with his parents in 1973 and joined the Army for the college money, later serving in West Germany. But here’s where it gets weird: He was nowhere near Korea when he disappeared.
In June 1979, he vanished from his unit in Germany, and three months later, North Korean state radio announced he had defected. The Pentagon and State Department maintain that’s probably true. But his parents are convinced he was kidnapped, The Washington Post reported.
None of the others reported ever coming into contact with him, and there’s not much else known about his time in North Korea. He may still be alive, but is rumored to have died of natural causes.
6. Pvt. Joseph T. White
The last person to join the defection dream team came on Aug. 28, 1982, when Pvt. Joseph White shot a lock off a gate at the Korean DMZ and started walking through the minefields. Carrying his M-16 rifle and ammo, he walked north and called out “I am coming” to his soon-to-be new best friends, according to Asia Times.
”My son did not cross that line,” Kathleen White, his mother, told The New York Times. ”He loved this country and he loved that uniform and everything about it. Joey was nothing but gung-ho Army and gung-ho Reagan.”
But back at his barracks, investigators found plenty of pro-North leaflets and other propaganda. And his fellow soldiers were dumbfounded. The last time they saw him, his arms were being held behind his back and North Korean soldiers were pushing him into a bunker, The New York Times reported.
What happened next is up for debate. In his autobiography, Jenkins said his government minders told him White had suffered an epileptic seizure and was paralyzed, but he never heard anything more. But in 1986, White’s parents received a letter from a North Korean friend “who had been on good terms” with the soldier, explaining that he drowned in a river while enjoying a “leisure time” outing, the AP reported.
Since the propaganda bulls–t coming from North Korea is so thick, what really happened is impossible to verify.
According to legend, Colorado’s Cheyenne Mountain is a sleeping dragon that many years ago saved the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. In the Native American story, the Great Spirit punished the people by sending a massive flood, but after they repented, it sent a dragon to drink the water away. The dragon, engorged by the massive amount of water, fell asleep, was petrified and then became the mountain.
Unlike the dragon of legend, the Cheyenne Mountain Complex has never slept during 50 years of operations. Since being declared fully operational in April 1966, the installation has played a vital role in the Department of Defense during both peacetime and wartime.
Though the complex may have changed names during the past five decades, its mission has never strayed from defending the U.S. and its allies. Today, it is known as Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, with a primary role of collecting information from satellites and ground-based sensors throughout the world and disseminating the data to North American Aerospace Defense Command, U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Strategic Command — a process Steven Rose, Cheyenne Mountain AFS deputy director, compares to the work done by the stem of the human brain.
“Those sensors are your nerves out there sensing that information,” Rose said, “but the nerves all come back to one spot in the human body, together in the brain stem, entangled in a coherent piece. We are the brain stem that’s pulling it all together, correlating it, making sense of it, and passing it up to the brain — whether it’s the commander at NORAD, NORTHCOM or STRATCOM — for someone to make a decision on what that means. That is the most critical part of the nervous system and the most vulnerable. Cheyenne Mountain provides that shield around that single place where all of that correlation and data comes into.”
In the 1950s, the DOD decided to build the installation as a command and control center defense against long-range Soviet bombers. As the “brain stem,” it would be one of the first installations on the enemy’s target list, so it was built to withstand a direct nuclear attack.
Cheyenne Mountain’s 15 buildings rest on more than 1,300 springs, 18 inches from the mountain’s rock walls, so they could move independently in the event of a nuclear blast and the inherent seismic event. In addition, an EMP, being a natural component of a nuclear blast, was already considered in Cheyenne Mountain’s original design and construction features, Rose said.
“Back then, it was just part of the effect of a nuclear blast that we were designed for at Cheyenne Mountain,” he added. “If you fast forward 50 years from our construction, the EMP threat has become more important to today’s society because of the investment that has been made into electronics. Just by sheer coincidence, since we were designed in the 50s and 60s for a nuclear blast and its EMP component, we are sitting here today as the number one rated EMP protected facility. The uniqueness of the mountain is that the entire installation is surrounded by granite, which is a natural EMP shield.”
The station, built 7,000 feet above sea level, opened as the NORAD Combat Operations Center. When NORAD and the newly stood up NORTHCOM moved their main command center to Peterson Air Force Base in 2008, many believed Cheyenne Mountain had closed. Today, Cheyenne Mountain hosts an alternate command center for NORAD and is landlord to more than a dozen DOD agencies, such as the Defense Intelligence Agency.
“When I bring official visitors up here, not only are they surprised that we’re still open,” said Colonel Gary Cornn, Cheyenne Mountain AFS Installation Commander. “Many are impressed by the original construction, the blasting of the tunnels, how the buildings are constructed inside, and some of the things we show them, such as the survivability and capability we have in the blast valves, the springs, the way we do our air in the Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) filtering and the huge blast doors. It’s funny to see senior officers and civilians become sort of amazed like little kids again.”
The threats and sources have drastically changed from when the station opened at the height of the Cold War, but the station’s iconic 25-ton steel doors remain the same, ready to seal the mountain in 40 seconds to protect it from any threat. The underground city beneath 2,000 feet of granite still provides the protection to keep the station relevant as it begins its next half-century as “America’s Fortress.”
Longtime Cheyenne Mountain employees like Rose and Russell Mullins, the 721st Communications Squadron deputy director, call themselves “mountain men.” Mullins’ time in the mountain goes back to the Cold War era, about halfway through its history to 1984.
Although the Soviet Union’s nuclear arsenal was the main focus, today’s Airmen conduct essentially the same mission: detect and track incoming threats to the United States; however, the points of origin for those threats have multiplied and are not as clearly defined.
“The tension in here wasn’t high from what might happen,” Mullins said. “The tension was high to be sure you could always detect (a missile launch). We didn’t dwell on the fact that the Soviet Union was the big enemy. We dwelled on the fact that we could detect anything they could throw at us.
“There was a little bit of stress back then, but that hasn’t changed. I would say the stress now is just as great as during the Cold War, but the stress today is the great unknown.”
The 9/11 attacks added another mission to NORAD and the Cheyenne Mountain Directorate – the monitoring of the U.S. and Canadian interior air space. They stand ready to assist the Federal Aviation Administration and Navigation Canada to respond to threats from the air within the continental U.S. and Canada.
Airplane icons blot out most of the national map on the NORAD/NORTHCOM Battle Cab Traffic Situation Display in the alternate command center. To the right another screen shows the Washington, D.C., area, called the Special Flight Restrictions Area, which was also added after 9/11.
Whenever a crisis would affect NORAD’s vulnerability or ability to operate, the commander would move his command center and advisors to the Battle Cab, said Lt. Col. Tim Schwamb, the Cheyenne Mountain AFS branch chief for NORAD/NORTHCOM.
“I would say that on any given day, the operations center would be a center of controlled chaos; where many different things may be happening at once,” Schwamb said. “We’re all trying to ensure that we’re taking care of whatever threat may be presenting itself in as short an amount of time as possible.
“I would describe it as the nerve center of our homeland defense operations. This is where the best minds in NORAD and U.S. Northern Command are, so that we can see, predict, and counter any threats that would happen to the homeland and North American region. It’s really a room full of systems that we monitor throughout the day, 24-hours a day, seven-days a week, that give us the information to help us accomplish the mission.”
Protecting America’s Fortress is a responsibility that falls to a group of firefighters and security forces members, but fighting fires and guarding such a valuable asset in a mountain presents challenges quite different from any other Air Force base, said Matthew Backeberg, a 721st Civil Engineer Squadron supervisor firefighter. Firefighters train on high-angle rescues because of the mountain’s unique environment, but even the most common fire can be especially challenging.
“Cheyenne Mountain is unique in that we have super challenges as far as ventilation, smoke and occupancy,” Backeberg said. “In a normal building, you pull the fire alarm, and the people are able to leave. Inside the mountain, if you pull the fire alarm, the people are depending on me to tell them a safer route to get out.
“If a fire happens inside (the mountain), we pretty much have to take care of it,” Backeberg added. “We’re dependent on our counterparts in the CE world to help us ventilate the facility, keep the fire going in the direction we want it to go, and allow the occupants of the building to get to a safe location – outside the half mile long tunnel.”
Although Cheyenne Mountain, the site of movies and television series such as “WarGames,” “Interstellar,” “Stargate SG-1” and “Terminator,” attracts occasional trespassers and protesters, security forces members more often chase away photographers, said Senior Airman Ricardo Pierre Collie, a 721st Security Forces Squadron member.
“The biggest part of security forces’ day is spent responding to alarms and getting accustomed to not seeing the sun on a 12-hour shift when working inside the mountain,” Collie said.
Security forces must also be ready to respond at a moment’s notice because, when charged with protecting an installation like Cheyenne Mountain AFS, the reaction time is even more crucial. Airmen like Collie feel their responsibly to protect America’s Fortress remains as vital today as it was during the Cold War.
“The important day at Cheyenne Mountain wasn’t the day we opened in 1966,” Rose said. “The next important date isn’t in April 2016 (the installation’s 50-year anniversary), it’s about all those days in between. The Airmen who come here to Cheyenne Mountain every day will be watching your skies and shores in (the nation’s) defense.”
As Cheyenne Mountain AFS enters its next 50 years, the dragon remains awake and alert to all threats against the U.S.
As a military spouse, you’ve put in months of waiting on your service member to come home from long trainings or deployment, all while holding down your home and taking care of your family. You’ve battled career challenges for yourself, planning disasters, cross-country moves and everything Murphy’s Law could throw at you.
But other than the long-sought break from the challenges of military life, what’s in military retirement for you? Although your service member is who put on the uniform every day, military retirement isn’t without perks for military spouses or ways that you can still benefit from the community.
And while all of the benefits available to you are by virtue of your spouse’s service, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take full advantage of them.
Military spouse retirement benefits
Health and dental care. After military retirement, you are eligible to continue using Tricare, the military’s health care system. If you are near a base, you may even still be able to be seen in the military treatment facility or hospital if that is your wish. You can also sign-up for a dental plan for military retirees.
Commissary and shopping privileges. Now that you’re not a part of the active-duty military anymore, you might find that your living expenses go up. But as the spouse of a military retiree, you still have access to the military commissary and exchange systems. Although just how much you save at those stores over civilian markets is an often-debated topic, everyone agrees there is some benefit to shopping at them.
Military lodging and recreation. As a military retiree, you still have access to the military lodging and recreation systems. Although there are some rules restricting who can stay in military lodges overseas, most allow military retirees. Maybe now is the time to take that girls’ or guys’ vacation you’ve been dreaming about for the last 10 years.
GI Bill and education benefits. If your service member transferred the Post-9/11 GI Bill to you while he or she was still on active duty, you can use it to go back to school. Through it, you will receive a monthly housing allowance, an annual books stipend and, depending on where you are going to school, all of your tuition costs and fees covered. The GI Bill must be transferred while the service member is on active duty for this to be available.
Survivor Benefit Plan. If your service member chooses to set up the Survivor Benefit Plan, an insurance policy, at the time of his retirement, you will have access to that money after he or she dies. That plan can be complicated and confusing, so go here for the full explanation.
Staff at the Bay Pines Veterans Healthcare System left a deceased veteran in a shower room for over nine hours, increasing the risk of decomposition.
That is among the findings of a 24-page report issued by investigators into the incident, news outlets say.
According to reports from the Tampa Bay Times and Fox13News.com, documentation concerning the post-mortem care was falsified to cover up the incident.
The report, heavily redacted by the Department of Veterans Affairs due to confidentiality rules, revealed massive failures in the incident.
Hospital spokesman Jason Dangel told the Tampa Bay Times “appropriate personnel action was taken” in addition to carrying out a combination of retraining staff and changing procedures. The report, while heavily redacted to protect the confidentiality of the staff who allegedy left the deceased veteran lying around for nine hours, did list the procedures that should have been followed.
In a lengthier statement released to Fox13news.com, an unidentified spokesperson with the VA hospital noted, “As reflected in the outcomes of our thorough internal reviews, it was found that some staff did not follow post mortem care procedures. We view this finding unacceptable, and have taken appropriate action to mitigate reoccurrence in the future.”
The staff will be retained, sign a written commitment to maintain VA core values and nurses will be on staff to make sure the procedures are followed, the official said.
“We feel that we have taken strong, appropriate and expeditious steps to strengthen and improve our existing systems and processes within the unit,” the official said.
In a stinging statement on the incident also delivered to Fox13news.com, Florida Republican Rep. Gus Bilirakis said, “I am deeply disturbed by the incident that occurred at the Bay Pines VA hospital, and even more distressed to learn that staff attempted to cover it up. The report details a total failure on the part of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and an urgent need for greater accountability.”
“Unsurprisingly, not a single VA employee has been fired following this incident, despite a clear lack of concern and respect for the Veteran,” Bilirakis added. “The men and women who sacrificed on behalf of our nation deserve better.”
For the first time, U.S. and Libyan officials have confirmed that U.S. Special Operations were on the ground fighting Islamic State militants in Libya.
Due to the fact that the mission was not yet made public, sources that spoke on condition of anonymity told The Washington Post that the roles of these operators were limited in scope to merely assisting Libyan forces by exchanging intelligence information to coordinate American airstrikes.
Stationed with British forces at a joint operations center near the coastal city of Sirte — ISIS’ stronghold in North Africa — these elite servicemembers were also reported to have constructed small outposts in the area to establish friendly relations with the locals.
This decision from the Pentagon comes on the heels of the commencement of airstrikes on ISIS’ position in Sirte. The Washington Postreports that since these airstrikes received approval last week, almost 30 militants have been killed in addition to the destruction of numerous ISIS-owned fighting positions and vehicles.
In a quote from the article, European Council on Foreign Relations expert Mattia Toaldo explained that the U.S.’s role in Sirte was different than elsewhere in Libya because the numerous political factions wouldn’t mind an intervention against ISIS’ spread.
“As long as they keep this low profile … the risks both for the US and for the Libyan government are quite low,” he stated.
Since their arrival in Libya in 2014, ISIS militants in Africa have imitated their Middle Eastern counterparts through their brutal over-the-top methods of garnering attention. To combat their spread, other NATO nations, such as France, have also been reported to have deployed special forces operators into the region earlier this year.
Western nations have started deploying special operators against ISIS in greater numbers recently. Newly published photographs show British special operators close to the ISIS front lines in Syria, and US special operators have been active working alongside the Kurds in northern Syria.
Specialist Bryan Anderson’s first question when he came out of a seven-day coma and saw his mother was, “What are you doing in Iraq?” But his mother wasn’t in Iraq. She was at his bedside at Walter Reed Medical Center.
A week before Anderson had been on his second combat tour, once again serving as an Army MP this time charged with training members of the Iraqi police. His unit had to travel the streets of Baghdad in up-armored Humvees to get to the various police stations around the city, and they were getting hit by IEDs on a daily basis.
“It wasn’t a matter of if we’d get hit, but when we’d get hit,” he said.
Anderson’s exposure was increased by the fact that the unit commander liked his squad. “He knew we knew what we were doing,” he said. “So our mission became to take him wherever he wanted to go to do whatever he wanted to do.”
And his CO wanted to see everything. “He was ‘Capt. America,’ as we called him,” Anderson said. “I get what he was trying to do – lead by example – but at the time we viewed it as he was putting our lives in danger because he was going out to the same Iraqi police stations every day.”
Although they tried to stay unpredictable with their routes and times, there were only so many police stations and so many ways to get to them. The odds caught up to Anderson on October 23, 2005 at 11 o’clock in the morning. He was driving the last of three Humvees in a slow-moving convoy when an IED triggered by a laser beam exploded next to him.
“I had both my hands on the bottom of the steering wheel and one leg curled under the other because we were only doing, like, five miles per hour, which is why we’re all still alive,” Anderson explains. “The IED was set for a vehicle traveling 30 miles an hour, so instead of going through the passenger compartment the explosion took off the front of the Humvee.”
But although the detonation didn’t happen as the insurgents had planned, the toll on Anderson’s body was substantial. “I saw smoke, fire, and sparks coming through my door,” he said. “And then it was pitch black because there was so much smoke.”
The soldier riding shotgun jumped out before the vehicle stopped with shrapnel in his wrist and hip. The gunner got what Anderson called the “Forrest Gump wound” – shrapnel to his butt – and he jumped out of the turret.
Anderson tried to get out of the Humvee but couldn’t, unaware of his wounds. The two others busted the bolts off the driver’s side door and pulled him out of the wreckage.
“All I could see was my friends running back and forth like they’d just seen a ghost, and I knew something was wrong,” Anderson said.
He tried to use his right hand to swipe the flies away from his face, and noticed that his index finger tip was missing. He turned his hand over and could see shattered bones and torn ligaments.
As he was looking at his right hand a fly landed in his left eye. He went to swipe it with his other hand, but “whiffed,” as he put it. His left hand was gone.
Then he looked down. His legs were gone. He couldn’t process what he was seeing. “There’s no way that just happened,” he thought to himself. “I’m dreaming.”
“Then I got this weird feeling, like, ‘Oh, man, my mom’s gonna kill me,” he said.
Then he looked up at the soldier who was attending to him and asked, “Do you think I’m ever going to get laid again?”
It took the medevac helicopter 12 minutes to get to the scene. Anderson was having trouble breathing because his right lung had collapsed with the concussion of the bomb. The shock was wearing off a bit, and he described the initial pain sensation as a “burning all over, like putting on too much Icy Hot.”
The helo landed in what Anderson described as “an impossible place.” Once they were airborne he passed out.
He awoke seven days later to see his mother standing over him, saying, “You had an accident.”
Anderson considered his injuries and thought to himself, “Really?” Fortunately his entire family was there along with his mother – his identical twin brother, his sister, his aunts and uncles. “That gave me enough strength to say screw it,” he said. “One day at a time, right?”
He spent 13 months at Walter Reed, six weeks in-patient and the rest living at the Malone House as he did physical therapy. For the first four months he had a good attitude, sort of what he called a “wait and see” outlook. But then he fell into deep depression. “I’d look at myself as a triple amputee and ask, ‘What am I possibly going to be able to do?'”
He had panic attacks and flew into uncontrollable rage. He didn’t sleep for two weeks. Then one day he was sitting by a reflecting pond near the Malone House talking to his twin brother who asked him if he was listening to music. Anderson replied that he wasn’t. His brother gave him a CD of a mutual friend’s band.
“I was listening to the chorus of this one song,” he recounts. “The words got to me: ‘Life’s been less than kind. We’ve all been hurt; we’ve all been sorry. Take a number, stand in line. How we survive is what makes us who we are.’ For some reason that just resonated with me, and at that moment I felt like I’d grabbed the first rung of the ladder to pull myself out of this hole.”
The second rung was an impromptu trip to Las Vegas. “I was able to just be a dude for the first time in a long time,” he said. “I had fun, and that forced me to think about what’s in front of me. It made me live in the moment.”
When he got back to Walter Reed he mediated at the reflecting pond again, and it struck him that he had two choices: He could roll over and die or he could go live his life.
“At that moment I made the decision to start figuring out what I could and couldn’t do,” he said. “And it turns out there’s not a lot I can’t do.”
Anderson started skateboarding and snowboarding again. And, after being profiled in Esquire magazine and receiving a couple of offers, he decided to head to LA to pursue an acting career, something he’d always wanted to do.
His first gig was as a stunt driver in “The Dark Knight.” On the set he befriended the movie’s star, Heath Ledger. “He was a skater,” Anderson said. One day he mentioned to the actor that it was intimidating to talk to him with his Joker makeup on. Ledger replied, “You realize I could say the same thing about you, right?”
Anderson’s next role was in “The Wrestler” in which he has a brief scene handing Mickey Rourke one of his prosthetic legs to use as a weapon against an opponent. After that he played a wounded Navy SEAL accused of murder on “CSI: New York.”
Following a couple of episodes of “All My Children,” a cameo in “The Wire,” and an episode of “Hawaii Five-O” he landed a part in “American Sniper.”
“I was standing next to Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper thinking, ‘This is crazy,'” Anderson said.
The first scene he was in had no script. “Bradley Cooper told us, ‘Clint likes to do things natural,’ and he told us to just say whatever we wanted. Nobody was talking, so I just wound up taking the lead and telling the story about how my right hand was saved the day I was hit because I reached for a cigarette.”
Anderson’s plan for a future in Hollywood is pretty simple: “More parts,” he said.
Whatever happens he’s going to leverage the main lessons his life since that tragic and fateful day in Iraq has taught him: “Nobody’s going to make you happy. You have to do that yourself,” he said. “And take advantage of all the opportunities that come your way.”
When Isoroku Yamamoto warned that Japan had no chance to win World War II, he famously cited America’s industrial might. One of the biggest areas where that strength came into play was with the automotive industry.
As this video by Fiat Chrysler shows, the automakers did step up big when World War II hit. One notable example not covered in the video is that most of the Avengers were not built by Grumman, they were built by General Motors (and thus, they were called TBMs, as opposed to the TBF for the Grumman-built versions). GM also built a lot of Wildcats as the FM and FM-2.
Chrysler, though, was very good at building tanks. First the M3 Lee (or Grant) was rolling off the assembly lines — in some cases before the factory was completely built! The Grant was eventually replaced by the M4 Sherman. They also built lots of trucks — including the half-ton and three-quarter-ton trucks that were ubiquitous in the military.
This video notes that Chrysler was responsible for about 25 percent of America’s tank production — more than all the tank production of Nazi Germany. What is also notable is that many designs that came to Chrysler were improved by its engineers.
Check out the five-minute video from FCA America that explains the U.S. automakers’ amazing role in supplying the troops in World War II.
The Marines’ top officer has sent a “White Letter” to all senior leaders in the service ordering them to support self-identified victims of Facebook harassment and illicit photo sharing, and to educate troops on what is expected of them in their conduct online. Sent out March 10, nearly a week after news broke that Marines had been sharing nude and compromising photos of female colleagues on a 30,000-member Facebook page called Marines United, the message also promises new guidance to Marines concerning the boundaries of appropriate online behavior.
The two-page letter, sent by Commandant Gen. Robert Neller to all commanding generals, unit commanding officers, and senior enlisted leaders across the Corps and obtained by Military.com, does not mince words.
“In the past week, our core values have come under attack,” Neller wrote. “… This inappropriate, disrespectful, and in some cases criminal behavior has a corrosive and negative effect on our Marines and on the Marine Corps.”
To prevent future social media fallout, Neller said Marines must be educated, not only on the service’s expectations for their online behavior, but also on the dangers and vulnerabilities inherent in online activity. The Marine Corps will soon publish an update to its 2010 guidance governing Marines’ social media activity to further this goal, Neller said.
The current guidance dictates the Marines should use their “best judgment at all times and avoid inappropriate behavior” when using social media, adding that defamatory, libelous, abusive, threatening or hateful posts may result in disciplinary action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. While the White Letter does not make clear how the guidance will be updated and to what extent, the new guidance will likely provide additional specifics on what behavior is out-of-bounds and how violations will be addressed.
“Leaders should remind our Marines they are not anonymous in the virtual world and remain accountable for their actions,” Neller wrote. “Where we find criminal behavior, we will take appropriate action.”
For Marine victims of photo sharing and other online harassment, who, Neller noted, are primarily female, he gives an order to Marine leaders: support them at every level. Commanders and senior enlisted leaders are tasked with communicating with the Marines under them and encouraging victims of online attacks to come forward. Witnesses to online misconduct should report it as well, the letter states.
“When Marines do report, they must have the full support of their leadership, from NCOs up to the commanding officers and commanding general,” Neller wrote. “They must have a viable means to report and have immediate resources available to support them.”
These resources, the letter states, includes chaplains, attorneys through the victim legal counsel program, uniformed victim advocates, equal opportunity advisers and Sexual Assault Prevention and Response resources and personnel.
“Technical assistance is also available to help remedy or mitigate the harm they have suffered,” Neller notes.
In ‘Weekend At Bernie’s,’ a corpse becomes the life of the party. But, in World War II, a corpse saved the lives of thousands of American and Allied soldiers.
On April 30, 1943, the British submarine HMS Seraph surfaced a mile from the southwest coast of Spain. A canister was brought on deck and the officers of the sub opened it. Inside was the body of an alcoholic, homeless man who had died from ingesting rat poison, now dressed in the clothes of a British Royal Marine major.
The sailors put a life jacket on the corpse, strapped a brief case to its belt, read Psalm 39 over it, and then pushed the body into the ocean.
This was the fruition of Operation Mincemeat, one of the most important actions to the success of Operation Husky, the Allied invasion of Sicily and the beginning of the end for Hitler’s Fortress Europe.
‘The underbelly of the Axis’
After the success of Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of German North Africa, was assured, Allied planners were fully focused on how to break into fortress Europe. It was widely agreed that the first attack should be into Italy, attempting to knock it out of the war, thus weakening the Axis Powers. The problem was, though Italy was described by Winston Churchill as, “the underbelly of the Axis,” it was heavily fortified.
Allied planners knew Sicily, the island off the “toe” of Italy’s “boot,” was the logical place to attack in order to take the fight to the Axis. Unfortunately, logical places to attack are generally well-defended. Since Hitler was known to be afraid of an attack through Greece and the Balkans, the Allies decided to play up the possibility of an invasion there while claiming they would bypass Sicily entirely.
Operation Barclay, a deception operation, was launched to sell this lie to the Third Reich. One of the key elements of Barclay was Operation Mincemeat, possibly history’s most daring Haversack Ruse.
The Haversack Ruse and the Trout Memo
The Haversack Ruse was invented in World War I when the British Army needed to deceive the Ottoman Military. Though there are conflicting accounts on who planned and who executed the ruse, someone rode a horse into contested territory, waited until they were shot at by the Ottomans, slumped over in their horse like they’d been hit and rode as quickly as possible back to British lines.
During the escape, the rider “accidentally” dropped a haversack with fake battle plans in it. The British faked a search for the documents. The Ottomans recovered them, assumed they were real, and redeployed their forces. This lead to the Ottoman defeat at the Battle of Beersheba.
Early in World War II, Naval Intelligence released a document called the “Trout Memo.” Though it was credited to the British Director of Naval Intelligence, it is thought to have actually been the work of his assistant, Sir Ian Fleming. Fleming would go on to write the Bond novels which were partially based on actual operations in the war.
The memo, released in 1939, listed 51 ways to deceive enemy intelligence. Number 28 was a plan for an updated Haversack Ruse. Intelligence operatives would fake an airplane crash in such a way that the body would wash up on the shore where the enemy would find it. Hidden on its person would be documents that the enemy would find credible. This idea would form the core of Operation Mincemeat.
Planning Operation Mincemeat
Planning for Operation Mincemeat was conducted by British Navy Lt. Cmdr. Ewen Montagu and Flight Lieutenant Charles Cholmondeley.
They knew that Spain, though neutral, regularly allowed Nazi military officials access to Allied documents that fell into their hands.
Ocean currents were studied and a timeline was established. The goal was a set up where a body, recently deceased, could be floated to the coast where it would be appear to have arrived after a plane crash. To make it work, they needed a false identity and a real body.
A coroner and former colleague of Montagu’s, Bentley Purchase, was contacted to quietly look for suitable bodies. On January 28, 1943, a homeless Welsh man, Glyndwr Michael, died of phosphorous poisoning and was sent to Purchase. Purchase contacted Montagu and Cholmondeley who agreed the body was fit for the task. Michael was placed in cold storage, giving the British 3 months to perfect the fake documents and execute the mission before the body would be too decayed to use.
Montagu and Cholmendeley worked together to create a false identity for their corpse. Their final creation was Maj. William Martin, a Royal Marine. Martin was recently engaged to a woman named Pam. A photo of a Military Intelligence Section 5, MI5, staffer, was included in Martin’s effects.
The conspirators thought it would be suspicious if a major was shabbily dressed. So, Martin was given a pair of nice underwear, taken from the possessions of a recently deceased official at New College, Oxford. A series of documents were forged and placed on Martin including sale receipts, a collection letter from a bank, and the photo of “Pam,” in order to sell the “Martin” identity.
In addition, military documents were put into an official briefcase that would later be chained to the deceased man’s belt. These documents were specially crafted to make it sound like Operation Husky was the invasion of Greece instead of Sicily. They also referenced a fictional operation, Operation Brimstone, as the invasion of Sardinia while implying that the Allies would feint to Sicily. This would convince the Germans that the real invasion of Sicily, when it began, was just a smokescreen for the fictional invasions in Sardinia and Greece.
Conducting the operation
With the body, the documents, and the story in place, it was time to execute the mission.
The body was placed in a steel canister filled with dry ice and driven to the HMS Seraph by a legally-blind racecar driver. The Seraph‘s crew was told that the capsule contained meteorological equipment. Only the officers knew the real mission.
When they arrived at their destination, the officers secured the documents and a lifejacket to the body, performed their own small ceremony, and pushed the body into the ocean. The HMS Seraph sailed away from Spain into the early morning Atlantic.
The body was quickly recovered by the Spanish who turned it over to the British Vice-Consul in the country. “Maj. Martin” was buried with full military honors on May 2. The British, keeping up the ruse, began a hasty search for the missing documents.
The Spanish recovered the documents and gave the Germans an hour to copy them. Once the Germans had copies, they sent the information to Berlin where it was trusted as genuine. The originals were returned to the British government.
As a result of the German High Command believing the documents, entire divisions of tanks were moved to defend Greece. Minesweepers were moved from Sicily to Greece where they laid mines off the coast. Rommel himself was sent to Greece to lead the defense.
That summer, on July 9, the true Operation Husky was kicked off and Sicily was invaded. The Germans, still believing Sicily was a feint, declined to reinforce the island. It wasn’t until July 12 that German paratroopers arrived to try and slow the Allied advance, but by then it was too late. Fighting on the island continued until August 17 when the last German unit pulled out. Sicily was captured with a fraction of the Allied casualties expected, though 5,837 were killed or missing, 15,683 were wounded, and 3,330 captured. Germany was thought to have taken about 20,000 casualties while Italy lost over 130,000 men, mostly captured during the Allied advance. Operation Husky led to the downfall of Mussolini and the surrender of Italy.
And much of its success was due to the British corpse, Glyndwr Michael, who served as Maj. William Martin.
The bulk of information known about Operation Mincemeat came from Montagu when he published his book, “The Man Who Never Was” in 1954. New information, including intentional errors in Montagu’s book, came from the research of Ben Macintyre. Macintyre was granted access to Montagu’s papers and published his own excellent book, “Operation Mincemeat,” in 2011.