Gary Sinise Foundation announces Air Force veteran as new CEO - We Are The Mighty
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Gary Sinise Foundation announces Air Force veteran as new CEO

The Gary Sinise Foundation announced that Dr. Mike Thirtle has been named as the organization’s next chief executive officer. Established in 2011 by award-winning actor and humanitarian Gary Sinise, the Gary Sinise Foundation’s mission is to serve our nation by honoring our defenders, veterans, first responders, their families, and those in need. The Foundation achieves its mission through programs and initiatives designed to entertain, educate, inspire, strengthen, and build communities.

Gary Sinise has been leading the Foundation since its inception 10 years ago, growing the organization exponentially and consistently exceeding its annual goals. As the Foundation’s chairman, Sinise and the Board of Directors selected Thirtle to lead the Gary Sinise Foundation as the organization expands and ascends to new levels of delivering on Sinise’s commitment to serve and honor our nation’s heroes and their loved ones.

“As the Gary Sinise Foundation enters our second decade, it is my great pleasure to announce our new Chief Executive Officer, Mike Thirtle,” said Sinise. “With over 20 years of military service, 12 years at the RAND Corporation, and 7 years as president and CEO of the nonprofit Bethesda Lutheran Communities, Mike brings tremendous experience to GSF, and I am looking forward to working with him on the GSF mission of service for our defenders and their families.”

Thirtle — who will officially assume the role on July 12 — joins the Foundation with a passion for serving others and a broad background in philanthropy, non-profit leadership, strategy and policy analysis, business consulting, higher education, and military service. He will report directly to the Board of Directors and will lead the day-to-day programs of the Foundation.

“I am deeply honored to serve Gary, the Board, and the staff at the Gary Sinise Foundation as we support the millions of defenders, veterans, first responders, and their families across our nation — the true heroes and guardians of our freedom,” said Thirtle, an Air Force veteran. “It is because of their sacrifices that we enjoy the fruits of freedom and for which we are all grateful. My wife, Juli, and I look forward to being part of the Gary Sinise Foundation family and supporting Gary and this amazing cause.”

Retired Air Force Gen. Robin Rand will continue to serve as CEO until Thirtle assumes the position of CEO on July 12. Sinise recruited Rand in 2018 for the position of CEO after he ended a long career of active-duty service in the Air Force, retiring as a four-star general. He was selected by Sinise for the role given his deep understanding of the needs of the military and veteran community and his passionate desire to give back, which Sinise felt were crucial to elevate the Foundation and further its mission.

Sinise praised Rand’s contributions saying, “I am extremely grateful to Gen. Robin Rand for his leadership of the Foundation these past 2-and-a-half years beginning in October of 2018. We have certainly faced tremendous challenges during this time, especially with the 2020 global pandemic, yet under Robin’s leadership, the Foundation has continued to excel, sailing full speed ahead with tremendous growth throughout this period. He is a gifted leader and a good friend. On behalf of all of us at the Foundation, I thank him for his dedication and time with GSF, and especially for his 40 years of service to our country in the United States Air Force.”

Rand shared his reflections, saying, “The mission of the Gary Sinise Foundation is so noble, and it has been a tremendous honor to serve at the GSF for the past 33 months. I’m forever grateful.”


This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

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7 craziest commando missions of World War II

World War II was an exciting time for special operations and commandos. The advent of airborne operations gave them a whole new angle of approach, and the sheer scale of the war guaranteed that they’d have plenty of chances to use their skills.


But even accounting for those things, operators on both sides of the war distinguished themselves with daring missions.

Here are eight of the craziest:

1. A costly canoe raid against German ships

Gary Sinise Foundation announces Air Force veteran as new CEO
(Photo: Royal Marines Museum)

The “Cockleshell Heroes” were a group of British Royal Marines assigned the task of launching from a submarine and canoeing miles up the River Gironde to place limpet mines against the hull of German ships. The mission hit problems almost immediately as canoes were lost to tide and river obstacles.

Only two of the original five made it to the Bordeaux-Bassens docks. The four men who crewed the canoes placed mines on a few ships, which damaged some commercial vessels. While the material damage was limited, it boosted British morale and forced the Germans to devote more resources to defense in a way similar to the U.S. Army Air Force’s Doolittle Raid.

2. The failed attempt to kill Erwin Rommel

Gary Sinise Foundation announces Air Force veteran as new CEO
(Photo: German Federal Archives)

Operation Flipper had the lofty goal of crippling an Italian headquarters and intelligence office as well as killing Field Marshall Erwin Rommel. The mission was beset by bad weather and the assault force that hit the German officer’s headquarters was smaller than planned.

Still, the British commandos broke into the headquarters building only to learn that Rommel had been delayed in Rome by his own weather problems. Only two raiders survived, but even Rommel admitted that it was a “brilliant operation.” He had the senior officer, British Lt. Col. Geoffrey Keyes, killed and buried with full honors and photos sent to the family.

3. Norwegian resistance destroys Germany’s nuclear stockpile, twice

Gary Sinise Foundation announces Air Force veteran as new CEO
(Photo: Public Domain)

A first attempt on the Norsk Hydro Plant, where radioactive heavy water was processed and stored, failed but the survivors and their reinforcements hit the plant on Feb. 28, 1943, despite suffering from starvation and exhaustion. They were able to blow the storage facilities, setting German nuclear research back by at least months.

Months later, a new stockpile of German heavy water was being transported on a ferry when the Norwegian Resistance attacked once again, sinking the ferry and ending Germany’s last best chance at a nuclear reactor or bomb. One man, Knut Haukelid, participated in both raids.

4. German paratroopers take the world’s strongest fort

Gary Sinise Foundation announces Air Force veteran as new CEO
Fort Eben-Emael was arguably the world’s strongest fortress in May 1940, but it fell to 85 German paratroopers with the right plan. (Photo: Bundesarchiv)

In 1940, the Belgian Fort Eben-Emael was arguably the world’s strongest fort. Constructed from 1932-1935, it was heavily armed and guarded by upwards of 800 soldiers. But Germany had to destroy or negate it to get the blitzkrieg into Belgium.

They did it in a single morning with 85 paratroopers. The men landed on the fort in gliders and quickly took hold of large sections of it, destroying or capturing the guns aimed at the countryside. When the rest of the German army arrived, the remaining defenders surrendered.

5. Benito Mussolini is rescued from a mountaintop retreat by German paratroopers

Gary Sinise Foundation announces Air Force veteran as new CEO
(Photo: Bundesarchiv)

In July 1943, Italian defeats turned the country against Benito Mussolini and he was exiled to a series of locations. A German commander was able to track the dictator to Gran Sasso, a mountaintop ski resort accessible only by cable car or glider. At 6,300 feet, it was too high even for an airborne assault.

German Capt. Otto Skorzeny led the glider assault. The paratroopers brought along an Italian general in the hopes that he would prevent a shootout. It worked. The Italian guards decided not to fight when the gliders crashed into the mountains and the paratroopers stormed out. Skorzeny and Mussolini departed on a small, high-altitude plane.

6. British commandos steal a German radar station

Gary Sinise Foundation announces Air Force veteran as new CEO
(Photo: Royal Air Force Squadron Leader A.E. Hill)

The insane plan for Operation Biting called for five groups of British paras to land in German-occupied France, capture a German radar station, and then make off with key pieces of the technology. The men landed under cover of darkness and quickly captured the building. They even managed to grab two technicians with intimate knowledge of the advanced German radar.

Paratroopers who missed their drop zone arrived late to destroy a German pillbox, a situation that almost ended with the withdrawing commandos being killed. Luckily, the men arrived in time to destroy the pillbox as it swept fire on the other commandos. The British escaped with their prize.

7. The British turn an entire ship into a bomb

Gary Sinise Foundation announces Air Force veteran as new CEO
The HMS Campbeltown sits on the lip of the Normandie dock after crashing into it. (Photo: German army archives)

Dubbed the “Greatest Raid of Them All,” the St. Nazaire Raid targeted the only German-held dry dock for heavy ships on the Atlantic that was accessible without passing German defenses. But the dry dock was heavily armed and far upriver.

The British sent a small flotilla of vessels led by the converted HMS Campbeltown. Sixteen were small motorboats, twelve of which were destroyed without reaching shore. But the Campbeltown managed to ram the gates of the dry dock. The Germans captured 215 of the 600 attackers and killed 169 more, but explosives hidden in the Campbeltown exploded the next morning, crippling the facilities.

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This is what happens when your father was your drill instructor’s drill instructor

If Marine Corps boot camp is a bitter slice of hell, then drill instructors are the demons who dish it.


Now imagine what basic training would be like if your drill instructor was your father’s recruit and knew it. That’s exactly what happened to Reddit user hygemaii.

 

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Gunnery Sergeant Shawn D. Angell gently corrects a trainee. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

You’d expect one of two things to happen: you get favorable treatment because your father treated your DI to a rose garden — highly unlikely — or you become your DI’s reprisal punching bag for everything your father put him through as a recruit — probably more realistic. Here’s how the story played out, according to hygemaii (mildly edited for grammar and curse words):

Related: 4 of the funniest boot camp stories we’ve ever heard

“My best military story is my own boot camp story. I decided to join the Marine Corps almost on a whim after planning to join the Air Force for most of my senior year in high school.

“Same old story of AF recruiters seeming like they didn’t give a sh-t about their appearance or job and the Marine recruiter putting out max effort all the time and always being presentable. I was a pretty easy mark for the USMC because my dad was in the USMC; I grew up on bases all over the U.S. until we moved to the little farm town in North Florida where I went to high school.

“Since I was 18, I basically did all the paperwork myself, found a job series I liked, signed, the whole nine yards, my dad didn’t know anything until I told him I was going to MEPS and joining the Marines. He was overjoyed, obviously. He loved the Corps and regretted getting out after 12 years.

“Now the story gets funny. My dad was a drill instructor when he was in the Marines. I remembered living on Parris Island but didn’t think much of it. When I got my ship date for boot camp, my dad called some old friends and I ended up in a Company who’s First Sergeant was an old friend of my dad’s — they served on the drill field together all those years ago. So through some sort of crazy coincidence, I end up in a platoon with a drill instructor who was a recruit under my dad (6-7 years prior to me going to boot camp).

Gary Sinise Foundation announces Air Force veteran as new CEO
A Drill Instructor whispers loving words of encouragement to Marines who needed some motivation. (U.S. Marine Corps)

“I have a very distinct name, and on the second day after we got our real drill instructors, as he was going through roll call, the drill instructor suddenly fell quiet. After a couple of seconds, he said my name, perfectly pronounced, and I knew I was f**ked.

“He said ‘[Last name], I bet there aren’t too many [Last names] in the world like that, are there?’ Sir, no sir. ‘Was your daddy a Marine in the 90’s Lastname?’ Sir, yes sir. ‘F**king good, [Last name], good. Get on my quarterdeck now.’

“I spent the rest of boot camp unable to make myself invisible. It spread from my drill instructor to drill instructors from other platoons, even other companies. It was f**king miserable. I felt bad for my rack mate, because at one point for about three days I had to move my entire rack to the quarterdeck and he was just along for the ride, so he caught a lot of it, too.

“It made graduating really special, in retrospect, to finally get the kind words from that drill instructor, but man that sucked. I’m pretty sure this entire thing was set up by my dad and his buddy, but they both deny it, and there’s no way to prove it.

“It was funny seeing my drill instructor stand a little straighter when he saw my dad at graduation.”

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There’s a fight brewing over how secret America’s next stealth bomber program should be

Secrecy and classification parameters of Air Forces’ new “in-early-development” next-generation B-21 Raider stealth bomber will be analyzed by the Pentagon’s Inspector General to investigate just how many details, strategies, and technological advances related to the emerging platform should be highly classified.


While Air Force developers say the long-range bomber is being engineered to have the endurance and next-generation stealth capability to elude the most advanced existing air defenses and attack anywhere in the world, if needed. Very little about the bomber has been released by the Air Force or discussed in the open public. Perhaps that is the most intelligent and “threat-conscious” approach, some claim. Nonetheless, Congress directed the Inspector General to conduct an inquiry into this issue, asking if there is sufficient transparency and communication about the new weapon.

Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, Military Deputy, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, told reporters May 15 that the service hopes to “balance program classification with the transparency we are shooting for to make sure we are not releasing too much or hindering too much information flow. They are analyzing what should be released.”

Gary Sinise Foundation announces Air Force veteran as new CEO
USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Cody H. Ramirez

The Air Force of course wants to maintain the openness needed to allow for Congressional oversight while ensuring potential adversaries do not learn information about advances in stealth technology and next-generation methods of eluding advanced air defenses. Such is often a challenging, yet necessary balance. Pentagon developers have often said there can be a fine line between there being value in releasing some information because it can function as a deterrent against potential adversaries who might not wish to confront advanced US military technologies in war. At the same time, US commanders and Pentagon leaders, of course, seek to maintain the requisite measure of surprise in war, meaning it is also of great value for the US military to possess technological advantages not known by an enemy.

Furthermore, funding, technology development, and procurement questions related to the new bomber are also subject to extensive Congressional review; the question is whether this should be limited to only certain select “cleared” committees – or be open to a wider audience.

While the Air Force has revealed its first sketch or artist rendering of what the B-21 might look like, there has been little to no public discussion about what some of its new technologies may include. Analysts, observers and many military experts have been left only to speculate about potential advances in stealth technology.

Gary Sinise Foundation announces Air Force veteran as new CEO
Rendering of the B-21 next-generation bomber, courtesy of USAF

Bunch did, however, in a prior interview with Scout Warrior, clearly state that the new bomber will be able to hold any target at risk, anywhere in the world, at any time.

Bunch, and former Air Force Secretary Deborah James, have at times made reference, in merely a general way, to plans to engineer a bomber able elude detection from even the best, most cutting-edge enemy air defenses.

“Our 5th generation global precision attack platform will give our country a networked sensor shooter capability enabling us to hold targets at risk anywhere in the world in a way that our adversaries have never seen,” James said when revealing the image last year.

However, while Air Force developers say the emerging B-21 will introduce new stealth technologies better suited to elude cutting-edge air defenses, Russian media reports have recently claimed that stealth technology is useless against their air defenses. Russian built S-300 and S-400 air defenses are believed to be among the best in the world; in addition, The National Interest has reported that Russia is now working on an S-500 system able to destroy even stealthy targets at distances up to 125 miles.

Gary Sinise Foundation announces Air Force veteran as new CEO
Russian air defense SA-400. Photo by Vitality Kuzmin

Nevertheless, James and other service developers have added that the new bomber will be able to “play against the real threats.”

Although official details about the B-21 are, quite naturally, not available – some observers have pointed out that the early graphic rendering of the plane does not show exhaust pipes at all; this could mean that the Air Force has found advanced “IR suppressors” or new methods or releasing fumes or reducing the heat signature of the new stealth plane.

The Air Force has awarded a production contract to Northrop Grumman to engineer its new bomber. The next-generation stealth aircraft is intended to introduce new stealth technology and fly alongside – and ultimately replace – the service’s existing B-2 bomber. Beyond these kinds of general points, however, much like the Air Force, Northrop developers have said virtually nothing about the new platforms development.

“With LRS-B (B-21), I can take off from the continental United States and fly for a very long way. I don’t have to worry about getting permission to land at another base and worry about having somebody try to target the aircraft. It will provide a long-reach capability,” Lt. Gen. Bunch, Air Force Military Deputy for Acquisition, told Scout Warrior in an interview last year.

Gary Sinise Foundation announces Air Force veteran as new CEO
Photo from USAF

Prior to awarding the contract to Northrop, the Air Force worked closely with a number of defense companies as part of a classified research and technology phase. So far, the service has made a $1 billion technology investment in the bomber.

“We’ve set the requirements, and we’ve locked them down. We set those requirements (for the LRS-B) so that we could meet them to execute the mission with mature technologies,” Bunch said.

The service plans to field the new bomber by the mid-2020s. The Air Force plans to acquire as many as 80 to 100 new bombers for a price of roughly $550 million per plane in 2010 dollars, Air Force leaders have said.

For instance, lower-frequency surveillance radar allows enemy air defenses to know that an aircraft is in the vicinity, and higher-frequency engagement radar allows integrated air defenses to target a fast-moving aircraft. The concept with the new bomber is to engineer a next-generation stealth configuration able to evade both surveillance and engagement radar technologies.

Gary Sinise Foundation announces Air Force veteran as new CEO
USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III

The idea is to design a bomber able to fly, operate, and strike anywhere in the world without an enemy even knowing an aircraft is there.  This was the intention of the original B-2 bomber, which functioned in that capacity for many years, until technological advances in air defense made it harder for it to avoid detection completely.

The new aircraft is being engineered to evade increasingly sophisticated air defenses, which now use faster processors, digital networking and sensors to track even stealthy aircraft on a wider range of frequencies at longer ranges. These frequencies include UHF, VHF and X-band, among others.

Stealth Technology

Stealth technology works by engineering an aircraft with external contours and heat signatures designed to elude detection from enemy radar systems. The absence of defined edges,  noticeable heat emissions, weapons hanging on pylons, or other easily detectable aircraft features, radar “pings” have trouble receiving a return electromagnetic signal allowing them to identify an approaching bomber. Since the speed of light (electricity) is known, and the time of travel of electromagnetic signals can be determined as well, computer algorithms are then able to determine the precise distance of an enemy object. However, when it comes to stealth aircraft, the return signal may be either non-existence or of an entirely different character than that of an actual aircraft.

At the same time, advances in air defense technologies are also leading developers to look at stealth configurations as merely one arrow in the quiver of techniques which can be employed to elude enemy defenses, particularly in the case of future fighter aircraft.  New stealthy aircraft will also likely use speed, long-range sensors, and maneuverability as additional tactics intended to evade enemy air defenses – in addition to stealth because stealth configurations alone will increasingly be more challenged as technology continues to advance.

However, stealth technology is itself advancing – and it is being applied to the B-21, according to senior Air Force leaders who naturally did not wish to elaborate on the subject.

Gary Sinise Foundation announces Air Force veteran as new CEO
Photo from USAF

“As the threat evolves we will be able to evolve the airplane and we will still be able to hold any target at risk” Bunch said.

Although the new image of the B-21 does look somewhat like the existing B-2, Air Force officials maintain the new bomber’s stealth technology will far exceed the capabilities of the B-2.

At the same time, the B-2 is being upgraded with a new technology called Defensive Management System, a system which better enables the B-2 to know the location of enemy air defenses.

The B-21 will be built upon what the Air Force calls an “open systems architecture,” an engineering technique which designs the platform in a way that allows it to quickly integrate new technologies as they emerge.

“We’re building this with an open mission systems architecture. As technology advances and the threat changes, we can build upon the structure.  I can take one component out and put another component in that addresses the threat.  I have the ability to grow the platform,” Bunch explained.

Gary Sinise Foundation announces Air Force veteran as new CEO
A B-1 bomber launching a Long Range Stand Off weapon. Photo from US Navy.

Air Force leaders have said the aircraft will likely be engineered to fly unmanned missions as well as manned missions.

The new aircraft will be designed to have global reach, in part by incorporating a large arsenal of long-range weapons. The B-21 is being engineered to carry existing weapons as well as nuclear bombs and emerging and future weapons, Air Force officials explained. If its arsenal is anything like the B-2, it will like have an ability to drop a range of nuclear weapons, GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions and possibly even the new Air Force nuclear-armed cruise missile now in development called the LRSO – Long Range Stand Off weapon. It is also conceivable, although one does not want to speculate often, that the new bomber will one day be armed with yet-to-be seen weapons technology.

“We’re going to have a system that will be able to evolve for the future. It will give national decision authorities a resource that they will be able to use if needed to hold any target that we need to prosecute at risk,” Bunch said.

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This Vietnam War veteran will make you feel all the feelings

Army veteran Tucker Smallwood is truly one of the good ones.


He was injured while serving as an Infantry Officer during Vietnam, and after months of surgeries and recovery, he extended his commitment to teach counterinsurgency tactics before finally separating.

Gary Sinise Foundation announces Air Force veteran as new CEO
(Image courtesy of Tucker Smallwood)

Deep down, Smallwood is a soulful artist. An actor, writer, singer, and musician, he has made a career for himself in theater and on-screen, but it’s his writing and his music that really makes him stand out.

We Are The Mighty sat down with him to talk about his relationship with music.

“I can hear some music and know the setting behind it, and it just goes straight to my part that feels.”

He couldn’t speak when he woke up in the hospital in Vietnam, but rest assured, his voice healed and transformed into something rich and soothing.

Check out his video, not only for the Battle Mix that makes him think of his time in service, but for a performance with his acoustic guitar that will leave you wanting more:

You can also listen to Smallwood’s Battle Mix right here:
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The actor who played “Scotty” on ‘Star Trek’ was shot six times on D-Day

Today I found out the actor who played “Scotty” on Star Trek, James Doohan, was shot six times storming Juno beach on D-Day.


Gary Sinise Foundation announces Air Force veteran as new CEO
Photo: Wikipedia

Doohan, a Canadian, after leading his men through a mine field on Juno beach and personally taking out two German snipers in the process, eventually took four rounds in one of his legs; one in his hand, which ultimately resulted in him losing his middle finger; and one in the chest.  The shot to the chest likely would have been fatal except that he had a silver cigarette case there, given to him by his brother, which deflected the bullet.  He would later give up smoking, but at least he could say that being a smoker actually saved his life.

Ironically, the shots he took were not fired by the enemy, but rather by an overzealous Canadian gunman.  After his unit was secured in their position for the night, Doohan was crossing between command posts, when a Canadian gunman spotted him and opened fire.

Doohan originally joined the Canadian Forces at the age of 19, eventually being commissioned a Lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Artillery.  D-Day was the first and last action he saw in the war.  After recovering from his injuries, he became a pilot in the Canadian Air Force, but never saw action.  Despite not ever flying in combat, he was once called “the craziest pilot in the Canadian Air Force” when he flew a plane through two telegraph poles after “slaloming” down a mountainside, just to prove it could be done.  This act was not looked upon highly by his superiors, but earned him a reputation among the pilots of the Canadian Air Force.

Bonus Facts:

  • As mentioned, contrary to what many people think, Doohan was not Scottish.  He was Canadian.  When he was auditioning for the role of the ship’s engineer, he went over various accents for Gene Roddenberry for the character.  After he finished, Roddenberry asked him which he liked best and he responded: “Well, if you want an engineer, he better be a Scotsman because, in my experience, all the world’s best engineers have been Scottish.”
  • Although he wasn’t Scottish, Doohan described the character of Scotty as: “99% James Doohan and 1% accent.”  “It was a natural. When I opened my mouth, there was Scotty.  Scotty is the closest to Jimmy Doohan that I’ve ever done.”
  • The name Montgomery Scott was chosen because Montgomery was Doohan’s middle name and the character was portrayed as Scottish.
  • Both the Klingon language and the Vulcan language were initially very crudely developed by Doohan.  Later, these languages were expanded and refined by professional linguists, primarily by Marc Okrand.
  • While great pains were taken in Star Trek to conceal the fact the Doohan was missing a middle finger, there are several episodes where this can be observed.  These include: Cat’s Paw; Day of the Dove; and The Lights of Zetar.  This can also be observed in a scene in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and In Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.  In the former, it can be observed when he hands McCoy parts for the Transwarp Drive and in the latter when he’s holding a plastic bag dinner which was given to him by Lt. Uhura.
  • Doohan not only played the character Scotty in Star Trek, but also did the voice for many different parts including: The M-5 from The Ultimate Computer and Sargon from Return to Tomorrow, among many others.
  • Before landing the role as Scotty, Doohan did over 4000 radio shows and 400 TV shows in Canada and was particularly noted for his great versatility in voice acting.
  • Shortly before his death, Doohan was suffering from Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, lung fibrosis, Alzheimer’s, and, eventually, pneumonia.  His official cause of death was listed as pneumonia and Alzheimer’s.
  • Doohan was married three times in his life and fathered four children.  He met his final wife, Wende Braunberger, when she was just 17 and he was 54, marrying her very shortly after their first meeting.  The two had three children, the last in 2000, and remained married for 31 years until Doohan’s death in 2005 at the age of 85.
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Pentagon chief hints at October assault on Mosul

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said he expects Iraqi forces to be successful in their assault to retake Mosul and deliver a sharp blow to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.


Speaking to reporters after a trip to Europe, Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford listed recent gains leading up to the eventual battle to retake the key northern city. Those advances, he explained, include Iraqi forces bridging the Tigris River near Qayyarah and securing the airfield there.

“The noose is gradually tightening around Mosul,” he said.

The liberation of Mosul will “chip away” at the idea of a physical caliphate for ISIL, he said. Taking back Mosul and Raqqa, ISIL’s so-called capital in Syria, will severely limit the terror group’s capability and ability to operate in the region and beyond, he said.

Gary Sinise Foundation announces Air Force veteran as new CEO
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, meets with Iraqi leaders and coalition trainers in the Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve at Besmaya Range Complex April 21, 2016. (DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

“In my view, it’ll be a very significant blow to the Islamic State as they lose Mosul and Raqqa and they can no longer talk about holding a physical caliphate in Syria and Iraq,” Dunford said.

Iraqi leaders have identified Iraqi forces that are required for the operations to take back Mosul, the chairman said. Those forces will be ready in October, he added.

The timing of the assault, Dunford said, is a political decision that rests on Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

“Our job is to actually help the Iraqis generate the forces and the support necessary for operations in Mosul and we’ll be ready for that in October,” the top U.S. general said.

President Barack Obama, after meeting with Abadi yesterday in New York, said he expects a tough fight for the city of more than two million people, noting ISIL has “embedded itself deeply” within Mosul.

Dunford told reporters that hearing about ISIL-inspired terrorist attacks worldwide further steels his resolve to defeat ISIL’s ideology and eliminate the terrorists in Mosul and Raqqa.

“What it continues to give me is a sense of urgency for getting after the physical caliphate, undermining the virtual caliphate and eliminating the ability to conduct supported, directed or inspired attacks,” he said.

This will be done through military means in cooperation with the coalition and through partners on the ground, the chairman said.

“The more aggressive we are at taking the fight to the Islamic State, wherever they happen to be, the more successful we will be in eroding their physical capability to direct attacks and support attacks,” Dunford said.

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The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?

With the debate on close-air support raging between those who think the F-35 Lightning can perform the role versus those who think the A-10 Thunderbolt II (aka the Warthog) can’t be beaten, one other plane that excels in this role has been all but forgotten.


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Marine Corps Air Station Cherry , North Carolina – Maj. James S. Tanis lands an AV-8B Harrier during field carrier landing practice sustainment training at Marine Corps Auxiliary Landing Field Bogue, N.C., Dec. 5, 2014. (Photo By: Cpl. J. R. Heins)

The McDonnell-Douglas/British Aerospace AV-8B+ Harrier has played a role for decades supporting troops on the ground in combat.

The Harrier had caught the fancy of Hollywood for a while – notably being used to evacuate a defector in the beginning of “The Living Daylights” – and especially after it proved to be a war-winning weapon in the Falklands in 1982. The U.S. Marines had a similar plane in the AV-8A Harrier.

Then, around 1985, the AV-8B and GR.5 entered service, offering a greater payload for ground attack. The 1990s saw the AV-8B+ enter service with the APG-65 radar used on the F/A-18 Hornet.

So, how does this plane stack up against the competition is a close-air support mission?

In a max-payload configuration, the AV-8B+ can carry 14 Mk 82 500-pound bombs. The AV-8B+ can carry a wide variety of other weapons as well, including the Mk 84 2,000 pound bomb, CBU-87 and CBU-100 cluster bombs, the AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground missile, GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs), and laser-guided bombs.

The Harrier also features an internal gun – the 25mm GAU-12 — with 300 rounds of ammo. While not as powerful as the A-10’s GAU-12, this gun still packs a punch.

So, how does this stack up to the F-35B which the Marines are using to replace the Harrier?

The F-35B can carry JDAMs, but cannot carry any 2,000-pound bombs. As this Military.com video shows, 2,000 pound bombs are sometimes needed to support grunts.

Gary Sinise Foundation announces Air Force veteran as new CEO
U.S. Marines with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, conduct the first ever hot load on the F-35B Lightning II in support of Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course 1-17 at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., Sept. 22, 2016. (Staff Sgt. Artur Shvartsberg)

Even though the F-35 has a larger maximum payload (15,000 pounds to the AV-8B’s 9,200 pounds), not being able to drop the bigger bombs can be a problem. The F-35 also doesn’t carry the Maverick missile, which can be a problem when there are ground-based air defenses.

The lack of an internal gun is another killer. Sometimes, you don’t need a big bang, especially when you have to be aware of collateral damage. When you drop a 500-pound bomb, that’s still a lot of high explosives going off.

Even the AGM-114 Hellfire used on drones has caused some civilian casualties when taking out high-ranking terrorists.

The Marines need new aircraft, particularly since they had to be bailed out by the boneyard earlier this year. The high-tech F-35B may be a good replacement for the F/A-18C Hornets the Marines desperately need to replace, but the AV-8B+ may need to stick around a while to help with the close-air support mission.

Because like the Hog, it can do stuff that the F-35 just can’t do.

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This band hires vets — especially when they go on tour

As veterans re-enter the civilian workforce, many struggle to make the transition. This is why opportunities (ahem — touring with famous heavy metal bands) for employment are so important. Five Finger Death Punch has made it a mission to offer such opportunities.

Not only does the band provide direct jobs for veterans, but they also raise money for different veteran initiatives — like PTSD awareness — through their merchandise site, which also acts as a resource guide for accessing help through various links.

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Five Finger Death Punch Videographer Nick Siemens.

Zoltán Báthory, guitarist for Five Finger Death Punch, is a founding board member of the veterans nonprofit Home Deployment Project, which provides safe places to live for displaced veterans suffering from symptoms of PTSD. He is also a member on the Board of Advisors at the anti-Poaching organization Veterans Empowered to Protect African Wildlife. Although Zoltán himself is a civilian, his support for the military is without question.

“I have a lot of veterans around me and it’s not an accident.”

Videographer Nick Siemens is a Marine Corps Combat veteran touring with Five Finger Death Punch. He describes the energy and movement of working with the band as being very similar to that of his time as an active duty Marine.

“I absolutely fell in love with this job and it gave me a sense of purpose and a sense of belonging that I had lost when I left the Marine Corps and I haven’t looked back.”

Check out the video above for an inside look at what it’s like for the veterans on tour with Five Finger Death Punch.

Veterans

Fox News Martha MacCallum champions veterans

Fox News anchor of The Story is committed to veterans issues and their stories being put at the forefront of news. For Martha MacCallum, it’s personal. 

Growing up, MacCallum often heard the stories of her cousin, Harry Gray. A Marine who’d enlisted during World War II, his letters home were treasured among the family. She’d spend hours in her grandparents’ basement, pouring over those letters and the weathered newspaper clippings from the war. He lost his life during the final days of the Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945, fighting alongside his brothers in the 3rd Marine Division.  

The legacy of his heroism and sacrifice would not only lead her to traveling to Iwo Jima but writing Unknown Valor, a book dedicated to sharing the lives of Marines like her uncle who gave all in the name of American freedom. “I was always really moved by his letters and ever since I wrote the book, which his letters were such a big part of, I keep receiving similar letters from families all across the country. I am just so moved by them,” MacCallum explained. “The humility and dedication to something bigger than themselves is a quality that’s scarce these days. I think that the military is one of the places where it exists in a real way.”

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Photo provided courtesy of Fox News

After going deep into the lives of those Marines, MacCallum found herself forever changed from the experience. “I admire them greatly and they have courage that I could have never had. It really comes from that story,” she explained. 

It led to a commitment to tell the stories of veterans of all wars, she said. Since then, she has championed a number of veteran issues and highlighted them on her show. Well-known for her dedication to journalism, MacCallum has received the American Women in Radio and Television award twice for her reporting and journalistic approach. 

Recently, she interviewed Jon Stewart. Currently advocating for veterans impacted by the toxic burn pits and fighting for the recognition of the devastating harm they caused, he implored the Department of Defense and Congress to act. MacCallum said she was moved by it. 

The Department of Veterans affairs has estimated that around 3.5 million service members have been exposed to the fumes from toxic burn pits. President Biden has said that he believes it was those pits and the fumes that caused his own son to develop brain cancer and eventually lose his life. 

MacCallum shared that essentially the service members who return home after being around all of those toxic fumes become defendants in a trial for their own healthcare. “I had read about it all and was aware of it but became more aware of it because of his [Jon Stewart] work,” she explained. “That’s really sad. That’s not where we want to be as a country. We have to respect the sacrifice of these individuals. I just hated seeing them fighting for benefits for medical impact that clearly they would never have if they hadn’t gone to war.”

“We can’t forget the sacrifices they’ve made whether it’s World War II or Afghanistan…It is incumbent upon us that we recognize their sacrifices and their struggles,” MacCallum implored. She went on to explain that in the generation of World War II, everyone knew someone who was serving and it was a war that was deeply felt by most. As America approaches 20 years at war against terrorism, it’s vital that civilians know the cost of their freedom. 

7,036. That’s how many lives have been lost to combat against the enemy. Almost 1 million service members have suffered from injuries, both visible and invisible, due to the War on Terror. The number of troops who’ve sacrificed their lives in training accidents or lost their internal battles to suicide has surpassed combat deaths. 

MacCallum encourages the public to dig in and research their own ancestors and uncover the lives of the veterans in their own families. “Once you start digging and you find those people who have served, it gives you a connection in your own life and I think it makes you respectful of those who are still doing it today,” she explained. 

It was this approach of researching her own family that led her to writing about World War II and the Battle of Iwo Jima for Unknown Valor. “It was really the most rewarding experience of my professional life. I spent three years studying this period. When I began I couldn’t have found Iwo Jima on a map,” MacCallum said. “It was a real eye opener for me in understanding what pacific island fighting was like…how incredibly difficult it was and how incredibly brave they were.”

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Photo provided courtesy of Fox News

“Through the course of writing the book I was astonished that I actually found two living World War II veterans who were with my cousin when he was killed,” MacCallum said. She called one of those veterans, George, one day. When she explained who she was, he was stunned and told MacCallum that he thought of her cousin every day. “It gave me a window into that depth of brotherhood and friendship that I never understood before.”

As citizens of a country where only 1% of the population wears the uniform of service, we owe it to them to find those windows of empathy and understanding. To truly thank someone for serving, it starts with knowing what raising their right hand means and the cost of stepping forward, so you don’t have to. 

To find out more about Martha MacCallum’s book, Unknown Valor, click here

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Watch the Hyundai Super Bowl commercial that connected vets and their families

Super Bowl commercials that honor military veterans aren’t new, and odds are they’re not going anywhere because dammit they’re effective.


The 2017 Hyundai Super Bowl commercial is no exception. Troops stationed in Poland were treated to a surprise when Hyundai gave them a special Super Bowl screening experience. What they didn’t know was that a few of their family members were also getting a treat.

While the service members watched the game in fully immersive, 360-degree live streaming pods, their families joined them via a Super Bowl LI box suite, complete with huggable high-tech teddy bears (wearing the uniform of the day) and cameras that allowed the family members to livestream with their heroes.

Hyundai teamed up with director Peter Berg (Deepwater Horizon, Lone Survivor) to shoot, edit, and broadcast the event.

“I’m honored to have worked on this project with the troops and [Hyundai] for the Super Bowl. Thank you for your service, and thank you for letting me be part of this,” Berg said.

Check out the video below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P7n-GxJBw1k
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Sparta’s ‘special operators’ had ruthless training tactics

Every elite special operations group has its own storied rite of passage. Navy SEALs undergo a simulated drowning. Green Berets drink snake blood. North Korean special operators do whatever the hell this is.


Also read: 5 military training drills that’ll blow your mind

Such rituals have been an important component in warrior cultures for centuries, and the famed citizen-soldiers of ancient Sparta are no exception. The Spartan are often viewed as among history’s most elite warriors, with a culture built to breed and groom the perfect fighting force. Rank-and-file Spartans were trained since birth to be strong, loyal, and ruthless fighters. But a select few were singled out to join the Krypteia — the closest thing the Spartans had to ‘special operators.’

Scholars believe that the Krypteia served as the Spartans’ reconnaissance soldiers, shock troops, and even military police. As such, their loyalty and commitment to the state was just as important as their skill at arms. And just like today’s special operators, the Krypteia had their own initiation ritual. It’s believed that in order to complete their training, candidates had to ambush and murder a Helot — a member of the Spartan servant class. Only then, could they prove their willingness to kill in the name of the state.

This video from the American Heroes Channel explains the ritual.

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6 awesome Army jobs that no longer exist

Go to an Army career counselor or recruiter and he has all sorts of cool jobs you can sign up for. Soldiers network satellites, engage in hacking wars, and shoot awesome weapons at targets and enemies.


It’s like your childhood video games, fireworks, and backyard games all got awesome upgrades and now you can get paid for it.

But some of the Army’s best jobs are actually in the past, like those that allowed people to get intimately acquainted with tactical nuclear weapons or fire awesome Gatling guns. So here are six of those badass jobs Pvt. Skippy can’t do in the Army anymore:

1. Nuclear weapons basic maintenance specialist

 

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(Screenshot: Navy historical documents)

Yeah, the Army used to have a nuclear weapons program and it employed a group of men with a whole three weeks of training to disassemble and repair those weapons.

Not a typo. Three weeks. And the first week was weapons familiarization “taught at the high school level” (not sure what the high school level of nuclear weapons training is).

2. Aeroscout observer

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(Photo: U.S. Army)

Back in Vietnam, the Army had people whose sole job was to ride in scout helicopters and help spot targets on the ground while assigned directly to the maneuver forces they were supporting. Aeroscout observers worked with — who else — aeroscout pilots who were also assigned to the ground unit. Eventually, this gave way to pilot/co-pilot teams on OH-58 Kiowa scout helicopters.

Now, even that is falling to the history books. The Army’s active component has retired the last of its dedicated scout helicopters to the boneyards and National Guard in favor of attack helicopters with direct drone control.

3. Army motorcycle riders

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U.S. Army Cpl. Gordon C. Powell poses with British Dispatch Rider Baltins Dougoughs on Aug. 27, 1944. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Riding a motorcycle in combat sounds exciting no matter what the job is, from carrying messages to scouting enemy forces. But in World War I, the tank corps included a group of “motorcycle men” whose primary gig was delivering repair parts and replacement crewmembers to tanks under fire.

For obvious reasons, tank-delivery motorcycle riders were re-classed after the Army figured out how to use tanks to recover one another. (If it’s not obvious, it because repair personnel protected by literal tons of armor are safer than those riding motorcycles and protected by only their uniforms).

4. Heavy Anti-Armor Infantryman

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(Photo: U.S. Army)

While the Marine Corps still fields Antitank Missile Gunners under the military occupational specialty 0352, the Army got rid of its 11H Heavy Anti-Armor Weapons Infantrymen. These guys did exactly what their title says; They used heavy weapons to hunt down enemy armor. Nowadays, this capability is handled by general infantrymen assigned to the weapons company.

5. Morse Interceptor

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(Photo: U.S. Army Signal Corps)

 

Full disclosure, there are a few different signal intelligence jobs that could have been included in this list. Most of them have been folded into other specialties or been quietly terminated as their own job because the march of technology has made them unnecessary. After all, how much Morse intelligence is there to collect anymore?

The reason that Morse interceptor was selected for the list is that it’s the only one of these lost signal intelligence jobs that was once held by Johnny Cash. Cash did the job in the Air Force, not the Army, but still.

6. Chapparal/Vulcan Crewmember

The Chapparal and Vulcan were M113 armored vehicles equipped with anti-aircraft weapons. The Vulcan packed a six-barrel Gatling gun that could be deployed separately from the M113 when necessary, while the Chapparal carried AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles. While the Chapparal role was largely replaced with the Army Avenger program, no direct descendant of the Vulcan exists.

While the Vulcan was largely outdated for anti-aircraft operations, the Army gave up a great ground weapon when it lost the Gatling gun. Vulcan crew members could fire 20mm rounds at up to 6,600 rounds per minute, targeting low-flying aircraft or enemy infantry and vehicles.

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