The 5 most heavily-mined countries in the world - We Are The Mighty
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The 5 most heavily-mined countries in the world

Landmines are a great tool during a war. They are easy to emplace, hard to defeat, and limit an enemy’s ability to maneuver.


But nations have signed treaties banning their use for a good reason. They present a near-permanent hazard for civilians who have to live and work near former conflict zones. Here are 5 countries where minefields are a deadly fact of life:

1. Afghanistan

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Photo: International Security Assistance Forces

After decades of war, Afghanistan faces some of the largest concentrations of mines and IEDs in the world. It also is home to the highest casualty rates from these weapons with 383 people killed and 665 injured in 2013. It’s estimated that there are up to 10 million landmines in the country.

2. Iraq

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Photo: US Army Pfc. Elizabeth Erste

Iraq was suspected to be one of the most heavily mined countries in the world in 2014, and the situation has only gotten worse since. Demining efforts are limited because of the continuing conflicts and ISIS uses mines to slow armies that are pushing them back.

3. Bosnia and Herzegovina

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Photo: Wikipedia/Werner Anderson of Norsk Folkehjelp Norwegian Peoples Aid

At the end of 2013, Bosnia and Herzegovina had a reported 1,216 square kilometers contaminated with mines, mostly from the 1992-1995 breakup of Yugoslavia. Removal efforts there have been hampered by a 2014 flood that shifted many mines to areas that had already been cleared.

4. Cambodia

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Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Neil Rickards

Cambodia contains what may still be the densest concentration of mines in the world, the K5 mine belt on the border with Thailand. The nation saw 22 people killed and 89 injured by mines and unexploded ordnance in 2013 despite improvements in their demining operations.

5. Turkey

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Turkish soldiers assigned to NATO’s Kosovo Force in 2010. Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael Hagburg

Turkish forces laid a number of mines during conflicts from the 1970s to 1990s. Today, most of Turkey’s estimated one million mines are on the border with Syria and the government has suspended demining operations because of ISIS militants operating on the border.

WATCH: ‘Kilo Two Bravo’ tells the harrowing true story of soldiers trapped in an Afghan minefield

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The British and Germans built these deadly hollowed-out trees in WWI

As if the lowly soldier of World War I didn’t have enough to worry about on the hellish battlefields of France — from massive flamethrowers, to giant artillery guns to poison gas — there was a lot of nastiness that could kill you in no-man’s land.


But killer trees? Come on, is there no decency?

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(Gif: AllMovieVideos via YouTube)

Not quite the nightmare scenario of living, walking Ents from “Lord of the Rings,” the British and later the Germans nevertheless disguised sniper hides and observation posts in positions designed to look like trees destroyed on the battlefield made from steel drums and camouflaged to look like an everyday arbor.

In the constant game of cat and mouse that marked the stalemate of the Western Front, diabolical designers looked to the splintered wreckage of the pock-marked battlescape to hide their positions. According to a story about the deadly hollowed-out trees in the London Daily Mail, the Brits found wrecked trees they could use to construct what they called “O.P. Trees” for observation posts.

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Is that a German Baumbeobachter behind me? (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

“The ideal tree was dead and often it was bomb blasted,” the MailOnline story said. “The photographs and sketches were then sent to a workshop where artists constructed an artificial tree of hollow steel cylinders.”

“It contained an internal scaffolding for reinforcement, to allow a sniper or observer to ascend within the structure,” the story added.

The trees were built to look exactly like the ruined ones in no-man’s land, so troops would sneak between the lines in the dark and replace the real tree with the fake one. Manned by a British Tommy, the O.P. Trees gave a better view of the battlefield than peering over the trench line.

Historians say a soldier perched within the tree would relay his observation to another trooper posted below, who’d carry the information back to the lines for an attack.

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An O.P. Tree being installed on a World War I battlefield by British troops. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

“As far as we know the trees were surprisingly successful and none of them were detected by the enemy,” a historian with the Imperial War Museum in Kensington, England, told MailOnline. “In 1916 the Germans had captured a lot of the higher ground on the Western Front and even the elevation of a few feet through one of these trees could prove crucial.”

The Germans later caught on to the tactic and built their own, calling them Baumbeobachter (which means “tree observer”) and used them throughout the war. The Brits are said to have used their first O.P. Trees during the battle of Ypres in Belgium in 1915, and historians estimate around 45 were deployed to the Western front.

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NYFA hosts panel on WATM-produced docuseries following Army recruits through Basic Combat Training

WATM’s very own Chief Content Officer and veteran Chase Millsap just wrapped up filming and producing the incredible docuseries, Ten Weeks, that takes you inside the Army’s basic combat training. 

Millsap worked alongside David Gale (WATM’s founder) and retired Army Col. Jack Jacobs, Chair of NYFA’s Veterans Advancement Program a Medal of Honor Recipient, to bring viewers deep within the life of five potential soldiers during their boot camp journey. The series offers a stunning and raw look at the humanity of these everyday citizens and their extraordinary rise to becoming one of America’s protectors. 

To celebrate the project, they’ll be hosted by the New York Film Academy College of Visual & Performing Arts on January 26, 2021, for a virtual event open to students, military members and veterans. The team will share an exclusive trailer and then host a live discussion on the making of the series. Leading the panel event is Tova Laiter, Director of NYFA Q&A Series. She has interviewed hundreds of Hollywood luminaries including Adam Driver, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorcese and industry professionals at NYFA’s theaters in Los Angeles and New York City. We spoke with Eric Brown, Sr. Veterans Outreach & Recruitment Advisor, who has been instrumental in staging the January 26 panel event.

Brown enlisted at just 18 years old. With a laugh, he told WATM that his first choice had actually been the Marine Corps. His mother talked him out of it, too afraid of him being at the forefront of the war. “I served in the Navy for about seven years and deployed for efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Brown shared. “I like what the Navy stood for and loved the opportunities I had as a Gas Turbine Technician.” After leaving the service in 2010, he attended the NYFA for a degree in fine arts and has been working for them over the past eight years. Working in support of this docuseries was an honor, according to Brown. 

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Eric Brown

NYFA is a frequent partner with WATM and Brown shared that the school often involves their students in these types of collaborative projects. When the opportunity to showcase Ten Weeks came about, he jumped on it immediately. “Within the Division of Veteran Services, we host multiple events to connect with the veteran community,” Brown explained. Delivering good content to veterans is important to him, he said.

Another passion of his is getting more veterans involved in filmmaking. “I think there are a lot of stories out there that should be told … veterans are a very unique breed. We are civilians but we’ve transformed,” Brown shared.  

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Brown interviewing Stephen Lang

When asked if watching the trailer for Ten Weeks brought back any fond memories of his own bootcamp experience, he laughed. Brown grew up in Miami and was a first generation American whose family immigrated from the Caribbean islands. Snow was not a word he was familiar with using. His basic training for the Navy took him to the Great Lakes in the middle of winter. “I caught pneumonia twice and I still had to go out there and PT. It was a pretty brutal experience,” he shared. 

Although nothing as harsh as what he went through happens in the docuseries, Brown said the entire process for the prospective soldiers was completely relatable. Despite the hardship of training, he loved it. “I thought it was a very unique challenge and something I’d never be able to replicate again,” Brown said. This response is similar to what viewers will see from soldiers at the end of Ten Weeks. An incredible transformation and experience that changes them all, forever.

What does Brown hope the viewers of this docuseries take away from the project? The understanding of the weight and meaning of service. “I would like the audience to walk away with understanding the honor and commitment it takes. The integrity and courage for these service members to give up four years or 20 years or even ultimately … unfortunately those who may make the ultimate sacrifice for this country,” Brown said. “I want them to have an understanding of that and what it means, to serve. It isn’t just an incredible education. It’s about giving of yourself wholeheartedly to a cause that like-minded individuals believe in and to honor that.”

Those who watch Ten Weeks get a window view into the making of United States soldiers. The often young and bright-eyed graduates will head off to fight, for you and everyone else in this nation. They don’t do it for accolades or money, but for love. Brown’s last words are poignant and should be ingrained in every citizen of this country: “The uniform is not just an article of clothing, it’s a rite of passage and something that echoes through eternity.”

If you are a military member or veteran, sign up to take part in the virtual event to premiere the WATM-produced Ten Weeks trailer and join the discussion on the implications of service.

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That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride

In today’s Army, you can be the toughest general in the U.S. military, but when you turn 64, it’s time to go.


It’s well known most bodies just can’t take the rigors of duty and deployment beyond that (though Gen. Jim Mattis might be the exception), but history does have examples of military leaders who went well past their sexagenarian limitations.

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Though an excellent soldier, Miles was notorious for being stubborn, quarrelsome, overambitious and opinionated. Many, including President Theodore Roosevelt, wanted to see him cast out of the Army once and for all. Those who knew Miles best were aware that he wasn’t going to be forced out of the army without a fight. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

 

The 73-year-old Prussian Field Marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher of the Battle of Warterloo fame did it, and so did the 62-year-old Gen. George Sears Greene, whose men fought off repeated Confederate assaults at Culp’s Hill during the Battle of Gettysburg.

Army Lt. Gen. Nelson A. Miles was another one of these timeless warriors who shattered this stereotype and demonstrated that age does not provide a restriction to some men.

Nelson Appleton Miles spent nearly 42 years in the U.S. Army leading up to his 64th birthday in 1903. During the American Civil War, He rose from a lowly lieutenant to the rank of major general of volunteers by the age of 26-years-old. He fought in such notable battles as Seven Pines, Antietam, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg.

At the Battle of Chancellorsville in May of 1863, he earned the Medal of Honor as the colonel of the 60th New York Infantry for his “distinguished gallantry while holding with his command an advanced position against repeated assaults by a strong force of the enemy.” He was severely injured in this action and suffered three other wounds through the course of the war.

Miles decided to remain in the army after the American Civil War. He is best remembered for his service on the western frontier during the 1870s and the 1880s — immortalized for his capture of the famed Apache leader Geronimo. By 1895, he rose to overall command of the Army.

Though an excellent soldier, Miles was notorious for being stubborn, quarrelsome, overambitious and opinionated. Many, including President Theodore Roosevelt, wanted to see him cast out of the Army once and for all. Those who knew Miles best were aware that he wasn’t going to be forced out of the army without a fight.

Miles’ time for retirement crept up in 1903. He felt that he was still fit for soldiering, so he set out to prove that he was still physically fit to endure the hardships of active campaigning.

At dawn on July 14, 1903, Miles, sporting a summer helmet and light blue shirt, rode out of Oklahoma’s Fort Sill headed toward Fort Reno 90 miles away, intending to shatter Roosevelt’s age barrier. He was accompanied by several younger officers and cheered on by a large crowd of observers.

The tanned and muscular Miles knocked out the first 34 miles in a record time of just under 2.5 hours. Only the 34 year old cavalry officer Capt. Farrand Sayre of the Eight Cavalry was able to keep up with the grueling pace Miles set under the punishing sun and sweltering heat.

Miles tackled the 90 mile ride in just over nine hours, arriving at Fort Reno to the salute of gunfire from the soldiers of the garrison showing “no signs of fatigue.” Within 40 minutes of arriving, Miles changed out of his dusty uniform, reviewed the troops of the garrison, and rode another four miles to catch a 4:00 p.m. train back to Fort Riley, Kansas.

Miles boasted afterward to the papers that, “I enjoyed every moment of the trip, and there was one time that I felt particularly good; that was when I came up to the men who had charge of the pack teams just south of the Canadian river. They had lunch ready and I enjoyed it with them. It made me feel extra good.”

Despite displaying that he was still very much fit for active service, Miles was forced to retire in August of 1903. At 77, the Civil War general and Medal of Honor recipient offered his services to Woodrow Wilson’s administration with the American intervention during World War I. The offer was politely refused by the secretary of war who wrote back to Miles, “in time of emergency out government may need to take advantage of your great experience. Please accept appreciation of your most patriotic offer.”

Miles was still spry enough to serve on the battlefield even in 1916. He did not pass away until 60 years after the American Civil War ended in May of 1925 from a heart attack, outliving President Theodore Roosevelt by six years.

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These Are The Best Pictures From The Military This Week

Military photographers from all branches of the armed forces are constantly taking awesome shots of training, combat, and stateside events. We looked through the military’s official channels, Flickr, Facebook, and elsewhere and picked our favorites over the past week. Here’s what we found:


Also Read: These Are The Most Incredible Photos The Air Force Took In 2014

AIR FORCE

Tech. Sgt. Donnie McCorkle watches a C-17 Globemaster III land at Altus Air Force Base, Okla.

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Photo: Airman 1st Class Nathan Clark/USAF

A C-5M Super Galaxy sits on the flightline as Airmen clear snow Feb. 17, 2015, on Dover Air Force Base, Del. Winter Storm Octavia dumped a total of four inches of snow on the base and throughout the local area.

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Photo: Roland Balik/USAF

NAVY

SEMBAWANG, Singapore (Feb. 19, 2015) Culinary Specialist 1st Class Robert Parks, from Fostoria, Ohio, heaves a mooring line on the forecastle of the littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) during a sea and anchor detail.

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Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Conor Minto/USN

CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti (Feb. 18, 2014) Cmdr. Ron Neitzke, Camp Lemonnier command chaplain, places ashes on the forehead of Chief Hospital Corpsman Alvin Cruz during an Ash Wednesday service. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a Christian religious observance that covers a period of approximately six weeks before Easter Sunday.

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Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Julia A. Casper/USN

ARMY

An Army Green Beret, assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), provides security for a mule carrying the Mk 47 grenade launcher during MULE Packing Training on Fort Bragg, N.C., Jan. 27, 2015.

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Photo: Sgt Edward F French IV./USARMY

Army Medicine researchers are investigating possible long-term effects of exposure to dust and other airborne particulate matter.

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Photo: Sgt. Brian Kester/USMC

MARINE CORPS

ARLINGTON, Va. – Sergeant Major Micheal Barrett, the 17th sergeant major of the Marine Corps, relinquished his post to Sergeant Major Ronald Green, the 18th sergeant major of the Marine Corps, during a ceremony at the Marine Corps War Memorial, Arlington, Virginia, Feb. 20, 2015.

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Photo: Sgt. Melissa Karnath/USMC

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, North Carolina – Lance Cpl. Zachary Painter (left) and Lance Cpl. Reymond Kane, machine gunners with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment and natives of Roanoke, Va. and Long Island, N.Y., respectively, simulate firing at an enemy during a gun drill at training area G-G aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., Feb. 18, 2015.

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Photo: Cpl. Kirstin Merrimarahajara/USMC

COAST GUARD

A USCG helicopter stands ready as the sun sets on another day of service to nation.

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Photo: USCG/Twitter

USCG crew responds to 13 yr. old boy needing medical attention aboard cruise ship.

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Photo: USCG/Twitter

ALSO: The 4 US Presidents With The Craziest War Stories

AND: 21 Jaw-Dropping Photos Of The US Coast Guard In Alaska

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Second-to-last surviving Doolittle Raider dies at 94

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David Johnathan Thatcher |  Photo:  Robert Seale


Retired Staff Sgt. David Jonathan Thatcher, one of two last surviving members of WWII’s Doolittle Raiders, passed away in Missoula, Montana from complications of a stroke on June 22, 2016. He was 94.

On April 18, 1942, Thatcher was involved in the Doolittle Raid – United States’ first retaliation to Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor four months earlier. The raid involved 16 B-25 Mitchell Medium bombers, 2  aircraft carriers, 4 cruisers, 8 destroyers…and 80 brave souls – all of which had volunteered and trained for the “extremely hazardous” secret mission under the command of the famous Colonel James “Jimmy” Doolittle.

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Thatcher’s aircraft, nicknamed the “Ruptured Duck”, was seventh to launch (is that ok to say because I say ‘take off’ in the next sentence) and was piloted by Ted W. Lawson. The goal for all 16 bombers was to take off from the USS Hornet and bomb military targets in Japan. It was not possible to land back on the Hornet, so the plan was to continue west for a landing in China.

The mission ended up launching 170 miles further out than anticipated, and all of the aircraft ran out of fuel before reaching the areas in China that were not occupied by the Japanese. As was the fate of two other bombers, Thatcher and his crew were forced to ditch their plane at sea. Lawson, the Ruptured Duck’s pilot and his co-pilot were both tossed from the B-25. Miraculously, all 5 crew members survived with serious injuries, with the exception of Thatcher. After regaining consciousness, he was able to walk and helped the others survive.

Doolittle would later tell Thatcher’s parents “… all the plane’s crew were saved from either capture or death as a result of his initiative and courage in assuming responsibility and in tending the wounded himself, day and night.”

Thatcher was one of three awarded the Silver Star for acts of valor during the Doolittle Raid.

“Beyond the limits of human exertion, beyond the call of friendship, beyond the call of duty, he – a corporal – brought his four wounded officers to safety,” Merian C. Cooper, a logistics officer for the Doolittle Raid, wrote of Thatcher after debriefing the Raiders who survived.

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In a 2015 interview with the Associated Press, Thatcher said: “We figured it was just another bombing mission,” only later did he realize that  “it was an important event in World War II.”

“The Doolittle Raid was a pivotal point in the war and ‘very necessary,’ said Thatcher’s son-in-law, Jeff Miller in an interview with local paper, Missoulian.  “But nobody talks about the rest of the story. These guys weren’t put on the sidelines. Too often, the story stops at the Doolittle Raiders.”

Thatcher went on to train in Tampa, Florida on B-26 bombers, and was “one of 12,000 troops to ship out of New York Harbor on the Queen Mary, which zigzagged its way across the North Atlantic to avoid detection by German U-boats. In the next several months, Thatcher flew 26 bombing missions over North Africa, the Mediterranean, and Italy. He participated in the first bombing of Rome in July 1943.”

After retiring from the military, Thatcher worked for the USPS as a Postal Clerk. He is survived by his wife of 70 years, three of their five children and seven grandchildren.

The remaining Doolittle Raider is 101-year-old retired Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” Cole – Jimmy Doolittle’s co-pilot.

Watch:

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Russia just inked a deal that lets its air force stay in Syria for the next 49 years

Russian President Vladimir Putin has endorsed a bill ratifying a protocol to the 2015 agreement between Moscow and Damascus regulating the deployment of the Russian Air Force in Syria for 49 years.


The protocol signed by Russia and Syria in January 2017 regulates issues related to the deployment of the Russian Air Force on Syrian territory as well as related to Russia’s exercise of jurisdiction over its military movable and immovable assets on Syrian territory. It also covers the measures needed to maintain the operation efficiency of the Russia Air Force.

Under the protocol, the Russian Air Force are allowed to stay on Syrian territory for 49 years with an option of automatically extending that arrangement for 25-year periods after this term expires.

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Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

The document, published on the Russian official legal information website, particularly says that the Syrian government is handing over a plot of land in the Latakia province, where the Khmeimim Air Base is located, over to Russia for its free use.

The bill ratifying the protocol was signed by Putin on July 27, according to a Kremlin statement.

It was adopted by the Russian State Duma, the Lower House of the Russian Parliament, on July 14 and approved by the Senate five days later.

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Russian military aircraft at Khmeimim Air Base, Syria. Photo from Russian Ministry of Defense.

The Russian Air Force was deployed to Syria on September 30, 2015, at the request of the Syrian government as part of the operation aimed at fighting terrorist groups. The group was stationed at the Khmeimim Air Base.

Most Russian troops initially deployed to Syria were withdrawn in March 2016 after Putin said that the objectives of the five-month anti-terrorist operation in Syria were “generally accomplished.” At that time, Russia said it would keep a military presence at the port of Tartus and at the Khmeimim airbase to monitor the situation in the region and observe the implementation of ceasefire agreements.

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2 Americans killed, 2 wounded during heavy fighting in Afghanistan

The U.S. Central Command has announced that two American service members were killed and two more wounded during fighting in the Kunduz District of Kunduz Province, Afghanistan, on Nov. 3.


“On behalf of all U.S. Forces – Afghanistan, today’s loss is heartbreaking and we offer our deepest condolences to the families and friends of our service members who lost their lives today. Our wounded soldiers are receiving the best medical care possible and we are keeping them and their families in our thoughts today, as well,” Gen. John W. Nicholson, commander of USFOR-A, said in a press release. “Despite today’s tragic event, we are steadfast in our commitment to help our Afghan partners defend their nation.”

Afghan government and insurgent forces are fighting fiercely for Kunduz District, an area near the border with Tajikistan. Kunduz is a six-hour drive down Afghanistan Highway 76 from Kabul, the country’s capital. The city is one of Afghanistan’s largest.

Dozens of civilians were also killed in the fighting on Nov. 3, according to the New York Times. The incident is under investigation, but it is believed that most of the civilians killed and wounded were victims of an errant airstrike. Both U.S. and Afghan forces were conducting airstrikes during the fighting in Kunduz.

“As part of an Afghan operation, friendly forces received direct fire and air strikes were conducted to defend themselves,” spokesman Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland told Reuters.

“We take all allegations of civilian casualties very seriously.”

The Taliban told Retuers in a statement that Afghan commandos and U.S. troops were on a raid to capture a rebel commander when the fight took place.

The area was fiercely contested for most of Afghanistan’s so-called fighting season in 2016. Kunduz district was hit by a force of 100 or more fighters in July, and the Taliban took the Khanabad district of Kunduz province for a short period in August. The Kunduz district center even fell to the Taliban for a brief period in 2015 before being recaptured by Afghan forces.

It is Department of Defense policy not to release the names of killed service members until 24 hours after the next of kin has been notified.

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5 more women who received the Distinguished Flying Cross

Editor’s Note: An earlier story posted at WATM on this subject claimed that only seven women had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. After readers notified us that our list was incomplete, we decided to post a new story with the additional information about women who received the Distinguished Flying Cross. A heartfelt thanks to all our readers for keeping us honest and accurate!


Women make up a smaller percentage of the military than men, but they have proven themselves throughout history to be brave, competent, and heroic. Take these sheroes for example:

1. Col. Andra V.P. Kniep

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Colonel Kniep. (Official U.S. Air Force photo)

When then Capt. Andra Kniep took off for a mission in her A-10 over Afghanistan on March 5, 2002, she had no idea she was about to accomplish a most unlikely feat — receiving two Distinguished Flying Crosses in two days.

On that first day, Kniep coordinated and led deadly night attacks against Taliban vehicles and positions, destroying numerous enemies. Once the nearly eight hour mission was completed, she then led her element to a “remote, unfamiliar, classified location” for recovery, according to her Distinguished Flying Cross citation.

The next day Kniep once again led her element against the enemy, this time taking control of the Operation Anaconda airspace. Kniep successfully coordinated attack elements using multiple platforms totaling fourteen aircraft. Due to her exceptional ability all elements in the congested airspace were able to complete their missions and support coalition ground forces. For her actions on March 6 she was awarded a second Distinguished Flying Cross.

2. Lt. Col. Kim Campbell

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Kim Campbell looks at her damaged hog, which she landed at her base after a mission over Baghdad in 2003. (Photo via National Air and Space Museum)

On April 7, 2003, then-Capt. Kim Campbell, piloting an A-10, was part of a two plane sortie flying close air support over Baghdad. When a call came over the radio of troops in contact, Campbell and her wingman responded. After numerous gun and rocket runs supporting the troops on the ground, Campbell’s aircraft took heavy fire.

As she fought with her stricken aircraft, it hurtled towards Baghdad and she faced the possibility of ejecting into hostile territory. Luckily, the A-10 has triple redundancy in its controls, and though both the hydraulic systems were inoperable, the manual reversion system was still functioning. Using this system “of cranks and cables,” Campbell said she was able to “fly the aircraft under mechanical control.”

For her efforts that day Campbell was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor.

3. Capt. Tricia Paulsen-Howe

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Lt General T. Michael Moseley presents Paulsen-Howe and her crew members the Distinguished Flying Cross. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Bridget Rapp)

On the same day of Capt. Campbell’s heroics, Capt. Tricia Paulsen-Howe and the rest of the crew of a KC-135 aircraft flew their unarmed tanker into harm’s way. According to the Air Force, Paulsen-Howe and crew entered hostile airspace to assist in the combat search and rescue mission of a downed F-15 north of Baghdad. They provided critical refueling assets during the operation. For their bravery the entire crew were each awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

4. Col. Tracy Onufer

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Colonel Tracy Onufer. (Official U.S. Air Force photo)

Col. Onufer had been an officer aboard Air Force Special Operations aircraft including the AC-130H and AC-130U flying combat missions in both Iraq and Afghanistan. She is currently serving as the Vice Commander of the 352nd Special Operations Wing and according to her Air Force biography is the recipient of a Distinguished Flying Cross for her actions overseas.

5. Capt. Lindsay Gordon

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A U.S. Army AH-64 Apache attack helicopter prepares to depart Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, on Jan 7, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Matt Hecht)

Capt. Lindsay Gordon was serving as an AH-64 Apache pilot with the 101st Airborne Division when she and Chief Warrant Officer David Woodward were called upon to support an exfiltration of a Ranger element in contact.

When 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment helicopters extracting the Rangers came under heavy fire, Gordon maneuvered her Apache into harm’s way to draw fire. Gordon and Woodward’s action were credited with saving numerous lives and aircraft. For their actions they were both awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

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Here are 10 things everyone experiences in jump school

The U.S. Army Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia is where U.S. military members of all branches go to become military parachutists. The school is three weeks of intense physical drills, training on towers, and of course, “jumping out of a perfectly good airplane” five times to earn the coveted silver parachute badge (also known as “jump wings”).


Here are 10 things Airborne students will encounter when going through Jump School:

1. Black Hats

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Airborne Instructors in 1977

An Airborne instructor’s nametag may read “Jones” but students will address him or her as “Sergeant Airborne.” New Airborne trainees are received by the school’s instructors known as “Black Hats,” because of their headgear, a simple black baseball cap with their rank and wings display on the cap.

The instructors are mostly Army personnel, but the Marine Corps Air Force, and Navy also provide instructors since the school is open to all eligible DOD service members. Black Hats are skilled parachutists who are responsible for training Airborne students, and they do with ‘tough love. They will make their students repeat physical drills and exercises over and over until they get it right.

No matter how exhausting, they won’t stop until a student gets it right. They are doing it for the trainees own well-being.

2. The Airborne Shuffle

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Army 2nd Lt. Nelson Lalli runs with an Airborne School classmate to report in after his first jump.

Not to be confused with the popular dance the ‘Cupid shuffle’ or the Chicago Bears Super Bowl shuffle, the Airborne shuffle is not a dance nor is it fun. This shuffle refers to the pace or speed of a formation run during Airborne school. It is typically about a 9-minute mile.

The shuffle is meant to build stamina, not speed. At Airborne School, trainees run everywhere especially in combat boots or with their equipment. The Airborne shuffle is also commonly known for the short choppy steps students take on the aircraft before the jump out, just like the cadence “Stand up, Hook up, Shuffle to the door.”

3. Wearing Helmets all day

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At Jump School, aspiring paratroopers will wear their helmet everywhere they go. Students will run and train with it on every day. The chin strip and helmet pads will reek so bad after the first week of training that a squirt of Febreze is simply not enough to contain the smell of sweat and bacteria.

4. Falling all day

Airborne students will spend a lot of time hitting the ground during Jump School. Learning how to properly fall during a parachute landing is a core fundamental taught at the Basic Airborne Course. This is especially true when doing parachute landing fall (PLF) drills. Trainees will jump off platforms of different heights into large pits over and over until they get it right. Airborne students can expect to do hundreds of PLFs before they leave the school.

Along with PLFs, trainees will jump from tall towers like the 34-foot tower to learn proper aircraft exiting techniques and the iconic 250-foot tower, although not all Airborne class get to do the tower.

Just remember to “keep your feet and knees together!”

5. The smell of Bengay in the morning

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Week one, ground week, focuses on the proper landing fall techniques, emphasizing the importance of keeping feet and knees together during a landing to prevent injuries. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Kuande Hall)

Before long, the smell of Bengay, the over-the-counter analgesic cream used to relieve muscle and joint pain, will fill the barracks each morning to help students with their joint and muscle pain.

6. Swing Landing Trainer

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A student practices proper landing techniques on the Swing Landing Trainer.

The Swing Landing Trainer is not fun. Students are strapped into a harness to step off a platform and swing back and forth. The discomfort experienced on this device when swinging, especially for male students, is terrible. Students will continue to swing on the harness until they are released by the Black Hats. Trainees must perform several proper PLFs to pass this stage of training.

Most hit the ground like a stack of potatoes.

7. “Hurry up and wait” goes to a whole new level

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Airborne Students wait to board an aircraft.

Finally, it’s jump week… but the wait isn’t over. Students will wake up early, run to the chute shed, rig up, and just wait and wait for many hours. Students are not allowed to sleep or talk as they wait. It’s the ultimate example of “hurry up and wait.”

8. A mix of emotions

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Time to jump! There’s certainly level of excitement and fear at this point, as jumpers hook up to the static line and prepare to jump. Some people question their judgement at this point, as butterflies flutter in their stomachs and thoughts of “why the hell am I doing this” circle in their head. For others, this is the best moment of their life!

9. Jumping Out

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Paratroopers with 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division (Advise and Assist Brigade), exit a C-130 aircraft Feb. 12, 2010, at Al Asad Airbase, Iraq, as part of the largest airborne training exercise conducted by U.S. forces in Iraq since the beginning of the war. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michael J. MacLeod)

Probably the two most common reactions: “This is awesome” or “Holy Shit!”

10. Pinning of the Wings

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After completing five parachute jumps, Lt. Col. Kay Wakatake has her wings pinned on by Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Richardson at Fort Benning, Georgia. (Photo by Captain Greg Peterson)

The pinning of parachute wings is the crowning achievement of three weeks of training. The badge is pinned (or slammed) on the graduate’s chest. This rite of passage solidifies an individual as a member of the Airborne family. The best part of all of this: You’re no longer a leg!

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An anonymous administration official just gave an incoherent defense of Obama’s Middle East policy

The Middle East is teetering on the edge of full-blown intra-Arab war, ISIS still controls a Belgium-sized slice of the region’s heart, chlorine barrel bombs are still falling over Syria, and the US is threatening to “evaluate” one of its firmest and oldest Middle Eastern alliances.


It’s a flummoxing state of play for any US administration to face, especially one that’s invested so much effort in reorienting US policy in the region.

And no amount of brilliant policymaking can stave off disaster: the US is a superpower, but it isn’t all-powerful, and no modern president has managed to get the region completely right.

But a quote from an Obama administration official in a March 27 New York Times article about the region’s turmoil seems to sum up the US’s frustration in the region — as well as demonstrate how the Middle East seems to be drifting beyond any meaningful US influence.

“We’re trying to beat ISIL — and there are complications,” the official told the Times. “We have a partner who is collapsing in Yemen and we’re trying to support that. And we’re trying to get a nuclear deal with Iran. Is this all part of some grand strategy? Unfortunately, the world gets a vote.”

This quote may warrant some unpacking: just what are these “complications” the official refers to? And who is this partner that’s “collapsing” in Yemen? After all, the state is essentially defunct, and the country’s recognized president just fled the country by boat. Is this a part of a grand strategy, and what is the “this” the official refers to? Both questions are pointedly left unanswered.

The official is right about one thing: the rest of the world does “get a vote.” That’s true at all times, and the challenge for the US relates to what it can and should do in light of its lack of total control regarding areas that impact vital security and economic interests.

Based on this quote, that’s a question the Obama administration is still struggling to answer.

Although a different anonymous official who spoke with Politico had one possible route to US strategic clarity: a nuclear deal with Iran.

“The truth is, you can dwell on Yemen, or you can recognize that we’re one agreement away from a game-changing, legacy-setting nuclear accord on Iran that tackles what every one agrees is the biggest threat to the region,” an unnamed official told Politico on March 26.

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This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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Watch the Air Force launch a Minuteman missile

The U.S. Air Force released test-launched an unarmed Minuteman III missile Feb. 25 in order to test the reliability of the Cold War-era, nuclear-capable weapons. The Minuteman III is an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads.


“This is the second ICBM launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in the past 5 days and while it may seem routine, a tremendous amount of effort is required to safely assess the current performance and validate the security of the nation’s fielded ICBM force,” said Col. J. Christopher Moss, 30th Space Wing commander. “Our teams are made of dedicated Airmen who make a difference for the Air Force and the nation and I am proud to be a part of this team.”

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A Minuteman III missile streaks across the sky in a 2013 test from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class Yvonne Morales

The tested missile flew 4,000 miles over the Pacific to a test area in the Marshall Islands which opened up speculation that the missile test may have been a reminder to North Korea that the U.S. can hit it at any time. North Korea recently launched a failed satellite that some say was a camouflaged test of its own ballistic missiles and a threat to the U.S.

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A rocket lifts off from its launch pad in Musudan-ri, North Korea (DPRK State Media)

Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work said the test was necessary to remind rival nations that the aging U.S. nuclear missiles are still very capable, but he didn’t mention North Korea.

“We and the Russians and the Chinese routinely do test shots to prove that the operational missiles that we have are reliable,” he told journalists at the launch. “And that is a signal … that we are prepared to use nuclear weapons in defense of our country if necessary.”

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Photo: US Air Force via Wikipedia

Each Minuteman III missile can carry up to three nuclear warheads which each strike different targets. Each warhead packs a 300-500 kiloton yield, about 20-33 times the strength of the bomb that struck Hiroshima. The missile tested Feb. 25 carried a test version of the re-entry vehicles which steer nuclear warheads.

The Air Force has had to reduce its number of ICBMs to meet the requirements of the New START treaty which caps the number at 400 armed missiles and 50 unarmed reserves. The Minuteman III missile is the only U.S. land-based ICBM currently in service.

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These ‘Pin-Up’ girls entertain veterans with burlesque shows and sexy calendars

 


“It was 2006, I was working in hotel management,” Gina Elise says. “There were all these stories about the Veterans Administration struggling to treat returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. I wanted to do something to support them and to support the hospitals who treated them.”

Gina Elise is the founder of Pin-Ups for Vets, a non-profit whose mission is based on producing WWII-style pinup calendars to support hospitalized veterans and deployed troops. After four years, she quit her job at the hotel to work with veterans full time. She has produced nine annual calendars since, but her efforts don’t stop at just calendars.  Elise and her unit of celebrities and women veterans are currently on a 50-state VA and military hospital tour. To date, the pinups visited 6,000 veterans at their bedside.

“Attitude is a huge part of recovery,” says Shannon Stacy, a former Marine Corps Flight Surgeon and the 2015 calendar’s Miss April. “I think its great that an organization like this can come in really make a difference in patients lives, on top of what the doctors and nurses do.” Stacy can appreciate how attitude affects recovery, as she is also currently an Emergency Medicine Physician.

“On the surface, we’re shooting a fun, artistic calendar,” Elise says. “Under that, we’re supporting a cause that should be important to all Americans: supporting our veterans.” Most importantly, Pin-Ups for Vets buys medical equipment for VA and military hospitals and sends morale-boosting care packages to deployed American troops around the world.  So far, Pin-Ups for Vets donated more than $50,000 of state-of-the-art rehabilitation equipment to VA military hospitals nationwide.

“My grandfather was a World War II veteran,” Elise recalls. “They used to paint this art on the nose of planes to boost morale for the guys going into battle to remind them of what they were fighting for.”

“When you think about the fact these soldiers painted these women on the sides of aircraft, and it gave them the confidence to go fight,” says Jovane Henry, a former Marine Corps Photojournalist and 2015’s Miss July. “What’s more empowering than that? I think it’s great. It’s a continuation of service for me. Serving was one of the greatest experiences of my life and I’m happy to be able to continue that service through Pin-Ups for Vets.”

The spirit of Pin-Ups For Vets also promotes volunteerism at Veterans Hospitals, supports homeless Veterans in shelters, and boosts morale for military wives and female Veterans with makeovers and clothing.

The recent launch party for the 2015 calendar, the first to feature 12 veterans, was held at the American Legion in Hollywood (Post 43) and featured a burlesque show headlined by an all-veteran pinup revue.  It was the first of its kind. Jennifer Campbell, who worked a .50 cal in a US Army transportation unit participated in the show, but saw it as a family event.

“It gave us a chance to jump into a different period of time,” Campbell recalls. “My great aunt was a WWII poster pin-up girl. It was fun seeing the transition from then to now.”

The burlesque troop, “The Dollface Dames,” performed a variety of numbers. It was a vintage burlesque show, true to its 1940’s heritage, complete with dancing, feather boas, hula-hoops, singing, even a shadow silhouette erotic dance.

“There’s no hard, fast rule that says I can’t be a hard-charging Marine and a lipstick-wearing pinup,” Henry states. “So I choose to be both.”

 

Learn more about Pin-Ups for Vets and purchase the calendar at PinUpsForVets.com.

 

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