A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires - We Are The Mighty
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A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires

With the increasing number of forest fires on the West Coast, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has had to ask the California National Guard for help containing the blazes.


Soldiers of the National Guard have been called in to assist both on the ground and in the air. Chinook crews have been flying missions to drop water from nearby lakes onto the wildfires. Here’s what they see while completing their mission.

Helicopter crews pick up water from lakes in Bambi Buckets, large water carriers with remote-operated valves.

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
Video Still: California National Guard Staff Sgt. Edward Siguenza

Once they have the water, the crews target areas where the fire is attempting to spread.

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
Video Still: California National Guard Staff Sgt. Edward Siguenza

The crews map out nearby water features and plan their flights so they can refill and return to the fire as quickly as possible.

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
Video Still: California National Guard Staff Sgt. Edward Siguenza

The pilots’ navigation equipment was designed for war and provides more than enough information for them to navigate on the objective.

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
Video Still: California National Guard Staff Sgt. Edward Siguenza

The crew assist the pilots in targeting the fire and aiming the water.

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
Video Still: California National Guard Staff Sgt. Edward Siguenza

These images and the below video were taken from the California Rocky Fire which burned for 16 days and consumed over 69,000 acres. 96 buildings were destroyed and 8 damaged before it was contained.

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
Video Still: California National Guard Staff Sgt. Edward Siguenza

Check out the video below to see the California National Guard crews go through their mission.

NOW: This remarkable video shows what it’s like for Medevac crews to rescue troops under fire

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How a new generation of Air Force pilots flew a mission for a fallen WW2 brother

On Dec. 23, 1944, 2nd Lt. Charles E. Carlson was killed in action when Nazi planes shot down his P-47 Thunderbolt. Carlson would be missing for almost 73 years until he was identified and buried with full honors at Indiantown Gap National Cemetery in Pennsylvania on Aug. 4, 2017.


When the “missing man” formation was flown, it was done by four F-35s.

The F-35s belonged to the 62nd Fighter Squadron, one of 23 assigned to the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, according to the wing’s official webpage. The 56th operates both F-35s and F-16s.

But long before it had the mission to train pilots on the Air Force’s newest multi-role fighter, the 56th Fighter Wing was a combat unit, as was its predecessor, the 56th Fighter Group.

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
2nd Lt. Charles E. Carlson, who was killed in action when his P-47 Thunderbolt was shot down on Dec. 23, 1944. (USAF photo)

A July 28 release by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency noted that Carlson’s remains had finally been identified. It noted that Carlson’s wingman had believed that the pilot got out, but German officials had claimed his remains had been recovered near the crash site.

The release stated that Carlson would be returned to his family for burial. So, how did the F-35s end up flying the missing man formation?

Back in World War II, the 56th Fighter Group was known as the “Wolfpack,” which included the 62nd Fighter Squadron. Among the pilots who flew with that unit was the legendary Robert S. Johnson, a 27-kill ace who later wrote the book, “Thunderbolt!”

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
Four F-35’s participated in a missing man formation fly-over during 2nd Lt. Charles E. Carlson’s funeral in Pennsylvania more than 70 years after being shot down over Germany in World War II when he was assigned to the 62nd FS. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jensen Stidham)

According to an Air Force News Service report, it was because Carlson had been a member of the 62nd when he was killed in action. Squadron commander Lt. Col. Peter Lee had been browsing Facebook when he noticed the patch for the 62nd Fighter Squadron.

“I clicked on the link and that’s how I found out. It started with something as simple as a Facebook post…and next thing you know we’re flying four airplanes over and talking with the family,” he said.

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
F-35 Lightning II fighters fly the missing man formation during the funeral of 2nd Lt. Charles E. Carlson. (Youtube Screenshot)

The F-35s flew the missing man formation for Carlson, led by Capt. Kyle Babbitt, who said, “If it had been me on the other side, I would really appreciate this for my family. It’s definitely an honor to take on this responsibility.”

You can see a video about this mission by the 62nd Fighter Squadron below.

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This is what the US cyber command could look like

After months of delay, the Trump administration is finalizing plans to revamp the nation’s military command for defensive and offensive cyber operations in hopes of intensifying America’s ability to wage cyber war against the Islamic State group and other foes, according to US officials.


Under the plans, US Cyber Command would eventually be split off from the intelligence-focused National Security Agency.

Details are still being worked out, but officials say they expect a decision and announcement in the coming weeks. The officials weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter so requested anonymity.

The goal, they said, is to give US Cyber Command more autonomy, freeing it from any constraints that stem from working alongside the NSA, which is responsible for monitoring and collecting telephone, internet, and other intelligence data from around the world — a responsibility that can sometimes clash with military operations against enemy forces.

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Making cyber an independent military command will put the fight in digital space on the same footing as more traditional realms of battle on land, in the air, at sea, and in space.

The move reflects the escalating threat of cyberattacks and intrusions from other nation states, terrorist groups, and hackers, and comes as the US faces ever-widening fears about Russian hacking following Moscow’s efforts to meddle in the 2016 American election.

The US has long operated quietly in cyberspace, using it to collect information, disrupt enemy networks, and aid conventional military missions. But as other nations and foes expand their use of cyberspying and attacks, the US is determined to improve its ability to incorporate cyber operations into its everyday warfighting.

Experts said the command will need time to find its footing.

“Right now I think it’s inevitable, but it’s on a very slow glide path,” said Jim Lewis, a cybersecurity expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. But, he added, “A new entity is not going to be able to duplicate NSA’s capabilities.”

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
U.S. Air Force photo by Raymond McCoy

The NSA, for example, has 300 of the country’s leading mathematicians “and a gigantic super computer,” Lewis said. “Things like this are hard to duplicate.”

He added, however, that over time, the US has increasingly used cyber as a tactical weapon, bolstering the argument for separating it from the NSA.

The two highly secretive organizations, based at Fort Meade, Maryland, have been under the same four-star commander since Cyber Command’s creation in 2009.

But the Defense Department has been agitating for a separation, perceiving the NSA and intelligence community as resistant to more aggressive cyber warfare, particularly after the Islamic State’s transformation in recent years from an obscure insurgent force into an organization holding significant territory across Iraq and Syria and with a worldwide recruiting network.

While the military wanted to attack IS networks, intelligence objectives prioritized gathering information from them, according to US officials familiar with the debate. They weren’t authorized to discuss internal deliberations publicly and requested anonymity.

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
Former United States Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter.

Then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter sent a plan to President Barack Obama last year to make Cyber Command an independent military headquarters and break it away from the NSA, believing that the agency’s desire to collect intelligence was at times preventing the military from eliminating IS’ ability to raise money, inspire attacks, and command its widely dispersed network of fighters.

Carter, at the time, also pushed for the ouster of Adm. Mike Rogers, who still heads both bodies. The Pentagon, he warned, was losing the war in the cyber domain, focusing on cyberthreats from nations such as Iran, Russia, and China, rather than on countering the communications and propaganda campaigns of internet-savvy insurgents.

Officials also grew alarmed by the growing number of cyberattacks against the US government, including several serious, high-level Defense Department breaches that occurred under Rogers’ watch.

“NSA is truly an intelligence-collection organization,” said Lauren Fish, a research associate with the Center for a New American Security. “It should be collecting information, writing reports on it. Cyber Command is meant to be an organization that uses tools to have military operational effect.”

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
Director of United States National Security Agency, Mike Rogers. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

After President Donald Trump’s inauguration, officials said Defense Secretary Jim Mattis endorsed much of the plan. But debate over details has dragged on for months.

It’s unclear how fast the Cyber Command will break off on its own. Some officials believe the new command isn’t battle-ready, given its current reliance on the NSA’s expertise, staff, and equipment. That effort will require the department to continue to attract and retain cyber experts.

Cyber Command was created in 2009 by the Obama administration to address threats of cyber espionage and other attacks. It was set up as a sub-unit under US Strategic Command to coordinate the Pentagon’s ability to conduct cyber warfare and to defend its own networks, including those that are used by combat forces in battle.

Officials originally said the new cyber effort would likely involve hundreds, rather than thousands, of new employees.

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
Graduates from the Master of Cyber Systems and Operations program inside NPS’ Hamming High Performance Computing Center. Navy photo by Javier Chagoya.

Since then, the command has grown to more than 700 military and civilian employees. The military services also have their own cyber units, with a goal of having 133 fully operational teams with as many as 6,200 personnel.

Its proposed budget for next year is $647 million. Rogers told Congress in May that represents a 16 percent increase over this year’s budget to cover costs associated with building the cyber force, fighting IS, and becoming an independent command.

Under the new plan being forwarded by the Pentagon to the White House, officials said Army Lt. Gen. William Mayville would be nominated to lead Cyber Command. Leadership of the NSA could be turned over to a civilian.

Mayville is currently the director of the military’s joint staff and has extensive experience as a combat-hardened commander. He deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan, leading the 173rd Airborne Brigade when it made its assault into Iraq in March 2003 and later heading coalition operations in eastern Afghanistan.

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Why ‘American Sniper’ Is For Military Wives

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
Photo: American Sniper/ IMDb


When the husband of one of my close friends was killed in Iraq, she slipped an E. E. Cummings poem into his casket before he was buried at Arlington. That poem ran through my mind, in verses and lines, like a skipping CD, the whole time I watched “American Sniper” in the theater this past weekend.

the boys i mean are not refined

they go with girls who buck and bite

I’ve read many commentaries about this movie in the past week, most of them heralding it for telling the wife and family side of war.

It’s true. More than any war movie I’ve seen – and loving a man who lives at the ‘tip of the spear’ means that I’ve seen most of them – “American Sniper” touches on what war was like for Taya Kyle, Chris Kyle’s wife.  It tells what war is like for all the wives.

I do mean wives.

I say ‘wives’ and not ‘spouses’ intentionally, though I’ve been conditioned to correct myself on this, because most, if not all, of the spouses of military operators are women.

That this is the first movie to humanize the wives of warriors – to make us out to be more than ribbon-festooned cheerleaders – is almost offensive. It is, or should be, obvious to everyone that combat exposure is not the sum total of a warrior, and that war does not only affect the warrior.

But – and I think Taya Kyle would agree with me on this – to say that the movie tells the whole family story would be like saying that ping pong at the Rec Center tells you all you need to know about Wimbledon. There is no way a movie can truly show the family side of war, but at least this one tried.

one hangs a hat upon her tit

one carves a cross on her behind

they do not give a s— for wit

the boys i mean are not refined

These are the people we sacrifice to save.

My husband and I watched the movie together, sitting in a packed theater in a town that has few veterans and even fewer – if any – operators. I glanced around at our fellow moviegoers, many overweight, most missing the inside jokes sprinkled throughout the film. I smiled to myself, proud of my husband, knowing that none of the others in the theater knew that the guy in the third row had lived through encounters exactly like the ones on the screen; knowing that these are the people we sacrifice to save.

A couple sitting behind us brought their children, who looked to be about two and four years old. My husband and I — parents of young children ourselves — were disgusted with that couple.

Only someone who has no concept of how awful war can really be would choose to force visions of it onto the innocent. Their innocent. Our own children were one block away, at a drop in childcare center. Playing. Laughing. Being kids. He goes away to war, and I make do without him, so that our kids won’t have to see it here.

We signed on for this war together.

We signed on for this war together. He, to fight it. Me, to hold his life together so that he can leave. He, to keep the bad guys ‘over there.’ Me, to give him a life to come home to. He, to place himself directly in front of the worst the world has to offer. Me, to be the place where he can go to rest.

It takes a special kind of man to volunteer to run toward the ugliest of fights. It takes a special kind of woman to let him.

In the movie, when Chris and Taya first meet, she tells him that she would never date a SEAL. When my husband and I first met and he told me he was in the Army, I told him, “So long as you aren’t one of those psycho killers.” We laugh about that now.

the boys i mean are not refined

they cannot chat of that and this

they do not give a fart for art

they kill like you would take a piss

I got my college minor in studio art. I can chat expertly about “that and this.” I was a Journalism major and well into a career as a newspaper reporter when I met my soldier. I harbored no visions of deployments or camouflage back then. I did not want to be a warrior’s wife.

I never imagined that my vacuum cleaner would break because it sucked up a brass shell casing or that my dryer’s lint screen would be dotted with orange foam ear plugs.

I did not know that I would come to find the smell of Army – dirt, sweat and metal – sexy. That the sound of ripping velcro would become a turn-on. It had never before occurred to me that I could love someone whose job might involve killing. Killing people.

In an early scene, Taya and Chris Kyle lie together in bed, her hair long and dark like mine, fanned out across her pillow as his arm is slung across her body, his wrist near her face.

“I wonder if her hair will get caught in his G-Shock?” I whispered to my husband, laughing. The watch was an excellent, accurate, detail that was probably lost on most of the movie goers.

“Maybe,” he replied. “But I bet she won’t bitch about it.”

I shuddered both times in the movie when Taya was on a satellite phone call with Chris and combat erupted around him, turning war into a conference call. I have been on that call.

The movie didn’t show what came next.

The movie didn’t show what came next. I wished it would have. The throwing up, reflexively, again and again, out of pure fear. The dry heaves, streams of snot, and the feeling of your own body temperature dropping as you curl into a fetal position and stay like that for hours.

The movie didn’t show how you must use every ounce of energy just to exist through the two days of wondering if you’re a widow yet, and then relaxing a bit on the third day because the casualty notification team has not come. If he were dead, they would have been here by now.

That friend who put the poem in her husband’s casket, she and I used to talk about casualties a lot. In one of our conversations she said, “You’re strong. When it happens, you’ll be okay. It will make you sad, but it won’t destroy you.”

“When,” not “if.”

She corrected herself immediately, but it had already been said. It felt like a “when” to me in those days. I attended so many memorial services for friends then. It seemed like there was at least one every month. It seems like those days are behind us now. Like we are the lucky ones. The ones who got away. But I’m sure it felt like that to Taya Kyle, too.

“American Sniper” is a excellent film, deserving of all the praise it is receiving. It has started a long overdue conversation, about warriors, and family, and life after war. About PTSD and what it really means. About the nature of people who will give absolutely everything they have – their arms, their legs, their minds, their years, their families, their memories, their lives – for something bigger than themselves. For their friends. For their country. For their childrens’ futures.

the boys i mean are not refined

they shake the mountains when they dance

Rebekah Sanderlin is an Army wife, a mother of three and a professional writer. She writes the Must Have Parent column for Military.com. Her work has been published nationwide including in The Washington Post, The New York Times, National Public Radio, CNN, and in Self and Maxim magazines. She currently serves on the advisory boards of the Military Family Advisory Network and Blue Star Families.

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This article originally appeared at Military.com Copyright 2014. Follow Military.com on Twitter.

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The F-35 may be ready for prime time

After achieving an awesome air-to-air kill ratio of 15-to-one, the F-35 trounced ground targets at the US Air Force’s Red Flag exercise — and now the world’s most expensive weapons system may finally be ready for the front lines.


For the first time ever, the F-35 competed against legacy aircraft and simulated surface-to-air missile batteries at “the highest level threats we know exist,” according to a statement from Lt. Col. George Watkins, an F-53 squadron commander.

“Just as we’re getting new systems and technology, the adversary’s threats are becoming more sophisticated and capable,” said Watkins, nodding to the expansive counter-stealth and anti-air capabilities built up by the Russians and Chinese over the years.

Also read: The ‘Chopper Popper’ scored the A-10’s first air-to-air kill…against an Iraqi helicopter

But the F-35 program has long carried the promise of delivering a plane that can outsmart, outgun, and out-stealth enemy systems, and the latest run at Red Flag seems to have vindicated the troubled 16-year long program. Not only can the F-35 operate in heavily contested airspace, which render F-15s, F-16s, and F-18s as sitting ducks, but it can get more done with fewer planes.

“I flew a mission the other day where our four-ship formation of F-35As destroyed five surface-to-air threats in a 15-minute period without being targeted once,” said Maj. James Schmidt, a former A-10 pilot now flying F-35s.

Four planes taking out five SAM sites in 15 minutes represents nothing less than a quantum leap in capability for the Air Force, which prior to the F-35 would have to target threats with long-range missiles before getting close to the battle.

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
An F-35A Lightning II from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, takes off from Nellis AFB, Nev., Feb. 2, 2017, during Red Flag 17-01. This is the first F-35A deployment to Red Flag since the Air Force declared the jet combat ready in August 2016. | US Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw

“We would shoot everything we had at that one threat just to take it out. Now between us and the (F-22) Raptor, we are able to geo-locate them and precision target them,” Watkins said, adding that F-35s are so stealthy, “we can get close enough to put a bomb right on them.”

But that’s only one of the multi-role F-35’s jobs. After obliterating ground threats, F-35 pilots said they turned right around and started hammering air threats.

The F-35 came out of Red Flag such a ringing success that Defense News reports that the strike aircraft is now being considered at the highest levels for overseas deployments.

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
Airmen load a bomb into the F-35A’s internal bomb bay. | US Air Force

“I think based on the data that we’re hearing right now for kill ratios, hit rates with bombs, maintenance effectiveness … those things tell me that the airplane itself is performing extremely well from a mechanical standpoint and … that the proficiency and skills of the pilots is at a level that would lead them into any combat situation as required,” Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus, head of the Air Force’s F-35 integration office told Defense News.

With that success on record, Pleus will now consider deploying a small group of six to eight F-35s overseas as part of a “theater security package” to help train and integrate with US allies.

UK and Australian contingents participated in this installment of Red Flag. Both countries plan to buy and operate the F-35 in the near future.

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Here are the winners of the 2014 US military photographer awards

A panel of judges in Fort Meade, Maryland have made their selections for the 2014 Military Photographer awards.


The judges have handed out awards to military photographers for their amazing work in ten different categories including Sports, Pictorial, and Combat Documentation (Operational). The judges have also named the overall best military photographer for 2014.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Vernon Young was selected as the Military Photographer of the year. His photos ranged from evocative portraits of Afghans to scenes of US forces training before deployment.

“Recon Patrols” (First Place: Combat Documentation, Operational)

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
Photo: SGT Harold Flynn

Soldiers assigned to Palehorse Troop, 4th Squadron, 2nd Calvary Regiment move over rough terrain during Operation Alamo Scout 13, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, on Feb. 10, 2014. The operation was a joint effort between Palehorse troops and the Afghan National Army’s 205th Corps Mobile Strike Force to conduct reconnaissance patrols in villages around Kandahar Airfield.

“Wounded Warrior” (Second Place: Combat Documentation, Operational)

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
Photo: SSgt Perry Aston

Casualties airlifted by an Afghan Air Force C-130 Hercules from a Taliban attack on Camp Bastion, are offloaded on Dec. 1, 2014 at Kabul International Airport. The Afghan military successfully repelled the attack on the camp after receiving control of the base from coalition forces a month earlier.

“Afghan Gunner” (Third Place: Combat Documentation, Operational)

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
TSgt Jason Robertson

An Afghan Air Force (AAF) Mi-17 aerial gunner fires an M-240 machine gun while flying over a weapons range March 13, 2014, near Kabul, Afghanistan. US Air Force Airmen from the 438th Air Expeditionary Wing/NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan flew a night-vision goggle training mission with an AAF aircrew to further increase the operational capability of the AAF.

“Night Fire” (First Place: Combat Documentation, Training)

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
Photo: Pfc. Nathaniel Newkirk/US Army

US Army Rangers assigned to 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, fire a 120 mm mortar during a tactical training exercise on Camp Roberts, Calif. on Jan. 30, 2014. 

“Land Nav” (Second Place: Combat Documentation, Training)

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
Photo: Sgt. Marcus Fichtl/US Army

Sgt. Timothy Martin, a native of Waipahu, Hawaii, wheeled vehicle mechanic, Company B, 204th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, prepares to conduct night land navigation during the brigade’s 3-day-long Soldier and NCO of the Year competition at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, on April 23, 2014. 

“Dustoff! Dustoff!” (Third Place: Combat Documentation, Training)

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
Photo: Staff Sgt. Corey J. Hook/USAF

US Army Soldiers assigned to the 3rd Squadron 17th Regiment are picked up by a blackhawk helicopter after participating in a survival, evasion, resistance and escape exercise during Decisive Action Rotation 14-09 at the National Training Center on Aug. 13, 2014. Decisive action rotations are reflective of the complexities of potential adversaries the US military could face and include training against guerilla, insurgent, criminal and near-peer conventional forces.

“Drown-proofing” (First Place: Feature)

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen/USAF

Members of the Special Tactics Training Squadron enter a pool with their hands and feet bound. The drown-proofing exercise teaches students to remain calm in the water during stressful situations, skills that may prove vital during real-world operations.

“Retiring the colors” (Second Place: Feature)

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
Photo: Senior Airman Jordan Castelan/USAF

Three 86th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Airmen secure the American flag during the sounding of retreat on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, on June 27, 2014.

“Down and Dirty” (Third Place: Feature)

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
Photo: SSgt Vernon Young/USAF

Staff Sgt. Kyle McGann, Explosive Ordnance Disposal technician, climbs into a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle during EOD blast-pit training on March 16, 2014. Blast pit training prepares EOD technicians to handle detonations by practicing procedures and communications for real-world responses.

“The Reach” (First Place: Illustrative)

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
Photo: Airman 1st Class Devin N. Boyer/USAF

As the military’s despcription of this photo puts it, “Family and friends can be important influences in helping someone get treatment for mental health issues. Reaching out and letting them know you are there to help them is the first step.”

“Cyber Deception” (Second Place: Illustrative)

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
Photo: Airman 1st Class Devin N. Boyer/USAF

Per the military’s description: “Social media opens doors for meeting new people. However, are the people you meet who they say they are? The internet allows predators to use deception to take advantage of their victims.”

“The face of domestic violence” Third Place: Illustrative

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
Photo: Senior Airman Rusty Frank/USAF

This illustration is meant to show the effects of domestic violence. According to the Family Advocacy Program, more than 18,000 cases of domestic violence were reported in 2013.

“The Thunder Returns” (First Place: News)

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
Photo: Staff Sgt. Larry E. Reid Jr./USAF

The US Air Force Thunderbirds fly the Delta formation over Falcon Stadium during the US Air Force Academy Graduation Ceremony on May 28, 2014. 

“Remembering” (Second Place: News)

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Eric R. Dietrich/US Navy

US Air Force Master Sgt. Tiffany Robinson, assigned to 449th Air Expeditionary Group, kneels in front of a battlefield cross following a Memorial Day ceremony at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, on May 26, 2014. The cross was created with combat gear representing each of the five US military branches, in commemoration of fallen service members.

“Coast Guard Memorial Day Weekend Rescue” (Third Place: News)

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
Photo: Chief Petty Officer Lauren Jorgensen/US Coast Guard

Petty Officer 3rd Class Joshua Zartman of Coast Guard Station Mayport, Florida, pulls 10-year-old Nmir Ali Mahmoud toward a Coast Guard boat while rescuing him, his father and another man who were stranded aboard their 21-foot boat after running it aground on top of a jetty near Mayport, May 24, 2014. 

“Out of the Sea” (First Place: Pictorial)

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
Photo: Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen/USAF

A 22nd Special Tactics Squadron Airman climbs a ladder into a CH-47 Chinook helicopter hovering over the ocean on June 20, 2014. 

“Sky Miles” (Second Place: Pictorial)

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
Photo: Gunnery Sgt. Ezekiel R. Kitandwe/USMC

A US Marine assigned to Echo Company 4th Reconnaissance Battalion rappels out of a CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter at Camp Upshur, Marine Corps Base (MCB) Quantico Va., July 17, 2014. The training exercise was part of a week-long jump, dive, breach, and shooting package conducted around MCB Quantico.

“Assault overwatch” (Third Place: Pictorial)

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
Photo: Spc. Steven A. Hitchcock/US Army

US Army Rangers assigned to 2nd Battalion 75th Ranger Regiment prepare to lay cover fire for the assault element advancing on the objective during task force training on Fort Hunter Ligget, Calif. on Jan. 23, 2014. 

“Survivor” (First Place: Picture Story)

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
Photo: Staff Sgt. Vernon Young/USAF

Staff Sgt. Chantel Thibeaux was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2014 during her very first class as an Air Force technical school instructor. With the support of her family, she was able to fight through a disease that claims the lives of thousands each year. As a US Air Force technical school instructor, Thibeaux has been charged to train the next generation of dental assistants. 

“Becoming “Semper Fidelis”” (Second Place: Picture Story)

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
Photo: Staff Sgt. Jodi Martinez/USAF

US Marine Corps female recruits endure and conquer the Crucible, one of the toughest challenges a recruit will face during their 3-month boot camp at Parris Island, S.C., on Sept. 10, 2014. The women used teamwork, grit, and perseverance to earn the title of Marine and their emblem: the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor.

“Tenderfoot” (Third Place: Picture Story)

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
Photo: Mass Communication Specialst 3rd Class Siobhana McEwen/US Navy

Per the military’s description, “Farrier Henry Heymeiring has been shoeing horses for more than 40 years, and describes the trade as an art. The foundation of Heymering’s art is his love of the animal. A man of few words and many smiles, Heymeiring’s smiles truly convey his passion for his work.”

“Loud and Clear” (First Place: Portrait)

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
Photo: Master Sgt. John R. Nimmo/USAF

US Air Force Staff Sgt. Nadia Rowell, health services management journeyman, 43rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, Pope Army Airfield, N.C., stands for a portrait outside the aeromedical evacuation crew tent at Joint Readiness Training Center, Fort Polk, La., March 15, 2014. Service members at JRTC 14-05 are educated in combat patient care and aeromedical evacuation in a simulated combat environment. 

“Game Time” (Second Place: Portrait_

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
Photo: Senior Airman Daniel Hughes/USAF

A player for the Fort Dorchester High School Football team yells to motivate players in a hostile regional game against Bluffton High School at Bluffton High School Stadium, Oct. 24, 2014. 

“The Army Chaplain” (Third Place: Portrait)

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
Photo: Tech. Sgt. Joshua L. DeMotts/USAF

A Polish World War II re-enactor portrays an army chaplain with the 106th Infantry Division in the same forest the 106th fought in 70 years previously during the Battle of the Bulge, on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014. 

“Beyond” (First Place: Sports and Photo Of The Year)

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
Photo: Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen/USAF

US Air Force Capt. Sarah Evans jumps rope in a gym in San Antonio, Texas. Evans was diagnosed with cancer while deployed to Afghanistan and was medically evacuated back to the United States where her leg was amputated.

“Roar” (Second Place: Sports)

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
Photo: Tech. Sgt. Joshua L. Demotts/USAF

AFNORTH’s Eliska Volencova reacts with teammates Erica Balkcum and Emma Rainer after coming back from 10 points to defeat Hohenfels 22-19 in the DODDS-Europe basketball championships Division III semi-final game Friday, Feb. 21, 2014.

Untitled (Third Place: Sports)

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
Photo: Senior Airman James Richardson/USAF

Cheerleaders from the University of Missouri gather prior to the start of the game against the University of South Carolina Sept. 27, 2014 in Columbia, S.C. Missouri won, 21-20.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Vernon Young won photographer of the year for the following photos: “Timing” …

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
Photo: Staff Sgt. Vernon Young/USAF

A US Army soldier swings a golf club after duty on March 29, 2014.

“A Deeper Connection” …

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
Photo: Staff Sgt. Vernon Young/USAF

US Army Staff Sgt. Damion Kennedy shares a laughs with a local Afghan man as he provides overwatch for a base detail project on April 8, 2014.

“Low Pass” …

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
Photo: Staff Sgt. Vernon Young/USAF

US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Josh Martin, 438th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron, Mi-17 aerial gunner, provides rear security on a Mi-17 helicopter over Kabul, Afghanistan, on May 31, 2014. 

“Faces of Afghanistan” …

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
Photo: Staff Sgt. Vernon Young/USAF

An Afghan man spends a moment alone inside the Afghan National Army (ANA) military planning room prior to serving tea to soldiers on June 11, 2014. The Afghan man provides drinks and cleaning supplies to soldiers as they transition in and out of the ANA command section. 

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

NOW: These Striking Photos Show The True Nature Of America’s Veterans 

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13 new shows and movies vets should watch

Hollywood and other multimedia producers get it wrong a lot of the time when they’re trying to appeal to the military community.


But there are those out there who try their best to nail it.

Here are 13 upcoming shows and movies that get it right, according to Got Your 6.

1. “American Veteran”

The feature length documentary tells the story of U.S. Army Sergeant Nick Mendes, who was paralyzed from the neck down by a 500 pound improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in 2011. The documentary follows Nick for five years following the explosion as he rebuilds his life and falls in love with Wendy, an extraordinary medical caregiver he meets in a VA hospital. The film chronicles his long recovery, struggles, and pain, but never perpetuates the stereotype of the “wounded veteran.” BetterThanFiction Productions

2. “Criminal Minds”

The long-running American police crime drama, set primarily at the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) based in Quantico, Virginia, follows a group of FBI profilers who catch various criminals through behavioral profiling. The plot focuses on the team’s cases and their personal lives, depicting the hardened life and statutory requirements of a profiler. Actor Joe Mantegna plays Supervisory Special Agent David Rossi, a senior level profiler who happens to be a Vietnam veteran as well as a moral core of the show. His service is primarily mentioned in passing, depicting his veteran status as one of many characteristics as opposed to defining his identity. The Mark Gordon Company, ABC Studios, CBS Television Studios

3. “Fences”

Directed by Denzel Washington with a screenplay by August Wilson based upon his Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “Fences” follows Troy Maxson in 1950s Pittsburgh as he fights to provide for those he loves. Troy once dreamed of a baseball career, but was deemed too old when the major leagues began admitting black players. He tries to be a good husband and father, but his lost dream of glory eats at him, and causes him to make a decision that threatens to tear his family apart. Troy’s brother Gabriel, a disabled veteran, acts as a shining beacon of hope, despite his traumatic backstory. Gabriel is a fresh take on the sorts of wounds soldiers endure and showcases the strength of the human spirit. Paramount Pictures, in association with Bron Creative and Macro Media

4. “Five Came Back”

Netflix’s “Five Came Back” is a three-part adaptation of Mark Harris’ bestseller, directed by Laurent Bouzereau. Meryl Streep narrates Harris’ story of how five esteemed Hollywood directors – Frank Capra (“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”), George Stevens (“Swing Time”), William Wyler (“The Letter,” “Jezebel”), John Ford (“Stagecoach,” “The Grapes of Wrath”), and John Huston (“The Maltese Falcon”) – volunteered to make propaganda films for the United States and its fighting corps. For the adaptation, it was Bouzereau’s vision to ask five current filmmakers – Guillermo del Toro, Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, Lawrence Kasdan and Paul Greengrass – to consider the Hollywood quintet who went to war and returned forever altered by what they saw and did. Amblin Television, IACF Productions, Netflix, Passion Pictures, Rock Paper Scissors Entertainment

5. “Megan Leavey”

This film is based on the true life story of a young U.S. Marine corporal (played by Kate Mara) whose unique discipline and bond with her military combat dog saved many lives during their deployment in Iraq. Directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite (“Blackfish”) and written by Pamela Gray, Annie Mumolo, and Tim Lovestedt, the film documents their journey of more than 100 missions until an IED explosion injures them. Bleecker Street/LD Entertainment

6. “Sand Castle”

Set in Iraq in 2003, “Sand Castle” follows a platoon of U.S. Army soldiers in the early days of Iraq War. Inexperienced Private Matt Ocre (played by Nicolas Hoult) and his unit are ordered to the outskirts of the village Baqubah to repair a water pumping station damaged by U.S. bombs. Ocre struggles with the true cost of war and learns that trying to win the hearts and minds of the locals is a task fraught with danger. The film was written by U.S. Army veteran and Tillman Scholar, Chris Roessner. Treehouse Pictures, Voltage Pictures, 42/Automatik, Netflix

7. “Seeing Blind”

A digital short produced by Crown Royal as part of its “Living Generously” campaign, “Seeing Blind” tells the story of U.S. Army Major Scotty Smiley, a combat veteran who was blinded in Iraq and continued to serve in active duty for another decade as the Army’s first blind commander. To thank Major Smiley for his service, Crown Royal paired him with internationally renowned poet Matthew Dickman to help him visualize his hometown of Pasco, Wash., in a poetic new way. Good Company

8. “Seven Dates With Death”

This moving documentary short is about Moreese Bickham, a man jailed for an act of self-defense who survives half his life in prison by holding onto his faith, resilience, and hope. Viewers don’t learn he is a veteran until the end credits when an American flag is draped on his coffin at his funeral; however, this symbolic end showcases the depth of Moreese’s life and sacrifice. The short documentary is currently playing in film festivals across the U.S. and London and is expected to be publicly released by the end of 2017. Executive Producers Joan M. Cheever, Mike Holland

9. “Taken”

A television series based on the “Taken” film trilogy, this series acts as a modern day origin story for former Green Beret Bryan Mills (played by Clive Standen), who overcomes a personal tragedy while starting his career as a special intelligence operative. As a former CIA agent and post-9/11 veteran, Mills has spontaneous flashbacks to his military service. While the show touches on his service, it allows the audience to be empathetic with his experience and the skills learned while in uniform. “Taken” consulted with Got Your 6 team members on specific issues regarding active duty service and veteran reintegration. FLW Films, Universal Television, Europacorp Television, NBC

10. “The Vietnam War”

This 10-part documentary film series directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick will air on PBS in September 2017. In an immersive 360-degree narrative, Burns and Novick tell the epic story of the Vietnam War through the testimony from nearly 100 witnesses, including many American veterans who served in the war and others who opposed it, as well as Vietnamese combatants and civilians from both the winning and losing sides. Florentine Films, PBS

11. “This is Us”

This hit American television series stars Milo Ventimiglia (Jack) and Mandy Moore (Rebecca), parents of triplets – two natural-born and one adopted after their third child is stillborn. The series follows siblings Kate, Kevin and Randall as their lives intertwine. After 18 episodes, it is revealed that Jack – who must balance being the best father he can be with the struggles of supporting for his family of five – is a Vietnam War veteran. This dramedy challenges everyday presumptions about how well we think we know the people around us. Rhode Island Ave. Productions, Zaftig Films, 20th Century Fox Television, NBC

12. “VOW” (digital shorts)

“VOW” (Veterans Operation Wellness) is a Spike campaign created to inspire veterans to make the same commitment to their health and wellness that they made to their country. Two of the campaign’s digital shorts, “Operation Surf Helps Returning Soldiers” and “NYC Veterans Day Parade 2016,” were awarded 6 Certified status. In addition to featuring inspiring veterans, the shorts serve to motivate civilians to connect with veterans through community-building events and activities. Witness Films, Viacom

13. “When We Rise”

This four-part mini-series event which chronicles the real-life personal and political struggles, set-backs, and triumphs of a diverse family of LGBTQ men and women who helped pioneer the last legs of the U.S. Civil Rights movement. Ken Jones (played by Michael K. Williams and Jonathan Majors), an African-American Vietnam veteran, joined the gay-liberation movement in San Francisco, only to discover and confront racism within the gay men’s community. For years he organized services for homeless youth, worked to diversify the gay movement, and led efforts to confront the devastation of the AIDS epidemic. ABC Studios

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6 things the US stole from the Germans during WWII

The Germans in WWII were at the forefront of industrialized warfare. They produced the first jet-powered bomber, developed the first tilt-rotor plane, and discovered fission. In most cases, Allied scientists and planners struggled to, through long hours of research and experimentation, close the technological gaps exposed by German advances. When possible though, they just stole everything they could find and called it a day.


1. Airborne Operations

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Photo: US Army

The first airborne operations in combat were all executed by Germans during invasions of European countries. Normandy, Denmark, France, and the Netherlands all fell quickly while small units of German paratroopers seized key infrastructure or destroyed enemy defenses ahead of the main army. In the Battle of Crete, British intelligence operatives were able to determine the exact locations that German paratroopers would land and inflicted heavy losses. Adolf Hitler banned future large-scale airborne operations, but Britain and America were impressed by the ability of the airborne to complete their mission despite the losses. The Allies drastically stepped up their training and organizing of airborne units. The paratroopers they trained contributed decisively to the successful invasions of Sicily and Normandy.

2. Synchropters

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGfpa6Y8pPA

Synchropter is a specific class of helicopter, one that uses intermeshing blades that turn in opposite directions. An unmanned version is being evaluated for medical evacuation missions by the Marine Corps. The HH-43 was a Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force synchropter used from the 1950s-1970s as a rescue and firefighting helicopter. Designs for both helicopters borrow heavily from a Fleittner Fl 282 recovered during Operation Lusty. Allied aviators didn’t just benefit from recovering the helicopter though. They also got the designer, Anton Flettner through Operation Paperclip.

3. Jet-powered aircraft

The Messerschmitt Me 262 was the first jet airplane used in combat and it was very effective against Allied bomber formations. Both the U.S. and the Soviet Union seized Me 262s  as they captured German territory and reverse engineered the German planes. While neither country would finish building jet aircraft during the war, when American F-86 Sabres later faced off against Soviet MiG-15s in MiG Alley over Korea, it was a fight between Me 262 descendants. Similarly, the U.S. captured the Arado Ar 234 jet-powered bomber. Technology from the Arado would go on to be found in the U.S. Army Air Force’s B-45s and B-47s.

4. Cruise missiles

In June 1944, V-1 flying bombs started raining down on London. The V-1, “the buzz bomb”, was inaccurate but took a psychological toll on the British. The U.S. wanted its own version in preparation for the invasion of mainland Japan, and so recovered pieces of crashed and detonated V-1s. By September, it had successfully tested the JB-2 Loon, a virtual copy of the V-1. The JB-2 was never fired in combat since nuclear weapons were dropped first and Japan surrendered. Technology from the V-1 would later appear in the MGM-1 Matador, though the Matador would use a turbojet instead of the pulse jet that gave the V-1 its signature buzzing sound.

5. Methamphetamines

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Psychonaut

Meth was invented in 1893 by a Japanese chemist, but it was first used in war by WWII Germany. News of a wonder drug that kept tankers and pilots awake crossed to the Allies who wanted to find a way to save their crews as well. Tests on the Allied side went badly though, and the Allies stopped giving the drug to pilots. Ground soldiers still used it to overcome fatigue.

6. Rockets

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Photo: NASA

Rocket science was one of the key areas of interest during Operation Paperclip. Famously, the scientists who pioneered the U.S. and Soviet space programs were taken from Germany in the final months and years immediately after the war. At first, both the U.S. and Soviets constructed their own V-2 bombs before kicking off the space race in earnest. The stolen V-2s and their creators paved the way for U.S. rocket programs from the Redstone rockets to the Saturn and Apollo missions. The Saturn rocket, used in the Apollo program, is the only rocket that has carried a man outside of low earth orbit.

MORE: 12 rare and amazing photos from the ‘War to End All Wars’

AND: 8 genius military uses for civilian products

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Here’s why your MRE heater says to rest it on a ‘rock or something’

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires


NATICK, Mass. (May 30, 2013) — If you’re familiar with the phrase “rock or something,” then you’ve probably used a Flameless Ration Heater to warm up a Meal, Ready-to-Eat.

To this day, the phrase remains part of a pictogram on the package of the heater, known as the FRH, which was developed at Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center’s Department of Defense Combat Feeding Directorate and is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2013. It refers to directions that advise warfighters to place the FRH at an angle when heating up a Meal, Ready-to-Eat, commonly known as an MRE.

“The term ‘rock or something’ has now reached cult status,” said Lauren Oleksyk, team leader of the Food Processing, Engineering and Technology Team at Combat Feeding. “It’s just taken on a life of its own.”

Oleksyk was there at the beginning with colleagues Bob Trottier and now-retired Don Pickard when the FRH and that memorable phrase were born in 1993.

“We were designing the FRH directions and wanted to show an object to rest the heater on,” Oleksyk recalled. “(Don) said, ‘I don’t know. Let’s make it a rock or something. So we wrote ‘rock or something’ on the object, kind of as a joke.”

The joke has legs. As Oleksyk pointed out, there now are T-shirts and other items for sale that bear those words. “Rock or something” even has its own Facebook page.

Introduced to the heater years ago, famed chef Julia Child insisted on following the package directions and activating it by herself. With no rock handy, she decided to employ a wine glass stem.

“Which is so classic Julia,” Oleksyk said, laughing. “So there have been many things other than the rock or something that have been used. There are many, many Soldiers over the years that have their own personal joke about what they might use in place of a rock.”

The FRH is no joke, however. Adding an ounce and a half of water to the magnesium-iron alloy and sodium in the heater will raise the temperature of an eight-ounce MRE entrée by 100 degrees in about 10 minutes.

“Some of the challenges were keeping it lightweight and low volume, and not requiring a lot to activate it,” Oleksyk said.

The heater’s arrival gave warfighters the option of a hot meal wherever they went and whenever they wanted.

“I’ve heard more feedback on this item than any other item I’ve ever worked on in my career here,” said Oleksyk, who has been at Natick nearly 30 years. “They’re so grateful to have this heater in the MRE. It’s almost always used whenever they have 10 minutes to sit down for lunch.”

Prior to the FRH, warfighters used Trioxane fuel bars with canteen cups and cup stands to heat their MRE entrees. As Oleksyk pointed out, the fuel bars couldn’t be packed alongside food in the MRE package.

“So if the fuel bar and the MRE didn’t marry up in the field,” said Oleksyk, “they really had no way to have a hot meal.”

The FRH has remained essentially the same over the past two decades because, as Oleksyk put it, “it’s tough to find a better chemistry that’s lighter in weight, lower in volume and that heats as well.” A larger version has been developed, however.

“We’ve expanded it to a group ration,” Oleksyk said. “So now we have a larger heater that is used to heat the Unitized Group Ration-Express. We call that ration a ‘kitchen in a carton.’ It serves 18 Soldiers.”

The next-generation MRE heater is being tested now, and it will eliminate the need to use one of the most precious commodities in the field.

“The next version of this is a waterless version,” Oleksyk said. “It’s an air-activated heater, so you wouldn’t have to add any water to activate it at all, but that’s still in development and will have to perform better than the FRH overall if it’s ever to replace it.”

Oleksyk remembered sitting on a mountain summit one time during a weekend hike with friends. Suddenly, she heard laughter behind her.

“I hear a guy — sure enough, he says, ‘Yeah, I need a rock or something,'” said Oleksyk, who turned to see him wearing fatigues, holding a Flameless Ration Heater, and telling his buddies how great it was.

“So it’s far reaching,” Oleksyk said. “It really had an impact on the warfighter.”

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This Navy SEAL unit was ‘the most hard luck platoon’ to fight in Vietnam

The last time a Navy SEAL team used x-ray as an identifier was when the unit deployed to the Mekong Delta area in late 1970. Lt. Cmdr. Mike Walsh was a SEAL in Vietnam during the war. He was wounded at Ben Tre while serving with SEAL Platoon X-Ray in February 1971. In an interview with Vietnam Magazine, Walsh called X-Ray “the most hard-luck SEAL platoon to serve in Vietnam.”


A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
X-Ray Platoon: Jim Ritter (KIA) took the picture. From left to right top row – Rick Hetzell, Irving Brown, Harold Birkey (KIA), Doc Caplenor, Frank Bowmar (KIA), Clint Majors, Mike Collins (KIA), Lou Decrose. Middle – Alan Vader. Bottom Row left to right – Mike Trigg, Dave Shadnaw, Gordon Clisham, Awe (the scout).

Immediately after their arrival, things started to go awry. A SEAL team inserted near Truc Giap was ambushed that same month, December 1970. The squad leader and another SEAL were killed while the radioman and Kit Carson scout (former VC who turned on the Communists and act as scouts for U.S. infantry units) were hit. If it weren’t for the rear security man, the unit would have been wiped out entirely.

Radioman 2nd Class Harold Baker ran into a river to get out of the kill zone. He fished out the body of a fellow SEAL as well as an M-60, and then fought his way through the ambush until backup from X-Ray could arrive.

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires

An operation in Ben Tre, the one where Walsh was injured, saw the unit lose a couple of SEALs and a number of limbs. It was during a patrol led by a “Hoi Chanh” or a defector from the Viet Cong (VC), similar to the Kit Carson scouts who was leading the way. He led the SEALs on a sweep and destroy mission, and then into a trap.

“I did not trust him at all. He was there to get us killed,” Welsh said. “And he almost did it. I didn’t like it; I had a bad feeling about it. But we went on patrol with this guy leading the way.”

The defector had come to the SEALs by way of the Chieu Hoi amnesty program. Chieu hoi, which loosely translates into “open arms,” was an effort by the South Vietnamese government to get VC members to defect to the South and offer information against the Viet Cong. It was essentially an amnesty program. An estimated 75,000 defection occurred by 1967,  but less than a quarter of those were deemed genuine. Some did genuinely contribute to the war effort with some earning medals as high as a Silver Star, but the defector with X-Ray was not one of those achievers.

The SEALs on the patrol at Ben Tre found and destroyed some bunkers before being extracted by a light SEAL support craft (LSSC). As the boat was leaving, the VC attacked the SEALs, hitting the LSSC with a B-40 rocket. One of the boatmen lost a leg, and a South Vietnamese interpreter lost both. Lt. Cmdr. Walsh was lifted off the boat and stuck with shrapnel. Another SEAL’s grenades went off while strapped to his body, taking the man’s right glute. One SEAL, Ed Jones, fired a .50 cal into the VC position and they took off. Walsh found the defector injured by shrapnel.

“He looked at me and smiled,” Walsh remembered. “He knew he had led us into an ambush and he had succeeded. I finished him off with my Gerber knife.”

The team had to be extracted by helicopter, where one of the SEALs died from his wounds.

Finally, on March 4th, 1971, the unit commander, Lieutenant Michael Collins, an Annapolis graduate who had never taken SEAL cadre training, was killed in Kien Hoa province. The unit was deactivated after that, with all of its members either killed or wounded.

The reason for the high cost of X-Ray is considered to be operational security. Experts believe the unit’s tactical operations center was compromised by one of its South Vietnamese commandos who had been giving information to the Communists. The enemy knew of all of X-Ray’s movements well in advance.

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This is why dropping “Sunni Arab allies” into Syria is a terrible idea

Five years into the Syrian Civil War, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced its readiness to send ground troops into Syria to fight Islamic State forces.


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“The kingdom is ready to participate in any ground operations that the coalition (against Islamic State) may agree to carry out in Syria,” Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri, the spokesman for the Saudi-led Arab coalition in Yemen, told the Saudi government-owned al-Arabiya TV.

Related: The 10 worst armies in the world

Just days after that announcement, the United Arab Emirates announced its readiness to join the fight.

“Our position throughout has been that a real campaign has to include a ground force,” the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said at a news conference in Abu Dhabi, adding “U.S. leadership on this” would be a prerequisite for the UAE.

Big surprise there.

For those keeping track, the UAE is also part of the Saudi-led coalition fighting the religious-political faction of Houthis in Yemen, a Shia insurgent group who captured the Yemeni capital of Sana’a in 2014 and forced the fall of the Saudi-backed government five months later. Saudi Arabia’s nine-member coalition has since failed to dislodge the Iran-backed Houthis or restore the government. Meanwhile, just under one-third of the country has fallen to the resurgent al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires

Maybe Saudi Arabia and the Arab allies aren’t everything American politicians have said they are during the 2016 election debates. Forget for a moment how bad they are at fighting a decisive war (they can’t even capture the capital city with air superiority and and more than a year to get it done), the idea of airlifting a coalition of Sunni Arab troops into Syria is not only overly simplistic, it’s a terrible one. Saudi Arabia and Iran are expending resources to wage an all-out proxy battle in the region, and Iraq and Syria are the primary battlefields.

By now, it should come as no surprise to Westerners that there is an huge, problematic divide between the Sunni and Shia sects of Islam. The main actors in this ideological conflict today are Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran. Yemen isn’t the first example of Saudi intervention. At the height of the Arab Spring, Saudi troops crossed the King Fahd Causeway into Bahrain to put down Shia protests there.

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
The most ironic peace sign ever.

The Saudi sphere of influence extends throughout the Arabian Peninsula while the Iranian sphere extends from Iran’s border with  Afghanistan to the East and pushes West through Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. The conflicts in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon are extensions of this greater conflict. When told the Saudis and Emiratis were ready to deploy to Syria, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem gave a very expected response: “I regret to say that they will return home in wooden coffins.”

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires

Sectarianism is only increasing and is becoming the primary reason for conflict. Until recently, major non-state paramilitary organizations on either side of the divide publicly defined their mandates in terms of either anti-imperialist, anti-Israel, and/or anti-American terms. They did not openly define themselves in terms of Shia vs. Sunni. That is changing.

In 2013, Islamic extremist violence intensified, fueled by sectarianism in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Pakistan. The rise of anti-Shia resistance, combined with the remnants of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist regime, led to the ideology behind the rise of the Islamic State, now the most aggressive and extreme group, with transnational roots in Nigeria, Libya, and Afghanistan. The sectarianism is only spreading.

When the Asad regime looked like it would fall, the Gulf states smelled the blood in the water and acted quickly to take advantage of the situation. Kuwait is now the leading source of funds for al-Qaeda-linked terror organizations in Syria. Qatar is a major funder of the al-Qaeda-allied Sunni al-Nusra Front there, and Qatari officials tell The Atlantic that ISIS is “a Saudi project.”

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
A Saudi project like a crane at the Grand Mosque in Mecca. That kind of project.

Iran funds, trains, and equips paramilitary forces throughout the Middle East, including the Lebanese political-militant group Hezbollah, and has for decades. Iraq’s government has been dominated by Iran-backed Shia parliamentarians since the ouster of Saddam Hussein by the 2003 U.S. invasion. Syrian President Bashar al-Asad’s regime is propped up by the Iranian government, who are reinforcing the Asad government against rebels, ISIS, the Kurdish YPG, and the other thousand groups vying for power there. The government’s legitimacy relies on the support of the Alawite minority in Syria, a Shia group whose followers control the top tiers of Syrian society.

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires

Sunni militant groups, financed by Gulf states like Kuwait, are seeing a rise in recruiting numbers and directing their ideology and violence toward other Muslim communities instead of Western targets. In response, Shia groups gain in strength and numbers to confront the  perceived threats posed by the Sunni groups. The war in Syria is no longer a fight for control of the country but a battle in a greater ideological proxy war.

The U.S. has so far managed not to take a side. The Obama Administration’s original plan for fighting ISIS, for example, involved both Sunnis and Shia, but accomplished little in the way of real, lasting stability or security in the region. It called for air support and advisors for Iraqi troops (sometimes led by Iranian advisors and in conjunction with Iraq’s Shia militias) while training and equipping “moderate” rebels in Sunni Saudi Arabia. We know how that turned out.

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires

Related: General briefs Congress fight against ISIS is a total mess

At the onset of the Syrian War, thousands of fighters left their homes in Syria for various Sunni or Shia militias. Foreign fighters soon began to flood in with professional jihadis from Chechnya and Afghanistan coming to reinforce Sunni groups while Shia militias from Iraq and Lebanese Hezbollah shored up the Asad regime. At the end of 2013, there were an estimated 1000+ armed groups in Syria. Since then, the rebel groups have only fractured.

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
Map of Syrian Civil War as of February 2016

Knowing all of this, imagine how would it look to the average Shia militia if the United States began flooding a traditional Shia state with Sunni troops. The war in Syria will last at least another five to ten full years and the U.S. should be prepared for that. The U.S. only has to look at recent history when deciding how best to serve our national interest while helping bring the conflict to its conclusion.

The Lebanese Civil War ended only after the infighting exhausted itself. By the signing of the 1989 Taif Agreement that ended the war in Lebanon, the streets of Beirut looked remarkably similar to how the streets of the Syrian city of Homs look today.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZRLvbgaIHs

That war had was much more akin to today’s Syrian conflict than other Arab Spring-related uprisings. Massacres, assassinations, and a large number of belligerents fueled the conflict for 15 years. In the end, the Taif Agreement ceded Lebanon to Syrian influence. Even so, the Taif Agreement only came about because of an anti-Saddam mindset between the Iranians and Saudis. U.S. military power was not a significant factor.

In 1983, the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut were bombed by Shia militias. The attacks killed 241 U.S. military members. Three months later, then-President Ronald Reagan withdrew all U.S. troops from the country. That turned out to be the right call. In trying to score political points, American politicians could call it a “cut and run.” Yet, in a 1991 biography of Reagan, one of the 20th century’s most brilliant military minds, Gen. Colin Powell, labeled the American intervention in Lebanon a misadventure from the start.

“Beirut wasn’t sensible and it never did serve a purpose,” Powell said. “It was goofy from the beginning.” The reversal of a bad military course, once decided, seems impossible 33 years later, considering the level of political rhetoric on the use of force against ISIS. It might even be political suicide.

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
Would you to tell this man he was wrong?

Yet, the same U.S. involvement that was a mistake in Lebanon in the early 80’s is a leadership necessity in Syria today. Why? It’s not because of ISIS. In Lebanon, President Bachir Gemayel was assassinated and Palestinian refugees were slaughtered in camps by Christian Maronite militias. Those events didn’t influence Reagan to keep Marines in the country for an indeterminate period of time. Once it became clear that U.S. actions would have repercussions, the President decided the nature of the mission weighed against the potential cost wasn’t in U.S. interests and left the multi-national force … and it was the right call.

American intervention and use of military force should involve a clear strategy to reach a set goal, with rules of engagement to match. A policy of dropping Sunni troops into a Shia country is misguided. It will only fuel the Syrian war and the sectarian divide. The U.S. will win the hearts and minds of neither Shia nor Sunni and will pay the cost in security across the globe.

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A female Airman pushes back against USAF sexual harassment training

Last week, the John Q. Public blog published an open letter written by a female Airman under the nom de plume ‘Kayce M. Hagen,’ who recently attended her annual mandatory Sexual Assault Response Coordination (SARC) training.


A strong, confident military professional stared out of my bathroom mirror, and I met her eyes with pride. Then I came to your briefing.

She was disgusted at the idea of the female Airman being at once a victim and the catalyst for unit degradation, for being both untouchable and a target, and for being empowered but fragile.

“I might be hurt, and I’m fragile right?,” she writes. “Of course I am, you made me that way.”

She saw the training as taking the respect she might earn and instead forcing her male counterparts to see her as an object of their potential destruction.

“You made me a victim today, and I am nobody’s victim,” Hagan wrote. “I am an American Airman in the most powerful Air Force in the world, and you made me into a helpless whore.”

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires

 

Obviously very strong words, whether one agrees or not, but perhaps worth consideration. This is her letter verbatim:

Dear SARC,

I got up this morning as an Airman in the United States Air Force. I got up and I put on my uniform, I pulled back my hair, I looked in the mirror and an Airman looked back. A strong, confident military professional stared out of my bathroom mirror, and I met her eyes with pride. Then I came to your briefing. I came to your briefing and I listened to you talk to me, at times it seemed directly to me, about sexual assault. You talked about a lot of things, about rivers and bridges, you talked about saving people and victimization. In fact you talked for almost a full ninety minutes, and you disgusted me.

You made me a victim today, and I am nobody’s victim. I am an American Airman in the most powerful Air Force in the world, and you made me into a helpless whore. A sensitive, defenseless woman who has no power to protect herself, who has nothing in common with the men she works with. You made me untouchable, and by doing that you made me a target. You gave me a transparent parasol, called it an umbrella and told me to stand idly by while you placed everything from rape to inappropriate shoulder brushes in a crowded hallway underneath it. You put my face up on your slides; my face, my uniform, my honor, and you made me hold this ridiculous contraption of your own devising and called me empowered. You called me strong. You told me, and everyone else who was listening to you this morning that I had a right to dictate what they said. That I had a right to dictate what they looked at. That I had a right to dictate what they listened to. That somehow, in my shop, I was the only person who mattered. That they can’t listen to the radio because they might play the Beatles, or Sir Mix-A-Lot, and that I might be offended. That if someone plays a Katy Perry song, I might have flashbacks to a night where I made a bad decision. I might be hurt, and I’m fragile right? Of course I am, you made me that way.

You are the reason I room alone when I deploy. You are the reason that wives are terrified that their husbands are cheating on them when they leave, and I leave with them. When I walk into a room and people are laughing and having a good time, you are the reason they take one look at me and either stop talking or leave. They’re afraid. They’re afraid of me, and it’s because of you. They are afraid that with all of this “power” I have, I can destroy them. They will never respect me or the power and the authority I have as a person, or the power I have as an Airman, because I am nothing more than a victim. That I as a victim, somehow I control their fate. With one sentence, I can destroy the rest of their lives.

“He sexually assaulted me.”

I say enough. He didn’t assault me, you did; and I say enough is enough. If you want to help me, you need to stop calling me a victim. If you want to save me, you need to help me to be equal in the eyes of the people I work with. If you want to change a culture, you need to lessen the gap between men and women, not widen it. Women don’t need their own set of rules: physical training scores, buildings, rooms, raters, sponsors, deployment buddies. When I can only deploy with another woman ‘buddy’ you are telling me and the people around me that I can’t take care of myself. When you forbid me from going into my male friends room to play X-Box on a deployment with the other people on my shift, you isolate me. When you isolate me, you make me a target. When you make me a target, you make me a victim. You don’t make me equal, you make me hated. If I am going to be hated, it will be because of who I am, not because of who you have made me. I am not a victim. I am an American Airman, I am a Warrior, and I have answered my nation’s call.

Help me be what I am, or be quiet and get out of my way.

NOW: First female Tomcat pilot turns trials into successes

OR: ‘You’re really pretty for being in the Army’

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These are the best military photos for the week of August 5th

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they’re always capturing what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


Air Force:

A B-52H Stratofortress is parked on the flightline at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., July 31, 2017. The B-52 has an unrefueled combat range in-excess of 8,000 miles.

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman J.T. Armstrong

U.S. Air Force Capt. Kyle Capko, pilot, 19th Operations Group, and Capt. Caitlin Curran, pilot, 61st Airlift Squadron, Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., land a C-130J Super Hercules on the ramp at Yakima Airfield, Wash., in support of Exercise Mobility Guardian, Aug. 03, 2017. More than 3,000 Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and international partners converged on the state of Washington in support of Mobility Guardian.

The exercise is intended to test the abilities of the Mobility Air Forces to execute rapid global mobility missions in dynamic, contested environments. Mobility Guardian is Air Mobility Command’s premier exercise, providing an opportunity for the Mobility Air Forces to train with joint and international partners in airlift, air refueling, aeromedical evacuation and mobility support. The exercise is designed to sharpen Airmen’s skills in support of combatant commander requirements.

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Gregory Brook

Army:

U.S. Soldiers assigned to Alpha Battery, 5th Battalion, 7th Air Defense Artillery conducted an M4 Range at the 25 m Range Baumholder Local Training Area, Baumholder, Germany on Aug. 2, 2017.

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
U.S. Army Photo by Visual Information Specialist, Erich Backes

Paratroopers of Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, move to a firing position during a live fire exercise at the High Altitude Military Marksmanship Range at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Aug. 3, 2017.

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Love

Navy:

Fire Controlman 1st Class Zachary Gehrig fires a M240B machine gun on the starboard bridge wing of Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Rushmore (LSD 47) during a live-fire exercise. Rushmore is underway off the coast of Southern California participating in a series of qualifications and certifications as part of the basic phase of training in preparation for future operations and deployments.

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jesse Monford

Henry J. Kaiser-class underway replenishment oiler USNS Tippecanoe (T-AO-199) (middle) conducts replenishment at sea operations with Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter carrier JS Izumo (DDH-183) (front) and Takanami class destroyer JS Sazanami (DD-113) July 30, 2017.

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
Photo courtesy of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force

Marine Corps:

A Marine with 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Scout Sniper platoon from Fort Devens, Massachusetts, participates in battle drills by firing his M4 at a 25 meter target Aug. 3, 2017 in preparation for a training exercise during Northern Strike 17 at the Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center.

Northern Strike 17 is a National Guard Bureau-sponsored exercise uniting approximately 5,000 service members from 13 states and five coalition countries during the first two weeks of August 2017 at the Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center and the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center, both located in northern Michigan and operated by the Michigan National Guard.

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
Michigan National Guard Photo by Staff Sgt. Brandon Ames

Marine Corps Body Bearers with Bravo Company, Marine Barracks Washington D.C., fold the National Ensign during a funeral for Marine Sgt. Julian Kevianne at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Aug. 3, 2017. Kevianne, 31, was one of the 15 Marines and one Navy sailor who perished when their KC130-T Hercules crashed in Mississippi, July 10, 2017. He was part of the Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 452, Marine Aircraft Group 49, 4th Marine Air Wing, based out of Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, NY.

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
Official U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Robert Knapp

Coast Guard:

The Coast Guard Cutter Healy, a medium icebreaker, sits in the Chukchi Sea off the coast of Alaska during an Arctic deployment in support of scientific research and polar operations, Saturday, July 29, 2107. The Coast Guard’s leadership role in providing a continued Arctic presence is essential to national security, maritime domain awareness, freedom of navigation, U.S. sovereign interests and scientific research.

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Meredith Manning

A U.S. Coast Guard MH-60T Jayhawk Helicopter from Air Station Astoria performs a mock rescue during a search and rescue demonstration with a 45-foot response boat -medium from Coast Guard Station Seattle over Elliott Bay as part of the 68th annual Seafair Fleet Week Aug. 2, 2017. Seafair Fleet Week is an annual celebration of the sea services where Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen from visiting U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and Canadian ships make the city a port of call.

A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Ayla Kelley.

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