7 incredible stories of heroism on 9/11 - We Are The Mighty
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7 incredible stories of heroism on 9/11

The worst terrorist attack in U.S. history turned more than a few ordinary Americans into heroes.


Nearly 3,000 people lost their lives on Sep. 11, 2001, after al Qaeda hijackers flew airplanes into the Pentagon and the World Trade Center in New York. More than 6,000 were injured.

Tens of thousands of people typically worked in the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, and most were able to escape. While all who endured that terrible day can be considered brave, there are some who went above and beyond in trying to save lives, and ultimately prevented the tragedy from becoming even worse.

1. A 24-year-old equities trader helped at least a dozen people get out, and then he went back in with firefighters to save more.

Just a few minutes after United Airlines Flight 175 struck the South Tower of the World Trade Center, 24-year-old Welles Crowther called his mother and calmly left a voicemail: “Mom, this is Welles. I want you to know that I’m ok.”

Crowther was an equities trader at Sandler O’Neil and Partners on the 104th floor. But after that call, the man who was a volunteer firefighter in his teens made his way down to the 78th floor sky lobby and became a hero to strangers known only as “the man in the red bandana.”

Via Mic:

Amid the smoke, chaos and debris, Crowther helped injured and disoriented office workers to safety, risking his own life in the process. Though they couldn’t see much through the haze, those he saved recalled a tall figure wearing a red bandana to shield his lungs and mouth.
He had come down to the 78th-floor sky lobby, an alcove in the building with express elevators meant to speed up trips to the ground floor. In what’s been described as a “strong, authoritative voice,” Crowther directed survivors to the stairway and encouraged them to help others while he carried an injured woman on his back. After bringing her 15 floors down to safety, he made his way back up to help others.

“Everyone who can stand, stand now,” Crowther told survivors while directing them to a stairway exit. “If you can help others, do so.”

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

“He’s definitely my guardian angel — no ifs, ands or buts — because without him, we would be sitting there, waiting [until] the building came down,” survivor Ling Young told CNN. Crowther is credited with saving at least a dozen people that day.

Crowther’s body was later recovered alongside firefighters in a stairwell heading back up the tower with the “jaws of life” rescue tool, according to Mic.

2. A group of strangers teamed up to take back United Flight 93, preventing the plane from killing untold numbers of people in the U.S. Capitol.

At approximately 9:28 a.m. on Sep. 11, 2001, United Flight 93 was hijacked by four al Qaeda terrorists. After the terrorists had stabbed the pilot and a flight attendant, the passengers were told that a bomb was onboard and the plane was heading back to the airport.

But this was after two planes had already hit the World Trade Center, and the passengers on United 93 — huddled in the back of the plane — were beginning to find out what the real plan was. Beginning at 9:30 a.m., several passengers made phone calls to their loved ones.

“Tom, they are hijacking planes all up and down the east coast,” Deena Burnett told her husband Tom, a passenger on United 93, in a cell phone call at 9:34 a.m. “They are taking them and hitting designated targets. They’ve already hit both towers of the World Trade Center.” In another phone call, Tom learned from his wife that another plane had hit the Pentagon.

“We have to do something,” Burnett told his wife at 9:45 a.m. “I’m putting a plan together.” Other passengers, including Mark Bingham, Jeremy Glick, and Todd Beamer, were learning similar details in their own phone calls, as the plane was barreling towards Washington, D.C.

The passengers voted on whether to fight back against the hijackers. Led by the four man group, the passengers then rushed the cockpit, with Beamer rallying them in his last words: “You ready? Okay, let’s roll.”

7 incredible stories of heroism on 9/11
Photo: US Air Force

From The Guardian:

From 9.57, the cockpit recorder picks up the sounds of fighting in an aircraft losing control at 30,000 feet – the crash of trolleys, dishes being hurled and smashed. The terrorists scream at each other to hold the door against what is obviously a siege from the cabin. A passenger cries: ‘Let’s get them!’ and there is more screaming, then an apparent breach. ‘Give it to me!’ shouts a passenger, apparently about to seize the controls.

Instead of the plane hitting its intended target — believed to be The White House or the Capitol Building — it crashed into an empty field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, killing all 44 passengers onboard.

3. Two former U.S. Marines put their uniforms back on and searched through rubble that could have collapsed at any moment. They found two survivors.

While the planes were hitting the World Trade Center, 27-year-old Jason Thomas was dropping off his daughter to his mother in Long Island. When Thomas heard what had transpired, he changed into the Marine Corps uniform he had sitting in his trunk — he was a former sergeant who had been out of the Corps for a year — and sped toward Manhattan.

“Someone needed help. It didn’t matter who,” Thomas told AP. “I didn’t even have a plan. But I have all this training as a Marine, and all I could think was, ‘My city is in need.'”

Around the same time in Wilton, Connecticut, Dave Karnes was working in his office at Deloitte watching the attack unfold on TV. “We’re at war,” the former Marine staff sergeant said to his colleagues, before telling his boss he might not be back for a while, according to Slate. He went and got a haircut, changed into his Marine uniform, and drove toward New York City at 120 miles per hour.

Once both Marines reached the collapsed towers — the site now covered in ash and debris — they began searching for survivors, but first, they found each other. They had little gear with them besides flashlights and a military entrenching tool, AP reported.

Along with other first responders, the pair climbed over the dangerous field of metal, concrete, and dust, calling out, “United States Marines! If you can hear us, yell or tap!”

7 incredible stories of heroism on 9/11
Staff Sgt. Dave Karnes (Photo: USMC)

According to Stripes:

When they reached a depression in the rubble of what had been the south tower, he said, “I thought I heard someone. … So I yelled down and they replied back that they were New York Port Authority police officers. “They asked us not to leave them.” Karnes told Thomas to get to a high point to direct rescuers to the site, then called his wife and sister on his cell phone and told them to phone and give the New York police his location.

The two officers, William Jimeno and John McLoughlin, were on the main concourse between the towers when the South Tower began to fall, but made it into a freight elevator before the collapse. They were alive but seriously injured, trapped approximately 20 feet below the surface.

According to USA Today, once they heard the voices of the Marines, Jimeno began shouting the code for officer down: “8-13! 8-13!” After they were located amid the unstable mountain of debris, it took rescue workers roughly three hours to dig out Jimeno, and another eight to reach McLoughlin, who was buried further down.

An exhausted Thomas, who never gave his first name, left the site after Jimeno was rescued, but returned to Ground Zero for the next 2 1/12 weeks to help. His identity was a mystery until after Oliver Stone’s 2006 film “World Trade Center” chronicled the rescue of the officers, and Thomas emerged from the shadows.

7 incredible stories of heroism on 9/11
Sgt. Jason Thomas at Ground Zero (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Karnes also left after Jimeno came up, but helped at the site for another nine days. After he returned to Connecticut, he went to his reserve center and reenlisted, and later served two tours of duty in Iraq.

4. Two flight attendants on American Airlines Flight 11 calmly relayed information on the hijackers that would help the FBI determine the perpetrators were al Qaeda.

Fifteen minutes after takeoff from Boston, American Airlines Flight 11 was hijacked by five al Qaeda terrorists and sharply changed its flight path away from Los Angeles to New York City. With the group leader Mohamed Atta at the controls and some flight attendants and passengers stabbed, the terrorists pushed the remaining passengers toward the back of the plane.

Using crew telephones, flight attendants Betty Ong and Amy Sweeney calmly relayed information to their colleagues on what was unfolding that morning. “Okay, my name is Betty Ong. I’m number 3 on Flight 11. And the cockpit is not answering their phone, and there’s somebody stabbed in business class, and there’s — we can’t breathe in business class. Somebody’s got mace or something.”

Speaking with an American Airlines reservation center, Ong explained that some of the crew had been murdered and hijackers had infiltrated the cockpit. She shared information on the men, including their seat numbers and what they looked like. Her colleague Amy Sweeney did the same.

The New York Observer has more:

Sweeney slid into a passenger seat in the next-to-last row of coach and used an Airfone to call American Airlines Flight Service at Boston’s Logan airport. “This is Amy Sweeney,” she reported. “I’m on Flight 11 — this plane has been hijacked.” She was disconnected. She called back: “Listen to me, and listen to me very carefully.” Within seconds, her befuddled respondent was replaced by a voice she knew. “Amy, this is Michael Woodward.” The American Airlines flight service manager had been friends with Sweeney for a decade, so he didnt have to waste any time verifying that this wasn’t a hoax. “Michael, this plane has been hijacked,” Ms. Sweeney repeated. Calmly, she gave him the seat locations of three of the hijackers: 9D, 9G and 10B. She said they were all of Middle Eastern descent, and one spoke English very well.

Those on the other end of the line were astonished at their calm demeanor and professionalism at the time, according to ABC News. At least 20 minutes before the plane crashed into the North Tower, American Airlines had the names, addresses, and other information on three of the five hijackers, details that would help the FBI get a jumpstart on the investigation.

Nydia Gonzales, an operations specialist with American, later testified to the 9/11 Commission about the calm demeanor of Ong, who asked her to “pray for us.”

5. Rick Rescorla was responsible for saving more than 2,700 lives, and he sang songs to keep people calm while they evacuated.

Rick Rescorla was already a hero of the battlefields of Vietnam, where he earned the Silver Star and other awards for his exploits as an Army officer. Rescorla — once immortalized on the cover of the book “We Were Soldiers Once… And Young” — would often sing to his men to calm them down while under fire, using songs of his youth while growing up in the United Kingdom.

7 incredible stories of heroism on 9/11

Many more in the South Tower would hear his songs on Sep. 11, where Rescorla was working as head of corporate security for Morgan Stanley. When American Flight 11 hit the tower next to him, Port Authority ordered Rescorla to keep his employees at their desks, according to San Diego Source.

“I said, ‘Piss off, you son of a bitch,'” Rescorla told Daniel Hill, a close friend who was trained in counterterrorism, in a phone call that morning. “Everything above where that plane hit is going to collapse, and it’s going to take the whole building with it. I’m getting my people the fuck out of here.”

Rescorla, who had frequently warned the Port Authority and his company about the World Trade Center’s security weaknesses, had already issued the order to evacuate. He had made Morgan Stanley employees practice emergency drills for years, and it paid off that day: Just 16 minutes after the first plane hit the opposite tower, more than 2,700 employees and visitors were out when the second plane hit their building.

During the evacuation, Rescorla calmly reassured people. singing “God Bless America” and “Men of Harlech” over a bullhorn as they walked down the stairs.

During the evacuation Rescorla called his wife, according to The New Yorker:

“Stop crying,” he told her. “I have to get these people out safely. If something should happen to me, I want you to know I’ve never been happier. You made my life.”

Rescorla was last seen on the 10th floor of the South Tower, heading upward to look for any stragglers. His body was never found.

6. Two unarmed F-16s scrambled to stop any other hijacked airliners and the pilots were prepared to give their lives to stop them.

With scant detail of what was happening and no time to do pre-flight checklists, two D.C. Air National Guard pilots quickly scrambled to intercept United 93 after two other planes had hit the World Trade Center.

Except there was a twist: They were unarmed. Via NBC News:

In the days before Sept. 11, there were no armed aircraft standing guard in Washington, D.C., ready to scramble at the first sign of trouble. And with a Boeing 757 aircraft speeding in the direction of Washington, D.C., Penney and her commanding officer, Col. Marc Sasseville, couldn’t wait the dozens of minutes it was going to take to properly arm their respective jets.

“We had to protect the airspace any way we could,” Maj. Heather Penney recalled to The Washington Post in 2011. “We wouldn’t be shooting it down. We’d be ramming the aircraft. I would essentially be a kamikaze pilot.” Before they took off, Penney and Sasseville both planned to ram the aircraft with their F-16s.

Instead, the passengers on United 93 made the intercept unnecessary, ultimately fighting back against the hijackers and downing the aircraft into a Pennsylvania field 20 minutes outside of Washington.

7 incredible stories of heroism on 9/11

7. A tour guide at the Pentagon gave medical aid to the injured outside, then went back in to the building while it was still in flames.

Army Spc. Beau Doboszenski was working as a tour guide on the opposite side of the Pentagon when the building was struck by American Airlines Flight 77, and didn’t even hear it. But Doboszenski, a former volunteer firefighter and trained EMT, responded after a Navy captain asked for anyone with medical training, The Army News Service reported.

“Specialist Beau Doboszenski was a tour guide that morning, on the far side of the building,” Vice President Joe Biden said on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. “So far away, in fact, he never heard the plane hit. But he shortly felt the commotion. He could have gone home — no one would have blamed him. But he was also a trained EMT and came from a family of firefighters.”

Doboszenski ended up running around the building to try to get to the crash but was stopped by police. Eventually he went around the barricades to reach a medical triage station, and helped give first aid to numerous victims. Afterward, he joined a six-man team that went back in to look for survivors, while the building was still in flames.

“When people started streaming out of the building and screaming, he sprinted toward the crash site,” Biden said. “For hours, he altered between treating his co-workers and dashing into the inferno with a team of six men.”

NOW: Never-before-seen photos show Bush administration officials right after 9/11

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This is why it was perfectly legal for a Russian plane to buzz DC

By now, you’ve heard a Russian plane recently flew around DC and the Trump golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey.


And while you might think it was cause to spool up the THAAD and drop that plane in its tracks, believe it or not, they were allowed to by a 25-year-old treaty based on an idea that was nearly four decades old at the time.

The Treaty on Open Skies was first proposed by Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1955. Cold War paranoia meant it went nowhere for 37 years. After the coup that proved the end of the Soviet Union, the treaty was eventually signed by President George H. W. Bush and ratified in 1992. But it didn’t enter into force until 2002.

The treaty allows the U.S. and Russia — as well as a number of other NATO and former Warsaw Pact countries — to make surveillance flights over each other’s territory.

7 incredible stories of heroism on 9/11
An OC-135B Open Skies aircraft goes through pre-flight checks Jan. 16, 2010, at Joint Base Andrews, Md. The OC-135 is with the 45th Reconnaissance Squadron at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., and is used to conduct observation flights in support of the Open Skies Treaty. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Perry Aston)

According to a letter to the Senate included with the treaty, this is to “promote openness and transparency of military forces and activities.” Certain planes are equipped with four types of sensors, optical panoramic and framing cameras, video cameras with real-time display, infra-red line-scanning devices, and sideways-looking synthetic aperture radar. These suites are used to monitor military forces, and are certified by observers.

Which aircraft is used can vary. The United States uses the OC-135B Open Skies aircraft for this mission. Canada uses a modified C-130. Russia has a version of the Tu-154 airliner. The United Kingdom has used a mix of planes.

The exact number of flights a country may have varies, but the United States and Russia each get 42 such flights a year.

7 incredible stories of heroism on 9/11
The Tu-214 will be Russia’s new Open Skis aircraft. (Wikimedia Commons)

They can fly any sort of flight plan – as long as they give 72 hours notice prior to the arrival. The flight must be completed in 96 hours from the time that the plane arrives. The plane on the Open Skies mission also must embark observers from the host nation on board.

So that’s why a lot of people in the Virginia, Maryland, and DC area got a good look at a Russian Tu-154 — and may still see more if Putin wants another closer look.

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This is why the UH-1 Huey became a symbol of the Vietnam War

The Vietnam War’s icon was arguably the UH-1 helicopter. Officially designated the Iroquois (‘Huey’ is more of a term of endearment), this helicopter has been the most-produced in history, first flying in 1956 — that means it has just over six decades of service with the United States military!


Over 7,000 Hueys were used in Vietnam, and 2,500 were lost during the war.

According to the Naval Institute Guide to World Military Aviation, the UH-1D had the ability to carry up to 16 passengers and crew.

The chopper could also carry just under 3,900 pounds of equipment in the cabin or 5,000 pounds in an external sling. It also could serve as a potent gunship, firing 70mm rockets, M60 machine guns in 7.62mm NATO, and M134 miniguns.

 

7 incredible stories of heroism on 9/11
Soldiers of the U.S. Amry 1/7th Cavalry disembark from a Bell UH-1D Huey at LZ X-Ray during the battle of Ia Drang. (U.S. Army photo)

The secret to the Huey’s success was a gas turbine engine that not only was able to perform at higher temperatures and in less-dense air than previous helicopters, but it was also much lighter than previous helicopter engines.

This allowed the Huey to be smaller (48-foot rotor diameter, 57 foot length) and lighter — making it fast (a top speed of 135 miles per hour) and maneuverable. It had a range of 315 miles, giving American troops the ability to strike hard and fast at a distance.

The chopper’s mobility meant that in a one-year tour, the average infantry soldier saw 240 days of combat. For some perspective, in the Pacific Theater during WWII, the average grunt saw 40 days over the nearly four years that conflict lasted.

7 incredible stories of heroism on 9/11
U.S. Marine Corps UH-1Y Venom flies during an exercise. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

 

Today, versions of the UH-1 are still in service with the Marine Corps (the UH-1Y Venom), the Air Force (UH-1N), and Navy (UH-1N). The Army’s last Huey mission was flown on Dec. 15, 2016. According to an Army release, the helicopter was handed off to the Louisiana State Police a week later.

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One woman remains in Marine Special Ops training

Five days into the first U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command assessment and selection course to admit women, one female Marine has washed out and one remains.


Capt. Nicholas Mannweiler, a spokesman for the command, told Military.com that two women, a staff sergeant and a corporal checked in Aug. 9 at the command’s headquarters near Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and began the first 19-day phase of assessment and selection on Aug. 11.

Related: First female Marine to attempt infantry course dropped on final attempt

The staff sergeant washed out of the course the following day during a timed ruck march, Mannweiler said. The news was first reported by Marine Corps Times.

7 incredible stories of heroism on 9/11
Marines with the Lioness Program refill their rifle magazines during the live-fire portion of their training at Camp Korean Village, Iraq, July 31. | Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jennifer Jones

Both the corporal and the staff sergeant came from administrative military occupational specialties, Mannweiler said. He did not disclose their identities or ages.

Mannweiler said he couldn’t say how many started the AS class for operational security reasons, but noted that 32 Marines, including the female staff sergeant, have departed the course so far.

The first phase of assessment and selection tests physical fitness and a range of aptitudes to ensure Marines are physically and mentally prepared for what will be 10 months of intensive follow-on training to become Marine Raiders. Alongside physical training, Marines receive classroom instruction in land navigation skills, MARSOC and special operations history, and nutrition and fitness.

In January, Maj. Gen. Joseph Osterman, then the commander of MARSOC, called AS Phase 1 a holistic profile for the Marines who qualify to enter the training pipeline.

Military.com broke the news in March that a female staff sergeant had been accepted for AS, just months after a mandate from Defense Secretary Ash Carter had required all military services to open special operations jobs and other previously closed fields to women.

Osterman said then that MARSOC leadership had leaned into the new reality, reaching out to all eligible female Marines through the command’s recruiting arm to give them the opportunity to apply.

The current AS phase is set to conclude Aug. 22. If the female corporal in AS can make it through this phase, she will enter a second, more secretive three-week AS phase. Following that is MARSOC’s individual training course, which covers survival, evasion, resistance and escape [SERE], special reconnaissance, close urban combat, irregular warfare and more over the course of nine intensive months.

Those who wash out of AS have up to two chances to re-enter the pipeline, Mannweiler said, as long as they have enough time left on their contracts and until their next promotion, and the command has enough boat spaces to accommodate them.

While MARSOC recruiters have received interest from other female Marines, the command is not currently processing any other applications from women, Mannweiler said.

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The attack on Pearl Harbor by the numbers

The words “Pearl Harbor” evoke images and emotions only rivaled in American history by “The Alamo,” and “9-11.” As President Franklin Delano Roosevelt put it in the wake of the surprise attack, December 7, 1941 is “a day that will live in infamy.” Here’s WATM’s brief look at how it went down.


The Japanese task force was comprised of six carriers — Akagi, Kaga, Sōryū, Hiryū, Shōkaku, and Zuikaku — carrying a total of 408 airplanes (360 bombers, 48 fighters).

 

The attack on Pearl Harbor came in two waves. The first wave of 183 planes (six failed to launch because of maintenance issues) crossed into American airspace on December 7, 1941 at 7:48 local time. Ironically and tragically, as the first wave approached Oahu, it was detected by the U.S. Army SCR-270 radar at Opana Point near Oahu’s northern tip. The operators reported a target, but their superior, a newly assigned officer at the thinly manned Intercept Center, presumed it was the scheduled arrival of six B-17 bombers from California.

 

The Japanese fighters shot down several American airplanes on the way in.

 

The first wave bombers were supposed to take out ‘capital ships’ — aircraft carriers (famously not in port) and battleships, while the Zeros strafed Ford Field in an effort to keep American fighters from launching.

 

The famous message, “Air raid Pearl Harbor. This is not drill,” was sent from the headquarters of Patrol Wing Two, the first senior Hawaiian command to respond.

Despite this low alert status, many American military personnel responded effectively during the attack. Ensign Joe Taussig Jr., aboard the USS Nevada, commanded the ship’s antiaircraft guns and was severely wounded, but continued to be on post. Lt. Commander F. J. Thomas commanded Nevada in the captain’s absence and got her under way until the ship was grounded at 9:10 a.m. One of the destroyers, USS Aylwin, got underway with only four officers aboard, all ensigns, none with more than a year’s sea duty; she operated at sea for 36 hours before her commanding officer managed to get back aboard. Captain Mervyn Bennion, commanding the USS West Virginia, led his men until he was cut down by fragments from a bomb which hit USS Tennessee, moored alongside.

7 incredible stories of heroism on 9/11
Photograph of Battleship Row taken from a Japanese plane at the beginning of the attack. The explosion in the center is a torpedo strike on the USS West Virginia. (Photo: Japanese military archives)

 

The second wave of 171 planes (four others didn’t get airborne) came shortly after the first had egressed and focused on the airfields at Hickham, Kanehoe, and Ford (right in the middle of Pearl Harbor), taking out hangars and strafing airplanes on flight lines. The second wave also went after the battleships that had survived the first wave.

 

In total, 2,403 Americans died and 1,178 were wounded. Eighteen ships were sunk or run aground, including five battleships. All of the Americans killed or wounded during the attack were non-combatants, given the fact there was no state of war when the attack occurred. (The attack was later ruled a war crime because occurred without a declaration of war from Japan.)

 

In the wake of the attack, 15 Medals of Honor, 51 Navy Crosses, 53 Silver Stars, four Navy and Marine Corps Medals, one Distinguished Flying Cross, four Distinguished Service Crosses, one Distinguished Service Medal, and three Bronze Star Medals were awarded to the American servicemen who distinguished themselves in combat at Pearl Harbor.

The following day President Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan, and Congress obliged an hour later.

 

On December 11, Germany and Italy — honoring their treaty with Japan — declared war on the U.S., so Congress issued a declaration of war on them in return.

The United States was now fully involved in World War II.

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Navy: no exceptions to fitness standards for transgender sailors

A new 12-page handbook released by the Navy today describes in detail when and how a sailor can complete a gender transition, down to how transgender sailors can participate in urinalysis tests and when it is appropriate to wear clothing of a preferred gender during visits to foreign ports.The guidance also contains a caution for sailors hoping to transition: they will be expected to pass the physical fitness requirements of their preferred gender immediately on transition, and are expected to take the initiative to train to those standards in advance.


As of Oct. 1, sailors were allowed to begin the process to change their official gender designation in personnel systems in accordance with a Pentagon mandate. Beginning in November, the Navy will dispatch mobile training teams to all major commands to explain the new policies and what they mean for the fleet. By July of next year, the Navy and all the other armed services will be accepting transgender applicants into ranks.

Also read: 3 myths about the new military retirement system

But the new guidance from the Navy makes clear that readiness will remain a top priority, even as sailors transition.

“There are no separate or distinct standards for transgender Service members,” the Navy administrative message containing the new guidances reads. “Service members and [military medical providers] must carefully consider the time required to adjust to new PRT standards as part of the medical treatment and transition planning process.”

7 incredible stories of heroism on 9/11
Screen grab from video highlighting changes to Navy PFA | Navy Video

The Navy’s physical readiness test, or PRT, has different requirements for men and women at every age group. For example, male sailors between the ages of 20 and 24 max out the PRT with 87 push-ups, a 1.5-mile run in 8 minutes, 30 seconds or less, and a 500-yard swim in six minutes, 30 seconds. Women in the same age group need to complete only 48 push-ups, a 1.5-mile run in 9 minutes, 47 seconds, and a 500-yard swim in seven minutes, 15 seconds to max out.

Meanwhile, height and weight standards also differ for male and female sailors. A male sailor who is within standards at 5′ 3″, 155 pounds and plans to transition to female must then meet standards for female sailors, which set the maximum weight for that height at 152 pounds.

Only a military medical provider can determine if a medical waiver is justified for sailors who are out of standards as they transition, the guidance states.

When and how to transition

In order to complete a gender transition while in uniform, sailors must receive an official diagnosis from a military doctor indicating that gender transition is medically necessary, according to the guidance. That diagnosis, along with a medical treatment plan, then must be reported to the appropriate unit commanding officer to for approval of the timing of medical treatment, taking into consideration when the sailor will rotate to another command, deployment and other operational schedules, and how the transition will affect career milestones. If a specific case requires immediate medical treatment, the guidance states it will be treated like any other medical emergency affecting a sailor. In these cases, the sailor may be transferred to limited duty status and “result in an unplanned loss to the command,” according to the Navadmin.

The commanding officer must respond to transition requests within 90 days, according to the new policy. The CO is allowed to take into account impact to the current mission, including “morale, welfare, and good order and discipline of the command,” when determining timeframe to respond to transition requests.

Gender transition treatment plans will differ from sailor to sailor and may include behavioral health counseling, hormone therapy, surgery, and real-life experience, the Navy’s term for for dressing and behaving in public as the preferred non-birth gender.

Sailors are allowed to begin participating in real-life experience before their gender transition is complete and their official gender has been changes in the personnel enrollment system, but must do so only in off-duty status, according to the guidance. All official unit functions, on-base or off, are considered to be on-duty status for sailors, making them off limit for real-life experience outings. And sailors deployed aboard ship face significant limitations: whether working or not, they are considered on-duty on ship at all times. While they can venture out in the clothing of their preferred gender during foreign port visits, these too are subject to restrictions and cultural sensitivities of the country in question.

“Commands need to be cognizant of host-nation laws and social norms when considering RLE in an off-duty status in foreign nations,” the guidance states. “Travel warnings, the State Department’s country-specific website, the DoD Foreign Clearance Guide, and any U.S. regional military commander directives should be reviewed and heeded.”

During transition, some missions may be off-limits for sailors. Transitioning sailors will be restricted from flying and diving ops during medical treatment and there may be limitations for sailors who have access to nuclear weapons, and chemical and biological weapons.

“The Navy’s bureau of Medicine is studying the effects of medical treatments associated with gender transition on members of the aviation and diving communities,” officials with Naval Personnel Command said in a statement.

Gender transition is only complete after a military doctor documents that the service member has completed required medical treatments and written permission from the commanding officer to change the official gender marker in the appropriate personnel administrative systems. While Defense Department guidance says no sailor may be kicked out of the service on the basis of being transgender, sailors are advised to consider the needs of the service when choosing how and when to transition. Transition should be completed during one tour of duty to avoid interrupting medical treatment and requiring additional coordination and a new transition plan, which may disrupt operational requirements at a new command. And transition during boot camp or service academy training is not advised.

“A service member is subject to separation in an entry-level status during the period of initial training … based on a medical condition that impairs the Service member’s ability to complete such training,” the guidance states.

Keeping the fleet comfortable

As a result of transgender sailors being permitted to serve openly, the entire fleet may get a little more modest.

Nudity in berthing and shower facilities is out, according to the guidance, and sailors must maintain a “minimum standard of coverage” walking through spaces, while sleeping, and while using bathrooms and washrooms, in order to show courtesy for others and maintain good order and discipline, according to the guidance.

Unit commanders are prohibited from creating exclusive berthing or bathroom facilities for transgender sailors, but are expected to use their discretion to enact appropriate policies to ensure the protection of privacy for individual sailors.

For urinalysis drug tests, which require that one sailor observe another procure the urine sample, the observer will be another of the same designated gender. But there may be adjustments to ensure the relative comfort level of the observer and the observed. These will be written into a future policy, the Navadmin states.

Though the details may be challenging, Navy officials said the service wants to make sure all qualified personnel find their place in the fleet.

“Our goal is to ensure that the mission is carried out by the most qualified and capable service members,” officials with Naval Personnel Command said in a statement. “If an individual can meet the Navy’s standards, they should be afforded the opportunity to serve.”

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During World War 2 Americans thanked the troops by buying them warplanes

During World War II there were numerous ways in which American citizens at home could help the war effort. Victory gardens, rationing, recycling (then known as scrap collection), and most importantly war bonds were all a part of daily life.


But some Americans wanted to do more – a lot more. The employees of the Union Pacific Railroad and the citizens of Sparks, Nevada held war bond drives to buy planes that would fly against the Nazis.

By 1943, the American war effort was in full swing on both fronts. The railroads were busy carrying men and materiel coast to coast to be shipped off to the war abroad. Despite their hard work supporting the cause, the railroad men of the Union Pacific still wanted to do more. So, driven by their patriotism, 65,000 employees voluntarily increased their payroll deductions for war bonds during the months of May and June to the tune of $379,000. For their efforts they were rewarded with being the first railroad group to be honored with a named heavy bomber, a B-17 F called The Spirit of the Union Pacific, in August 1943.

7 incredible stories of heroism on 9/11

The following spring, inspired by what the Union Pacific Railroad had done, the city of Sparks, Nevada took up an effort to ‘buy a bomber,’ as their rallying cry became. The 6,200 residents of Sparks raised $600,000 in the effort to purchase a bomber, the equivalent of nearly $8 million today. With their nearly $10,000 per resident effort, the citizens of Sparks were honored with a B-25J Mitchell bomber named The Spirit of Sparks.

The Spirit of the Union Pacific arrived in England for combat on September 9, 1943 and was assigned to the 571st Bomb Squadron, 390th Bomb Group, Eighth Air Force. Between that time and October 10 the plane flew four successful missions before being taken over by Capt. Robert Short and his crew as a replacement for their usual plane Short Stuff. Unfortunately this would be the last mission of the war for The Spirit of the Union Pacific as well as Capt. Short and his crew. On October 10 The Spirit of the Union Pacific and her crew were on a mission to bomb Munster, Germany as part of a larger effort later known as ‘Black Week’ due to the high losses of American bombers. Just short of the target the formation encountered heavy flak and German fighters. The Spirit of the Union Pacific was hit in the #3 engine causing a fire that consumed the plane. Upon realizing the severity of the hit Capt. Short ordered the crew to bail out. Two other crew members bailed out but did not survive and one was likely fatally injured and crashed with the plane. The remaining seven crewmen landed safely but were immediately captured by the Germans and spent the rest of the war as POW’s.

The Spirit of Sparks arrived in Italy in late 1944 and was assigned to the 321st Bomb Squadron located at Fano, Italy. During its tour The Spirit of Sparks flew over 150 successful missions against Axis positions in Italy and Southern Europe. Lt. Jack Kenyon and his crew flew 30 missions in The Spirit of Sparks in early 1945 taking no casualties before rotating out. Command next passed to Capt. McEldery who despite losing two wingmen in one mission also completed his missions without casualties. Capt. McEldery would be the final commander of the plane though as during transition training for the next crew the new pilot came in for a hard landing that crumpled the wings of the plane ending a very successful career. The plane was scrapped in Italy and used to repair other damaged bombers.

7 incredible stories of heroism on 9/11

A scale model of The Spirit of Sparks along with a painting done by a crew member who survived 69 missions onboard can be found at the Sparks Heritage Museum in Nevada. Numerous other cities, organizations, companies also purchased planes that served in World War II though little is known about them.

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A new congressional report hints that Russia has better tanks than the US

The M1A2 SEP Abrams has ruled the world of armor since Operation Desert Storm. But that was over 25 years ago – and tank design innovation hasn’t stood still.


In fact, everyone is trying to get a better tank — particularly the Russians. Well, if a major tank in your inventory had a very poor performance like the T-72 did in Desert Storm, you’d be looking to upgrade, too.

And the upgraded tanks could have an advantage over the M1A2, according to a Congressional Research Service report.

Russia’s first effort at an upgrade was the T-90 main battle tank. According to Globalsecurity.org, the T-90 is an evolutionary development of the T-72. It has the same gun as the tank that flopped during Desert Storm, but it did feature some new survivability enhancements, like the TShU-1-7 Shtora-1 optronic countermeasures system.

The tank saw a lot of exports, most notably to India, which has plans to buy up to 1,600 of these tanks, according to Sputnik International. Syria used T-90s acquired from Russia in 2015, according to Al-Masdar News, and Algeria also has a substantial arsenal of T-90s, according to a report from Russia’s Interfax news agency.

The T-90, though, is not quite capable of standing up to the Abrams, largely due to the fact it is still an evolved T-72.

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T-90 with the Indian Army (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The T-14 Armata, though, is a very different beast. According to Globalsecurity.org, it bears more of a resemblance to the Abrams and Leopard 2 and has a remote-controlled gun in an unmanned turret. Specs on that site note that it not only has a new 125mm gun, but also carries two AT-14 anti-tank missiles. According to the London Telegraph, British intelligence has claimed that “Armata represents the most revolutionary step change in tank design in the last half century.”

Ben Barry of the International Institute for Strategic Studies noted that the combination of the Armata’s ability to take a larger gun in the future and its active protection system could be game-changers.

T-14 Armata (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

“This has the potential to greatly reduce the firepower of Nato infantry. Of course, there are few Armata yet, and it is not clear how rapidly they will enter service,” an IISS land warfare specialist and former British army brigadier told the Telegraph. “But as they do, they will increase the effectiveness of Russian armoured forces.”

Could the Armata take down the Abrams? That remains to be seen. It’s not like the Abrams has stood still since it was introduced in 1980. And an M1A3 version is reportedly in development, according to a 2009 Army Times report.

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VA chief asks Senate for help to fire ‘terrible managers’

Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said Wednesday the civil service appeals process prevents the agency from firing “terrible managers,” and that the Senate must act to reduce the impact of the Merit Systems Protection Board and excessive government employee union-backed due process requirements.


“Just last week we were forced to take back an employee after they were convicted no more than three times for DWI and had served a 60 day jail sentence. … Our accountability processes are clearly broken,” Shulkin said at the White House.

Shulkin was promoted to VA’s top job by President Donald Trump after being appointed by former President Barack Obama as undersecretary. Those positions have given Shulkin direct experience with the extent to which union-backed rules block the firings of poor performing employees.

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VA Photo by Robert Turtil

“We had to wait more than a month to fire a psychiatrist who was caught on camera watching pornography on his iPad while seeing a patient,” he said. “Because of the way judges review these cases they can force us to take terrible managers back who were fired for poor performance, we recently saw that with one of our executives in San Juan.”

Shulkin was referring to DeWayne Hamlin, a corrupt hospital director and whistleblower retaliator, who was fired Jan. 20 but was then quietly returned to work, as the The Daily Caller News Foundation reported exclusively Monday.

“We need new accountability legislation and we need that now,” Shulkin said. “The House has passed this and we’re looking forward to the Senate considering this.”

The Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs reported the “VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 earlier this week for a vote by the full chamber. The measure is co-sponsored by senators Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, Johnny Isakson, a Georgia Republican, and Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat.

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DeWayne Hamlin. DoD Photo by Joseph Rivera Rebolledo

“We currently have 1,500 disciplinary actions pending, people that either need to be fired, demoted, suspended without pay for violating our core values,” Shulkin said.

“The expedited senior executive removal authority given to us in the Choice Act isn’t working, we weren’t able to use that because of constitutionality issues.”

“The accountability bill we are seeking that we hope the Senate authorizes still maintains due process for employees but shortens to the time and gives more authority to the secretary’s decision on why these accountability actions are being taken so the courts will be more deferential to the secretary’s opinion.”

In addition to the Hamlin controversy, a federal appeals court ruled that the VA may not even be able to fire Sharon Helman, who is a convicted felon for her misconduct as the head of the Phoenix VA, where dozens died waiting for care as managers reported false data on wait-times in order to get bonuses.

7 incredible stories of heroism on 9/11
Sharon Helman (Right). (DoD Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Lewis Hunsaker)

Helman is represented by the law firm of Shaw, Bransford  Roth (Roth), which makes its living trying to block employees of all levels from being fired. Employees are encouraged to appeal any discipline, however well-deserved, because a former Roth lawyer created an insurance company that pays for fired employees to hire Roth.

The premiums on that insurance plan are billed to taxpayers, thanks to a law pushed by the firm’s lobbyists.

Concerned Veterans of America Policy Director Dan Caldwell also encouraged the Senate to approve the accountability measure, saying Shulkin “is working to move the VA in a better direction, but the problems will not be solved until Congress takes action. They should also remember that the VA’s problems are not due to a lack of resources.”

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‘Transpecos’ offers a gritty, detailed look inside the world of Border Patrol agents

“Transpecos,” winner of the SXSW Film Festival’s Audience Award, deals with what happens to a Border Patrol agent when he gets dragged to the other side by a drug cartel. It’s an impressive directorial debut from independent filmmaker Greg Kwedar.


7 incredible stories of heroism on 9/11

Kwedar, whose work includes commercials, documentaries, and short films, took six years to make “Transpecos.” To research the film, he worked with the U.S. Border Patrol, an agency that’s reluctant to share its methods – for good reason.  Their mission isn’t just keeping illegal immigrants out of the United States, they’re also fighting a massive, brutal enemy with unlimited funding and firepower, and no rules.

“Transpecos” is the story of three Border Patrol agents, a rookie named Davis (played by Johnny Simmons), a seasoned professional, Flores (Gabriel Luna), and salty veteran Hobbs (Clifton Collins, Jr.). They man a remote checkpoint somewhere near the U.S.-Mexican border. When one stop goes from routine to nightmarish, all three end up fighting for their lives.

“There’s this famous Western line: ‘silver or lead?,'” says Greg Kwedar, the director who co-wrote the script with Clint Bentley. “Money’s not a vulnerability for everyone. They [Border Patrol] have higher standards to live by. The leverage can be their own personal safety or that of their family. If an agent can rise above that then the cartel might say, “Who do you care about? We’ll use them.”

That’s exactly what happens in the film. Drug cartels use an agent’s family to force him to allow shipments of cocaine across the border. The Border Patrol agents find themselves torn between duty and family, between fulfilling their mission and protecting their own.

7 incredible stories of heroism on 9/11
(Samuel Goldwyn Films)

To get access to the real Border Patrol agents Kwedar and his team went out into the desert and got lost (or pretended to be) in the hopes of finding agents who were on the job — a highly unorthodox and potentially dangerous process.

“Once they realized we weren’t antagonistic, that we really wanted to know more about them and their work, they really opened up to us,” Kwedar says. “They invited us into their world and from that we found real friendships, running the gamut from grabbing a beer in a one-stoplight town to sitting down with their families at dinner.”

The characters – Davis, Flores, and Hobbs – are the heart of the film. The Border Patrol depicted in “Transpecos” could just as well be any military checkpoint or remote combat outpost anywhere in the world. It’s hot and desolate. The guys manning the checkpoint can be just as bored as any troops on deployment at any given time. They even have to go out on foot patrols.

“It was 110 degrees Fahrenheit on some of those days,” says Johnny Simmons, who portrays the green Agent Davis. “Our boots were melting, we were covered in sweat at the end of the day when we took off our Kevlar. My brother is a Marine and working on this film brought me a little closer to what it must be like for him … only he and so many others do it every day.”

7 incredible stories of heroism on 9/11
(Samuel Goldwyn Films)

The credit for this realism goes to the film’s technical advisor, Sam Sadler. Sadler is a retired Border Patrol agent who joined the service at age 17. Before he retired, he was the second in command at Deming Station, New Mexico, the area where “Transpecos” was filmed. He rode ATVs; he rode horseback. He tracked people through the desert by their footprints, the way Native American tribes used to – a practice still in use by agents today. By the end of his 25 years on the border, Sadler was the go-to guy.

“[Kwedar and Sadler] gave us a great roadmap to the script,” said Clifton Collins, Jr., who plays the experienced, by-the-book Agent Hobbs. “They took us off the leash in regards to the research and I really brought a lot of that to the table.”

At heart, Kwedar made the film for Border Patrol agents and their families. Sadler taught the actors the protocol and search methods to make sure they got the details right.

“These guys are so isolated, and it takes a special person to be able to do that,” Gabriel Luna, who plays Agent Flores, said. “Working on this film really cleared up my view of the Border Patrol. These men and women are just regular people. They’re human, they’re doing this job day in and day out, and it’s such an incredible thing.”

7 incredible stories of heroism on 9/11

“Transpecos” is now available nationwide on demand and digital including Comcast, DirecTV and iTunes. It will be released on DVD September 27, 2016.

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Timothy McVeigh’s rhetoric shows the path from soldier to terrorist

7 incredible stories of heroism on 9/11
Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building immediately after McVeigh’s attack. (Photo: NBC News)


Timothy McVeigh was a reserved, withdrawn teenager who was named “Most Promising Computer Programmer” among his high school classmates after he hacked into a government system using his Commodore 64. After dropping out of junior college he joined the U.S. Army and wound up in the infantry. While at Fort Benning he started reading up on sniper tactics, firearms, and explosives.

He was reprimanded by the military for purchasing a “White Power” T-shirt at a Ku Klux Klan protest against black servicemen who wore “Black Power” T-shirts around the army base.

McVeigh was awarded the Bronze Star for his service as a vehicle crewman in the Desert Storm. He was a top-scoring Bradley Fighting Vehicle gunner while attached to the 1st Infantry Division.

As documented in his authorized biography, American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh the Tragedy at Oklahoma City, he decapitated an Iraqi soldier with cannon fire on his first day in the war and was happy about it. He said he later was shocked to be ordered to execute surrendering prisoners and to see carnage on the road leaving Kuwait City after U.S. troops routed the Iraqi army.

McVeigh wanted to transfer to United States Army Special Forces (SF) after the war, but he dropped out after he couldn’t keep up with the physical rigors of the program. Shortly after that, McVeigh decided to leave the Army. He was honorably discharged on December 31, 1991.

7 incredible stories of heroism on 9/11
McVeigh serving in the Army during Desert Storm.

He wandered around working menial jobs after he transitioned out of the military, growing increasingly reactionary in his views. He left the Buffalo area because it was “too liberal” and set out looking for his former Army buddies.  Along the way he wrote letters to newspaper editors that revealed his political views:

Taxes are a joke. Regardless of what a political candidate “promises,” they will increase. More taxes are always the answer to government mismanagement. They mess up. We suffer. Taxes are reaching cataclysmic levels, with no slowdown in sight. Is a Civil War imminent? Do we have to shed blood to reform the current system? I hope it doesn’t come to that. But it might.

McVeigh also wrote to Representative John J. LaFalce (D-NY) complaining about the arrest of a woman for carrying mace:

It is a lie if we tell ourselves that the police can protect us everywhere at all times. Firearms restrictions are bad enough, but now a woman can’t even carry Mace in her purse?

While visiting friends in Michigan, McVeigh complained that the Army had implanted a microchip into one of his butt cheeks so that the government could keep track of him.

McVeigh worked long hours in a dead-end jobs. He couldn’t get any girls to go out with him. He started gambling obsessively. Unable to pay back gambling debts, he took a cash advance and then defaulted on his repayments. He was enraged when the government told him that he had been overpaid $1,058 while in the Army and he had to pay back the money. He wrote another angry letter to the government:

Go ahead, take everything I own; take my dignity. Feel good as you grow fat and rich at my expense; sucking my tax dollars and property.

He rented an apartment that had no telephone, which had the advantage of making it impossible for his employer to contact him for overtime assignments. He also quit the NRA, viewing its stance on gun rights as too weak.

In 1993, he drove to Waco, Texas during the Waco Siege to show his support. At the scene, he distributed pro-gun rights literature and bumper stickers that read, “When guns are outlawed, I will become an outlaw.”

McVeigh also told a reporter that “the government is afraid of the guns people have because they have to have control of the people at all times. Once you take away the guns, you can do anything to the people. You give them an inch and they take a mile. I believe we are slowly turning into a socialist government. . . . and the people need to prepare to defend themselves against government control.”

He became a fixture on the gun show circuit and worked his way west until he got to Arizona. There he met Michael Fortier and Terry Nichols, two men who shared his radical views about the government. After growing weary of Fortier’s drug use, McVeigh and Nichols headed for Nichols’ farm in Michigan. While there they watched TV coverage of the Waco siege and both became enraged by the government’s heavy-handed attack on the compound there. They decided it was time for action.

McVeigh defined his struggle in a letter to a boyhood friend:

Those who betray or subvert the Constitution are guilty of sedition and/or treason, are domestic enemies and should and will be punished accordingly. It also stands to reason that anyone who sympathizes with the enemy or gives aid or comfort to said enemy is likewise guilty. I have sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic and I will. And I will because not only did I swear to, but I believe in what it stands for in every bit of my heart, soul and being. I know in my heart that I am right in my struggle. I have come to peace with myself, my God and my cause. Blood will flow in the streets. Good vs. Evil. Free Men vs. Socialist Wannabe Slaves. Pray it is not your blood, my friend.

Working at a lakeside campground near McVeigh’s old Army post, he and Nichols constructed an ANNM explosive device mounted in the back of a rented Ryder truck. The bomb consisted of about 5,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate and nitromethane.

On April 19, 1995, McVeigh drove the truck to the front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building just as its offices opened for the day. Before arriving, he stopped to light a two-minute fuse. At 09:02, a large explosion destroyed the north half of the building. It killed 168 people, including nineteen children in the day care center on the second floor, and injured 684 others.

On August 10, 1995, McVeigh was indicted on eleven federal counts, including conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, use of a weapon of mass destruction, destruction by explosives and eight counts of first-degree murder. Among his statements while on Death Row was this:

If there is a hell, then I’ll be in good company with a lot of fighter pilots who also had to bomb innocents to win the war.

He was executed by lethal injection at 7:14 a.m. on June 11, 2001, at the U.S. Federal Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, the first federal prisoner to be executed by the United States federal government since 1963.

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Here’s why the Army’s going to buy a lot of missiles and bombs next year

If Congress enacts the Trump administration’s 2018 budget request, many in the Army will be ecstatic. Weapons contractors, maybe not so much.


The $137.2 billion request ( $166.1 billion including overseas contingency operations funds) is up by 5 percent from a year ago. It would be the most money the Army has gotten since 2012.

7 incredible stories of heroism on 9/11
Spc. Alan Yearby, assigned to 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, makes sketches of the terrain while manning a mortar fire position near Mosul, Iraq, Feb. 28, 2017. A global Coalition of more than 60 regional and international nations have joined together to enable partner forces to defeat ISIS. CJTF-OIR is the global Coalition to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Manne)

The budget is in tune with the priorities set by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis: Fix near-term readiness, but also make progress toward a more “modern, capable and lethal force,” said Army Budget Director Maj. Gen. Thomas A. Horlander.

The 2018 funding request is about “closing vulnerability gaps,” he said today at a Pentagon news conference. “This budget arrests Army readiness decline and sets conditions for future improvements.”

As expected, most of the money is going to personnel, operations and maintenance. The personnel account grows by $2.5 billion in 2018, and OM gets a $3.2 billion boost. Weapons modernization continues to be squeezed, with a modest increase of $600 million: procurement is slipping by $400 million but research and development is up by $1 billion from 2017.

Army personnel and readiness accounts increased significantly over 2017, while procurement declines slightly.

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Horlander ran through long list of modernization priorities, which mirror those cited in recent months by the Chief of Staff, Gen, Mark Milley, and senior Army leaders: Air and missile defense, long-range fires, munitions, mobility, active protection, protection of GPS navigation, electronic warfare, cyber warfare, communications and vertical lift. These capabilities are needed for the “A2/AD fight,” said Horlander, using the Pentagon’s codeword for Chinese and Russian weapons and tactics designed to deny U.S. forces their traditional advantages.

“Air missile defense and long-range fires are the most pressing capability needs,” Horlander said.

The budget, for instance, funds 131 Patriot missile modification kits, upgrades to the Avenger and Stinger air defense systems, 6,000 guided multiple-launch rockets, a 10-year service life extension for 121 expired ATACM surface-to-surface tactical missiles, 88,000 Hydra-70 rockets, 480 war reserve Excalibur precision-guided artillery rounds, and 998 Hellfire missiles.

7 incredible stories of heroism on 9/11
(Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. John Portela)

The Army also seeks funds to overhaul and modernize the Holston ammunition plant in Tennessee. The RDTE request funds next-generations systems such as high-energy lasers. These are the type of weapons that will “enable the Army to retain advantage against advanced adversaries and address a broader range of threats, as well as deter or defeat near-peer adversaries,” said Horlander.

To fund a surge of missiles and munitions production, the Army has had to make tradeoffs. It cut Abrams modernization from 60 tanks last year to 20 in 2018. And aviation spending — helicopters and drones — drops from $5.2 billion last year to $4.5 billion.

Aircraft procurement dropped while missiles, tracked vehicles, and other weapons rose.

The major target of all these new munitions is the Russians, and the Army plans to continue spending big bucks on the European Reassurance Initiative, started by the Obama administration to shore up U.S. allies against an increasingly aggressive Russian posture. The 2018 OCO budget seeks $3.2 billion for ERI, a $400 million bump. The money would fund rotations of Army forces, including a full armored brigade, a combat aviation brigade, a divisional mission command element and logistics support units.

7 incredible stories of heroism on 9/11
The Army’s budget is aimed in part at bolstering defenses against Russia.

The ERI and overall military support of European allies has become a rising concern on Capitol Hill. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry has directed thePentagon to study the cost of stationing Army brigades in Eastern Europe permanently, as opposed to rotating units there. “I’m not convinced it’s cheaper to rotate,” Thornberry said yesterday at the Brookings Institution. Rotations also create huge burdens on families, he said. Director of Force Structure, Resources and Assessment on the Joint Staff Lt. Gen. Anthony R. Ierardisaid the Pentagon has not begun to study that yet. “These are important questions we need to answer regarding ERI and our support of European allies,” he told me.

A growing concern going forward is how the Army will manage the elephant in its budget: its personnel account that continues to drain resources from everywhere else. With help fromCongress last year, the Army grew the active-duty ranks from 450,000 to 476,000. The addition of 26,000 troops inflates personnel costs by $2.8 billion per year. The kind of buildup that Trump has floated would bring 50,000 more soldiers into the force.

How would the Army cope financially? That’s a discussion now underway, said Horlander. After a strategic review is completed this summer, “we’ll have more information on what the true size of the force should be.”

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This is why cancer isn’t the toughest fight John McCain has faced

The announcement that Senator John McCain (R-AZ) is fighting brain cancer was stunning. The news was flooded with statements, most of which offered thoughts and prayers for McCain and his family, although many also noted that John McCain was a fighter.


However, this has not been the only time John McCain’s had to fight through a situation.

His lengthy time in captivity during the Vietnam War was notable, not only due to the fact he was awarded the Silver Star for his heroism, but also for his refusal to return home early.

McCain served as a chaplain among the POWs, per his Legion of Merit citation. McCain also cheated death when his plane was shot down on Oct. 26, 1967.

7 incredible stories of heroism on 9/11
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Prior to his Vietnam War service, he survived three mishaps, including a collision with power lines in an A-1 Skyraider. McCain had another close brush with death before his shootdown, when his jet was among those caught up in the massive fire on the carrier USS Forrestal (CV 59).

Despite suffering shrapnel wounds, he volunteered to transfer to the Essex-class carrier USS Oriskany (CV 34).

7 incredible stories of heroism on 9/11
YouTube: We Are The Mighty

The cancer Senator McCain is fighting, a brain tumor known as glioblastoma, is a very aggressive form of cancer that was discovered after an operation to remove a blood clot near his eye.

It’s not his first go-round with “the big C,” either. McCain fought a battle with malignant melanoma in 2000.

7 incredible stories of heroism on 9/11
McCain in Vietnam (Library of Congress photo)

As of this writing, Senator McCain is considering treatment options, but he is also still at work. When President Trump canceled a program to arm some Syrian rebels, McCain issued a statement condemning the decision, proving once again that you can’t keep a hero down.

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