Top military leader at odds with Trump on 'Islamic' terrorism - We Are The Mighty
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Top military leader at odds with Trump on ‘Islamic’ terrorism

It appears that the nation’s top military officer is not in sync with his commander-in-chief on the need to label America’s enemy in the conflicts that have persisted since the 9-11 terrorists’ attacks as “radical Islamic extremists.”


Throughout his campaign and since taking office, President Donald Trump has insisted on using the term radical or extremists “Islamic” terrorists to describe ISIS and the other groups spreading conflicts throughout the Middle East and Africa.

Related: Mattis’ ISIS plan could mean more US troops in Syria and Iraq

Former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush and their administrations’ officials, including Pentagon leaders, deliberately avoided use of the “Islamic” label in an effort, they said, to avoid bolstering the terrorists’ propaganda that America was at war with all of Islam. But many Republicans in Congress protested that policy for denying the true nature of the threat.

Top military leader at odds with Trump on ‘Islamic’ terrorism
Members of the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service present Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a flag from Bartilah, a town recaptured by the Iraqi army just outside of Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. (DoD photo by Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class Dominique Pineiro)

During an appearance at the Brookings Institution in Washington on Feb. 23, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, repeatedly used the term “violent extremists” in talking about the “four plus one threat” the US military must face. That term refers to the possible future threats posed by Russia, China, Iran and North Korea, plus the ongoing fights against extremists in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and many parts of Africa.

Dunford also used that term in explaining the purpose of the review Trump ordered the Pentagon to conduct on ways to accelerate the fight to defeat ISIS and similar groups.

When challenged by a reporter on whether he does not feel the need to use the “Islamic” label used by Trump, Dunford carefully avoided the term.

“You ought not to read anything into my use of ‘violent extremism’ other than really trying to articulate exactly the point I’m trying to make now… It involves al Qaeda, it involves Hezbollah, it involves ISIS and other groups that present a trans-regional threat,” he said.

“If you ask about a specific group I could give you a more specific descriptor,” Dunford added. “I was using the term ‘violent extremism’ to refer to all of those groups,” that exist “as the result of individuals who take up arms to advance political and/or religious objectives through violence.”

In an earlier discussion about the complex situation the US is trying to deal with in Syria, Dunford noted there are issues with Sunni and Shia groups, the two main divisions of Islam, plus Kurds, Turks and others.

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94 unknown US WWII vets are being exhumed and possibly identified

Military and Veterans Affairs officials are digging up the remains of 94 unidentified Marines and sailors killed on a remote atoll in the Pacific during one of World War II’s bloodiest battles.


The servicemen were killed in the Battle of Tarawa in 1943 and buried as unknowns at a national cemetery in Honolulu after the war.

Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency spokeswoman Maj. Natasha Waggoner said March 28 advances in DNA technology have increased the probability of identifying the unknowns.

Top military leader at odds with Trump on ‘Islamic’ terrorism
U.S. Marines storm the beach at Tarawa Atoll, November 1943. (U.S. Archives)

More than 990 U.S. Marines and 30 U.S. sailors were killed in the three-day battle. About 550 are still unidentified, including some still in Tarawa, Waggoner said.

National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific spokesman Gene Maestas said the disinterments began in October. The cemetery, which is also known as Punchbowl, expects to transfer the last eight servicemen to the military next Monday.

The exhumations come two years after the Pentagon announced new criteria for exhuming remains from military cemeteries for identification.

Shortly after, it dug up from Punchbowl cemetery the remains of nearly 400 unknowns from the USS Oklahoma who were killed in the 1941 Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. The work to identify them is expected to take about five years.

Waggoner said her agency doesn’t have an estimate for how long it will take to identify the Tarawa remains. That’s because some of the skeletons from Punchbowl are incomplete and parts of some bodies are still in Tarawa.

The agency recently received Pentagon approval to exhume some 35 Punchbowl graves believed to hold the unidentified remains of servicemen from the USS West Virginia, which was also hit in the Pearl Harbor attack.

The agency will schedule these disinterments after it gets a permit from the state of Hawaii, she said.

Tarawa, which is some 2,300 miles (3,700 kilometers) southwest of Honolulu, is today part of the Republic of Kiribati.

During the U.S. amphibious assault on Tarawa 74 years ago, Japanese machine gun fire killed scores of Marines when their boats got stuck on the reef at low tide. Americans who made it to the beach faced brutal hand-to-hand combat.

Only 17 of the 3,500 Japanese troops survived. Of 1,200 Korean slave laborers on the island, just 129 lived.

The U.S. quickly buried the thousands of dead. But these graves were soon disturbed as the Navy had to quickly build an airstrip to continue their push west toward Japan.

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This WWII bombing mission resulted in 5 Medals of Honor

It was one of the most dangerous and daring raids of World War II, and it resulted in the most medals of honor bestowed on America’s airmen from any battle in any war.


In the summer of 1943, the U.S. Army Air Force launched the audacious Operation Tidal Wave, an effort to destroy the largest supply of oil production for the German war machine in Ploesti, Romania.

The Ploesti oil fields produced a third of all Axis oil in Europe, so it was a prime target for an Allied attack. But unbeknownst to the Allies, it was also one of its most heavily defended cities in Europe — second only to Berlin.

Flying from Benghazi, Libya, a force of five bomb groups – the 98th and 376th from the Ninth Air Force and the 44th, 93rd, and 389th from the Eighth Air Force – (totaling 177 B-24 Liberator bombers) conducted the raid. The most effective way to strike the targets was to come in at tree-top level and use bombs with delayed fuses to allow planes to clear the area before detonation.

The force would have a series of troubling events before they even reached Ploesti.

In the early morning hours of August 1, 1943, just after the bombers began their mission, an overloaded bomber crashed on take-off and later the lead plane winged over and crashed into the sea.

Top military leader at odds with Trump on ‘Islamic’ terrorism
A B-24 Liberator taking off in Benghazi, bound for the oil fields at Ploesti. (U.S. Air Force photo)

As the raid approached its target,  the 98th Bomb Group fell behind, separating the planes into two groups. Then a navigational error sent the lead group away from Ploesti and toward Bucharest. Realizing their mistake, the 93rd, led by Lt. Col. Addison Baker, turned north toward the refineries. Seeing this, the 376th, led by Col. Keith Compton and mission commander Brig. Gen. Uzal Ent, also turned toward the target but turned away to look for a better entry point when they hit the anti-aircraft defenses.

Top military leader at odds with Trump on ‘Islamic’ terrorism
B-24 Liberators over Ploesti on Aug. 1, 1943. (U.S. Army photo)

The overwhelming ground fire soon overwhelmed many of the planes during the attack, and the pilots did everything they could to maintain course and strike their target.

In a final act of heroism, the pilots of a shot up plane tried to gain enough altitude for the crew to bail out but were too late – the plane crashed into the target, killing all on board.

Pilots Lt. Col. Baker and Maj. Jerstad were both awarded the Medal of Honor.

Top military leader at odds with Trump on ‘Islamic’ terrorism
U.S. B-24 Liberators over their target, Ploesti, Romania in August, 1943 (U.S. Army photo)

The 376th, unable to find a suitable line to the main refineries, was ordered to bomb targets of opportunity before coming home. One six-plane element breached the defenses and hit its target but was ineffective.

Just as the remnants of the 93rd and 376th were leaving the target, the straggling 98th and 44th, which followed the correct course, arrived with the fifth group, swerving north to hit a separate compound.

Due to the confusion, the first groups over the target hit anything they could. This meant the next two groups approached with their primary targets already in flames. To make matters worse, not all of the planes evacuated the target area, so pilots already dodging smoke and ground fire had to watch out for other bombers too.

Top military leader at odds with Trump on ‘Islamic’ terrorism
U.S. Army Air Forces hit the Axis oil fields in Ploesti, Romania, on Aug. 1, 1943 (U.S. Air Force photo)

Despite the hellacious conditions, Col. John Kane’s 98th Bomb Group and Col. Leon Johnson’s 44th Bomb Group flew on and attacked their targets with precision. For their bravery and leadership, both men were awarded the Medal of Honor.

Top military leader at odds with Trump on ‘Islamic’ terrorism
Consolidated B-24s on the Ploesti oil refinery bombing mission. (U.S. Air Force photo)

While the 98th and 44th fought their way through Ploesti, the 389th attacked the Campina facility to the north. Though more lightly defended than the main facility, the bombers still encountered heavy resistance.

Lieutenant Lloyd Herbert Hughes’ plane was hit numerous times in its fuel tanks and streamed fuel as it entered the target area. Motivated by duty and mission, he flew his plane into the inferno to hit his target. His own plane caught fire. Hughes attempted a crash landing but he and five other crew died. The enemy captured the rest. Lt. Hughes received the Medal of Honor for his devotion to duty.

The top turret gunner, Sgt. Zerrill Steen, continued to fire on enemy positions until his ammunition was exhausted. Steen was part of an air crew under Lt. Robert Horton. Horton’s plane was heavily damaged and went down, killing nine of the 10 crew. Sergeant Steen was captured and awarded the Distinguished Service Cross while in captivity.

Top military leader at odds with Trump on ‘Islamic’ terrorism
A B-24 Turret Gunner, wearing altitude mask, flak vest, and jacket. (U.S. army photo)

Of the 177 planes that took off from Benghazi, only 89 returned. While the enemy destroyed 54 planes, others crash landed at bases throughout the area. Over 300 men died, over 100 captured, and 78 were interred in Turkey.

Of the 89 returning planes, over a third were unfit to fly afterward. Five pilots received the Medal of Honor, three of them posthumously.

The high cost of the mission did not bring about great success. While the refinery at Campina was put out of action for the remainder of the war, the losses in oil production were repaired within weeks.

Due to the losses suffered by the attackers, August 1st came to be known as ‘Black Sunday.’

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Iran claims it has an air defense that can defeat some of America’s best fighters

Iran has tested its home-grown air defense system, designed to match the Russian S-300, the head of the Revolutionary Guards’ air defense has said, Yahoo reported.


“In parallel with the deployment of the S-300, work on Bavar-373 system is underway,” Farzad Esmaili told state broadcaster IRIB late Sept. 2.

“The system is made completely in Iran and some of its parts are different from the S-300. All of its sub-systems have been completed and its missile tests have been conducted.”

Top military leader at odds with Trump on ‘Islamic’ terrorism
Land-based S-300 surface-to-air missile launchers. Photo under Creative Commons.

Bavar (which means “belief”) is Tehran’s first long-range missile defense system, and is set to be operational by March 2018, he added.

In 2010, Iran began manufacturing Bavar-373 after the purchase of the S-300 from Russia was suspended due to international sanctions.

Russia resumed the sale following the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers which lifted sanctions, and Iran’s S-300 defense system became operational in March.

Top military leader at odds with Trump on ‘Islamic’ terrorism
Iran’s Bavar-373. Photo from Iran Military Warfareknow Facebook

On Sept. 2, the new defense minister Amir Hatami said Iran has “a specific plan to boost missile power”.

He said he hoped “the combat capabilities of Iran’s ballistic and cruise missiles” would increase in the next four years.

The comments came amid increasing tensions with Washington, which has passed new sanctions against Iran’s ballistic missile program.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Unanswered questions about the Ukrainian plane crash in Iran

All 176 people on board were killed when a Ukraine International Airlines plane crashed in Iran early on Wednesday morning.

Authorities in Iran and Ukraine, as well as at the airline, have offered statements and press conferences, but a number of key unanswered questions are still swirling.

Investigations have kicked off amid rampant speculation that current political tensions between the US and Iran could have contributed to the plane crash.

Information about who was on the passenger jet — Flight PS 752 — and what happened before the crash remain lacking.

Here are the unanswered questions.


What happened on the flight?

A complete timeline of the flight is yet to emerge.

We know that the plane took off at 6:12 a.m. local time on Wednesday and lost contact about two minutes later.

But we don’t know exactly what time it crashed — just that it was only in the air for a few minutes, based on flight-tracking software, and that the debris was found about six miles from the airport from where it took off.

Authorities also said the plane burst into flames shortly after takeoff, but whether the plane was already on fire before it crashed to the ground is not yet clear.

A video shared by the partially state-run Iranian Students’ News Agency appears to show the plane on fire in the air before hitting the ground and filling the sky with flames, but the video’s content and connection to this crash has not yet been verified.

Who was killed?

Ukraine’s foreign minister said that the victims mostly came from Iran and Canada.

Vadym Prystaiko said the victims were 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, and 11 Ukrainians, as well as 11 Swedish citizens, four Afghan citizens, three UK citizens, and three German citizens. Nine of those on board were crew members.

But he did not identify the victims.

Sky News identified the three UK citizens on board, while the airline identified the pilots as Volodymyr Gaponenko, Alexei Naumkin, and Sergey Khomenko. All had a minimum of 7,600 hours on Boeing 737 planes. Vice also identified some Canadian victims.

Ukraine International Airlines said it will post the passenger list on its website “after final confirmation of their presence on board of the aircraft.”

Was the plane shot down?

Some aviation experts have argued that the plane was likely shot down; others have said it was too early to speculate about the cause.

But the idea that the plane was deliberately downed, including shot down by a missile, is speculation at the moment, and its account is contradicted by authorities.

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, warned against “speculation or unchecked theories regarding the catastrophe” until official investigations were done. He said, “Our priority is to establish the truth and those responsible for this terrible catastrophe.”

Iranian authorities said in the hours after the crash that it had been caused by technical problems, dismissing the idea that it could have been a terrorist or military attack.

Top military leader at odds with Trump on ‘Islamic’ terrorism

President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Qassem Biniaz, an official at the Iranian Ministry of Roads and Urban Development, told state news agency IRNA that an engine caught fire and the pilot was unable to regain control, The New York Times reported.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk refused to rule out the idea that the plane could be downed by a missile, but cautioned against speculation before the investigation.

CFM, the French-American maker of the jet engine, said that any speculation on causes was premature, according to Reuters.

“We have no further information at this time. Any speculation regarding the cause is premature,” the company said.

Ukraine’s embassy in Tehran initially dismissed the idea of terrorism or a rocket attack soon after the crash, blaming an engine failure instead. But that statement was later replaced by one that says the cause is unknown and is being investigated.

According to Reuters, the embassy said the earlier statement was based on preliminary information but was not official, and that Iranian authorities had asked the embassy to remove it.

Suspicion over causes of the crash have been heightened amid the increased tension in Iran after the US assassinated its top general and Iran subsequently attacked bases housing US troops in Iraq.

Hours before the plane crash, Iran attacked two Iraqi military bases that housed US and coalition forces with ballistic missiles. There is no evidence that the two incidents are linked.

Were there any faults with the plane?

Ukraine International Airlines has sought to distance itself from the possibility that there was a fault with the plane or its crew.

It said in the hours after the crash that the plane was built in 2016 and that it had last completed maintenance checks just two days ago.

Officials: Boeing 737-800 crash in Iran likely a result of mechanical issues

www.youtube.com

It also said that the plane was one of the best in its fleet and had an experienced crew. The airline had never had a fatal flight before.

The airline’s vice president of operations, Ihor Sosnovsky, said the airline doubted the crew had made mistakes: “Given the crew’s experience, error probability is minimal.”

The plane model, the Boeing 737-800 NG, has been in the air since the 1990s, and is considered the most popular aircraft in use today. It has been involved in some crashes in the past, though no recent crashes have been attributed the plane’s design.

The crash may ramp up pressure for Boeing as it deals with the fallout of two fatal crashes by two 737 Max planes in 2018 and 2019, both of which were believed to be caused by a flawed flight-control system.

But the 737 model involved in Wednesday’s crash does not use the same software believed to have played in a role in those doomed flights.

Boeing said in a Wednesday statement: “This is a tragic event and our heartfelt thoughts are with the crew, passengers, and their families. We are in contact with our airline customer and stand by them in this difficult time. We are ready to assist in any way needed.”

How will the investigations work?

Under international rules, Iran must investigate the crash, though typically a number of different investigations take place into plane crashes.

Ukraine’s President Zelensky also said that he had instructed his prosecutor-general to open criminal proceedings after the crash.

Ukraine International Airlines said it would take “all measures” to determine the cause of the crash, and that Ukraine, Iran, and Boeing representatives would also be involved.

But Boeing, a major American company with close ties to the US government, may face problems in getting involved with the investigation because of US sanctions on Iran and newly heightened tensions between the two countries.

Mehr, a semi-official Iranian news agency, quoted the head of Iran’s civil aviation authority as saying the country would not give the plane’s black boxes to Boeing, Reuters reported. He said he was not sure what country Iran would give them to.

It is not clear what the role the independent US National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates plane crashes, will play. It said it is “monitoring the developments” and is working with US agencies to “determine the best course of action.”

Investigators have not yet released a timeline for when they expect to release any preliminary conclusions. Final reports usually take months to complete.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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This is al Qaeda’s job application (seriously)

Top military leader at odds with Trump on ‘Islamic’ terrorism
Photo: Youtube.com


Al Qaeda asked its aspiring recruits to fill out an application in order to join, according to documents the US government seized at Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan and released on May 20th.

The application asks for basic information (name, age, education level, criminal history), but includes more terrorism-specific queries, like “Do you wish to execute a suicide operation?” and “Who should we contact in case you became a martyr?”

The form was released as part of the declassification of a trove of documents seized during the May 1st, 2011 Navy SEAL raid in Abbottabad in which Osama bin Laden was killed.

Here’s the form:

Al Qaeda Application

This is one letter a recruit sent to Al Qaeda, saying he “admired the activities, beliefs and bravery of the mujahidin”:

Al Qaeda Letter

Bin Laden, the terrorist responsible for the 9/11 terror attacks on the US, was killed by a team of Navy SEALs in 2011.

Al Qaeda was known for vetting recruits who wanted to join. Those who wanted to get into the core organization often needed a recommendation from someone already inside.

When Al Qaeda was first created, the group noted in a memo that there were four requirements for membership — swearing allegiance to the emir and being obedient, obtaining a personal referral from a member of Al Qaeda’s inner circle, and displaying “good manners,” according to the recent book “ISIS: The State of Terror,” which also discusses Al Qaeda’s origins.

More from Business Insider:

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

The Navy’s latest aircraft carrier deployment had an unusual start as the service aims to be more unpredictable

The US Navy’s latest aircraft carrier deployment began in an unusual way, and it appears to be part of efforts to make the service less predictable.


In a break from the norm, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and its strike group deployed immediately after completing a final certification exercise instead of first returning to the carrier’s home port.

Carrier Strike Group 10, a formidable naval force consisting of the Eisenhower, two cruisers, three destroyers and more than 6,000 sailors, set sail on deployment right after completing the Composite Unit Training Exercise, the Navy announced Thursday.

“Upon the successful completion of C2X, strike groups are certified and postured to deploy at any time,” US 2nd Fleet spokeswoman Lt. Marycate Walsh told Insider.

“IKE’s timeline for departure was demonstrative of the inherent agility of our naval forces,” she continued. “There is no one size fits all policy; operations at sea routinely flex for a variety of reasons.”

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Eisenhower in the Atlantic.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class James Norket

At times, the Navy has adjusted deployments in response to unexpected problems.

For example, when the USS Harry S. Truman suffered an electrical malfunction in August, its strike group deployed without it, forming a surface action group instead.

As the Truman underwent repairs, the USS Abraham Lincoln, the carrier sent to deter Iran, had its deployment extended — one of several extensions that allowed the Lincoln to set a record for longest carrier deployment since the Cold War.

But the Eisenhower’s latest deployment, as The Virginian-Pilot notes, appears to be a part of the Navy’s efforts to implement dynamic force employment, which the Navy argues makes the fleet much less predictable and strengthens deterrence against potential adversaries.

The Truman executed the first DFE deployment in 2018, when it sailed into the North Atlantic and Arctic shortly after returning from the Mediterranean.

After that deployment, Adm. James G. Foggo III, commander of US Naval Forces Europe-Africa and Allied Joint Force Command Naples, Italy, said: “The National Defense Strategy makes clear that we must be operationally unpredictable to our long-term strategic adversaries, while upholding our commitments to our allies and partners.”

Top military leader at odds with Trump on ‘Islamic’ terrorism

It is unclear where the Eisenhower is currently headed.

“The sailors of IKE Strike Group are trained and ready to execute the full spectrum of maritime operations in any theater,” Rear Adm. Paul Schlise, commander of Carrier Strike Group 10, said in a statement.

“Carrier Strike Groups,” he said, “are visible and powerful symbols of US commitment and resolve to our allies and partners, and possess the flexibility and sustainability to fight major wars and ensure freedom of the seas.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Green Beret to receive Medal of Honor for actions in Battle of Shok Valley

More than a decade ago, Army Master Sgt. Matthew Williams earned the Silver Star Medal for saving several of his Special Forces comrades during an hours-long mountainside firefight in Afghanistan.

This week, the Green Beret will see that decoration upgraded to the highest level — the Medal of Honor.

Williams was born Oct. 3, 1981, and spent most of his childhood in the small town of Boerne, Texas. He initially wanted to be a detective or work for the FBI when he grew up, so he got his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at Angelo State University in San Angelo, Texas.


But after 9/11, Williams started rethinking how he could serve his country. He did some research into Special Forces programs and, in September 2005, joined the Army. Two years later, he became a weapons sergeant — someone who knows U.S. and foreign weaponry well and often goes behind enemy lines to help friendly forces train and recruit.

On April 6, 2008, then-Sgt. Williams was on his first deployment with several other Special Forces operators for Operation Commando Wrath, a mission to capture or kill high-value targets in Afghanistan’s Shok Valley.

His team and about 100 Afghan commandos were dropped into the mountainous area by helicopter. As the leading edge of the group began moving up a jagged mountainside, insurgents started attacking from above.

“It was kind of quiet, then all of a sudden everything exploded all at once,” Williams later explained in an interview. “[The insurgents] had some pretty good shooters, and a lot of people up there waiting for us.”

Top military leader at odds with Trump on ‘Islamic’ terrorism

A map pinpoints the Operation Commando Wrath insertion point in Shok Valley, April 6, 2008.

(Army graphic)

The part of the group under attack, which included the ground commander, was trapped. Meanwhile, Williams and the rest of the team had trailed behind at the bottom of the mountain, and they were forced to take cover while trying to fight back.

When Williams got word that some in the group ahead of him were injured and close to being overrun, he gathered several of the commandos.

He led them across a 100-meter valley of ice-covered boulders and through a fast-moving, waist-deep river on a rescue mission up the mountain. When they got to the forward group, the Afghan forces kept the insurgents at bay while the Americans figured out their next move.

“I went about halfway down, called a couple more of our guys and asked them to bring more commandos up so we could basically make a chain to pass these casualties down, because they were going to be on litters (stretchers),” Williams said.

Top military leader at odds with Trump on ‘Islamic’ terrorism

Army Sgt. Matthew Williams and other team members assigned to the 3rd Special Forces Group pose for a photograph as they to be picked up by a helicopter in eastern Afghanistan in late spring 2007.

(Photo by Army Master Sgt. Matthew Williams)

As they were setting up, another soldier was hit by sniper fire. Williams braved the enemy onslaught to give him first aid, get him on his feet, and help him climb down the mountain.

Williams then fought his way back up to the top to bring the rest of the endangered men down.

“I knew we couldn’t go up the same way we’d gone other times because it had been getting pretty heavy fire,” Williams said. “There was a cliff face that went around to a little outcropping. I saw that if we could scale that, we could get onto this outcropping, and we’d be able to come up from behind where those other guys were.”

It was a near-vertical, 60-foot mountain.

When Williams and others made it back to the top, he killed several insurgents and helped get communications back up and running. Then, still under fire, he went back to moving the wounded men down the mountainside to a little house they were using as their casualty collection point.

Top military leader at odds with Trump on ‘Islamic’ terrorism

Army Sgt. Matthew Williams, assigned to the 3rd Special Forces Group, conducts long-range weapons training at Camp Morehead, Afghanistan, during the fall of 2009.

(Army Master Sgt. Matthew Williams)

But they still weren’t safe; insurgents were threatening that position, too. So, over the next several hours, Williams led the Afghan commandos on another counterattack against more than 200 insurgents, keeping the enemy at bay until helicopters were able to fly in and evacuate the wounded.

“They were taking fire the whole entire time,” Williams said of the helicopter crews. “They were awesome pilots. They saved the day, really.”

Williams helped load the wounded men into the helicopters, then continued to direct fire to quell the enemy attack. That gave the rescue patrol time to move out without any further casualties.

The whole ordeal lasted more than six hours. Thankfully, no American service members were killed.

“That day was one of the worst predicaments of my life,” Williams said. “But the experience from that has helped me through my whole entire career — remain level-headed and focus on what needs to happen as opposed to what is happening.”

Top military leader at odds with Trump on ‘Islamic’ terrorism

Army Sgt. Matthew Williams poses for a photo with his operational detachment’s interpreter in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, in the spring of 2007.

(Army Master Sgt. Matthew Williams)

Earning accolades

Several months later, for his amazing leadership under fire, Williams and nine of the men with him during that mission each received Silver Stars. Now, his decoration is being upgraded to the Medal of Honor. He’ll receive the award Oct. 30, 2019, in a ceremony at the White House.

“I think it’s an honor for me to receive this on behalf of the Special Forces regiment, hopefully representing them in a positive manner and helping get the story out about what it is that we’re actually doing and what Green Berets are capable of, ” Williams said.

Williams is the second member of his detachment to receive the nation’s highest honor for this operation. Staff Sgt. Ronald Shurer II received it a year ago.

Top military leader at odds with Trump on ‘Islamic’ terrorism

Army Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Williams poses with his wife, Kate, just before they attend a friend’s wedding in October 2013.

(Army Master Sgt. Matthew Williams)

After his 2008 deployment, Williams went home and met his wife, Kate. They had a son. Williams has deployed five times since then and has done several extended training rotations in the field.

The family lives at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where Williams continues his role in the Special Forces. He said he’s hoping to keep that up, even with the notoriety that comes with being a Medal of Honor recipient.

This article originally appeared on Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was central to the honor code among Civil War soldiers

There were a number of unwritten rules among the men who fought the American Civil War. Confederate soldiers were known to execute white officers who led black men in combat. While that certainly is terrible, Confederate troops also refused to use landmines, believing them “ungentlemanly.” Meanwhile, the Union Army practiced “total war” against the South, destroying the property and livelihoods of soldier and civilian alike while at the same time adhering to the Lieber Code, an early law that governed warfare much the way the Geneva Convention later would.


There was one thing, however, the soldiers on either side of Civil War battlefields would not do – they would not shoot a man relieving himself. And for a good reason.

Top military leader at odds with Trump on ‘Islamic’ terrorism

There’s a good chance they’ve all had dysentery.

The biggest killer of Civil War soldiers was not the bullet, sword, or cannonball, it was disease. For every American troop who died at the hands of the enemy, two more would die of disease. The most likely culprits were typhoid and dysentery. The clear winner was dysentery, and it wasn’t even close. Dysentery and the diarrhea that came along with it ravaged both Armies for the entire war. It was this disease and its signature symptom that claimed more lives than all the battles of the war, combined.

It wasn’t the doctor’s fault, they actually had no idea what caused such diseases at this time in American history. The necessity of sanitation and hygiene among such large groups of people was not fully understood at the time. Doctors didn’t actually know about germ theory or how disease actually started. Camps were littered with refuse and whatnot in various states of decomposition. Soldiers lived close to their latrines, along with the manure from the army’s animals. An estimated 99.5 percent of all troops caught dysentery at some point.

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With how much the disease affected both sides of the war, another rule to the war’s unwritten code of conduct emerged. No soldier would ever take a shot at a man relieving himself of the primary burden of the disease – or in the words of one Civil War soldier’s letter home, “attending to the imperative calls of nature.” when they rejoined their unit, of course, they were fair game.

Doctors did what they could to treat the illness, but given that they didn’t know bacteria existed, let alone the dozens or more that could cause gastrointestinal distress, it hardly did the job. Usually, troops were treated with opium. Not a terrible way to get back to duty but also not quite a cure, either.

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The Waco Siege was the most controversial use of federal force in decades

On February 28, 1993, a standoff between federal agents and an offshoot branch of Seventh-Day Adventists escalated into armed conflict on American soil. Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms raided the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas, in an effort to execute a legal search warrant.


Once the shooting started, four agents and six Davidians were dead. The ensuing standoff would last 51 days. The conspiracy theories would live forever.

By March 11, there was a new sheriff in town – that is to say, a new top law enforcement officer was at the desk of Attorney General.

For Janet Reno — the first female to hold top cop job — one of the first tasks was a literal trial by fire: how to handle the ultimate hand of “Texas Hold ‘Em” happening down Waco way.

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Reno in an undated broadcast TV interview.

Related: This is how the US military would put down an armed rebellion

There are two segments to the Waco standoff, sadly bookended by violence. The first was the ATF raid for the initial search warrant. President Clinton was inaugurated the previous January, creating a transition period for many departments of the federal government. The Department of Justice was in what it called “caretaker mode” before a new AG could be appointed. For much of the time after the February raid, it was assumed by many that the FBI would negotiate a resolution with the Davidians, so that’s what the caretakers – senior justice department officials – did.

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Branch Davidian Compound (YouTube Screengrab)

The second major event came when the Attorney General’s office ordered a full-on storming of the compound by the FBI on April 19th. For the 51 days in between, FBI negotiators tried to end the siege peacefully — and came close a few times. It was when Davidian leader David Koresh proclaimed that God told him to remain inside the compound that factions within the FBI began to advocate for an assault. The Davidians made a number of demands, to a mixed reception by the FBI.

Though some children inside the compound were released to the care of the FBI, there were still children inside the Davidian compound. Allegations of child sexual assault prompted many to wonder why the government forces allowed the standoff to continue. Acting Attorney General Stuart Gerson, a holdover from the Bush Administration, requested military firepower from nearby Fort Hood. When President Clinton was informed, he demanded that Gerson not use the requested military vehicles for a “more aggressive” tactical push.

Federal forces used Bradley Armored Fighting Vehicles and M728 Combat Engineer Vehicles to destroy perimeter fences and structures and to destroy the cars of people on the compound. Troops around the area also had 2 M1A1 Abrams Tanks. The feds used loud music, pre-recorded aircraft noise, and even the sounds of slaughtered rabbits to deprive the Davidians of sleep while cutting water, power, and communications to the compound. Koresh reportedly began to believe he was the second coming of Christ.

As incoming Attorney General, Reno was briefed about the Waco Siege situation on March 12. By April 18, she was informing President Clinton that she authorized the FBI’s use of tear gas on the compound. With the assurance that the children in the compound were protected, he left it to Reno to decide the next steps. The FBI planned the assault for 0700.

On April 19th, agents from the FBI and ATF, as well as troops from the U.S. Army and Texas National Guard, were authorized by Clinton to assault the compound. Reno told the president the risk of abused children inside was high while the siege was costing the government upward of $1 million per week.

Federal forces used the CEVs, .50 cal machine guns, and explosives to punch holes in the walls of the compound. The area was then saturated with tear gas in an attempt to flush the Davidians out. The people inside the complex responded by firing on the CEVs. The federal forces maintained they never returned a shot. For six hours the Davidians held out.

But fire is what ultimately ended the Waco siege.

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The Davidians’ Mount Carmel Compound in flames on April 19, 1993. (FBI photo)

Three fires began at separate locations within the building at about noon local time. Nine people escaped the blaze, but 76 died inside the walls. The government forces maintain the fires were started by the Davidians in the compound while those who escape claim the fires were a result of the assault. According to an official Justice Department report, poor construction, high winds, and the holes created by the government attack helped vent the fire and contribute to its fast spread.

Time Magazine reported that 12 autopsies found Davidians who died from bullet wounds to the head, “indicating either suicide or murder.” Koresh was killed by his right-hand man during the Waco siege, who then turned the gun on himself.

“I’m accountable,” Time Magazine reported Reno as saying on April 19, 1993. “The buck stops with me.”

After all was said and done, the original ATF warrant was founded in fact. The Justice Department reported they recovered a number of illegal weapons from the compound, including 1.9 million rounds of spent ammunition,  20 fully automatic AK-47 assault rifles, 12 fully automatic AR-15 assault rifles, at least two .50 caliber semi-automatic rifles, and anti-tank armor-piercing ammunition.

MIGHTY CULTURE

No one wants to be a buzz kill: A look at alcohol in the military community

No one wants to be a buzz kill. That’s the soft social put down we use to avoid an uncomfortable confrontation or even harder — a self-reflection about alcohol. A topic that has a longstanding relationship with the military community in both good ways and bad.

In InDependent’s bold new series “Wellness Unfiltered” they’re going there, into the harder to uncomfortable spaces military wellness typically shies away from in hopes to support the community and stand together to face tough topics.


Justine Evirs, a social entrepreneur, Navy veteran and Navy spouse is not what you would picture as the face of someone struggling with alcohol. In fact, that’s exactly the reason Evirs decided to step up. “There’s no representation here, not as a veteran, as a woman or minority,” she said candidly. “I’m not homeless. I am a mother, a recognized leader and for a long time didn’t see myself as having any issue until I became more familiar with the four stages of alcoholism,” Evirs said, who in the series breaks down the four stages through her own story and provides educational resources and facts.

On the other microphone is Kimberly Bacso of InDependent who explains the goal of the four-part series is to, “present a non-victimizing approach to give the community the tools we need to both destigmatize and recognize what this looks like.”

“Through this exposure we can now be there for each other, even in simple ways like providing attractive non-alcoholic options at gatherings,” Bacso said. InDependent’s approach to wellness as a wider, holistic standpoint really lends itself to tackling and supporting spouses in this space.

Not having a true picture of what healthy drinking looks like was one component of the larger issue for Evirs, who explained she spent years in stages one and two. “There are different stages and different types of alcoholics. With this conversation, my hope is that we can start asking ourselves why we’re drinking — is it to manage stress? And further, to look at our current drinking relationship from a longevity standpoint — will this be ok in five to 10 years?”

In case you’re curious, the lines between stages are not DUIs, arrests or an unmanageable life. The changes are subtle, and depending on the social company you keep, can go unrecognized or become “normalized” through a skewed perception.

Fear was definitely an inhibitor for Evirs, who admits she feared not only the stigma of this label for herself but the impact it may have on her husband’s career also. “Addiction leads to loneliness, something we already have enough of as military spouses,” Evirs said.

To make recognition worse, Evirs explains that the disease remains largely self-diagnosed. Fear, shame and an unhealthy media portrayal of healthy drinking patterns have shrouded this taboo topic for far too long.

What we love about the series is how it comes across as authentic and is hosted within the safe space of InDependent’s blog and Facebook community. “The series is embedded with links where anyone can find resources as well as the entire four-part conversation well after we’ve streamed them live,” Bacso said.

So, what’s the takeaway here no matter where you identify at any stage of the spectrum? Empowerment and the forward motion of the entire military community. “Even if this is not you, I’m willing to bet you know someone who has an unhealthy relationship with alcohol,” Evirs said.

Here’s to an informed and healthy future. In part two, Evirs explains how perspective has changed how she views the “bonding” that is associated with drinking. Are we really connecting over our talents and who we are as people, or is it the drinks?

We’re looking forward to connecting to a changing culture, no matter what is in your hands.

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Of course, ‘Happy Hour’ started with bored sailors

Shortly before the outbreak of World War I, U.S. troops occupied the Mexican port at Veracruz. The occupation came at a cost to both sides: the Americans lost 20 sailors over the course of killing 150 Mexicans.


The violence leveled off after a few weeks, and life in the city became relatively routine. War correspondents traveling with the U.S. Atlantic Fleet became bored with the calm and started to focus on the troops’ everyday life in the hopes that that might yield something their readership would respond to. One of these headlines was “The ‘Happy Hour’ Aboard Ship Makes Tars Contented.

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According to the Early Sports Pop Culture History Blog, one well-meaning Navy officer, Lieutenant Jonas Ingram, originated the practice of “Happy Hour” aboard his ship, the USS Arkansas. Since the Arkansas was the flagship of Admiral Charles Badger, the commander of the Atlantic Fleet, officers encouraged its spread to the other ships of the fleet and into the ships of the wider U.S. Navy. The practice would carry on throughout the coming world wars.

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Admiral Badger doesn’t give a sh*t.

The Arkansas‘ Happy Hours included athletic competitions (usually boxing), dancing, and a band while at sea. The enlisted men on board couldn’t drink, as per Navy regulations since 1899 (though officers could). In port, dancing girls from local bars were the center of the fun. The sailors ashore had easy access to liquor. Navy regulations at the time only prohibited the sale or issue of booze aboard ship, not the consumption on land.

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When sailors and soldiers returned home from the Great War, they introduced the idea of “Happy Hour” into the American vernacular. The idea of “happy hour” as we know it came from the use of the term in a “Saturday Evening Post” article in 1959, entitled The Men Who Chase Missiles. The article was about U.S. Air Force airmen working at remote island outposts in the Caribbean and how they saved money by not having anywhere to spend it… unless they spent it all at the local watering hole.

“Except for those who spend too much during “happy hour” at the bar – and there are few of these – the money mounts up fast.”

The USS Arkansas, once a state-of-the-art modern battleship, found itself obsolete at the end of World War II and did its country one last service – this time in a more of an academic research role.

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MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force wants to recall 1,000 retirees to active duty

Good news for U.S. Air Force retirees: The service has expanded plans to not only welcome back retired pilots into active-duty staff positions, but also combat system officers and air battle managers.

To help alleviate its manning shortage, the service is encouraging retirees from the 11X, 12X and 13B Air Force Specialty Codes to apply for the Voluntary Retired Return to Active Duty Program, it announced May 23, 2018.


It could take in as many as 1,000 former airmen.

“Officers who return to active duty under VRRAD will fill rated staff and active flying staff, test, training and operational positions where rated officer expertise is required,” said VRRAD Rated Liaison Maj. Elizabeth Jarding of the Air Force’s Personnel Center.

“We can match VRRAD participants to stateside or overseas requirements where they’ll fill critical billets that would otherwise remain vacant due to the shortage of rated officers,” Jarding said in a service release.

Airmen who are currently in rated positions in those specialties but have already put in their retirement orders will also be welcome to extend their service in the VRRAD program, the release said.

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Capt. Brad Matherne, 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron pilot.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brett Clashman)

The program expansion comes as the Air Force faces a growing deficit of 2,000 pilots, or roughly 10 percent of the total pilot force.

Previously, the VRRAD program — one of many efforts the service is making to ease the shortage — accepted only the 11X career field and remained limited in scope, said Air Force Personnel Center spokesman Mike Dickerson.

“The program was limited by law to a maximum of 25 participants and for a maximum 12-month tour, which limited officers to serving in non-flying staff positions,” Dickerson told Military.com on May 23, 2018.

Active-duty tour lengths have now increased to a minimum of 24 months and a maximum of 48 months, he said. VRRAD participants will deploy only if they volunteer, unless they are assigned to a combat-coded unit, the release said.

“Many who inquired expressed interest in the stability afforded by a longer tour. In addition, longer tours also afforded the potential to utilize these officers in flying as well as non-flying positions, providing more time to requalify and be effectively utilized in various airframes,” Dickerson said in an email.

To date, the 2017 VRRAD program has approved 10 officers, and five have returned to active duty, he said.

“We anticipate that will continue with the expanded authorities,” Dickerson said, adding the officers currently in the program could expand their tour lengths.

Some of the criteria for the expanded VRRAD program have changed: Eligibility applies to rated officers who received an active-duty retirement within the last five years or those in the window to retire within 12 months of their VRRAD date of application, the personnel center said.

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(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Samuel King Jr.)

Airmen must have previously served in the ranks of captain, major or lieutenant colonel, and must be under age 50. Those who are 50 and older may be considered on a case-by-case basis. Previously, the criteria applied to those age 60 and younger in those ranks.

“Applicants must be medically qualified for active duty and have served in a rated staff position within 15 years or been qualified in an Air Force aircraft within 10 years of application for flying positions,” the release said.

Officers who retired for physical disability reasons are not eligible to apply.

The personnel center will accept applications for VRRAD until Dec. 31, 2018, or until all openings are filled, the release said. Those who return to active duty will not be eligible for the service’s aviation bonus nor promotion consideration.

In 2017, the Air Force asked for expanded authorities for its retention shortfalls. As a result, in October 2018, President Donald Trump signed Executive Order 13223, which allowed the service to recall up to 1,000 former pilots.

The Air Force has said it does not plan to force anyone back on active duty involuntarily in any capacity. Officials said at the time they would work through how they could best use the executive order to voluntarily recall pilots.

Officials said additional VRRAD application procedures and eligibility requirements can be found on the VRRAD page of the AFPC public website.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.