“Among the men who fought on Iwo Jima, uncommon valor was a common virtue.” – Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz
First Lt. John Keith Wells, the Marine commander responsible for raising the first flag atop Mt. Suribachi, died on February 11, just days shy of the 71th anniversary of his time on Iwo Jima.
“He was a very warm, sensitive, spiritual man, all the way to age 94,” Connie Schultz, Wells’s daughter, told Denver 7.
He was also tough as nails.
“Give me 50 men not afraid to die, and I can take any position,” Wells said during the transit to Iwo Jima.
On February 19, 1945, he was ordered to lead the 3rd Platoon, Company E, 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines, 5th Marine Division in an assault up the base of Mt. Suribachi. In keeping with his claim, he succeeded.
1st. Lt Wells’ platoon is believed to be the most decorated platoon in Marine Corps history for a single engagement. His individual awards included a Navy Cross, a Bronze Star, and a Purple Heart.
Here is an excerpt from his Navy Cross citation:
When ordered to attack across open terrain and dislodge the enemy from a series of strongly-defended pillboxes and blockhouses at the base of Mount Suribachi, First Lieutenant Wells placed himself in the forefront of his platoon and, leading his men forward in the face of intense hostile machine-gun, mortar and rifle fire, continuously moved from one flank to the other to lead assault groups one by one in their attacks on Japanese emplacements. Although severely wounded while directing his demolition squad in an assault on a formidable enemy blockhouse whose fire had stopped the advance of his platoon, he continued to lead his men until the blockhouse was destroyed. When, an hour later, the pain from his wound became so intense that he was no longer able to walk, he established his command post in a position from which to observe the progress of his men and continued to control their attack by means of messengers.
In a 2013 interview with the Arvada Press his daughter Connie said, “He didn’t give an order. His men just followed him because they respected him so much as a leader.”
Even after several wounds, including shrapnel and a chunk of his leg being severed, Wells continued to lead his men until he physically couldn’t do move because of severe dehydration. But he wasn’t down for long. He convinced a corpsman to give him sulfa powder and morphine so he could get off the hospital ship and back to his platoon.
Once Wells reached the base, one of the flag raisers, Charles Lindberg, helped him the rest of the way.
According to the 5th Marine Division’s “Legends” page, after the first flag was raised Wells’ commanding officer ordered him to relinquish command of the platoon and return to the aid station. Wells reluctantly passed the platoon to Sgt. Ernest “Boots” Thomas who was killed in action several days later. Wells remained on the island, although unable to lead his troops, until the island was declared secure.
Wells’ daughter pointed out that the famous Iwo Jima flag raising photo, the one used to design the Marine Corps Memorial in Arlington, Virginia, was actually the second flag raised on the island. “The first one caused so much emotion that [one of the commanders] ordered a bigger flag be flown,” she said.
After World War II ended, Wells attended Texas Tech College and obtained a degree in Petroleum Geology. He worked in the oil industry and served in the Marine Corps Reserve until 1959, retiring as a major.
That’s how Chuck Miller describes his maddening descent into blindness — something he refused to accept as his world slipped away, little by little.
The Army veteran, who gets care at the Gainesville VA Medical Center, is the first blind veteran sailor certified by the American Sailing Association. He’s also an ambassador at the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic, where he connects with others to help them adjust to different disabilities.
The clinic brings blind, amputee and paralyzed veterans, and those living with post-traumatic stress, to San Diego, Calif., Sept. 15 to 20, for adaptive surfing, sailing, cycling and kayaking.
“One of the most difficult things about being disabled is acceptance. That to me is one of the biggest struggles veterans have…”
Miller stops and cries for a moment.
“You know, something significant changes in their lives and they try to ignore it. That’s what I did. I was a proud soldier. Being a soldier was everything to me.”
Chuck Miller, a totally blind Army Veteran, has been an ambassador at the Summer Sports Clinic the last three years.
Miller, a single dad with full custody of his son, was first diagnosed with spots on his retina in 1984.
“They just said, ‘You have something wrong with your eyes. They weren’t sure,” he said.
In 1990, his doctor diagnosed him with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a rare, genetic disorder that breaks down cells and creates scar tissue on the retinas.
“The retinas become so damaged, they’re basically dead,” Miller said. “The only problem I was having was night vision problems and some depth perception. It was difficult to accept. It went on for another 15 years and wasn’t at the point I couldn’t function. I was still driving, still doing normal work. It didn’t register at the time. I just thought, ‘Well, I got an eye problem.'”
By 2005, a doctor leveled with him. “You need to quit driving. You’re going to kill somebody if you don’t.”
“I still didn’t listen until I T-boned somebody in my car,” Miller said.
By 2009, he was blind, only seeing light but nothing else.
“I remember when I realized I was going blind, how terrified I was,” he said. “Just like every veteran, I went through a dark period. I drank, I did drugs, I wanted to kill myself. Thought I’m not worthy as a father, which is one of the most important things in my life. I literally pushed every single person away from me. I lost every friend I had as a sighted person.”
Miller’s turning point came when he went to the Blind Rehabilitation Center at the Birmingham VA Medical Center.
“Don’t leave,” he told his friend who drove him there. “I’m not staying. I’m going back home. It’s not for me.”
His friend left anyway.
“That’s where you have to learn to be that disability,” he said. “You have to face it. That’s when you have to say, ‘Damn, I’m blind,’ or, “Damn, I’m this,’ or whatever,” Miller said.
He fought against instructors and struggled to learn skills needed to live in his sightless world. Instructors paired him with a roommate who was blinded at 18 in Vietnam, in hopes he could learn to accept it.
Chuck Miller chats with James Byrne, the deputy secretary of VA, while sailing with him at the Summer Sports Clinic.
“I was pretty angry,” Miller said. “The first couple of days, he’d lay in his bed, and he’d pray out loud to God, thanking him for his day, thanking God for being blind, and I’m thinking, ‘What the hell is wrong with you? How could you be so thankful for being disabled?'”
“Man, this is a gift, you just don’t know it yet,” his roommate said. “I get to see things different. I get to see how people are on the inside.”
Miller remembers one day in class, trying in frustration to put together a leather belt kit. The next day, his instructor gave him glasses that blocked out light.
“And I put that thing together in less than an hour,” he said. “I started to see through my fingers.”
Miller gave in, and his world without sight came into focus.
“They start taking me places. Up and down stairs, escalators, crossing four-lane roads. Before that, I wouldn’t go out without holding onto anybody. I learned braille. Found out I’m a natural. I’m sick, I actually took algebra in braille.”
Summer Sports Clinic
He put on a brave face at his first Summer Sports Clinic in 2015.
“I was talking all kinds of junk, but inside I was afraid,” he said. “It’s easy to picture doing this stuff in your mind, but doing it is scary. My first day was surfing, and I was pretty scared to go out there. I don’t know where the beach is at, I can’t see the water. At the end of the day, I was the last one out. I start thinking, ‘This is pretty freaking cool!’
“I had never sailed before in my life. You’re overwhelmed in that first year because there’s so much to take in, but from there I did a five-day sailing clinic in St. Petersburg, Florida, and they put me on a boat with a paraplegic in a wheelchair and a coach. And I’m thinking, ‘We’re screwed.’ But it’s all about exposure.”
Miller fell in love with sailing so much he got his American Sailing Certification with a score of 95 out of 100. He sails with a sighted coach, but does the work himself — untying ropes, hoisting the mast, trimming the sail to catch the wind, and steering.
“When I’m on the water,” he said, “I feel the wind blowing, the birds, the sounds of the ocean, the sun on my face. I enjoy it in a way that a sighted person can’t experience.”
Cory Kapes, who runs Warrior Sail at the clinic, said Miller sets the example. Kapes even let him steer the boat as he came into shore one day, where other boats were only 20 feet away.
Chuck Miller talks to a class of new sailing participants at this year’s Summer Sports Clinic.
“If these people knew I was blind, they’d have a heart attack,” Miller said.
“Just keep smiling and waving,” Kapes said with a laugh.
“It just shows you the impact this clinic can have,” Kapes said. “He never sailed a boat before he came here. He brought it home. That’s what we want other vets to do — bring it home, go kayaking, be committed, make it part of your active lifestyle.”
For the last three years as an ambassador, Miller traveled from Florida to San Diego by himself. When needed, he has a special pair of glasses with a built-in camera that connects him to a live agent to help him navigate. But more often than not, he uses his blind guiding cane.
Most veterans find Miller by his bright pink, volunteer T-shirt, cutting up and telling jokes.
“Hey nice to see you! Well, not really, but you get the idea … ” he tells one veteran.
“I’m Blind Chuck! Would it help if I take off my glasses?” he tells another. “Look, I take off my glasses, I don’t look blind. I put the glasses on, blind! I can look at you, but you know I can’t see you, right?”
He took the deputy secretary of Veterans Affairs on the water, making jokes and cutting up about everyone’s military branch while sailing.
Fellow veteran Michelle Marie Smith, who gets her care at the Sacramento VA, said listening to Miller at the sailing class was a highlight.
“Oh yeah,” she said. “It definitely puts everything in perspective. If I had any doubt, I don’t after listening to him.”
Miller said that’s what it’s all about.
“What I’ve learned from this clinic here – and this is important for veterans to understand – not only can you do things as a disabled person, get to know these volunteers, therapists and team leaders. The only thing they care about is teaching you how to do these sports. They want you to succeed and you just have to trust them.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
In November 1978, 909 members of a fanatical cult died — killing themselves and their children using a cyanide and Valium-laced grape drink — to make a political statement: they would die on their own terms in a “revolutionary suicide.” It would be the largest single loss of civilian life until the September 11th terror attacks.
The People’s Temple, as the cult was called, was founded by Jim Jones, a former monkey salesman and self-ordained minister in 1950s Indianapolis. He later moved the church to California. There, the size of the cult grew to around 20,000.
With that growth, Jones became a public figure and fled to the South American country of Guyana to escape the negative press surrounding the People’s Temple. Jones faced accusations of financial fraud and child abuse and sought to escape what he thought was the persecution from U.S. intelligence agencies.
More than 1,000 members went with him.
Jones and his cult founded Jonestown, an agricultural cooperative on 4,000 acres of poor soil and limited access to fresh water. Temple members worked long days and were punished for disobeying Jones’ orders. They were allowed limited contact with friends and family. Jones even confiscated their passports.
Toward the end of the Jonestown experiment, Jones became inceasingly paranoid as his mental state broke down. Congressman Leo Ryan came to Jonestown to investigate allegations that his contituents’ loved ones were actually hostages there. People’s Temple members asked to return home with the Congressman, who took them back to his plane.
That’s when tragedy struck.
After arriving at the airstrip that took Congressman Ryan to the People’s Temple collective, Jones’ armed thugs gunned down the contingent, along with members of the press and some of the defectors. At the same time, Jones was distributing the poisoned punch (which was actually Flavor-Aid, not Kool-Aid, as the saying goes) to the cult members.
An aerial view of the bodies of the victims of the Jonestown tragedy. U.S. Army personnel from Fort Bragg, North Carolina (NC), are placing the remains into body bags. (Photo by: Staff Sgt. Jose L. Sanchez, Nov. 20, 1978.)
There is evidence that those who didn’t want to imbibe were forced to drink the punch. Jones himself was found dead with a bullet in his head, among the other 900+ bodies.
Within hours of learning about Congressman Ryan’s death, the U.S. State Department received assistance from the 437th Military Airlift Wing at Charleston Air Force Base, South Carolina. Charleston C-141 Starlifters led what would be “the most unusual airlift operation since the Berlin Airlift.”
Col. Bruce M. Durvine, vice commander of the 39th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Wing, and members of the 55th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron carry boxes of plastic body bags to an HH-53 Jolly Green Giant helicopter for use in the evacuation of bodies from Jonestown. (Photo by: Staff Sgt. Jose L. Sanchez, Jonestown, Nov. 20, 1978.)
Air Force Combat Controllers were the first American forces on the ground, securing the airstrip area, providing security, and operating the airspace. The Starlifters had to be staged more than 150 miles away from the dirt airstrip where Ryan’s body was found because they were too large for the field.
The military Aeromedical Evacuation Team repatriated eight wounded survivors from the area. It wasn’t until November 20th that Guyanan Defense Forces could reach the Jonestown Compound. The small contingent was overwhelmed by what they found there and asked the Americans to take over.
A U.S. Air Force HH-53 Jolly Green Giant helicopter from the 55th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron stands by to assist in the removal of the remains of the victims of the Jonestown tragedy. (Photo by: Staff Sgt. Jose L. Sanchez, Georgetown, Nov. 20, 1978.)
Jonestown victims’ bodies were to be airlifted to Dover Air Force Base, but first they had to be moved by three HH-53 Jolly Green Giant helicopters to the Starlifter staging area. There were so many bodies, the Air Force ran out of remains transfer cases.
U.S. Army UH-1 Iroquois helicopters are loaded aboard a C-141 Starlifter aircraft for transport back to their home base in the Canal Zone. The helicopters were used during humanitarian relief efforts following the Jonestown tragedy. (Photo by: Staff Sgt. Jose L. Sanchez, Georgetown, Nov. 20, 1978.)
“Stacked like cordwood,” the bodies were in an advanced state of decomposition. It took 30 helicopter sorties carrying 30 bodies each to get the remains to the Starlifters for transport. Each C-141 could handle 81 remains cases — as long as they were stacked on pallets.
The stench of death in the helicopters was so bad, they were deemed medically unsafe. Task Force personnel who handled the bodies burned their clothing on the runway at the end of the mission.
U.S. military personnel place a body bag containing the remains of the victims of the Jonestown tragedy in a coffin for transport to Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. (Photo by: Staff Sgt. Pedro J. Gonzalez, Georgetown, Nov. 20, 1978.)
Jeff Brailey, the Army medic who entered Jonestown, wrote a book about his experience, “The Ghosts of November.”
Air Force officials said this spring that the force was 1,555 pilots short — about 1,000 of them fighter pilots. But the shortage of pilots continued to grow during the 2017 fiscal year, which ended in September.
At that point, it had expanded to 2,000 total force pilots — active duty, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve. That includes nearly 1,300 fighter pilots, and the greatest negative trends over the past two fiscal years have been among bomber and mobility pilots, Air Force spokeswoman Erika Yepsen told Business Insider.
But fliers aren’t the only ones absent in significant numbers
According to Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, the lack of maintainers to keep planes flying has also become a hindrance on the service’s operations.
“When I started flying airplanes as a young F-16 pilot, I would meet my crew chief … and a secondary crew chief at the plane,” said Goldfein, who received his commission from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1983, in a briefing in early November, adding:
We’d walk around the airplane. I’d taxi out. I’d meet a crew that was in the runway, and they’d pull the pins and arm the weapons and give me a last-chance check. I’d take off. I’d fly to a destination [where] different crew would meet me. Here’s what often happens today: You taxi slow, because the same single crew chief that you met has to get in the van and drive to the end of the runway to pull the pins and arm the weapons. And then you sit on the runway before you take off and you wait, because that crew chief has to go jump on a C-17 with his tools to fly ahead to meet you at the other end. This is the level of numbers that we’re dealing with here.
U.S. Air Force Senior Airmen Krystalane Laird (front) and Helena Palazio, weapons loaders with the 169th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina Air National Guard, download munitions from an F-16 fighter jet that was just landed after a month-long deployment to Łask Air Base, Poland. (South Carolina Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson)
‘The tension on the force right now is significant’
The pilot and maintainer shortages are part of what Air Force officials have called a “national air-crew crisis” that has been stoked by nearly 30 years of ongoing operations, hiring by commercial airlines, as well as quality-of-life and cultural issues within the force that drive airmen away. In recent years, pressure from budget sequestration has also had a impact on Air Force personnel training and retention.
The maintainer shortage has been a problem for some time. In 2013, the total shortage was 2,538. But the force’s drawdown in 2014 — during which the Air Force shed more than 19,800 airmen — added to the deficit. Between 2013 and 2015, the shortage of maintainers grew by 1,217, according to Air Force Times.
By the end of fiscal year 2015, the service was short some 4,000 maintainers, Yepsen told Business Insider.
The shortage of maintainers created hardship for the ones who have remained.
The commander of the 52nd Maintenance Group at Spangdahlem Air Force Base in Germany told Air Force Magazine in late 2016 that workdays had stretched to 13 or 14 hours, with possible weekend duty meaning air crews could work up to 12 days straight. In the wake of the 2014 drawdown, maintainers at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina saw their workdays extend to 12 hours or more, with weekend duties at least twice a month.
“There comes a point where people stop and say it isn’t worth it anymore,” Staff Sgt. Stephen Lamb, an avionics craftsman from the 20th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Shaw, told Air Force Times in March. “I’ve seen, in the past few years, a lot of good friends walk out the door.”
As with pilots, the Air Force has made a concerted effort to improve its maintainer situation. In 2016, the force quadrupled the number of jobs eligible for initial enlistment bonuses — among them 10 aircraft maintenance and avionics career fields.
The Air Force has also offered senior crew chiefs and avionics airmen perks, such as reenlistment bonuses and high-year tenure extensions. At the end of 2016, 43 Air Force specialty codes, many of them flight-line maintainers, were being offered bonuses averaging $50,000 to remain in uniform for four to six more years.
Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for manpower and personnel services, said earlier this year that the service closed 2016 with a shortage of 3,400 maintainers, warning that the ongoing shortage held back personnel development.
“Because of this shortage, we cannot generate the sorties needed to fully train our aircrews,” Grosso told the House Armed Services’ personnel subcommittee at the end of March.
According to Yepsen, the Air Force spokeswoman, that shortage has continued to decline, falling to 400 personnel at the end of fiscal year 2017. Several Air Force officials have said they hope to eliminate the maintainer shortage entirely by 2019.
But the health of the Air Force maintainer force won’t be solved by simply restoring its ranks. The complex aircraft the Air Force operates — not to mention the high operational tempo it looks set to continue for some time — require maintainers with extensive training. Air Force units can only absorb and train so many recruits at one time.
“We have to have time to develop the force to ensure that we have experienced maintainers to support our complex weapons systems,” then-Col. Patrick Kumashiro, chief of the Air Force staff’s maintenance division, told Air Force Magazine in late 2016. “We cannot solve it in one year.”
Heftier bonuses for senior air-crew members are also a means to keep experienced maintainers on hand for upkeep of legacy aircraft and to train new maintainers, with the addition of those new maintainers allowing experienced crew members to shift their focus to new platforms, like the F-35 fighter and the KC-46 tanker.
“While our manning numbers have improved, it will take 5-7 years to get them seasoned and experienced,” Yepsen told Business Insider. “We are continuously evaluating opportunities to improve our readiness as quickly and effectively as possible.”
“We’re making the mission happen, but we’re having to do it very often on the backs of our airmen,” Goldfein said during the November 9 briefing. “The tension on the force right now is significant, and so we’re looking for all these different ways to not only retain those that we’ve invested in, but increase production so we can provide some reduction in the tension on the force.”
U.S. Army Sgt. Elizabeth Marks won the gold medal and set a new world record in the women’s SB7 100-meter breaststroke Saturday night at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
“I had no idea [I was winning],” exclaimed Marks. “I can’t see when I am swimming. About 25 meters in, I have no idea where anybody else is. As long as I feel pressure on my hands, I know it is going well. I was just hoping for the best and putting everything I had into it.”
Marks served as a combat medic in Iraq and suffered serious injuries to her hip while deployed in 2010. Determined to stay in the Army and be declared fit for duty, she turned to swimming during her rehab in San Antonio.
She showed so much promise that she was accepted into the Army’s World Class Athlete Program in 2012, which allowed her to be declared fit for duty.
Marks fell into a coma in September 2014 after flying to London to compete in the Invictus Games. Doctors at Papworth Hospital put her on an external lung machine, saving her life.
She shocked everyone by returning to the pool less than a month after coming out of the coma and won gold at the World Military Swimming and Para-Swimming Open in February 2015 by defeating a field composed almost entirely of men.
Earlier this year, Marks won gold at the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando. She asked Prince Harry, founder of the organization that puts on the games, to personally award her the medal. After he presented it to her, she returned it to him and asked that he give it to the staff at Papworth Hospital.
In July, Marks was given the Pat Tillman Award, which honors an individual with a strong connection to sports who has served others in a way that echoes the legacy of former NFL player and U.S. Army Ranger Tillman.
Marks will also compete in the S8 100m backstroke on Sept. 13 and the SM8 200m individual medley on Sept. 17.
Watch our interview with Elizabeth Marks at the 2016 Pat Tillman Award ceremony:
The day started out with a close-air support mission and ended with the first Navy air-to-air “kill” since 1991.
Three months after an F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the carrier George H.W. Bush shot down a Syrian Su-22 Fitter near Raqqa, Syria, on June 18, 2017 the four Navy pilots who participated in the mission offered a blow-by-blow account during a special panel at the Tailhook 2017 Symposium.
In a recording first uncovered by The Drive, the pilots describe an operating environment that had become more unpredictable and dynamic.
The George W. Bush, which had been launching daily airstrikes from the Persian Gulf, had moved into the Mediterranean in early June, just days before the mission.
“Everyone’s kind of heading to the same place that day, to Raqqa,” said Lt. Cmdr. Michael “MOB” Tremel, a pilot with Strike Fighter Squadron 87, the “Golden Warriors,” who would ultimately execute the shoot-down that day.
“At that point in time, the [area of responsibility] was pretty hot in that general vicinity and a lot of guys were dropping bombs,” he said.
Walking to the jets, the mission of the day was close-air support, and that’s what the pilots on board the Bush were prepared for.
But there was time en route for a cup of coffee — both Tremel and his wingman, VFA-87 training officer Lt. Cmdr. Jeff “Jo Jo” Krueger, enjoyed some java at 22,000 feet inbound to Raqqa, Tremel said.
“Again, we briefed to CAS and that was going to be our mission that day, so we felt like it would be in our wheelhouse, what we were doing,” he said. “But we also trained to all the air-to-air contingencies we might have and we talked about that.”
Eventually, the aircraft arrive in the region and coordinated with two other Hornet pilots, all in a “stack” above the area of operation. All four were communicating about events playing out on the ground far below.
“We’re hearing that the situation’s getting more heated on the ground with some of the friendly forces getting closer to some of the Syrian forces so, based on that, we get Jo Jo and MOB on the radio,” said Lt. Cmdr. William “Vieter” Vuillet, a pilot with another squadron attached to the Bush, VFA-37 “Raging Bulls.”
As the pilots prepared to execute their CAS mission, someone spotted a Russian Flanker aircraft circling overhead, an occurrence the pilots said was not unusual in the region.
Throughout the deployment, the pilots said, their interactions with Russian fighters were professional.
But as a cautionary measure, Tremel, who previously had some minor technical issues with his aircraft, volunteered to follow the aircraft and monitor its actions.
Picking Up the Syrian Aircraft
“I’ll extend out in air-to-air master mode while these guys are in air-to-ground master mode to monitor the situation on the ground,” Tremel said. “That’s when I’ll pick up an unknown aircraft approaching from the south.”
Observers, including Air Force assets in the region, were sending conflicting information about the identity of the aircraft, but eventually a consensus emerged that it was a Syrian plane.
Tremel decided the best thing he could do is get a visual ID on the aircraft and its activities, so he decided to descend and get a better look.
Meanwhile, Krueger worked to streamline radio communications, shedding secondary tasks and focusing on keeping information flowing as the situation unfolded.
As Tremel neared the Syrian aircraft, he emphasized that he was ready to return to his primary job as soon as he could be sure it posed no danger to friendly forces.
“Our whole mission out there was to defeat ISIS, annihilate ISIS,” he said. “So as quickly as we can get back to that mission, that was our goal that day … At any point in time, if this had de-escalated, that would have been great. We would have gotten mission success and [gone] back to continue to drop bombs on ISIS.”
But that was not to happen. The Hornets began putting out radio warning calls to persuade the SU-22 Fitter to turn around, but it kept approaching friendly ground forces.
Krueger then advised that the U.S. aircraft should execute “head-butts,” close overhead passes on the Syrian aircraft with warning flares, Tremel said.
They ultimately did three such passes, with no effect on the Syrian plane.
Su-22 Releases Ordnance
“After that third one, he [proceeded] to execute a dive and release ordnance in proximity of friendly forces,” Tremel said.
As the Syrian aircraft climbed after dropping ordnance, Tremel would respond, firing an AIM-9X Sidewinder missile. For reasons he didn’t explain, the sidewinder missed the Fitter.
“I lose the smoke trail and I have no idea what happened to the missile at that point in time,” he said.
Losing little time, Tremel let another missile fly — an AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, or AMRAAM. This time, it had the desired effect.
“The aircraft will pitch right and down and pilot will jump out and left in his ejection seat,” he said.
Wanting to stay clear of the debris field, Tremel executed a quick turn to the left, he said, allowing the ejection seat to pass to the right of his canopy.
The pilots described the events in understated terms, but acknowledged adrenaline was high as they returned to operations.
Vieter, who descended to get a visual following the air-to-air engagement, said he and the pilot flying with him, Lt. Stephen “Scotty P” Gasecki, could not resist getting on a secure communication channel to tell the tanker crew what happened when they went to refuel.
Vieter and Gasecki opted to continue with their mission, while Tremel and Krueger soon decided to return to the ship.
‘No Small Feat’
Krueger said it was “no small feat” for Tremel to take the initiative to arm his aircraft and fire ordnance at an armed aircraft for the first time in two-and-a-half decades.
“Looking at the wreckage down below us, It was a different feeling,” Krueger said. “… We had to make some decisions pretty quickly, and I thought that the training and commander’s guidance that we got at that point was a big deal.”
Upon return to the ship, the fanfare was underwhelming; the sentiment was merely that “the show goes on,” Tremel said.
He shook a few hands on the flight deck, then was ushered away, the ordnance remaining on his aircraft quickly reloaded onto other fighters that would launch within the hour.
He even completed his scheduled safety officer duties once back aboard the ship, he said.
As he addressed the Navy’s annual convention of fighter pilots, though, the atmosphere was different.
“It’s extremely surreal to be sitting here in this environment,” Tremel said. “I couldn’t have done it without the guy sitting next to me, Jo Jo, and the other guys that were airborne. It was an absolute team effort, to include all the coordination that went on with the Air Force the entire time we were in the AOR.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin has proposed signing a World War II peace treaty with Japan by the end of 2018 “without preconditions.”
Putin made the surprise offer in public, sitting next to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on a stage at an economic forum in the Russian city of Vladivostok on Sept. 12, 2018.
After Abe pressed Putin on the subject of a treaty and a solution to the decades-long dispute over a group of islands claimed by both countries, Putin said: “An idea has just come into my head.”
“Shinzo said, ‘Let’s change our approaches.’ Let’s! Let’s conclude a peace agreement — not now but by the end of the year, without any preconditions,” Putin said.
He said issues that are in dispute could be resolved later, and that the pact could specify that the sides are determined to reach mutually acceptable agreements.
There was no immediate response from Abe, whose country has sought the return of the islands that lie northeast of Hokkaido since the war.
A treaty without preconditions would leave Russia in control of the disputed islands, which Russia calls the Southern Kuriles and Japan calls the Northern Territories.
Soviet forces occupied the islands at the end of World War II, and the territorial dispute has prevented Moscow and Tokyo from formally ending hostilities in the war.
Russian and Japanese Foreign Ministry officials said that work on a future agreement would continue as usual, and a Japanese official made clear that Tokyo wants an agreement on possession of the islands before it will sign a peace treaty.
Location of the Kuril Islands in the Western Pacific between Japan and the Kamchatka Peninsula of Russia.
“The government will continue its negotiations on the basic principle that we will sign a peace treaty after resolving the issue of the attribution of the four Northern Islands,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters. “This stance hasn’t changed.”
In Moscow, Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov told Russian news agencies that Putin’s announcement would not require any changes to the current format of negotiations.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said later in the day that Putin and Abe had not had a chance to discuss the proposal.
Russian commentator Georgy Kunadze, a former deputy foreign minister, told Ekho Moskvy radio that he believes Putin was “trolling” Abe and “does not expect anything” to result from the proposal.
The quest for the return of the islands is an emotive issue in Japan, and Kunadze suggested that Abe would never accept a deal that would be political suicide.
In years of talks, Russian officials have repeatedly signaled that Japan could not hope for a swift solution and hinted that the best way to get closer to a deal was to invest in the sparsely populated, windswept islands and engage in other areas of economic cooperation.
Meeting Abe on the sidelines of the forum in Vladivostok two days earlier, Putin had told the Japanese prime minister that “it would be naive to think that it can be resolved quickly.”
In his remarks on Sept. 12, 2018, Putin said concluding a pact would create a better atmosphere and enable Russia and Japan to “continue to resolve all outstanding issues like friends.”
“It seems to me that this would facilitate the solution of all problems, which we have not been able to solve over the past 70 years.”
It’s perfectly fine to love the military and take pride in serving, but some go way above and beyond as “motards.”
While it’s not politically correct, the commonly-used term describes some people in the military that are so motivated, it annoys everyone around them. Stemming from “moto” — short for motivation — the term “is used to describe some overbearing [Marine or soldier] who [is] extremely loud and obnoxious all the time. He is so motivated even in the sh–tiest situations that everyone wants to kick him in the teeth,” according to Urban Dictionary’s hilarious description.
We all know at least one of these people. If any of the following sounds a little too familiar, then it just might be you.
1. You use the term “behoove” and you are dead serious about it.
It’s often sounded out, like “be-who-of-you,” which is actually not a thing. But you’d never know that, having listened to your first sergeant tell you it would “be-who-of-you to make sure you have a designated driver if you’re going to drink this weekend.” We get it, behoove is a real word. Doesn’t make it any better when you say it.
2. There’s an inspirational quote in your email signature block.
There’s no across-the-board standardized format in the military for what’s supposed to be in your email signature block, but most people put something along the lines of their name, rank, and phone number. Then there are others who want to jam in their email address (Why? We know your email address, you sent us a freaking email), an inspirational quote that gets an eye-roll from most recipients, and a two-page-long message saying the contents of the email are private. Thanks, we got it.
3. You speak in the third person.
They should really pass a law against this.
4. Your closet is filled with military t-shirts, including one that has your rank on it.
If you’re a young private or PFC and you are rocking that sweet military t-shirt showing the ladies your name is Tactical Tommy, we can let this one slide (only for your first six months in). But if you are out in public wearing a shirt with your rank on it, good Lord. Head on down to the Gap or something. We heard they have good sales.
5. When you hear a question, you repeat it back to the person, and then add, “was that your question?”
This may be a Marine Corps-centric thing. As part of the Corps’ formal instructor training, most learn the proper way to answer a question is to repeat it back word-for-word, ask “was that your question?” and then proceed to answer the question. This method is certainly good for a big room full of people so they all know what the question was, but not so good when you’re at the dinner table.
6. You have a “screaming eagle” haircut and actually think it looks good.
Bonus points if you have the infamous “horse shoe.” When you go to basic training, you get your head shaved as a way of saying goodbye to the old civilian you. Then over time, you “earn” back some of that hair as you move along in training. While you should keep your hair relatively short for regulation’s sake, that doesn’t mean you should have the military equivalent of a mohawk (or moto-hawk, if you will).
If you have any questions, please refer to the glorious flowing locks of “Chesty” Puller or Medal of Honor recipients John Basilone and Audie Murphy.
7. You’ve corrected someone on their civilian attire when you were off base.
You may think you’re maintaining good order and discipline at all times, but what you are really doing is being a dick. Instead of jumping on someone you don’t even know for a supposed civilian attire violation at the local gas station, how about you just let this one slide? We’re quite sure the apocalypse won’t happen as a result.
8. You actually think running with a gas mask on is fun.
We’re not saying running with a gas mask is a bad idea. Plenty of troops serving during the 2003 Iraq invasion would probably think being prepared physically to operate in that environment is a good thing. But running with a gas mask is not, nor will it ever, be fun.
9. You won’t ever put your hands in your pockets in civilian clothing and think people who do so are “nasty.”
Despite what you may have heard, pockets have incredible functionality, to include being able to hold keys, change, and ID cards. They can even keep hands warm! But perhaps most shockingly of all, putting your hands into the pockets of your jeans has no bearing on whether you are a good or bad soldier.
10. You require civilians to address you by your rank.
11. There is a giant vinyl sticker showing all the ribbons you’ve ever been awarded on the back window of your lifted pickup truck.
One of the tenets of selfless service is the thought that you serve without the expectation of recognition or gain. You know, modesty and all that good stuff they teach you at boot camp. No one cares that you have three Good Conduct Medals and they certainly don’t want to see it while they are sitting behind you in rush hour traffic.
And take off those idiotic “Truck Nutz” for Chrissakes.
12. As soon as you get promoted to NCO, you tell your best friends they need to address you by your rank.
You were literally a lance corporal with the rest of us 27 seconds ago. Get the hell out of here.
As president of The Mission Continues, Spencer Kympton knows a thing or 2 about leadership, service, and inspiring the next generation. His nonprofit believes that what military veterans “need most is an opportunity to deploy their skills, experiences, and desire to serve in their community.” Getting veterans to serve on the homeland not only keeps them doing what they love, it gives kids a firsthand view of how real heroes act.
Heroic ass kicking is Kympton’s forte. Since graduating as West Point’s valedictorian, he’s served as a Blackhawk pilot, worked with everyone from the FBI to McKinsey Company, and snagged a Harvard MBA with honors along the way. Now that he has a 6-year-old son, Kympton’s determined to teach service (and ass kicking ) the same way his father taught him.
How does your work with The Mission Continues influence you as a father?
One of the biggest things that I’ve learned is applying the same core values that we have at Mission Continues to my parenting:
Work Hard — Parenting is hard and you got to work at it. It’s something that takes constant effort.
Trust — Trust is at the center of it. The trust your child has in you is one of the most important things that you establish early on.
Learn and Grow — If you are not walking into parenthood embracing the amount of learning and growing every day, then you’re behind the 8-ball from the start.
Respect — Demonstrate respect for you kid and the struggles, challenges, and things they deal with.
Have Fun — Parenting ultimately is fun, and there’s not a day that goes by — even through challenges and struggles — when there’s not something tremendously fun about my relationship with my son.
Does being a father affect your work at The Mission Continues?
We have quite a few fathers on staff. In fact, even though we are a veterans organization in the people we work with, the reason we exist is to inspire kids. If you listened to some of our internal conversations, the reason we do projects in communities and put veterans into community-facing organizations is ultimately to demonstrate to my son’s generation that service in the military or in the community is what makes this country strong. The more ways that we can get veterans out into communities and those stories in front of children the better. That’s success for us.
Out of curiosity, how many demerits did you receive as a West Point cadet and why?
At West Point there were things called “hours.” An hour was quite literally an hour of marching back and forth in full uniform with a weapon on the weekend. There were certain infractions that got you lots of hours, and the biggest issue was you weren’t allowed to go anywhere if you had to stay and march hours. I got a little crazy at a tailgate my sophomore year and broke a couple of rules and ended up walking 48 hours over the fall/winter of my sophomore year. I learned a lot from that, and I was taught respect for some of the rules at West Point. Didn’t make that mistake again.
What are some lessons you learned as a Blackhawk pilot that you apply in your work and family today?
One of the things that impacted me most as a Blackhawk pilot was when I was stationed in Honduras in the mid-90s. In one case, we spent a couple of weeks flying doctors, dentists, and veterinarians into the Mosquito Coast of east Nicaragua — villages with no roads that got to them. They quite literally had never seen a car or motorcycle, much less this big hulking helicopter that flew in. When we landed, hundreds of kids ran out fascinated. We watched these doctors and dentists issue inoculations, prenatal vitamins, pull back teeth, or just do basic humanitarian care.
What I took away from that is the magnitude of challenges some kids in this world face. I also realized how important it is to ensure my son knows how fortunate he is. Life shouldn’t be about making his piece of the pie bigger but making sure the pie itself is bigger and more people are able to come to the party to have some of the pie.
That time in Honduras, seeing the conditions that other cultures have to raise their kids in, was very eye-opening.
What did your father teach you that you draw on as president of The Mission Continues?
My dad went to West Point as well. I grew up in a family that places value on service to country, particularly through the military as a starting point. My dad didn’t stay his full career in the military, but I learned service in the military can be the start of the arch of service to country that lasts your entire life. It can show up in various ways: military service, service in the community, school systems, and public service, whether local, municipal, or national government. Service can pop up in a lot of ways throughout your career. It’s the glue that sticks it all together.
How do you inspire your son to follow a similar path?
My wife and I plan to expose him to as many opportunities to serve others as possible. That may involve going to service projects with The Mission Continues, which he’s done. It may involve ensuring every time he gets an allowance a portion goes to some endeavor that helps serve others. He gets to do this because we involve him in that selection process and understanding the organization and the endeavor he’s giving that money to.
One thing I don’t want to do is force my son into anything that doesn’t feel natural or inspiring to him.
Austrian authorities have questioned a recently retired military officer under suspicion of spying for Russia for almost 20 years, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has said.
Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl has summoned the Russian charge d’affaires over the matter and canceled an upcoming trip to Russia scheduled for Dec. 2-3, 2018, Kurz added.
“We demand transparent information from Russia,” Kurz said on Nov. 9, 2018, adding that the Russian diplomat currently in charge at the embassy in Vienna was summoned to the Austrian Foreign Ministry.
“If the suspicion is confirmed, such cases, regardless of whether they take place in the Netherlands or in Austria, do not improve relations between Russia and the European Union,” he said.
Kurz was referring to the expulsion of four Russian agents by the Netherlands in April 2018 for allegedly planning a cyberattack on the world’s chemical-weapons watchdog in The Hague.
“Russian spying in Europe is unacceptable and to be condemned,” Kurz added.
Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl.
In response, Russia’s Foreign Ministry summoned Austria’s ambassador on Nov. 9, 2018, to demand an explanation about the accusations, Russian news agencies reported.
Austrian Defense Minister Mario Kunasek told the news conference that the case came to light “a few weeks ago” as a result of information from another European intelligence agency.
Kurz said Austria was not going to withdraw its envoy from Moscow yet or expel Russian diplomats.
“We will discuss our further steps with European partners as soon as we receive more accurate information. In such a situation it is necessary to make gradual steps,” Kurz said.
Austria is one of the few European countries that maintains close diplomatic contacts with Moscow despite Russia’s actions in Ukraine, and even after the poisoning of ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Britain, which London has blamed on Russia.
Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl said she canceled her visit to Russia scheduled for Dec. 2-3, 2018, due to the espionage case.
Vienna, home to multiple international organizations such as the IAEA, OSCE and a branch of the United Nations, is known as a European espionage hub.
The city also used to be a gateway to communist countries during the Cold War because of its proximity to Eastern Europe.
At 0105 hours on May 31, 1967, two Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant helicopters took off from Floyd Bennett Field, New York. Serial numbers 66-13280 and 66-13281, the two helos were crewed by airmen of the 48th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron. Their mission: to make the first non-stop transatlantic helicopter flight.
Majors Herbert Zehnder and Donald B. Murras commanded the two HH-3Es and each aircraft had a crew of five. The 4,271-mile flight took 30 hours and 46 minutes. To perform the non-stop flight, the helos had to perform nine in-flight refuelings. During the flight, Zehnder set an FAI World Record for Speed Over a Recognized Course for helicopters with an average speed of 118.3 mph (189.395 kph). His record still stands to this day. At 1351 hours on June 1, both helicopters landed safely at the Paris Air Show at Le Bourget, France.
Despite their accomplishment, both HH-3Es remained in active Air Force service. They were reassigned to the 37th Air Rescue and Recovery Squadron. Both aircraft were lost in combat during the Vietnam War. 66-13281 was shot down over Laos on October 24, 1969. The pararescueman, Tech. Sgt. Donald G. Smith, was awarded the Air Force Cross for successfully rescuing the downed pilot of “Misty 11.” All airmen were recovered and the HH-3E was destroyed to prevent its capture. 66-13280 crashed at Kontum on April 15, 1970. Pilot Capt. Travis H. Scott Jr. was killed and flight engineer Gerald E. Hartzel later died of his wounds. Co-pilot Maj. Travis Wofford rescued the surviving crew members from the burning aircraft. Both he and Scott were awarded the Air Force Cross.
Zehnder went on to volunteer to fly during the Son Tay Prison Camp raid. During the Special Forces operation, the raiders came under heavy anti-aircraft fire as they flew in. Although Zehnder skillfully evaded the enemy fire, he knew that the prison guards may have been alerted to the raiders’ approach. To speed up the insertion, he intentionally crash-landed his helicopter inside the camp in an area too small for a safe landing. Zehnder then assisted the assault group in the ground mission. He was awarded the Silver Star for his actions.
The achievement of the Jolly Green Giants and the airmen who crewed them is an incredible feat. Their historic flight displayed the versatility and endurance of the helicopter. Incredibly, the first helicopter flight was made just 28 years prior by Igor Sikorsky himself.
Featured photo: Flight crews of the two 48th ARRS Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant helicopters at Le Bourget after a non-stop transatlantic flight, 1 June 1967. Maj. Zehnder is in the back row on the left (U.S. Air Force)
Insurgents posing as friendly militia members lured a U.S. and Afghan team to a meeting in eastern Afghanistan, triggering a shootout and a coalition airstrike on the compound, the U.S. military said Jan. 12.
U.S. Navy Capt. Tom Gresback said the insurgents baited the team, inviting an Afghan militia leader, a U.S. service member, and an interpreter to a security shura meeting Jan. 11.
Once the meeting was over, the Taliban-linked insurgents opened fire, killing the militia leader and wounding the American service member and the interpreter. The Taliban quickly claimed credit for the attack but overstated the casualties, the U.S. military said.
The Taliban said the attack was carried out by two insurgents disguised as local militiamen. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told The Associated Press the attackers had infiltrated the local force months earlier.
In Afghanistan, local militias are often paid by the U.S. and are partnered with them in operations in remote regions.
Gresback said that after the wounded were moved to safety, a coalition airstrike targeted the compound, killing 10 insurgents.
The mission was in Mohmand Valley, in Afghanistan’s remote Achin district of Nangarhar province.
According to Gresback, local Afghans began moving back to Mohmand Valley earlier last summer after being forced from their homes in 2015 when the Islamic State group affiliate began to take hold in the southeastern portion of Nangarhar.
The U.S.-led coalition, working with the Afghan forces, has waged a persistent campaign against the IS group.
Gary Brooks Faulkner, a construction worker from Colorado, was detained by police with a pistol and a sword. Except for the sword, this would not be unusual in Colorado. But he wasn’t in Colorado. He was in Pakistan, and he was there to avenge the 9/11 terrorist attacks by taking a sword to the world’s most wanted man.
When the U.S. Army adopted the motto “Army of One,” a lot of soldiers laughed. But one American civilian seemed to have taken it to heart. He wasn’t ashamed of his self-imposed mission. He was proud of it. Even when he was arrested in the Chitral District of Pakistan while trying to cross into Afghanistan, he didn’t hide it.
“He told the investigating officer he was going to Afghanistan to get Osama. At first we thought he was mentally deranged,” said Muhammad Jaffar Khan, the Chitral police chief. But the gun-toting, sword-wielding Californian was totally serious. He even brought along night vision goggles. The American was even under armed guard while staying in Pakistan under the guise of being an everyday tourist. One night, he slipped away from his guard and made a run for the border.
Faulkner was arrested in Pakistan back in 2010 and had no idea – like the rest of the world – that Osama bin Laden wasn’t even in Afghanistan at the time. Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan was just a ten-hour drive from the Kalash Valley, where Faulkner was staying. There wasn’t even a border to cross or policemen to arrest him or take away his samurai sword.
But the American had no idea where he was going. He told police he brought the Bible along with him and that God would guide him to where Osama bin Laden was hiding, and allow him America’s vengeance. Or at least allow him to capture the world’s most wanted terrorist. But of course, we all know how OBL’s story ends.
Faulkner’s ends with a Nic Cage movie.
Gary Brooks Faulkner, however, was turned over to the U.S. State Department in Pakistan and repatriated home to Colorado, where he was a guest on various talk shows, including The View and The Late Show with David Letterman, before going back to a regular life of managing his brother’s apartment complex. Then one day, a tenant who was being evicted tried to break into his apartment with three of her friends. She tried to intimidate a man who hunted Osama bin Laden with a sword.
He fired a shot at his assailants, but that shot brought the police, who confiscated his weapons and discovered he was a convicted felon. That shot eventually landed Faulkner in jail.