“The chain of command is taking all appropriate action to investigate potential misconduct and to maintain good order and discipline throughout our armed forces,” Mattis said.
“Lack of respect for the dignity and humanity of fellow members of the Department of Defense is unacceptable and harmful to the unit cohesion necessary to battlefield victory,” the secretary continued. “We will not excuse or tolerate such behavior if we are to uphold our values and maintain our ability to defeat the enemy on the battlefield.”
Defense press operations director Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters today that Mattis spoke several times during his confirmation process about military service and unit cohesion and how those are predicated on the core values of trust and mutual respect.
All Held Accountable
“Our leaders at all levels of the chain of command will be held accountable to ensure that each member of our military can excel in an environment that maximizes their talents and [will have] no patience for those who would degrade or diminish another service member,” Davis said.
The secretary will meet with uniformed and civilian leaders in the days ahead and ensure that they are taking all appropriate actions to maintain good order and discipline, the captain added.
“The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is investigating…web sites and other services are looking into the matter, as well,” Davis said.
“Our values extend on- and off-duty, and we want personnel experiencing or witnessing online misconduct to promptly report matters to their chain of command,” the captain said.
Davis said service members who might feel uncomfortable reporting alleged online misconduct to their chain of command have alternative avenues that include family support services, equal opportunity offices, Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program, the inspector general and law enforcement.
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)
US Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, held captive by the Taliban for five years after walking off his post in Afghanistan, is expected to plead guilty on Monday during a military hearing at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.
His decision to plead guilty and avoid trial was reported earlier this month and looks likely to close the eight-year saga that began in June 2009, when the then-23-year-old private first class disappeared from his post near the Afghan border with Pakistan after five months in the country.
In an interview filmed last year by a British filmmaker and obtained by ABC news, Bergdahl said that he didn’t think it was possible for him to get a fair trial under President Donald Trump, who made Bergdahl a target during his campaign.
“We’re tired of Sgt. Bergdahl, who’s a traitor, a no-good traitor, who should have been executed,” Trump said at a Las Vegas rally in 2015. “You know in the old days — Bing. Bong,” Trump said while mimicking firing a rifle. “When we were strong.”
“We may as well go back to kangaroo courts and lynch mobs that got what they wanted,” Bergdahl said in the interview. “The people who want to hang me, you’re never going to convince those people.”
According to Bergdahl’s lawyers, Trump referred to Bergdahl as a traitor at least 45 timesduring the campaign, and they argued those comments would unfairly influence the case, filing an unsuccessful motion to dismiss in January.
Bergdahl’s lawyers were also prevented from asking potential jurors if they voted for Trump. In August, Bergdahl decided to face trial in front of a judge alone, rather than a jury.
Bergdahl was immediately captured after leaving his post and held for five years by the Haqqani network. Videos of him in captivity were released by the Taliban, and the US monitored him using drones, spies, and satellites.
Washington also pursued behind-the-scenes negotiations to get his release, and in May 2014 he was given to US special forces in exchange for five Taliban detainees who were held at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.
Bergdahl has said he left his post in order to draw attention to what he saw as problems with his unit and its leadership. An Army Sanity Board Evaluation found that he suffered from schizotypal personality disorder.
The nature of Bergdahl’s capture and release led to debate over whether the trade was worth it and about whether he was a hero or deserter. Some soldiers held Bergdahl responsible for wounds they suffered during the search for him. An Army judge later ruled that testimony from troops harmed during the search would be allowed, strengthening the prosecutor’s case.
US officials have described Bergdahl’s treatment in captivity as the worst case of prisoner abuse since the Vietnam War, with his captors beating him and locking him in a small cage for extended periods of time.
In the interview, Bergdahl — who twice attempted to escape his captors — said he wanted to fight the “false narrative” put out by conservative media portraying him as a traitor and jihadi sympathizer. He was not charged with any crime related to helping the enemy.
“You know, it’s just insulting frankly,” Bergdahl told the interviewer. “It’s very insulting, the idea that they would think I did that.”
Sentencing will start on October 23, according to an Associated Press report published earlier this month.
In order to meet the goal of a Navy numbering 355 ships, Naval Sea Systems Command will consider resurrecting a number of retired combat vessels from the dead and refitting them for active service.
Though nothing has been set in stone just yet, some of the “younger” ships parked at the various Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facilities around the country could get a new lease on life, thanks to dialed-down purchases of Littoral Combat Ships and the next-generation Zumwalt class destroyer.
Upon decommissioning, warships are often stripped for reusable parts, and sensitive equipment and gear are removed, along with the ship’s weapon systems. Frigates, destroyers and cruisers could lose their deck guns, their radars, and electronics suites — some of which will be used as spare parts for active ships, and the rest of which will be stored until the Navy determines that it has absolutely no use for these retired vessels anymore, heralding the start of the process of their dismantling.
A number of ships will also be sold to allied nations for parts or for active use.
Currently, the Navy retains less than 50 ships within its inactive “ghost” fleet, among them Oliver Hazard-Perry frigates, Ticonderoga guided missile cruisers, Kitty Hawk-class aircraft carriers, and a variety of other types, including fleet replenishment ships and amphibious assault ships.
Among the ships to be evaluated for a potential return to service are a handful of Oliver Hazard-Perry class frigates and the USS Kitty Hawk, a conventionally-powered super carrier mothballed in Bremerton, Washington.
The Kitty Hawk, now over 57 years old, is apparently the only carrier in the Navy’s inactive fleet worthy of consideration for a return to duty. Having been retired in 2009, the Kitty Hawk was modernized enough to support and field all Navy carrier-borne aircraft currently active today.
However, the ship has since been heavily stripped down; many of her combat systems destroyed or sent around the Navy for use with other vessels. The extensive refurbishment this 63,000 ton behemoth would have to undergo would likely prove to be the limiting factor in bringing it back to duty.
This wouldn’t be the first time the Navy has explored the possibility of returning mothballed ships to active duty. In fact, in the 1980s as part of then-President Reagan’s 600 Ship initiative, the Navy recommissioned the legendary WWII-era Iowa class battleships, three of which had been inactive since the late ’50s and one of which had been retired in the late ’60s. All four vessels underwent a costly multi-million dollar overhaul and were ushered back into service.
Two of these battleships — the Wisconsin and the Missouri — would go on to see action during the Persian Gulf War before being quickly retired in 1990 along with their sister ships, the Iowa and the New Jersey.
Bringing back the Hazard-Perry frigates could be far more of a distinct possibility than any of the other ships in the inactive fleet. With the Navy reducing its planned buy of LCS vessels, originally designed to be the successor to the Hazard-Perry boats, and constant engineering issues plaguing the active LCS fleet, a gap has gradually emerged with many clamoring for a more effective frigate-type vessel… or a return to the ships which were previously to be replaced.
A number of Hazard-Perry ships have indeed been sold for scrap, or have been earmarked for a transfer to allied nations, though a few still remain in the inactive reserve, ready to be revamped and returned to service should the need arise.
Ultimately, it will be the bean counters who determine the final fate of the ships in the ghost fleet, and whether or not un-retiring them is a viable option. The cost of refitting and overhauling these vessels to be able to stay relevant against more modern threats, including boat swarms, could prove to be too much for the Navy to foot, especially for a short term investment.
Further options could include hastening the construction of current combat vessels on-order, while retaining more of the older ships in the fleet for an extended service term. However, given the Navy’s needs at the moment, it’s safe to say that NAVSEA will give returning some of these old veterans back to duty serious consideration.
Ralph Roberts didn’t leave the Navy with the dream of starting the world’s biggest telecommunications provider. When he left the service, television was an emerging technology and radio still dominated the airwaves. The company he would soon found would go on to be America’s largest cable provider at one point – and one of the biggest supporters of military veterans.
The story of Ralph Roberts isn’t a stereotypical rags-to-riches tale set in early 20th Century America. The young Roberts was the son of a wealthy family of immigrants who owned a number of pharmacies in the New York City area. When he was still a boy, his father died of a heart attack and, having lost their fortune, they went to live in Philadelphia. His new stepfather was also a business owner, running a successful cigar company. This early exposure to the freedom of running a self-owned business no doubt influenced Ralph’s decision to attend the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.
It was 1941 when Roberts graduated. Later that year, the United States would be pulled into World War II with the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Roberts, like many wealthy businessmen, could have probably avoided service with a draft deferment or through government connections. He didn’t. Instead, he opted to join the Navy, where he served for the duration of the war at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.
Roberts married his wife Suzanne during his first year in the Navy.
After the war, Roberts became a “serial entrepreneur.” He started by selling a series of golf clubs, most notably a putter with which he persuaded legendary Hollywood personality Bob Hope to pose with, asking him to do a veteran a favor. He marketed it as the “Bob Hope Putter.” He then went to work in subscription sales for the Muzak company, which made… muzak, music for entertainment productions that could be easily licensed and replicated. Eventually he started working for the Pioneer Suspender Company, a business which he eventually owned. When beltless polyester pant hit the market in the early 1960s, Roberts worried it was the death knell for his business, so he began to look elsewhere.
That’s when he discovered a small cable television provider in Tupelo, Miss. that serviced some 1,200 people. Back in the early days of television, rural customers struggled to get clear reception from over-the-air broadcasters like NBC, CBS, and ABC. The focus was in providing services to major metropolitan areas. In those days, cable wasn’t a package of new and diverse channels, it was just a way to get clear reception using cable instead of a broadcast antenna.
Roberts sold his suspenders company and and bought American Cable Systems. He soon redubbed it Comcast.
Comcast would eventually become the country’s largest cable provider, a conglomerate that would acquire other, smaller cable companies and internet service providers, all with Ralph J. Roberts in his trademark bowtie at the helm. Though Roberts died in 2015, the company still regards serving veterans as a core corporate responsibility, supporting National Guard and reserve troops when they’re activated, providing low or no-cost internet services and computers to low-income veterans, pledging to hire 21,000 veterans by 2021, and funding veteran-related initiatives through partner organizations.
One such organization is the Military Influencer Conference, a three-day event that brings together important and emerging entrepreneurs, influencers, creatives, executives, and leaders who are connected to the military community. The annual conference focuses on delivering actionable insights from the stories of others and fostering an environment where people of diverse backgrounds and skill sets are motivated to forge legitimate relationships through conversation that lead to powerful collaborations.
The Saudi-led coalition launched a major assault on Yemen’s port city of Hodeidah on June 13, 2018, killing 250 Iranian-backed Houthi fighters, according to UPI.
The coalition’s initial assault on Hodeidah, which the UN has warned could end up killing 250,000 civilians and exacerbate the already terrible humanitarian condition, included several airstrikes and also led to the capture of 140 Houthi fighters, UPI reported.
The Houthis at the same time reportedly hit a coalition warship with two missiles, according to Jane’s 360. The Saudis and the United Arab Emirates — the two major actors in the coalition — have not commented on the claim.
Almasirah Live, a Houthi media outlet, has broadcasted purported footage of the coalition ship on fire:
The US will reportedly hold back aircraft carriers from joint military drills with South Korea as North Korea’s stance softens and its leader Kim Jong Un seeks talks with both the US and South Korean president.
“While US aircraft carriers have taken part in joint South Korea-US exercises in the past, it has been decided that none will be coming for the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises,” a US military official told Korea’s Hankyoreh website on March 8, 2018.
“There is a possibility no nuclear submarines will be coming either,” the source added.
In 2017, the US raised eyebrows by deploying three aircraft carriers and two nuclear submarines to Korea for different exercises. Both aircraft carriers and submarines have been viewed as high-end platforms the US would deploy in the event of an actual war.
The carrier deployments also may have spooked North Korea, as it released a propaganda video if its missiles destroying a carrier and other key US weapons systems.
But Hankyoreh’s source said the upcoming drills’ lack of carriers had been planned long in advance, and didn’t coincide with the recent thaw in North Korea relations.
Potentially, the lack of big, headline-making naval assets to the Korean Peninsula during the US and South Korea’s regularly scheduled military drills could ease tensions as the sides move towards Kim’s first-ever meetings with heads of state.
A Pentagon spokesperson decline to confirm what military assets would take part in the drills, but US officials have said that the US will continue its strategy of flexing its military muscle towards North Korea until Kim shows he’s serious about giving up his nuclear ambitions.
Ilha da Queimada Grande is an island off the coast of Brazil that is more commonly known as “Snake Island.” The British navy forbids visitors due to the extremely venomous snakes that live there. With 1-5 snakes per square meter, the island has the highest concentration of venomous snakes in the world.
In this photo: about 1500-2000 snakes and a single lighthouse. Photo: flickr/Prefeitura Municipal Itanhaé
The golden lancehead is a pitviper species that lives only on the island. Its venom is up to five times more potent than normal pitvipers living in mainland Brazil.
The snakes are described as moving landmines, but they actually spend most of their time in trees, hunting the migratory birds that are their primary food source. Researchers believe that the island was once connected to the mainland, but rising seas cut it off. The snakes then evolved their organ-liquefying venom so that their strikes would kill the birds before the birds flew away.
A lighthouse on the island used to be manned, but was automated in the 1920s. Local legend says the change was made after a family that tended the lighthouse in 1909 awoke to a snake crawling in through the window. The family attempted to flee but was attacked by snakes in tree branches and didn’t make it.
For the few people who are allowed onto the island, the navy orders that a doctor be present in case an anti-venom needs to be administered. A researcher interviewed by Vice said it’s still highly probable that the victim will die.
Despite the navy’s attempts to keep people away, smugglers visit the island and steal the snakes which then make their way to buyers around the world. Other bio-pirates (actual term) bribe researchers and navy sailors to get snakes for them. The going rate for the snakes in 2014 was thought to be between $10,000 and $30,000 each.
Researchers are allowed to remove the snakes legally in order to investigate potential applications for the venom. Certain compounds in it have shown promise as drugs for heart disease, blood clots, and cancer.
WWII pilot Capt. Jerry Yellin decided to join the military after the attack against Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
I decided at that moment that I was going to fly fighter planes against the Japanese.
And he did. A P-51 driver, he flew 19 missions in total — including the very last combat mission over Japan on Aug. 14, 1945. After the U.S. dropped the first atomic bomb over Hiroshima, Yellin said he didn’t think they’d ever have to fly again, but when Japan refused to surrender, he and his wingmen took to the skies.
On Aug. 13, four days after the bombing of Nagasaki, Yellin was ordered to fly a mission over Nagoya, a hub for Japanese aircraft manufacturing and war equipment production. Before takeoff, his wingman, Phil Schlamberg, told Yellin, “If we go on this mission, I’m not coming back.”
Yellin told his wingman to stay on his wing. They exchanged a thumbs up from their cockpits, but Schlamberg’s feeling proved to be true — he went missing during the mission.
It was the last combat mission of World War II, and according to Yellin, Schlamberg was the last casualty. To his dismay, Yellin learned that the Japanese had surrendered three hours before, but the pilots didn’t receive the message in time.
This year, Yellin took to the skies again in a Stearman PT-17, just like the one he trained in during the war at the once-called Thunderbird Field II at the Scottsdale Airport. His flight was part of a Veterans Day event to build a memorial to honor early aviation pioneers and veterans.
Having a museum to remind people of who we were then and what we are now is extremely, extremely important.
Check out Capt. Yellin’s flight and hear the inspiring vet talk about what it meant to serve during World War II right here:
But while the markets may have seen violent swings in the immediate aftermath of the vote to leave, the longer-term political ramifications of a Brexit are interesting to consider, too.
Earlier in the day, Eurasia Group President Ian Bremmer tweeted that the Brexit is “the most significant political risk the world has experienced since the Cuban Missile Crisis.”
When asked to explain what he meant by that comparison, Bremmer told Business Insider in an email: “Yes it’s a significant shock for the near term. But it’s the tipping point it reflects longer term that really matters. Much, much more G-Zero.”
The term “G-Zero world,” coined by Bremmer and political scientist David F. Gordon, refers to a power-vacuum world in which “major powers set aside aspirations for global leadership – alone, coordinated, or otherwise – and look primarily inward for their policy priorities.”
In this kind of environment, global governance institutions become confrontational hotspots, and, as a result, economic growth and efficiency slows.
As for the Brexit, it has “enormous long-term and structural impact” and “critically undermines the Transatlantic Alliance – the most important alliance in the postwar era,” Bremmer said.
It “sharply weakens and probably leads to eventual disintegration of the UK” and “also ends further EU integration,” he said, “while the Brits need to be maximally punished by EU countries to ensure there isn’t a path for further exit.”
For what it’s worth, Bremmer isn’t the only one who warned of long-term political ramifications of a Brexit, including less EU integration going forward.
Ahead of the Brexit vote, a Citi Global Economics research team led by Ebrahim Rahbari, Willem Buiter, and Tina M. Fordham expressed similar sentiments in a note:
“We are very skeptical that the Eurozone and EU would respond to Brexit with attempts to deepen integration in the near-term. … Opposition to further European integration is fairly widespread across EU countries, both north and south and both debtor and creditor countries. We would therefore mostly expect a ‘freeze’ in terms of integration even though some areas may well see further headway (e.g. for existing initiatives in various areas, including banking union, capital markets union or energy union or some movement towards a Eurozone chamber in the European Parliament).”
Similarly, earlier in the week, a Deutsche Bank research team argued that in light of upcoming European elections and ongoing large-scale economic and political challenges like the migrant crisis, Europe is unlikely to see deeper coordination:
“Beyond the immediate risk events of the Brexit referendum and Spain election, geopolitical agenda remains in focus. This backdrop makes policy progress very unlikely as domestic politics drive the agenda [leading to] limited room for country-level structural reform [and] little progress toward EU or eurozone reform or integration.”
The team added that “policy uncertainty is and will remain high,” and noted that policy uncertainty in Europe is now around 2011-12 levels comparable to those during the height of the eurozone crisis.
Why would one of the Marine Corps’ biggest heroes be uninvited from the Marine Corps Ball in Afghanistan? That question has been circulating online over the last few days – and the reason might make you go high and to the right.
Sergeant Dakota Meyer received the Medal of Honor for his actions on Sept. 8, 2009, during the Battle of Ganjgal, in which five Americans and eight Afghan security personnel were killed in action. Meyer made five runs into enemy fire to evacuate wounded personnel and recover the bodies of American KIAs.
For this year’s Marine Corps Ball held to celebrate the 241st birthday of the Marine Corps, Meyer had been invited to attend in Afghanistan, where he had served with Embedded Training Team 2-8. According to a report by tribunist.com, the celebration was to be held at the American embassy in Kabul due to security concerns. Such concerns are valid, as last week a murder-suicide bombing at Bagram Air Base left four Americans dead and wounded 17 others.
According to tribunist.com, Meyer’s invite was reportedly rescinded at the direction of Amb. P. Michael McKinley over Meyer’s “political views.” On his Facebook page, Meyer has been vocally critical of the Obama Administration on a number of issues, including a push for additional gun control laws.
Meyer’s wife, Bristol Palin, is also the daughter of former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin.
“It’s disheartening that he’s using the Marine Corps Ball as a chance to be petty and political. It’s disheartening that he’s using the Marine Corps Ball as a chance be petty and political. This should be beyond politics and a time for him to support the men and women who defend he and his staff at the embassy,” Meyer told the Tribunist.
,On his Facebook page, Meyer posted a link to the site’s article, adding the comment, “I want to make sure the Marines in Afghanistan know I really wanted to join them for our birthday, but politics got in the way. Let me know when you guys get back in country and we’ll rock out then!”
The Army’s senior logistician told National Guard leaders to ensure their units are ready for the next war, because wherever and whenever it is, it will take the total force to fight and win.
“Place yourself on the battlefield and work left,” Army Materiel Command’s Gen. Gus Perna said via teleconference to more than 400 leaders gathered in Little Rock, Arkansas, for the Army National Guard’s Green Tab Commanders Conference Friday, Jan. 5.
Perna encouraged leaders to rethink the term “readiness.”
“If you get a call tonight, can you drive equipment from your motor pool to a train where it then goes to a port?” Perna asked. “Your equipment arrives at another port, where you offload it and drive into combat.”
Perna told leaders it was their responsibility to ensure their units’ Soldiers, equipment, maintenance, supply and administrative activities were in order.
Rather than focusing on reports and metrics, Perna urged leaders to think of their own organization in terms of its contribution to the total picture.
“I’m asking you to process readiness in a three dimensional way, beyond reporting and statistics. We must understand ourselves, know what our mission is, and understand our training, maintenance, supply and administration,” Perna said.
At the Army Materiel Command, Perna noted he is focusing more on maintenance trends than fleet readiness metrics, warning that fleet readiness reports could be misleading.
“If we have 10 steps to make coffee and accomplish nine, that’s 90 percent,” Perna said. “But are we drinking coffee? The obvious answer is no.”
Perna urged National Guard leaders to do what he is challenging his own leaders to do. “We have to see ourselves, look at things differently and challenge the status quo,” he said.
As the Army Materiel Command builds breadth and depth into the global supply chain, Perna asked for the National Guard leaders’ help as the organization is moving 1.2 million pieces of equipment to better equip units.
Perna acknowledged that the field is experiencing a shortage of equipment on hand. He noted that by shifting 800,000 pieces of equipment, all units across the total Army would be better than 90 percent equipped within the next two years.
When called to do so, Perna urged leaders to send their best equipment, keeping in mind the impact to the Army at large. The lateral transfers, he said, would mitigate shortages of equipment on hand across the force.
When it comes to divesting, Perna also encouraged leaders not to hang on to equipment they don’t need.
“We’re going to aggressively work this,” Perna said. “Don’t hold on to your excess — it’s not for ‘just in case.’ Think of what’s best for the whole Army.”
The Pentagon has known for at least two decades about failures to give military criminal history information to the FBI, including the type the US Air Force didn’t report about the accused Texas church killer who assaulted his then-wife and stepson while serving as an enlisted airman.
The Air Force lapse in the Devin P. Kelley case, which is now under review by the Pentagon’s inspector general, made it possible for him to buy guns before the murderous attack Nov. 5 at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Twenty-six people were killed, including multiple members of some families. About 20 other people were wounded.
Rep. Mac Thornberry, the Texas Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said he was appalled at the Air Force mistake and unsatisfied by its plans to investigate the matter.
“I don’t believe the Air Force should be left to self-police after such tragic consequences,” he said, adding that he fears the failure to report domestic violence convictions may be more widespread.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Nov. 7 he has directed the Pentagon inspector general to review circumstances of the Kelley case and “define what the problem is.”
At its core, the problem is that military criminal investigative organizations have too frequently, for too long, failed to comply with rules for reporting service members’ criminal history data to the FBI.
As recently as February 2015, the Pentagon inspector general reported that hundreds of convicted offenders’ fingerprints were not submitted to the FBI’s criminal history database. The report found about a 30 percent failure rate for submitting fingerprints and criminal case outcomes. It did not determine the reasons for the lapses.
In February this year, the inspector general’s office launched a new review to assess compliance with updated reporting requirements. A spokesman, Bruce Anderson, said that review is ongoing.
The problem has persisted much longer.
A February 1997 report by the Pentagon inspector general found widespread lapses. Fingerprint cards were not submitted to the FBI criminal history files in more than 80 percent of cases in the Army and Navy, and 38 percent in the Air Force.
Failure to report the outcome of criminal cases was 79 percent in the Army and 50 percent in the Air Force, the report said. In the Navy, it was 94 percent.
“The lack of reporting to the FBI criminal history files prevents civilian law enforcement agencies from having significant information on military offenders,” the report concluded. It cited several reasons for the lapses, including ambiguous Pentagon guidelines and a lack of interest among the military services in submitting information to an FBI viewed as chronically overburdened with data.
“In their view, little benefit in solving cases is achieved by providing timely information,” the report said.
The 20-year-old review was prompted by an act of Congress rather than a specific instance, like the Kelley case, in which a reporting lapse allowed a violent offender to purchase weapons. Federal law prohibited him from buying or possessing firearms after his conviction. But because it was never added to the FBI’s database for background checks, Kelley was able to buy his guns.
Air Force records show Kelley initially faced charges of domestic violence for seven alleged incidents in 2011 and 2012. Five were withdrawn as part of a plea agreement, including two involving Kelley pointing a loaded gun at his wife. He pleaded guilty to striking, choking, and kicking his wife and hitting his stepson “with a force likely to produce death or grievous bodily harm.”
He was sentenced in November 2012 to one year in confinement and reduction in rank to E-1, the lowest enlisted rank. He was given a bad conduct discharge, which was carried out in 2014. The officer overseeing the case was Robin Rand, then a three-star general and now the four-star commander of Air Force Global Strike Command in charge of the service’s bomber force and nuclear missiles.
In the early morning of May 15th, 1967, U.S. Army soldiers from the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division were ambushed near Song Tra Cau riverbed Duc Pho in the Republic of Vietnam. Outnumbered and outgunned, they faced an entire battalion of North Vietnamese soldiers with heavy machine guns and recoilless rifles. The 101st couldn’t hit their attackers and quickly took casualties.
Charles Kettles was a UH-1 Huey pilot on his first of two tours in Vietnam. When he learned soldiers on the ground were taking intense fire and many were wounded, he didn’t hesitate. Then-Maj. Kettles volunteered to lead a flight of six Hueys (including his own)into the firefight to drop off reinforcements and pick up the wounded.
“There wasn’t any decision to be made,” Kettles was quoted as saying in a recent Army Times piece. “We simply were going to go and pick them up.”
When the helicopters approached the landing zone, they came under the same intense fire. Kettles stayed in the fight until all the wounded were loaded and the 101st received their supplies. He then went to pick up more reinforcements. After dropping off the second wave, his gunner was injured and the small arms fire caused a ruptured fuel line. He got his bird back to Duc Pho but later that same day, the last 40 U.S. troops, with eight members of Kettles’ own unit (their helicopter was shot down) requested an emergency extraction. Maj. Kettles volunteered to go back with five other Hueys.
“The mission was simple,” Kettles said. “The situation was anything but simple.”
Kettles had what he thought was everyone, and so he departed the area. Once airborne, however, he learned that eight troops were pinned down due to the intense fire and didn’t make it to the helicopters. Kettles immediately broke off from the main group, turned his bird around, and went back for the missing eight men on his own. With no gunship or artillery support, Kettles flew what was now a giant, lurking target into the ambush area. A mortar immediately his tail boom, rotor blade, and shattered his front windshield. His Huey was raked by small arms fire. Despite the constant attack and severe damage to his helicopter, he held firm until the eight men were aboard and flew everyone to safety. When he landed, he was “unrattled and hungry.”
“I just walked away from the helicopter believing that’s what war is,” Kettles told USA Today. “It probably matched some of the movies I’d seen as a youngster. So be it. Let’s go have dinner.”
He did another tour in Vietnam, then retired in 1978 as a Lieutenant Colonel. He started a car dealership with his brother after his retirement, happy to receive the Distinguished Service Cross for his heroism in Vietnam. He had no expectations of receiving the Medal of Honor. That came about from the work of amateur historian William Vollano. Vollano, in the course of interviewing veterans for the Veterans History Project, heard Kettles’ story. With written accounts of men from the 101st who were there that day, Vollano was able to push the Army to reexamine Kettles. They determined that Kettles’ actions merited the nation’s highest honor.
“Kettles, by himself, without any guns and any crew, went back by himself,” said Roland Scheck, a crew member who had been injured on Kettles’ first trip to the landing zone that day. “I don’t know if there’s anyone who’s gotten a Medal of Honor who deserved it more.”