13 Photos Of Santa Hanging With The Troops - We Are The Mighty
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13 Photos Of Santa Hanging With The Troops

Sure, Santa is known for riding a sleigh and giving out presents. But when it’s time for Santa to “git some” he calls on the troops.


Sometimes, Santa needs a few inches of armor …

13 Photos Of Santa Hanging With The Troops
Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class Jocelyn A. Ford

…and other times he wants the treads and big guns.

13 Photos Of Santa Hanging With The Troops
Photo: US Army Sgt. Quentin Johnson

When he’s flying, he may do the WSO thing.

13 Photos Of Santa Hanging With The Troops
Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Cheryl Nolan

But he can also go single seat, if required.

13 Photos Of Santa Hanging With The Troops
Photo: US Air Force 1st Lt. Stacie Shafran

Santa’s always up for saying howdy to the troops he meets along the way.

13 Photos Of Santa Hanging With The Troops
Photo: US Air Force Civilian Beau Wade

 And he’s not beyond helping out.

13 Photos Of Santa Hanging With The Troops
Photo: US Navy Petty Officer 1st Class David Mercil

In a pinch, he uses air drops — so much faster than landing at each house.

13 Photos Of Santa Hanging With The Troops
Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. James Ferguson

Helos have all of the space of the sleigh without the inconvenience of feeding the reindeer.

13 Photos Of Santa Hanging With The Troops
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Amanda Huntoon

When the chimney is too small for Santa, the Air Force helps him by lowering the presents on a hoist.

13 Photos Of Santa Hanging With The Troops
Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Stephen Linch

Claus sometimes heads to the rope course for a confidence builder before the big night.

13 Photos Of Santa Hanging With The Troops
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Menzie

Jolly Old Saint Nick is also pretty good on a ruck march.

13 Photos Of Santa Hanging With The Troops
Photo: Marine Corps Civilian Kristen Wong

He’s been showing the military love for a long time.

13 Photos Of Santa Hanging With The Troops
Photo: US Navy

And the troops are always happy to see him.

13 Photos Of Santa Hanging With The Troops
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Aubree Rundle

Merry Christmas from WATM!

Articles

Iran may bankroll pro-government fighters in Syrian conflict

The Syrian government has asked Iran to take over the supervision and payroll of thousands of Shi’ite militiamen fighting alongside Russian and Syrian troops in support of President Bashar al-Assad, according to a government source and a news report.


The pro-opposition Syrian news website Zaman Al Wasel reported that it obtained a Syrian defense ministry document saying the Assad regime has approved a plan to give Iran responsibility for paying foreign fighters – mostly Shi’ites of varying nationalities. Shi’ite fighters mostly are paid in cash from Iran, the Syrian government and coffers of the Lebanese-based, pro-Iranian Hezbollah, according to analysts.

Iran would foot the bill alone in the future, a Syrian official told VOA on the condition of anonymity, confirming the Al Wasel report.

“The number of Shia militia has increased dramatically during the last two months,” the official said. “While a big part of these militia were recruited by Iran, a relatively big part was recruited by the Syrian government directly. We are speaking about more than 50,000 militants from different nationalities. The Syrian government requested that Iran provide for all of the mentioned militias.”

The document from Al Wasel put the number of fighters to be paid at 88,733 — a figure analysts say is exaggerated. They estimate that about 10,000 Iranian combat troops are in Syria fighting alongside thousands of fighters from Lebanon’s Tehran-affiliated Shiite militia Hezbollah and assorted Shiite militia made up of renegade Pakistanis, central Asians and other nationalities. Since January 2013, more than 1,000 members of Iran’s elite Quds Force or other elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) units have been killed fighting in Syria.

Related: Russia denies funding the Taliban

Tehran says its forces are in Syria to protect the Zeinab Shrine in Damascus, a Shi’ite holy site. But since 2011, Iran has been a major backer of the Syrian regime in its war with rebel groups across the country, at first sending advisers, then forces from the IRGC and expanding far beyond the shrine area.

Iran has long expressed a desire to command a unified army in the region, particularly in Syria, and its growing power in Syria and Iraq is causing unease in Western capitals. In an interview with the Mashregh news agency last August, Mohammad Ali Falaki, an IRGC leader, announced formation of a unified army in Syria which appears to have come to loose fruition.

“It would hardly be abnormal for Iran’s IRGC to be controlling yet more Shia jihadists,” said Talha Abdulrazaq, a researcher at the University of Exeter’s Strategy and Security Institute.

In the long run, the formation of a unified army in Syria under Tehran supervision appears very practical, analysts say.

“It seems plausible that the Syrian government shift the responsibility for management and organization of the militias, especially where financial burden is concerned,” said Rasool Nafisi, a Middle East affairs expert in Washington.

Asserting its military prowess would help Iran push its political agenda in the region, some analysts believe.

“The bigger and more advanced army you control, the stronger voice you have,” said Daryoush Babak, a Washington-based retired Iranian military adviser.

But unifying Assad supporters under Tehran’s umbrella could worsen sectarian conflict in the region between Shi’ites and Sunni, analysts say.

Iran is looking for any chance to increase its influence and gain an upper hand against Saudi Arabia, its strongest rival in the war of minds and hearts, analysts say. Saudi Arabia and Iran support rival groups in Syria’s civil war. And In a speech in Saudi Arabia, President Donald Trump accused Tehran of contributing to instability in the region.

“Tehran and Riyadh … keep contradicting each other to prove whose ideology leads the region,” said Nafisi.

While Syria has relied on Iran militarily in the fight against rebels and Islamic State, it’s unlikely to grant Tehran a controlling foothold in the country, analysts say.

“In Syria, it is not likely to happen as long as the Assad regime harbors ambitions of regaining sovereignty rather than being reduced to an Iranian protectorate,” said Alfoneh.

VOA’s Noor Zahid contributed to this report.

Articles

Female sailor recognized for bravery during Iranian detention incident

In the fallout from an embarrassing international incident in which two Navy riverine boats strayed into Iranian waters during a transit to Bahrain and were briefly captured, some half-dozen sailors have faced punishments, but one was recognized with a prestigious award for quick actions in the face of danger, Military.com has learned.


A Navy petty officer second class, the only female sailor among the 10 who were detained, received the Navy Commendation Medal on Aug. 3 in recognition of her efforts to summon help under the noses of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard members who captured the crews.

13 Photos Of Santa Hanging With The Troops
Picture released by Iranian Revolutionary Guards on Jan. 13, 2016.

The number two gunner aboard the second riverine boat, she managed to activate an emergency position-indicating radio beacon, used to signal distress at sea, while in a position of surrender and at gunpoint.

A Navy spokesman, Lt. Loren Terry, said the sailor had asked not to be identified and had declined interviews.

Service commendation medals are presented for heroic service or meritorious achievement.

In a recommendation within the riverine command investigation released to reporters at the end of June, investigating officers found the riverine gunner should be recognized for “her extraordinary courage in activating an emergency beacon while kneeling, bound, and guarded at Iranian gunpoint, at risk to her own safety.”

While one of the guards ultimately noticed the beacon and turned it off, help was not far off.

The Coast Guard Cutter Monomoy, which had been monitoring the journey of the riverine boats, notified Task Force 56.7, the parent unit in Bahrain, when the boats appeared to enter Iranian waters.

The investigation found the crews of the Monomoy and the guided-missile cruiser USS Anzio should also receive recognition for their efforts to track the captured boat crews and provide assistance for their safe return.

None of the riverine crew members involved in the incident has spoken publicly about the experience. They were returned to U.S. custody following a 15-hour period of detention, during which their captors filmed them and took photographs later used for propaganda purposes by the Iranian media.

Photos indicate the female gunner was made to wear a headscarf while detained.

A military source with knowledge of planning said the Navy’s administrative personnel actions regarding the Jan. 12 riverine incident were nearing completion.

In all, three officers were removed from their posts and four officers were sent to admiral’s mast, with two receiving letters of reprimand for disobeying a superior officer and dereliction of duty, according to a statement this week from Navy Expeditionary Combat Command and first reported by Navy Times.

One of the officers was found not guilty of dereliction of duty, and a fourth officer still awaits completion of “accountability actions.”

Two enlisted sailors received letters of reprimand for dereliction of duty, according to the statement.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said in June the Navy plans to implement better predeployment training and training on rules of engagement for sailors, as well as enhanced equipment checks and unit oversight.

Articles

The most-epic military movie ever needs your help to get made

The most-epic military movie of all time needs your help in getting made.


Veteran-owned companies Article 15 Clothing and Ranger Up have teamed up on an IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign for “Range 15,” a film project the companies say will be the “military movie you’ve always wanted someone to make.”

What does that mean exactly? According to the launch video and campaign page, that would include appearances by not only the crew of fine folks at Article 15 and Ranger Up, but also Special Forces veteran/UFC fighter Tim Kennedy and Medal of Honor recipients Dakota Meyer and Leroy Petry.

Sidenote: When Article 15 visited WATM a few months ago, we got a look at the script. While we can’t reveal the storyline, we can say that it became clear very quickly that the movie is going to be awesome and very, very funny.

Both companies have already put in $500,001 (not a typo) to make the movie. Now they are looking for $325,000 more to provide the following (via the IndieGoGo page):

  1. Bigger explosions.
  2. Crazy special effects.
  3. Non-stop Act of Valor style knee slide shooting.
  4. Forget about 3.  That’s not happening.
  5. Hot chicks.
  6. Even bigger explosions.
  7. More badass celebrity cameos.
  8. Viper semen.
  9. Did we mention hot chicks?

Check out the launch video below (which is actually quite hilarious) and support the movie on the IndieGoGo page here.

ALSO CHECK OUT: Judd Apatow is making a movie with Iraq vet and award-winning author Phil Klay

Articles

The US needs to react to N. Korea’s nuke program now

North Korea recently doubled the size of its uranium-enrichment plant and pushed through with the testing of rocket engines that could soon power intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of hitting the U.S. with a nuclear payload, analysts say.


The test came one day after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the Independent Journal Review:

“The threat of North Korea is imminent. And it has reached a level that we are very concerned about the consequences of North Korea being allowed to continue on this progress it’s been making on the development of both weapons and delivery systems.”

Nuclear-proliferation experts have told Business Insider that North Korea’s eventual goal for its weapons program is to create an ICBM with a thermonuclear warhead that can reach the U.S. mainland.

13 Photos Of Santa Hanging With The Troops
The test-fire of Pukguksong-2. This photo was released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency on February 13. (KCNA/Handout)

North Korea does not yet have that capability, and likely won’t for years, but its latest high-profile tests show steady progress in that direction.

Omar Lamrani, a senior military analyst at Stratfor, told Business Insider that the world would change if North Korea achieved its goal of building a weapon that could threaten Americans on US soil.

“North Korea has been perceived in the past as engaging in a nuclear-weapons program as a way to trade for concessions from the U.S. and South Korea,” Lamrani said. “But that paradigm doesn’t hold anymore — North Korea decided to invest in a nuclear-missile program not to trade it away, but as the ultimate security guarantee and the ultimate deterrent against outside attacks.”

As it stands, the U.S. and its allies would face a tremendously difficult task in disabling the North Korean nuclear-weapons program, as hundreds of mobile missile launchers scattered across secret locations in a densely forested, mountainous peninsula would make it nightmarishly complicated to remove in one swift blow.

13 Photos Of Santa Hanging With The Troops

But Lamrani said the ability to threaten the U.S. with not just one but a salvo of nuclear missiles would represent a loss for the U.S. and further limit options for outsiders to influence Kim Jong Un’s regime. North Korea’s latest progress toward this feat has deeply troubled U.S. officials and observers.

“North Korea has made such progress now that the U.S. feels that it does not have time anymore,” Lamrani said. He added that an ICBM in the hands of Kim would mean the U.S. could no longer credibly threaten North Korea with nuclear force, representing a “point of no return” in multilateral relations.

But although a war with North Korea would be disastrous and potentially cost millions of lives, the window for U.S. intervention is closing fast.

If North Korea developed credible ICBMs, as it may in coming years, the U.S. would be left with three options, according to Lamrani:

1. Continue with diplomacy and sanctions while building up ballistic-missile defense.

2. Cave to North Korea’s demands to be seen as a viable state, accept its nuclear program, and recognize the regime internationally.

3. Go to war and risk a nuclear holocaust on U.S. soil, while killing people in North Korea with nuclear arms.

13 Photos Of Santa Hanging With The Troops
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks to top delegates of the Workers’ Party of Korea in Pyongyang. (KCNA via Agence France-Presse)

The U.S. currently employs the first option simply because it’s the least-worst choice, but Tillerson recently said the US’s “strategic patience” with North Korea had ended.

Additionally, recent reports from Arms Control Wonk and Reuters uncovered a complicated network of businesses and obfuscation that the Kim regime uses to rake in millions by selling military radios and other goods, despite sanctions.

Another Reuters report quoted North Korean officials as saying it did not fear or care about U.S. sanctions and that it was planning a preemptive first strike, while its recent tests suggest it’s closer than ever to being able to overwhelm U.S. missile defenses.

While the U.S. can build up all the defenses it wants, “missile defense is not a surefire way to negate the threat posed by another country’s nuclear-capable ballistic missiles,” Kelsey Davenport, the director of nonproliferation policy and a North Korea expert at the Arms Control Association, told Business Insider in January.

The second option would be to cave to perhaps the most brutal regime on Earth and cement the failure of decades of diplomacy.

The third option is patently unthinkable and unacceptable.

“Every single one of them is not a great option,” Lamrani said.

So as North Korea creeps closer to an ICBM, the U.S. must quickly decide whether to act now or to potentially admit diplomatic defeat down the road.

Articles

Here’s the amazing story of the Battle of Shiloh

13 Photos Of Santa Hanging With The Troops


The Union Army under the command of general Ulysses S. Grant, which already had control of most of Tennessee, had been slogging up the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers for months in early 1862. The ultimate objective was the Mississippi and the prospect of seizing control of the river and splitting the Confederacy in two.

Grant had already scored a pair of major victories by taking Forts Henry and Donelson, and the reeling Confederate forces under general Albert Sidney Johnston were forced to gather in the city of Corinth in northern Mississippi, a vital rail center. Grant planned to rendezvous his army of 49,000 with the 20,000 under general Don Carlos Buell and seize Corinth. Johnston meanwhile had assembled an army of 45,000 men in the vicinity of Corinth and was waiting for reinforcements of his own.

Word reached Corinth that Grant was unloading his army at Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee river 20 miles away, near a small church called Shiloh, Hebrew for “Place of Peace.” Johnston’s extravagantly named second in command general Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard urged an immediate surprise attack. If Grant and Buell’s armies combined before battle was joined, there would be little that could stop them in the theatre. Beauregard had a reputation as a tactical expert due to his victory in the war’s first major battle at the First Bull Run, and Johnston agreed to the proposal.

The Confederate army advanced on April 3, but was immediately slowed by pouring rain and poor coordination of units along the washed out roads. These same had the same effect on Buell’s movement to join Grant, and it became a race between the Confederates and the Union reinforcements floundering through the mud. So terrible were the rains and confusion on the march that the Confederates were forced to delay their attack until April 6.

13 Photos Of Santa Hanging With The Troops
Albert Sidney Johnson

Grant and his subordinate and best friend general William Tecumseh Sherman did not expect an attack so soon. When Sherman received reports of enemy troops approaching on the morning of April 6th, he first dismissed them as jumpy troops reporting nothing. When he incredulously rode out to see for himself, the Confederates main battle line boiled out of the trees, and the first thing Sherman witnessed was his aide getting shot in the head in front of him. The Union troops were not dug in, and many of them were raw recruits who had only just received their rifles. They were taken completely by surprise. What was worse, Grant was 9 miles downriver staying at a mansion, at least two hours away by boat while his army fought for it’s life.

The initial Confederate attack slowly drove the Union army north towards the river, and so intense was the fighting that as many as 10,000 Union troops fled and hid. Grant arrived at around 9 a.m. by steamboat and began to take charge of the defense, but the Union lines gradually collapsed. The fighting began to concentrate on the Union center in a small forest, later called “The Hornet’s Nest” for the sheer intensity of the fire directed at the position. An old wagon trail called the Sunken Road that bisected the forest gained it’s own infamy as it become completely choked with the dead and wounded of both sides.

When Johnston saw Confederate troops hesitating to join the assault in the face of such slaughter, he personally led a charge that broke a Union strongpoint at a spot later known as the Peach Orchard, with terrific slaughter. While riding back from the successful attack, Johnston was shot in the leg and had his femoral artery severed, leaving him dead in minutes. The resulting lull as Beauregard took command gave the Union army a breather, but soon another Confederate assault resulted in the surrender of an entire Union division and the defense at the Hornet’s Nest collapsed.

The surviving Union forces were arranging for a last ditch defense at Snake creek when deliverance arrived in the form of Buell, whose army started crossing the river at sundown. Even so, a final Confederate assault was in the offing when Beauregard, who was unaware of the pending enemy reinforcements, called off the attack until morning. He believed that the Union army was in shambles and only needed to be mopped up. Without the arrival of Buell’s army, he may have been right.

The next morning, the bolstered Union army launched a massive counterattack that eventually drove the exhausted and hopelessly outnumbered Confederates from the field, forcing Beauregard to order a retreat back to Corinth with what was left of his army. It was one of the great reversals of the Civil War.

Despite his “victory,” Grant faced severe criticism for the laxness of his position and for being away from the army, but despite calls for his resignation President Abraham Lincoln famously said “I can’t spare that man. He fights.” The South was stunned at the death of Johnston, who was considered the finest soldier in the South, and Confederate president Jefferson Davis was heartbroken at the death of his old West Point classmate.

The scale of the bloodshed at Shiloh left both sides horrified, with nearly 24,000 casualties from both sides. The previous major engagements had been bloody enough, but the United States had never seen a battle with that level of slaughter before. The battle of Shiloh had resulted in more battle casualties than all of America’s previous wars combined. As all the terrible battles to follow would attest, Shiloh showed that there was not going to be any cheap, easy victory for either side.

 

 

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These 9 military actions changed America . . . and the world

Had the Confederates won the Battle of Gettysburg, it’s possible that there would have been another Union victory down the road and the war would’ve ended the same way . . . but who knows? The fact is, Gettysburg turned the tide of the Civil War, gave Lincoln an opportunity to end slavery, and kept the country together. It’s safe to say the world would have turned into a vastly different place had there been two separate Americas.


Several times in history, the American military has taken action had huge ripple effects across the planet, sometimes immediately, sometimes decades later. Here are 9 examples:

1. Valley Forge

13 Photos Of Santa Hanging With The Troops

Historians point to Saratoga as the big turning point in the Revolution because it not only wiped out Burgoyne’s Army in the north but convinced the French that maybe those American peasants had a chance after all. Still stinging from their defeat in the French and Indian War ten years earlier, France’s King Louis XVI threw was all too eager to crash the North American party and make the American Revolution a global fight so the American Army entered its winter camp outside Philadelphia on a winner’s high.

But that soon changed. Undersupplied, tired, frozen, and starving, the Continental Army was on the verge of breaking every day for several long months in the winter of 1777-1778. It was the first time American perseverance to be free was put to the test and had the Colonials broken and run, there might not be an America at all. At Valley Forge, the bonds with the French were greatly strengthened, Von Stueben’s drill was perfected (making the Continental’s a real Army), and Washington, whom some wanted to replace with Horatio Gates, survived to go on to be the father of the greatest country ever.

2. The Battle of New Orleans

13 Photos Of Santa Hanging With The Troops

Andrew Jackson’s beat-down of the British in 1815 wasn’t the biggest battle of that war, but it kicked the last European invaders out of North America for good and propelled Jackson to the White House to be President for eight years. Jackson expanded the powers of the Presidency, made trade agreements with several European countries, opened trade agreements with Asia, and founded the modern Democratic Party. But his actions also led directly to the forced removal and relocation of nearly 50,000 Native Americans from the South to the Midwest on the Trail of Tears. None of that would have happened without his success at the Battle of New Orleans.

3. Winfield Scott’s March to Mexico City

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It wasn’t much of a military action, but General Winfield Scott marched into Mexico City in 1848 to end the Mexican War and effectively made Texas and California US territories. Imagine what the USA would look like today if those two giant states were still part of Mexico. But those acquisitions also had a dark side. President James K. Polk was obsessed with westward expansion and once he had California, he needed routes for settlers to get there, which fueled the flames of slavery and (arguably) set the stage for the Civil War and Indian Wars.

4. The Second Battle of the Marne

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WWI was a pivotal moment for the United States because it was the first time the nation deployed soldiers overseas to fight in another country’s war. Although America had been involved in power projection during the Spanish-American War, WWI was a whole new ballgame and established the U.S.A. as an international force to be reckoned with. In particular, the Second Battle of the Marne River in France was crucial to the Allied victory. That defeat was the beginning of the end for Germany just 100 days later.

5. The Battle of Midway

13 Photos Of Santa Hanging With The Troops

In June 1942, the war in the Pacific was supposed to be a “holding effort” while the war in Europe was America’s primary focus and demanded most of the nation’s resources. But the Japanese had different plans and attacked the U.S. Garrison at Midway Atoll, which ended up being a big mistake. When it was over, four Japanese aircraft carriers had been sunk and a crippling number of aircrews were lost. Japan was unable to mount effective offensive operations after Midway and its domination of the Pacific was on a downward spiral from that point on.

6. Normandy (Operation Overlord)

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Landscape

Invading Europe in 1944 was by far the greatest invasion ever attempted. Failure would have resulted in a Nazi Europe, probably to this day.  You could argue the Battle of the Bulge was just as important, but no military endeavor in the history of the U.S. was so ambitious and critical as the invasion and liberation of Europe. The entire continent (and arguably the world) would not look anything like it does today if the Allies had failed at Normandy.

7. Hiroshima

13 Photos Of Santa Hanging With The Troops

America is the only country to ever use a nuclear weapon against another nation. The bomb dropped on Hiroshima from the Enola Gay vaulted the world into the nuclear age and started the Cold War.

8. The Pusan Perimeter

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(AP Photo, File)

In August 1950, the combined U.S. and U.N. Forces in Korea were backed into a corner by the invading North Korean Army between the cities of Pusan and Taegu. Despite constant attacks, the Pusan Perimeter never collapsed and by September, the Allies were on the offensive while MacArthur was invading at Inchon. If the perimeter had collapsed, it’s possible that we still would have prevailed, but who’s to say? All that is certain is that the perimeter didn’t break and South Korea is today a strong democracy with the ninth largest economy in the world. Imagine Kim Jong Un with twice as much land and resources as he has now.

9. The Invasion of Iraq

13 Photos Of Santa Hanging With The Troops

It’s only been thirteen years since the U.S. invaded Iraq and only time will tell the total effect of that action, but it’s safe to say that if Saddam Hussein were still around (even allowing that he wasn’t a very nice guy), the American military would be in better shape, AQI and ISIS would never have formed, Iran’s influence across the region would be less of a threat, and the domestic political landscape wouldn’t be so chaotic.

Kelly Crigger is a retired lieutenant colonel and the author of “Curmudgeonism; A Surly Man’s Guide to Midlife.”

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Artist takes his craft to war and back again

When Poto Liefi awoke on September 11, 2001 he wasn’t thinking about being a soldier or going to war. He was a 38-year-old commercial artist working in Los Angeles, and he had just helped launch a new Sketchers shoe campaign for Target.


Poto was good at what he did and enjoyed the work.

After Poto pivoted from fine arts to commercial arts – a few years out of art school – he went from working on clothing and backpack lines to designing shoes.

“I learned how to create a product line,” he said. “And I also learned where my work fit relative to the entire product line.”

He followed his work for Sketchers with a line of hiking boots that, in turn, turned into Taos footwear, a women’s shoe company.

Then the World Trade Center towers fell, and the Pentagon was hit.

He decided to join the Army. Most of his colleagues in the designer world thought he was crazy. Even his recruiter – after visiting his expansive glass office – asked why he was leaving a comfortable world behind.

“I wasn’t satisfied with work anymore,” Poto said. “I had the news going all the time, and I felt a sense of responsibility to do something.”

The maximum age for recruits had just been upped from 34 to 42 when Poto showed up to Fort Jackson for basic training as a 38 year-old recruit. “I lucked out big time,” he said.

After boot camp he was given a 25M Multimedia Illustrator designation. “At first I thought it was stupid to get paid peanuts for the same job I was doing on the outside,” he said. “But after I did the research I saw there was a lot more to it.”

Poto was assigned to 304th Psychological Operations Company, and in 2008 he deployed to Fallujah, Iraq. He immediately put his skills to work on posters, billboards, and web content.

“I was surprised at what we were able to do with the proper messaging,” he said. “We actually had campaigns, branding the Iraqi Security Forces. We were getting a good, consistent message on the streets, and getting locals to rally around an ideology.”

He returned to the U.S. at the end of 2008. Less than a year and a half later he was deployed again, this time to Afghanistan with the 344th Psychological Operations Company.

“Just as I’d sold Iraq to the Iraqis I had to sell Afghanistan to Afghans.”

Part of the time Poto worked with the Australian Army based in Uruzgan, and there he realized they needed to deviate from the standard Army playbook to be effective.

“We had to take our military goggles off,” he said. “We weren’t the only media outlet the locals were exposed to.”

But in spite of the challenges Poto believes they accomplished their mission. He sums up his experience at war with a simple thought: “Pride shows.”

He returned home in March of 2011, a 43-year-old corporal ready to transition back to the civilian workforce. But it was anything but a smooth process. Reintegration was tough in spite of his pre-military work experience, a circumstance he blames on his age and the stigma of post traumatic stress. It took him three years to find a full-time job.

He finally landed a job as a supply chain manager at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Corona, California.

Poto’s transition advice to veterans following him back to the civilian side is straightforward: “Never feel entitled,” he said. “Be thankful, be respectful, and be real still.”

At the same time he held fast to his creative side. One day he took the image of a soldier who’d fallen in Iraq – PFC Corrina Lau – and superimposed it into a classic war poster. The result was powerful and immediate.

13 Photos Of Santa Hanging With The Troops

“I got very emotional reactions from the first people I showed the artwork to,” Poto said. “They said things like, ‘This is alive.'”

Poto did similar artwork for the families of other fallen warriors, and the response compelled him to brand the effort “Freedom’s On Me.”

“Freedom’s On Me is a way to keep the legacies of these service members alive,” Poto explains. “These are people that were in the military, not a bunch of robots.”

13 Photos Of Santa Hanging With The Troops

See more about Poto’s artwork at Freedomsonme.com and on Facebook.

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Rapper 2 Chainz supports disabled veteran with rent and furniture

The rapper 2 Chainz and the Tru Foundation, a non-profit focused on helping the Southside of Atlanta and the surrounding areas, visited the home of Dierdre Plater, a disabled veteran living in Palmetto, Georgia.


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(CBS 46 Atlanta)

He was there to spread Christmas cheer and surprise Plater, a single mother, with new furniture and her rent for an entire year.

2 Chainz used proceeds from his recent line of “Dabbing Santa” ugly Christmas sweaters. The rapper plans to extend the giving to other families in need during the Christmas season.

13 Photos Of Santa Hanging With The Troops
Santa Claus doing some dabbing (photo via 2 Chainz Shop)

“It’s hard to keep gas in the car, food in the house, and do everything by myself being a single parent,” Dierdre​ Plater told CBS 46, the local CBS affiliate.”I love to see stuff like this happen for other people, but I never thought it would happen to me.”

13 Photos Of Santa Hanging With The Troops
(CBS 46 Atlanta)

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Navy investigating SEALs over Trump flag

The United States Navy is investigating how a Trump flag ended up being flown while a SEAL unit was convoying between training locations.


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A Trump flag flying from the lead vehicle as SEALs convoy between two training locations. (Video screenshot)

According to reports by the Daily Caller and ABCNews.com, the convoy was spotted outside Louisville, Kentucky this past Sunday. The Lexington Herald Leader reported that the lead vehicle of the convoy flew a blue Trump flag. A Navy spokeswoman told ABC that the flying of the flag was not authorized.

A Department of Defense document titled “Guidance on Political Activity and DoD Support” and dated July 6, 2016, states, “Per longstanding DoD policy, active duty personnel may not engage in partisan political activities and all military personnel should avoid the inference that their political activities imply or appear to imply DoD sponsorship, approval, or endorsement of a political candidate, campaign, or cause. Members on active duty may not campaign for a partisan candidate, engage in partisan fundraising activities, serve as an officer of a partisan club, or speak before a partisan gathering.”

13 Photos Of Santa Hanging With The Troops
First Navy Jack of the United States (U.S. Navy image)

This is not the first time that SEALs have run afoul of potential political minefields. In November of 2013, the Daily Caller reported that SEALs were ordered to remove patches based on the First Navy Jack, which featured a rattlesnake and the words “Don’t Tread on Me” due to the fact that the very similar Gadsden Flag was used by the Tea Party. The major difference is that the First Navy Jack has red and white stripes as a background, while that of the Gadsden Flag is solid yellow. The rattlesnakes are also posed differently.

A 2002 U.S. Navy release noted that President George W. Bush ordered that all ships would fly the First Navy Jack for the duration of the Global War on Terrorism. The Naval History and Heritage Command website notes that the use of a rattlesnake and the words “Don’t Tread on Me” dated back to the Revolutionary War.

13 Photos Of Santa Hanging With The Troops
Gadsden Flag (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

A June 2014 report from the Washington Post noted that the orders came about due to a misinterpretation — and that the patches were okay. It also noted the military was ordering more of the patches based on the First Navy Jack.

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This is why the US could leave Al Udeid

The sudden move by a coalition of Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia, in early June to cut ties with and blockade Qatar perplexed US military officials and policymakers.


The Saudi-led coalition has made a series of demands of Doha for dropping the blockade, to which Qatar has shown no sign of assenting.

The spike in tension concerns US officials because of the massive Al Udeid military base in Qatar, where some 11,000 US personnel are stationed and from which US Central Command has run much of the war against ISIS in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

According to President Donald Trump, who has publicly backed the Saudi-led effort and criticized Qatar, relocating from Al Udeid would be no significant obstacle.

13 Photos Of Santa Hanging With The Troops
President Donald Trump and King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia sign a Joint Strategic Vision Statement. (Photo from The White House Flickr.)

Trump was asked about the effect of the crisis on Al Udeid during an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network that aired on July 12.

“If we ever have to leave” Al Udeid, he said, “we would have 10 countries willing to build us another one, believe me, and they will pay for it.”

Trump did try to downplay potential conflict with Doha, saying, “We are going to have a good relationship with Qatar. We are not going to have problems with the military base.” But, he said, “if we ever needed another military base, you have other countries that would gladly build it.”

When asked this week about the situation around Al Udeid, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said the US has weighed other basing options as part of what he described has standard operational planning.

13 Photos Of Santa Hanging With The Troops
The sun sets over Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. (USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Amy M. Lovgren)

“I think any time you are doing military operations, you are always thinking ahead to Plan Bs and Plan Cs … we would be remiss if we didn’t do that,” he said, according to Military Times. “In this case, we have confidence that our base in Qatar is still able to be used.”

The break between Qatar and its neighbors was a departure from the relative stability seen in that part of the Middle East. The Saudi-led bloc’s initial condemnation of Doha came days after Trump left a friendly meeting with Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia, and the US president appears to have thrown his weight behind Riyadh’s efforts — accusing Qatar of backing terrorism on several occasions, including during his remarks to CBN.

Trump has also joined with the Saudi-led coalition in rebuking Iran for what they see as Tehran’s meddling in the region. But the the conflict with Qatar appears to have strengthened Tehran’s position.

And since Al Udeid would be the jumping-off point for any anti-Iran operations in the region, deteriorating relations between Qatar and its neighbors and the US could affect their plans to contain Iran.

13 Photos Of Santa Hanging With The Troops
B-52 Stratofortress aircraft arrive at Al Udeid Air Base. (USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Nathan Lipscomb)

Despite the tensions, the US has kept up operations at Al Udeid and with Qatar.

The US and Qatari navies completed exercises in the waters east of Qatar in mid-June, running air-defense and surface-missile drills. The US also signed off on a weapons deal with Qatar less than a week after Trump spoke approvingly of Saudi-led action against Doha.

Pentagon officials have said tensions around Qatar were affecting their long-term planning ability, echoing comments made by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson prior to Trump’s first remarks supporting the blockade.

But Davis, the Pentagon spokesman, said operations there are continuing as before.

“Despite the situation going on with Qatar, we continue to have full use and access of the base there,” he told Military Times. “We are able to re-supply it, we’re able to conduct operations.”

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Travis Manion Foundation honors fallen Marine — and builds America at the same time

Travis Manion Foundation empowers veterans and families of fallen heroes while striving to strengthen America’s national character. The non-profit was named for 1st Lt. Travis Manion, a Marine who was killed by an enemy sniper while saving his wounded teammates on April 29, 2007.

Today, Travis Manion Foundation exists to carry on the legacy of character, service, and leadership embodied by Travis and all those who have served and continue to serve our nation.


Now, three Gold Star family members are carrying on the legacy of their own fallen loved ones through Travis Manion Foundation. Ryan Manion, Amy Looney, and Heather Kelly sat down with Jan Crawford from CBS This Morning to share how they are working to impact their local communities, strengthen America’s character, and empower veterans.

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When asked what they would say to other family members suffering the loss of a service member, Travis’ sister Ryan said, “Your suffering is probably the most horrible thing that will ever happen to you but there is a light ahead.”

Over the past decade, TMF has helped over 60,000 veterans, and it began with a phrase Travis said before he left for his final deployment. “If not me, then who?” He is not the first person to speak those words, but in many ways, he captures the spirit that our military takes to heart when they volunteer to serve.

13 Photos Of Santa Hanging With The Troops

A testament to Travis’ impact, in fall 2014, at the age of 73, Sam Leonard set out to walk across the country to raise funds for the Travis Manion Foundation. He began in Florida but was forced to stop in Houston when he was diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer. He sadly passed away four months later. Albie Masland, the TMF west coast veteran service manager reached out to his good friends and TMF ambassadors Nick Biase and Matt Peace, to see if they wanted to help honor Sam by completing the last 1,500 miles of his journey and raise money for the TMF on his behalf. They finished the trek in 30 days at the USS Midway and on the anniversary of Travis’ death.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Anna Albrecht/ Released)

Travis Manion Foundation volunteers help by cleaning up communities here at home, building houses in underdeveloped countries, and inspiring school-aged children growing up in America. The organization is defined by its core values:

  • Build, Measure, Learn, Repeat
  • Be accountable
  • Purpose begins with passion
  • Out of many, one
  • We are fueled by gratitude
  • Failure is a bruise, not a tattoo

Travis Manion Foundation is launching a Legacy Project, with ten projects over ten days beginning April 20, 2018. Volunteers can make a difference in their own communities by joining an Operation Legacy Project.

WATCH

Watch this WWII commando veteran explain how to spot a sniper

“You always get enemy snipers,” says Roy Cadman, a WWII veteran of Britain’s No. 3 Commando, talking about fighting the Nazis in Europe. “… And they’re a bloody nuisance.”


Cadman is a 93-year-old Chelsea pensioner, a resident at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, which is a nursing care facility for veterans of the British Army of an advanced age.

 

In the video below, he explains that you hear the crack of the bullets before the discharge of the sniper’s rifle in the distance. The distance between the two sounds helps determine how far you are from the sniper shooting at you.

“You can work out the distance,” Cadman continues, “but you can’t work out the angle of where he is. You have to look out at that distance from your right. If you were him, where would you go?”

The idea is to find a place where a sniper would hide himself in a European battle, things like bushes, houses or roofs. Cadman explains that it’s a skill the Tommies learned and honed over time, learning exactly where to look.

In other interviews, the old, bold commando also told the Army Museum about his landing at Sword Beach on D-Day, how he joined the British Army at age 17, and how to scale cliffs, build bridges, and span rivers with a simple length of rope.

He notably returned to Normandy in June 2016 to spread the ashes of his departed No. 3 Commando comrade Fred Walker.

The video is one of many from the U.K. National Army Museum’s “The Old and the Bold” series, where veterans of World War II and the Korean War share their stories and experiences from the battlefield.


Feature image: screen capture from YouTube

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