Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other's wills in the skies above Eastern Europe - We Are The Mighty
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Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe

NATO and Russian aircraft and ships have drawn ever closer in the skies and seas around Eastern Europe in recent years, engaging in a kind of cat-and-mouse game that has led to many near misses.


A significant number of these encounters have taken place above the Baltics, where NATO members border a Russia they see as growing increasingly aggressive in its near abroad.

June alone saw several such incidents, including a Russian jet intercepting a US B-52 over the Baltic Sea early in the month, another Russian jet flying within a few feet of a US Air Force reconnaissance jet over the Baltic Sea in mid-June, and a NATO F-16 buzzing the Russian defense minister’s jet later in the month.

Western officials and the research and advocacy group Global Zero — which analyzed 97 midair confrontations between Russian and Western aircraft over the Baltic between March 2014 and April 2017 — have said that Russian pilots are more often responsible for unsafe interceptions; some of which arise from negligence or are accidents, while some are deliberate shows of force.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Russian Air Force Sukhoi T-50s. Photo by Toshiro Aoki.

“What we see in the Baltic Sea is increased military activity — we see it on land, at sea and in the air, and that just underlines the importance of transparency and predictability to prevent incidents and accidents,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told The Wall Street Journal. “And if they happen, it is important to make sure they don’t spiral out of control and create dangerous situations.”

Western officials and analysts believe Moscow is using such incidents as geopolitical tactics, responding to events in Europe and elsewhere, such as in Syria. Russia has denied this and said that recent reports about its abilities and activity in the region are “total Russophobia.”

Both sides are working toward “risk reduction” policies for the Baltics. But the uptick in aerial encounters comes amid increased military activity by both sides on the ground in Eastern Europe.

 

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Army photo by Sgt. Shiloh Capers

Some 25,000 troops from the US and 23 other countries are taking part in the Saber Guardian military exercise in Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania this month — the drills are designed as a deterrent and are “larger in both scale and scope” than previous exercises, US European Command said in June. US bombers also traveled to the UK in June in preparation for two separate multilateral exercises in the Baltics and elsewhere in Europe that month.

Those military exercises come ahead of war games planned for September by Russia and Belarus. Those exercises could involve up to 100,000 troops and include nuclear-weapons training.

Neighboring countries have expressed concern that those war games could leave a permanent Russian presence in Belarus — the US plans to station paratroopers in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania during them and will adjust its fighter-jet rotation to put more experienced pilots in the area to better manage any encounters with Russian forces.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Lithuanian soldiers and US Marines from the Black Sea Rotational Force engaged opposition forces in a partnered attack during Exercise Saber Strike at the Pabrade Training Area, Lithuania, June 15, 2015. USMC photo by Sgt. Paul Peterson.

The US and NATO have increased troop deployments to Eastern Europe. UK and Canadian forces are headed to Poland, Latvia, and Estonia, and NATO personnel are already in Lithuania. The latter country has called for a permanent US military presence there as “a game changer” to counter Moscow.

In the wake of this month’s G20 summit in Germany, several countries in Eastern Europe are moving to boost their air-defense capabilities, with the US aiding the effort.

In early July, Poland and the US signed a memoranda of understanding for an $8 billion sale of US-made Patriot missiles.

This week, the State Department gave tentative approval to a $3.9 billion sale of Patriot missiles and related equipment, like radars, to Romania.

 

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
A US Army Patriot battery deployed to Southeast Asia (Photo US Army)

Patriot missiles have also been stationed in Lithuania for the first time, albeit temporarily, as part of military exercises focused on air defense and involving five NATO countries.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said several times that the deployment of defensive missile systems by NATO allies would be a “great danger,” and he has threatened to respond by boosting Russia’s own missile systems.

“The way I view the Patriots deployment is that it also forms part of a broader U.S. response in the region to the upcoming Russian exercise nearby,” Magnus Nordenman, a Nordic security expert at the Atlantic Council, told AFP.

“Air defense has not been a priority for the last 15 years when NATO was busy in Afghanistan, dealing with piracy and peacekeeping,” he said. “There was not much of an air threat but now that Russia is building up air forces, it is different.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Was it actually the Marine Corps that helped delay the Army’s 7.62 battle rifle program?

The commander of Program Executive Soldier today refuted recent media reports that the Army’s senior leadership has killed a requirement to field a new 7.62mm Interim Service Combat Rifle capable of defeating enemy body armor.


“It is not dead. The decision has not been made,” Brig. Gen. Brian Cummings (P) told Military.com.

Cummings’s comments come a day after The FirearmBlog reported that the Interim Service Combat Rifle competition, which was launched in early August, has been cancelled.

Despite Cummings insistence, a source told Military.com that Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley has decided to cancel requirement, and ultimately the competition, but has not made yet made it official yet.

The Army identified a potential gap in the capability of ground forces and infantry to penetrate body armor using existing 7.62mm ammunition, according to the Aug. 4 solicitation.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
A Special Forces soldier takes a rest during a patrol in Afghanistan. The Army is considering outfitting its front-line troops with a 7.62 battle rifle like this Mk17 SCAR-H. (Photo from US Army Special Operations Command)

The opening of the competition came just over two months after Milley revealed to Congress that the M4 Carbine’s M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round cannot penetrate modern enemy body armor plates similar to the U.S. military-issue rifle plates such as the Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert, or ESAPI.

Milley told lawmakers in late May that the Army does not believe that every soldier needs a 7.62mm rifle. These weapons would be reserved for the Army’s most rapid-deployable infantry units.

The Army intended to purchase up to 50,000 new 7.62mm rifles to meet the requirement, according to the solicitation.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
A soldier lines up a target during the final day of M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System (SASS) qualifications at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson’s Grezelka Range, July 10, 2013. (U.S. Air Force photo/Justin Connaher)

It’s still unclear what changed; why the Army leadership decided to kill the effort.

It might have something to do with the U.S. Marine Corps’ lack of interest in the requirement and that it has decided to go in the opposite direction. In August, the Corps announced its plans to purchase more than 50,000 additional M27 Infantry Automatic Rifles (IARs), which are chambered for 5.56mm.

Articles

Army Captain saves 3 lives while wearing ‘Captain America’ t-shirt

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Photo: ABC News/screenshot


A real-life Captain America saved the day after a car crash in North Carolina on Tuesday.

Capt. Steve Voglezon was driving down the road when he noticed a car on fire, so he did like any soldier/superhero would do: He sprang into action, grabbed a fire extinguisher, and helped rescue three people from the wreck.

KPLC-TV has more:

The catastrophic scene unfolded on a rural road. Heavy smoke and flames filled the air when three people were trapped inside two vehicles. John Spurrell lives nearby, and helped rescue one driver before shooting video on his smartphone.

“That’s the Army guy, Steve. He’s quite a hero,” Spurrell said as he points at his phone.

Quite fittingly, Voglezon can be seen in the video wearing a Captain America t-shirt. Because, of course he would.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe

“I grabbed one of the fire extinguishers and we smashed out on the back window and the driver’s side window. …. there wasn’t a real plan, I just had tunnel vision,” Voglezon told ABC News. “If I had not been a soldier, I would not have known what to do. The Army has helped a lot. I was just at the right place at the right time. People do this every day at the fire department. I wasn’t alone out there, there were at least 10 of us in the community working together.”

The three people who escaped the accident suffered only minor injuries.

Now watch the video:

Articles

Meet the female Peshmerga fighters battling ISIS

The Kurdish Peshmerga has been battling the ISIS terror group since it swept through much of Iraq and Syria in 2014, and one of its most unique aspects has been the use of female fighters on the front lines.


Unlike most other militaries, the Peshmerga not only allows women within its ranks, but they also serve shoulder-to-shoulder with men in combat. According to Zach Bazzi, Middle East project manager for Spirit of America, there are about 1,700 women serving in combat roles within the Peshmerga.

“We are not meant to sit at home, doing housework,” says Zehra, a commander who has served for 8 years. “We are on the frontlines, fighting to defeat ISIS.”

Related: 6 female military units you don’t want to mess with

In partnership with The Kurdish Project, Spirit of America recently profiled female fighters serving on the front lines with the Peshmerga — a Kurdish word for “those who face death.” The video interviews were published on a new website called “Females on the Frontline.”

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Photo: flickr/free kurdistan

“From what I have observed, these women are patriots fighting to defend their families and their homelands from the threat of ISIS,” Bazzi told Business Insider. “But there is no doubt that they also want to send an unmistakable message, that, as women, they have a prominent and equal role to play in their society.

Bazzi told Business Insider that it depends on the policies of individual Peshmerga units for the mixing of male and female fighters. Still, he said, most women are accepted and fully integrated into the ranks.

“As a matter of fact, people in the region view it as a point of pride that these women share an equal burden in defense of the homeland,” he said.

Also read: Former sex slaves are getting payback on the ISIS sleazebags who held them

The Females on the Frontline site features short interviews with Sozan, Nishtiman, Kurdistan, and Zehra, four Peshmerga soldiers who have served in different roles and in varying lengths of duty.

“On our team, we women are fighting along with the men shoulder to shoulder on the front lines,” says Nishtiman, a 26-year old unit commander who has served for four years in the Peshmerga. She fights alongside her alongside her husband and brother, according to the site.

You can check out the full website here.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Even before the pandemic, domestic violence was a problem in the military community

Military family members have whispered for decades about Intimate Partner Violence in our community. We’ve heard stories about friends and neighbors. We’ve been confidants for friends who needed help. Some of us have been in an abusive relationship ourselves.

“It’s really common. We’ve had multiple cases of domestic violence just in our neighborhood this year,” said the spouse of an Air Force active duty member.


According to the latest survey data release from the Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN), 81% of military community survey respondents are aware of intimate partner violence in their neighborhoods and social circles, and that was before the COVID-19 pandemic forced people to quarantine together.

Intimate Partner Violence is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as …abuse or aggression that occurs in a close relationship. According to the CDC, an intimate partner can be a current and former spouse or dating partner, and Intimate Partner Violence includes four types of behavior: physical violence; sexual violence; stalking; and psychological aggression. This is the first year MFAN’s support programming survey, presented by Cerner Government Services, has explored the issue

The data is even more disturbing against the backdrop of the pandemic. Since the nation began quarantining to limit the spread of COVID-19, mental health experts nationwide have sounded the alarm that quarantining forces abused people to spend even more time with their abusers.

“Reporting the abuse jeopardizes the service member’s career, therefore jeopardizing the woman and her family’s livelihood. A difficult choice to make: report abuse knowing your husband will lose his job or suffer to keep food on the table? There is no easy solution. That is awful,” the spouse of a Navy active duty service member said.

Among other findings, MFAN’s data showed that those who sought assistance were more likely to:

  • Range in rank from E4 to E6, if they were active duty family members
  • Carry more debt
  • Be concerned with their own or a family member’s alcohol use
  • Rate as more lonely on the UCLA Loneliness scale
  • Have considered suicide in the past two years

“For years now, we have heard anecdotes from our Advisors and others in the community about Intimate Partner Violence,” said MFAN’s Executive Director Shannon Razsadin. “We felt it was critical that we collect data on this issue, so that leaders and policy makers will be able to make decisions that honor and protect the health and safety of everyone in the community.”

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe

MFAN recommends that policy makers look for ways to increase communication with military and veteran families about online and virtual resources available; encourage connections with others, especially virtually, as isolation is a tactic of abusers; and reduce barriers for military spouses to seek financial or health care benefits if they or their children are experiencing abuse.

“I’m not by any means a violent person, but I have wanted to strike [my wife] after I came back from tours because I was so angry at the world,” a National Guard and Reserve member said. “I never did, but it was really disturbing how much I wanted to. That’s what made me start counseling.”


More information about MFAN’s survey methods and demographics can be found here: https://militaryfamilyadvisorynetwork.org/survey-methods/
Articles

18 more photos from the hellish campaign that was Iwo Jima

Seventy-two years ago Marines raised the American flag over Mount Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima on Feb. 23, 1945. Joe Rosenthal’s photo of the second flag-raising became one of the most famous photos of World War II, but the battle actually raged from Feb. 19 to Mar. 26. Here are 18 other photos from the battle where almost 7,000 Marines, sailors, Coast Guardsmen, and soldiers lost their lives:


1. The Marines landed on Iwo Jima in waves on tracked boats.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Photo: US Marine Corps

2. The water was thick with the Marines, sailors, and Coast Guardsmen of the landing force.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Photo: National Archives and Records

3. At the beaches, the Marines poured onto the black, volcanic sand under Japanese fire.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Photo: US Marine Corps

4. Japanese artillery and mortars took out a lot of the heavy equipment as it got bogged down in the sand.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Photo: US Navy Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Robert M. Warren

5. The Navy used its big guns to destroy the lethal Japanese artillery where possible and to break open bunkers firing on U.S. troops.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Photo: US Navy

6. This duel between the heavy guns played out on the island as constant explosions.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Photo: US Marine Corps Archives and Special Collections

7. The Marines would advance when the fire was relatively light, trying to take Japanese positions before another artillery barrage.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Photo: US Marine Corps

8. When the fire was particularly heavy, they’d burrow into the sand for cover.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Photo: National Park Service

9. Additional forces surged onto the beach as the first waves made their way inland. The reinforcements were made necessary by the stunning Marine losses. One 900-man regiment lost 750 Marines in just 5 hours.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Photo: US Marine Corps Archives and Special Collections

10. Throughout the fighting up the beaches, Mount Suribachi dominated the landscape. The Marines knew it would be a tough fortress to capture.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Photo: US Marine Corps

11. Sailors and Coast Guardsmen continued to land materials at the secure beachheads, giving the Marines more ammunition and other supplies.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Photo: US Coast Guard Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Paul Queenan

12. Moving up the mountain, the Marines had to use heavy firepower to stop Japanese counterattacks.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Photo: US Marine Corps

13. The Marines busted bunker after bunker and cleared trench after trench, but the march up Mount Suribachi was dangerous and long.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Photo: US Government

14. Flamethrower tanks helped clear out the defending Japanese.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Photo: US Marine Corps Mark Kaufman

15. The Marines moved into the Japanese trenches that they had just knocked the enemy out of.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Photo: US Marine Corps

16. The Japanese bunkers had protected both the Japanese infantry and the big guns that were firing on the Marines.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Photo: National Park Service

17. When the Marines first took the summit, they flew an American flag they had carried up. When it was spotted by Secretary of the Navy James V. Forrestal, Forrestal asked to keep it.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Photo: US Marine Corps Staff Sergeant Louis R. Lowery

18. However, the Marines were set on keeping the symbol of their brothers’ sacrifice. Lt. Col. Chandler Johnson ordered a group of Marines to raise a second, larger flag and recover the original for the Corps.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Photo: US Navy

The photo by Joe Rosenthal of the second flag raising became an icon of the Pacific campaign. The Marine Corps selected the image for the Marine Corps War Memorial.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Photo: US Navy Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Daniel J. McLain

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

3 things Veterans should know about VA’s new electronic health record

VA is implementing its new electronic health record (EHR) system on Oct. 24 at initial sites in the Pacific Northwest. The implementation improves how clinicians store and manage patient information, including visits, test results, prescriptions and more. This will also mean some changes to how Veterans access their own health data online if their VA facility has changed to the new EHR.

Veterans who receive care at Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center (VAMC) in Spokane, Washington, and its community-based outpatient clinics in Coeur d’Alene and Sandpoint, Idaho; Libby, Montana; and Wenatchee, Washington, will be the first in the nation to use VA’s new electronic health record and patient portal, My VA Health. As a complementary tool to VA’s existing My HealtheVet patient portal, My VA Health will allow Veterans to manage their appointments, prescription refills, medical records and communication with health care providers online.


Since full implementation of VA’s new EHR is expected to occur over a 10-year period ending in 2028, most Veterans will not see immediate changes to how they view their medical records online. VA will continue to support its current EHR systems, including My HealtheVet, throughout the transition period to ensure there is no interruption to the accessibility and delivery of care. Veterans can expect to learn more as their local facilities prepare to migrate to the new EHR.

In the meantime, here are three key things Veterans should know about VA’s Electronic Health Record Modernization (EHRM) program and My VA Health.

What is VA’s Electronic Health Record Modernization program, and how does it impact Veterans?

EHRM is an effort to unite VA, the Department of Defense (DOD), the U.S. Coast Guard and community care providers on a single interoperable health information platform. This modernized system will allow VA to continue providing a world-class health care experience for Veterans across all VA facilities.

The new system will replace the department’s current electronic health record, known as the Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA), with a commercial, off-the-shelf solution developed by Cerner Corp.

The new EHR will create a paperless transition from receiving care as a service member through DOD to receiving care as a Veteran through VA. It will also support providers’ clinical decision-making by increasing their ability to make connections between a Veteran’s time on active duty and potential health issues later in life.

When will Veterans start using My VA Health?

Veterans will begin using the new My VA Health capabilities, accessible via VA.gov or My HealtheVet, when their local VA medical center or clinic transitions to the new EHR. Until then, Veterans will use only the existing My HealtheVet portal, which is also accessible via VA.gov. Mann-Grandstaff VAMC and its clinics are the first facilities introducing My VA Health to their patients.

Once My VA Health launches at a site, Veterans will be able use their current credentials to sign in to either My VA Health or My HealtheVet. This will ensure Veterans who have received care at more than one VA site have access to all of their records. For example, Veterans who receive care at Mann-Grandstaff VAMC and its four clinics will use My VA Health to manage their care from those sites and My HealtheVet to manage their health care from other VA and community sites. Historical records, including prior secure messages, will remain available on My HealtheVet.

Meanwhile, VA is working to make VA.gov the single place where Veterans can go for their health needs, so navigation between the two portals is not necessary. VA will provide resources to walk Veterans through these changes as EHRM deployment reaches their facilities.

How will Veterans at Mann-Grandstaff and its associated clinics access the patient portal?

Veterans will sign in as they do today, either through My HealtheVet or VA.gov, using any of the following accounts:

  • Premium DS Logon account
  • Premium My HealtheVet account
  • Verifiedme account

Once logged in, Veterans will be directed to My VA Health regarding care received at Mann-Grandstaff and its clinics and to My HealtheVet regarding care received at other VA locations. Veterans with basic or advanced My HealtheVet accounts can upgrade to a premium account using this guide.

Additionally, Veterans who receive care at Mann-Grandstaff VAMC and its associated clinics can visit this page for more information on My VA Health ahead of its introduction Oct. 24.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

This is how the President can legally suspend the other branches of government indefinitely

As long as any of us have been alive, we’ve known our government is comprised of three distinct, equal branches that are designed with a system of checks and balances to keep that equality in place.


But the American Republic can become the American Empire a lot easier than one might think. Palpatine is palpable.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Whatever, philistines. That joke killed on Corscant.

All kidding aside, a presidential directive signed by George W. Bush on May 9, 2007 gives the President of the United States the authority to take over all government functions and all private sector activities in the event of a “catastrophic emergency.”

The idea is to ensure American democracy survives after such an event occurs and that we will come out the other end with an “enduring constitutional government.” The directive is National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive 51 or simply “Directive 51.”

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
I thought it was Order 66.

The directive defines this event as “any incident, regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the U.S. population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government functions.”

At the time, it didn’t make much of a splash in the media, despite handing all of the power of federal, state, local, and tribal governments, not to mention the keys to the American economy to just one man. Those who did write about Directive 51 were none too pleased.

One of those writers was Jerome Corsi, who is definitely not a typical Bush-basher. Corsi is actually a hardcore Republican and author of “Unfit for Command,” a book that attacked the reputation and Vietnam service of then-Senator John Kerry during his 2004 Presidential bid.

Corsi described the directive as a “power grab” and  the powers it gave the president as “dictatorial.” And who gets to decide when a catastrophic emergency just took place? The President of the United States.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
My guess is half of you are mortified by this pic placed here while the other half are sightly aroused. (White House photo)

To make matters worse, the 2007 Defense Appropriations Bill changed the Insurrection Act so POTUS can deploy the U.S. military inside the United States to act as a police force in the event of natural disasters, epidemics, or other serious public health emergencies, terrorist attacks or incidents, or other conditions.

This move was opposed by all 50 sitting governors.

Here we are, ten years later, and these laws are still the law of the land.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These five female vets get really real about women serving in combat roles

WATM hosted groups of veterans to answer several questions about their time in the military. The vets kept it real when responding to topics ranging from relationships to recruiters.


Editor’s note: If you have ideas for questions that you’d like to see a group of veterans answer, please leave a comment below.

 

 

 

Music courtesy of Jingle Punks:

I Can Be Your Home-JP – Western Youths

Anyone Else-JP – The Beards

MIGHTY TRENDING

Special tactics airmen get Tyndall running for hurricane operations

Air Force special tactics airmen with the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron assessed, opened, and controlled air traffic at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, Oct. 11, 2018.

The special tactics airmen cleared and established a runway at Oct. 11, 2018, at 7 p.m., and received the first aircraft at 7:06 p.m.


Special tactics airmen have the ability to assess, open and control major airfields to clandestine dirt strips in any environment, including those that have been impacted by a natural disaster.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe

Special tactics airmen with the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron unload an all-terrain vehicle from a CV-22 Osprey assigned to the 8th Special Operations Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Oct. 11, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph Pick)

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe

Special tactics airmen with the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron access an airfield on Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Oct. 11, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph Pick)

Special tactics airmen are in control of the airfield and are prepared to support airfield operations until further notice, which will allow support to facilitate humanitarian assistance to Tyndall AFB.

Tyndall AFB received extensive damage in the wake of Hurricane Michael.

For any questions regarding special tactics airmen, contact Jackie Pienkowski at 850-884-3902 or 413-237-4466, or jaclyn.pienkowski@us.af.mil.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

Articles

4 of the most amazing stories from Operation Market Garden

On September 17, 1944, the Allies launched an ambitious mission to cross the Rhine River into Germany dubbed “Operation Market Garden.” Allied leaders hoped the mission would lead to end of World War II by Christmas.


Known to many as the operation that was “a bridge too far” and for being a strategic failure, it was not without incredible tales of personal courage, grit, and determination. Here are four of those amazing stories.

1. Pvt. Joe E. Mann

Private Mann was a scout assigned to the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division when it jumped into Holland. During fighting around the city of Best, Mann crawled within bazooka range of a German artillery emplacement and single-handedly knocked it out. He then began picking off Germans one-by-one with his rifle before he was wounded four separate times. Despite gunshots to both shoulders and one of his arms, he wasn’t out of the fight, insisting on standing guard through the night.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
A World War II-era U.S. troop holding a bazooka (Library of Congress)

When a German attack came early the next morning, a grenade landed near Mann. Unable to raise his arms because they were bandaged to his body, he did the only thing he could — he jumped on the grenade and absorbed the blast to save his friends. Private Mann was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.

2. Maj. Julian Cook

Three days into the operation, stiff German resistance managed to hold onto the Nijmegen Bridge despite efforts by the 82nd Airborne to dislodge them. With the timetable of the British XXX Corps advance in jeopardy Gen. Gavin ordered an assault crossing of the river to seize the bridge from the far side.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Maj. Cook in a WWII-era newsreel. (Library of Congress)

With 26 collapsible canvas boats, the 307th Engineers rowed two battalions of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment across the river under heavy German fire. Some of the men had to use their rifle butts as paddles. Major Julian Cook led the 3rd Battalion across first and established a beachhead. The engineers in the boats then returned and re-crossed the river four more times, delivering the first battalion. Cook pulled several men from the water and tended to several wounded. He then led the remnants of his battalion in a 2.5 mile assault to capture German positions and secure the bridgehead.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe

The ferocity of the fighting earned the battle the nickname “Little Omaha” – a reference to the bloody beach in Normandy. Cook was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross.

3. Maj. Digby Tatham-Warter

Major Alison Digby Tatham-Warter, often just called “Digby,” was an eccentric character and hard-charging officer. Troops knew Digby by the umbrella he carried because, as he said, he “couldn’t remember passwords and anyone would recognize the bloody fool carrying the umbrella as an Englishman.”

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Major Carlyle played by Christopher Good in A Bridge Too Far was based on Maj. Allison Digby Tatham-Warter. (United Artists)

He used the umbrella in one instance to stop a German armored car by shoving it through a gap and incapacitating the driver. When a fellow officer questioned his carrying of the umbrella he humorously replied, “My goodness Pat, what if it rains?” Another time, Digby led a bayonet charge wearing a bowler hat while wielding a pistol and his trusty umbrella.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
It would also come in handy when he appeared in American comics.

Eventually, not even Digby’s courageous antics could stop the inevitable. With no options left, Digby transmitted his last radio message “out of ammo, God save the King” before being captured by the Germans. Digby’s captivity would not last long. He was transported to a hospital for his wounds and escaped that evening. He then helped organize Operation Pegasus, the rescue of British paratroopers trapped across the Rhine. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order upon his return to the United Kingdom.

4. Pvt. John Towle

Private Towle was only 19-years-old when he entered combat in the Netherlands as part of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment. He survived the Waal River crossing led by Maj. Julian Cook, but it was when German tanks attacked the paratroopers’ bridgehead that Towle sprang into action.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
(Rendering by CMOHS.org)

Towle left his foxhole with a bazooka and rifle to engage the German tanks. It took several bazooka rounds each before the tanks retreated in the face of the lone paratrooper. Towle then started taking fire from a building the Germans made into a strongpoint. One well-aimed shot eliminated all nine German soldiers.

When a German half-track appeared, Pvt. Towle advanced again. Just as he was preparing to fire, an enemy mortar round struck his position and killed him. Towle’s tenacity and bravery single-handedly broke up the German attack and earned him the Medal of Honor.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Alwyn Cashe’s Medal of Honor package is headed to the White House, family says

A legendary sergeant first class who gave his life to pull fellow soldiers out of a burning vehicle in Iraq 15 years ago has been approved by the Defense Department to receive the military’s highest combat award, a close family member said.

Kasinal White told Military.com that she’d gotten a call from the Pentagon saying a formal request had been made by the DoD to award the Medal of Honor to her brother, Alwyn Cashe.

“We’ve heard that the official request has been made,” White said Tuesday. “We’ve also heard that everyone feels it will be signed [by President Donald Trump] rather quickly. After 15 years, ‘rather quickly’ works for me.”

Breitbart first reported Tuesday that Cashe’s medal package had been approved by the Pentagon, citing a senior defense official.

Cashe, 35, was in Samara, Iraq, on Oct. 17, 2005, when his Bradley Fighting Vehicle hit an improvised explosive device, puncturing a fuel tank. Drenched in fuel, Cashe nonetheless returned to the burning vehicle again and again, pulling out six soldiers.

He would die Nov. 8 from the burns he sustained in that rescue effort.

The Army posthumously awarded Cashe the Silver Star for his bravery, but obstacles surrounding witness accounts and the circumstances of the rescue stymied momentum to give him the Medal of Honor.

But his family and a determined group of supporters continued pushing for Cashe to receive the medal. Last August, the effort received a significant shot in the arm when then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper wrote to a small group of lawmakers, saying he’d support the Medal of Honor for Cashe.

Since then, the lawmakers, including Reps. Stephanie Murphy, D-Florida; Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas; and Michael Waltz, R-Florida, have successfully passed legislation to waive a statutory five-year time limit from the time of the events for Cashe, clearing the way for his award.

“It’s not every day you read an extraordinary story like Alwyn Cashe’s,” Waltz said in a statement when the Senate passed the waiver in November. “His bravery in the face of danger has inspired so many already — and this is a significant step forward to properly recognize him for his heroism. I’m incredibly proud to see both sides of the aisle, in the House and the Senate, come together to honor Cashe’s legacy and award him the Medal of Honor.”

With the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden weeks away on Jan. 20, there are indicators the process could move unusually quickly, both with Trump’s approval of the medal and the actual award ceremony.

“Christmas just came, I guess,” White said. “I’m beyond ecstatic right now.”

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

Articles

This Marine could be the first combat-wounded veteran to climb Everest

The base camp on the Nepal side of Mount Everest sits at just below 18,000 feet. At this extreme altitude, oxygen decreases by half, and climbers can become light-headed, get headaches, and feel weak. Climbers also risk acute mountain sickness, hypoxia, and fatigue, as well as pulmonary and cerebral edema.


The Everest Summit is at 29,035 feet, 3,000 feet above what is known as the “Death Zone” of mountain altitudes: the elevation level where the oxygen in the air is insufficient to support human life. It’s at this altitude WATM interviewed Tim Medvetz, not on the actual mountain but at his Equinox training center in Beverly Hills. Here, Medvetz and Marine Corps veteran Charlie Linville have been training in a simulated altitude chamber, working on stationary bikes at atmospheres replicating Everest Base Camp.

This week, Medvetz and Linville departed for Nepal to begin their summit of the world’s highest mountain. Linville, an Afghanistan veteran and father of two, had his right leg amputated below the knee as a result of an IED explosion. If he summits the mountain, he will be the first combat-wounded veteran to climb Everest.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Tim Medvetz (center) and Charlie Linville (right) on a previous climb.

“This is what we do,” Medvetz says. “We concentrate on one Marine, one soldier, one vet, at a time. We feel that we can make a larger impact on one guy’s life rather than making a little impact on a lot of guys’ lives.”

Medvetz is a former member of the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club and founder of The Heroes Project, a nonprofit with the mission to improve the care and protection of heroes through individual support, community empowerment and systemic change. One of the three ways they do that is the Climb for Heroes Initiative, supporting climbing programs for wounded veterans. The Foundation puts injured war veterans on some of the highest summits of the world.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Medvetz with the first combat wounded double amputee to make the summit of Kilimanjaro.

“One of the greatest things I’ve found with climbing the big mountains is that it brings them back,” Medvetz says. “It gives them that feeling of being on the battlefield again without getting shot at, so it’s a real big positive effect.”

The pair use the Beverly Hills based altitude pod to prepare. They started at 5,000 feet, which is like a visit to Denver. A few days later, they go to 8,000. Then 12,000. Every few days they would simulate higher and higher altitudes to stave off altitude sickness. They also slept in altitude chamber “bubbles” at home. The effort physically shows. During my interview in the chamber at a simulated 18,000 feet, Medvetz’ blood oxygen saturation steadied at 90 while mine dropped to 85. At sea level, the average saturation level hovers around 96. After 45 minutes of talking, I felt lightheaded and loopy.

“That’s your body literally falling apart,” Medvetz said. “You can’t just go to Base Camp. You get headaches, fatigue, and general wooziness before you pass out. There are only three cures: descend, descend, descend.”

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Linville training for altitude at home.

“I feel good this year,” says Linville. “There were so many nerves that were here before that are gone now. I’ve been working a long time to prepare for this.”

Tim Medvetz and Charlie Linville have known each other since before Linville had to have his foot amputated in 2012. Before that the Marine had 14 surgeries to try to repair the damage to his limb. That was the year Linville says his whole life changed.

“I called him [Medvetz] two hours later from the hospital that I was ready to train,” Linville remembers. “That drive speaks to Tim. I wanted to push myself as much as I could.”

The duo was set to climb another mountain, but the Marine didn’t feel like it was enough of a challenge. While at a fundraiser, he was speaking to a mutual friend. Linville told the friend that the mountain they were set to climb was okay but it wasn’t the challenge he was looking for.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Linville while deployed with the Marine Corps.

“That’s when Tim came to the realization that I was the right guy for Everest,” Linville says.

This will be the pair’s third attempt to summit the mountain. During their first attempt, a serac, a huge ice tower, separated from the Khumbu Icefall during an avalanche and killed 16 Sherpas. Out of respect to the Sherpas who are well known in the climbing community, they cancelled the trip after reaching 22,000 feet.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Medvetz on a previous trip to Everest

“This is going to be my 5th time on Everest,” Medvetz says. “The first time we climbed it, we had 11 guys that died. The 2nd time, 13 guys died. But this was the first time 16 all died or buried at once.”

For the second attempt for Medvetz and Linville, they attempted from the north face of the mountain in April 2015. They arrived at the base camp and went into tents to get food. While they were there, the 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal. The team, the Sherpas, and everyone else at the camp were stuck there. There, the damage was minimal, but 8,000 were dead with another 12,000 injured throughout the country. While most decided that they might as well press on to the summit, Medvetz and Linville didn’t feel right about it. As soon as the Chinese re-opened the road to Lhasa, the duo linked up with Team Rubicon’s Operation Tenzig, distributing food and first aid to villages in the Nepalese countryside that the Red Cross couldn’t access.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Linville and Medvetz with Team Rubicon in Nepal

“Charlie was just like, boom, right at it,” remembers Medvetz. “We hit the road with gloves on, right to work. Patching kids up, patching old people up, and in the end, it was more rewarding to be on the ground helping this country than standing on the summit of Everest.”

Medvetz has put wounded veterans on almost all the Seven Summits, the highest mountains on each of the seven continents, including Antarctica. Whether talking about Kilimanjaro to K2, the former biker believes the ability to overcome anything from a mountain to a war injury is all in your mind. He should, he survived a motorcycle accident in 2001 which left every bone in his body broken.

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe
Photo courtesy of The Heroes Project

“I was a 250-pound Hell’s Angel who studied with the Gracie brothers in Brazil and was a bouncer in New York City,” recalls Medvetz. “And here’s this punk doctor telling me be lucky I’m alive, well you know, f*ck you. I’ll show you. Next thing I know I’m on a plane to Nepal and I’m going to climb Everest.”

It was the question “What are you going to do next?” that inspired the biker to help wounded veterans through the Heroes Project. He went to Balboas Naval Hospital in San Diego to meet someone to go on a climb with. Medvetz sat in the hospital for three hours, drinking coffee and watching wounded veterans, some missing limbs, come and go. He’d never seen anything like it.

“I pulled over off the 5 freeway at the first gas station and I must have smoked half a pack of cigarettes,” he remembers. “I decided I’m gonna do everything I can. I’m gonna make a difference. That’s how I started.”

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe

Medvetz and Linville departed for their third trip to Nepal this week, April 6, 2016. Medvetz’

The Heroes Project has multiple fundraising events throughout each year, the first being “Climb for Heroes” in April, and another on September 11th at Santa Monica Pier. To donate to the Heroes Project, visit their website. But if you can’t make the events, the former biker has advice for both veterans and civilians.

“I guarantee you there’s some veterans in your local community,” he says. “Go shake their hand, man. Tell them welcome home and make them feel a part of your community. For veterans who want to do something like summit Everest or Kilimanjaro, convince yourself you can do something and you’re already halfway to the summit. Everything else will fall into place.”

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