Creative endeavors can be quite helpful for wounded warriors, and Marine veteran Shane Kohfield is a prime example.
Kohfield, a former Marine infantry machine-gunner, deployed twice to Iraq and now suffers from post-traumatic stress and a traumatic brain injury. But his wounds didn’t hold him back. One day, he thought: “I am going to become a painter.”
And paint, he did. Though he has only painted for about 8 months, Kohfield has already sold a few of his works, for anywhere from $500 to $2500. “I started doing this for something to do and then I felt the raw emotion,” he told KGW-Portland.
Kohfield uses an interesting method to create his abstract paintings, first spray painting across his canvas and then using a spatula to blend the colors. His technique developed out of necessity, since his trembling hand prevented him from using a normal paint brush, according to KGW-Portland.
WATM asked Kohfield some questions about his artwork and how it has helped him cope with his injuries. Here is what he said (lightly edited for clarity):
We Are The Mighty: How did you get into art? What inspired you to start painting?
Shane Kohfield: I had just gone through a horrible divorce and at the same time I had my second TBI (back in the states, while on duty). I got into woodworking because my dad had sent me some tools for Christmas one year. My start with painting honestly came from a completely impulsive move on my part because I was driving home from school one day and this thought literally went through my head, as I say again, literally as follows “I am going to become a painter.”
I went to the arts and crafts store and bought all the supplies that I thought I needed and I went home and painted my first painting and less than a week later I sold it for nearly $2,000. Less than three weeks after starting painting, my paintings were being sold in an art gallery. I have only been painting for 8 months but what I have done since then is much cooler than that.
I am actually actively helping people with my art as well as actively helping veterans. Painting has changed my life and even though I could sell my paintings easily for thousands, I never sell a painting at a price people can’t honestly afford. Even if it means I only sell it to them at the cost of painting it.
WATM: How has art helped you cope with your injuries?
SK: Art gives me a way to express myself in ways I haven’t been able to before. I have written poetry once or twice and people have told me my poems have brought them to tears. I certainly never expected to hear that about my paintings but I have now it’s truly an amazing feeling.
I know my story is an impossible one but I have gotten enough news coverage for you to believe it’s true, and I believe all people — especially veterans — have their own version of painting. They all have this hidden talent they never knew existed but they refuse to take the chance to try something new, to expect to suck at something but give it 100 percent like you are going to be God’s gift to whatever you are about to attempt.
There are people who always have that attitude at things in life but they refuse to see what they can’t do because they fool themselves. If you can be honest and see what you can’t do, it allows you to move onto something you can do. I tried many different types of art before I found one that I was truly good at.
WATM: Would you recommend art therapy to other wounded warriors?
SK: I would not recommend art to veterans. It’s a thing with therapists: They recommend this, and they recommend that, and all of us have gone to them and they really haven’t helped us much.
What I truly recommend is to ignore what others think, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, emotionally, mentally, physically or financially — including yourself — and do what makes you happy. Find something that makes you complete, and at the end of the day, something that leaves you thinking about what you just did and not what you did in the past or what you saw in the past.
It doesn’t matter if its theater or squatting 400lbs, if its something you can take pride in again, something that gives you purpose again, and it doesn’t hurt you or anyone else then isn’t it worth pursuing regardless of what other people would think?
You don’t need art to cope. You need pride in what you currently do. You need a purpose and you need a work ethic to make it happen.
North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, presided over the launch of a new anti-ship cruise missile system on June 8 in Wonsan, on North Korea’s east coast. And though the missiles performed well and struck their target, it was a pretty weak showing.
The missiles flew about 125 miles, South Korea said, and fired from tracked launchers with forest camouflage. The missiles themselves were not new, according to The Diplomat, but they showed off a new launcher that can fire from hidden, off-road locations within moments of being set up.
But those are about the only nice things you could say about these missiles.
In the photos released by North Korean media, it’s clear the missiles are striking a ship that isn’t moving.
The ship appears anchored, with no wake. Photo by Rodong Sinmun
In a combat situation, the ships would move and take countermeasures. For the US, South Korean, and Japanese navies, that often means firing an interceptor missile.
North Korea also lacks the ability to support these missiles with accurate guidance. The US would use planes, drones, or even undersea platforms to observe and track a target.
Photo by Rodong Sinmun
North Korea waited to test these missiles until two US aircraft carrier strike groups armed to the teeth with missile defense capabilities left its shores, perhaps to avoid embarrassment should the US knock them down.
Unlike its practice with ballistic-missile tests, which are banned under international law, the US did not publicly comment on this launch. North Korea is well within its rights to test a cruise missile in international waters.
Photo by Rodong Sinmun
But despite the rudimentary technology used in the launch, North Korea did show that it poses a real threat. Not only do the missile launchers leverage the element of surprise, but they represent yet another new missile capability.
In a few short months, North Korea has demonstrated a range of capabilities that has surprised experts and military observers. Though the missiles don’t pose a threat to the US Navy, Kim showed he’s serious about fighting on all fronts.
These days, it seems like countries don’t invade each other like they used to. It just seems like they’d rather do small, covert raids or just outright overthrow a hostile government.
Countries do still invade one another. Ethiopia invaded Somalia in 2006. Israel invaded Lebanon that same year. America invaded Iraq because… well, just because. But the world’s most recent invasions weren’t really conducted with the idea of actually annexing territory.
Still, there are plenty of powder kegs out there: India vs. Pakistan, Iran vs. Saudi Arabia, or China vs. all of its neighbors. And then there’s the Korean Peninsula – the most volatile country vs. country situation in the world.
After almost 70 years of animosity, a constant state of war (there was never a real end of the war, only an armistice… and North Korea pulled out of that in 2013), and the continued acts of violence between the two, here’s a situation that could blow up at any time.
It’s actually that threat of widespread mutual destruction that keeps the conflict from boiling over. The 1950-1953 Korean War was a disaster for both sides, and that fact is largely what drives North Korean military policy. It’s what keeps the people supporting the regime: animosity toward the U.S. and South Korea.
North Koreans either remember the war firsthand or through the stories from their grandparents. Fighting between North and South Korean forces was particularly brutal and as a result, there is no reason to believe either side would pull punches today.
“Over a period of three years or so, we killed off — what — 20 percent of the population,” Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay, head of the Strategic Air Command during the Korean War, told the Office of Air Force History in 1984.
Both countries have significant military power. South Korea has one of the most powerful militaries in the world, with 3.5 million troops. North Korea has 5 million troops with another 5 million who can fight in a protracted war. The North Korean Songun policy means the military comes first in terms of food, fuel, and other materials before any are given to the population at large. Mandatory conscription (for a 10-year enlistment) means that most North Koreans have some form of military experience.
The North also boasts 605 combat aircraft and 43 naval missile boats, but the (North) Korean People’s Air Force’s most numerous fighter is the subsonic MiG-21, which first debuted in 1953. Their latest model is the aging MiG-29, and it dates back to the 1970s. And they’re all armed with Vietnam War-era ordnance.
In terms of military technology, North Korea’s pales in comparison to the South. South Korea is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world.
The South’s GDP is 50 times greater than the North’s and they spend almost five times as much as North Korea on defense. Since it can’t keep up in traditional combat arms, the North is beefing up its unconventional warfare capabilities, including chemical and nuclear weapons, along with the ballistic missiles to deliver them. It can’t deliver the weapons by air because their antiquated air forces would be easy pickings for the U.S. F-22 Raptor squadron on the Peninsula.
The North is also hampered in terms of alliances. During the Korean War, the Korean Communists were pushed all the way to the Yalu River. It was only after the Chinese intervened with massive manpower and materiel that the Communists were able to form any kind of counterattack. Chinese intervention for the North these days is questionable at best, given its extensive overseas economic ties.
In fact, it might even be in China’s best interest to invade North Korea itself, to give a buffer zone between China and a collapsed North Korean government or worse, U.S. troops right on the border.
Whereas South Korea maintains a tight alliance with the United States, who has 30,000 troops of their own stationed there, 3,800 in Japan, and 5,700 on Guam, along with significant air and naval forces in the region.
A North Korean attack on the South would give the north a slight advantage in surprise and initiative… for a few days. Allied forces will respond instantly, but the North will still have the initiative.
Retired Army General James Marks estimates they would have that initiative for four days at most. When the first war was launched across the Demilitarized Zone, the DMZ wasn’t quite as defended as it is today. No one was expecting the attack and the bulk of U.S. forces had been withdrawn to Japan.
Today, an assault across the 38th parallel (the North-South border, along which the lines are divided) is tantamount to slow, grinding, probably explosive death.
North Korea will open with artillery and rocket fire from positions on the North slopes of the mountains just across the border. The North has the world’s largest artillery force with 10,000 pieces in their arsenal. The bulk of these forces are at the border, with much of the rest around Pyongyang and near Nampo, the site of their electricity-producing dam.
It is likely that the South Korean capital of Seoul, just 35 miles from the border, would be the first target and would be devastated in the opening salvos. With the artillery on the North side, hidden in the mountains, there would be little warning of an attack and U.S. and South Korean air forces would have trouble penetrating the North Korean air defenses.
Air operations would be tricky because the North keeps tight interlocking lines of antiaircraft guns and surface-to-air missile systems. Pyongyang itself is a “fortress.” North Korean special operations forces would be inserted via submarines along both coasts and through tunnels dug under the DMZ (many have been found in previous years).
The North would also activate sleeper agents in the South to direct missile and artillery fire. South Korean intelligence estimates up to 200,000 special operators are in the North Korean military, trained to fight Taliban-like insurgencies.
The U.S. air assets in the area will establish air superiority over the region, destroy air defenses, attempt to take out the artillery and missile batteries, and then destroy Northern command and control elements.
Allied airpower will target infrastructure like bridges and roads, especially the unification highway linking the capital at Pyongyang with the border, to keep Northern forces from being able to move effectively inside their own country. The U.S. would also make humanitarian air drops outside of major cities to draw noncombatants out of the cities and make targeting regime figures much easier.
After the conventional fighting, the question is if North Korea will use its nuclear weapons. It is estimated to have up to eight weapons and ballistic missile technology capable of reaching U.S. and South Korean forces in the Korean Peninsula, Japan, and all the way to Guam.
However, experts cannot confirm that the North has ever successfully used a warhead on any of its missiles. If the North does use its nuclear arsenal, nuclear retaliation from the U.S. isn’t a forgone conclusion, especially if U.S. forces have the opportunity to destroy most of the North’s nuclear weapons.
A recent Pentagon war game against the fictional country of “North Brownland,” a country whose dynastic family regime had nuclear weapons that had to be recovered during a regime collapse, found that U.S. troops didn’t fare well in retrieving those weapons. V-22 Osprey aircraft were cut off from the rest of the allied forces and surrounded by the enemy.
The result was the United States would have to fight through the countryside to the North’s estimated 100 nuclear-related sites. In all, it took the U.S. 46 days and 90,000 troops to secure those weapons.
In the end, the North – despite some early successes – would lose. They would be able to inflict massive devastation with conventional weapons in Seoul and near the border areas. The toll on civilians would likely be massive if they used their biological and chemical stockpiles, and even more so if they used the nuclear arsenal. Special forces would likely detonate their nukes in the border areas for fear of being caught trying to move South.
The U.S. would quickly establish air superiority while ground forces bypassed the heavily defended DMZ area. Once the artillery and missile batteries were taken out, the advanced technology, mobile armor, helicopter support, and airpower would quickly overwhelm the large infantry formations and their associated WWII-era tactics. The hardest part of subduing North Korea would be unifying the Korean people and taking care of the North’s backward and likely starving populace.
The hardest part of subduing North Korea would be unifying the Korean people and taking care of the North’s backward and likely starving populace.
The U.S. and South Korean governments might want to just keep the North at bay instead of overrunning the government completely. A 2013 RAND Corporation research paper estimated the cost of unification to be upwards of $2 trillion dollars. This is not only to pay for the
This is not only to pay for the war but for food for the population and the restoration of all the infrastructure the Kim regime neglected over the past sixty-plus years. Gen. Marks believes the North and South will continue to only use short, contained attacks on each other, making a full-scale war unlikely.
Each empire seemed unstoppable for an age, but they all crumbled in the end.
Indeed, the age of empires may have ended with World War II, as world powers have moved on from colonization and conquest in favor of geopolitical and commercial influence.
We’ve ranked the 19 greatest empires of all time by the number of square miles each had conquered at their peak.
The Turkic Khaganate spanned 2.32 million square miles at its height in 557 until a civil war contributed to its collapse in 581.
The Han imperial dynasty spanned 2.51 million square miles at its peak in 100 B.C. It collapsed by A.D. 220 after a series of coups and revolutions.
The Ming Dynasty spanned 2.51 million square miles at its height in 1450, but economic breakdown and natural disasters contributed to its collapse in the early 17th century.
The Sasanian Empire spanned 2.55 million square miles at its peak in 621 and was the last Iranian empire before the rise of Islam. It fell around 651 following economic decline and conquest by the Islamic caliphate.
The Empire of Japan was one of the largest maritime empires in history, spanning 2.86 million square miles at its peak in 1942 before surrendering to the Allies on September 2, 1945.
The Achaemenid Empire, also known as the First Persian Empire, spanned 3.08 million square miles at its peak in 480 B.C. before falling to Alexander the Great in 330 B.C.
The First French Colonial Empire spanned 3.12 million square miles at its height in 1754, before a series of wars with Great Britain resulted in both countries losing most of their New World colonies.
After declaring independence from Portugal, the empire of Brazil spanned 3.28 million square miles at its height in 1822, but it would soon lose the territories that make up modern Uruguay, and the empire would fall in an 1889 coup.
The Rashidun Caliphate spanned 3.6 million square miles at its peak in 654, before being followed by another Islamic Caliphate. It was the largest empire by land area ever at that point in history.
The Portuguese Empire reached 4 million square miles at its height in 1815, before losing Brazil and most of the rest in the next 150 years.
The Abbasid Caliphate covered 4.29 million square miles at its height in 850 before losing ground to the Ottomans, who captured the capital city, Cairo, in 1517.
The French bounced back with second colonial empire that covered 5 million square miles at its peak in 1938, before shedding territories in the post-World War II decolonization movement.
The Yuan Dynasty, the first dynasty to rule all of China, extended 5.4 million square miles at its peak in 1310, before being overthrown by the Ming Dynasty in 1368.
The Qing Dynasty, the last imperial dynasty of China, controlled 5.68 million square miles in 1790 at its greatest point. It fell in 1912 following defeat by foreign powers in the Boxer Rebellion and many local uprisings.
The Umayyad Caliphate spanned 5.79 million square miles at its height in the 7th century, before it was defeated by the Abbasids in 750.
The Spanish Empire governed 13% of the world’s land — 7.5 million square miles — at its height in the 18th century before losing much territory in the 19th century Spanish-American wars of independence.
The Russian Empire spanned 8.8 million square miles at its peak in 1866. It was overthrown by the February Revolution in 1917 and was replaced by the Soviet Union.
The Mongol Empire spanned 12.7 million square miles at its peak in 1279, spanning from the Sea of Japan to Eastern Europe, but it disintegrated into competing entities at about 1368.
The British Empire stretched over 13 million square miles across several continents — 23% of the world’s land — at its height in 1922, until decolonization began after World War II.
Four NASA astronauts sit in with a class of survival school students being briefed on life raft procedures at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., Feb. 10, 2017. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Lackey
The astronauts underwent the training in preparation for anticipated test flights of the new commercially made American rockets, the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and the SpaceX Dragon.
“It’s a different space program now,” said astronaut Sunita Williams. “We’re flying in capsules instead of shuttles, and they can land anywhere. You never know when an emergency situation may happen, so we’re grateful to get this training.”
The astronauts were put through the paces of bailing out from a simulated crash landing in water. They learned to deploy and secure a life raft, rescue endangered crew members, avoid hostile forces and experience being hoisted into a rescue vehicle.
“This is the first time we’ve gotten a complete environmental training experience — lots of wind, waves and rain,” said astronaut Doug Hurley. “This is a great way to experience how bad it can get and how important it is to be prepared.”
Trained With Course’s Students
The astronauts opted to join in with more than 20 water survival course students, despite being given the option to train alone.
“They didn’t want to train on their own,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Chas Tacheny, the chief of NASA human space flight support in Houston. “They wanted to train with the group, because some of these people may one day be preforming search and rescue for them.”
Other NASA astronauts visited the survival school last year in an effort to research and test the viability of its training course and facilities. The astronauts liked what they experienced, and NASA has since developed its training partnership with the schoolhouse.
“The [survival, evasion, resistance and escape] instructors are advising us in water recovery,” Behnken said. “These experts are the most experienced I’ve ever seen. They are able to spot holes in our training and fill the gaps.”
NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in Houston has a large water training facility built to simulate weightless conditions during space walks, but it’s not properly equipped to simulate water surface conditions for recovery training.
This training is vital for future mission recovery operations, Behnken said, noting that NASA officials are working with the experts here to replicate the survival school water survival training equipment at the Houston facility.
“I’m impressed by the use of the facilities here,” Williams said. “It’s a small space, but they really manage to simulate all kinds of weather conditions and situations we might experience during a water landing.”
The survival school originally had a separate detachment at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, where it conducted water survival training in open ocean waters. The training was brought to Fairchild in August 2015 in an effort to save time and money by consolidating training at one location.
“It was a good decision for the Air Force to streamline our training efforts by moving all portions of water survival training here,” said Air Force Col. John Groves, the 336th Training Group commander. “However, the fitness center pool was designed for recreational use and isn’t suited to the ever-increasing demands placed on it by our training programs. Bottom line, we owe it to our airmen and mission partners such as NASA, who rely on our unique training capabilities, to have a purpose-built water survival training facility.”
From 2001 to 2003, the Kurdistan region in northern Iraq was in a state of conflict between autonomous Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces and the terror group, Ansar al-Islam. The group was made primarily of Al-Qaeda veterans of the Afghanistan War and was carving out an enclave in the major city of Halabja. Locals from the Islamic Group of Kurdistan rose up to support Ansar al-Islam. The CIA also suspected the terror group of manufacturing poison and chemical weapons in the region. To address this threat in northern Iraq and put more pressure on Baghdad, the U.S. planned to open a second front during the 2003 invasion of Iraq from the north through Turkey.
However, Turkey refused to allow U.S. forces to cross their border into Iraq for the purpose of invasion. Although this development halted the mechanized 4th Infantry Division, thousands of paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade and soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division’s 2-14 Infantry Regiment were inserted from the air to form an ad hoc northern coalition. Their push south was paralleled by paramilitary operators of the CIA’s Special Activities Division and Green Berets from the 10th Special Forces Group. The roughly 40 CIA officers and Green Berets supported the 7,000-strong Kurdish Peshmerga fighters of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdish Democratic Party who wanted to defeat Ansar and Islamic Kurdish fighters and push south to join the fight against Saddam.
On the morning of March 21, 2003, Operation Viking Hammer kicked off in northern Iraq. Directed by the U.S. advisors, a total of 64 Tomahawk cruise missiles struck Ansar and Islamic Kurdistan forces. However, the ground assault was postponed until the conventional U.S. forces were in place for their parallel push south. The attack was scheduled for March 28.
On the eve of the attack, the Islamic Group of Kurdistan surrendered. They had already lost 100 fighters during airstrikes on March 21 and were heavily demoralized. The attack the next morning was met with heavy resistance from the Ansar fighters. However, the U.S. advisors called in airstrikes on the Ansar positions and the Peshmerga were able to push through. They reached their first checkpoint, the town of Gulp, hours ahead of schedule.
The bulk of the surviving Ansar forces fell back to the town of Sargat where they consolidated for a final stand. As the Peshmerga fighters and their U.S. advisors approached Sargat, they were pinned down by heavy mortar and machine gun fire. The town’s location deep in the valley blocked radio signals and prevented the Americans from calling in airstrikes or friendly reinforcements. Instead, Green Berets used a Barrett M82 .50-caliber rifle to take out Ansar machine gun crews while Peshmerga forces brought up artillery to destroy the Ansar mortar positions. It took three hours, but the Ansar forces were eventually driven from Sargat.
As they routed the Ansar fighters into the hills, the Peshmerga were again pinned down by machine gun fire. However, the elevated battleground allowed U.S. advisors to call in airstrikes into the night. Once darkness fell, four AC-130 gunships battered the retreating Ansar forces as they retreated toward the Iranian border. Some fighters were reportedly arrested by Iranian forces while others were sent back across the border and captured by Kurdish forces. However, the Kurds allege that many Ansar fighters were given refuge in Iran.
Operation Viking Hammer resulted in the destruction of Ansar al-Islam in northern Iraq and allowed Kurdish fighters to continue south to attack Saddam’s forces from the north. Traces of poisonous Ricin and potassium chloride were discovered in Sargat, as well as chemical suits, nerve gas antidotes and manuals on manufacturing chemical weapons. Peshmerga casualties were light with three fighters killed and 23 wounded.
In addition to the 100 Islamic Kurds who were killed in the initial airstrikes, an estimated 150-200 Ansar fighters were killed during Viking Hammer. There were no American casualties. Seven Green Berets were awarded the Silver Star for their actions around Sargat and several CIA officers were awarded the rare Intelligence Star for extraordinary heroism in combat. The operation has been lauded as one of the greatest Special Forces engagements in modern history.
Air Force Airman 1st Class Nathan Kosters, the youngest F-35 crew chief in the 34th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, was born in 1996. “The Macarena” somehow was No. 1 on the charts, “Independence Day” topped the box office, and the F-16 Fighting Falcon had already been flying for 22 years.
The 20-year-old native of Byron Center, Michigan, and his fellow F-35A Lightning II maintainers generated combat sorties with America’s youngest jet at Red Flag.
The Jan. 23-to-Feb. 10 iteration of Air Force’s premier air combat exercise included both U.S. and allied nations’ combat air forces, providing aircrews the experience of multiple, intensive air combat sorties in the safety of a training environment.
“It’s pretty amazing. It’s like a family atmosphere,” Kosters said. “We’re extremely busy, working long hours, but everyone pulls together and makes sure the mission is successful.”
Inspired by His Father
Growing up, he learned hard work from his father, a carpenter. He learned how to get up early and work until the job was done. The two worked side by side, he said, even throughout his father’s cancer treatments. “He is an inspiration to me — never giving up,” Kosters said. “Working was a great opportunity to be close to him.”
Kosters joined the Air Force a little over a year ago after graduating from high school and working in construction for awhile, because he wanted to leave the Midwest, get an education and see the world, he said. He got high scores on his entrance test, and the F-35 maintenance world, hungry for new talent, put him in the pipeline.
“I didn’t really know anything about the F-35,” Kosters said. “I knew it was the newest jet, and I heard all the negative press about it. My dad and I started reading up on it. He probably knew more about it than I did.”
After technical training and hands-on experience, Kosters said, he is happy he is where he is.
“It’s cool, working with the latest technology, he added. “I don’t want to make it sound like maintenance is easy. It’s just advanced. It’s great to be able to plug in a laptop and talk to the aircraft.”
Based at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, the 34th Fighter Squadron and Aircraft Maintenance Unit are the first combat-coded F-35A units in the Air Force. They were created by bringing together a team of experienced pilots and maintainers from across the Air Force’s F-35 test and training units. Kosters was one of the first pipeline maintainers to join the 34th AMU straight from basic training and tech school, and Red Flag is valuable experience for that greener group.
“At home, our young maintenance airmen are practicing and learning every day. Here, we’re able to put that training into a realistic scenario and watch them succeed and learn how to overcome challenges,” said Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Robert Soto, lead production superintendent for the 34th AMU.
“It’s not glorious,” Kosters said. “You’re not working 9 to 5. Your uniform is not going to stay nice and clean. But, next to being a pilot, I feel like I have the best job there is. It’s gratifying to see those jets take off.”
Kosters said he and his fellow maintainers take pride as they hear from pilots how their aircraft are performing in the fight.
“It’s had its doubters in the world, but it’s nice to prove people wrong with all eyes on us, especially here,” Kosters said. “The first couple missions, it was the F-35 versus everyone else, and our guys were showing them that the F-35 is a superior plane. We’re like varsity.”
China’s Defense Ministry says a Chinese warship is assisting the US Navy in its search for a sailor who is missing and may have gone overboard during operations in the South China Sea.
The ministry said in a statement August 3 that the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s guided-missile frigate Liuzhou is coordinating with the US in the search for the sailor “in the spirit of humanitarianism.”
The US Navy’s Pacific Fleet says the destroyer USS Stethem reported a man overboard around 9 a.m. August 2. Multiple searches of the destroyer were conducted but the sailor hasn’t been found.
China, which claims virtually all of the South China Sea, accused the US in July of trespassing in its waters when the Stethem sailed within 12 nautical miles (32 kilometers) of Triton Island in the Paracel Group.
The operation was aimed at affirming the right to passage and challenging what the US considers China’s excessive territorial claims in the area. China sent ships to intercept the destroyer.
China has strongly objected to repeated freedom of navigation missions by the US Navy in the South China Sea.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
A Beechcraft twin-engine aircraft performs a routine at sunset during the Sound of Speed Air Show above the Rosecrans Memorial Airport in St. Joseph, Mo., Aug. 26, 2016. The air show was hosted by the Missouri Air National Guard’s 139th Airlift Wing to thank the surrounding community for its support.
B-2 Spirits deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., taxi toward the flightline prior to take off at Andersen AFB, Guam, Aug. 11, 2016. Bomber crews readily deploy in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region to conduct global operations in coordination with other combatant commands, services, and appropriate U.S. government agencies to deter and detect strategic attacks against the U.S., its allies and partners.
U.S. Army Soldiers, assigned to 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, provide enemy fire from a mountaintop during Decisive Action Rotation 16-09 at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif., Aug. 28, 2016.
Two U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to Special Operations Command-Europe, engage opposing forces at an objective during Jackal Stone 2016 in Tblisi, Georgia, Aug. 15, 2016. Jackal Stone 2016 is a bilateral Georgian, U.S. counter terrorism and crisis management exercise.
The guided-missile destroyer Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Zumwalt (DDG 1000) arrives at Naval Station Newport, Rhode Island during its maiden voyage from Bath Iron Works Shipyard in Bath, Maine. The port visit marks Zumwalt’s first stop before the ship ultimately sails to her new homeport of San Diego. During the transit, the ship is scheduled to take part in training operations, a commissioning ceremony in Baltimore and various additional port visits. Zumwalt is named for former Chief of Operations Elmo R. Zumwalt and is the first in a three-ship class of the Navy’s newest, most technologically advanced multi-mission guided-missile destroyers.
SOUDA BAY, Greece (Sept. 7, 2016) Lt. Carleigh Gregory from Herndon, Va., takes inventory of 5 inch ammunition aboard USS Ross (DDG 71) Sept. 7, 2016. Ross, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet Area of Operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe and Africa.
A Marine drinks from his canteen before participating in a mechanized raid drill on Landing Zone Swallow at Camp Davis Airfield, North Carolina, August 16, 2016. The drill was part of their pre-deployment training in preparation for the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s upcoming deployment. The Marine is with 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion.
A Marine Corps M1A1 Abrams Tank, with Delta Company, 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division conducts offensive and defensive tactics during Large Scale Exercise (LSE) on August 16, 2016, on Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center. LSE-16 is designed to enhance the command and control, and interoperability between I Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF) and its higher, adjacent and subordinate command headquarters.
I hope all of you have enjoyed the week with us here on Instagram. CGC Charles Sexton and her crew wish all of you the best and cannot thank you all enough for following along with us this week and supporting the USCG.
Every American has a different memory of the September 11 attacks. Though some people are too young to remember or weren’t even born yet, the events of that day for those who do remember remain burned into their psyche and remembrance often begins with the sobering question, “Where were you when the towers fell?” Some sat before their televisions, frozen in disbelief. Others were in Lower Manhattan, working their way through panic and smoke blanketing the city in search of safety. As the city reeled in the immediate aftermath of the attack, hundreds made their way toward the danger to do their duty.
Warplanes carried out a suspected toxic gas attack that killed at least 35 people including several children in a rebel-held town in northwestern Syria on April 4, opposition groups and a monitoring group said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said those killed in the town of Khan Sheikhun, in Idlib province, had died from the effects of the gas, adding that dozens more suffered respiratory problems and other symptoms.
The Britain-based monitoring group was unable to confirm the nature of the substance, and said it was unclear if the planes involved in the attack were Syrian or those of government ally Russia.
The reported gas attack comes at the start of a two-day conference on Syria’s future hosted in Brussels by the European Union and the United Nations.
The Observatory said medical sources in the town reported symptoms among the affected including fainting, vomiting, and foaming at the mouth.
The victims were mostly civilians, it said, and included at least nine children.
The pro-opposition Edlib Media Centre (EMC) posted a large number of photographs of people receiving treatment, as well as images showing what appeared to be the bodies of at least seven children in the back of a pick-up truck.
Photographs circulated by activists showed members of the volunteer White Helmets rescue group using hoses to wash down the injured, as well as at least two men with white foam around their mouths.
The Syrian National Coalition, an alliance of opposition groups whose leaders live in exile, accused President Bashar al-Assad‘s government of carrying out the gas attack and demanded a UN investigation.
“The National Coalition demands the Security Council convene an emergency session… to open an immediate investigation and take the necessary measures to ensure the officials, perpetrators, and supporters are held accountable,” the body said in a statement.
Idlib province is largely controlled by an alliance of rebels including the Fateh al- Sham Front, a former al Qaeda affiliate previously known as the al- Nusra Front.
It is regularly targeted in strikes by the regime, as well as Russian warplanes, and has also been hit by the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group, usually targeting jihadists.
Syria’s government officially joined the Chemical Weapons Convention and turned over its chemical arsenal in 2013, as part of a deal to avert U.S. military action.
But there have been repeated allegations of chemical weapons use by the government since then, with a UN-led investigation pointing the finger at the regime for at least three chlorine attacks in 2014 and 2015.
The government denies the use of chemical weapons and has in turn accused rebels of using banned weapons.
The attack on April 4 comes only days after forces loyal to Assad were accused of using chemical weapons in a counter-offensive in neighboring Hama province.
U.S. Army Soldiers clean the outside of a CH-47 Chinook during detail aircraft decontamination training near Erbil, Iraq, Mar. 1, 2017. This training is part of the overall Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve building partner capacity by training and improving the capability of partnered forces fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Josephine Carlson)
On March 30, air strikes on several areas in the north of Hama province left around 50 people suffering respiratory problems, according to the Observatory, which could not confirm the cause of the symptoms.
The monitor relies on a network of sources inside Syria for its information, and says it determines whose planes carry out raids according to type, location, flight patterns, and munitions used.
More than 320,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests.
The April 4 gathering in Brussels has been billed as a follow-up to a donors’ conference last year in London, which raised about $11 billion for humanitarian aid programs in the devastated country.
1. Marine Brian Chontosh’s incredible response to an Iraqi ambush
Working Title: Killing Up Close
Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Tom Hardy
Hollywood has a reputation for embellishing “true stories” with an extra dose of drama, special effects, and too-beautiful-to-be-real actors. “Brian Chontosh: The Movie,” however, would require no exaggeration — this story of military valor is unbelievably badass from start to finish.
Then-Lt. Brian Chontosh was a Marine platoon leader during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. On the morning of March 25, he was sitting shotgun in a Humvee when a large berm appeared in the distance. Before he and his men knew what was happening, Iraqi soldiers began showering the vehicle detail with machine gun fire, grenades and mortars from behind the shelter — instantly killing a medic and damaging a tank.
Most people would try to organize a hasty exit at this point. Not Brian Chontosh. As bullets and explosives screamed past their Humvee, Chontosh ordered driver Cpl. Armand McCormick to drive forward, straight through the berm. McCormick floored it as another Marine, Cpl. Thomas Franklin, manned the Humvee’s .50-caliber machine gun, crashing through the obstruction and into the trench on the opposite side.
As Iraqi soldiers began to swarm the Humvee, Chontosh swung out of his vehicle guns-a-blazing, firing from his pistol and rifle until he was out of bullets. Iraqi soldiers dropped dead left and right, and Chontosh continued to pull the trigger, machine gun fire clouding his senses as he pushed his way through the maw. It was the first time he had ever killed anyone.
“It’s nothing like TV,” Chontosh told Newsweek. “It’s ugly. It’s contorted. People fall how they fall. It’s not like the bullet hits and they’re blown back or anything like that.”
When his rifle jammed, Chontosh ripped an AK-47 off of a dead Iraqi, unloading every bullet in it before picking up a second AK as he ran, shooting everything he could. By the end of the battle, he would shoot and kill nearly two-dozen Iraqis single-handedly. At this point the exhausted Marine finally reconnected with his men and headed back towards the Humvee, when they noticed an Iraqi soldier huddled on the ground, playing dead but holding a grenade.
The men scrambled for weapons but were out of ammo. Amazingly, Chontosh saw a cluster of live M-16 rounds glinting in the dirt, where they had fallen when his rifle jammed. He dove for the rounds, loaded a single bullet — and shot the soldier in the head, saving himself and his men. Can you imagine that scene on an IMAX screen?
If that’s not Hollywood-blockbuster enough for you, they still had to get medical help for the Marines who had been wounded. Oh, and a sandstorm rolled in. Totally casual.
Chontosh would later be awarded the Navy Cross and two Bronze Stars for heroism, and is currently considered one of the top CrossFit athletes in the world. If that isn’t prime movie material, we don’t know what is. Your move, Hollywood.
2. The story of Larry Thorne’s military valor under three different flags
Have you ever watched a movie that you loved so much you didn’t want it to end? This is that movie — and don’t worry about a short running time, either. Lauri Törni’s story is filled with so many twists and turns that even a conservative film adaptation would give The Hobbit’s running time a run for its money — so maybe a two-part series would be best.
Törni’s story begins in Finland in 1938, when he joined the army at 19 years old, determined to fight the Soviet Union. It didn’t take long for his natural leadership skills and military instincts to shine, and he was soon promoted to captain — of a skiing troop. Törni and his men would pursue their enemies on skis, kicking up powder on the Finnish slopes. Is anyone else thinking of that chase scene from The Grand Budapest Hotel? Just add guns and Soviet Russians.
Everything was going great until Törni skied into a mine in 1942, leaving him badly wounded. The young soldier was soon back on his feet, however, and would later be honored with the Mannerheim Cross for his war efforts (the Finnish equivalent of the Medal of Honor).
But Törni wasn’t ready to give up the fighting — though he would give up his Finnish uniform. When Finland agreed to a ceasefire with the Soviet Union in 1944, he decided to switch teams to keep up with the action, joining the German SS for the promise of future combat against the Communists.
Unfortunately, as we know, Törni picked the wrong team. When the war ended, he was arrested by British forces for being a Nazi officer. Didn’t think the protagonist was going to get tangled up with the bad guys, did you? But he wasn’t in prison for long. Törni successfuly escaped his POW camp and snuck back into Finland, where, unfortunately, he was arrested again, this time by his own people. Things really went downhill after that skiing accident.
Luckily, however, the president of Finland had a soft spot for this adventurous turncoat, and Törni only served half his sentence before he was pardoned and released in 1948.
But wait, the story’s not over. In June of 1950, America would pass a law that would create an opportunity for foreigners to serve under the U.S. military, granting them citizenship if they stuck with it for five years. It was called the Lodge-Philbin Act, and it came right around the same time a new military unit was created — The Special Forces.
Törni, along with 200 other Eastern Europeans, joined the American military under this law. This wasn’t merely an opportunity to continue military service, however — the Soviet Union forced Finland to arrest Törni for his time fighting alongside the Nazis. When he found out he would be shipped to Moscow and tried for war crimes, Törni knew it was time to get out of dodge and start a new life. So he escaped — again — and changed his name to Larry Thorne, ready to embrace an American identity.
Not surprisingly, Thorne thrived in his new military environment. Originally enlisting as a private, he was quickly singled out for his skill and experience, and began teaching at the Special Warfare School at Fort Bragg, where he instructed recruits on guerrilla fighting tactics and survival skills. Soon after, he would become a Captain in Special Forces, and successfully retrieved classified documents from a U.S. Air Force plane that went down in the mountains near the Turkish-Soviet border.
Thorne quickly made it into the U.S. Special Forces and in 1962, as a Captain, he led his detachment onto the highest mountain in Iran to recover the bodies and classified material from an American C-130 airplane that had crashed. It was a mission in which others had failed, but Thorne’s unrelenting spirit led to its accomplishment. This mission initially formed his status as a U.S. Special Forces legend, but it was his deep strategic reconnaissance and interdiction exploits with Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Studies and Observation Group, also known as MACV-SOG, that solidified his legendary status.
If this wasn’t cool enough, Thorne was also awarded five Purple Hearts and the Bronze Star medal for his military bravery. His last ever mission was in Vietnam in 1965, when he led the premiere MACV-SOG cross-border mission into Laos. While his men successfully entered a clearing within Laos, Thorne watched and waited in a chase helicopter, ready to provide assistance if necessary. When his men had made it safe, he began flying his helicopter back to base.
Only a few minutes later, the helicopter lost control and crashed — likely the result of stormy weather conditions. The Army reported Thorne as MIA, and many of his comrades refused to believe this military legend was dead. Their beliefs were further cemented when the chopper and air crew were found without Thorne’s body, and many hoped that he had escaped the crash and was still making his way out of the jungle.
The legend of Larry Thorne and his mysterious disappearance lived on until 1999, when a second exploration of the crash site produced a body who’s DNA and dental records matched that of the beloved Special Forces soldier. His life was cut short, but the legacy he left behind was larger than life, and completely worthy of a couple hours on the big screen.
3. The story of the orthodontist who became America’s first Navy SEAL
Working Title: Another Navy SEAL Movie
Director: Stephen Spielberg
Starring: Christoph Waltz
Everyone loves a good underdog, and Navy Lt. j.g. Jack Taylor is one of the best “little guys” we’ve ever heard of. Before the start of World War II, Taylor was an orthodontist in Hollywood, California. When the U.S. declared war on Japan, however, Taylor swapped his dental scrubs for a Navy uniform, planning to teach boat handling skills to American and Allied servicemen — a pretty safe wartime occupation.
Fate had other plans for Taylor however, and they were way more exciting than pulling teeth or rigging sails.
He didn’t know it yet, but DDS Jack Taylor would soon become Lt. j.g. Taylor, and would prove his worth as the first ever Navy SEAL, undertaking ocean operations in Greece, land operations in Albania, and parachuting into Austria — 20 years before the first SEAL team had ever been assembled.
In the Maritime Unit, Taylor personally commanded fourteen missions into the enemy-occupied Greek and Balkan coasts. He and his team delivered spies, weapons, explosives, and other supplies to friendly forces from Sep. 1943 to March, 1944.
Taylor also commanded a land team in Central Albania around this time, escaping near-capture by enemy forces at least three times. For his valor, he received the Navy Cross.
Before Taylor and his men could head to Italy to meet up with American troops, the group was captured on Dec. 1, 1944, and sent to prison in Vienna before being transferred to Mauthausen, a camp that was notorious for its cruel treatment and deplorable living conditions. There Taylor was jailed as a political prisoner, and watched as inmate after inmate was executed — a brutal reminder of what his own fate would surely be.
Taylor was nearly executed on two different occasions. The first time a friend who worked in the camp’s office found his papers among a stack of to-be executed prisoners and removed it, burning it before his superiors noticed it was gone.
Eventually the Nazis realized Taylor had evaded his sentence, and scheduled a second execution. But just when it seemed that his number was up, the 11th Armored Division liberated the camp, only days before he would have been killed.
When an American film crew arrived and asked him for an interview, Taylor got the chance to tell the world what he and so many others had experienced under Nazi prison conditions, later recounting the same information at the Nuremberg trials, where his testimony of the horrors of Mauthausen would lead to the conviction of all 61 camp personnel.
4. “Mad Jack” Churchill’s sword-wielding World War II victories
Working Title: Mad Jack
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Star: Harvey Keitel
When it comes to movie characters, American viewers seem to agree on the same cinematic mantra: The more eccentric, the better. If you’re skeptical, just Google John Malkovich, or ponder how “The Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise continues to grind out terrible sequels that people continue to pay for. Sometimes, people don’t want quality, they just want crazy.
Luckily, however, we’ve found a story that fits the bill in both categories: A war account so bizarre it sounds more like an urban legend than a part of America’s WWII history.
Lt. Col. John Malcom Thorpe Fleming Churchill, or “Mad Jack” as he would later be known, may have been one of the most badass — and insane — people to ever walk the earth. Picture the weirdness of Jeff Bridges a la “The Big Lebowski” crossed with sheer majesty of Mel Gibson in “Braveheart” and you’ll be in the ballpark.
Churchill joined the British military in 1926 at age 20, only to leave shortly after to pursue professional bagpiping and compete in the World Archery Championship in 1939 — because why not. But when WWII rolled around, Churchill was more than ready to jump back into the fray, and racked up a war record so unbelievable we’re shocked his story hasn’t already made it to the big screen.
Churchill stormed the beaches of Normandy carrying a Scottish sword, wore his bagpipes in battle and made many of his kills with a longbow he wore on his back. During a night raid on the Nazi lines, Churchill led his men to capture 136 enemy soldiers — and he himself captured 40 plus Germans at sword point. During a different battle on the Nazi-controlled island of Brac, “Mad Jack” fought until he was the last of his men standing. Then when he ran out of ammo, he stood his ground, playing his bagpipes on top of a hill until a grenade knocked him out and he was captured by the Germans. That scene alone could win an Academy Award.
Churchill would later escape his POW camp and meet up with American troops, only to find out — to his profound disappointment — that two atomic bombs had been dropped, and the war was essentially over. According to Vice, Churchill reportedly complained, “If it hadn’t been for those damn Yanks, we could have kept the war going for another ten years!”
Who knows, with the film industry being so sequel-happy these days (we’re looking at you, Peter Jackson), maybe his movies could go on for ten years.
Congress sent President Donald Trump legislation to provide the biggest expansion of college aid for military veterans in a decade.
The Senate cleared the bill by voice vote on August 2, passing the second piece of legislation aimed at addressing urgent problems at the beleaguered Department of Veterans Affairs in as many days. The House passed the bipartisan college aid legislation last week.
The measure is a broad effort to better prepare veterans for life after active-duty service amid a rapidly changing job market.
Building on major legislation passed in 2008 that guaranteed a full-ride scholarship to any in-state public university — or a similar cash amount for private college students — the bill removes a 15-year time limit to tap into GI benefits and increases money for thousands in the National Guard and Reserve.
Veterans would get additional payments if they complete science, technology, and engineering courses. The bill also would restore benefits if a college closed in the middle of the semester, a protection added when thousands of veterans were hurt by the collapse of for-profit college giant ITT Technical Institute and Corinthian Colleges. Purple Heart recipients, meanwhile, would be fully eligible for benefits, regardless of length of time in service.
“This bill invests in the proven success of our veterans,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson, R- Ga., chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee. “When our veterans return home, they should have every opportunity available to them to pursue their desired profession and career.”
The panel’s top Democrat, Jon Tester of Montana, says the bill “also does right by Guardsmen and Reservists by getting them the education, housing, and health care that they have earned. I look forward to working with President Trump to quickly sign our bill into law.”
Tester is one of the more vulnerable Democrats up for re-election next year, seeking another term in a state Trump won last year.
Sens. Johnny Isakson, R- Ga., (left) and Jon Tester, D-Mont (right)
The Senate, on August 2, backed a measure that authorizes $3.9 billion in emergency spending to avert imminent bankruptcy in the VA’s Veterans Choice Program of private-sector care. About $1.8 million of that money would bolster core VA programs, including 28 leases for new VA medical facilities.
The education benefits would take effect for enlistees who begin using their GI Bill money next year.
For a student attending a private university, the additional benefits to members of the Guard and Reserve could mean $2,300 a year more in tuition than they are receiving now, plus a bigger housing allowance.
A wide range of veterans’ groups had supported the expanded GI Bill benefits. The American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans group, hailed the proposal as launching a “new era” for those who served in uniform.
According to Student Veterans of America, only about half of the 200,000 service members who leave the military each year go on to enroll in a college, while surveys indicate that veterans often outperform peers in the classroom.
Veterans of Foreign Wars estimates that hundreds of thousands of veterans stand to gain from the new benefits.
The expanded educational benefits would be paid for by bringing living stipend payments under the GI Bill down to a similar level as that received by an active-duty member, whose payments were reduced in 2014 by 1 percent a year for five years. Total government spending on the GI Bill is expected to be more than $100 billion over 10 years.