Train hero Spencer Stone gets promoted — twice - We Are The Mighty
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Train hero Spencer Stone gets promoted — twice

In a very special three-minute ceremony, Spencer Stone, one of the heroes of this summer’s thwarted train attack in France, received a promotion to Senior Airman (E-4 for you military types), holding that rank for a very effective one minute, before his subsequent promotion to Staff Sergeant (E-5).


Train hero Spencer Stone gets promoted — twice
Staff Sgt. Spencer Stone, 60th Medical Operations Squadron medical technician, listens as the responsibilities of non-commissioned offers are read during a promotion ceremony at Travis Air Force Base, California, Oct. 30, 2015.  Stone was promoted to the rank of staff sergeant by order of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III. According to Air Force Instruction 36-502, the chief of staff of the Air Force has the authority to promote any enlisted member to the next higher grade. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken Wright)

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III decided to promote Stone to E-5 because Stone already had a date to put on E-4. Stone’s promotion was not without controversy from some within the Air Force.

“I’m not going to give it the time of day,” Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Cody said during a recent USAF town hall meeting. “If someone wants to personally come up to me and be educated about how we came to that decision and why, I’m happy to do so in a professional manner.”

Stone and friends (Army Specialist Alek Skarlatos and civilian Anthony Saddler) stopped Moroccan-born Ayoub El-Khazzani from carried out an alleged mass shooting with an AK-47 on a Paris-bound train. Stone was stabbed in that incident. For his actions, Stone received the Purple Heart and Airman’s Medal as well as France and Belgium’s highest honors. The Airman’s Medal is the USAF’s highest non-combat decoration.

Train hero Spencer Stone gets promoted — twice

Stone was until recently recovering from serious wounds sustained during a late-night altercation outside of a Sacramento, California night club. He was stabbed four times in this most recent attack, in the heart, left lung,  liver, and in the back. He had to have open heart surgery to save his life from the knife wound to his heart.

Train hero Spencer Stone gets promoted — twice

“It is an honor to be promoted to Staff Sergeant,” Stone said in a statement provided by the Air Force. “And I am extremely thankful for the opportunity to lead my fellow Airmen. I am ready for the growth and challenges that are ahead of me.”

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This pilot landed his F-15 with only one wing

The F-15 is an amazing aircraft that was designed to go head-to-head with the Soviet’s MiG-25 and was the top dog for years, most notably during Desert Storm where American and Saudi Eagles took it to the Iraqis in a big way.


The F-15 has endured because its design was years ahead of its time, and a great data point behind that fact is the time Israeli pilot Zivi Nedivi landed his jet with only one wing. Nedivi had one of his wings sheared off in a midair collision with an A-4 Skyhawk during a training event. Nedivi’s Eagle went into a rapid roll by the crash and he told his navigator to prepare the eject.

Nedivi turned on his afterburners in an attempt to stabilize the jet. The move worked. After his aircraft stabilized, he decided to attempt to land at a base 10 miles away. Because of the fuel coming from the damaged fuselage, neither he nor his wingman knew that the F-15 was missing a wing.

Hear the rest of this amazing story from Nedivi himself in this video:

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Brigade Combat Team Is Headed To Iraq To Do Everything But Engage In Combat

Train hero Spencer Stone gets promoted — twice
Troops from the 82nd Airborne in Iraq in 2008 engaging in combat . . . something their commander says they won’t be doing when they go over this time. (Photo: Senior Airman Steve Czyz, U.S. Air Force)


The commander of approximately 1,000 paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division headed to Iraq said Friday his troops are not going to fight the Islamic State.

Also, Watch: First Challenges of Training the Afghan National Army | Shepherds Of Helmand, Pt. 4 

“We will not be conducting offensive ground combat operations,” Col. Curtis Buzzard said in a phone interview Friday. “Anything we do will still be in an advise and assist role (with the Iraqi military). We’re helping them plan and execute these operations.”

Buzzard will lead the paratroopers from the 82nd’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team. They will deploy in the next few weeks for a nine-month deployment. Their mission is to train and advise the Iraqi military as it prepares for a summer offensive to retake Mosul.

President Barack Obama said U.S. combat troops would not be used in Iraq in the past, but told Gen. Lloyd Austin, the head of Central Command overseeing the fight in Iraq and Syria, told The Wall Street Journal Thursday no decision have been made on sending U.S. advisers forward with Iraqi divisions.

“I am going to do what it takes to be successful, and it may very well turn out…that we may need to ask to have our advisers accompany the troops that are moving on Mosul,” he said in a Wall Street Journal interview.

U.S. officials told The Wall Street Journal Thursday two Iraqi divisions would be part of the offensive to retake the northern Iraqi city in the spring after completing four to six weeks of training. Buzzard’s men will be part of the training program. As he prepares to leave Fort Bragg, NC, his biggest concern is protecting his trainers, who will be based at Iraqi bases.

“Over nine months, you have to make sure you don’t get complacent,” Buzzard said. “We’ve seen incidents in Afghanistan over the last couple of years from an insider threat standpoint.”

There have been no inside attacks to date. The training program is off to a rocky start, according to recent news reports. There is a shortage of ammunition, forcing Iraqi soldier to yell “bang bang” to simulate firing and classes on “the will to fight’ are being taught after Iraqi fighters deserted their positions, according to a Washington Post report.

Buzzard said his men are focused on training the Iraqi leadership. He is bringing his most senior leaders, who will work closely with their counterparts as the offensive is planned.

“We’re looking forward to building relationships with our partners,” Buzzard said. “The feedback I’m getting so far is that it is very well received and it is having a significant impact at least on the planning stage of the counter offensive right now.”

On Thursday, Kurdish forces cut a key supply line to Mosul and pushed Islamic State fighters out of parts of northern Iraq, according to media reports. But US officials told The Wall Street Journal Thursday that this summer’s fight for Mosul will be difficult with booby-trapped houses and roadside bombs expected. Buzzard said he has been focused on the deployment and not on the current intelligence reports, but he said air power and ground forces have degraded the Islamic state.

“We’re still in the condition setting stage for the counter-offensive,” Buzzard said. “The Iraqi army still has to build up some combat power and decide which forces they are going to use and ensure they are properly trained and equipped, but I think they will be fully capable of executing the mission.”

NOW: Watch This Iraqi War Veteran’s Tragic Story Told Through The Lens Of A Cartoon 

OR: Here’s The Intense Training For Marines Who Guard American Embassies 

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Here’s what’s next for the A-10

The A-10 is a Cold War-era ground-attack plane known for its iconic gun designed to shred tanks and for its tough titanium armor designed to take hits and keep flying.


That durability is noticeable not only on the battlefield, but also increasingly on Capitol Hill, where supporters of the Thunderbolt II, popularly known as the Warthog or simply Hog, have seemingly succeeded in dissuading Air Force officials from renewing attempts to retire the snub-nosed plane.

The Air Force’s fiscal 2018 budget request released this month calls for keeping its fleet of A-10s — which stood at 283 as of Sept. 30 — in service for at least five more years.

To recap: The service — facing financial pressure driven by spending caps known as sequestration — made multiple attempts in recent years to retire the Warthog to save an estimated $4 billion a year and to free up maintainers for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the stealthy fifth-generation fighter jet designed to replace the A-10 and legacy fighters.

In 2016, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced the A-10 retirement would be delayed until 2022 after lawmakers complained that doing so would rid the military of a “valuable and effective” close-air-support aircraft.

Related: Watch the effects of an A-10’s GAU-8 cannon on an enemy building

However, fiscal 2017 budget request documents showed the Air Force still planned to remove A-10 squadrons in increments between 2018 and 2022 to make room for F-35A Lightning II squadrons coming online.

Train hero Spencer Stone gets promoted — twice
Many servicemembers across the military doubt the F-35’s ability to replace the A-10. | US Air Force / WATM

Members of Congress, notably Arizona Republicans Sen. John McCain, a former Navy pilot, and Rep. Martha McSally, who flew A-10s during her Air Force career, fiercely opposed the move, and included language in the bill that would prohibit retirement of the Warthog until the Air Force could prove the F-35 is able to perform similar missions as effectively on the battlefield.

In October, Air Force Materiel Command chief Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski said the depot line for the A-10 was cranking back up as part of an effort to keep the Cold War-era aircraft flying “indefinitely.”

The planes, which entered service in 1976 and have deployed to the Middle East, Europe and the Pacific, have played an outsized role in the air campaign that began in 2014 against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, helping provide close-air support for Iraqi and U.S. partner forces on the ground. (A-10 fans describe the distinctive sound its seven-barrel 30mm GAU-8 Avenger rotary cannon makes when firing as “brrrt.”)

So the retirement push appears to have dissipated — at least, for now.

Indeed, the Air Force’s budget request for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 includes modest funding for A-10 modifications in coming years. The service over the past decade worked with Boeing Co. to replace the wings on 173 of the aircraft as part of a program scheduled to wrap up this year.

Also Read: This pilot landed his F-15 with only one wing

For fiscal 2018, the service asked for $6 million in procurement funding to upgrade the A-10 with the latest version of the satellite-based transponder known as the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast, or ADS-B, to comply with a Federal Aviation Administration rule for the new technology, according to budget documents.

In addition, the service requested $17.5 million in research and development funding to test the ADS-B Out software on the A-10 squadrons through 2022, budget documents show.

This work “extends the viability and survivability” of the aircraft, according to an Air Force spokeswoman who spoke to Military.com on background because she wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about the budget request. “As long as we can continue to fund these fleets, they will be survivable and lethal.”

Through the wing replacement program and maintenance work, the Air Force wants to preserve the longevity of the aircraft, potentially by doubling its life from 8,000 flight hours to 16,000 flight hours.

In an interview with FlightGlobal earlier this year, then-Air Combat Commander Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle suggested new wings on the plane could keep it flying into the 2030s.

The spokeswoman couldn’t say whether this program would be expanded into future years.

“This is exactly why we need long-term budget stability and flexibility — no longer reacting to make tradeoff decisions year to year,” she said. “We’re not in the position right now, but we don’t know” what could happen next year.

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9 things that would be different if Chuck Norris led the Bin Laden raid

In the early hours of May 2nd, 2011, in Abbottabad, Pakistan, SEAL team 6 got the green light to execute a deadly mission to capture or kill the man responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks — Osama Bin Laden. After President Obama broke the news to the world that the notorious Al Qaeda leader had been taken out, American and its allies celebrated all across the world.


As additional information poured in, the mission was labeled a success — although it had its share of flaws.

But as WATM has a deep and abiding appreciation for 1980s action movies, we wondered how different it all might have gone down if Chuck Norris had planned and led the famous bin Laden raid. So check out our list.

Related: 9 examples of the military’s dark humor

The SEALs on Norris’ team would be issued dual Uzis — because firepower.

Chuck Norris shot a man to death with an unloaded nerf gun. (images via Giphy)

The SEAL team would have parachuted in instead of inserting on stealth helicopters.

Chuck Norris went skydiving and his parachute failed to open,so he took it back the next day for a refund (images via Giphy)

Once Chuck Norris and the SEALs land, awesome black tactical motorcycles would be patiently waiting for them.  Norris would shoot bin Laden’s compound wall so his SEALs could easily breach.

People sell their souls to the devil.The devil sells his soul to Chuck Norris.(images via Giphy)

After locating bin Laden, Chuck would have challenged him to a hand-to-hand showdown after removing his shirt and popping his knuckles.

Global warming will end as soon as Chuck Norrisputs his shirt back on. (images via Giphy)

Then, Chuck would deliver a series of right jabs to bin Laden’s face, breaking every bone in his body.

Chuck Norris can hit you so hard your blood will bleed. (images via Giphy)

After beating bin Laden senseless, he’d casually walk away like the fight was over, mount his tactical motorcycle and blow the al Qaeda leader up with a missile like it wasn’t sh*t.

Chuck Norris puts the “laughter” in “manslaughter”. (image via Giphy)

Since Chuck usually orders his men to fall back early (for some reason) he now has to make his escape just as Pakistani police show up.

Chuck Norris doesn’t need a ramp because he’s f*cking Chuck Norris. (images via Giphy)

Because Chuck is such a lone wolf, the only plane leaving the terrorist-infested nation is about to take off without him — but that won’t stop him from boarding.

Chuck Norris can fold airplanes into paper. (images via Giphy)

Related: Here’s how US Marines brought karate back home after World War II

After the mission was labeled a success by the president, Chuck wouldn’t verbally congratulate his team — he’d just give thumbs up.

Chuck Norris never fails, he tells success to come backwhen it’s ready for him. (image via Giphy

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The ghastly attack in Kenya proves an important point about terrorist groups

Train hero Spencer Stone gets promoted — twice


The April 2 attack in Garissa, Kenya, was the deadliest and most heinous atrocity the Somali terrorist group Al Shabaab has ever committed.

Gunmen from Al Qaeda’s affiliate in the Horn of Africa stormed a university campus in the city, killing 147 people after an hours-long siege. It’s the deadliest terrorist attack in Kenya since the 1998 Al Qaeda bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi in which 224 people were killed.

The terrorist attack demonstrates an ongoing security threat in one of the most stable and prosperous countries in sub-Saharan Africa — and it shows how jihadist groups can remain dangerous even as they lose territory and leadership.

Garissa is a mid-sized city 230 miles from Nairobi and a little over 60 miles from Dadaab, the former desert rest stop that’s now home to the world’s largest refugee camp.

On Twitter, Colby College political science professor Laura Seay noted the extraordinary sacrifice it requires for a family to even send someone to college in a place so much closer to Kenya’s arid and impoverished eastern desert frontier than it is to just about any of its major cities.

“Today’s loss is immeasurable,” she tweeted.

Al Shabaab didn’t just choose the softest of targets; it attacked a place where it could wipe out as many young, promising, and educated people as it possibly could.

In the Westgate Mall attack in September of 2013, Shabaab struck at the heart of Kenyan business and trade, attacking Nairobi’s famed status as east Africa’s cosmopolitan crossroads. The Garissa attack was even deadlier and perhaps even grimmer in its messaging. Shabaab struck Kenyan society where they knew it would hurt the most.

The Garissa attack is shocking for yet another reason. Al Shabaab has repeatedly struck outside of its safe haven in southern Somalia over the past year, carrying out a series of gun attacks around the coastal town of Mpeketoni, Kenya, that killed over 60 people during the summer of 2014.

It’s retained its external attack capabilities and command structure despite suffering what would seem to be a series of debilitating setbacks. In January, the former head of Shabaab internal intelligence, who had earlier surrendered himself to Somali authorities, publicly denounced terrorism and urged his former colleagues to lay down their arms.

A September 2014 drone strike killed Ahmed Godane, Shabaab’s domineering leader and one of the most-wanted terrorists in Africa. Another drone strike on March 18 killed Adnan Garaar, the head of Shabaab’s external operations and the mastermind of the Westgate attack.

But Shabaab has forged a new model for how declining terrorist groups can remain dangerous, as analyst Clint Watts argued in a World Politics Review article published just before the Garissa massacre.

Shabaab has done nothing but splinter, vacate territory, and lose top leadership since ruling over most of Somalia and nearly all of its capital, Mogadishu, in 2010. Even so, Watts observes that “a sizeable military coalition is still fighting in the Horn of Africa more than four years after the group’s zenith,” a reference to an ongoing African Union military mission in Somalia in which Kenya is a longtime participant.

Shabaab has kept itself intact by retreating into the southern Somali wilderness and refocusing its efforts around large-scale attacks rather than holding or governing massive swaths of territory. Just a week before the Garissa attack, Shabaab killed over 20 people during a raid on a hotel in Mogadishu, including a Somali diplomat.

Even after years of decline, Shabaab has a remote safe haven that’s preserved its ability to pull off large-scale attacks in multiple countries in consecutive weeks.

More worrying is Shabaab’s deep network in neighboring Kenya, which is home to a sizable Somali minority as well as refugees from Somalia’s devastating famine, which had killed over a quarter-million people by 2013 and was greatly exacerbated by Shabaab’s refusal to allow aid groups into areas it controlled.

As Caroline Hellyer wrote for Al Jazeera two weeks before the Garissa attack, Shabaab’s relationship with a “hardline underground group” called al-Hijra gives it a ready-made network in Kenya and Tanzania, allowing it to recruit extremist elements well beyond Somalia.

One grim upshot of the Garissa attack is that it demonstrates Shabaab’s broad operational capabilities in Kenya, East Africa’s cultural, economic, and political leader and a US strategic ally. The region doesn’t have to deal with a Shabaab-ruled Somalia — but it may have swapped that problem for a Shabaab that has even greater ambitions to strike outside of its diminished Somali safe haven.

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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These kids volunteered to fight in the trenches in WWI

In this day and age, allowing a minor to enlist in the military and be sent off to war is practically impossible — especially with our modern tracking systems.


But at the start of the 20th century, an accurate method of recording individual troop movement hadn’t been invented; thousands of soldiers would eventually go missing through the course of the war, many of whom were actually children.

After WWI reared its ugly head, military recruiters were paid bonuses for every man they enlisted. Countless young men, many of them orphans or just seeking adventure, would simply lie about their ages to join up.

The recruiters saw dollars signs and looked past any age issues as they wrote the coercible young boy’s names down, signing them up on the spot. Many feared the thought of going off to war but thought they would look weak if they didn’t take part with their friends — the ultimate peer pressure.

Related: Here are the five finalists competing to design the World War I Memorial

Train hero Spencer Stone gets promoted — twice
These young boys swear in to join the fight. (Source: The Great War/ YouTube/ Screenshot)

The idea was extremely controversial at the time, but it didn’t stop the boys from volunteering as they showed up to the local recruiting offices in droves. It’s estimated that 250,000 boys under the age of 18 served in the British Army alone.

Once they signed up, they were sent through some basic infantry training then whisked off the front lines.

Train hero Spencer Stone gets promoted — twice
This young boy mans his post. (Source: The Great War /YouTube /Screenshot)

Most famously was John Condon, an Irishman who is believed to have been the youngest combatant killed; at the age of 14, he died during a mustard gas attack in Belgium while serving in the third battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment.

Also Read: Here’s proof that every group of military buddies mirrors the kids from the movie ‘The Sandlot’

Typically, when a soldier was “confirmed” killed in the war, his family would receive word by telegram of the passing — if the proper forms were filled out, which in too many cases they weren’t.

The military has improved in this aspect. Today, an officer and a chaplain would show up on the families’ doorstep to deliver the dreadful news.

Fun fact: The word infantry derives from Italian word “infanteria” which means “youth, foot soldier.” That is all.

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The Army bought this tiltrotor aircraft over 30 years before the Osprey flew

When the military adopted the V-22 tiltrotor aircraft in 2007, there were legions of naysayers who thought the military’s first tiltrotor was too unsafe and too expensive to be added to the fleet.


But while the V-22 did have a spotted history during development, it wasn’t the first military tiltrotor aircraft. A few such aircraft were in the early stages of development during World War II, and the U.S. Army bought a tiltrotor aircraft in 1956 — over 30 years before the first V-22 flew in 1989.

Video: YouTube/AIRBOYD

The Doak Model 16 was a vertical take-off and landing aircraft that used ducted tilt-rotors to generate forward thrust and — in the vertical flight mode — lift. Like the V-22, the Model 16 only rotated its rotors when transitioning between flight modes.

The Doak company spent years developing VTOL technologies before it sold a single Model 16 to the Army for further testing and development. For its part, the Army dubbed the Model 16 the VZ-4 and flew it for three years, evaluating its flight characteristics and the potential for full production and deployment.

Cobbled together with parts from other planes and using still experimental tiltrotor technologies, the VZ-4 had fairly impressive stats. It was capable of flying at 229 mph and had a 229-mile range.

Train hero Spencer Stone gets promoted — twice
The Doak VZ-4 hovers during flight testing. (Photo: U.S. Army)

But, the plane struggled with some “undesirable characteristics,” especially during the transitions between vertical and horizontal flight. The most problematic was a tendency for the nose of the aircraft to rise in relation to the tail during the switch between flight modes.

Ultimately, the Army passed on purchasing more of the planes and loaned its single Model 16 to NASA for continued tests. When NASA was finished with it, the aircraft was sent to the Army Transportation Museum at Fort Eustis, Virginia.

Nowadays, the performance of the CV-22 and MV-22 Osprey has left little doubt that there’s a place in the military inventory for tiltrotor aircraft. The Ospreys can fly from patches of dirt or relatively small ships at sea that traditional planes could never operate from. And they can fly for over 1,000 miles without refueling, over twice the range of the CH-47 Chinook helicopter.

These traits have earned the Ospreys spots in special operations units and Marine air-ground task forces around the world. And for the U.S. military, the road to tiltrotor aircraft all started with a single plane purchased in 1956.

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Get your tissues — The Rock just surprised a combat vet

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is a big supporter of the troops, and this isn’t the first time he’s surprised a vet, but his sincerity and flare always make for a heart-catching watch.


He partnered with Ford to unveil the 2018 Ford Mustang, and he decided to take it one step further by giving the car to combat Army veteran Marlene Rodriguez, who earned the Purple Heart for injuries received from an RPG while serving in Mosul.

Her reaction was stunned as she said, “I don’t deserve all this.” Johnson replied with, “You deserve more,” and we all lost our sh**.

His Instagram caption of the reveal was perfect (including the emojis–we’ve kept them intact for you):

This one felt good. Very good. ?? Our Ford partners asked me to unveil the never seen before, brand new 2018 FORD MUSTANG to the world. As their Ambassador, I’m happy to do.

With a twist.

Myself and Ford compiled a big list of US veterans and from that list, I chose Army combat vet Purple Heart recipient, Marlene Rodriguez to surprise and give it away to her.

It was such a cool moment that all of us in the room will never forget.

When Marlene, stopped and just looked at me and asked “Why?”, well that’s when I may or may not have gotten a lil’ emotional with my answer – in a bad ass manly way of course.

Why? Because of the boundless gratitude and respect I have for you, Marlene and all our men and women who’ve served our country. Just a small way of myself and the good people of FORD of saying THANK YOU.

A HUGE thank you to FORD, our SEVEN BUCKS PRODUCTIONS and everyone who was involved in making this awesome surprise come true.

Finally, thank you FORD for making the new 2018 Mustang straight ?, completely customizable for the world to enjoy. Thanks also for making sure I fit in it as well.

Marlene, fits better. ?. Enjoy your ride mama. Enjoy that Dodger game. You deserve it. 

It’s okay if you get a little misty-eyed over this one. We did.

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How to stay connected with your kids, from deployments to business trips

When kids are apart from a parent, it’s rough on everyone. For some families, it’s a week-long business trip to Minneapolis. Others it’s months on an oil rig. And for the more than 2 million families of the military and National Guard, it’s a year-long deployment overseas. That requires a unique level of parental fortitude, but there are things the moms and dads in the armed forces can teach any parent who needs to be away from the kids for a bit.


Also read: Watch Jimmy Fallon and The Rock beautifully reunite a military family

Bana Miller is the Communications Director of Blue Star Families, an organization that provides resources and info to military families. She’s also a mother of 3 and her husband has been on active duty for their entire 12-year marriage — so she’s basically a 5-star general of deployment coping management. Miller has a bunch of military-grade tips on how to stay connected to your kid and mitigate their anxiety when you can’t physically be there for them.

Prepare the family

Depending on how old your kid is, they might not really understand what’s going on. Help them prepare by spending quality time as a family. For military parents, this is usually block leave the week before deployment. For business parents, you can just block out the weekend before you take off and make sure there’s there’s one-on-one time together. It can be just hanging out and watching Paw Patrol, or doing some special activity that you both enjoy.

Train hero Spencer Stone gets promoted — twice
Flickr / IMCOM Korea

Miller also recommends reading books or watching shows that talk about leaving. Even Daniel Tiger knows “grown-ups come back.” “I have 3 kids under 4, and I’ve found reading stories helps them grasp the hard concepts,” she says. Just keep it kid-appropriate. Your 3-year-old isn’t ready for All Quiet On The Western Front.

Get everyone synchronized

Kids can’t grasp the concept of leaving the playground in 5 minutes, so telling them dad will be gone for a year is not something they can internalize. Long stint or short trips, Miller says setting up countdown rituals can help. Some ideas include adding to a candy jar every day (or, because kids like candy, subtracting). Or you can make a paper chain where they remove a link weekly for a long deployments, or daily to understand when you’re coming back from that conference in Miami. Also, you can help them understand time differences by setting up a command station with one clock for the household and one for the other parent’s time zone. Hey kids, it’s tomorrow in Guam!

Leave a little bit of yourself behind

You can’t be there to cuddle or give them a hug, but a plush version of you can. There’s a company called Daddy Dolls that takes photos of service members and makes them into a doll for their kid. “It’s kind of like Flat Stanley. That way the parent can still be in pictures and at milestone events,” Miller explains. “Anything physical or tactile that they can hold onto is great.” If you’re afraid your family is going to start using that doll like a voodoo pincushion, you can record their favorite bedtime stories. Or, if you kids would rather listen to Bryan Cranston read an audiobook, get one of Toymail’s Talkies to send your kid messages via stuffed animal.

Train hero Spencer Stone gets promoted — twice
Flickr / Hamster_Rave

We have the technology

It’s easy enough to use the Wi-Fi at your Holiday Inn Express to FaceTime the family for dinner, but for those locked into the schedule of active duty, it’s more difficult. Miller says everyone should be able to find a regular time each week to check in. “It’s such a great tool to feel like they’re part of the day-to-day routine of being home.”

One thing that your kids can learn from families with a parent on deployment, it’s that they learn to roll with things. She says if you can’t connect one evening, don’t make a big deal out of it. “If military families have one thing in common, it’s flexibility,” says Miller. “The parent at home can say, ‘OK, looks like the computer’s not working today, we’ll try again next time.’ And that’s where having those recorded story books or something a child can play on their own time is great.”

Train hero Spencer Stone gets promoted — twice

Care packages work both ways

“The care package has been around for as long as we’ve been deploying soldiers, and it’s great for the family and home to have that ritual of putting it together,” says Miller. Even if you’re not serving, but are just going to be gone for an extended period, make sure you have the hotel address. Remember, it doesn’t just have to be loaded up with treats (although nobody ever turned down a Rice Krispie Treat). The box gives kids the opportunity to share letters and pictures, and write back on the same note. Try taking turns writing pages in a shared journal. It will teach your kid what communication was like before emojis.

Train hero Spencer Stone gets promoted — twice
Flickr / DVIDS

Build your support team

Miller says service members rely on the community for support, and you should too. Let teachers, coaches, and any other important adult in your kid’s life know that they need to communicate with both parents. It’s 2016, so schools now use electronic mail; all it takes to keep you in the loop is a CC. “For the child too, knowing that while their parent may not be able to do in-person parent-teacher conferences there’s still communication, can be fantastic reassurance,” says Miller. Although contributing to the bake sale may be a bridge too far.

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Meet the World War I legend ‘Black Swallow of Death’

While Eddie Rickenbacker has a claim to fame as the top American ace of World War I, there were plenty of other Americans who fought valiantly with Allies from the air.


One of them, Eugene Bullard, has the distinction of being the first African-American military pilot.

According to Air and Space Power Journal, Bullard was born in Columbus, Georgia, on Oct 9, 1894. At 8 years old, he left Georgia after his father narrowly escaped a lynching, and made his way to Norfolk where he worked a series of odd jobs before he stowed away on a ship bound for Scotland.

He worked more odd jobs across Scotland and England, including as a longshoreman and on a fish wagon, until he discovered talents for boxing and performing. That talent eventually landed him in Paris just as World War I started.

Train hero Spencer Stone gets promoted — twice
Eugene Jacques Bullard. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Bullard spent two years with an infantry unit and was wounded during the Battle of Verdun. He then transferred to the French Flying Corps. During his time in the infantry, he was nicknamed “The Black Swallow of Death.” Bullard would score two kills in just over two months of combat flying. After the U.S. ignored his application to be a pilot for the American military despite his combat experience, he was transferred to non-combat duties by the French until his discharge in 1919.

Bullard would settle down in France, but come to his adopted country’s defense again in World War II, first serving as a spy, then seeing ground combat near Orleans. After he was wounded, he was medically evacuated, along with his daughters to the United States. He eventually went to work as an elevator operator in New York City.

Train hero Spencer Stone gets promoted — twice
Eugene Bullard. (DOD photo)

In 1954, France invited Bullard and two other men to re-light the Eternal Flame at the Arc de Triomphe. In 1959, he was named a Knight of the Legion of Honor, and was interviewed on the Today Show. The next year, Charles de Gaulle publicly declared Bullard a hero of France.

Bullard died on Oct. 12, 1961, after an illness caused by the wounds he had received. He was 67 years old. In 1994, 100 years after he was born, the U.S. Air Force granted him a commission as a Lieutenant.

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That time 120 Indian troops destroyed an entire Pakistani tank battalion

In 1971, Pakistan launched a preemptive air strike against 11 Indian airbases, touching off that year’s Indo-Pakistani War. The air attacks failed but dragged India into Bangladesh’s (then called East Pakistan) Independence War from Pakistan. The Indo-Pakistan War was one of the shortest wars in history, lasting less than two weeks.


The day after its surprise air attack, Pakistan moved 2,000 troops, a mobile infantry brigade, and 45 tanks to an Indian border post at Longewala. The post was manned by 120 Indian troops with an M-40 recoilless rifle – and access to strike aircraft.

Train hero Spencer Stone gets promoted — twice
(Indian Army photo)

The Indians were heavily outnumbered, outgunned, and surrounded. The Air Force couldn’t help until dawn because the pilots didn’t fly at night. The defenders were given the choice between abandoning the post or making a gutsy stand at their position. They decided to stay and fight. It was just after midnight, and dawn was at least six hours away.

It was going to be a long night.

Pakistan’s artillery opened up on the Indians immediately. As the enemy infantry approached the Longewala outpost, the defenders held their fire until the tanks were 40-100 feet away.

Train hero Spencer Stone gets promoted — twice
(Indian Army photo)

They fired on the thinly-armored tanks with the 106mm recoilless rifle, which turned out to be a devastating weapon. Advancing infantry ran into the Indian’s barbed wire and — believing they had walked into a minefield — freaked out.

The burning and exploding tanks lit the battlefield for the defenders while the smoke added to the Pakistani’s confusion on the ground. They wasted two hours waiting for sappers to clear mines that didn’t exist.

Train hero Spencer Stone gets promoted — twice
A Pakistani T-59 tank, destroyed at Longewala (Indian Army photo)

With the field lit up and a full moon overhead, the tanks attempted to encircle the defenders but found themselves stuck in the soft sand — east targets for the Indian M40.

Train hero Spencer Stone gets promoted — twice
One of the three HAL Marut used by the IAF against Pakistani armor at Longewala (used by permission)

The attackers were routed and their armored column became a turkey shoot for Indian pilots. They lost 500 vehicles, 34 of those were tanks. The infantry lost 200 troops. Indian armor soon launched their counteroffensive to relieve Longewala. The defenders lost only two men.

After two weeks, Pakistan was forced to surrender to India, which led to the formation of an independent Bangladesh. Major Kuldip Singh Chandpuri was awarded India’s second highest medal for gallantry for directing the defense of Longewala. The actions of the men in at Longewala were portrayed  in the (slightly stylized) Bollywood film, “Border.”

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This C-130 landing on an aircraft carrier will make you rethink physics

An F/A-18 Hornet next to a C-130 Hercules is like comparing a Ferrari to a big yellow school bus — there’s a huge difference.


Train hero Spencer Stone gets promoted — twice

With that in mind, a big yellow school bus has no business in a compact parking space, but that’s precisely what Lt. James H. Flatley III did when he landed the 85,000-pound behemoth on the USS Forrestal (CVA-59). He parked a bus in a compact space. And he made it look easy.

At first, he thought the assignment was a joke. “Operate a C-130 off an aircraft carrier? Somebody’s got to be kidding,” he said, according to Joseph Earl Dabney in his book “Hero of the Skies.”

But no, in fact, the orders came from the top. The Chief of Naval Operations — the most senior naval officer in the Department of the Navy — himself ordered a feasibility study to find out whether they could employ the Hercules as a “Super COD” — or Carrier Onboard Delivery — aircraft. At the time, the task belonged to the Grumman C-1 Trader, which, in the spirit of continuing the car analogy, was like driving your mom’s minivan.

The small twin-engine aircraft had a 300-mile range, which was a problem for delivering emergency items to a carrier operating in the middle of the ocean. On the other hand, the Hercules was stable, reliable, and capable of delivering large payloads over a much longer distance.

On October 8, 1963, the Navy received a KC-130F refueler on loan from the Marine Corps. Lockheed’s only modifications included the plane’s nose landing gear, anti-skid braking system, and the removal of the underwing refueling pods.

By October 30, 1963, Flatley and crew successfully proceeded to perform 29 touch-and-go landings, 21 unarrested full-stop landings, and 21 unassisted takeoffs at 85,000 pounds up to 121,000 pounds.

The result went beyond anyone’s expectations.

The test revealed that the C-130 could lift 25,000 pounds (12.5 tons) of cargo and transport it 2,500 miles and land safely on the carrier, according to the video below. Still, the Navy considered it too risky and defaulted to the smaller COD. Flatley received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his effort.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uM5AI3YSV3M

1720cox, YouTube

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