One of the best performances to emerge from the run of military unit music videos a few years back was this one by the ‘Sun Kings’ of VAW-116. Who says that fighter guys have all the fun?
In a moved that shook the federal workforce, President Trump ordered a freeze in the hiring process of all executive branch departments, effective at noon on January 22, 2017.
A report from the Office of Personnel Management estimates that veterans made up about 44 percent of new hires in the executive branch during fiscal year 2015. The total number of veterans employed was 623,755, or roughly 31 percent of the entire executive branch.
So what does this mean for veterans now in the process of seeking employment with the government? Unfortunately, even federal employees currently working in the executive branch aren’t sure.
We Are the Mighty consulted with a Division Director at one of the federal departments, who asked to remain anonymous due to the department being ordered to cease all public communications.
“We just don’t have many answers,” the source told WATM. “This is a very different political environment and we don’t know what to expect.”
We Are the Mighty obtained the “Memorandum for Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies,” signed by acting director of Office of Management and Budget Mark Sandy.
Sent to the heads of the departments, the memorandum read, in part, “An individual who has received a job offer/appointment prior to January 22, 2017, and who has received documentation from the agency that specifies a confirmed start date on or before February 22, 2017, should report to work on that start date.”
Individuals who were offered a position before Jan. 22 but do not have a start date (or a date after February 22) may find that employment offer rescinded. According to the Memorandum for Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies, those positions offered will be under review.
Agencies will be tasked with considering “merit system principles, essential mission priorities, and current agency resources and funding levels” when it comes to determining whether job offers should be rescinded.
At this time, the hiring freeze applies to every executive department except for the Department of Defense, and even then, it only allows for recruiting into active duty.
The leadership in any given executive department may grant an exemption to the freeze if he or she believes it to be in the best interest of national security or public safety, according to the press release from the White House.
This public safety exemption rule could be what helps the Department of Veterans Affairs continue to attempt to fill what it might deem necessary positions among the 3,473 jobs listed on its website — though it is unclear exactly how many of those positions could be considered in the interest of national security or public safety.
That same argument can be made for a large number of positions available at the Department of Defense. As DoD employees are directly related to national security, the department seems to have wide latitude over how it will respond to the hiring freeze.
The President has given the Office of Management and Budget 90 days to present a “long-term plan to reduce the size of the Federal Government’s workforce through attrition.” Upon implementation of that plan, the executive order will expire.
This hiring freeze is part of one of the many campaign promises President Trump made last year to drastically shrink the federal government.
In May 2004, about 20 British troops were on the move 15 miles south of al-Amara, near the major city of Basra in Iraq. They were on the way to assist another unit that was under fire when their convoy was hit by a surprise of its own.
Shia militias averaged five attacks per day in Basra when the U.K. troops arrived. British soldiers tried to arrest Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr for supporting the violence and the locals were not happy about it. An unpredictable level of violence broke out. British troops were frequently under assault – an estimated 300 ambushes within three months.
“We were constantly under attack,” Sgt. Brian Wood told the BBC. “If mortars weren’t coming into our base, then we were dragged out into the city to help other units under fire.”
Wood and other troops from the 1st Battallion of the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment were on their way to aid Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders who were attacked by 100 militiamen from al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army when their vehicle struck an IED. The surprise attack actually hit two vehicles carrying 20 troops on a highway south of Amarah. Mortars, rockets, and machine guns peppered the unarmored vehicles.
Rather than drive through the ambush, the vehicles took so much punishment they had to stop on the road. The troops inside dismounted, established a perimeter, and had to call in some help of their own. Ammunition soon ran low.
The decision was made: the British troops fixed bayonets.
They ran across 600 feet of open ground toward the entrenched enemy. Once on top of the Mahdi fighters, the British bayoneted 20 of the militia. Fierce hand-to-hand combat followed for five hours. The Queen’s men suffered only three injuries.
“We were pumped up on adrenaline — proper angry,” Pvt. Anthony Rushforth told The Sun, a London-based newspaper. “It’s only afterwards you think, ‘Jesus, I actually did that.’ ”
What started as a surprise attack on a British convoy ended with 28 dead militiamen and three wounded U.K. troops.
Jihadi propaganda at the time told young fighters that Western armies would run from ambushes and never engage in close combat. They were wrong. Irregular, unexpected combat tactics overwhelmed a numerically superior enemy who had the advantage in surprise and firepower.
The year was 1968 when Mike Vining was a senior in high school. According to his answers on his TogetherWeServed Page, Vining heard about the Tet Offensive and wanted to join the military with the expressed purpose of going to Vietnam.
His service afforded him the opportunity to do two things he likes to do, “work with explosives and climb mountains.” He probably never dreamed he would become Sgt. Maj. Mike Vining: the epitome of the modern American soldier…
1. He’s also the internet’s most casually badass meme.
Maybe it’s the kind eyes. Or the nice smile. Maybe it’s his age the large glasses of a bygone era that make him a grandpa-like figure. But the rank on his sleeve, fruit salad on his chest, the EOD and CIB pinned on his jacket, and Army Special Operations Command shoulder patch give all that away.
There’s much more to the story, and now we all know it.
2. He wasn’t just Delta, he was a founding member.
Then-Sgt. 1st Class Mike Vining joined the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment (Delta) at Fort Bragg in 1978. His first commander was Col. Charlie Beckwith, who started putting together Delta Force the previous year.
According to Vining, an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Specialist who was looking for something “more challenging,” he joined because Delta was looking for people with an EOD background. He spent almost 21 years in Special Forces.
3. His military résumé reads like a history book.
He spent two years in Vietnam as an EOD specialist with the 99th Ordnance Detachment, much of that time spent in combat.
Vining was also in Operation Eagle Claw, the failed attempt to rescue hostages held in Iran. He was aboard EC-130E Bladder Bird #4 when one of the RH-53D helicopters crashed into it.
He was also in the invasion of Grenada, Operation Desert Storm, and Operation Uphold/Restore Democracy in Haiti.
4. It took 15 years to earn his Combat Infantryman Badge.
Though Vining saw plenty of combat in Cambodia and Vietnam, as an EOD Specialist, he wasn’t eligible for a CIB. Delta never got a chance to engage the Iranians at Desert One. So, despite Delta Force’s rigorous training and autonomy, his first combat action came in 1983 during the Richmond Hill Prison assault during Urgent Fury’s invasion of Grenada.
5. He became infantry twenty years into his service.
“In 1988, I transferred from EOD to Infantry. I figured I stood a better chance making Sergeant Major in Infantry, which worked out for me.”
6. His most significant action came just two years into his career.
His tour in Vietnam with the 99th Ordnance Detachment was one of the stand out moments of his time in the Army.
“[It] was the destruction of a cache found in Cambodia called ‘Rock Island East.’ The cache yielded 327 tons of ammunition and supplies, including 932 individual weapons, 85 crew-served weapons, 7,079,694 small arms and machine gun rounds. The cache contained 999 rounds of 85mm artillery shells which are used for the D-44 howitzer as well as the T-34 tank. I was part of a seven-man EOD team that destroyed the cache on 16 May 1970.”
7. Vining is still active in the veteran community.
Now fully retired, he travels with his wife much of the time. He writes about military and naval history, polar expeditions, and mountaineering postal history. He and his wife have a very active outdoor life of hiking, backpacking, rock and mountain climbing, biking, and skiing.
He is also a life member of the VFW, and a member of the National EOD Association and Vietnam EOD Veterans Chapter. He is also the historian for the National Army EOD Memorial at Eglin Air Force Base.
8. He would do it all over again. And recommends you do, too.
Vining calls his experience “rewarding” and recommends the military as a career to those who recently joined the Army.
“Military service has given me the opportunity to do all the things I like to do: Work with explosives and climb mountains. I have gotten a chance to work with some of the finest people in the military.”
Mike Vining’s awards and decorations are too numerous to list here. Check them out and read about his experiences in his own words on his public TogetherWeServed profile.
US airmen tasked with jobs like surveillance and cyber operations have a growing role on the battlefield, even though they are often physically distant from it.
To ensure that kind of work is recognized, the Air Force has introduced new hardware for its service men and women.
“As the impact of remote operations on combat continues to increase, the necessity of ensuring those actions are distinctly recognized grows,” Defense Department officials said in a memo published on January 7, 2016.
Now the Air Force has released criteria for new devices that signify different roles in military awards: “V” for valor, “C” for combat, and “R” for remote.
The “R” device “was established to distinguish that an award was earned for direct hands-on employment of a weapon system that had a direct and immediate impact on a combat or military operation,” the Air Force said in a release.
The US Air Force’s ‘V,’ ‘C,’ and ‘R’ devices. Photo courtesy of USAF.
This refers to work done anywhere, as long as it doesn’t expose the service member to personal danger or put them at significant risk of personal danger. The new device would recognize the actions of drone pilots, cyber operators, and other airmen carrying out combat operations far from the battlefield.
“These members create direct combat effects that lead to strategic outcomes and deliver lethal force, while physically located outside the combat area,” said Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel, and services.
The “V” device denotes “unambiguous and distinctive recognition of distinguished acts of combat heroism,” while the “C” device was created to award airmen and women who perform “meritoriously under the most difficult combat conditions.”
While the devices were unveiled this week, they can be rewarded retroactively to January 2016, when the defense secretary established them.
The US military’s increasingly reliance on drones has created more demand for drone operators.
Drone operators remotely fly an MQ-1 Predator aircraft, October 22, 2013. Photo courtesy of USAF.
The service, which is straining under a personnel shortage, has introduced a new tiered bonus system to retain personnel, and drone pilots were among those in highest demand.
They, along with fighter pilots, are slated to get the highest maximum bonus of $35,000 a year.
Despite their distance from the battlefield, drone pilots’ duties in US campaigns throughout the Middle East and elsewhere has put them under some of the same strain faced by personnel who are forward deployed.
A 2013 study by researchers with the Defense Department found that drone pilots faced mental-health issues like depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress at the same rate as those who flew manned aircraft over places like Iraq and Afghanistan.
It may come as a surprise, but until President Obama signed the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in November, military working dogs who were retired while overseas were sometimes left in the country in which they were deployed, separated from their handlers instead of returning back to the U.S. Sometimes the dogs would be left on the base until they were adopted locally.
Some handlers were able to return with their dogs, but the handler would have to pay for it out-of-pocket. If the handler couldn’t afford it, that was tough luck. The 2016 NDAA how the armed forces retires its working dogs. Those dogs will now be guaranteed a ride home thanks to a bipartisan amendment, which also allows their handlers to adopt them after their service ends.
The American Humane Association lobbied for the amendment for a year. Before the bill passed through Congress and was signed by the President, theAssociation spent thousands of dollars to repatriate retired dogs and reunite them with their handlers. They handled 21 cases in 2015 alone.
Staff Sgt. Philip Mendoza pets his military working dog, Rico, wearing “doggles,” during air assault training aboard a helicopter at Joint Base Balad, Iraq. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Elizabeth Rissmiller)
The Humane Association estimates there are upwards of 2,500 dogs at work with the U.S. military overseas. They believe the bond between a dog and its handler is a mutually beneficial relationship.
“It’s not just those 2,500 precious canines it’s also their handlers at the other end of the leash,” Dr. Robin Ganzert, CEO of the American Humane Association told the Washington Free Beacon. “When they come back suffering from those invisible wounds of war, we’re hoping that their four legged battle buddy will help them heal from PTS. We know it works. We’ve seen it work.”
The Humane Association’s next push is for ongoing veterinary care for returning canine veterans.
“We also did a call to action to the private sector and said, okay guys, time to step up and provide for veterinary care,” Ganzert said. “We achieved free specialty veterinary care but I’m still calling for free primary care. These handlers that are former-military, a lot of them, to have a battle buddy in their home is a grand expense.”
The United States will send two strategic B-1 bombers to the Korean peninsula to take part in joint drills with the South Korean air force, a Defense Ministry spokesperson in Seoul confirmed to EFE on June 20th.
The B-1s will carry out the drills with two F-15K fighters from the Korean Air force, according to the spokesperson, who explained that these maneuvers are scheduled regularly.
The deployment of the bombers from the US Andersen air base on Guam island comes after the death of US student Otto Warmbier, who had been detained by North Korea last year and repatriated last week in a comatose state.
He fell into the coma shortly after his last public appearance during his March 2016 trial in Pyongyang, according to his family, who reported his death in his native Ohio on June 19th.
The North Korean regime maintains that Warmbier suffered an outbreak of botulism for which he was given a sleeping pill and did not wake up again.
The last time the US sent B-1 bombers to the Korean peninsula was on May 29, just hours after the Pyongyang regime test-fired a ballistic missile.
Observers say North Korea uses American citizens arrested there to try and exert pressure for concessions from the United States.
The Kim Jong-un regime is currently holding three other American citizens, two of whom were detained in April and May.
The Air Force is surging forward with a massive, fleet-wide modernization overhaul of the battle-tested, Vietnam-era B-52 bomber, an iconic airborne workhorse for the U.S. military dating back to the 1960s.
Engineers are now equipping all 76 of the Air Force B-52s with digital data-links, moving-map displays, next-generation avionics, new radios and an ability to both carry more weapons internally and integrate new, high-tech weapons as they emerge, service officials said.
The technical structure and durability of the B-52 airframes in the Air Force fleet are described as extremely robust and able to keep flying well into the 2040s and beyond – so the service is taking steps to ensure the platform stays viable by receiving the most current and effective avionics, weapons and technologies, Eric Single, Chief of the Global Strike Division, Acquisition, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
The B-52 has a massive, 185-foot wingspan, a weight of about 185,000 pounds and an ability to reach high sub-sonic speeds and altitudes of 50,000 feet, Air Force officials said.
“Their structure, service life and air frames are good until around 2040. They are built very strong structurally. This is not a structural modification, but upgrades to the capabilities and the avionics,” Single explained. “You are taking this old structurally sound airframe and putting modern avionics, modern communications technology and modern weaponry into it.”
Known for massive bombing missions during the Vietnam War, the 159-foot long B-52s have in recent years been operating over Iraq and Afghanistan.
The B-52 also served in Operation Desert Storm, Air Force statements said. “B-52s struck wide-area troop concentrations, fixed installations and bunkers, and decimated the morale of Iraq’s Republican Guard,” an Air Force statement said.
In 2001, the B-52 provided close-air support to forces in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, service officials said. The B-52 also played a role in Operation Iraqi Freedom. On March 21, 2003, B-52Hs launched approximately 100 CALCMs (Conventional Air Launched Cruise Missiles) during a night mission.
Given the B-52s historic role in precision-bombing and close air support, next-generation avionics and technologies are expected to greatly increase potential missions for the platform in coming years, service officials said.
Communications, Avionics Upgrades
Two distinct, yet interwoven B-52 modernization efforts will increase the electronics, communications technology, computing and avionics available in the cockpit while simultaneously configuring the aircraft with the ability to carry up to eight of the newest “J-Series” precision-guided weapons internally – in addition to carrying six weapons on each wing, Single said.
Eight B-52s have already received a communications (coms systems) upgrade called Combat Network Communication Technology, or CONECT – a radio, electronics and data-link upgrade which, among other things, allows aircraft crews to transfer mission and targeting data directly to aircraft systems while in flight (machine to machine), Single explained.
“It installs a digital architecture in the airplane,” Single explained. “Instead of using data that was captured during the mission planning phase prior to your take off 15 to 20 hours ago – you are getting near real-time intelligence updates in flight.”
Single described it key attribute in terms of “machine-to-machine” data-transfer technology which allows for more efficient, seamless and rapid communication of combat-relevant information.
Using what’s called an ARC 210 Warrior software-programmable voice and data radio, pilots can now send and receive targeting data, mapping information or intelligence with ground stations, command centers and other aircraft.
“The crew gets the ability to communicate digitally outside the airplane which enables you to import not just voice but data for mission changes, threat notifications, targeting….all those different types of things you would need to get,” Single said.
An ability to receive real-time targeting updates is of great relevance to the B-52s close-air-support mission because fluid, fast-moving or dynamic combat situations often mean ground targets appear, change or disappear quickly.
Alongside moving much of the avionics from analogue to digital technology, CONECT also integrates new servers, modems, colored display screens in place of old green monochrome and provides pilots with digital moving-map displays which can be populated with real-time threat and mission data, Single said.
The new digital screens also show colored graphics highlighting the aircraft’s flight path, he added.
Single explained that being able to update key combat-relevant information while in transit will substantially help the aircraft more effectively travel longer distances for missions, as needed.
“The key to this is that this is part of the long-range strike family of systems — so if you take off out of Barksdale Air Force Base and you go to your target area, it could take 15 or 16 hours to get there. By the time you get there, all the threat information has changed,” said Single. “Things move, pop up or go away and the targeting data may be different.”
The upgrades will also improve the ability of the airplane to receive key intelligence information through a data link called the Intelligence Broadcast Receiver. In addition, the B-52s will be able to receive information through a LINK-16-like high-speed digital data link able to transmit targeting and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, or ISR information.
The CONECT effort, slated to cost $1.1 billion overall, will continue to unfold over the next several years, Single explained.
Twelve B-52 will be operational with CONECT by the end of this year and the entire fleet will be ready by 2021, Single said.
The Air Force is also making progress with a technology-inspired effort to increase the weapons payload for the workhorse bomber, Single added.
The 1760 Internal Weapons Bay Upgrade, or IWBU, will allow the B-52 to internally carry up to eight of the newest “J-Series” bombs in addition to carrying six on pylons under each wing, he explained.
The B-52 have previously been able to carry JDAM weapons externally, but with the IWBU the aircraft will be able to internally house some of the most cutting edge precision-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions and Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles, among others.
“It is about a 66 percent increase in carriage capability for the B-52, which is huge. You can imagine the increased number of targets you can reach, and you can strike the same number of targets with significantly less sorties,” said Single.
Single also added that having an increased internal weapons bay capability affords an opportunity to increase fuel-efficiency by removing bombs from beneath the wings and reducing drag.
The first increment of IWBU, slated to be finished by 2017, will integrate an internal weapons bay ability to fire a laser-guided JDAM. A second increment, to finish by 2022, will integrate more modern or cutting-edge weapons such as the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, or JASSM, JASSM Extended Range (ER) and a technology called Miniature Air Launched Decoy, or MALD. A MALD-J “jammer” variant, which will also be integrated into the B-52, can be used to jam enemy radar technologies as well, Single said.
IWBU, which uses a digital interface and a rotary launcher to increase the weapons payload, is expected to cost roughly $313 million, service officials said.
Army Cpl. Tibor Rubin was not the average soldier in the Korean War.
The Hungarian Jew was a survivor of the Third Reich’s concentration camps who pledged to join the Army if he ever made it to America.
He made it to the U.S., joined the infantry, fought to his last round against a massive Chinese attack, and then refused an early release from a Chinese prisoner of war camp so that he could use his lessons from the concentration camps to save his peers.
Rubin began trying to join the U.S. Army in 1948, but he had to study English for two years before he could speak it well enough to enlist. That allowed him to enter the service in 1950, just in time for the Korean War.
Unfortunately, Rubin’s first sergeant in Korea was extremely anti-semitic. Multiple sworn statements from members of Rubin’s unit say that the first sergeant would make remarks about Rubin’s religion and then assign him to the most dangerous missions.
In 1950, Rubin was assigned to hold a hill near Pusan as the rest of the unit fell back to a more defendable position. Rubin filled the foxholes near his position with grenades, rifles, and carbines.
When the North Koreans attacked, Rubin fought viciously for 24 hours, throwing grenades, firing weapons, and single-handedly stopping the attack. Rubin was nominated for the Medal of Honor, but the first sergeant trashed the orders.
Instead of receiving a Medal of Honor, Rubin was sent on more and more dangerous missions. In one, an American position was slowly whittled down by incoming fire until only one machine gun remained.
After three other soldiers were killed while manning the gun, Rubin stepped forward and began firing until his last round was expended. That was when he was severely wounded and captured by Chinese forces.
In the prisoner of war camp, the Chinese offered Rubin a deal. If he was willing to leave Korea, he could return to his home country of Hungary and sit out the rest of the war.
Rubin declined, opting instead to stay with his brothers and help them survive the prisons. In the camps, he ran a makeshift medical clinic, scavenged for food, and even broke out of the camp to steal supplies and broke back in to deliver them to other soldiers in need.
A grief-stricken American infantryman whose buddy has been killed in action is comforted by another soldier in the Haktong-ni area, Korea, on August 28, 1950. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Al Chang) (Cutline: National Archives and Records Administration)
For decades after he returned to the U.S., Rubin lived in relative obscurity. It wasn’t until President George W. Bush ordered a review of the denied recommendations for high valor awards that Rubin’s story came back to light.
In 2005, Bush placed the Medal of Honor around the old soldier’s neck during a White House ceremony.
The citation for the medal includes his solo defense of the hill near Pusan, his manning of the machine gun, his role in helping to capture hundreds of enemy soldiers, and his actions in the prisoner of war camp.
To hear Cpl. Tibor Rubin tell his story in his own words, watch the video from Medal of Honor: Oral Histories below:
As French citizens deal with the emotions that surround the Paris attacks that killed 129 people and left many more wounded, the French military has come out swinging against ISIS. Land-based aircraft already deployed on anti-ISIS missions struck targets Sunday night across Raqqa, ISIS’s de facto capital. Ten jets dropped 20 bombs, striking a command center, a recruitment center, a munitions depot, and a training camp, according to the BBC.
But France’s 10 planes in the region can only do so much. Resultantly, France was already sending an aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, to the region. It can host 40 aircraft and is expected to have 20 strike aircraft onboard when it arrives in the Gulf.
During a Feb. to Apr. 2015 deployment against ISIS in Iraq, the de Gaulle launched 10-15 combat sorties per day for months.
The carrier’s most advanced aircraft are its Dassault Rafales, multirole fighter aircraft that can fire a variety of precision bombs and rocket-boosted munitions at targets. They also carry 30mm cannons with 2,500 rounds for gun runs against enemy personnel and light vehicles.
In addition to its Rafales, the de Gaulle is bringing Super Etendard strike fighters. The Super Etendard brings two 30mm cannons, more GPS guided bombs, and laser-guided missiles to the fight.
Charles de Gaulle also carries a number of support planes to enable the strike aircraft.
The carrier is capable of launching a plane every thirty seconds. Since the carrier has strong catapults to assist the launch, the planes can take off with full fuel and weapons loads so they can strike plenty of targets.
U.S. and French intelligence sharing and military cooperation will be important as France steps up its campaign in Syria. The U.S. provided some of the intelligence that enabled Sunday’s strikes in Raqqa, and that partnership will surely lead to more French strike missions in the coming months. Luckily, the Charles de Gaulle already knows how to work with the U.S.
The French Navy in general and the Charles de Gaulle in particular have experience working with the U.S. The Charles de Gaulle supported America’s invasion of Afghanistan, was a hub for the strikes in Libya that ousted Muammer Qaddafi, and previously struck ISIS targets in Iraq.
Vive la France, et salute!
Marine veteran Robert Kugler traveled with his dog, Bella, across the country and throughout the East Coast after doctors told him that Bella’s bone cancer would kill her within a year.
Now, 16 months after that notice, Kugler and Bella have proved the doctors wrong and are still moving together and making the most of what time she has left.
Kugler was getting ready to graduate college on the GI Bill in 2015 when he heard the news that Bella had bone cancer. A May 2015 amputation of Bella’s front left leg bought her some time, but veterinarians were still pessimistic about her chances. That’s when Kugler decided that he wanted to give her a proper send-off.
“I just was kind of looking at her, and just imagining her being gone when I came home from work,” he told WATM. “I just said, ‘You know what? Let’s take off for a little while.'”
Since that decision, Bella and Kugler have been traveling together around the country. Like Kugler, Bella loves being in nature.
“We were in the Adirondacks, in upstate New York,” Kugler said. “That has been some of our best nature time together during this period. … Our hikes in the Adirondacks are probably some of my favorite times that we’ve had together, like near Lake Placid.”
Bella, who Kugler adopted in 2007 with his then-wife, is great with people and is known for enthusiastically greeting almost anyone she meets.
“Bella’s still very independent,” Kugler said. “She wants to meet new people, but she’s also just very curious about how they smell, if they have food for her. ‘You got food? Who’s got food? Do you have food for me?’ She gets a little spoiled.”
This has allowed Kugler to meet and help encourage people he wouldn’t have connected with otherwise.
“We meet a little girl in a wheelchair that just falls in love with Bella before she even realizes that she has three legs. Bella stands up, and the girl is like, ‘Oh my gosh, she’s like me,’ ” Kugler said.
As Kugler describes it, he and Bella are just, “Out exploring the world with my dog, and encouraging people to get outside and drop their social barriers and their boundaries, to just live on this tiny blue speck together as one.”
While Bella has done brilliantly on their trip, staying active and outgoing despite her cancer, Kugler says that traveling with Bella has helped him nearly as much as it has helped her.
“When I’m with her, and I’m paying attention to her, I’m outside myself, and I’m focusing on giving her the best life, I feel at that point in time that I am the best version of myself,” he said. “That is one of the reasons I like really spending time with her and doing our thing.”
Kugler is overjoyed that Bella has been able to fight for so long and has helped so many people, but he keeps people updated on her progress in his Instagram feed where he acknowledges that Bella is still facing death.
Our adventures in the western slopes were a great refresher of what we love to do and see. Get out into the wild, be a little wild, and meet a few more wildlings along the way. Now, today’s adventure begins. We’re on our way back to Ft. Collins to visit with Vets at CSU Animal Cancer Center for a consult for the CT scan. The plan is to actually get 2. One, focused on her mouth to see exactly where the cancer is and how far it’s spread. The second, a full body scan to see if she’s healthy enough for treatment. Though I’m not abandoning hope, I am prepared to hear the words “there’s nothing we can really do.” See, Bella started coughing recently. It’s a cough that starts from the chest and ends with a hack. Usually it doesn’t produce anything. This morning, and one other time last week, she actually hacked up some bloody phlegm. Again, my first and utmost priority is her quality of life, her comfort, and her happiness. We will be okay, as we have each other. Obviously I won’t have her in the flesh form forever, but she’ll have me by her side until the moment she closes her eyes for the last time. Again, I’m not abandoning hope, rather preparing for reality. I’d like to share a perspective that helps me with the grief associated with death. What can keep my spirits up and prevent me from being a blubbering indecisive mess. See…impending death isn’t the “worst news.” Bella has lived an incredibly adventurous and joyous life that should be celebrated. The end shall not define her legacy. Death is a chapter in all of our books, but definitely not the last. It is this perspective, that allows me to appreciate every day with her and to walk into CSU today without the fear of losing her, because I never will. She is mine, and I am hers, forever.
Hopefully, Rob and Bella have a lot of great adventures left together. But Bella has made a lasting impact on plenty of people either way.
A key district in Afghanistan’s Helmand province that was taken by insurgents last year is now back under Afghan army control, US Marines deployed to Helmand announced July 17.
Nawa district, just west of Helmand’s capital city and regional police headquarters, Lashkar Gah, was overrun by the Taliban in August 2016, according to multiple media reports. The loss dealt a blow to hard-pressed Afghan National Army forces and raised questions about whether they would be able to maintain control of any part of Helmand.
With Nawa in enemy hands, civilian aircraft were unable to land at Bost, the airfield outside of Lashkar Gah, and the security of the city, a civilian population center, was in greater jeopardy.
But during a two-day operation that included airstrikes from US F-16 Fighting Falcons and AH-64 Apache helicopters, Afghan troops successfully wrested control of the district from the occupiers, reclaiming the district center earlier July 17, according to the release.
“The goal of this operation was to clear the Nawa district from the enemies, from the Taliban,” Col. Zahirgul Moqbal, commanding officer of the Afghan Border Police, said in a statement. “[Overall, our goal was] to retake the district from the Taliban.”
The Afghan army’s assault on Nawa, called Operation Maiwand Four, also involved surveillance from ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicles owned by the ANA and other coalition unmanned systems, according to the release.
The F-16s and Apaches “set conditions, conducted air strikes, and covered the flanks of the maneuver elements to decrease the amount of friction felt by the ground forces and allowed freedom of maneuver,” the release stated.
The offensive involved multiple air strikes and bravery from the troops on the ground, who disabled more than 100 improvised explosive devices and maneuvered under fire to retake the Nawa district center, officials said.
In April, about 300 Marines from 2nd Marine Division out of Camp Lejeune in North Carolina deployed to Helmand province as an advisory element known as Task Force Southwest to assist local Afghan National Army units in their fight to hold the region.
Col. Matthew Reid, deputy commander of the task force, said in a statement that Operation Maiwand Four highlighted leadership and determination from Afghan troops.
“So far during this operation we have seen some significant gains in leadership and maneuver from the Ministry of Interior forces, particularly the Afghan Border and National Police,” Reid said. “The vast majority of the ABP officers are from Helmand, many from Nawa, and they are aggressively fighting to clear insurgents from Nawa district.”
But the greatest difficulties may still be ahead for the Afghan forces.
In a New York Times report published July 14, Afghan Army Corps Operations Chief Lt. Col. Abdul Latif raised concerns about whether Afghan National Security Forces would be able to keep control of Nawa if they retook it.
“It is easy for us to take Nawa, but difficult to hold,” Latif said in the story.
The biggest challenge, he noted, was the scarcity of manpower. He estimated district security would require 300 police, but said that kind of manpower was not available. The report also noted that most forces in Helmand are not local to the area, but come in from the north and east.
According to the news release, Afghan National Security Forces plan to maintain control by setting up security checkpoints throughout Nawa’s district center and on the road to Lashkar Gah.
“It was a very successful operation in Helmand,” Moqbal said of Maiwand Four in a statement. “Defeating the enemy in Nawa means defeating the enemy in Helmand.”
If fighting the well-defended Viet Cong on their home turf wasn’t dangerous enough, imagine having to crawl your way through a series of extremely tight and narrow underground tunnels to capture or kill them.
Armed with only a flashlight, a single pistol, or maybe just a knife, a “Tunnel Rat” didn’t have much in the way of defense.
“The most dangerous part would be psyching up to get into the tunnel,” Carl Cory says, a former 25th Infantry Div Tunnel Rat. “That was the part that was most frightening because you didn’t what you were getting into.”
In 1946, the Viet Minh were the Viet Cong resistance fighters who began digging the tunnels and bunkers to combat the French, whom they would eventually defeat.
By the time the Vietnam War broke out, the Viet Cong had over 100-miles of tunnels with which to spring deadly ambushes on American and South Vietnamese forces before vanishing.
The numerous spider holes (as the tunnel entrances were sometimes called) were conveniently located and well camouflaged — nearly impossible to detect.
It was the duty of the brave Tunnel Rat to slide alone into the tunnel’s entrance then search for the enemy and other valuable intelligence. Due to the intense and dangerous nature of the job, many Tunnel Rats became so emotionally desensitized that entering a spider hole was just another day at the office — no big deal.
With danger lurking around every corner, the Tunnel Rat not only had to dodge the various savage booby traps set by the Viet Cong, but typically only carried 6-7 rounds of ammunition with him even though the tunnels were commonly used to house up to a few dozen enemy combatants.
With all those physical dangers to consider, the courageous troop still needed to maintain a clear and precise mental state of mind and not let the fear get the best of him.
After completing a search, many American and South Vietnamese units would rig the tunnels with C-4 explosives or bring in the always productive flamethrowers to flush out or kill any remaining hostiles.