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That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands

In 1968, then-Maj. Colin Powell was a Ranger assigned to the Army’s 23rd Infantry Division. It was his second tour in Vietnam.


Just five years earlier, he was one of the American advisors to South Vietnam’s fledgling army. While on a foot patrol in Viet Cong-held areas in 1963, the 25-year-old Powell was wounded by a VC booby trap.

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands
Powell in Vietnam (photo via Academy of Achievement)

He stepped on a punji stick, which the VC laced with buffalo dung. The excrement created an infection that made it difficult for him to walk.

“The Special Forces medics cut my boot off, and they could see my foot was purple by then,” Powell said in an interview with the Academy of Achievement. “The spike had gone all the way through, from the bottom to the top, and then come right back out, totally infecting the wound as it made the wound.”

That ended his time in combat. Powell was reassigned to the 1st Army of the Republic of Vietnam division headquarters for the rest of that tour.

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands
(Academy of Achievement photo)

On his second tour in Vietnam, he was again behind a desk as the assistant Chief of Staff for the Americal Division (as the 23rd was known). Though a staff officer, when you’re a man of destiny like Colin Powell, the action comes to you.

On November 16, 1968, the helicopter transporting Maj. Powell along with the 23rd ID commander crashed.

Powell, injured but clear of the wreckage, ran back to the burning helicopter several times to rescue comrades. Though the helicopter was in danger of exploding, he continued to attempt the rescue.

When he found one passenger trapped under the mass of twisted, burning fuselage, Powell tore away the burning metal with his bare hands.

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands

Powell was awarded the Soldier’s Medal for his actions that day. He managed to rescue every passenger from the downed helicopter.

During his deployments to Vietnam, he also earned a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Worst Roman emperors, from incompetent to insane

Ancient Rome is credited with major contributions to modern day language, religion, law, art, and government. Indeed, the Roman Empire was filled with breathtaking architecture and an intricate and fascinating socio-economic culture. But it was also full of drama.

Most people know at least a few key facts about Julius Caesar and his infamous assassination on the Ides of March. But as the Roman Republic crumbled with him and the Roman Empire rose in its place, the rulers that came after him were no less controversial. Extravagance, executions, and extreme religious persecution stand at the forefront of many Roman emperor’s legacies. And that’s not mentioning the sex scandals.

So here’s a list of the absolute worst Roman emperors, in order from the mildly incompetent to the devastatingly unstable.

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands

Diocletian, 284-305 CE

Emperor Diocletian deserves some credit, as his rule marked the end of the Crisis of the Third Century. His governmental reforms are cited as being one of the main contributors to the Roman Empire’s longevity for the next millennium. Diocletian regained control over a wild military force, suppressed enemy threats along the Empire’s borders, and revised the tax system in a broken economy.

However, he’s also credited with one of the most brutal attempts to purge Christianity in history, which definitely resides in the “cons” column. Diocletian revoked the legal rights of Christians, trying to encourage his citizens back to a more traditional worship of the old Roman gods. He razed churches and destroyed religious scriptures, and went even further to prohibit Christian’s from even gathering to worship. After a suspicious fire within the imperial palace, Diocletian’s belief in a Christian conspiracy led to a spree of scourging, torture, and beheading.

In 305 CE, after becoming greatly weakened by a severe illness, Diocletian resigned from his rule, passing the torch to someone with the strength to bear the Empire’s burdens. The first person to willingly abdicate from the role, the former Emperor spent the rest of his days tending a vegetable garden—sounds like a pretty fulfilling retirement.

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands

Elagabalus, 218-222 CE

Elagabalus became Emperor at the tender age of 14, kicking off a reign that would be known for sex scandals and religious controversy—not exactly the sort of things you expect from someone fresh out of puberty.

Emperor Elagabalus started out in life as a high priest serving the Syrian sun god he shared a name with. When he came to rule over Rome, his devotion to the god drove him to try and elevate him to the same status as Jupiter, a move which greatly displeased the Empire. He even insisted upon marrying a Vestal Virgin, Aquilia Severa, which was in direct opposition to not only Roman tradition, but to the law.

On the more salacious side, it’s said that Elagabalus prostituted himself throughout the palace. He was married to five different women, and took on countless lovers of all sexes. He sent servants out into the city to procure lovers for him, and even opened the imperial baths up to the public to enjoy the spectacle of watching others bathe.

Some historians say that Elagabalus might have been one of the first transgender historical figures, offering large amounts of money to any physician who would be able to successfully administer gender reassignment surgery. This was regarded as wholly scandalous by the people of Rome, casting him in a negative light he couldn’t hope to overcome.

Elagabalus’s general incompetence on the throne led to the devaluation of the Roman currency. Showing his immaturity further, he began appointing lovers to crucial political positions. So while history tends to be unfavorable towards him for his personal choices, it does seem likely that he was unfit as an emperor mostly due to the fact that he was a literal child.

The Emperor’s youth did him no favors in the end, however. At 18 years old, Elagabalus and his eccentric behavior were brought to an end by the Praetorian Guard. After Elagabalus stripped his cousin’s titles and wealth, the Guard, who much preferred said cousin, rebelled against Elagabalus, killing both him and his mother in the violence.

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands

Tiberius, 13-37 CE

There were plenty of things that Emperor Tiberius did right. He avoided needless and financially draining military campaigns and instead relied heavily on diplomacy. He reinforced the borders of the Empire. He even kept the Empire’s treasury generously stocked.

However, Tiberius never really wanted to rule as emperor, and that was very apparent. He left many responsibilities to the Senate and was otherwise distant and reclusive. He left Rome in the middle of his reign—a decision widely regarded as the worst one he could possibly make—and opened himself up to a reputation fully up to interpretation.

Whether these claims are rooted in truth or based fully in fabrication is impossible to know at this point, but either way, Tiberius was hated enough to get tongues wagging with the most vicious of talk. During his stay on the island of Capri, Tiberius was accused of flinging people off of cliffs for minor slights and engaging in disturbing sexual acts with very young boys. While that doesn’t have very much to do with governing an empire, it’s pretty much the last thing you want out of a ruler.

Tiberius earned a reputation as a bloodthirsty emperor after a mess grew out of a man named Sejanus making a grab for power. Sejanus tried to set himself up as Tiberius’s next heir by assassinating Tiberius’s son. Tiberius, of course, called for the death of not only Sejanus, but of those who were associated with him—including his children.

It seems likely, too, that much of his bad reputation comes from his connection to Caligula, who you’ll hear much more of later.

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands

Caracalla, 211-217 CE

For the first 13 years of his reign, Caracalla ruled as a co-emperor alongside first his father, Septimius Severus, and then his brother, Geta. In 211 CE, he had his brother assassinated by the loyal members of his Praetorian Guard. Not satisfied, Caracalla went a step further to slaughter most of his brother’s supporters as well. In a further act of insult, Caracalla removed Geta’s image from paintings, coins, and statues, struck him from record, and made it an actual crime to utter his name.

On top of being generally regarded as a tyrannical and cruel emperor, Caracalla wasn’t all that effective in other aspects of his rule. He put into effect an edict which declared all free inhabitants of the Empire to be official citizens… so he could collect taxes from a wider base of people. He depleted much of the Empire’s funds trying to keep his army happy and often engaged in ruthless and unnecessary military campaigns.

Caracalla had an obsession with Alexander the Great, and in a fit of erratic behavior went on to persecute those philosophers of the Aristotelian school based solely off the legend that Aristotle poisoned Alexander. His behavior only got worse when, after discovering a play mocking him in the city of Alexandria, he dispatched his troops to massacre, loot, and plunder the city.

In 217 AD, Caracalla was stabbed to death by a defected soldier—an almost ironic end, considering his adoration for his own army.

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands

Maximinus Thrax, 235-238 CE

Emperor Maximinus Thrax was a very large man, and he was also largely hated. In direct contrast to Emperor Diocletian, he’s often considered to be the ruler who caused the Crisis of the Third Century. He brought Rome to near ruin with his exhaustive military campaigns, overextending his soldiers by dispatching them to multiple fronts at once.

His distrust and distaste for anyone apart from his army did him no favors and caused social instability. Maximinus even had members of his own family put to death. He was a man who preferred to rule by conquest rather than favor and became known for wrecking public property and setting fires to any village he passed through.

His short three-year rule ended in 238 CE, when members of the Imperial Roman army assassinated him alongside his son and advisors.

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands

Nero, 54-68 CE

Nero’s 14-year reign had some significant successes, including the negotiation of peace with the Parthian Empire and the quelling of Boudica’s revolt. While the upper class considered him overly extravagant and undignified, the lower classes of Rome actually had a strong positive opinion towards their ruler. This was true despite the fact that some of his methods leaned toward tyrannical madness. Seeing as he was only 16 years old when he took the throne, that’s not all that surprising—adolescence is hard.

In the beginning of his reign, Nero’s rule was closely guided by his mother, Agrippina the Younger, much as she had orchestrated Nero’s rise as emperor. Agrippina married his great-uncle and previous emperor, Claudius, and arranged for Nero to marry his new stepsister, Octavia. By 59 CE, an unexplained falling out caused Nero to order his troops to have her killed. This wouldn’t be the last time he organized a death.

In 62 CE, Nero divorced Octavia, citing that she was incapable of producing an heir. When his subjects looked negatively at this decision, he had Octavia exiled. Not long after that—either to further change public opinion or to solidify his claim to the throne—he accused her of adultery and had her put to death. His second wife, Poppaea Sabina, died in 65 CE. Some writers of ancient times say that Nero was responsible for this death, too, though others disagree.

Nero’s legacy as a madman is most closely tied to the Great Fire of Rome in 64 CE, which completely destroyed three of Rome’s 14 districts, leaving another seven heavily damaged. Many myths surround the terrible tragedy which killed hundreds of citizens, including the dramatically evil story of Nero fiddling as Rome fell to ashes.

In actuality, the fiddle wasn’t even in existence at the time. While some classical sources cite that Nero was on the roof of his palace singing from “The Sack of Ilium,” others place him dozens of miles away from the flames.

While it’s impossible to know the truth of the fire’s origins, many people blamed Nero directly for the destruction. It was believed that he was intentionally making way for a new city aesthetic. Whether out of genuine belief or a desperate attempt at scapegoating, Nero blamed the fire on followers of the growing Christian religion.

Nero set out to cruelly persecute the Christians, implementing an array of creative tortures and deaths, including wrapping them in animal skins to be torn apart by dogs.

After that, Nero’s rule started to crumble. Reconstruction efforts had stretched the Roman currency thin, and Nero’s indecision in dealing with further revolts caused widespread instability. In 68, his Praetorian Guard renounced their loyalty and declared Nero an enemy of the people. In one last dramatic flair, Nero committed suicide before he could be executed.

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands

Caligula, 37-41 CE

There aren’t many reliable surviving accounts of Caligula’s reign. Even if the myriad stories surrounding him are fabrications, he’d have to be pretty unpopular to generate that kind of libel in the first place.

To be fair, Caligula had a bit of a rough start in life. He was the sole survivor after his entire family perished either in imprisonment or directly at the hands of Emperor Tiberius. He was then taken in by the emperor and indulged in all of his worst whims, until Tiberius passed and Caligula took to the throne at 25 years old.

In the first six months of his rule, things actually went pretty well. He cut unfair taxes, recalled those sentenced to exile, and granted military bonuses to soldiers. However, after a strange illness overtook him, his recovery was shrouded in a madness that gave way to sadistic and perverse tendencies. He became known for uttering the phrase, “Remember that I have the right to do anything to anybody.”

Any perceived mockery from his subjects was met with the punishment of death. In fact, in his infinite paranoia, Caligula began sending those closest to him off to exile or death—including his adopted son. His cruelty led to him gaining a sense of satisfaction out of making parents watch as their children were killed.

His arrogance rose to new heights as he declared that he was an actual living god. Caligula even had the heads of statues of gods and goddesses replaced with his own.

Further accounts of his insanity include throwing an entire section of a gladiatorial audience into the arena to be eaten by beasts for his own amusement, planning to appoint his horse as a consul, and turning the palace into a veritable brothel.

Caligula was assassinated by the Praetorian Guard after only four years as emperor. The man was so hated by the Senate that they even rallied to have him erased from the record of Roman history. Thanks to this campaign, it remains unclear to this day what is fact and what is fiction in the Caligulan reign.

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands

Commodus, 180-192 CE

Commodus was appointed as a co-ruler by his father, Emperor Marcus Aurelius, in 177 CE. Marcus Aurelius died in 180 CE, leaving his narcissistic and self-indulgent son as the sole Emperor of Rome.

Because Caligula couldn’t be the only one to have all the fun, Commodus also thought himself to be a god, referring to himself as Hercules reborn and forcing others to follow suit. He swanned around the city in lion skins and participated in gladiatorial events—an act in which was considered scandalous for a ruler to partake.

What’s worse: He often chose to compete against weak soldiers who were sickly or maimed from the war, sometimes tying two of them together to club them to death with a single strike. To add insult to the already grave injury, he also exorbitantly charged Rome for his arena appearances.

Commodus’s self-love knew no bounds. He changed the calendar months to reflect his own self-bestowed epithets. He shamelessly exiled and executed his wife and proudly kept a harem of hundreds. He forced his advisors to take the fall for political blunders and had entire families slaughtered on suspicion of conspiracy.

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

popular

These quirky tanks helped the British crack Hitler’s Atlantic Wall

The Allied invasion of Normandy was a challenge on a grand scale. Every single aspect of the plan drew new challenges for commanders. Luckily, the greatest military minds of the day were leading the Allied forces. They came up with some ingenious solutions. For example, in the absence of securing a usable harbor, they created the Mulberry, a harbor that could be shipped and built on site to keep the flow of supplies going.


To confuse the Germans as to where the D-Day attacks would come, Operation Fortitude created an entire fake army aimed at the Pas-de-Calais. The soldiers on the invasion beaches still faced the many natural and man-made obstacles that would hinder their ability to effectively storm the beaches. One man was tasked to create overcome these obstacles and protect the assault forces.

Major General Percy Hobart, an unconventional yet very successful armored and engineering officer, created specialized vehicles designed to help amphibious forces overcome the natural and man-made obstacles common during a landing. These vehicles helped the British and Canadians during their assaults on Gold, Juneau, and Sword beaches. Collectively these vehicles were known as “Hobart’s Funnies.”

Sherman DD Tank

 

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands
Pictured: The Sherman DD (Duplex Drive) amphibious tank with waterproof float screens. When in the water, the float screen was raised and the rear propellers came into operation.

The most well-known of Hobart’s Funnies was the Duplex Drive Sherman Tank — or Sherman DD. This tank had a large canvas floatation screen that was erected to make the tank seaworthy and included a secondary drive mechanism that powered a propeller to drive the tank through the water. The idea was to launch these tanks a few miles from shore and have them come ashore with the infantry without the need to bring a large landing craft too close to shore. Their use on D-Day saw mixed results.

Churchill Crocodile

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands
A Churchill Crocodile fires its flame thrower in August 1944.

The Crocodile was a British Churchill tank that replaced the hull mounted machine gun with a flamethrower. An armored trailer behind the Croc carried fuel for the weapon. This weapon was adept at clearing German fortifications and later inspired American versions used in the Pacific.

Crab Tank

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands
A British M4 Sherman Crab in Normandy

The Crab was a Sherman tank fitted with a cylindrical flail with weighted chains. When activated, the flail cleared a tank-width path by detonating any mines in its way with the weighted chains. This tank was an improvement over previous versions as the Sherman’s engine drove the flail, rather than needing to fit a separate engine on the tank. It was also equipped with numerous ways to mark the cleared path for the following infantry or tanks.

AVRE (Armored Vehicle Royal Engineers)

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands

The AVRE were a family of engineering vehicles designed for specific tasks. All AVRE were Churchill tanks with the main gun removed and replaced with a Petard mortar that could fire 40-pound shells against German fortifications. The British then attached various equipment for specific tasks. One tool was a Bobbin, a canvas sheet that was rolled down in front of and then under the tank to provide a path to keep it, and following tanks, from sinking into the soft ground of a beach. There were also attachments for dealing with gaps such as a fascine, a bundle of wooden poles that could be dropped into a ditch for the tank to drive over, or a small box girder bridge that could clear 30-foot gaps. For breaching, there was an attachment the British called the Double Onion, two explosives on a metal frame that could be pressed against a bunker or fortification to breach it.

ARK (Armored Ramp Carrier)

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands
Look closely.

The ARK was a Churchill tank with the turret removed and folding ramps installed in both front and back. The tank could drive up to an obstacle, extend a ramp, and have other vehicles drive up it and over the obstacle. It could also drive into a gap and act as a bridge if necessary.

All of the vehicles Hobart created were assigned to the 79th Armoured Division under his command. All these designs were offered to the Americans as well, but since they did not have a specialized unit to operate the vehicles, they turned them down with the exception of the Sherman DD tanks. The 79th did not fight as a unit on D-Day but was instead assigned to support different elements making the assault. After the success of Hobart’s Funnies on D-Day, the 79th remained in action and used its special vehicles many times throughout the remainder of the war.

Articles

13 funniest military memes for the week of March 31

It’s always a bad idea for payday to come on a Friday. Here’s hoping that everyone makes it to Monday without any recall formations because some lance corporal stole a car and crashed it into the general’s house.


In the meantime, here are 13 funny military memes:

1. You can just hear that lead fellow yelling, “To the strip clubs!”

(via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting)

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands
That’s where they keep both alcohol and titillation.

2. Believe it or not, the DD-214 won’t solve all your problems (via Shit my LPO says).

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands
It only solves your worst ones.

ALSO READ: 4 insane things service members can do to stay awake

3. Sounds like the E-4 Mafia is going to let you have a little taste of what they took (via Military World).

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands

4. Airmen getting after it (via Military Memes).

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands
Carrying over seven pounds of pillows and firing a .5mm laser. Air Power!

5. When the commander suddenly remembers that he doesn’t want you promoted:

(via Marine Corps Memes)

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands

6. “Alright new officers and privates, here are your compasses and maps …”

(via Lost in the Sauce)

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands

7. Anyone that doe-eyed is unlikely to want to hear your war stories (via Pop smoke).

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands

8. Some things can’t be treated with ibuprofen (via Decelerate Your Life).

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands
Bet the corpsman give each other real medicine.

9. The true secret to the military:

(via Decelerate Your Life)

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands
E-4 is E-4 is E-4.

10. Knees in the breeze, Donald (via Do You Even Jump?).

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands
Not sure how you lower your combat load when it’s rigged that way, though. Maybe have a jumpmaster check that out.

11. This is Sgt. Rex, and you will stand at parade rest for him (via Air Force Nation).

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands
The man behind the flag is Carl. Feel free to kick him.

12. Today is a special day for the Corps. Give them some Crayolas or something (via Air Force amn/nco/snco).

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands
No one has earned their crayons like the United States Marines have.

13. How new NCOs feel about everyone in their squad (via Air Force amn/nco/snco).

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands
No one is standing at parade rest for the guy they were partying with the night before the promotion ceremony.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Brothers in paws: A list of military-utilized dog breeds

“Man’s best friend” has been by our side for around 10,000 years. Throughout that time we have used dogs for hunting partners, scavengers, emotional support, transportation of beer, sheep herding, night watch, pulling sleds, rat extermination, and a perfect scapegoat with which to blame for our own silent but deadly farts.

Dogs have many uses within the military, too. They’ve received medals, and they have saved the lives of countless service members. You may just think German Shepherds have solely led the charge in canine use in the military, but—as this list will show—we have more furry friends out there on the battlefield than you might think.


That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands

(LCpl M. C. Nerl)

Labrador Retriever

Ol’ Yeller ain’t just an icon on the screen, this classic American breed also fights side by side with American armed forces. They are mainly utilized in “Combat Tracker Teams” (CTT). Their heightened sense of smell helps discover wounded allied soldiers and detect enemy forces. However, more and more the emotional bond they forge with soldiers is being recognized. Labradors are now used in “Combat Stress Control Units” to control stress levels and give comfort to soldiers deployed in combat fields.

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands

Bloodhound

Bloodhounds are notorious for their keen sense of smell and tracking abilities. These abilities are utilized to the fullest in the military, where bloodhounds are used to sniff out enemy soldiers as well as narcotics and weapons stockpiles. Researchers estimate that their sense of smell is 1,000 times stronger than a human’s.

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands

(U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Rey Ramon)

Yorkshire Terrier

Undoubtedly the cutest and least physically imposing dog on the list, the Yorkshire Terrier has many militant functions when it’s not crammed in some Valley Girl’s ,000 Birkin purse. Although the breed’s history is rooted in mice extermination in England, Yorkshire Terriers greatly assisted Allied forces in WWII. One specific Yorkshire, “Smoky” pulled critical wires through extremely narrow pipes, saving soldiers three days of digging.

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands

Rottweiler

Rottweilers aren’t just beloved by the infamous rapper “DMX”—they have been used in both police and military forces since WWI. They are smart, loyal, and have an incredibly strong bite. In World War I they were used to keep guard during the night and bark at any sign of enemy forces. They are also rumored to be used in intimidation and interrogation tactics.

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands

Boxer

Boxers performed many unique tasks during WWII. They had notes tied to their collars and were sent off to give messages as makeshift couriers. They were saddled with gear and used to carry packs for soldiers. Hell, during the Berlin airlift a boxer named “Vittles” was equipped with his own harness and parachute and dropped alongside Allied forces.

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands

Mastiff

The Mastiff’s war history predates modern warfare as we know it today. In fact, mastiffs wartime usage predates the industrial revolution. The ancient Persians, Babylonians, Greeks, and Romans all used this dog in war. They weren’t out there sniffing for arrows and swords either– they were fitted with armor and spiked collars and trained to kill. Think the movie “300” meets “Turner and Hooch.”

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands

German Shepherd

No list of military dogs would be complete without the all-important German Shepherd. They have been heavily used throughout U.S. military history since the 1940s. In WWII they served exclusively as messenger dogs, in the Korean War they were used to lead injured soldiers off the battlefield and sniff out enemies, and in Vietnam, they were scout dogs. Currently, the Army alone has over 600 dog teams made up almost exclusively of German Shepherds. They continue to be a valuable member of our military and patriotic mascots for duty.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A dog adopted by coalition troops fighting ISIS is finally home

U.S. Army Reserve Sgt. Tracy McKithern loves dogs. She loves her dog, she loves other peoples’ dogs, she loves dogs she sees in memes and on TV shows. When she found a dirty little white stray sniffing around the camp she was stationed at during a one-year deployment in Iraq, only one thing was going to happen.

“I fell in love with her immediately.”


McKithern, a combat photographer from Tampa, Florida with the 982nd Combat Camera Co. (Airborne), was stationed at the Kurdistan Training Coordination Center, a multinational military organization responsible for the training of Peshmerga and Northern Iraq Security in and around Erbil, from April 2017 to January 2018.

The little dog and her mom had been wandering around the base for weeks, McKithern found out. Stray dogs are common in Iraq, and the culture is not kind to them. Erby and her mom were kicked and hit with rocks daily, and starving. Her brother and sister had disappeared before McKithern arrived.

Despite her rough experiences with humans to that point, Erby ran right up to McKithern the first time she held out her hand to the shaky little pup covered in scratches and dirt.

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands
(U.S. Army photo by Tracy McKithern)

“She loved everyone,” said McKithern. “She is the sweetest little soul. She came up to me immediately, probably hungry, but gentle. I think she was looking for love more than anything else.”

McKithern, together with soldiers from the Italian and German armies her unit was partnered with, took to caring for the little dog. They named her Erby Kasima, after nearby Erbil, the largest city in northern Iraq, and “Kasima” being the Arabic name for “beauty and elegance.”

The coalition soldiers would go on convoys into the surrounding countryside to train Iraqi army units six days a week, with McKithern documenting the missions. Every time they returned to the base, Erby was waiting.

“She ran up to our convoy every day,” McKithern recalled. “She was so tiny she would fall and trip all over herself to get to us.”

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands
(U.S. Army photo by Tracy McKithern)

It didn’t take long for Erby and her mom to realize that, not only were they safe around McKithern and her Italian and German friends, but these humans would feed them too. As the weeks went by, their wounds began to heal and they started putting on healthy weight.

Eventually, the growing pup took to sleeping on the step outside McKithern’s quarters.

As the end of her deployment approached, she started to wonder how she could ever leave Erby behind when she went back to the states and lamented about it on her Facebook page.

“One night I posted a pic of us on Facebook, with a caption that read something like ‘I wish I could take her home,'” McKithern said. “I went to sleep, woke up and my friends and family had posted links to various rescue groups. I reached out to one of them, the non-profit Puppy Rescue Mission, and they responded immediately. We sent them $1,000 and they set up a crowd fund to get the rest. We needed an additional $3,500.”

The immediate outpouring of generosity was astounding, said McKithern.

“We raised the rest of the money very quickly, and most of it was from complete strangers!”

McKithern had many preparations to make before she left Iraq so Erby could eventually follow her. Vaccinations, documentation, travel arrangements — all had to be done somehow, in a war zone, while she was still fulfilling her duties as a Soldier. It seemed like an overwhelming task in an already overwhelming situation. Even though she now had the funding, McKithern began to lose hope that she’d have the time and energy to pull this off.

That’s when the brotherhood of the Coalition stepped in to help. Several Kurdish and German officers McKithern had befriended on missions stepped in and offered to tie up anything she couldn’t get done and get Erby onto the plane. With their help, everything got squared away. McKithern returned home, and Erby was set to follow her several weeks later.

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands
(U.S. Army photo by Tracy McKithern)

McKithern had only been home in Florida for about a month when, in a cruel twist of timing, she received orders for a 67-day mission to Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, leaving March 11, the very same day Erby was scheduled to arrive at JFK Airport.

“I couldn’t believe it!” said McKithern. “But I’m a Soldier first, and my commander received an email looking for volunteers. The need at Fort McCoy was desperate at the time. It is a gunnery exercise, which was an opportunity to expand my skills and knowledge as a soldier. It killed me that it was going to keep me away from Erby for another two months, but it’s an important mission. It will all be worth it in the end.”

McKithern’s husband, Sgt. Wes McKithern (also a combat cameraman for the 982nd), met Erby at the airport and drove her home to Tampa, where she has been assimilating into an American life of luxury and waiting patiently to be reunited with her rescuer.

In a few short weeks, McKithern will fly home from Fort McCoy to be with her sweet Erby at last. It will be the end of a 16-month journey that’s taken her across the world to find a little dog in a war zone and — with the help of generous strangers, a nonprofit dog rescue, and soldiers from three different armies — bring her all the way back to become part of a family.

“I can’t believe it,” says McKithern. “It feels like a miracle is happening.”

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

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

5 tips from astronauts for thriving in isolation

NASA Astronaut and U.S. Army Lt. Col. Anne McClain took to Twitter to share the official training astronauts use for living in confined spaces for long periods of time. Afterall, the International Space Station has been operating for nearly 20 years, giving NASA astronauts and psychologists time to examine human behavior and needs when living and working remotely.

They narrowed the behavior skills down to five general skills called “Expeditionary Behavior,” or “EB” because the military just loves a good acronym.


Built from 1998 to 2001, the International Space Station usually holds crews of between three and six people who will spend about six months there at a time, though mission lengths can vary. During that time, the astronauts perform experiments and spacewalks, maintain the space station, conduct media and education events and test out technology.

Also during this time, they are allocated at least two hours a day for exercise and personal care.

According to NASA, the living and working space in the station is larger than a six-bedroom house (and has six sleeping quarters, two bathrooms, a gym and a 360-degree view bay window). Still, six months in a space bucket with two to five other people can give some perspective to anyone feeling confined.

This is the “GoodEB” that helps astronauts:

4/ Skill 1, Communication: Def: To talk so you are clearly understood. To listen and question to understand. Actively listen, pick up on non-verbal cues. Identify, discuss, then work to resolve conflict.

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Communication

“Share info/feelings freely. Talk about intentions before taking action. Use good terminology. Discuss when your or others’ actions were not as expected. Debrief after success or conflict. Listen, then restate message to ensure it’s understood. Admit when you’re wrong,” McClain tweeted.

It’s common for humans to have strong emotional responses and act on them before they fully understand them. Honest communication is critical in a confined space or during heightened stress.

6/ Skill 2, Leadership/Followership: Def: How well a team adapts to new situations. Leader enhances the group’s ability to execute its purpose through positive influence. Follower (aka subordinate leader) actively contributes to leader’s direction. Establish environment of trust.

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Leadership/Followership

“Accept responsibility. Adjust style to environment. Assign tasks, set goals. Lead by example. Give direction, info, feedback, coaching + encouragement. Ensure teammates have resources. Talk when something isn’t right. Ask questions. Offer solutions, not just problems,” urged McClain.

For anyone confined with family or roommates, it can be an adjustment to share personal space and limited supplies for a prolonged period of time. Shifting to a team dynamic can bring a new perspective to everyone’s roles within the home. If you weren’t already doing this, now is the time to share the household chores, the cooking, the supply runs, and, for many families, the education responsibilities.

8/ Skill 3, Self-Care: Def: How healthy you are on psychological and physical levels, including hygiene, managing time and personal stuff, getting sleep, and maintaining mood. The ability and willingness to be proactive to stay healthy.

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Self-Care

“Realistically assess own strengths and weaknesses, and their influence on the group. Learn from mistakes. Take action to mitigate stress or negativity (don’t pass on to the group). Be social. Seek feedback. Balance work, rest, and personal time. Be organized,” suggested McClain.

There’s a quote I’ve always liked that says, “Please accept responsibility for the energy you are bringing into this space,” and it feels especially relevant now. We must each stay in touch with ourselves so we can identify rising stress and mitigate it with self-care.

Self-care can be anything from calling a friend to a work-out session from YouTube to releasing expectations of perfection and taking the time to enjoy some relaxation with a book or movie.

10/ Skill 4, Team Care: Def: How healthy the group is on psychological, physical, and logistical level. Manage group stress, fatigue, sickness, supplies, resources, workload, etc. Nurture optimal team performance despite challenges.

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Team Care

“Demonstrate patience and respect. Encourage others. Monitor team for signs of stress or fatigue. Encourage participation in team activities. Develop positive relationships. Volunteer for the unpleasant tasks. Offer and accept help. Share the credit; take the blame,” said McClain.

I’ll really highlight one of these tips from McClain: Monitor team for signs of stress or fatigue. Teaching ourselves this skill will intrinsically build compassion and problem-solving into relationship skills, not just now, but going forward. It’s about looking out for each other and anticipating the needs of others. This is a critical skill for any member of the team.
12/ Skill 5, Group Living: Def: How people cooperate and become a team to achieve a goal. Identify and manage different opinions, cultures, perceptions, skills, and personalities. Individuals and group demonstrate resiliency in the face of difficulty.

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Group Living

“Cooperate rather than compete. Actively cultivate group culture (use each individual’s culture to build the whole). Respect roles, responsibilities, and workload. Take accountability, give praise freely. Work to ensure positive team attitude. Keep calm in conflict,” suggests McClain.

Parents are learning how to homeschool. Partners are sharing household responsibilities like cooking and cleaning. More people are sick and being cared for by their roommates.

All the while, we are each learning how to restrict our movements while maintaining our health and vitality. The key points throughout NASA’s Expeditionary Behaviors are to take care of each other and ourselves by working together.

And just remember, Scott Kelly set the record for most consecutive days in space by an American by living for 340 days during a one-year mission aboard the International Space Station, proving that humans are pretty remarkable when it comes to adapting to our environment!

If you need any advice on thriving from home, here are a few We Are The Mighty articles that can help:

Articles

Here’s how female grads of Armor Leader Course overcame skeptics

Instructors at the U.S. Army‘s Armor Basic Officer Leaders Course said they would serve under the first 13 female lieutenants who graduated the course “in a heartbeat.”


“They blew us away during our field training exercises,” said Staff Sgt. William Hare, an instructor at the course. “Their ability to plan, adapt on the fly and execute that plan in a clear and concise manner and communicate plan changes on the go — it was amazing.”

Also read: First 10 women graduate from Infantry Officer Course

Hare was among a handful of instructors and leaders who spoke to reporters about the first gender-integrated class of ABOLC that graduated 53 male and 13 female officers at Fort Benning, Georgia, on Thursday.

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands
Students from the Armor Basic Leader Course at Fort Benning, Georgia, train during a combined competitive maneuver exercise at Benning’s Good Hope Training Area on Nov. 16, 2016. | U.S. Army photo

Two women and six men did not meet the standards and will recycle, Benning officials said. Two males were medically dropped from the course.

This is the latest step in the Army’s effort to integrate women into combat arms jobs such as armor and infantry.

In late October, 10 female lieutenants graduated from the first gender-integrated class of Infantry Officer Basic Leaders Course at Benning.

And in August 2015, Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver became the first women to graduate Army Ranger School. Maj. Lisa A. Jaster became the third woman to graduate from Ranger School two months later.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter in December 2015 ordered all military jobs, including special operations, opened to women. His directive followed a 2013 Pentagon order that the military services open all positions to women by early 2016.

Thursday’s graduation of the 13 female officers from ABOLC is “consistent with what you have seen over the last 18 months,” said Maj. Gen. Eric Wesley, commanding general of the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Benning.

“We always knew that when we entered this effort that we wanted the process to be standards-based,” Wesley said. “In the case of Ranger School, we wanted to make sure there were clear objective standards to determine qualification to become a Ranger. In terms of IBOLC the same thing — it was all standards-based. And now, in the armor community, we have done the same thing.”

The 13 female graduates performed as well as their male counterparts on the High Physical Demands Test, a series of tasks designed to validate that any soldier serving in an MOS has “the right physical attributes to perform in that particular military occupational specialty,” said Brig. Gen. John Kolasheski, commandant of the Armor School at Benning.

“It’s gender-neutral, and they performed at the same rate as their male peers in all of those tasks.”

The new graduates now will go to the Army Reconnaissance Course at Benning. After that, some will go to Airborne School and Ranger School before being assigned to operational units, Benning officials said.

Once they leave Benning, female combat arms officers are being assigned to Fort Hood, Texas, and Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Staff Sgt. George Baker, another instructor at ABOLC, said he had his doubts initially about women in the armor community.

“There was some skepticism at first, just to see can they do it … but as soon as they started performing to those same standards — because we didn’t change anything and they performed to those same standards, and they met and exceeded those same standards — it solidified that they have a place here,” Baker said.

Articles

This Mayor took time off to go to war in Afghanistan

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands
This post is reprinted with permission from NationSwell, new digital media company focused on American innovation and renewal.


Most of us can’t take a seven-month leave of absence from work, but most of us don’t have as good of an excuse as Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind.

Mayor Buttigieg, better known as “Mayor Pete,” took office January 1, 2012, at the age of 29 — making him the youngest mayor in America to serve a city with more than 100,000 residents. He assumed command while still fulfilling his monthly commitments as a member of the Navy Reserve, but after about two years in office, he was called to serve abroad.

After a few months of preparation with his mayoral team, Buttigieg left South Bend in the hands of his Deputy Mayor Mark Neal and departed to perform intelligence counter-terrorism work in Afghanistan for seven months.

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands

Buttigieg grew up in South Bend. His parents were transplants that arrived a few years before his birth to pursue work at the University of Notre Dame. Although his family found opportunity in the Indiana city, Buttigieg would come to learn while growing up that his hometown was a city in crisis: the all-too-familiar tale of a Midwestern town in an economic tailspin due to loss of industry. In South Bend’s case, it was the shuttering of the Studebaker car company, which until 1963, when its factories closed, was the largest employer in town.

After high school, Buttigieg left South Bend to pursue higher education, first at Harvard and later, at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. After spending some time in the private sector doing consulting work, he joined the Navy as a reservist in 2008, putting into practice his childhood admiration of his great uncle, a family hero who died while serving in 1941.

The Great Recession hit South Bend hard, and Mayor Pete recalls following his hometown’s news from a distance.

“I was reading headlines from home,” says Buttigieg, “I was thinking, ‘Jeez, we gotta do more, we gotta change things a little bit back home.’ And then beginning to stop asking that question ‘why don’t they…’ and start asking that question ‘why don’t we?’ or ‘why don’t I?'”

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands

Buttigieg returned to South Bend in 2008 and made his first foray into politics: a run for Indiana State Treasurer in 2010 (an effort he lost decisively to incumbent Richard Mourdock). While contemplating his next step, it became apparent that South Bend would soon have an open-seat mayor’s race for the first time in 24 years. Encouraged by his supporters in town, Buttigieg ran and was elected mayor on November 8, 2011, with 74 percent of the vote.

Buttigieg’s administration works hard to reinvent South Bend, while still acknowledging and celebrating its past, including work to redesign the old Studebaker campus into a turbo machinery facility in partnership with Notre Dame. By taking advantage of its excellent Internet capability (thanks to fiber optic cables that run through the town via old railroad routes), the city is attracting tech start-ups. Additionally, a 311 line has been set up for city residents.

But what might be called Buttigieg’s signature program is his plan to demolish, renovate or convert 1,000 vacant homes in 1,000 days. Since 1960, South Bend has lost about 30,000 residents, and empty homes pepper the entire town — attracting crime and lowering property values. This ambitious program, dubbed the Vacant Abandoned Properties Initiative, was launched in February 2013. As of January 10, 2015, 747 properties have been addressed, putting South Bend is ahead of schedule.

Buttigieg recently announced that he is running for a second term, perhaps surprising those who assumed he was only interested in using the mayor’s office to further his career. He is also personally renovating a home in the neighborhood where he grew up, while continuing to give one weekend a month to the reserves. He sees the recent initiatives in South Bend as a way to establish the next era for the community and is excited about the way South Bend is once again investing in itself.

“I would like to believe that if the work matters to you,” says Buttigieg, “and the importance of it is what fills your sails, that people can see that.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=47v=OqvYL3ZoVBk

More from NationSwell:

This article originally appeared at NationSwell Copyright 2015. Follow NationSwell on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Soldiers remember the harrowing Battle of Hue

The ferocity of the Tet Offensive, which began 51 years ago, surprised most Americans, including service members manning the television station in Hue, Vietnam.

Detachment 5 of the American Forces Vietnam Network (AFVN) was located in a villa about a mile outside the main U.S. compound in Hue, in a neighborhood considered relatively safe from attack.

After the AFVN crew had signed off the air that night and settled into their billets, they heard an explosion down the street. Some of them were already asleep, but a few were still up watching fireworks through their window, since it was the first night of Tet, the Vietnamese lunar New Year.


“Then the real fireworks started,” said Harry Ettmueller, a specialist five and broadcast engineer at the time.

Mortars and rockets began to blast the city landscape and tracer rounds could be seen in the distance.

“It was quite a light show,” said former Spc. 4 John Bagwell, a broadcaster who jumped out of bed once he heard the noise.

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands

Spc. 4 John Bagwell broadcasts for the 1st Cavalry Division in Vietnam before he was transferred to AFVN Det. 5 in Hue during January 1968.

(U.S. Army photo)

One mortar round hit the maintenance shed next to their TV station, which was located behind the house where the AFVN team of eight slept.

The team then pulled out their weapons: World War II carbines along with a shotgun, three M14 rifles, and an M60 machine gun that jammed after two shots.

They took up positions in doorways and windows to stop possible entry. They even handed a carbine to a visiting NBC engineer, Courtney Niles, who happened to be an Army veteran.

Battle for Hue

Station commander, Marine 1st Lt. James DiBernardo, called the Military Assistance Command-Vietnam, or MAC-V office in Hue, and was told to keep his crew in place. A division-sized force of the North Vietnamese army, along with Viet Cong guerrillas, was attacking locations all across the city.

They had even captured part of the citadel that once housed Vietnam’s imperial family and later became the headquarters of a South Vietnamese division.

The NVA attack on Hue was one of the strongest and most successful of the Tet Offensive. Even though more than 100 towns and cities across the country were attacked during Tet, the five-week battle for Hue was the only one where communist forces held a significant portion of the city for more than a few days.

On the second day of Tet, the power-generating station in Hue was taken out and the telephone lines to the AFVN compound were cut. The crew became isolated.

Station background

AFVN had begun augmenting its radio broadcasting with television in Saigon in early 1967. Then TV went to Da Nang and up to Hue.

The U.S. State Department decided to help the Vietnamese set up a station for local nationals in what had been the consulate’s quarters in Hue. AFVN set up their equipment in a van just outside the same villa and began broadcasting to troops in May.

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands

Following the Tet Offensive, not much remained of the house where members of AFVN Det. 5 held off the North Vietnamese in a 16-hour firefight.

Hundreds of TVs were brought up from Saigon and distributed to troops. Ettmueller said he was often flown by Air America to units near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) to distribute them.

In January 1968, with the 1st Cavalry Division and elements of the 101st Airborne Div. moving up to the northern I Corps area of operations, AFVN decided to add radio broadcasting to the TV station in Hue.

Broadcasters Bagwell and Spc. 5 Steven Stroub were sent from 1st Cavalry to help set up the radio operation. They arrived a day and a half before Tet erupted.

16-hour assault

For the next five days, sporadic fire was directed at the AFVN billets, Ettmueller said. The staff members remained in defensive positions at doors and windows.

Bagwell said they were hopeful MACV would send a rescue mission for them, but by the fifth day, they were running out of food and water.

As night fell Feb. 4, the North Vietnamese launched a company-sized assault against the AFVN compound. Dozens of Vietnamese rushed the house and the Americans kept up a steady fire through the windows.

Each time the WWII carbines were fired, though, the magazines fell out and had to be reinserted, Ettmueller said. But he had an M14 and put it on full automatic.

During the assault, a young boy appeared in the window where Bagwell was on guard. The boy was trembling as he pointed his weapon at Bagwell, who hesitated.

“He shot and one bullet came close to my ear and I could hear it whiz by,” Bagwell said. “The next bullet he shot came close to the other ear. I realized if I didn’t kill him, he’d kill me.”

He pulled the trigger on his M14 and the boy fell backward.

North Vietnamese rushed the house repeatedly during the night. Sgt. 1st Class John Anderson, the station’s NCOIC, was awarded a Silver Star for manning the living room door with a shotgun to turn back assault after assault.

“He personally was responsible for inflicting deadly fire on the attacking enemy force,” reads the citation, adding that Anderson held his post despite being severely wounded by enemy grenades.

At one point, a Vietnamese soldier came running toward the door with a satchel of explosives strapped around him. Ettmueller said when one of their bullets hit the soldier’s satchel, it exploded, taking him out and a couple of others near him.

During the course of the night, at least three rocket-propelled grenades were fired at the house and a B40 rocket went right through the front window and hit the back wall. The wall collapsed on Ettmueller and Marine Sgt. Tom Young, forcing both men to crawl out from underneath the debris.

“They pretty much… leveled the house,” Bagwell said.

Breakout and capture

By morning, the house was on fire and the AFVN crew was beginning to run low on ammunition.

They decided their best chance was to try and make a run for the MACV compound. NBC engineer Niles said he knew the layout of the city the best, so he volunteered to be the first one out the door. Bagwell was close behind him.

The plan called for both men to cross the road into a ditch so they could lay down covering fire for the rest of the team. However, Niles was fatally shot. Bagwell applied a quick tourniquet, but said it did not help much.

Anderson and others in the house saw the direction of the gunfire. After a brief pause, the seven of them ran out the door and turned in the opposite direction. They made it through a hole in the fence line and sneaked around a North Vietnamese team manning a machine gun on the second floor of a building under construction.

They made it through another hole in a fence into a small rice paddy, when they came up to the U.S. Information Services library next to a concrete wall topped with barbed wire.

There, the North Vietnamese caught up to them.

Young stepped out to lay down covering fire and was killed by automatic gunfire from the machine-gun position.

Ettmueller described the chaotic situation: “There we were, trapped. More rounds coming in; more grenades being thrown. Chickens running all over the place, jumping up in the air and flying. More rounds coming in.”

Stroub was shot in the left arm and had an open fracture. He passed out, Ettmueller said. Anderson was shot with a bullet that penetrated his flak jacket and grazed his diaphragm. He began to hiccup.

As the AFVN team began to run out of ammo, the North Vietnamese closed in and captured them.

The prisoners were bound with wire and had their boots removed, and then ordered to march forward. Ettmueller helped Stroub up, but it was not long before he stumbled and fell. An NVA soldier opened fire from above with the machine gun and executed him.

Sole escape

Meanwhile, Bagwell was left alone outside the station after Niles was fatally shot. The North Vietnamese had taken off in pursuit of the rest of the AFVN team.

Bagwell, who had been in Hue only a few days, had no idea which way to go and he was out of ammunition.

He wandered the streets, not sure what to do. “I was quite amazed with all the fighting going around that I hadn’t been shot.”

Then he looked down at his boot and spotted a hole. With his adrenaline pumping, he had not felt anything, but “the next thing I knew I was in pain.”

Bagwell looked up and saw a Catholic church. He knocked on the door and pleaded with a priest to help him. About 100 Vietnamese civilians were already hiding in the church.

The priest insisted Bagwell change his clothes. They buried his uniform and M14 in the courtyard. Then the priest wrapped Bagwell’s face in bandages.

“His idea was to make me look as much like a Vietnamese as possible,” Bagwell said.

Not long afterward, North Vietnamese soldiers burst into the church looking for Americans.

“They came by and started pointing their rifles right at my face,” he said. “I just closed my eyes and thought, ‘there’s no way they’re not going to know I’m not Vietnamese.'”

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands

Broadcast Engineer Staff Sgt. Donat Gouin sits behind the television van for Detachment 5 of the American Forces Vietnam Network in Hue.

(U.S. Army photo)

But the North Vietnamese walked on past him. Bagwell was then taken by the priest up into the bell tower of the church to hide.

Other American forces, however, had been told that NVA fighters were hiding in the church, Bagwell said. So, they began to shell the church and hit the bell tower.

Part of the tower collapsed. “I just crawled out of all the mess and crawled back downstairs,” Bagwell said.

The priest then rushed up to him and said, “You know, you’re kind of bad luck. We need to get you out of here.” He pointed across rice paddies to a light in the distance and said he thought that was an American unit.

As he crawled through the rice paddies, Bagwell said a U.S. helicopter began circling him and shining its search light down, thinking he was Vietnamese, since he had no uniform.

“Actually, during that time, I counted about 12 times that I should have been shot and killed,” Bagwell said. “Six by the North Vietnamese and six by the Americans.”

When the sun came up, Bagwell was near a U.S. signal unit. He took off his white shirt and put it on a stick, yelling “Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot! I’m an American!”

They held a gun to him and asked if he was really an American.

“You can’t tell with this Okie accent?” Bagwell replied.

“Well, what were you doing out there?” a soldier asked.

“I was with the TV and radio station,” Bagwell said.

“No, I don’t think so; they’re all dead or prisoner,” the soldier insisted. “The only body we haven’t found is Bagwell.”

Aftermath

The North Vietnamese executed an estimated 3,000 South Vietnamese civilians in Hue during Tet for sympathizing with American forces. Bagwell said he learned that a Catholic priest was executed for hiding a U.S. soldier in a church, and he knew that soldier had to be him.

The prisoners of war from AFVN Det. 5 — Ettmueller, DiBernardo and Anderson, along with Marine Cpl. John Deering and Army broadcast engineer Staff Sgt. Donat Gouin — were forced to walk 400 miles barefoot through the jungle over the next 55 days.

For five years, they were tortured, interrogated and moved from one POW camp to another, until released from the infamous Hanoi Hilton in the 1973 prisoner exchange.

Bagwell and Ettmueller were inducted into the Army Public Affairs Hall of Fame in 2008. The Army Broadcast Journalist of the Year Award is named in Anderson’s honor.

Editor’s note: Bagwell and Ettmueller were interviewed this month by phone. Retired Master Sgt. Anderson was interviewed in 1983 when he was a civilian public affairs officer at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

Articles

This Marine saved his squad from insurgents after he took shrapnel to the leg

A Marine who fought off an Afghan insurgent assault despite painful shrapnel wounds to the leg said his bravery under fire was all in a day’s work.


Staff Sgt. Robert Van Hook, a critical skills operator attached to 2nd Marine Raider Battalion, received the Silver Star on Jan. 15 during a ceremony at the headquarters of Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, or Marsoc, near Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, for heroism in battle during a 2013 deployment to Herat province, Afghanistan.

In an interview days after receiving the military’s third-highest award for bravery, Van Hook recalled the events of that day of action.

Van Hook, a 27-year-old native of Nokesville, Virginia, had been serving as the element leader for Marine Special Operations Team 8224, Special Operations Task Force West. A former reconnaissance Marine, Van Hook had been to Iraq once and was on his third deployment to Afghanistan.

His team had begun its operation late at night Aug. 14. They planned to clear a village of insurgents in preparation for a visit by local Afghan National Army, or ANA, leaders to the region the following day. As they moved into the region around 2 or 3 a.m., Van Hook said, the team spotted two who appeared to be “walking with intent” and exhibiting other suspicious behaviors.

On Van Hook’s order, the Marine team took cover and maneuvered closer to observe the men, eventually watching them link up with eight others at the back of a building. All were armed with AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and other weapons he said, and as they communicated in Pashto over their radios, Van Hook could make out words like “bomb.”

Taking advantage of the element of surprise, he “executed a hasty ambush” on the men, according to his medal citation, killing four and wounding two more. Then he and his team cleared the building from which the insurgents were operating, using their own guns and hand grenades. One more insurgent was taken hostage inside, and two more were detained.

Despite the intensity of this ambush under cover of darkness, Van Hook said he was able to keep a cool head as he aggressively charged into an enemy position.

“We train like we fight here,” Van Hook said. “Our training is as realistic as we can possibly get it. It’s almost second nature at this point.”

Daybreak found Van Hook and his team in a building providing over-watch defense for a sister Marine Special Operations Team as they brought in ANA officials for a key leader engagement with elders from the region.

“The area was highly destabilized. We wanted to get high-ranking leaders with the Afghan army to show their presence,” Van Hook explained. “We knew the area had a lot of insurgents in it and they had freedom of movement.”

The engagement went as planned, with little more than sporadic “pop shots” at the Marines while the leaders were present. But as the ANA detachment pulled away, all that changed.

“You could almost see their tail lights crossing the horizon when the attack started to kick off,” Van Hook said.

A sniper on the ground started targeting the two Marine teams. As Van Hook’s team began returning fire with recoilless rifles and machine guns, the insurgents directed the bulk of their fire at them. As the onslaught became overwhelming, Van Hook ordered a Marine who had been manning an MK-19 grenade launcher on the roof to take cover.

“If your head was just over the wall, you were getting shot in the Kevlar,” he said.

Later, though, when Van Hook got word from the other Marine element that it was being targeted on three sides, he grabbed another Marine and charged back out to take control of the MK-19 once more.

As he fired the big gun, Van Hook successfully drew the brunt of the enemy attack onto his position, taking the pressure off the other element and allowing them to regain their advantage. He fired on the insurgents until one of them shot an RPG into the rooftop position, knocking Van Hook and the other Marine unconscious and wounding them with shrapnel.

When Van Hook regained consciousness, he saw that the MK-19 had rolled over his leg, which had been pierced by shrapnel and had blood pooling under it. The other Marine had been apparently wounded in the back, and Van Hook moved to put pressure on the wound, and push the Marine to cover, despite the pain in his own leg.

Then, he manned the gun once more and continued to fire on the enemy fighters. When he looked down and saw that the pool of blood under his leg had grown larger, he applied a tourniquet to the leg and kept on fighting.

Finally, one of MARSOC’s special amphibious reconnaissance corpsmen convinced Van Hook to leave the roof for a medical examination. At this point, the Marine was in intense pain and couldn’t feel anything below the ankle of his wounded leg due to a nerve injury.

But, Van Hook said, “I could still think, and I realized there were gaps in my security, so I wanted to support as much as possible.”

With two Marines wounded and an ANA soldier who was fighting with them in bad shape from being shot in the face, the decision was made to organize a casualty evacuation. Instead of laying back and resting, Van Hook teamed up with another Marine who had a recoilless rifle, identifying insurgent targets so he could shoot at them.

Then, with the medical evacuation, or medevac, chopper approaching, he began calling in “danger close” suppressive 120mm mortar fire around the landing zone to allow the bird to land safely. Once on board, Van Hook said he felt not relief, but frustration.

“The last thing a Marine wants to do is leave other Marines behind and I was pretty irritated at that point,” he said.

But the day wasn’t over; while aboard the aircraft, the Afghan soldier collapsed, and Van Hook and the other Marine provided triage care, taking advantage of their extensive medical training.

Looking back on the day, Van Hook was unassuming about his accomplishments.

“This is the job we signed up for,” he said. “Everybody understands the positions you’re going to be put in once you become a [Marine] Raider. Once I found out that the award went through, it was the biggest dose of humble pie I’ve ever experienced.”

Articles

Mattis does not intend to discuss MOAB damage estimates

The ear-splitting explosion from America’s “mother of all bombs” has been followed by calculated silence about the damage it inflicted.


U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said April 20 he does not intend to discuss damage estimates from last week’s use of the military’s most powerful non-nuclear bomb on an Islamic State stronghold in Afghanistan.

The April 13 attack on an IS tunnel and cave complex near the Pakistani border marked the first-ever combat use of the bomb, known officially as a GBU-43B, or Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb. U.S. military officials have said the 11-ton bomb effectively neutralized an IS defensive position.

Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, however, called the use of the weapon “an immense atrocity against the Afghan people.”

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands
The GBU-43 moments before detonation in a March 11, 2003 test. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Afghan government has estimated a death toll of more than 90 militants. It said no civilians were killed.

Reporters traveling with Mattis in Israel asked for his assessment of the bomb’s damage, but he refused.

“For many years we have not been calculating the results of warfare by simply quantifying the number of enemy killed,” Mattis said.

But the Pentagon sometimes announces death counts after attacks on extremists.

On Jan. 20, for example, it said a B-52 bomber strike killed more than 100 militants at an al-Qaida training camp in Syria. That same day, the Pentagon said more than 150 al-Qaida operatives had been killed by U.S. strikes since Jan. 1.

On Jan. 25 the Pentagon said U.S. strikes in Yemen killed five al-Qaida fighters.

Mattis, who assumed office hours after President Donald Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20, hasn’t publicly discussed such numbers. He said April 20 his view was colored by lessons learned from the Vietnam war, when exaggerated body counts undermined U.S. credibility.

Related: Here is the video of MOAB’s combat debut

“You all know the corrosive effect of that sort of metric back in the Vietnam war and it’s something that’s stayed with us all these years,” said Mattis, who was in Tel Aviv to meet Israeli government leaders on April 21.

He met April 20 with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

The publicity created by the bombing in Afghanistan caught many Pentagon leaders by surprise, leading to questions about whether U.S. commanders fully considered the strategic effects of some seemingly isolated decisions.

The Pentagon also has been criticized for its declaration that an aircraft carrier battle group was being diverted from Southeast Asia to waters off the Korean Peninsula, amid concern that North Korea might conduct a missile or nuclear test. The announcement led to misinformed speculation that the ships were in position to threaten strikes on North Korea.

Mattis said he is confident his commanders are properly weighing their actions.

“If they didn’t, I’d remove them,” he said.
MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s why the Russian military is so ‘accident-prone’

While every military has accidents, the Russian military appears to be more accident-prone than other great powers.

“There’s a tendency for accidents to happen in Russia,” Jeffrey Edmonds, a Russia expert at CNA, told INSIDER.

Edmonds, a former CIA analyst and member of the National Security Council, said that the problem appears to be that Russia often combines a willingness to take risks with an outdated military infrastructure that simply can’t support that culture, creating an environment where accidents are more likely.

In recent weeks, many people have been killed or wounded in various Russian military accidents, including a deadly fire aboard a top-secret submarine, an ammunition dump explosion at a military base, and a missile engine explosion at a military test site.


Fourteen Russian sailors died on July 1, 2019, when fire broke out aboard a submarine thought to be the Losharik, a deep-diving vessel believed to have been built to gather intelligence as well as possibly destroy or tap into undersea cables.

The incident was the worst Russian naval accident since 20 Russian sailors and civilians died aboard the nuclear-powered submarine Nerpa in 2008 — a tragedy preceded by the loss of 118 sailors aboard the nuclear-powered cruise-missile sub Kursk in 2000.

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands

Nuclear-powered submarine Nerpa.

These are just a few of a number of deadly submarine accidents since the turn of the century.

“The aging Russian navy (and the predecessor Soviet Navy) in general has had a far higher number of operational accidents than any other ‘major’ fleet,” A.D. Baker, a former naval intelligence officer, previously told INSIDER.

The Russian navy lost its only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, last fall when a heavy crane punched a large hole in it, and the only dry dock suitable for carrying out the necessary repairs and maintenance on a ship of that size sank due to a sudden power failure.

Even when it was deployed, the Kuznetsov was routinely followed around by tug boats in expectation of an accident.

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands

Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier.

Accidents are by no means limited to the Russian navy. An ammunition depot housing tens of thousands of artillery shells at a military base in Siberia exploded on Aug. 5, 2019, killing one and wounding over a dozen people. Then, on Aug. 8, 2019, a missile engine at a military test site in northern Russia unexpectedly exploded, killing two and injuring another six.

Russia also experiences aircraft accidents and other incidents common to other militaries, the US included.

“Russia really pushes an infrastructure that is old to try to keep up or gain parity with the United States,” Edmonds told INSIDER. “They’re pushing their fleet and pushing their military to perform in a certain way that is often beyond what is safe for them to actually do considering the age of the equipment and the age of the infrastructure.”

At the same time, though, “there is a culture of aggressiveness and risk-taking,” Edmonds added, pointing to some of the close calls the Russian military has had while executing dangerous maneuvers in the air and at sea in close proximity to the US military.

“There is a culture of risk-taking in the Russian military that you don’t have in the United States,” he explained. “You would never allow a US pilot to do a low flyover of a Russian ship. The pilot would immediately have his career ended.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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