“The forward presence of F-35s support my priority of having ready and postured forces here in Europe,” said Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, the commander of U.S.European Command and NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe.
“These aircraft, plus more importantly, the men and women who operate them, fortify the capacity and capability of our NATO Alliance.”
The aircraft are deployed from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, and will train with European-based allies.
This long-planned deployment continues to galvanize the U.S. commitment to security and stability throughout Europe. The aircraft and personnel will remain in Europe for several weeks.
The F-35A will also forward deploy to maximize training opportunities, strengthen the NATO alliance, and gain a broad familiarity of Europe’s diverse operating conditions.
“This is an incredible opportunity for [U.S. Air Forces in Europe] airmen and our NATO allies to host this first overseas training deployment of the F-35A aircraft,” said Air Force Gen. Tod D. Wolters, commander of USAFE and Air Forces Africa.
“As we and our joint F-35 partners bring this aircraft into our inventories, it’s important that we train together to integrate into a seamless team capable of defending the sovereignty of allied nations.”
The introduction of the premier fifth-generation fighter to Europe brings state-of-the-art sensors, interoperability, and a vast array of advanced air-to-air and air-to-surface munitions that will help maintain the fundamental territorial and air sovereignty rights of all nations.
The fighter provides unprecedented precision-attack capability against current and emerging threats with unmatched lethality, survivability, and interoperability.
The deployment was supported by the U.S. Air Force’s Air Mobility Command. Multiple refueling aircraft from four different bases provided more than 400,000 pounds of fuel during the “tanker bridge” from the United States to Europe.
Additionally, C-17 Globemaster III and C-5 Galaxy aircraft transported maintenance equipment and personnel to England.
Last week, we published a blurry shot of a U.S. Air Force F-4 Phantom flying inverted during an intercept mission on a Russian Tu-95 Bear. The photograph went viral and reached Robert M. Sihler, the author of the shot, who was so kind to provide some interesting details about the image that brought to mind one of the most famous scenes in Top Gun movie.
“Although I don’t remember the exact date, the mission occurred in either late 1973 or early 1974. The F-4C belonged to the 57th FIS at Keflavik NAS. The mission was a standard intercept of a “Bear” by two F-4s after the alert crews were activated,” Bob wrote in an email to The Aviationist.
I was a Navigator, or in the F-4, a Weapons System Officer. I entered the USAF in Oct 1969. On active duty, I spent a couple of years at Norton AFB, CA in C-141s. From there, I trained in the F-4 and spent one year at Keflavik, Iceland. Following that, I went back to C-141s at Charleston AFB, SC from 1974 to 1977. I left active duty and spent the next 14 years in C-130s at Andrews AFB, MD and Martinsburg ANGB, WV. I retired as a Lt Col in Dec 1991. The assignments to Iceland were generally either one or two years. I elected to do one year without my family accompanying me there. Others chose to bring their families for two years.
Dealing with the close encounters with the Tu-95s:
“At that time, we probably averaged two intercepts of “Bears” per week. They were the only aircraft we saw while I was there. Generally, the intercepts occurred on Fridays and Sundays, at the “Bears” flew from Murmansk to Cuba on training and, we guessed, “fun” missions. Generally, we did these barrel rolls at the request of the Soviet crewmembers. They gave us hand signals to let us know they wanted us to do it. They photographed us as well. The Cold War was winding down and the attitudes on both sides had improved,” Sihler explains.
When asked whether the barrel roll was difficult or unsafe maneuver, Bob has no doubts: “Not really! The Soviets, at the time, gave us hand signals asking us to “perform” for them. The rolls were not dangerous at all.”
The famous shot of the inverted flying F-4 Phantom (the aircraft was actually ending a barrel roll):
An F-4C from 57th FIS escorts a Tu-95 intercepted near Iceland in the early 1970s:
The same 57th FIS F-4C that performed the barrel roll around the Tu-95 depicted during the same intercept mission:
A Tu-95 as seen from a Phantom’s cockpit:
A big thank you to Robert Sihler for answering our questions and providing the photographs you can find in this article.
Warner Brothers will showcase the courage and will of the comic book hero “Wonder Woman” this weekend in her big screen debut.
But it might be worth taking a look at the military exploits of Milunka Savic — a real-life Wonder Woman. Savic fought in both Balkan Wars and World War I to become the most-decorated woman of military history.
Savic took her brother’s place to fight for Serbia in 1912, cut her hair and took his name. She earned the rank of corporal and was shot in the chest at the Battle of Bregalnica. It was only during treatment that physicians discovered that she was a woman.
That per her commanding officer into a bit of a predicament — punish such a skilled soldier or risk this young woman’s life. They sent her to a nursing unit instead. She stood at attention requesting to return to her old infantry regiment. The commander said he would think about it and get back to her with an answer.
Savic simply stood at attention until they allowed her to serve in the Infantry.
Soon after, Austro-Hungarian troops invaded her homeland, beginning World War I.
Vastly outnumbered at the Battle of Kolubara, Savic entered no-man’s land throwing a bunch of grenades then jumped into an enemy trench and took 20 Austro-Hungarian soldiers prisoner — all by herself.
For her valor, she earned the highest honor of the Kingdom of Serbia — The Order of Karadorde’s Star with Swords. She did the same thing in later battles, capturing 23 Bulgarian troops.
Savic was wounded seven more times in various skirmishes. Few in numbers, her unit continued the fight under the French Army where she fought in Tunisia and Greece. In one instance, a French Officer refused to believe that a woman could be a capable fighter.
He placed a bottle of cognac 40 meters away. If she could hit it, another 19 bottles were for her. She proved him wrong with one shot.
Savic’s story lives on in Serbia as a true heroine. Her military honors include two Orders of Karadorde’s Star with Swords, two French Legions of Honor, Britain’s Order of St. Michael and St. George, and she is the only woman to be awarded the Croix de Guerre — The French Cross of War.
One of the more important national security jobs in Washington, D.C. — Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary for South and Southeast Asia — will be filled by a former Army officer with extensive foreign affairs and counterinsurgency experience, reports Breaking Defense.
Retired Col. Joe Felter, who now works at Stanford’s Hoover Institute, “led the International Security and Assistance Force, Counterinsurgency Advisory and Assistance Team, in Afghanistan, reporting directly to Generals Stanley McChrystal and and David Petraeus and advising them on counterinsurgency strategy,” his bio says.
According to Breaking Defense, he also performed counterterrorism work in the Philippines, experience that may be crucial in coping with the unpredictable populist, Rodrigo Duterte.
Mattis reportedly knows him well, so he’ll be able to reach out to him should it become necessary and has that extra credibility going in.
Felter’s nomination would mark the addition of another American soldier whose primary experiences are in counterterrorism, which, while sometimes global in reach, is largely confined to certain regions and rarely requires knowledge or experience of great power politics.
This new job does.
Felter’s new job copes with an immense swath of geography and enormous challenges:
South and Southeast Asia (SSEA): India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Diego Garcia, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and the Pacific Island nations.
He’s familiar with quite a few of the region’s hottest spots, having “conducted foreign internal defense and security assistance missions across East and Southeast Asia,” the Hoover bio says.
The Chinese will be watching Felter closely as he will be the lead in the Pentagon on India, Australia, Vietnam, and a host of other countries warily watching the rising Pacific power.
In 2009, the Department of Defense acquisition chief John J. Young, Jr. issued a mandate requiring the military departments to find new ways to reduce their use of hexavalent chromium (also known as hex-chrome or Cr6+). Hex chrome, which became infamous in the eyes of the public after the release of the film, Erin Brockovich, is a carcinogen that is harmful to humans and the environment. DoD maintenance facilities go to painstaking lengths to reduce the level of exposure sustained by their maintenance technicians due to hex chrome.
Hex chrome offers important corrosion prevention and control qualities in organic pre-treatments and primers used to coat a variety of military aircraft. For example, most coatings and primers used on legacy fighter and cargo aircraft such as the Navy’s F/A-18 and F-14, the Air Force’s C-130, C-5, and F-16 contain hex chrome, and the Army’s H-60 Black Hawk helicopter.
Chromate-based corrosion inhibitors are widely recognized as the best inhibitors available to the DoD. Their high level of performance means that they are still used prolifically as a coating for all types of military aircraft.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joshua Kleinholz)
The Delicate Balance of Finding Alternatives to Hex Chrome
Complicating the issue of finding alternatives to hex chrome is the drastic cost of corrosion faced by the U.S. military. According to a study released by the DoD Corrosion Policy and Oversight Office, the DoD spent nearly $20 billion on corrective corrosion actions in fiscal year 2016. That expenditure amounts to nearly 20 percent of the entire DoD maintenance budget.
Moreover, corrosion experienced by Navy and Marine Corps aircraft costs approximately $3.43 billion annually and accounts for almost 28 percent of all maintenance costs. Corrosion-related maintenance prevents active aircraft from being ready for mission tasking for approximately 57 days each year.
The high cost of corrosion within the DoD persists despite its prolific use of carcinogenic, but best-in-class, chromate primers.
Navy experts who attack the problem of chromates walk a delicate line between finding an environmentally benign inhibitor and refusing to sacrifice so much performance that the DoD maintenance budget swells even further. Since 2009, the search by DoD and industry for a non-chromate primer has persisted alongside the expectation of finding an alternative that performs just as well as current chromate-based primers. Among DoD officials and engineers, this expectation has become known as the “as good as” requirement.
In response to Young’s 2009 mandate, experts at the Materials Engineering Division of the Naval Air Warfare Command – Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) in Patuxent River, MD, re-energized their internal primer research and development efforts in an effort to push the performance of non-chromated primers closer to that of chromated primers, since the products qualified at the time were the best available, but still not good enough for many naval aviation applications
(U.S. Army photo)
To address this shortcoming, NAWCAD materials engineer Craig Matzdorf and chemical engineer William Nickerson, now with the Office of Naval Research, have invented their own solution to the problem. Their patented Active Aluminum-Rich (“Al-Rich”) technology is a powerful anti-corrosion chemical composition created for use in coating systems. The Al-Rich primer is a metalized, sacrificial, chromate-free, high-performance, anti-corrosion primer for use in all situations where a chromated primer is currently used.
“Al-Rich is superior to existing coatings based on the novel aluminum pigment that actively overcomes corrosion by electrochemical means,” said Matzdorf. “Current coatings rely on chemical inhibitors like chromate, which are less effective at fighting galvanic corrosion. We anticipate that the Al-Rich primer will reduce galvanic and other types of corrosion and its effect on the Navy’s cost and availability.”
Key Technology Components in Al-Rich Primer
Although metal-rich primers have existed for quite some time, there were some underlying problems. First, the most traditional metal-rich coatings, such as zinc-rich coatings, are far too heavy for aviation applications and are not effective on aluminum. Second, other metal-rich coatings did not have the longevity of performance in harsh operating environments. “The Al-Rich primer employs two unique approaches to alleviate these key issues and to provide corrosion protection at the level of chromate primers,” according to Matzdorf.
The first key component of the technology is the use of a specialty aluminum alloy as the pigment inside the primer. The alloy composition of this pigment is specifically chosen for its high efficiency. In turn, this high efficiency, in combination with the low density of aluminum, allows the coating to be applied at normal aviation thicknesses, thus eliminating weight concerns.
The technology’s second key component is a proprietary surface treatment applied to the pigment. By subjecting the primer’s pigment to a surface treatment, both the pigment’s overall level of performance and the primer’s overall length of performance are increased. A surface-treated particle boosts the performance of this metal-rich primer to meet the “as good as” requirement.
According to Matzdorf, these two key technology components combine to create a truly novel approach to non-chromated and high-performance primers. One area of Al-Rich primer’s performance excellence is its ability to reduce fastener-induced corrosion. Each time a titanium or stainless steel fastener is punched into the aluminum body of an aircraft, a potent corrosion cell is created. These corrosion cells cause prolific and expensive corrosion damage. For reasons that are likely to stem from its ability to protect aluminum electrochemically, the Al-Rich primer excels at preventing fastener-induced corrosion as well as filiform corrosion. In many scenarios, the Al-Rich primer outperforms its chromated counterparts at preventing these rampant corrosion problems.
Applications and Future Testing
Thus far, the Al-Rich primer has been applied to an Army H-60 helicopter, a NASA C-130 cargo plane, two Coast Guard H-60 tail sections, and various pieces of Navy support equipment. Engineers at NAWCAD have extensive lab data on this product and are now looking to test it extensively on a variety of DoD applications. However, to do so, the Navy needs to procure large batch sizes of the new primer. Because the Navy is not in the business of manufacturing commercial quantities of chemicals, it has begun licensing this Al-Rich primer technology to equipped and capable businesses.
Through funding sponsored by the Office of Naval Research over the next few years, the Navy plans to apply the new Al-Rich primer to larger and larger portions of its assets. Successful field demonstrations will allow the Navy to comply with the DoD mandate regarding hex chrome. According to officials at NAWCAD and the DoD Corrosion Policy and Oversight Office, Al-Rich primers represent an exciting new entry into the non-chromated anti-corrosion primer market.
This post is reprinted with permission from NationSwell, new digital media company focused on American innovation and renewal.
After he was attacked in Iraq, Jason Redman could have retired to a quiet, private life. Instead he shed his anger so he could dress other vets.
A year after he was ambushed by machine-gun fire in Fallujah, Iraq, Lt. Jason Redman was still missing his nose. The bullets that showered his body also hit his cheekbone, leaving the right side of his face caved in. And he was wearing an eye patch to conceal a crusty and mangled sight. Returning to his life in Virginia, Redman says it was as if he had become a target all over again — this time to questions and stares from strangers.
The questions themselves — were you in a car accident? a motorcycle crash? — didn’t bother Redman. The fact that no one ever asked whether he’d been hurt in combat did. “It really started to make me bitter,” Redman, 38, says. “We’d been at war in Iraq for six years at that point and I thought, ‘Wow does the average American that I fought for recognize the sacrifice that I’ve made and that others have made?'”
Redman’s irritation began to fester, and after a particularly bothersome gawking session at the airport (“It’d been culminating, and I’d just reached my breaking point”), he took to the Internet to vent. Instead of angry Tweets or passive aggressive Facebook messages, Redman decided to wear his defense. He began designing T-shirts featuring slogans like, “Stop staring. I got shot by a machine gun. It would have killed you.” An American flag adorned the back of each one. As he started wearing his designs, strangers began to nod in appreciation, even thanking him at times. Redman knew he was onto something — that there were countless other wounded warriors who felt the same way.
So in 2009 he created Wounded Wear, a nonprofit that donates clothing kits to warriors hurt in combat and their loved ones, as well as to the families of fallen soldiers. The kits contain jackets, workout gear and T-shirts that read “Scarred so that others may live free,” a toned-down version of the original slogans Redman used to print. His organization also accepts existing clothing from service members, which the nonprofit modifies to accommodate short-term rehabilitation needs or permanent bodily damage: One of the most requested alterations comes from amputees, whose prosthetic limbs make it difficult to put on regular pants. Wounded Wear provides everything to service members free of charge, raising money from donations as well as apparel sales on its website. So far, they’ve donated nearly 2,000 kits.
Though he always knew he would serve and support others who served, Redman says that Wounded Wear is hardly the career path he dreamed for himself. Born into a military family, he often heard stories about his paternal grandfather, a highly decorated World War II B-24 pilot who once crash-landed a plane after being hit, and kept his entire team alive. As a kid, Redman loved to play with an old parachute that his father, a member of the airborne forces based in Fort Campbell, Ky., had saved from his days in service. “I just grew up with this message of service in our family and very patriotic values,” he says. “From a very young age, I knew I wanted to serve.”
By age 15, Redman had his heart set on the Navy. At 19, he began on a path of five deployments that would take him around the world, including Colombia, Peru, Afghanistan and, ultimately, Iraq. It was there, in September 2007 in the middle of the Iraq War, that Redman and his unit were ambushed while chasing a high-level target. After taking multiple shots to his helmet, elbow and face, he was lucky to be alive. Redman’s rehabilitation required 37 surgeries over the course of four years. The devastating injuries effectively ended his combat career. “I had to learn a different way forward, a different way to give back,” he says. “I said, ‘I’m gonna lift up people around me and I’m gonna continue to lead even if it’s from this hospital bed.’ ”
Which is exactly where Redman’s second act began. While recovering at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Redman grew frustrated by the waves of people who came into his room expressing sorrow and sympathy. He was sick of the pity and asked his wife to buy the brightest color paper she could find — an orange poster. On it, Redman wrote:
“Attention to all who enter here. If you are coming into this room with sorrow or to feel sorry for my wounds, go elsewhere. The wounds I received I got in a job I love, doing it for people I love, supporting the freedom of a country I deeply love. I am incredibly tough and will make a full recovery. What is full? That is the absolute utmost physically my body has the ability to recover. Then I will push that about 20 percent further through sheer mental tenacity. This room you are about to enter is a room of fun, optimism, and intense rapid regrowth. If you are not prepared for that, go elsewhere.”
His words were quickly embraced by fellow recovering veterans and went viral online. Even today, nearly seven years later, it remains a mantra for wounded warriors in recovery. Memories of his long and painful rehabilitation inform every aspect of Redman’s vision for Wounded Wear. In addition to donating clothing kits, his organization hosts quarterly “Jumps for a Purpose,” skydiving sessions for wounded vets and their families. With food vendors, musicians and other entertainers, the events are designed to convey a festive atmosphere, offering vets a chance to interact with fellow servicemen. But they are also metaphorical dives — opportunities for wounded warriors to let go of the obstacles holding them back. “It’s not really about jumping — it’s an extreme thing to throw yourself out of a perfectly good airplane,” Redman says. “It’s about moving forward, conquering that fear and taking that step back into life.”
Josh Hoffman, a single amputee Marine whose left leg was lost during an explosion in South Helmand Province, Afghanistan, in 2011, says Redman was a savior during his recovery at the Naval Medical Center Portsmouth in Virginia. The hospital didn’t have the resources to provide wounded warriors with modified clothing during their surgeries, but Hoffman had heard about Wounded Wear through friends at Bethesda, and asked Redman for help. “For months, I’d only been wearing shorts because my pants didn’t have zippers,” Hoffman says. “Jay modified my service outfits, jeans and all my pants — it was an incredible resource.” Hoffman, who has gone through more than 20 surgeries during his recovery, has gone on to volunteer with Wounded Wear, helping the organization pass out clothing kits at their various wounded warrior events, which he says has become a huge inspiration to him. “They’ve given me another sense of purpose to inspire others,” he says. “Jay’s shown me that even if you can’t do what you were doing before, you can always do something to help other vets. And I should say he’s the most humble person I’ve met, which has helped me strive to become a better person, day to day, which can be very difficult when I’m still working through things myself.”
Redman’s work is getting noticed elsewhere, too. Matt Reames, who with his wife co-founded the annual Never Quit Never Forget Gala to raise money for various organizations serving the country’s armed forces, first heard about Redman’s story from a friend who was also a former SEAL. Reames invited Redman to speak at their inaugural gala in 2011, and says Redman’s inspiring story left jaws on the floor at the event. But it was behind the scenes where Reames really saw the impact of Wounded Wear’s efforts. At a pre-gala gathering, Reames noticed Redman give a kit to a fellow vet named Chance Vaughn, who’d lost the majority of the left side of his head in combat. “The look on Chance’s face was incredible — he was stunned to see someone give him something, that someone cared about what he did,” Reames says. Nearly three years later, Reames says Vaughn still wears his Wounded Wear gear every day. “Jay shows wounded warriors that people do remember, that they do care about what they do, and that’s absolutely needed because war is not this fly-by-night thing. Even when a war ends, you’re going to have soldiers missing limbs, needing help.”
Having helped veterans get their pride back, Redman says his next focus is to bring other forms of long-term change into their lives. He’s written a book, “The Trident: The Forging and Reforging of a Navy SEAL Leader,” about his experiences, with hopes that it will inspire others, both military members and civilians, to overcome the difficulties in their lives. And he wants to partner with other organizations to help veterans achieve their goals, be it going to law school or finding permanent housing. “We want to build a vast database and network with these other great organizations so that we can see them succeed, see them achieve their American Dream,” Redman says. “The U.S. government can’t do it right now. Compromise is not even a word they’re willing to entertain…so it’s up to us as citizens and we need to work together to do it.”
And with the country’s official drawdown from Afghanistan coming soon, Redman says the importance of that work is more urgent than ever. “The awareness of the wars is already waning. Big battles, guys that are lost — they don’t really make the news anymore,” he says. “Iraq ended, but my scars didn’t go away. Wounded warriors carry those scars for life, so it’s more important than ever that we continue to raise awareness, to make sure our veterans are taken care of.”
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is threatening to “shred” the nuclear deal between Tehran and global powers if the United States pulls out.
Khamenei, Iran’s highest authority, said on October 18 that Tehran will stick to the 2015 deal as long as the other signatories respect it.
He was speaking in Tehran days after U.S. President Donald Trump announced he would not certify that Iran is complying with the agreement and warned he might ultimately “terminate” U.S. participation.
Trump accused Tehran of violating the “spirit” of the agreement, in part for its continued testing of ballistic missiles, and said he would ask Congress to strengthen U.S. legislation to put additional pressure on Iran.
Trump’s announcement has put Washington at odds with other parties to the accord and the European Union, which have voiced their support for the agreement.
Khamenei welcomed Europe’s support but said it was not sufficient, saying “Europe must stand against practical measures [taken] by America.”
Under the nuclear deal, Tehran agreed to curtail its nuclear activities in exchange for relief from sanctions that have hurt its economy.
The six powers that signed the accord are the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany.
In back, from left to right, Maj. Gen. Matthew P. Beevers, WO1 Ge Xiong, CW2 Irvin Hernandez, CW5 Kipp Goding, CW5 Joseph Rosamond, CW2 Brady Hlebain, Sgt. Cameron Powell, and Sgt. George Esquivel Jr. (White House)
Earlier this week, the Creek Fire had burned over 200,000 acres, prompted multiple evacuation orders, and trapped hundreds of people. California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency and activated the California National Guard to support efforts to combat the wildfires and conduct rescues. On September 5, two California National Guard aircrews braved the high winds, thick smoke, and scorching flames to rescue more than 200 people trapped in campgrounds by the fire. On September 14, Chief Warrant Officers Joseph Rosamond, Kipp Goding, Irvin Hernandez, Brady Hlebain, Ge Xiong; and Sergeants George Esquival Jr. and Cameron Powell were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for their actions by President Trump.
President Trump presents the soldiers with their awards. (White House)
On September 5, helicopters of the 40th Combat Aviation Brigade were flying in support of firefighting efforts against the Creek Fire. That evening, a UH-60 Blackhawk and CH-47 Chinook crew were tasked with rescuing families trapped by the fire at the Mammoth Pool Campground. En route to the rescue site, state, local, and headquarters officials notified the crews that the mission was too dangerous and instructed them to turn back. However, with selfless determination, both crews continued their mission of mercy into the smoke and flames.
Night set in and, coupled with the thick black smoke rising from the fire below, visibility was nearly zero. Using their night vision goggles, expert flying skill, and professional coordination and teamwork, the aircrews reached the campground. They loaded as many of the victims as they could, many of whom were injured and badly burned, onto the two helicopters and began the perilous flight back through the smoke.
Upon returning and unloading their passengers, they turned right around and made a second rescue flight. After their second return, they were told not to conduct further rescues that night. “You cannot do this,” a supervisor told them. “You cannot do it again.” They did. The third flight was made through even thicker smoke as the fire burned hard into the night. Despite this, both crews successfully completed a grueling 10-hour mission and rescued 242 people.
Dozens of evacuees aboard the Chinook on the night of September 5 (CA National Guard)
Less than 48 hours after the Mammoth Pool mission, both crews flew another treacherous aerial rescue mission. On the first two attempts, the fire forced them to turn back and they were again advised not to proceed. “You must abort the mission,” they were told by officials. They chose to make a third attempt and successfully rescued another 50 people. In the week following these rescues, both crews have continued to fly missions to save stranded individuals threatened by the fire. Their bravery and valor distinguished them and earned them the nation’s highest flying honor.
At a ceremony held at a CAL FIRE Hangar in McClellan Park, CA, all seven soldiers were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by President Trump. Behind them were the aircraft that they skillfully crewed into the fire on their rescues. In attendance were distinguished guests including Major General Matthew Beevers, Representatives Doug LaMalfa, Tom McClintock, and Greg Walden, and Governor Gavin Newsom.
The aircraft crewed by the awardees (White House)
President Trump praised the soldiers for the selfless service and dedication to duty. “Our nation is strong because of remarkable individuals like these service members. In the midst of our greatest trials and biggest challenges, America prevails because of the brave and selfless patriots who risk everything so that they may save lives of people, in many cases, that they don’t know,” the President said. “Today, our country honors their courage, and we are inspired by their example, and we thank God for the blessing and all our blessings that you’re safe.”
Following the President’s remarks, the orders were posted awarding the Distinguished Flying Cross to CW5 Rosamond, CW5 Goding, CW2 Hlebain, CW2 Hernandez, WO1 Ge Xiong, Sgt. Esquivel Jr., and Sgt. Powell. The actions of these brave soldiers reflect the American spirit of strength and perseverance through adversity. President Trump recognized this when he told the soldiers, “Your unyielding determination lifts our nation. You’re what makes our nation great.”
Army officials at Fort Polk, Louisiana, are trying to determine how a soldier was shot during training in October 2018 since the incident did not occur during a live-fire event.
The soldier from 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, was shot accidentally while going through Expert Infantryman Badge (EIB) testing at 2 p.m. Oct. 26, 2018, according to Kim Reischling, a spokeswoman for Fort Polk.
The Army did not release the soldier’s name, but Reischling said he is in stable condition.
Infantry soldiers participate in testing each year to show they have mastered their core infantry skills and to earn the EIB, a distinctive badge consisting of a silver musket on a blue field.
Expert Infantryman Badge candidates wait at the start of the 12-mile foot march before the sun rises, April 3, 2014.
The testing requires soldiers to pass a day-and-night land navigation course; complete a 12-mile road march with their weapon, individual equipment and a 35-pound rucksack within three hours; and pass several individual tests involving weapons, first aid and patrolling techniques.
Soldiers are required to have their weapons with them during EIB testing, but there “shouldn’t have been live rounds” present when the soldier was shot, Reischling said.
The incident remains under investigation, she said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The fist bump was their thing in Afghanistan, where both Marines lost legs in the same attack, and the fist bump is still their thing in the hunt for child predators under a special law enforcement program to train and hire medically retired veterans.
Cpl. Justin Gaertner and Sgt. Gabriel Martinez in their dress blues bumped fists at an event earlier this year in Florida, just as they bumped fists while recovering from their wounds.
Gaertner, 26, of Tampa, Fla., has been partnered for the last two years with retired Army Special Forces Staff Sgt. Nathan Cruz, 42, executing the computer forensics to track down sex traffickers in the ICE/HERO program.
Working out of the Tampa, Fla., Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office, Gaertner and Cruz use their newly-acquired computer skills to determine probable cause and go on raids to seize evidence hidden in computer hard drives, software programs and cell phones, much of it involving disturbing images of young children.
Martinez has just committed to training for the same job that falls under the Department of Homeland Security’s mandate in a program that began two years ago.
He was expected to start the year-long training in the fall for the program that was initially limited to U.S. Special Operations Command veterans but now is open to medically retired vets from all the services, said Tamara Spicer, an ICE spokeswoman.
Martinez and Gaertner were both wounded while on a route clearance mission outside Marjah in Afghanistan’s southwestern Helmand province on Nov. 26, 2010.
An improvised explosive device went off and “my best friend blew up right in front of me,” Gaertner said. He was wounded when he stepped on a mine while trying to clear a medevac landing zone.
STUNNED AT THE SCOPE
In phone interviews last week, Gaertner, who served five years in the Marines, and Cruz, a 15-year Army veteran, said they were both channeling the discipline and determination they brought from the military into going after child predators and pornographers. Despite their training, both admitted they were stunned at the scope of the problem.
“I don’t think we ever realized fully what we were getting into or the nature of the suspects we were going after,” Gaertner said. “We don’t really understand them. There’s no character to the people who do these crimes.
“We’ve seen schoolteachers to daycare workers to sports photographers to diplomats – there’s really no face to these crimes,” Gaertner said. “It’s been hard and it’s been a long road but luckily Nathan and I are in the same office and we have each other to fall back on.”
Cruz also said “I didn’t know what I was going to get into” at the start. “I wasn’t working, I wasn’t doing anything,” but “I heard from some SOCOM buddies about this so I thought I’d give it a shot.”
Now, as the father of three children, “I think there’s nothing better I should be doing,” Cruz said. “Kids are being victimized over and over. They need someone to get their back. We just want to put the guys that are hurting them behind bars.”
Cruz and Gaertner were part of the first HERO Corps (Human Exploitation Rescue Operations Corps) in 2013 working with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) to meet the growing backlog of sex trafficking cases.
2,300 CHILD PREDATORS
Last year, ICE seized more than 5.2 million gigabytes of data related to child exploitation and pornography and arrested more than 2,300 child predators on criminal charges.
“The HERO program, and the resulting hiring of Nathan and Justin, has paid great dividends for HSI Tampa across the board,” said Susan L. McCormick, special agent in charge of HSI Tampa. “We gained skilled employees with valuable experience and training.”
In October 2013, the first class of 17 HEROs graduated from the initial training as computer forensic analysts and in October 2014 a second class of 13 HEROs graduated. In August, ICE was expected to begin training another 50 candidates for the HERO Corps.
In May, Congress passed a bill to make the ICE/HERO program a permanent part of Homeland Security and its budget. The bill was quickly signed into law by President Obama as the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015.
The program had been partly funded by a five-year, $10 million contribution from individuals and foundations through the non-profit National Association to Protect Children.
At a Washington ceremony last month, Homeland Secretary Jeh Johnson and ICE Director Sarah Saldana swore 22 new vets into the HERO Corps designed “to allow wounded, ill or injured warriors the chance to continue serving their country on a new battlefield – the fight against child predators.”
“These heroes have all served their country with honor and distinction and, despite the traumas of war they all have endured, they have answered the call yet again,” Johnson said.
“The main thing we’re focusing on is child exploitation,” Cruz said. “I’d say maybe 80 percent of our cases are child pornography.” The average suspect might have about 1,000 images but “we’ve seen cases with more than 40,000 images. They trade them with their buddies so they can get more – that’s how it works. The more I find, the more years you’re going to get.”
Once they have zeroed in on an offender, the hardest, and most rewarding, part of the job begins – finding and rescuing those children in the images, Cruz said.
“We try to save that kid, try to see where he or she is from. That brings more satisfaction, knowing those kids are not going to be harmed anymore.”
Gaertner said that a recent case in which a suspect had 28,000 images led to the rescue of 130 children nationwide.
Cruz and Gaertner also said that part of the job was focusing on themselves and the potential effects of constantly dealing with the worst of society and the images of exploited children. “Luckily, Nathan and I are in the same office and we have each other to fall back on,” Gaertner said.
“We cannot bring work home, we were taught that during our military careers,” Cruz said. “I tell everybody that when I went to SERE school (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape), the one thing they stress the most is ‘stay in the circle.’ I stay in the circle. Work stays at work, when I go home it’s Nathan the dad.”
While partnering with Gaertner, “we talk about it all the time,” Cruz said of the potential psychological effects. “He knows what I do, I know what he does. Me and Justin, we’re lucky that we’re here together.”
Israel’s air force chief held “professional, open” talks with officials in Moscow in the aftermath of the shoot-down of a Russian warplane by Syria earlier in the week that Russian officials said was caused by Israeli actions.
Major General Amikam Norkin traveled to Moscow on Sept. 20, 2018, to share his military’s findings on the incident in which 15 Russian service-members aboard the Il-20 surveillance plane were killed off the coast of Syria.
Russia has acknowledged that antiaircraft forces of its ally Syria inadvertently brought down the plane, but it also blamed Israel for conducting a fighter jet raid on Syrian forces around the same time.
A statement released by the Israeli military after Norkin’s Moscow visit said that “the meetings were held in good spirits, and the representatives shared a professional, open, and transparent discussion on various issues.”
“Both sides emphasized the importance of the states’ interests and the continued implementation of the deconfliction system,” the statement said.
Israel and Russia have set up an exchange of information between their forces operating in and around Syria to reduce the risk of air incidents.
The Russian plane was shot down by Syrian air defenses on Sept. 17, 2018, after Israeli missiles struck the coastal region of Latakia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Israeli military said its jets had targeted a Syrian site that was in the process of transferring weapons to Iran-backed Hizballah militants.
It added that Israeli planes were already in Israeli airspace when Syria fired the missiles that hit the Russian plane.
Israel insisted it warned Russian forces of its raid ahead of time in accordance with previous agreements.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said the Israeli warning came less than a minute before the strike, and it accused the Israeli military of using the Russian plane as a cover to dodge Syrian defense systems.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Russian President Vladimir to express sorrow over the deaths of crew member, blaming Syria and offering to send Norkin with detailed information.
“I told him that we have the right of self-defense,” Netanyahu said on Sept. 20, 2018, adding that “there is also very great importance to maintaining the security coordination between Israel and Russia.”
Russia, along with Iran, has given Syrian President Bashar al-Assad support throughout the country’s seven-year civil war, which began with a government crackdown on protesters in March 2011.
Russian air support has been particularly crucial in allowing Assad to hold off Islamic insurgents and Western-backed rebels and maintain power.
When Misa Matsushima joined the Japan Air Self Defense Force, she was one of 13,707 women service members who made up just 6.1% of all Japanese troops.
Four years later, now 1st Lt. Matsushima is in even more rarified air: The 26-year-old was named as Japan’s first female fighter pilot on Aug 24, 2018.
For Matsushima, the achievement was inspired by the movie that made the fighter jock a mainstream figure.
“Ever since I saw the movie ‘Top Gun’ when I was in primary school, I have always admired fighter jet pilots,” Matsushima told reporters on Aug 23, 2018.
“As the first female (fighter) pilot, I will open the way. I would like work hard to meet people’s expectations and show my gratitude to people who have been supporting me,” she added. “I want to become a full-fledged pilot, no different from men, as soon as possible.”
1st. Lt. Misashi Matsushima, the first woman fighter pilot in Japan’s Air Self Defense Force.
Originally from Yokohama in eastern Japan, Matsushima graduated from the National Defense Academy in 2014. After that she got her pilot’s license and moved to fighter-pilot training with the JASDF.
Matsushima completed the fighter-pilot course alongside five men and is expected to start flying F-15s in six months to a year. The F-15J that the JASDF flies is a twin-engine fighter designed for air-to-air combat. It can hit a top speed of Mach 2.5 — nearly 2,000 mph.
She has to undergo further training to qualify to scramble the jet to intercept aircraft that enter Japanese airspace. She will be stationed at Nyutabaru air base on the eastern coast of Kyushu, the southern most of Japan’s four main islands.
Her appointment comes amid a broader move toward gender equality in Japan’s armed forces, which are also trying to grow their ranks.
Japan’s Air Self Defense Force opened many of its positions to women in 1993, but they were still barred from fighter and reconnaissance aircraft until 2015, when the prohibition was lifted as part of an effort to increase the number of women in the service. Matsushima had planned to fly transport planes before the restriction was lifted.
1st. Lt. Misashi Matsushima, the first woman fighter pilot in Japan’s Air Self Defense Force.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged in 2013 to empower more women to join the workforce, a landmark move for a leader in a society that has long been male-dominated.
Spring 2018, Japan’s Defense Ministry began several initiatives to boost the number of women in the military from the current 6.1% of the 228,000-strong force to 9% by 2030. Women are 16% of the US’s military’s roughly 1.29 million enlisted personnel.
Other women have achieved similar feats. Ryoko Azuma became the first woman to command a warship squadron in early 2018, a decade after Tokyo lifted a ban on women serving on warships. Women are still barred from submarines.
But Japan remains profoundly unequal for women. The country slid three spots in the World Economic Forum’s global gender-equality rankings for 2017, falling from 111 to 114 out of 144 countries. That drop was driven largely by the low proportion of women lawmakers and Cabinet ministers.
Matsushima’s accomplishment comes amid a broader push by the hawkish Abe government to grow the military. The Defense Ministry said in early August 2018 that it would raise the maximum age for military recruits form 26 to 32 to expand the pool of potential soldiers that has shrunk due to the country’s low birth rates and aging population.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.