The 2016 Mighty Movie Awards - We Are The Mighty
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The 2016 Mighty Movie Awards

This year is almost over but 2016’s military movies are all available for the world to see. They came and went like so many celebrity deaths. Some were better than others.


We wanted to honor the ones who stood out with awards, and present them with statues.

We don’t have any to give but we wanted to.

Best Film North Korea Should Have Been Pissed About: “Operation Chromite”

Yeah, “The Interview” made Kim Jong-Un look like a twerp but “Operation Chromite” makes the entire country look stupid.

 

A sub-Award goes to Liam Neeson, who looks and acts so much like General MacArthur, you’ll be afraid he might kill you for asking for your veteran’s benefits.

Best Last Stand: Cillian Murphy and Jamie Dornan, “Anthropoid”

Operation Anthropoid was the Czech government-in-exile’s plot to kill SS General Reinhard Heydrich – the man who designed Hitler’s extermination of Europen Jews. Two Czech agents do the job and are tracked down in a cathedral by what seems like a battalion of Nazi soldiers. They and other members of the Resistance opt to not surrender.

Best Depiction of a Veteran Who Still Fits in his Old Uniform: Hugo Weaving, “Hacksaw Ridge”

Weaving plays Tom Doss, father of Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector who earned the medal of honor as a medic in WWII. In the film, he uses his status as a WWI veteran to get access to a general, but first he has to get in his old uniform. You know, for dramatic effect.

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(Summit Entertainment)

The elder Doss was at the Battle of Belleau Wood in 1918. Since Hacksaw Ridge takes place in 1942 when the younger Doss enlisted, we have to give credit to Tom Doss for being able to fit in that thing 24 years later.

I’ve only been out for eight years and I doubt I could get my blues pants up to my waist.

Best Trailer: “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk”

No military movie was as anticipated as “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” the film adaptation of Ben Fountain’s book of the same name. Ang Lee’s movie looked spectacular but was received to mixed reviews.

Viewers may disagree but the one thing you can’t argue about is how great this trailer is.

 

So if you don’t like the movie, think of this as a trailer for the book. The book is really good. Really, really good.

Best Acting: Steven Lang, “Beyond Glory”

Most actors get an award nod for playing one role, but if WATM were handing out actual statues, we’d give Steven Lang eight of them for “Beyond Glory.” The actor travels around the world, for troops and civilians, telling the story of 8 Medals of Honor, as the guys who received them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gG4Alda6A_U
 

Go ahead, try to watch this movie without getting goosebumps. If you can, then check yourself into the nearest psych ward, because you might not be capable of feelings.

Breakout Performance by a Duo: John Krasinski and David Denman, “13 Hours”

The two men from the NBC series “The Office” reunited on the silver screen in 2016 as Jack Silva and Dave ‘Boon’ Benton in this obscure indie hit. They portray two security contractors working for the U.S. State Department in Libya in a plot to bring down Hillary Clinton. Or something. I don’t know, I don’t follow politics.

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They look awesome though. (Paramount Pictures)

Krasinski’s career as an operator clearly began while he was an Air Force pilot at Joint Base Hickam-Pearl Harbor, when he asked Chris Kyle to teach him how to be operator AF.

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Best Villain: The Sharks, “USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage”

It’s hard to blame the Japanese submarine for sinking the Indianapolis. the Pacific War was still a war, after all (besides, the skipper of the Japanese boat came to Capt. McVay’s defense at his court-martial). What you can blame are the sharks who ate the survivors of the ship’s sinking.

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Sharks are assholes. (Saban Films)

For the days they spent waiting to be rescued, the sailors of the Indianapolis just hung out, waiting to be gnawed on like some shark’s pickled chum.

Best Combat Action Sequence: Mel Gibson “Hacksaw Ridge”

Leave it to the guy who brought you a medieval combat scene where someone gets hit in the face with a hammer to bring you World War II combat that tosses body parts around like confetti.

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(Summit Entertainment)

Nothing says “war is terrible” like showing the worst parts of it. Mission complete, Mel Gibson. On that note…

Best On-Screen Improv: This guy from “Hacksaw Ridge”

Using what’s left of your Battle Buddy like Captain America uses his vibranium shield isn’t exactly in the Army field manual, but the guys who wrote that weren’t writing it at Okinawa. If your Battle is supposed to save your life, then this guy did the right thing.

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At least he didn’t throw his shield at the enemy. (Summit Entertainment)

Best “Eat Pray Love”-style war movie: “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot”

That movie would have been waaaaaaaay different if Julia Roberts went to Afghanistan instead of, say, Italy.

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Marines radically altering someone’s worldview… not just the guys in that truck, either. (Paramount Pictures)

“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” even calls itself “the most American white lady story I’ve ever heard” in the middle of the movie. Special props to WTF for having Margot Robbie explain the “Desert Queen” principle, a longtime staple of deployment lore.

Best Director Who Actually Looks Like He’s In Combat: Michael Bay, “13 Hours”

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(Paramount Pictures)

I’m starting to believe everything Michael Bay does features explosions. Like, when he goes to get coffee or to the post office, a car down the street explodes. Most of us will never have a work photo take that looks this cool.

Drill Sergeant of the Year: Vince Vaughn, “Hacksaw Ridge”

Many cinematic instructors have come and gone over the years, from ones as memorable as Gunny Hartman to the less memorable Merwin Toomey.

You can decide where Vince Vaughn’s Sgt. Howell falls in the pantheon, but for 2016, he’s tops.

[dailymotion //www.dailymotion.com/embed/video/x5395jo expand=1] 
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Watch a soldier surprise kids who sent care packages to the troops

Army Staff Sgt. Timothy Stanley fought in Afghanistan and graduated from air assault school. But when he visited an elementary school near his base, he found that even an auditorium full of youngsters could make him nervous.


For two years, the children of North Bay Elementary School in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, sent care packages to the men and women of the U.S. Army’s Charlie Troop, 3/89 CAV, from Fort Polk, Louisiana, during C-troop’s time in Afghanistan.

“To get a letter, a picture, or a box of junk food, it’s amazing,” Stanley told ABC affiliate WLOX. “To be able to get up in front of these kids and say thank you means a lot to me.”

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(twitter.com/TrangPhamBui)

WLOX’s Trang Pham-Bui captured this video of young students gathered in a patriotic assembly. The kids were giving their thoughts and remembering what it felt like to decide what to send American soldiers overseas.

 

Stanley drove for six hours just to surprise the students. He read them a heartfelt thank you from Charlie troop and presented the school and children with several American flags flown over Afghanistan.

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(twitter.com/TrangPhamBui)

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These are the jets that the last man to walk on the moon flew

With the passing of Gene Cernan, a retired Navy captain and NASA astronaut on Jan. 16, 2017, the last man to walk on the moon has left us. While many remember him for that, it should be noted that Cernan was also a naval aviator.


According to his NASA biography, Cernan had over 5,000 flight hours in jets. While NASA notes that Cernan served with VA-26 and VA-112, his Popular Mechanics obituary has him flying with VA-126 and VA-112, and his memoirs place him with VA-126 and VA-113. According to airportjournals.com, during his basic flight training, Cernan flew the T-34, T-28, and F9F Panther.

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John Glenn standing beside the damage to the tail of his F9F Panther from antiaircraft fire after a mission during the Korean War. Gene Cernan flew the F9F Panther during flight training. (Ohio State University)

According to seaforces.org, VA-126 was a Fleet Replacement Squadron, and equipped with the FJ-4B Fury, and the F9F-8 and F9F-8T versions of the Cougar. According to aviation historian Joe Baugher, the F9F-8 Cougar was quickly rendered obsolete as a front-line jet due to new designs, but it did provide service as a fighter-bomber.

The F9F-8T was a two-seat trainer version of the F9F-8, Baugher notes that it stayed in service far longer than its single-seat counterpart. They were later re-designated F-9J and TF-9J in 1962.

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A F9F-8 Cougar with two AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles. Gene Cernan flew the F9F-8 during his time with VA-126. (U.S. Navy photo)

The FJ-4B Fury was a modification of the FJ-4 Fury, which was a navalized version of the famed F-86 Saber, the air-superiority fighter that controlled the skies over the Korean Peninsula during the Korean War. According to Baugher, the FJ-4B was a fighter-bomber, armed with four 20mm cannons and able to carry up to 6,000 pounds of bombs and missiles, including the AGM-12 Bullpup. The FJ-4B could also carry the AIM-9 Sidewinder.

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FJ-4B Fury with VA-126. During his time with that squadron, Cernan flew the FJ-4B. (U.S. Navy photo)

When he was assigned to the fleet, Cernan flew the legendary A-4 Skyhawk with either VA-112 or VA-113, depending on the source. According to seaforces.org, both squadrons were equipped with the A-4B Skyhawk (then designated the A4D-2) when Cernan deployed on board USS Shangri-La in 1958 and in 1960.

Joe Baugher notes that the A-4B was capable of carrying a Mk 28 nuclear warhead. It also could carry the AGM-12 Bullpup, had two 20mm cannons, and the ability to haul up to 5,000 pounds of bombs.

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An A-4B Skyhawk. Gene Cernan made two deployments with VA-113 and flew the A-4B. (U.S. Navy photo)

As a NASA astronaut, Cernan also flew T-38 Talon supersonic trainers. According to a NASA release, the T-38s are used to keep astronauts current, and pilots are required to have 15 hours per month of flight time.

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Two NASA T-38s fly past the Space Shuttle launch pad. Gene Cernan got 15 flight hours a month in the T-38 to maintain proficiency as an astronaut. (NASA photo)

Gene Cernan walked on the moon, but let’s not forget the fact that he also flew a lot of cool planes much closer to Earth.

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This video shows why carpet bombing is absolutely devastating

There was a lot of talk about carpet bombing during the 2016 election.


That potential world leaders are talking about a military tactic like this means it might be a good idea take a look at just what carpet bombing means.

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A U.S. Air Force Boeing B-52F Stratofortress drops bombs over Vietnam. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Related: B-52s are blasting ISIS targets

Carpet bombing, once known as “saturation bombing,” is a large-scale aerial bombing operation over a small area, intent on the complete destruction of a target or targets. Such an operation in a civilian area is considered a war crime under the Geneva Conventions, though the United States is not a signatory to that protocol.

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German and British bombers used the tactic throughout World War II, to great effect. The United States’ Army Air Forces took it to the next level in Germany and then Japan under the leadership of Gen. Curtis LeMay. The U.S. would return to the tactic during the Vietnam War, especially for Operations Rolling Thunder and Linebacker II.

It is a devastating tactic that causes a lot of destruction. Since it is heavily dependent on unguided, “dumb” bombs, the potential for collateral and unnecessary death and destruction is very high and the U.S. Air Force hasn’t used it since Vietnam. They still train for the capability, however.

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The video below is an amalgamation of U.S. Air Force footage over the previous decades. It shows real-world and training operations where carpet bombing is used as a tactic. B-52 Stratofortresses, B-1 Lancers, and B-2 Spirits are seen dropping tons  and tons of ordnance on targets.

It shows the pure power potential of the Air Force’s conventional bombing force. Real air power doesn’t require nukes – overwhelming force can be just as devastating.

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The first Marine F-35 squadron is gearing up for a Pacific deployment

Since relocating from Yuma, Arizona, to Iwakuni, Japan, in January, the Marine Corps’ first squadron of F-35B Joint Strike Fighters has been hard at work ironing out the basics of operations in the Pacific, from streamlining supply chains to practicing “hot reloads” and rapid ground refueling from a KC-130.


In fall 2017, the unit — Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 — will deploy aboard the amphibious assault ship Wasp with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.

And the squadron is well aware that a sea deployment in the tense Pacific could well entail responding to a regional crisis or a combat contingency, Lt. Col. Richard Rusnok, the squadron’s commanding officer, told Military.com in an interview this month.

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DOD Photo by Levingston M Lewis

“When I was a young guy in [AV-8B] Harrier land in 2003, several MEUs … were in a normal deployment and something happened, and they ended up in a bigger picture,” Rusnok said, referring to MEU-based combat units dispatched to Iraq to assist with ground operations during the invasion. “That’s something that could really happen. Given the small numbers of F-35s that are out there, I think [combatant commanders] are going to look at that and say, ‘I’ve got six airplanes out on the MEU. I could do something with them.’ ”

VFMA-121 has hit milestones not just for the Marine Corps, but for the entire Defense Department since late 2012, when it became the first squadron to activate with the 5th-generation fighter.

The unit’s reception in the Iwakuni community has been warm, Rusnok said. Iwakuni Mayor Yoshihiko Fukuda attended the March change-of-command ceremony for the unit, and an aviation day at the air station drew a crowd of 210,000, with locals surrounding a displayed F-35B “six or seven deep,” he said.

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Photo by USMC

While the squadron has not begun shipboard training, set to happen later this summer, it’s already preparing for the upcoming MEU deployment in practical ways, standing up and proving out logistics capabilities and supply chains for the F-35 in the Pacific.

Working Out Supply Chains

Rusnok noted that, in the space of months, the Joint Strike Fighter program went from being based almost solely in the continental United States to having aircraft in Israel, Italy, and Japan, among other locations.

“That’s such an incredibly complicated, such an exponential growth in geography that it’s almost hard to fathom, if you rewind back several years, to see we’re this far along,” he said. “What we’ve done, I think, at Iwakuni is to break down some of these barriers and find out how that airplane is supportable in the Asia-Pacific region.”

The squadron has worked with the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Program Office and aircraft maker Lockheed Martin to find faster ways to ship gear and replacement parts, and to send broken parts back to the United States to repair. With a global supply chain and a relatively small number of active aircraft, sometimes a plane in need of a part at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona must get it shipped from Iwakuni, and vice versa.

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DOD Photo by Lance Cpl. Emmanuel Necoechea

“Iwakuni is distinctly different from CONUS-based units, not only because of the tyranny of distance in the Pacific region, but we also have a wide variety of places we could potentially go,” Rusnok said. “Expeditionary maintenance logistics are incredibly important to what we do.”

Fighting Skills

The squadron got to hone its fighting skills earlier this month at Northern Edge, a 12-day training exercise at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

The exercise included the Air Force’s 5th-generation F-22 Raptor, as well as numerous fourth-generation fighters, including the F/A-18 Super Hornet, the F-15 Eagle and the F-16 Fighting Falcon.

In the exercise, the largest VFMA-121 has participated in since moving forward to Iwakuni, the F-35s were able to drill on joint operations in the Western Pacific, focusing on aerial interdiction, strike warfare, air-to-air, and offensive counter-air missions.

Rusnok said the F-35’s kill ratio from the exercise was not immediately available, though one of the missions he flew racked up eight kills and zero losses, he said, a fairly indicative statistic.

But he doesn’t particularly like to talk about those stats.

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DOD Photo by Ryan Kierkegaard

“Everyone likes to focus on that air-to-air piece. It robs that statistic out of a bigger scenario,” he said. “You never hear about the surface-to-air kills we got, the enemy systems degraded. There’s a bigger picture.”

The exercise, Rusnok said, also tested the F-35’s ability to create a “God’s-eye view” of the battlespace, with its ability to network and transmit information. Northern Edge showed, he said, that the capability remained strong, even in a dense radio frequency environment that hindered transmissions.

“Where other air systems have problems, we’re able to cut through that so easily,” he said. “Our ability to resist that kind of attack on the electromagnetic spectrum is huge.”

Testing Maintenance Software

The squadron also brought with it a deployable version of its Autonomic Logistics Information System, a software designed to revolutionize F-35 maintenance that has been hampered by production and upgrade delays. A 2016 Government Accountability Office report questioned whether ALIS was truly able to deploy in practice, citing a lack of redundancy in the system.

“Every time we deploy this airplane, we make a decision whether to deploy ALIS or leave it home,” Rusnok said.

In this case, he said, the squadron worked with the Air Force to make necessary modifications to host the ALIS deployable operating unit, hardware that travels with the squadron when connectivity is an issue. Overall, Rusnok said, the system worked well during the exercise, and preparing to use it offered insights on its future use.

“Let’s say we’re going to an Air Force base in Country X — we know those facilities are now compatible with ALIS,” he said. “Maybe we can take advantage of this and put it in our playbook as something we can do, optimize to really cut down on that logistics footprint.”

Now back in Japan, the squadron has already begun early preparations for its upcoming deployment, conducting rapid ground refueling tests using the KC-130 Hercules and practicing “hot reloads” in which the aircraft receives new ordnance while the pilot remains in the cockpit.

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KC-130 Hercules. DOD Photo by Senior Airman Tyler Woodward.

The unit’s pre-deployment preparations will likely provide insights for units that come after. The next F-35B deployment, aboard the amphibious assault ship Essex, will come months after VFMA-121 deploys to the Pacific and is expected to take the Corps’ second F-35 squadron, VFMA-211, to the Middle East.

“Come the fall, we’re going to have all the pieces in place so we can effectively deploy the squadron,” Rusnok said.

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This pharmacy has a deep military tradition

Charles R. Walgreen, Sr. was more than an innovator and business owner — he was also a veteran.


The son of Swedish immigrants, Walgreen interrupted his budding pharmacy career to enlist with the Illinois National Guard and fight in the Spanish-American War in Cuba in 1898. His primary assignment was working in a hospital dispensary, which exposed him to yellow fever, complicated by malaria, a combination that was nearly fatal to him.

In time he recovered, returned to civilian life, and spent the following years working in various Chicago drugstores, sometimes for short periods at each. Thus he gained knowledge of the practice of pharmacy and experience with business techniques that distinguished the successful drugstore from the less so.  He learned a lot about the art and value of good customer service. Before long he wanted to be his own boss and, in 1901, bought the pharmacy he worked at in Chicago. Walgreens, the company, was born.

In its first few years, Walgreens became known for its “two-minute stunt.”  Customers who were in the immediate vicinity of the drugstore would call to order non-prescription items, and Walgreen would slowly repeat the order and delivery address back to the customer, loud enough for an assistant to take down the details. Walgreen would then chat up the customer long enough for the assistant to make the trip to the delivery address. Sometimes, with Walgreen still on the phone, the customer would excuse him or herself from the phone to answer the door, and return in amazement at how quickly the order had arrived. It was a feat of sufficient theatricality that it earned good word-of-mouth advertising.

Eight years after the first Walgreens opened its doors, the second location in Chicago opened.

By 1916, there were nine stores and by the time of the company’s 25th anniversary of service, 92 stores were operating in the Chicago area alone, many featuring soda fountains.

During World War II, more than 2,500 Walgreens employees served in the military, 20 percent of its workforce.  Forty-eight did not survive the war.

In 1943, Walgreens supported the war effort by opening a nonprofit, 6,000-square-foot store inside the Pentagon. Elsewhere, stores around the country sold $41 million in war bonds and stamps.

Walgreens continued to grow with the post war boom, and by 1975, hit $1 billion in sales. By 1984 Walgreens opened its 1,000th store.

Over the decades, the community and civic engagement for which Charles Walgreen was known evolved with the company to become a corporate-wide commitment to social responsibility. In addition to supporting numerous philanthropic causes, Walgreens has shown innovations in environmental sustainability, mirrored the diversity of America through its employment and vendor policies, and earned an international reputation as a model employer of people with disabilities.

From its humble early aspirations to make a name in Chicago, to its current aspiration to be America’s most-loved pharmacy-led health, wellbeing and beauty retailer, Walgreens in 2016 boasts a total of over 8,100 stores in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U. S. Virgin Islands.

After 115 years of service to the country, Walgreens is honored to also serve those in the military who have defended our country.

As part of the Express Scripts network of pharmacy providers, Walgreens stands ready to give Tricare members the excellent service for which it is famous. With over 8,000 in-network pharmacies from which to choose, Walgreens is well-positioned to champion every Tricare members’ right to be happy and healthy.

 

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Here’s what this Tuskegee Airman has to say about his time in service

“I’ve come a long way from picking cotton in the fields with my grandfather,” said retired Master Sgt. Leroy Mazell Smith, who has lived a life few could probably imagine.


He was born on an Arkansas bridge during the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927; son of a logger and farmer, Smith grew up in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. His mother, who cared for him and his two siblings, left school at the age of 13.

Also read: 6 tips to live the best life ever from USAF vet Bob Ross

He credits his upbringing to his grandfather who Smith picked cotton with. He said his grandfather taught him the value of hard work and perseverance.

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Retired Master Sgt. Leroy Smith became a Tuskegee Airman at the age of 16 in 1943. Smith said getting to know the Tuskegee aircrew was one of his best memories. | U.S. Air Force image by Staff. Sgt. Regina Edwards

Smith graduated from high school in Fordyce, Arkansas, at the age of 16. While there, he attended preflight aeronautical classes, changing the course of his future.

“I wanted to be a doctor,” he said, “but the military said they needed black mechanics, so I was inducted into the U.S. Army Air Corps at 16. Looking back now, they did me a favor I’d say.”

Smith said he vividly remembered being a scared boy from the country in 1943, riding a bus from Camp Robinson to Sheppard Field, Texas, for basic military training, and then later to Chinook, Arkansas, for aircraft and engine training.

“Everything was segregated,” he said. “The ride to training, the barracks we lived in, even the hours we had to shop at the base exchange and eat at the mess hall were separate.

“I remember (white) people asking us, ‘What are you doing here?’ and assuming we blacks were the cooks and bottle washers,” Smith said.

However, segregation did not break his zeal. Smith charged forward and met every obstacle with faith and optimism. He said he leaned on his Baptist upbringing and grandfather’s lessons about having strength — especially during the harder days.

“I never retaliated,” Smith said. “I just believed those people were ignorant and someday it would be better. My grandfather always said, ‘There’s only one race of people: the human race.'”

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Tuskegee Airman in an undated photo. | U.S. Air Force

And so, while the human race was focused on World War II and which side would prevail, Smith set course for the European theater. He was assigned to the Tuskegee unit, where all barriers fell away. He was no longer a black mechanic. He was simply an Airman.

“I was scared and proud when I arrived in Italy,” Smith said. “I was with an all-black crew that I could identify with. I could actually communicate with the pilots; the officers respected us as the younger members. I didn’t have to just do my job and shut my mouth. We all had a good relationship; it was one of my best memories.”

The Tuskegee Airmen are typically known as an all-black fighter and bomber pilot aircrew who fought in WWII. However, that name, Tuskegee Airmen, also encompassed navigators, mechanics, instructors, crew chiefs, nurses, cooks and other support personnel for the aircrews.

“I loved being called a Tuskegee Airman,” he said. “I didn’t know that name would be what it is today, but we sure had a lot of unit pride, and there was reason for it.”

The crew was assigned to the 332nd Fighter Group and flew heavy bomber escort missions with P-47 Thunderbolts and later the P-51 Mustangs. To distinguish themselves, they painted the tails of their aircraft red, coining themselves the Red Tails.

“We never lost a bomber,” Smith said. “Nope, we never lost a plane. It did me proud to say I was a part of this. We were good, and we were finally recognized for it. I’m a low profile guy, but the recognition was nice.”

In 1947, Smith’s tour with the Tuskegee Airmen ended, but the Red Tails’ legend influenced the integration of races in the armed forces. Smith soldiered on as he transitioned from the Army Air Corps to the Air Force.

He continued serving throughout the Korean War and Vietnam War, fulfilling 25 years in the Air Force and retiring in 1968 as a master sergeant.

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Russian fighter in ‘near miss’ with US aircraft over Syria

On the first day of the Mosul offensive in Iraq, a Russian fighter came close to colliding with a U.S. warplane in a “near miss” over northeastern Syria, U.S. military officials said Friday.


Air Force Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, commander of U.S. Air Force Central Command, told NBC News that the nighttime incident Oct. 17 was a “near miss” but said he tended to believe the Russians’ explanation that their pilot simply did not see the U.S. aircraft in the dark.

Also read: NATO is boosting deployments after Russian threats

However, Harrigian said similar close calls between Russian and U.S. aircraft over Syria have increased in the past six weeks amid rising tensions between Moscow and Washington over Syria’s civil war and now occur about every 10 days.

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Two Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft flying over USS Donald Cook in the Baltic Sea on April 12, 2016. | U.S. Navy photo

In a later statement on the incident, Air Force Central Command said that the Russian fighter was escorting a Russian surveillance aircraft and inadvertently flew across the nose of the U.S. aircraft.

The close call was the result of a “mistake” by the Russians and the U.S. believed that it was “fully unintentional,” the statement said.

“The Russians cooperated by looking into the incident, calling back, and explaining themselves and their pilots actions as an error,” it said.

In a separate briefing to the Pentagon, Air Force Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, said the Russian fighter came within a half-mile of the U.S. aircraft, but “we don’t believe there was any nefarious intent” on the part of the Russians.

Dorrian did not name the types of aircraft involved, saying only that the Russian aircraft was a fighter and the U.S. plane was a “larger aircraft.” He said the Russian fighter “passed close enough that the jet wash from that flight was felt within the larger aircraft,” but “no one declared an in-flight emergency or anything of that nature.”

Immediately after the incident, the Russians were contacted over the “deconfliction” hotline set up by the Russian and U.S. militaries to avoid close calls by aircraft on missions in the region.

Harrigian, speaking from a U.S. base in the Mideast, said that, in some cases, U.S. and Russian aircraft flying in close proximity are “not a big deal,” but added, “I think it’s important to recognize this one got our attention.”

“We called the Russians about it and made sure they knew we were concerned,” Harrigian said. “They didn’t have the situational awareness to know how close some of our airplanes were.”

When asked why the Oct. 17 incident wasn’t disclosed until Oct. 28, Dorrian said, “There wasn’t anybody playing ‘I’ve got a secret.’ ”

He said Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the task force commander, was immediately informed of the close call but did not feel that it merited being disclosed as a “breaking news event.”

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Navy puts plans to buy more ships and planes on hold

The Navy’s 2018 budget request is out – and it looks like more new ships and aircraft are going to be on hold for at least a year. However, if this proposal holds up, the recent trend of short-changing training and maintenance will be reversed.


According to a report by BreakingDefense.com, the Navy will get eight ships: A Ford-class aircraft carrier (CVN 80, the new USS Enterprise), two Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, a littoral combat ship (or frigate), two Virginia-class submarines, a salvage tug, and an oiler.

Aircraft procurement will include two dozen F-35B/C Lightning II multi-role fighters and 14 F/A-18E/F Hornets. Despite reducing the F-35C buy by two aircraft, the Navy still expects to be on pace to achieve initial operating capability with the carrier-based variant of the Joint Strike Fighter in 2019.

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The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63) receives fuel from the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204) during a replenishment-at-sea in the western Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kelsey L. Adams/Released)

The big focus on the fiscal 2018 budget, though, is restoring readiness. The Navy is getting a $1.9 billion increase in a category known as “Other Procurement, Navy.” This fund is used to purchase new electronic gear, and more importantly, spare parts for the Navy’s ships and aircraft.

The biggest winner in the budget is the operations and maintenance account, which is getting a $9.1 billion boost to a total of $54.5 billion. This represents roughly a 20 percent increase, with no category getting less than 87 percent of the stated requirements. Most notable is that Navy and Marine Corps flight hours have been funded to “the maximum executable level” – breaking a cycle of shortchanging training.

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A F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 115 conducts a touch-and-go landing on Iwo To, Japan. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. James A. Guillory)

The Navy and Marines have been hard-hit with readiness issues, particularly in terms of aviation. Last year, the Marines had to pull a number of F/A-18 Hornets out of the boneyard to have enough airframes for training. The Marines also had to carry out a safety stand-down after a series of mishaps in the summer of 2016. Even after the stand-down, the Marines lost four Hornets from Oct. 1, 2016 to Dec. 7, 2016.

“We tried to hold the line in our procurement accounts,” Rear Adm. Brian Luther, the Navy’s top budget officer, told BreakingDefense.com. He pointed out, though, that under Secretary of Defense James Mattis, “the direction was clear: fill the holes first.”

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Anonymous reports reveal military sexual misconduct truths

Months before the nude Marine photo-sharing scandal erupted, service members were complaining about a similar issue in an anonymous Defense Department survey on sexual assault and harassment.


In a report issued May 1, the Pentagon said that nearly 6,200 military members said that sexually explicit photos of them were taken or shared against their will by someone from work, and it made them “uncomfortable, angry, or upset.” And, across the services, female Marines made up the largest percentage of women who complained.

More than 22,000 service members said they were upset or angry when someone at work showed or sent them pornography. And, again, female Marines represented the highest percentage of complaints from women.

Also read: Navy and Marine Corps considering mandatory separation for troops who share nude photos

The responses reflect a growing concern across the military about inappropriate social media behavior. The scandal came to light last month when sexually explicit photos of female and male Marines were being shared on a secret Facebook page. The revelation triggered a wide-ranging criminal investigation that now encompasses all the services, and has prompted changes and restrictions in military social media policies.

The latest survey results, however, make it clear that the issue has long been simmering in the military.

Nate Galbreath, deputy director of the Pentagon’s sexual assault prevention office, said the results “tell us that this is a problem and we have to start having more conversations about social media behavior.”

The survey was released as part of the annual report on sexual assault and harassment in the military. It found that reports of sexual assaults in the military increased slightly last year, and more than half the victims reported negative reactions or retaliation for their complaints.

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Defense officials, however, said the anonymous survey done as part of the report showed some progress in fighting sexual assault, as fewer than 15,000 service members described themselves as victims of unwanted sexual contact. That is 4,000 fewer than in a 2014 survey.

Because sexual assault is a highly underreported crime, the Pentagon has used anonymous surveys for several years to track the problem. The survey was sent to more than 735,000 service members between June and October 2016, and more than 150,000 responded.

The two social media questions were asked for the first time in last year’s survey, Galbreath said, because the issue was becoming more of a concern.

According to the data, 1.3 percent of military women said someone took or shared explicit photos of them against their will. When divided according to military service, 2.3 percent of female Marines made that complaint, compared to 1.5 percent of female soldiers, 1.6 percent of female sailors and .5 percent of female airmen.

Related: Marines’ nude photo scandal is even worse than first realized

On the pornography question, 4 percent of military women said someone showed or sent them sexual explicit material that made them upset or angry. Six percent of female Marines had that problem, compared to 5 percent of female sailors, 4.5 percent of female soldiers and 2.1 percent of female airmen. The percentages of men complaining were much smaller overall.

The Marine Corps is the smallest military service, so while the percentages were the largest, the actual numbers of people affected were likely smaller than the other services.

Separately, the data released by the Pentagon on May 1 showed there were 6,172 reports of sexual assault filed in 2016, compared to 6,083 the previous year. The largest increase occurred in the Navy, with 5 percent more reports. There was a 3 percent jump in the Air Force. The Army and Marine Corps had slight decreases.

For more than a decade, the Defense Department has been trying to encourage more people to report sexual assaults and harassment. The agency says greater reporting allows more victims to seek treatment.

On retaliation, it found that 58 percent of victims last year said they faced some type of “negative behavior,” but only 32 percent described circumstances that could legally be described as retribution. This includes professional retaliation, administrative actions, or punishments. In 2015, 38 percent reported such actions.

Retaliation has been a difficult issue to sort out, and the Defense Department has been adjusting its measurements for several years. It seeks to differentiate between more serious workplace retribution and social snubs that, while upsetting, are not illegal.

The anonymous survey, meanwhile, showed a steady decline in the number of service members saying they experienced unwanted sexual contact, which can be anything from inappropriate touching to rape.

Of the 14,900 people who said they experienced some type of unwanted sexual contact, 8,600 were women and 6,300 were men.

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These soldiers are the Army’s FBI and Secret Service

The Army has its own criminal investigation service filled with special agents that investigate major crimes, protect VIPs, and maintain criminal records.


The Criminal Investigation Command is often known as CID and its special agents carry CID badges. This is a tie to the unit’s history as the command was originally formed as the Criminal Investigation Division in 1918 by the commander of the American Expeditionary Force, Gen. John “Black Jack” Pershing.

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Agents from the CID go in anytime the Army is — or might have been — a party to a major crime. This includes violent crimes like murder and rape as well as white-collar infractions like computer fraud.

Approximately 2,000 soldiers are assigned to CID, 900 of which are special agents. These soldiers investigate the crime on their own or in conjunction with other law enforcement agencies. Agents can build cases, request arrest warrants, and detain suspects the same as other federal law enforcement officers.

The Army CID gives commanders an option for investigating major crimes on their installations or at deployed locations, but the agents do not fall under their installation’s chain of command. The CID units report up the chain to the CIC commanding general who, in turn, reports directly to the Army Chief of Staff and the Secretary of the Army.

This allows CID agents to conduct their investigations with less fear of repercussions from senior leaders on base.

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A U.S. Army reserve agent practices clearing a corner as part of responding to an active shooter training during Guardian Shield, Aug. 1, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Audrey Hayes)

During times of war, CID can be called upon to investigate war crimes. Massacres, the use of illegal weapons like chemical and biological agents, and many crimes against humanity would fall within their purview.

But CID agents do more than just investigate crimes. The 701st Military Police Group (CID) contains the U.S. Army Protective Services Battalion. The Protective Services Battalion is tasked with guarding key Army leaders, the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense, and the Joint Staff.

They also provide security for other leaders when tasked, including the senior leaders of allied militaries.

Agents for all CID positions are recruited largely from within the Army, though there is a direct accessions program that allows civilian college graduates to join.

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VA begins awarding compensation for C-123 agent orange claims

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Photo: Wikimedia


In 1997, 10 years after retiring from a 34-year career in the Army Reserve and Air Force Reserve, Edward Kosakoski was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Though his last assignment in the Reserve was as commander of the 74th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts, it was during the mid-1970s and early 1980s that Lt. Col. K was exposed to Agent Orange while flying training missions on several C-123 aircraft previously used for spraying the chemical defoliant in Vietnam.

Last week, VA service connected Col. K’s prostate cancer, awarding him compensation for his C-123 Agent Orange claim.

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Photo: Wikimedia

I’ve never met Col. K, but his story is captured in the claim file that his wife, Ingrid Kosakoski, filed on his behalf. That file shows a man who was drafted into the Army in 1953 and, after serving two years in France, had joined the Army Reserve, and who had received a commission in the Air Force Reserve after graduating from the University of Connecticut Pharmacy School in 1959. That file also shows that VA received Col. K’s claim prior to the recent regulation change.

After spending decades searching for proof of a connection between C-123s and the conditions known to be caused by Agent Orange, the Institute of Medicine issued a review that provided the supporting evidence VA needed to provide care and compensation to the Air Force and Air Force Reserve personnel who were exposed to Agent Orange through regular and repeated contact with contaminated C-123s and who also developed an Agent Orange-related disability.

When the regulation change took effect earlier this summer, it took VA just 16 days to grant Col. K’s claim. Granting this claim represents a welcomed success for hundreds of flight, ground maintenance, and medical crew members who were assigned to certain Air Force and Air Force Reserve units from 1969 to 1986.

“I have only praise for the VA personnel who handled Ed’s claim in Baltimore and St. Paul,” Ingrid said. “They were professional and compassionate, and I would urge others exposed to Agent Orange with known disabilities to file claims as soon as possible.”

In a recent phone conversation, longtime C-123 advocate and close friend of Col. K, Wes Carter, also stressed the importance of not waiting.

“The Secretary and his staff have worked hard, along with C-123 veterans in getting to this point,” said Carter, who also chairs the C-123 Veterans Association. “VA is ready and eager, already reaching out and helping our aircrews and maintenance personnel who are ill.

“This is the time for C-123 Veterans to get their claims to VA if affected by any of the Agent Orange-associated illnesses. Call the C-123 hotline at 1-800-749-8387 for any questions. I also recommend that vets ask their local VA medical center’s environmental health coordinator for an Agent Orange Registry exam.”

If you or someone you know was exposed to Agent Orange (whether in in Vietnam or its inland waterways, an area the Department of Defense has confirmed use of AO, or as in Col. K’s case aboard a C-123) AND you have a condition presumed to be related to AO, please file a claim for compensation.

If you need help filing a claim or want to talk to someone, you have many options:

  • Speak with an accredited Veterans Service Officer who can help you gather records and file a claim online
  • Call VA at 1-800-827-1000 for advice
  • If you want the fastest decision possible, consider filing a Fully Developed Claim through ebenefits.va.gov. An FDC allows you to submit all your evidence up front, identify any federal records for VA to obtain, and certifies that you have no other evidence to submit.

If you (or your loved one) meet certain conditions, such as financial hardship, advanced age, or terminal illness, VA can expedite your claim – just make sure we are aware of your situation. You or your VSO can notify us in writing, or by calling 1-800-827-1000. If your situation is dire, don’t wait!

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This article originally appeared at VAntage Point Copyright 2015. Follow VAntage Point on Twitter.

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This Army hero was honored by ESPN for being awesome

It’s been a momentous year for Sgt. Elizabeth Marks.


The combat medic and U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program swimmer spent the summer garnering international headlines for a grand gesture while winning four gold medals in swimming at the Invictus Games. That led to an appearance at the ESPYs, the awards show that recognizes sports’ highest achievements, to receive the Pat Tillman Award for Service. She followed that up by smashing a world record and winning two medals during her first trip to the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

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Combat medic and U.S. Army World Class Athlete Sgt. Elizabeth Marks. (Photo: U.S. Army)

The list of hardware is already impressive. But it received another addition earlier this week.

Marks was named to the ESPN Women’s Impact25 Athletes and Influencers list Tuesday. The list highlights the top 25 women who made the greatest impact in sports and the societies in which they live. Marks joined names such as Simone Biles, the Olympic gymnastics gold medalist who was also the magazine’s Woman of the Year; Kathryn Smith, the National Football League’s first female full-time coach; and Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee.

“It’s extremely special to even be mentioned,” Marks said on Twitter about being an Impact25 nominee.

Her unveiling as an honoree was marked by an essay written by Prince Harry. The British royal was at the center of the moment that opened the world’s eyes to Marks.

In May, she made international headlines for her gesture at the Invictus Games in Orlando, Florida.

Marks was decorated with her fourth gold medal at the Games by Prince Harry, who created the competition, an international Paralympic-style, multi-sport event, which allows wounded, injured or sick armed services personnel and veterans to compete. After he placed the medal around Marks’ neck, the 26-year-old gave the award back.

Marks wanted Prince Harry to deliver the medal to Papworth Hospital in Cambridge, England, where she spent the duration of the inaugural Invictus Games in 2014. Marks traveled to London in the fall of that year to compete in the Games when she collapsed with respiratory distress syndrome. Her condition worsened and she was eventually hospitalized and placed on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, life support to help her breathe. She missed the Games, but Marks said she was fortunate to come back alive. She said donating one of her medals was the only way she could think of to repay the hospital staff. Her request was honored June 1.

“This is an incredible achievement by any standards,” Prince Harry wrote about Marks’ appearance in the Impact25 list. “And I know this is how she wants to be defined, by her achievements and her abilities. But as an Army sergeant wounded in service to her country, her journey to get to this point has been remarkable. To me, she epitomizes the courage, resilience and determination of our servicemen and women. Using sport to fight back from injury in the most remarkable way, she sums up what the Invictus Games spirit is all about.”

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Marks competes for Team USA. (Photo: Army.mil)

For Marks, her ordeal in 2014 wasn’t the first time she had to endure an arduous hospital stay. In 2010, after suffering devastating injuries in Iraq, she grew nervous about the words being bandied about her such as “end of service” or “retirement.” Marks called her father to vent her frustrations. The former Marine told his daughter to write what was most important to her on a piece of paper. She scrawled “FFD” in pencil on a torn sheet of paper. The acronym stood for “fit for duty.” She was deemed fit for duty on July 3, 2012, after several painful surgeries and a grueling rehabilitation. Marks has not stopped trying to live up to the notion, resuming her job as a medic while also competing for WCAP.

She was back in the pool one month after her ordeal in England. Two months after leaving the hospital, she broke an American record in the SB9, a disability swimming classification, 200-meter breaststroke. Fewer than two years later, she set a new world record in the 50-meter breaststroke in the SB7 division.

“I was told it’d be six months before I got into a pool again,” Marks told the audience at the ESPYs where she became the first active-duty Soldier to receive the Pat Tillman Award. “I got into a pool about a month out of my coma. Without those physicians, without their service, I would’ve died. I hope that my service could eventually mean that to someone.”

Also read: Wounded warrior Elizabeth Marks receives the 2016 Pat Tillman award

Marks received a standing ovation after accepting the award on the stage of the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. She thanked her father and the Pat Tillman Foundation for turning an “absolute tragedy into a triumph.” She also thanked her fellow injured service members throughout the world for their support. She said any success she found at the Rio Paralympics would be because of them.

And find success she did. Marks broke her own world record in the breaststroke to win the gold medal. She then had a heroic swim in her leg of the 4×100 medley relay to help the Americans win a bronze medal after getting off to a difficult start.

The feat seemed to cap off a storied sports year for Marks. But this week proved otherwise. And that should suit her desire to inspire her fellow Soldiers just fine.

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