After storming the beaches of Normandy and fighting through the hedgerows of the French countryside, the Allied forces invading Nazi-occupied Europe came across one problem they hadn’t anticipated: outrunning their own supply lines.
By July 1944, the Allied advance nearly ground to a halt. Every operation was decided by one major factor, which was how much supply it required versus how much could be delivered. It would be almost three months before French railways could be repaired and portable gas pipelines could be installed.
To move the necessary supplies and keep the pressure on the German army, Allied war planners created a massive, truck-based supply convoy run primarily by Black soldiers. It became known as the “Red Ball Express.”
The Allies need a continuous supply of necessary fuel, ammunition, ordnance and food to keep running to the front. After breaking out of the Normandy area, the infrastructure the Allies damaged to hamper the German response needed repair to be used for the German defeat.
There had to be a way to move 750 tons of supplies from the port of Antwerp to multiple locations across the front every day. Just one armored division alone required 350 tons of gasoline.
After brainstorming for 36 hours straight, planners came up with a solution: a convoy of thousands and thousands of trucks, constantly streaming to and from the front lines.
No truck could travel alone, they had to travel in a convoy of at least five total trucks and each was marked with a number indicating its position in the line of trucks. To mitigate the risks of high speed driving or of a truck pile up in an accident, trucks were ordered to drive just 35 miles per hour and maintain a specific clear distance from each other. The order to drive slower was rarely followed, many drove at twice that speed.
When they implemented the plan, there weren’t enough trucks and there weren’t enough drivers. The Army began vulturing trucks from units who weren’t using them and began taking people with non-combat functions and training them to be truck drivers. The vast majority of these men were Black soldiers.
Without these soldiers at the wheel, World War II in Europe might have dragged on for another full year. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower saw the Red Ball Express as the most critical lifeline to the advancing armies, just as important as the combat units themselves.
Of course, these early trucks got stuck in traffic, both civilian and military. So the Allies created two priority roads just for the supply trucks, which became known as the Red Ball Line, named for the red spots marking the trucks and the routes that were closed to civilians.
At its height, the Red Ball Express was operating almost 6,000 trucks per day to move 12,500 tons of various supplies, fuel, and ammunition. Since the German Luftwaffe was almost nonexistent by this point in the war, the biggest problems facing the convoys were maintenance of the trucks and the overworked drivers.
Eventually, the rail lines were repaired and the Red Ball Express was no longer necessary. After more than 80 days of continuous operation, the convoy drivers had delivered more than 400,000 tons of supplies to the Allies in combat.
After colliding with a civilian cargo ship earlier this year, the USS Fitzgerald sustained over $500 million worth of damage to its structure and systems.
Though the Arleigh Burke-class warship was brought back to port at Yokosuka, Japan, it will likely be unable to transit the ocean in its current condition, officials say.
However, as the Navy and its contractors don’t maintain large maintenance facilities and dry docks in Japan capable of carrying out the repairs the Fitzgerald needs, it will have to somehow be delivered to the United States for fixing.
To bring the Fitzgerald home, the Navy will make use of massive heavy-lift ships, designed to hoist smaller vessels onto a platform and carry them across the world’s waterways. The alternate name of these unique ships — float on/float offs (FLO/FLO) — hints at how they’re able to load and carry ships weighing thousands of tons.
To load a vessel aboard a heavy-lift ship, it takes on water into ballast tanks, submerging its main deck area enough that its cargo can be floated into position, sometimes onto a cradle which will keep it stabilized during transport. When its cargo is in place, the ship releases its ballast and is now able to move under its own power.
This won’t be the first time the Navy has had to use a civilian heavy-lift ship to bring one of its own back to American shores.
In 1988, the USS Samuel B. Roberts, an Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate, was struck by an Iranian mine during Operation Earnest Will. The Roberts was marred with a 15-foot gash in its hull, and its engines were rendered inoperable.
To return the Roberts back to the US, the Navy contracted Dutch shipping firm Wijsmuller Transport to the tune of $1.3 million to provide a heavy-lift ship — MV Mighty Servant 2 — that would carry the stricken frigate back to Newport, RI, where further damage assessments would take place.
Years later, in 2000, the USS Cole, another Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, was damaged on its port side at the waterline during a suicide attack which claimed the lives of 17 sailors and injured 39 more. Though the ship was still afloat in the aftermath of the attack, it was quickly determined that it would not be able to proceed back to mainland America under its own power for repairs.
As such, the Navy contracted a Norwegian company, Offshore Heavy Transport, to sail a heavy-lift vessel to Yemen where the Cole remained after the attack, in order to bring the warship home.
In addition to carting damaged warships around the globe, the Navy’s Military Sealift Command also charters heavy-lift ships to carry its smaller craft to various operating locations in foreign seas, including minesweepers and patrol boats.
A number of these heavy-lift ships are still in service today, save for the Mighty Servant 2, which was lost at sea near Indonesia in 1999. It’s possible that the vessel which brought the Cole back to the United States — the Blue Marlin — could be the same one to return Cole’s sister ship, the Fitzgerald, to America to begin the repair process.
It was recently reported that the move could begin as early as September, depending on when the contract for transport is issued and inked.
Master Sergeant Chris Lopez is a former Marine Corps drill instructor, combat vet, and father of 3. But if you think he gets in his kids’ face, Full Metal Jacket-style, every time their common sense goes AWOL, you have a major malfunction. Because, getting 90 recruits to do whatever he wants? Easy. Getting one 4-year-old to pick up his socks? Hard. You can’t treat a toddler the same way you treat a grunt because the toddler is going to beat you in a screaming match every time.
That said, Lopez has a core set of principles that are equally applicable on the parade ground as the playground. You bet your ass he has an opinion on modern day, “let them feel their feelings” philosophies on discipline — and it’s not what you think.
1. The goal is self discipline
“When we get a batch of new recruits, we don’t know what degree of structure they’ve had in their lives. We try to set a baseline. Your basic function is to bring the heat, to stress them out, and to be an enforcer,” says Lopez. Fortunately for your kid, you’re intimately familiar with exactly how much structure they’ve had in their lives, so you don’t need to bring any heat right off the bat (newborn infants are notoriously hard to train, anyway). The long-term goal, says Lopez, is to make sure that your kids are doing the right thing when there’s nobody there to supervise them — not doing the right thing just as you’re about to take away the iPad.
2. But sometimes you need “imposed discipline”
Speaking of iPads, Lopez has found the one that belongs to his son is a useful tool when he’s displaying a lack of self-discipline. He doesn’t make the kid drop and give him 20. Rather, “We do the timeout thing but it’s usually after some verbal warnings. We don’t do corporal punishment. We go with things my kids are more attached to; if he’s not listening and being polite and it gets to the point where we have to punish, he doesn’t get it back until tomorrow. That’s when it hits home. To me, it’s the same effect as when I was a child and it was like getting spanked.”
3. Where empathy meets strategy
Speaking of punishment, Lopez isn’t so hardass that he goes all R. Lee Ermey on toddlers. “All 3-year-olds want to do things that are dangerous. I try not to let it get to point where it becomes a tantrum with my son. I’ll change the channel. If I tell him to stop doing something, and he won’t do it, I’ll explain why again and I’ll divert his attention. You can punish them, but they’re not going to understand why. It’s a rough one to identify before you get unreasonably upset, So I’ll remove both of us from the situation.” Childhood Development And Empathy Queen Dr. Laura Markham would be impressed.
4. The difference between punishment and correction
Lopez isn’t trying to bounce a quarter off his kid’s Elmo sheets. “The way we do it in our household is as close to the way the Marine Corps does it,” he says, “We don’t believe in the zero defect mentality, where as soon as you make a mistake you’re punished. I’m a firm believer that there’s a difference between punishment and correction. If your child makes an honest mistake it’s not a big deal. It’s not as big a deal as they know the right answer and do something bad.”
5. Being afraid of mistakes is worse than making them
“I don’t believe in physically doing something to somebody, or making them go out and digging a fighting hole. I believe in education,” says Lopez. “Allow your children — or the guys that you’re leading — to make those mistakes. That’s where you’re going to get your best ideas. If you’re constantly critiquing [recruits] on how to do things, they’re never going to learn to solve the problems themselves.” That’s easy for him to say — he’s never seen your kid dig a fox hole.
6. “Because I said so” isn’t a reason
Kids are like soldiers, in that they only get the benefit from the how’s and why’s of rules once they can follow them. “As training progresses, the explanations start happening more,” says Lopez of his recruits. “The more you explain why you’re making them do what they’re doing, the more buy in, and the more efficient they are in doing the task. The goal is to be as patient as I can, and explain things as well as I can, without me saying ‘Because I said so.'”
7. How to go from major to dad
“Any drill instructor will tell you, it’s very intoxicating.” says Lopez. “You have 90 kids who want to be a Marine. They’re going to run over every other recruit to prove that to you. It’s very difficult to go from 90 recruits doing everything you want them to do, to home, where you have to wait a half hour for your toddler to pick up their socks and shoes.”
Some guys hit the gym, and some hit the bar, but for Lopez, he has one trick that takes him from Big Daddy on the base to Private Dad at home. “When I was an instructor, I’d use audiobooks like a reset button. It gave me something to focus on other than work, so I could go back and be the normal person I am. Being a drill instructor you’re not going to act the way at home that you do to the recruits.” What works best? James Patterson? Deepak Chopra? Being A Chill Father For Dummies? “Anything by Mark Twain. I’m actually listening to James Joyce right now. The Portrait of An Artist As A Young Man.” Pvt. Daedelus, reporting for duty.
Taliban rebels killed seven people and kidnapped another six along a highway in western Afghanistan, official sources told EFE Ingles July 12.
The incident, in which 10 rebels were also killed, took place on July 11 along a national highway near Farah, capital of a province by the same name, when the Taliban stopped several vehicles and captured more than 10 people, according to Nasser Mehri, spokesperson for the provincial governor.
“According to initial information, they killed seven of the kidnapped passengers,” explained Mehri, adding that five of the victims were former members of the Afghan security forces.
Mehri added the insurgents were planning to capture more people when the Afghan troops arrived and there was a shootout.
A police official from the province, who asked not to be named, told EFE that at least seven passengers are still being held hostage by the Taliban, and that security forces have launched a rescue operation in areas around the incident spot.
In 2016, the Taliban abducted hundreds of people from the country’s unsafe highways, including members of the security forces traveling in buses or in specific vehicles.
Afghanistan is witnessing its most violent phase since 2001, when the Taliban regime was overthrown with the help of the United States.
Since then, insurgents have been gaining ground in various parts of Afghanistan and currently control, influence, or are in dispute with the government over at least 43 percent of the territory, according to the US.
In Afghanistan’s turbulent Helmand province, US Marines are rekindling old relationships and identifying weaknesses in the Afghan forces that the Trump administration hopes to address with a new strategy and the targeted infusion of several thousand American forces.
Returning to Afghanistan’s south after five years, Marine Brig. Gen. Roger Turner already knows where he could use some additional US troops. And while he agrees that the fight against the Taliban in Helmand is at a difficult stalemate, he said he is seeing improvements in the local forces as his Marines settle into their roles advising the Afghan National Army’s 215th Corps.
Turner’s report on the fight in Helmand will be part of a broader assessment that Gen. Joseph Dunford will collect this week from his senior military commanders in Afghanistan.
Dunford landed in Kabul Monday with a mission to pull together the final elements of a military strategy that will include sending nearly 4,000 more U.S. troops into the country. He will be meeting with Afghan officials as well as US and coalition military leaders and troops.
The expected deployment of more Americans will be specifically molded to bolster the Afghan forces in critical areas so they can eventually take greater control over the security of their own nation.
The Taliban have slowly resurged, following the decision to end the combat role of US and international forces at the end of 2014. The NATO coalition switched to a support and advisory role, while the US has also focused on counter-terrorism missions.
Recognizing the continued Taliban threat and the growing Islamic State presence in the county, the Obama administration slowed its plan to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by the end of last year. There are now about 8,400 there.
But commanders have complained that the sharp drawdown hurt their ability to adequately train and advise the Afghans while also increasing the counter-terror fight. As a result, the Trump administration is completing a new military, diplomatic, and economic strategy for the war, and is poised to send the additional US troops, likely bolstered by some added international forces.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will be in Brussels later this week and is expected to talk with allies about their ongoing support for the war.
While Turner said he has already seen improvements in the Afghan’s 215th Corps, he said adding more advisers would allow him to pinpoint problems at the lower command levels, including more brigades.
“The level and number of advisers you have really gives you the ability to view the chain on all the functional areas. The more areas you can see — you can have a greater impact on the overall capability of the force,” he told the Associated Press in an interview from Helmand Province. “If we had more capacity in the force we would be able to address more problems, faster.”
He said that although the Afghan forces have improved their ability to fight, they still need help at some of the key underpinnings of a combat force, such as getting spare parts to troops with broken equipment.
The seemingly simple task of efficiently ordering and receiving parts — something American forces do routinely — requires a working supply chain from the warehouse to the unit on the battlefield.
And Turner said that’s an issue that could be improved with additional advisers.
Other improvements, he said, include increasing the size of Afghanistan’s special operations forces and building the capacity and capabilities of its nascent air force.
The Afghan ground forces in Helmand, he said, have been able to launch offensive operations against the Taliban, including a recent battle in Marjah.
“I don’t think last year they could have taken the fight to Marjah like they just did,” he said. “They’re in a much better position that they were a year ago.”
But they are facing a resilient Taliban, whose fighters are newly financed, now that the poppy harvest is over.
“Once they draw their finances, they start operations,” said Turner. “What we’ve seen so far since the end of May, when they made that transition, is a steady grind of activity across a number of places in the province.”
What has helped a lot, Turner said, is his Marines’ ability to renew old relationships with Afghan tribal elders, provincial ministers, and military commanders they worked with six or seven years ago.
Battalion officers they knew then are now commanders, and many government leaders are still in place.
“We obviously have a long commitment here in Helmand. It’s been good for the Marines to come back here,” he said. “This is a really meaningful mission. I think people realize that we don’t want to get into a situation where the kinds of pre-9/11 conditions exist again.”
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.”
The United Kingdom’s highest award for valor in combat, the Victoria Cross, is notoriously difficult to earn. It is awarded for “conspicuous bravery… pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice, or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy.”
Like the United States’ Medal of Honor, not many survive earning their nation’s highest honor. Even more rare is earning two of such medals. Since the Victoria Cross was introduced in 1857, some 1,358 medals have been awarded. Only three recipients have been awarded two.
Only one of them survived earning his second.
Charles Upham enlisted in the New Zealand Expeditionary Forces in 1939 at the age of 30. He was a seasoned soldier, a non-commissioned officer in New Zealand’s home army, then known as the “Territorial Force.” He signed on to the expeditionary army as a private, but his skills as a soldier soon saw him retain his previous rank of sergeant.
By July 1940, he was headed for Egypt and was placed in an officer’s training unit. The New Zealander’s first action in World War II was to reinforce the Greek Army in the face of an imminent Nazi invasion. That invasion came on Apr. 6, 1941, which forced the Kiwis to withdraw to the island of Crete.
It was on Crete that Upham earned his first Victoria Cross. The Battle of Crete was unique in the history of warfare in that it was led by a massive force of Nazi paratroopers. The British controlled the seas around Crete, but the Nazi luftwaffe maintained air superiority. The Nazis captured the island’s most important areas and soon they were reinforced by airlifted supplies and weapons. The British and Commonwealth forces would soon have to retreat to Egypt.
But first, 2nd Lt. Upham and his men were going to make the Nazi pay for evey inch of Crete they could.
In three separate actions, Upham destroyed four machine gun positions (often at close range), removed wounded men from the battlefield, and led his men to relieve a surrounded allied unit. Over the course of a week, he took out more than 70 enemy troops while wounded, exhausted, and suffering from dysentery. For this, he was awarded his first Victoria Cross.
He and his men retreated to Egypt, where he recovered and recuperated. He saw combat again in 1942, at Minqar Qaim and at the First Battle of El-Alamein, where he would earn his second Victoria Cross.
Here, the British and Commonwealth forces would fight the Nazis under Erwin Rommel to a draw. Now a Captain, Upham was leading a company of New Zealanders on El Ruweisat Ridge. They were part of the reserve force but soon lost communications with the headquarters. Not knowing what was happening, Upham himself went to assess the situation.
He found enemy machine gunners, which he was able to evade. Most importantly, he reestablished communications.
His unit was ordered to take their objectives at dawn on the second day of fighting, but found it was more heavily defended than they’d anticipated. His company was pitted against four machine gun nests and four tanks. Upham led the company in a flanking maneuver against the Nazi strongpoints.
Upham destroyed one of the enemy tanks on his own, taking a bullet to the arm for his trouble. That bullet broke his arm at the elbow. He then moved forward to cover the retreat of some of his men who had been cut off by an enemy counterattack. As they enemy retook the objective, he fought back as his men reconsolidated. One would think he had already earned a second Victoria Cross, but he wasn’t finished.
After being patched up at an aid post, he rejoined his unit, which again began to take heavy artillery fire, wounding him again. This time his position was overrun and he was captured. Only six men from his unit survived the battle.
Superior officers in Upham’s chain of command recommended him for another Victoria Cross for not only his actions at El-Alamein, but also his previous engagement at Minqar Qaim. Instead they rolled both events into the same recommendation to present to King George Vi.
The New Zealander recovered from his wounds and spent most of the rest of the war in POW camps, where he became known as an extreme escape risk. He eventually found himself in Colditz Castle, a prison for enemy officers from which escape was notoriously difficult.
Seven months after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, he has installed a new civilian leader for the Navy and Marine Corps.
Banker and Marine veteran Richard V. Spencer was sworn in as the 76th secretary of the Navy August 3 in a quiet, early-morning ceremony at the Pentagon, officials said, less than 48 hours after he was confirmed by the Senate in a late-night session August 1.
Spencer most recently served for a decade as the managing director of Fall Creek Management, a management consulting company in Wilson, Wyoming. Prior to that, according to a biography provided by officials, he worked on Wall Street for 16 years in roles centered on investment banking.
He has held numerous board of directors posts at private organizations, including the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, where he serves as vice chairman. He has also served the Pentagon as a member of the Defense Business Board and as a member of the Chief of Naval Operations Executive Panel.
After graduating from Rollins College in 1976 with an economics degree, Spencer spent five years in the Marine Corps, working as a CH-46 Sea Knight pilot.
According to service records obtained by Military.com, he was stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Santa Ana, California. While his awards include a Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with one star, his records are incomplete and do not indicate where he deployed.
Spencer left the Marines in 1981 to work on Wall Street, but remained in the Reserves, where he was eventually promoted to captain.
He received few challenges at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee in July, where he was introduced and warmly endorsed by former Navy secretary and US senator John Warner.
Spencer was the second nominee for the post put forward by the Trump administration. The first choice, financier and Army veteran Philip Bilden, withdrew from consideration early this year, citing difficulties divesting his financial interests in order to take the position.
After previous Navy secretary Ray Mabus left the position in January when Trump took office, Sean Stackley, the Navy’s assistant secretary for research, development and acquisition, had served in the role.
A spokesman for the office, Capt. Pat McNally, said Stackley resumed his previous title after Spencer was sworn in but has not announced any future plans.
One of the most challenging parts of deployment for many soldiers is being away from friends and family. Soldiers and family members alike often lean on others who share a similar experience during long periods apart.
But one family in the 1st Cavalry Division’s 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team is sharing an experience here to make deployment just a little bit easier.
Army Capt. Andrea Wolfe and her son, Army Spc. Kameron Wideman, both assigned to Brigade Support Medical Company, 215th Brigade Support Battalion, deployed to Kuwait recently from Fort Hood, Texas, for nine months in support of U.S. Army Central.
Wolfe, a native of Kingston, Jamaica, began her Army career as an enlisted lab technician 24 years ago.
“I had two sisters who were in the Army,” she said. “I followed them in. In a family of nine, we couldn’t afford college, so I had to do something to be able to get some kind of college education, and that was the way.”
As far back as she can remember, she said, she wanted to be a nurse. “It’s just something I wanted to get into to help people,” she added.
That aspiration propelled her through her career, taking advantage of educational opportunities in an effort to make her dream a reality. “I tried to get into the nursing program,” she said. “When I was a lab tech instructor in San Antonio, I put in my packet three times for the nursing program.”
After 17 years of enlisted service and multiple attempts, the frustrated sergeant first class decided to try something different.
“So I put in a packet to the [physician assistant] program, got picked up the first time, so I figured that was my calling, and I’ve been doing that since 2009,” she said.
Meanwhile, Wolfe was raising a family. Her son, Kameron Wideman, was born in 1996 at her first duty station in Fort Lewis, Washington. Brought up in a devoted military household, it was no surprise when he enlisted in the Army, Wolfe said.
“I was good in school, but I didn’t take it seriously enough, but the Army was always my fallback plan,” said Wideman, a behavioral health technician. “I initially wanted to join just so I could help people. That’s why I got into the medical field.”
Meanwhile, Wolfe and Wideman are tending to the physical and mental well-being of the soldiers deployed to Camp Buehring, Kuwait. Wolfe said that while her focus is on her job and taking care of the soldiers, the mom in her can’t help but feel some of the same concerns stateside parents feel about having a child deployed.
“As a mother, you still have that deep-down concern of ‘What if something happens to my baby? What am I going to do?'” she said. “But I can’t let him see that, because I need him to focus on his job and what I need him to do, and that’s to provide mental health, which is something that is very much needed in this day and age.”
Wideman said he enjoys having his mother right down the road. “I’m blessed,” he said. “I’m blessed to have her with me.”
Although Wideman has served only two years in the Army, he is no stranger to the deployment experience from a family member’s perspective. His mother, father, and stepfather all serve on active duty.
“All three of my parents have deployed at some point,” he said. “It was tough as a little kid saying goodbye to your parents. When you’re little, you tend to have a big imagination. You’re thinking, ‘Oh no! I’m probably never going to see my parents again,’ because you’re little, and you’re in your own head about it.”
But the experience of being the kid who was left behind didn’t prepare him to actually be deployed himself, he said.
“I still didn’t really know what deployment was,” he said. “It was like this random place that my parents were going to for like a year and then coming back. I didn’t really know how to picture where they were.”
Thankfully, he said, he had a source close to home to answer his questions.
“I had the normal questions like, ‘How are we going to be living?” and me being a millennial, ‘Is there going to be Internet?’ and things like that,” he said.
Wolfe and her husband, Army 1st Sgt. Andrew Wolfe, a company first sergeant at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center at Fort Hood, Texas, help mentor Wideman through his Army career with advice and guidance.
Drive, Motivation, Discipline
Echoes of the same drive, motivation, dedication and discipline that exemplify Wolfe’s career path are evident in Wideman’s.
“We cross paths every now and then,” she said. “I don’t see him all the time. I let Kameron be Kameron. We are passionate about the military. This is our Army. My husband is a first sergeant, and I used to be an E-7 before I switched over, so that leadership is instilled in both of us, and that comes out in the way we raise our kids — the leadership, the discipline, the morale, the ethics, everything. This is the way you’re supposed to live.”
Wolfe said she often finds herself giving the same advice to her soldiers that she gives to her son.
“Get all you can out of the military, because it’s going to get all it can out of you, and that was my insight coming up,” Wolfe said.
“I don’t know how many colleges I went to, because I needed classes. I went to school all the time, and I was just taking advantage of the opportunities that were out there. That’s what I tell all my soldiers coming up in the military. You have to take advantage of it. No one’s going to give it to you. You have to go and get it.”
The seven-month odyssey of a “blue-green” flotilla that saw combat in Yemen and Syria and conducted training exercises across a large swath of the globe demonstrates the enduring importance of the Navy-Marine Corps team overseas, commanders of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit said May 24.
Departing San Diego on Oct. 14, the 11th MEU and the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group reportedly supported a Jan. 29 raid in Yemen in which a Navy SEAL — Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens — was killed. They also brought artillery and infantry troops to Kuwait for later duty, providing firepower to Kurdish partners besieging Raqqa, the Syrian city that doubles as the capital for the terrorist Islamic State.
The howitzers manned by the Marines conducted more than 400 fire-support missions in Syria, firing more than 4,500 shells at ISIS targets, according to the 11th MEU.
“It was the right Marine air-ground task force to provide supportability, mobility, and lethality,” 11th MEU spokesman Maj. Craig Thomas said during a news conference May 24 at Camp Pendleton. “The Marines supported local Syrians who are fighting to rid ISIS from their country.”
Citing the classified nature of the Yemen operations, Thomas said he couldn’t comment on that raid.
His report card for the MEU comes during a series of debates not only about America’s policies toward Yemen and Syria but also grumbling concerns about the future of Marine expeditionary units.
Experts continue to fret about how Marine battalions will conduct their amphibious missions in an age of super-fast and precise, long-range anti-ship-air missiles, plus Pentagon budget woes that appear to prioritize submarines and destroyers over amphibious assault ships like the Makin Island.
That flagship vessel returned to San Diego on May 15. It and the fellow amphibious assault ships Somerset and Comstock combined to carry more than 4,500 sailors and Marines, spending three months in the Pacific Ocean and four months in the waters off the Middle East and Africa.
Beyond the combat operations in Syria, the group held exercises in Hawaii, Guam, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, Djibouti, Oman, and the Persian Gulf. Marines also stood ready to evacuate the embassy in the South Sudanese capital of Juba during hostilities there — the sort of mission that makes an amphibious ready group and Marine expeditionary unit “the 9-1-1 organization from the sea,” 11th MEU commander Col. Clay Tipton said.
Retired Marine Col. Mark Cancian — a senior adviser with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a nonpartisan think tank based in Washington, D.C. — echoed Tipton’s perspective that the MEU remains a lasting example of flexible armed response from the sea.
“What makes a Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force so valuable is the ability of the Marines to mix and match capabilities,” Cancian said. “That’s what they’re doing and that’s what they should be doing.”
And that’s particularly important for Syria because how the Marines were used dovetails with President Donald Trump’s foreign policy goals — defeat the Islamic State without putting too many boots on the ground, he added.
“The thing that the Marine Corps can provide that’s really needed is fire power for allies like the Kurds or Iraqis — artillery, mortars, aircraft,” Cancian said. “So far, Trump’s policy has been adamant about not using infantry, except in a limited role to protect artillery and other units that are on the ground to add firepower for allies.”
If the mission in Syria grows, Cancian could envision Marine and Navy logistical heft toting more supplies to Kurdish militias or the Free Syrian Army, perhaps even occupying an airfield and using it as a forward operating base. The Corps also could deploy more artillery observers and so called “Joint Terminal Attack Controllers” who call in airstrikes, but Cancian doubts the White House would land a large number of “boots on the ground.”
Potential rivals at sea such as Russia, China, and Iran increasingly field anti-ship and surface-to-air missiles that can be fired from hundreds of miles away. Large amphibs, their hovercraft and lumbering armored troop carriers that take hours to wade ashore and unload, would be punished by precision missiles, experts contend.
The Makin Island is one of the world’s largest amphibs. But it’s also considered a transitional vessel, with similar but superior high-tech “Big Deck Amphibs” like the San Diego-based America poised to share space in the piers.
“The answer, to me, is that we had better prepare to fight for command of the sea,” said James Holmes, a professor of strategy at the U.S. Naval War College and a former Navy surface warfare officer who is widely considered one of the world’s top experts on maritime battle. “As the greats of sea power tell us, you have to be able to win command of the sea if you want to use the sea to do things like conduct amphibious landings.
“So we need to be ready to do these things, but chances are there will be delays while we fight our way into the theater, reduce shore-based missile batteries and on and on. Sea power is no longer just about navies,” he added.
Holmes believes the Marines might fret about the future of the amphibious fleet because ongoing studies have called for converting some assault ships into light aircraft carriers and replacing them with other vessels when they’re retired, but the Navy must strike the right balance.
“As far as priorities, certainly the types of ships we need to defeat our enemies and take command of the sea must take precedence,” he said, adding that it’s “a lot easier to improvise a fleet of amphibious transports than it would to improvise destroyers or nuclear-powered attack submarines.”
Holmes said Marines could be called to seize islands, much as they did in World War II. Cancian added that the Corps also might return to traditional missions like coastal artillery batteries, working alongside the Army and other services to to defend anti-ship missile batteries on the islands and shoals peppering the Pacific Ocean.
That concept is still a work in progress.
“The bottom line is that there’s no answer about the ultimate future of the ships and the marine expeditionary units, but we do know that in peacetime they’re very useful,” Cancian said. “You’re seeing in the Middle East just how useful they are.”
Throughout the years, the meeting between the two largest rivals in college football has been known as “The President’s Game” because of how intertwined the game is with the Commander-in-Chief.
Many of the traditions surrounding the game — and perhaps the game itself — are owed to President Theodore Roosevelt. In 1893, after first four Army-Navy games, football was deemed “too unsafe” by President Grover Cleveland and future games were prohibited. After all, players were bloodied, fights broke out between fans, and, at one point, an Army General and Navy Admiral nearly dueled to the death over a game.
It wasn’t until 1897 that President Roosevelt — undeniably the manliest president America has ever seen — wrote a letter urging the reinstatement of the game. In 1899, it returned, but was as dangerous as ever. Later, President Roosevelt also saw to revamping the rules of the game. He made sure pads and gear were worn, adding safety but maintaining the sport’s intensity. Roosevelt attended the game in 1901 and laid down traditions for future presidents to emulate.
To date, only nine sitting presidents have attended the game: Roosevelt, Wilson, Coolidge, Truman, Kennedy, Ford, Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama. Last year, then President-elect Donald Trump attended, making him the only President-elect to watch the game in person. President Truman holds the record at seven games, followed by President George W. Bush at three. Presidents that attend are usually asked to perform the coin toss at the start of the game.
President Eisenhower was the only President to ever play in the game, but never attend while in office. President Carter, despite having gone to the Naval Academy, never attended while in office. Between 1924 and 1945, no sitting President went to “The President’s Game.”
There was another gap in attendance starting in 1963, when President Ford came to cheer for both teams on for the 75th anniversary of the rivalry, and 1995. Since then, Presidents have made an appearance regularly.
Another tradition started by President Roosevelt is walking across the field at half-time. This symbolic gesture shows good will and faith between both teams and the President. Even Presidents who had served in the Navy or Army, like Kennedy and Ford respectively, put their histories aside for the sake of tradition (although they both started on their service’s side).
The only President to not do this was the seven-time attendee Truman, who stayed comfortably on one side. Don’t worry, he switched sides for the next game.
Editor’s note: Earlier this summer, Military One Click devised a military/veteran-centered questionnaire and sent it out to the Clinton, Johnson, Stein, and Trump campaigns as part of #militaryvotesmatter. As they receive responses from those campaigns, WATM will publish them, unedited and in their entirety.
This questionnaire was devised and compiled by Bianca Strzalkowski, a freelance writer and Marine Corps spouse. Follow her on twitter, @BiancaSki.
What key policy positions does your party hold that made you choose to be affiliated with it?
Fundamentally, Libertarians believe in small government, fiscal responsibility, and respect for the rights of individuals to make their own personal choices, provided those choices do not harm others. And in foreign policy, we are very hesitant and skeptical when it comes to intervening in the affairs of other nations when there is no clear U.S. interest at stake. We are not isolationists, but we err on the side of nonintervention unless intervening is necessary to protect and defend the U.S. and its citizens.
In your opinion, what do you think are the leading issues facing today’s military members?
There are many issues facing today’s military men and women. First, they need and deserve a Commander-in-Chief who will not send them into harm’s way as part of a vague foreign policy that has too often involved intervening in conflicts with no clear outcome or U.S. interest. Our military must be second to none and invincible as a national DEFENSE. But it must be used judiciously with clear congressional authorization, rules of engagement that do not put our troops at unnecessary risk, clear objectives, and clear U.S. interests at stake.
Likewise, when we ask our military members to put their lives at risk for our freedoms, we must give them concrete assurances that their families will receive the support they need and deserve. And they must know that when they leave the military, our commitment does not end. The transition to civilian life is not easy and presents unique challenges. From the GI Bill to medical treatment to emotional support, I believe we have a moral obligation to treat the members of the military as we would our own families.
What experience, if any, do you have with the military and veteran communities?
I did not serve in the military. However, my father is a World War II veteran, and in his older years, has been a patient in the VA health care system. Also, as Governor of New Mexico, I had many opportunities to work with the veterans’ community — and it was an honor to do so.
In 2014, it came to light that veterans were facing dire issues in trying to navigate the Veterans Administration’s system, to include long wait lists to access healthcare. What actions would you take to find solutions to these problems?
It is an inexcusable disgrace that the VA system has failed so many veterans. There can be no short-changing or equivocation in meeting our obligations to those who serve, and making them suffer at the hands of a failed bureaucracy must not happen. We all know there are many dedicated, caring health care professionals in the VA system. The failure is at the top and in the bureaucracy.
First, we must broaden the health care options through vouchers or a similar mechanism by which veterans can go outside the VA system to private providers if doing so will allow better and timely care. However, for the many for whom the VA system remains the most accessible and convenient care, and for whom the VA has unique capacities to serve the needs of veterans, we must also fix that system. As Governor, my greatest satisfaction came from applying common sense business practices to improve state services. It was amazing how many times simply asking the right questions and applying obvious solutions could easily resolve problems caused by the bureaucracy. I can’t wait to get my hands on the VA.
Unemployment among military spouses continues to be a financial readiness issue for service members’ families with reported jobless rates being between 12 – 26 percent. What resources would you devote to lowering those numbers?
The most important priority for improving employment opportunities for military spouses is to create an economic environment in which there is robust demand for whatever skills they have to offer. As long as job-seekers dramatically outnumber jobs, the realities of military life will present challenges in that competitive marketplace. Frequent relocation, “single parent” responsibilities and other factors common among spouses create obstacles, and we must face that fact.
At the same time, I believe there are a great many employers who are anxious to help support our military families. There is much government at all levels can do to simply help connect military spouses with those employers. The Presidency is a powerful voice and can be used to lead that effort.
Many veterans choose entrepreneurship as a post-military career option because of the skills they learn in leadership. How will your administration support small business ownership for this population?
Almost without exception, my speeches include my belief that entrepreneurship is the key to America’s future. I am an entrepreneur myself, having started in business as a one-man “handyman” and growing that business into a construction company with more than 1,000 employees. Thanks to technology, never before have entrepreneurial opportunities been greater — and military members enter the game with the right skills to succeed. My highest priority as President will be to create a level playing field, end crony capitalism and otherwise remove obstacles to small business ownership and success. I know what it takes to be an entrepreneur, and my policies will, across-the-board, be intended to maximize entrepreneurial opportunities.
Military kids move on average every 2-3 years, and the average child may relocate 6-9 times during an academic career, according to DODEA. In turn, they face issues such as losing credits upon transfer or transitioning into a curriculum that varies from their previous schools. What policies could your administration explore to help military children have a more successful foundation for their education?
As Governor, and if elected President, removing the shackles from education innovation was and will remain one of my passions. I firmly believe that education entrepreneurs will revolutionize — for the better — the ways in which our kids learn, if only they are allowed to do so. Federal mandates, outdated public school restrictions and lack of flexibility have made it difficult, if not impossible, for educators to fashion educational opportunities that meet the needs of individual students.
Clearly, the children of military families do face unique circumstances. However, accommodating those circumstances should not be difficult if we abandon the one-size-fits-all approach that has burdened U.S. schools for decades.
To me, the first step toward creating flexibility is to remove the Federal Department of Education as a stifling force. If allowed to do so, the states will become laboratories of innovation, and obviously, those states with significant military populations will adapt to the needs of that population.
There are few, if any, problems with credit transfers, varying curricula, etc., that cannot be readily addressed if teachers, local schools, and parents are allowed to do so — with common sense and creativity.
What in your professional experience has prepared you to take on the role as Commander-in-Chief?
In business, and even more so, as Governor, I succeeded by seeking the smartest and most qualified counsel I could find. I thoroughly enjoyed digging into problems and challenges, understanding them, and making informed decisions. I think my record speaks to my success in doing that. Perhaps even more important, I would bring to the job of Commander-in-Chief a clear vision of what our military should be asked to do — and what it should not be asked to do. I am a skeptic when it comes to deploying military force, meaning that I will do what it takes to defend this nation, but I will approach any such deployment by asking the tough questions and leaving no doubt in my mind that putting our military men and women in harm’s way is absolutely necessary. And I will never put those men and women in harm’s way simply to pursue a political agenda.
Military families entrust the Commander-in-Chief to make critical decisions that dictate the fate of their service member. What do you want them to know about what kind of leader you will be for their service member?
I am a leader to whom the decision to use military force will be the most serious decision I will make. The members of our military will not be sent into war simply to replace a government we don’t like. They will not be asked to “rebuild” nations who have defied rebuilding for hundreds of years, and they will not be asked to somehow resolve conflicts in other nations that we simply cannot resolve. Members of the military take an oath to protect and defend this nation. That is precisely what they will be asked to do. Nothing more. Nothing less.
And if and when I do make that decision to send the military into harm’s way, I will ensure that they will go without the burdens and dangers of politically-correct restrictions, that they will have the resources and support they need, and that their mission will be clear.
Under the Obama Administration, the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden started Joining Forces – an initiative focused on the employment, education, and wellness of service members and their families. If elected, will your administration continue this program? Why or why not?
Joining Forces is precisely the type of public-private partnership that a White House can encourage and promote with great effect — provided the commitment is real and the effort maintained. When the initiative was announced, Ms. Obama and Dr. Biden made it clear that the intent is that it will continue beyond their husbands’ tenures. That is as it should be.
What is the most effective way for voters to get to know you before Election Day?
Take the time to examine my record as Governor and my “record” as a person. I am an athlete, an adventurer who thrives on accepting and meeting challenges, an entrepreneur, and a public figure for whom hypocrisy is the cardinal sin. You can keep track of our campaign at JohnsonWeld.com, and on our various social media platforms.