These are the Voyages of the US Navy's Enterprise - We Are The Mighty
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These are the Voyages of the US Navy’s Enterprise

For some people, Enterprise is the ship that comes to mind when they think about the U.S. Navy.


However, for fans of the TV show Star Trek – Trekkies, Enterprise is synonymous with the fictional starship by the same name and “its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

On this day, 50 years after the show’s premiere, we’re looking back at our Enterprise by the numbers.

1775

The name Enterprise is as old as the U.S. Navy. The first Enterprise ship was captured from the British by Benedict Arnold in May 1775. CVN-65 was the eighth ship with the name Enterprise in the history of the U.S. Navy.

These are the Voyages of the US Navy’s Enterprise
The first Enterprise originally belonged to the British and cruised on Lake Champlain to supply their posts in Canada. After the capture of Fort Ticonderoga by the Americans on May 10, 1775, it became the object of desire in the mind of Benedict Arnold who realized he would not have control of Lake Champlain until its capture.

1,123

The length of the Enterprise in feet, making it the longest ship in history. Over 800 companies provided building supplies, which included 60,923 tons of steel, 1507 tons of aluminum, 230 miles of pipe and tubing and 1700 tons of one-quarter-inch welding rods.

These are the Voyages of the US Navy’s Enterprise
ATLANTIC OCEAN (Oct. 23, 2012) An E-2C Hawkeye assigned to the Screwtops of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 123 flies past the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) during an air power demonstration. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Pittman/Released)

8

The number of nuclear reactors aboard Enterprise, which was the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. The reactors generated more than 200,000 horsepower.

These are the Voyages of the US Navy’s Enterprise
At sea aboard USS Enterprise (CVN 65) Nov. 5, 2001– Sailors aboard USS Enterprise spell out “E = MC2x40” on the carrier’s flight deck to mark forty years of U.S. Naval nuclear power as ship and crew return home from a Mediterranean Sea Arand abian Gulf deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Enterprise currently in dry dock at the Naval Shipyards in Norfolk, Va. U.S. Navy Photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Douglass M. Pearlman. (RELEASED)

100,000

The number of Sailors and Marines who served aboard Enterprise, which had 23 different commanding officers.

These are the Voyages of the US Navy’s Enterprise
NORFOLK (Nov. 30, 2012) Master Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate Eric Young reenlists on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nick C. Scott/Released)

1962

Within one year of its commissioning, President John Kennedy dispatched Enterprise to blockade Cuba and prevent the Soviet delivery of missiles to the island.

These are the Voyages of the US Navy’s Enterprise
WASHINGTON (April 16, 2013) The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) transits the Arabian Gulf. Enterprise was one of several ships that participated in Operation Praying Mantis, which was launched after the guided-missile frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG-58) struck an Iranian mine on April 14, 1988. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Todd Cichonowicz/Released)

2001

Enterprise was returning from a long deployment when terrorists attacked the U.S. on September 11. Without waiting for orders, Enterprise returned to the Arabian Gulf and later launched one of the first strikes against al-Qaida in Afghanistan. The ship expended more than 800,000 pounds of ordnance during Operation Enduring Freedom.

These are the Voyages of the US Navy’s Enterprise
At sea aboard USS Enterprise (Oct. 18, 2001) — U.S. Navy sailors inspect AGM-65 “Maverick” air-to-surface tactical missiles on the flight deck of USS Enterprise (CVN 65) in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. U.S. Navy Photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Apprentice Lance H. Mayhew Jr. (RELEASED)

25

The number of deployments made by Enterprise, which traveled to the Mediterranean Sea, Pacific Ocean and the Middle East, and served in nearly every major conflict that occurred during her history.

These are the Voyages of the US Navy’s Enterprise
NORFOLK (Nov. 4, 2012) The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) arrives at Naval Station Norfolk. Enterprise’s return to Norfolk will be the 25th and final homecoming of her 51 years of distinguished service. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rafael Martie/Released)

400,000

The number of arrested landings recorded aboard Enterprise as of May 2011, the fourth aircraft carrier to perform such a feat.

These are the Voyages of the US Navy’s Enterprise
ARABIAN SEA (May 24, 2011) An F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to the Red Rippers of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 11 makes the 400,000th arrested landing aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Alex R. Forster/Released)

51

Enterprise’s years of active service, which ended December 1, 2012. Enterprise was one of the longest active-duty ships in the history of the Navy.

These are the Voyages of the US Navy’s Enterprise
NORFOLK (Dec. 1, 2012) Guests observe the inactivation ceremony of the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65). Enterprise was commissioned Nov. 25, 1961 as the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. The ceremony marks the end of her 51 years of service. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Joshua E. Walters/Released)

80

During CVN-65’s inactivation ceremony on Dec. 1, 2012, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced in a video message that the name Enterprise will live on as the officially passed the name to CVN-80, the third Ford class carrier and the ninth ship in the U.S. Navy to bear the name.

These are the Voyages of the US Navy’s Enterprise
Graphic of ships named Enterprise (U.s. Navy graphic by MC1 Arif Patani/Released)

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This video of Arnold Schwarzenegger driving over stuff with a tank will make your day

In 2014, the former Governator participated in an Omaze campaign to raise money for Afternoon All-Stars, a nonprofit organization which provides comprehensive after-school programs to keep children safe and help them succeed in school and in life.


Schwarzenegger’s campaign ended in 2014, but his promo video lives on and it is epic. For only $20, anyone had the chance to be flown to Los Angeles and drive over stuff with Arnold in his personal tank.

Omaze is a type of crowdfunding-online auction hybrid for raising money for good causes. For a set donation, anyone has the chance to spend time living an “experience” with a celebrity  who teamed with a nonprofit to keep them in the black.

Other celebs and their experiences include learning to throw a spiral football pass with New England Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady to support the RED campaign to to create an AIDS free generation, or get a boxing lesson from Creed‘s (the movie, not the band) Michael B. Jordan to support Big Brothers and Big Sisters.

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Why can’t America build any new F-22 Raptors?

The U.S Air Force has two air superiority fighters in their stable in the F-22 Raptor and F-15 Eagle, but when looking to bolster the fleet with purchases of a new (old) jet for the job, it was the Eagle, not the famed Raptor, to get a second lease on life. That really begs the question: if America can buy new F-15s, a design that’s nearly 50 years old, why isn’t it looking to build new F-22s instead?

Related: WHY IS AMERICA BUYING THE F-15EX INSTEAD OF MORE F-35S?

By most accounting, the F-22 Raptor remains the most capable air superiority fighter on the planet, with its competition in China’s J-20B beginning to shape up and Russia’s Su-57 still lagging a bit behind. The F-22 really is still at the top of its game… but that doesn’t mean building more actually makes good sense.

The F-22 and F-35 are fighters with two very different jobs

While the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is widely seen as the most technologically advanced fighter in the sky, it was designed as a sort of continuation of the F-16 Fighting Falcon’s multi-purpose architecture, with an emphasis placed on conducting air-to-ground operations. The older F-22 Raptor was intended to serve as a replacement instead for the legendary F-15 Eagle, as the nation’s top-of-the-line dogfighter.

These are the Voyages of the US Navy’s Enterprise
F-22 Raptors fly in formation with an F-15 Eagle. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Ben Bloker)

Related: Sea Raptor: The Navy’s sweep-wing F-22 that wasn’t to be

While both the F-22 and F-35 are 5th generation jets that leverage stealth to enable mission accomplishment and both are able to conduct air-to-air and air-to-ground combat operations, they each specialize in a different aspect of air combat and were intended to serve in very different roles. Unlike the F-22, the U.S. continues to receive new F-35s, though comments made by senior defense officials over the past year have placed the Joint Strike Fighter’s future into some question. America will undoubtedly be flying F-35s for decades to come, but it’s beginning to seem less and less likely that the F-35 will replace the F-16 as the Air Force’s workhorse platform.

The F-22 was canceled because America didn’t need a stealth air superiority fighter for the War on Terror

The Air Force originally intended to purchase 750 F-22s to develop a robust fleet of stealth interceptors for the 21st Century. But as the United States found itself further entrenched in counter-terror and counter-insurgency operations against technologically inferior opponents, the need for advanced dogfighters became far less pressing. With ongoing combat operations in multiple theaters to fund, the F-22 program was shut down in December of 2011 with just 186 fighters delivered. Today, nearly a decade later, the F-22 exists in precious few numbers, despite its fearsome reputation.

These are the Voyages of the US Navy’s Enterprise
(U.S. Air Force photo by Lt. Sam Eckholm)

Related: WHAT DOES IT ACTUALLY MEAN WHEN WE SAY ‘5TH GENERATION’ FIGHTER?

Now, the United States faces concerns about its dwindling fleet of F-22 Raptors that were once intended to replace the F-15 outright. Only around 130 of those 186 delivered F-22s were ever operational, and today the number of combat-ready F-22s is likely in the double digits. With no new Raptors to replenish the fleet as older jets age out, each hour an F-22 flies anywhere in the world is now one hour closer to the world’s best dogfighter’s retirement.

The future of the Air Force, as Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown has plainly stated, doesn’t include the mighty Raptor. But America needs an air superiority fighter that can stand and swing with the best in the world, and as capable as the F-15EX Eagle II may be, it lacks the stealth it would need to survive an open war with a nation like China or Russia. With the NGAD program still years away from producing an operational fighter, America’s air superiority mission now runs the risk of not having the jets it needs for a high-end fight if one were to break out–as unlikely as that may be.

The production facilities and supply chain for the F-22 were cannibalized for the F-35

As simple as just building new F-22s may sound, the truth is, re-starting the F-22 production line would likely cost the same or potentially even more than simply developing an entirely new and potentially better fighter. Lockheed Martin cannibalized a great deal of the F-22’s production infrastructure to support the ongoing production of the F-35, meaning it wouldn’t be as simple as just re-opening the plants that had previously built Raptors.

These are the Voyages of the US Navy’s Enterprise
Lockheed Martin

Related: COULD THE YF-23 HAVE BEEN BETTER THAN THE F-22?

In fact, Lockheed Martin would have to approach building new F-22s as though it was an entirely new enterprise, which is precisely why the United States didn’t look into purchasing new F-22s rather than the controversial new (old) F-15EX.

Boeing’s new F-15s are considered fourth-generation fighters that are sorely lacking in stealth when compared to advanced fighters like the F-22 and F-35, but the Air Force has agreed to purchase new F-15s at a per-unit price that even exceeds new F-35 orders. Why? There are a number of reasons, but chief among them are operational costs (the F-15 is far cheaper per flight hour than either the F-35 or the F-22), and immediate production capability. Boeing has already been building advanced F-15s for American allies in nations like Qatar and Saudi Arabia, so standing up a new production line for the United States comes with relatively little cost.

These are the Voyages of the US Navy’s Enterprise
The F-15EX (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

Related: THE AIR FORCE JUST DROPPED NEW CONCEPT ART OF ITS NGAD FIGHTER

The F-22’s production line, on the other hand, hasn’t existed in nearly a decade. In a report submitted to Congress in 2017, it was estimated that restarting F-22 production would cost the United States $50 billion just to procure 194 more fighters. That breaks down to between $206 and $216 million per fighter, as compared to the F-35’s current price of around $80 million per airframe and the F-15EX’s per-unit price of approximately $88 million.

Does that mean it’s impossible to build new F-22s? Of course not. With enough money, anything is possible — but as estimated costs rise, the question becomes: Is it practical? And the answer to that question seems to be an emphatic no. The U.S. Air Force has invested a comparatively tiny $9 billion into its own Next Generation Air Dominance fighter program — aimed at developing a replacement for the F-22 — over the span of six years (2019-2025).

If the new NGAD fighter enters service on schedule, it may even get to fly alongside the F-22 before it heads out to pasture. So, while the Raptor’s reign as king of the skies may soon come to an end, it may not be before America has a new contender for the title.


This article by Alex Hollings was originally published by Sandboxx News. Follow Sandboxx News on Facebook.

Feature image: U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christopher L. Ingersoll

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During World War II the NFL’s Eagles and Steelers merged into one team

The 1943 season was a tough one for the NFL, its fans, and America. At the height of World War II, Pennsylvania’s two pro teams lost a number of players to military service. As a result, the two teams merged temporarily in order to play out the season, forming what the NFL called the “Phil-Pitt Combine.” The sports press labeled the team the “Steagles,” a name that fans quickly adopted.  The season was saved.


These are the Voyages of the US Navy’s Enterprise

The U.S. government fully supported the continuation of American sports to keep morale up on the homefront, but teams like the Steagles had rosters filled by players who didn’t join the war effort because they were unfit for service, received a draft deferment, or were actually serving but on leave.

These are the Voyages of the US Navy’s Enterprise

But in spite of the fact that the NFL needed eight teams to have a functional season, the Steagles almost didn’t happen. Pittsburgh and Philadelphia were bitter rivals in the 1940s, and the men who would be co-head coaches hated each other.

These are the Voyages of the US Navy’s Enterprise

Players received some public ridicule because of the general perception that if a player was fit enough to play football he should be fit enough to fight the Nazis. But most of the Steagles’ players were declared physically unfit for service. The teams players also worked full time war production jobs. Football was not their only gig.

Philadelphia was hometown for the team and the team wore the Eagles’ green and white colors. It was the only time in the history of the Steelers franchise that the team didn’t wear black and gold. Pittsburgh owner Art Rooney did manage to get two home games played in Pittsburgh, however, both of which they won.

These are the Voyages of the US Navy’s Enterprise

After a 2-0 start, the Steagles started to fall apart and by the end of the season, their record was a mediocre 5-4-1. They still hold the record for most fumbles in a winning game, where, against the New York Giants, they lost the ball ten times but still pulled out a 28-14 win, as lopsided a win as the U.S. had against the Axis.

These are the Voyages of the US Navy’s Enterprise

In 2003, the Steelers hosted the Eagles on the 60th anniversary of the Steagles’ formation and honored the surviving members who could make it. Philadelphia won that game 21-16.

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This WWII bombing mission resulted in 5 Medals of Honor

It was one of the most dangerous and daring raids of World War II, and it resulted in the most medals of honor bestowed on America’s airmen from any battle in any war.


In the summer of 1943, the U.S. Army Air Force launched the audacious Operation Tidal Wave, an effort to destroy the largest supply of oil production for the German war machine in Ploesti, Romania.

The Ploesti oil fields produced a third of all Axis oil in Europe, so it was a prime target for an Allied attack. But unbeknownst to the Allies, it was also one of its most heavily defended cities in Europe — second only to Berlin.

Flying from Benghazi, Libya, a force of five bomb groups – the 98th and 376th from the Ninth Air Force and the 44th, 93rd, and 389th from the Eighth Air Force – (totaling 177 B-24 Liberator bombers) conducted the raid. The most effective way to strike the targets was to come in at tree-top level and use bombs with delayed fuses to allow planes to clear the area before detonation.

The force would have a series of troubling events before they even reached Ploesti.

In the early morning hours of August 1, 1943, just after the bombers began their mission, an overloaded bomber crashed on take-off and later the lead plane winged over and crashed into the sea.

These are the Voyages of the US Navy’s Enterprise
A B-24 Liberator taking off in Benghazi, bound for the oil fields at Ploesti. (U.S. Air Force photo)

As the raid approached its target,  the 98th Bomb Group fell behind, separating the planes into two groups. Then a navigational error sent the lead group away from Ploesti and toward Bucharest. Realizing their mistake, the 93rd, led by Lt. Col. Addison Baker, turned north toward the refineries. Seeing this, the 376th, led by Col. Keith Compton and mission commander Brig. Gen. Uzal Ent, also turned toward the target but turned away to look for a better entry point when they hit the anti-aircraft defenses.

These are the Voyages of the US Navy’s Enterprise
B-24 Liberators over Ploesti on Aug. 1, 1943. (U.S. Army photo)

The overwhelming ground fire soon overwhelmed many of the planes during the attack, and the pilots did everything they could to maintain course and strike their target.

In a final act of heroism, the pilots of a shot up plane tried to gain enough altitude for the crew to bail out but were too late – the plane crashed into the target, killing all on board.

Pilots Lt. Col. Baker and Maj. Jerstad were both awarded the Medal of Honor.

These are the Voyages of the US Navy’s Enterprise
U.S. B-24 Liberators over their target, Ploesti, Romania in August, 1943 (U.S. Army photo)

The 376th, unable to find a suitable line to the main refineries, was ordered to bomb targets of opportunity before coming home. One six-plane element breached the defenses and hit its target but was ineffective.

Just as the remnants of the 93rd and 376th were leaving the target, the straggling 98th and 44th, which followed the correct course, arrived with the fifth group, swerving north to hit a separate compound.

Due to the confusion, the first groups over the target hit anything they could. This meant the next two groups approached with their primary targets already in flames. To make matters worse, not all of the planes evacuated the target area, so pilots already dodging smoke and ground fire had to watch out for other bombers too.

These are the Voyages of the US Navy’s Enterprise
U.S. Army Air Forces hit the Axis oil fields in Ploesti, Romania, on Aug. 1, 1943 (U.S. Air Force photo)

Despite the hellacious conditions, Col. John Kane’s 98th Bomb Group and Col. Leon Johnson’s 44th Bomb Group flew on and attacked their targets with precision. For their bravery and leadership, both men were awarded the Medal of Honor.

These are the Voyages of the US Navy’s Enterprise
Consolidated B-24s on the Ploesti oil refinery bombing mission. (U.S. Air Force photo)

While the 98th and 44th fought their way through Ploesti, the 389th attacked the Campina facility to the north. Though more lightly defended than the main facility, the bombers still encountered heavy resistance.

Lieutenant Lloyd Herbert Hughes’ plane was hit numerous times in its fuel tanks and streamed fuel as it entered the target area. Motivated by duty and mission, he flew his plane into the inferno to hit his target. His own plane caught fire. Hughes attempted a crash landing but he and five other crew died. The enemy captured the rest. Lt. Hughes received the Medal of Honor for his devotion to duty.

The top turret gunner, Sgt. Zerrill Steen, continued to fire on enemy positions until his ammunition was exhausted. Steen was part of an air crew under Lt. Robert Horton. Horton’s plane was heavily damaged and went down, killing nine of the 10 crew. Sergeant Steen was captured and awarded the Distinguished Service Cross while in captivity.

These are the Voyages of the US Navy’s Enterprise
A B-24 Turret Gunner, wearing altitude mask, flak vest, and jacket. (U.S. army photo)

Of the 177 planes that took off from Benghazi, only 89 returned. While the enemy destroyed 54 planes, others crash landed at bases throughout the area. Over 300 men died, over 100 captured, and 78 were interred in Turkey.

Of the 89 returning planes, over a third were unfit to fly afterward. Five pilots received the Medal of Honor, three of them posthumously.

The high cost of the mission did not bring about great success. While the refinery at Campina was put out of action for the remainder of the war, the losses in oil production were repaired within weeks.

Due to the losses suffered by the attackers, August 1st came to be known as ‘Black Sunday.’

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4 night terrors America’s enemies have about Jim Mattis

Retired Marine Gen. and current Secretary of Defense James Mattis was recently asked what kept him up at night and he responded, “Nothing. I keep other people awake at night,” because Mattis is a stone-cold killer. And he’s right.


Here is how four enemies of America try, and fail, to get sleep:

1. Supreme Man-Child Kim Jong-un

Kim Jong-un ends every night surrounded by the young women of his personal harem, but even that isn’t enough to distract him from his one true fear, Jim Mattis. When Mattis ruled only the Marine Corps, the dreams were frightening enough. Marines assaulted North Korea’s miles of exposed coastline while Harriers roared over Pyongyang.

These are the Voyages of the US Navy’s Enterprise
(Image: YouTube/JoBlo TV Show Trailers)

But now, Mattis has a hold of the entire military, and the sick dictator tosses and turns in his bed with the images of stealth-enhanced Blackhawks swooping over his palace and depositing the elite operators of SEAL Team 6. Their attack dogs tear out the throats of his most loyal bodyguards as the SEALs sweep, slightly crouched and sighting down the barrel for new threats, through polished hallways.

In Kim’s mind, the SEALs stealthily stack on his bedroom. He looks across the massive bed at the slight gap beneath the door and searches for any change in the light, any flicker that may indicate that Mattis’s mad dogs are here at last.

These are the Voyages of the US Navy’s Enterprise
(Photo: Department of Defense)

Nothing. No shadows, no lights, and no quiet boot falls interrupt the night. But Kim knows he will go without sleep once again.

And Kim isn’t the only enemy of America who is more afraid of the dark than ever before. Here are three others who share in his terror-ridden insomnia:

2. ISIS’s top dude Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

These are the Voyages of the US Navy’s Enterprise
(Photo: U.S. Army)

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi holds his final meeting each nightfall for as long as possible, offering pine nuts and Chai to his few remaining aides and field commanders until they beg for sleep. He reluctantly agrees, allowing them to file out of his chambers. But the moment the door closes on them, he can feel the dread closing around him.

He forces himself not to look over his shoulder as he has so many times before, but that doesn’t stop the thoughts. The wall suddenly explodes inward as charges create three openings for Delta Force to pour through. Their suppressed weapons chuckle in the dust clouds from the explosions. Amid the cracks of the rifles and guns, another sound is audible. It’s Jim Mattis, and he’s laughing in full kit.

These are the Voyages of the US Navy’s Enterprise

Al-Baghdadi feels the first round pierce his lung as the second rips through his shoulder. He imagines himself slumped over, coughing, as the lights go out. He finally looks over his shoulder and prays the wall, and his crumbling “caliphate,” survives for just one more night.

3. Taliban’s current leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada

These are the Voyages of the US Navy’s Enterprise
Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. John Bainter

A former Taliban judge and professor, Hibatullah Akhundzada is a true believer of his perverse version of Islam. But he also believes in patterns, and his predecessor was killed in a drone strike just like many of his peers. He has to force his anxiety down every time he gets into a car or walks outside for too long. But by nightfall, he doesn’t have the energy to keep the phantoms at bay.

He can hear the soft buzz of the drone’s engines as it circles him in the sky. He knows the thermal sensors can see which room he’s in as even his breath is enough to heat the small room he hides in. He wonders what kind of weapon it will fire when it comes for him.

These are the Voyages of the US Navy’s Enterprise
Predator firing Hellfire missile. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

The Hellfire would approach with a roar as its engine propelled it through the night, but the Paveway would fall with a slight whistle.

He knows it’s wrong, but every time he thinks of the drone that will finally end the nightmare, he imagines it has a full cockpit with Mattis, grinning, at the controls. Mattis flips up his visor, takes a long pull from a beer bottle, and toasts the bomb as it lands.

4. Leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri

Ayman al-Zawahiri has watched al-Qaeda go from the most infamous terror organization on Earth to a group of zealots barely visible in the shadow of ISIS. But he knows that some of his enemies will never forget which organization attacked on 9/11. Leaders like Mattis aren’t distracted black flags.

These are the Voyages of the US Navy’s Enterprise
Photo: (U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Akeel Austin)

He knows it’s Mattis who will keep the analysts working daily to find him, to track his patterns. Is tonight the night? The night that Mattis passes hand signals down the line as the Osprey approaches the compound and transitions from forward to vertical flight.

The rotor wash beats against al-Zawahiri’s building as Mattis and the Marine Raiders fast rope onto the roof. The al-Qaeda fighters rush to their assigned defense posts, prepared to make the Marines bleed for every room. But Mattis expected this. A young Marine detonates a charge on the roof directly over al-Zawahiri.

These are the Voyages of the US Navy’s Enterprise
Lance Cpl. Corey A. Ridgway fires the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jorge A. Rosales)

When it explodes, the blast wave disorients everyone in the room with al-Zawahiri, and Mattis descends through the hole headfirst with an M27 in his hands. The 5.56mm rounds rip through the bodyguards and then al-Zawahiri himself.

Al-Zawahiri shakes himself and turns on his TV to spend another night watching the videos Osama Bin Laden sent him before his death.

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VA Secretary about to sign draft master plan for West LA campus

These are the Voyages of the US Navy’s Enterprise
(Photo: LA Times)


The Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald is traveling to Los Angeles to sign the draft master plan for the West LA VA campus on January 28 after months of advocacy by local veteran leaders to get their peers’ voices heard against a backdrop of wrangling between the city’s power brokers and politicians. The action comes nearly a year after the VA won a ruling to reassume control of the sprawling campus near Santa Monica that has suffered several decades worth of encroachment by non-VA organizations and inattention by the VA itself.

In 1888 John P. Jones and Arcadia B. de Baker signed a deed donating 300 Acres of West Los Angeles land to be used by the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (the precursor to the Department of Veterans Affairs) as their Pacific branch home. Over the next 127 years, the property lost it’s original focus and suffered at the hands of ineffectual government authorities who let the facility fall into disrepair and conniving interlopers from a host of organizations including a major university, an elite parochial school, and even other government agencies who wrangled large parcels for their own use (and nothing to do with veterans healthcare or well-being).

But in January 2015, VA Secretary Bob McDonald signed a settlement agreement in a class action lawsuit (Valentini v Shinseki) regarding encroachment on the campus of the facility. The agreement established a nonprofit, Vets Advocacy, to serve as a partner in the West LA VA master planning process. As the first step of that process, Vets Advocacy petitioned the veteran community for inputs on how they’d like to see VA services provided.

Vets Advocacy created a website, www.vatherightway.org, as the primary tool behind their mission.  The site allows veterans to find out about the history of the West LA VA campus, see the schedule of local town hall events, watch video testimonials of other vets, and — most importantly — take the survey regarding how the campus should be modified to better serve patients and the veteran community at large. In the period leading up to the creation of the draft master plan, more than 1,300 surveys were completed.

“The vets stepped up to the plate,” said Mike Dowling, We Are The Mighty’s director of outreach and a major force behind organizing veteran inputs on the master plan.

“The master plan is wholly informed by vet input,” said Vets Advocacy’s Dr. Jon Sherin, who ran mental health services for the West Los Angeles VA hospital. “Now Secretary McDonald is signing into law the guideposts by which all decisions regarding that land will be made.”

“The plan is not just historic for the amount of comments, but for what this represents,” Army vet Michael Cummings writes on his blog. “This plan represents the possibility to change the VA from being a hospital or housing shelter into a community that brings veterans together. The veteran leaders I’m working with don’t just want to make the VA function better, we want to build a community of veterans and work with the VA to improve the lives of the people who fought and sacrificed for our country.

“Even better, we know that we are creating a model for the whole country. Our efforts in Los Angeles are providing a blueprint for other VA campuses around the country for how to to turn from being simply a hospital into a community.”

Although getting Secretary McDonald’s signature on the draft master plan is an important milestone, the work towards realizing the promise of the document is far from over, and veteran input remains fundamental to the effort.

“The core theme among vets taking the survey was the need for a vet-driven governance structure for the community being developed on that land,” Dr. Sherin said. “We have to keep the vets’ voices alive and clear.”

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Here’s how to support Afghans trying to come to the United States

As the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan continues following the U.S. withdrawal, thousands of Afghans have gathered at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul trying to escape the country. Aircrafts are cramming as many passengers as possible, with hopes of getting as many out as they can. For Americans in the states wanting to support the Afghans they worked with, the situation may seem impossible; especially with the August 31 withdrawal deadline. There are, however, some steps you can take to aid your colleagues in Afghanistan and help them get to the U.S.

1. Don’t post pictures of them on social media

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You learned this one in the Cyber Awareness Challenge; don’t disappoint Jeff (DOD)

The Taliban is not sympathetic to Afghans who supported American forces. Those who served as interpreters have been marked for death along with their families. On the 21st century battlefield, the Taliban has become adept at utilizing social media for propaganda, recruiting and targeting. Sharing pictures of Afghan interpreters who you worked with only puts them in greater danger as they make their escape from Afghanistan.

2. Guide them to the right program

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A useful graphic for determining program eligibility (Combined Arms)

There are a few ways for Afghans to leave the country. One of the most talked about is the Special Immigrant Visa. The requirements for SIV eligibility have changed recently, so it’s important to review them and determine whether or not your Afghan friend qualifies. If they don’t, they may be eligible for a Priority 2 designation. For Afghans who don’t qualify for SIV or P2, the best option is to go through the UN. The graphic above can help you determine which program they qualify for. Another important consideration is their actual documentation. Encourage your Afghan friends to upload their documents to the cloud rather than traveling with physical copies. Paper documents can make them an easier target for the Taliban if they are discovered.

3. Send their names to the right point of contact

Afghans seeking transportation at Kabul must be approved first. At this time, an official State Department list is being referenced by Americans on the ground to manifest Afghans onto flights. While Afghans can submit their information to the State Department for consideration, Americans can also submit it on their behalf. For those in the SIV program, submit full name, date of birth, passport/visa application case numbers, and in-country contact information like email address or cell phone number to info@nooneleft.org. For civilians or others who may be in danger, contact the State Department directly at ACTF@STATE.GOV.

4. Donate to support new arrivals

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Afghans who are able to come to America have left everything behind to escape. Upon their arrival, they will need help settling in this new country and rebuilding their lives. No One Left Behind is the only nation-wide association of wartime allies in the US. They are dedicated to keeping America’s promise to Iraqi and Afghan interpreters who served side-by-side with American troops. You can donate to No One Left Behind and help them carry out their mission to evacuate Afghan SIVs and their families and support them in the US.

People are desperate, resources are stretched and time is running out. Our best bet in aiding our Afghan brothers and sisters is in following these steps.

Featured photo: U.S. Marine Cpl. Zach Switzer (right) and an interpreter stand with a village elder as U.S. Marines with Company I, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment (Reinforced), conduct a cordon and search mission with Afghan national police in a village in Farah province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, 2009. USMC Photo

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White House budget saves A-10 Thunderbolt from retirement

President Donald Trump’s defense budget includes a proposal to fully reverse plans to retire the much-beloved A-10 fighter jet, according to documents released Tuesday.


While the final budget will by no means be identical with the president’s proposed budget, the new documents Tuesday indicate the president places a strong priority on keeping A-10 fighter jets in the game, which will come as good news to ground troops who often rely on the jet for close-air support.

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Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class Jonathan Snyder

The budget overview states that “this budget fully funds the entire fleet of 283 A-10 Thunderbolt IIs. Fleet strategy and viability will be assessed as the Air Force determines a long term strategy.”

While the A-10 was supposed to slowly be sidelined beginning in fiscal year 2018 on paper, it appears the budget is proposing the exact opposite, though during the close of the Obama administration, then-Secretary of the Air Force Deborah James said in October that the service is thinking about keeping the A-10 around for a longer period of time.

The A-10 has seen extensive use in Iraq and Syria to fight against Islamic State militants, and the fighter jet has turned out to be so useful that the Air Force put out a $2 billion contract to replace the fleet’s wings.

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A-10C aircraft from the Maryland Air National Guard stationed at Warfield Air National Guard base in Baltimore, Maryland flying in formation during a training exercise. | U.S. Air Force photo

In the past, Air Force leadership has pushed hard to mothball the A-10, in order to devote those resources to the F-35, which has seen incredible cost overruns and delays as the military’s most expensive weapons system in history.

And although Congress has thwarted this attempt multiple times, Air Force officials have still been looking to replace the A-10 with other aircraft like the A-29 Super Tucano, the AT-6 Wolverine and the AirLand Scorpion. The Air Force intends to test these three jets in July.

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Watch the F-35B execute a vertical landing in rough waters with ease

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An F-35B Lightning II takes off from the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp on May 25, 2015. | US Navy Photo


ABOARD USS AMERICA — The Marine Corps’ F-35B is almost ready for its close-up.

The F-35B has entered the home stretch of sea trials on the amphibious-assault ship USS America off the coast of San Diego, California. The third and final stage of testing is 21 days of fine-tuning the fifth-generation stealth fighter’s capabilities.

Stacking the deck, planners purposefully placed the amphibious warship in rough waters in order to evaluate how the pilot and aircraft would adapt.

Also read: Dogfighting in an F-35 is ‘like having a knife fight in a telephone booth’

“There are smoother places that we could be,” Andrew Maack, government chief test engineer and site director of the naval variants at Patuxent River, Maryland said during a briefing aboard the vessel.

“But we are actually looking for increased deck motion so we asked for the ship to be here for the purpose of it being a little bit more challenging envelope for the airplane.”

Planners said the F-35B was testing in sea state 4 with swells of up to 6 feet accompanied with approximately 15 knots of wind.

The following 30-second video was shot from within an MV-22B Osprey and shows an F-35B hovering above the flight deck before executing a precise vertical landing.

Adjust the volume on your device before pressing play.


The jet is able to land perfectly and makes it look easy.

Ideal for the amphibious nature of the Marine Corps and unlike the Navy and Air Force variants, the F-35B is designed to perform short takeoffs and vertical landings.

The final round of testing aboard USS America is slated to conclude in mid-November.

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How a Navy pilot-turned-Superbowl winner made it on Wall Street

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Phil McConkey is not your average Wall Streeter.


His father worked three jobs to put him through private school. He served in the US Navy as a nuclear weapons transshipment pilot, before winning a National Football League Superbowl title with the New York Giants.

He is now president at Academy Securities, a broker-dealer founded in 2009 that employs veterans and service-disabled veterans in areas like investment banking and trading.

McConkey sat down with Skiddy von Stade, CEO of finance career services company OneWire, to talk about his background, and Academy Securities.

During that conversation, he laid out why experience with the military is valuable for those who want to break into the cutthroat financial services industry.

Military culture is honesty, integrity, loyalty, teamwork and by the way, service. We’re in a service industry. Who knows more about those qualities than military veterans? When those qualities and experiences come into helping our clients, it really resonates.

He added:

We’re a small company, growing. We’d like to be a bulge-bracket investment bank broker-dealer at some point. We don’t have the resources that the big banks have, but we’re nimble, we’re quick, and we have differentiated types of value that we add. We got nine senior-level retired generals and admirals, people who have fingers on the pulse of geopolitical macro world we live in. And that’s a value to customers if they’re in capital markets. If they’re managing money.

Watch the full interview with Phil McConkey here.

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Today in military history: Ernest Hemingway wounded on the Italian Front

On July 8, 1918, Ernest Hemingway was wounded while serving on the Italian Front in World War I.

Hemingway volunteered as an ambulance driver for the American Red Cross when the war broke out. While handing out chocolates to Italian soldiers, Hemingway was struck by an Austrian mortar shell, taking fragments to the right foot and knee, thighs, hand, and head.

“Then there was a flash, as when a blast-furnace door is swung open, and a roar that started white and went red,” he recalled in a letter home.

Two men died in the attack, and a third was rescued by Hemingway, who, after regaining consciousness, carried the man to safe cover.

Hemingway received an Italian medal of valor for the act and later wrote about his war experiences in one of his most well-known novels, A Farewell to Arms, which explores love, war, masculinity, and femininity against the backdrop of the Italian campaign in World War I. Falling in love with his Red Cross nurse, Agnes von Kurowsky, may have helped a tiny bit with the novel’s inspiration.

He would also become the recipient of a Bronze Star for bravery in World War II, a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and a Nobel Prize for Literature.

According to Thomas Putnam for Prologue Magazine, “No American writer is more associated with writing about war in the early 20th century than Ernest Hemingway. He experienced it firsthand, wrote dispatches from innumerable frontlines, and used war as a backdrop for many of his most memorable works.”

Commenting on this experience years later in Men at War, Hemingway wrote, “When you go to war as a boy you have a great illusion of immortality. Other people get killed; not you…. Then when you are badly wounded the first time you lose that illusion and you know it can happen to you. After being severely wounded two weeks before my nineteenth birthday I had a bad time until I figured out that nothing could happen to me that had not happened to all men before me. Whatever I had to do men had always done. If they had done it then I could do it too and the best thing was not to worry about it.”

Featured Image: (Left) Hemingway working on his book For Whom the Bell Tolls at the Sun Valley Lodge, Idaho, in December 1939; (Middle) Hemingway in American Red Cross Hospital, July 1918; (Right) Hemingway in uniform in Milan, 1918.

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VA health care foiled again by sudden money shortage

The Department of Veterans Affairs warned June 14 it was unexpectedly running out of money for a program that offers veterans private-sector health care, forcing it to hold back on some services that lawmakers worry could cause delays in medical treatment.


It is making an urgent request to Congress to allow it to shift money from other programs to fill the sudden budget gap.

VA Secretary David Shulkin made the surprising revelation at a Senate hearing. He cited a shortfall of more than $1 billion in the Choice program due to increased demand from veterans for federally-paid medical care outside the VA. The VA had previously assured Congress that funding for Choice would last until early next year.

“We need your help on the best solution to get more money into the Choice account,” Shulkin told the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “If there is no action at all by Congress, then the Choice program will dry up by mid-August.”

The department began instructing VA medical centers late last week to limit the number of veterans it sent to private doctors so it can slow spending in the Choice account. Some veterans were being sent to Defence Department hospitals, VA facilities located farther away, or other alternative locations “when care is not offered in VA,” according to a June 7 internal VA memorandum.

The VA is also scrambling to tap other parts of its budget, including about $620 million in carry-over money that it had set aside for use in the next fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. It was asking field offices to hold off on spending for certain medical equipment to help cover costs, according to a call the department held with several congressional committees June 13.

It did not rule out taking money from VA hospitals.

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David Shulkin (Photo by Robert Turtil, Department of Veterans Affairs)

Shulkin on June 14 insisted that veterans will not see an impact in their health care. He blamed in part the department’s excessive use of an exception in the Choice program that allowed veterans to go to private doctors if they faced an “excessive burden” in traveling to a VA facility. Typically, Choice restricts use of private doctors only when veterans must wait 30 days or more for an appointment or drive more than 40 miles to a facility.

Medical centers were now being asked to hew more closely to Choice’s restrictions before sending veterans to private doctors, Shulkin said.

He described the shortfall in the Choice program as mostly logistical, amounting to different checking accounts within the VA that needed to be combined to meet various payments.

Some senators were in disbelief.

They noted that VA had failed to anticipate or fix budget problems many times before. Two years ago, the VA endured sharp criticism from Congress when it was forced to seek emergency help to cover a $2.5 billion budget shortfall due in part to expensive hepatitis C treatments, or face closing some VA hospitals.Congress allowed VA to shift money from its Choice account.

“I am deeply concerned,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D- Wash., explaining that VA should have “seen this coming.” She said veterans in her state were already reporting delays in care and being asked to travel to VA facilities more than 4 hours away.

Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, the top Democrat on the panel, expressed impatience.

“For months we’ve been asking about the Choice spend rate and we were never provided those answers to make an informed decision,” he said. “No one wants to delay care for veterans — no one — so we will act appropriately. For that to happen this late in the game is frustrating to me.”

Major veterans’ organizations said they worried the shortfall was the latest sign of poor budget planning.

Carl Blake, an associate executive director at Paralyzed Veterans of America, said the VA has yet to address how it intends to address a growing appeals backlog as well as increased demands for care. “The VA could be staring at a huge hole in its budget for 2018,” he said. “It’s not enough to say we have enough money, that we can move it around. That is simply not true.”

The shortfall surfaced just weeks after lawmakers were still being assured the Choice program was under budget, with $1.1 billion estimated to be left over in the account on Aug. 7, when the program was originally set to expire. That VA estimate prompted Congress to pass legislation last March to extend the program until the Choice money ran out.

Shulkin said he learned about the shortfall June 8.

Currently, more than 30 per cent of VA appointments are made in the private sector, up from fewer than 20 per cent in 2014, as the VA’s 1,700 health facilities struggle to meet growing demands for medical care. During the 2016 campaign, President Donald Trump criticized the VA for long wait times and mismanagement, pledging to give veterans more choice in seeing outside providers.

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