These Gold Star parents donated a climbing wall to honor their fallen son - We Are The Mighty
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These Gold Star parents donated a climbing wall to honor their fallen son

When Elinor and Arty Nakis brought home the body of their 19-year-old son who had died during a transport mission while deployed with the Army National Guard in Mosul, Iraq, in 2003, an eagle soared over their Sedro-Woolley home.


Another eagle flew overhead on the way to Nathan Nakis’ memorial service, Elinor Nakis recalled.

And in 2008, when the Nakis family helped install indoor climbing and bouldering walls in honor of their son at the Camp Black Mountain Boy Scout camp in Whatcom County, an eagle was there, too.

That’s why Elinor wasn’t surprised to see a young eagle soar overhead Saturday morning during the dedication of the bouldering wall at its new home near Cascade Middle and Evergreen Elementary schools in Sedro-Woolley.

“(Nathan) would be so proud,” she said.

After spending years in storage at a Janicki Industries facility in Hamilton, the bouldering wall formerly housed in Whatcom County is ready to carry on Nathan Nakis’ memory in the community he grew up in.

“We expect this thing to get a lot of use,” Arty Nakis said. “We took the protective covering off last night and it’s already getting used.”

Nathan, a 2002 Sedro-Woolley High School graduate who started in school at Evergreen, was heavily involved with the Boy Scouts, his mother said.

As an adult, the Eagle Scout volunteered and worked at Camp Black Mountain and helped build the camp’s first rope climbing course, Elinor Nakis said.

When the course would close for days at a time due to inclement weather, Nathan would tell his mother how much he hoped to see a covered climbing facility for the Scouts to use. The wall located between the Evergreen and Cascade campuses is covered by a roof.

After his death, the Nakis’ could think of no better way to honor their son.

“Elinor and I have always felt that it took the help of our community to raise our sons,” Arty Nakis said at the dedication. “When we lost Nathan, we felt the support and love of this community stronger than ever.”

When the Boy Scout camp closed in 2012, the climbing wall built in Nathan’s honor couldn’t be salvaged, Arty Nakis said, but the bouldering wall was removed so it could one day find a new home for more to enjoy.

“It’s an honor and a privilege,” Sedro-Woolley School District Superintendent Phil Brockman said. “It’s an honor to have ‘Nathan’s Boulder’ on our campus. Our kids look forward to playing on this.”

The wall is set to be used not only by students attending the schools, but also by the Boys and Girls Clubs of Skagit County’sSedro-Woolley club that shares the same property.

“This is perfect,” Arty Nakis said. “I couldn’t imagine a more perfect spot.”

The district’s special needs students will also utilize the wall for hands-on learning experiences, something that Elinor, a 21-year employee of the Sedro-Woolley School District, is glad to see happen.

“(Whether) it’s Scouting or through the schools, you’ve got to get (kids) out of their comfort zone,” Arty Nakis said. “It builds confidence and trust in each other.”

For Rotary International of Sedro-Woolley President David Bricka, the project took on a special meaning as he remembered his nephew Brian Gurney, who died in December as a result of injuries sustained during a 2014 hiking accident at Pilchuck Falls. Gurney was 19 at the time of the accident.

“(Brian and Nathan) were two great young men that had such an impact,” Bricka said. “They both had 19 years of actively living.”

Sedro-Woolley Mayor Keith Wagoner, a veteran himself with a son currently enlisted, thought the bouldering wall was a perfect fit for the community.

“I have so many friends that went and didn’t come back,” Wagoner said. “Literally thousands of hands have touched this thing. It’s not a monument you stand back and look at.”

Alec Giess, who served with Nathan Nakis and was in the vehicle with him the day Nakis died, drove up for the dedication from Cannon Beach, Oregon.

Giess has become part of the family, Arty Nakis said.

“It was a combat mission on a crummy day,” Giess said. “Everybody liked (Nathan). (Nathan’s story) won’t end now. It’ll keep going.”

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Today in military history: Truman orders US forces to Korea

On June 27, 1950, President Truman ordered U.S. forces to Korea.

Just two days prior, 90,000 communist troops of the North Korean People’s Army invaded their southern counterparts. This action prompted an emergency U.N. Security Council session to search for a resolution. 

The USSR was boycotting the council due to the U.N.’s rejection of North Korea’s participation and missed their opportunity to veto the vote.

On June 27, President Truman made his announcement to the world that the U.S. would get involved in the conflict. Truman believed that the Soviets may have been behind the North Korean invasion because of their utilization of Soviet built tanks. Truman’s decision to enter the conflict was met with overwhelming approval from Congress and more importantly, the American people. 

When the Korean War started, victory was far from assured. The North Korean attack on June 25, 1950 took the U.S. and South Korea by complete surprise and the Communists were able to make large gains in a very short amount of time.

The battle lines swung as wildly as the momentum of the war itself before grinding into months of stalemate as the two sides haggled at the negotiating table. Every time the pendulum shifted, more American and UN forces were captured by the North Korean and Chinese forces.  The first reports of enemy atrocities filtered into the UN headquarters as early as two days after the invasion started.

The report found the Communist forces in Korea “flagrantly violated virtually every provision of the Geneva Convention” as well as Article 6 of the Nuremberg Tribunal Charter.

After just over three years of brutal fighting, an armistice was signed on July 27, 1953. Even to this day, no peace treaty has been signed and the two Koreas are technically still at war.

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This Navy base is bigger than Rhode Island

During WWII, scientists at the California Institute of Technology needed adequate facilities to test and evaluate their rockets. Simultaneously, the U.S. Navy was seeking a new proving ground for aviation ordnance. Cal Tech’s Dr. Charles C. Lauritsen and Navy Cdr. Sherman E. Burroughs met and agreed to work together to find a site that would suit both of their organizations’ needs.

These Gold Star parents donated a climbing wall to honor their fallen son
The original NOTS logo (U.S. Navy)

Approximately 150 miles north of Los Angeles in the West Mojave Desert lies China Lake. The dry lake is named for the Chinese prospectors who harvested borax from the lake bed. With plenty of open land far from towns and cities, China Lake was the test site that Cal Tech and the Navy were looking for.

In November 1943, the Navy established the Naval Ordnance Test Station at China Lake. The Secretary of the Navy described NOTS as, “…a station having for its primary function the research, development and testing of weapons, and having additional function of furnishing primary training in the use of such weapons.” Testing at NOTS began within a month of its establishment. With its near perfect, year-round flying weather and practically unlimited visibility, China Lake quickly became the premiere location for weapons research, development, testing and evaluation. Moreover, the Navy’s partnership with Cal Tech established and fostered a relationship between military and civilian scientists and engineers that continues to this day.

These Gold Star parents donated a climbing wall to honor their fallen son
An F9F-8 Cougar with AIM-9B Sidewinder missiles flies over NOTS China Lake (U.S. Navy)

In 1950, NOTS developed the Air Intercept Missile 9. Better known as the AIM-9 Sidewinder, the missile has become the world’s most used and copied air-to-air missile. Other notable weapons that were developed and/or tested at China Lake include the Mighty Mouse, Zuni, Shrike and JDAM.

In July 1967, NOTS China Lake was combined with the Naval Ordnance Laboratory in Corona, California, to become the Naval Weapons Center. By 1971, the Corona facilities were shut and relocated to China Lake. In July 1979, China Lake also assumed the mission of the National Parachute Test Range at El Centro.

These Gold Star parents donated a climbing wall to honor their fallen son
The modern NAWS logo (U.S. Navy)

In January 1992, NOTS China Lake was redesignated Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake. In total, the installation covers over 1,100,000 acres of land. Representing 38% of the Navy’s global land holdings, the base is larger than the state of Rhode Island. As of 2010, at least 95% of the land remains undeveloped. Additionally, China Lake’s restricted and controlled airspace covers 19,600 square miles. This accounts for 12% of California’s total airspace.

On top if its research, testing and evaluation roles, China Lake is also home to a National Historic Landmark. The Native American Cosco People who once inhabited the land carved thousands of petroglyphs into what are known today as Big and Little Petroglyph Canyons and sit within China Lake. They are part of the larger Cosco Rock Art District which contains more than 50,000 documented petroglyphs in an area of roughly 99 square miles, the highest concentration of petroglyphs in the northern hemisphere.

Today, the Navy reports that China Lake hosts 620 service members, 4,100 full-time civilians and 1,734 on-board and off-site contractors. The base continues to support the Navy’s research, testing and evaluation of cutting-edge weapons to equip the nation’s warfighters.

These Gold Star parents donated a climbing wall to honor their fallen son
An F/A-18F Super Hornet flies over NAWS China Lake (U.S. Navy)
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This is why the SR-71 Blackbird is the fastest production plane ever

The SR-71 Blackbird is the fastest and highest-flying production aircraft ever to exist. It holds all of the world’s airspeed and altitude records, even after its retirement from the Air Force in the late 1990s.


It’s an incredible accomplishment considering the spy plane was developed during the 1950s and 60s without the help of computers.

The long-range, supersonic Blackbird was capable of flying at Mach 3 for more than an hour unlike its closest competitor, the Russian-made MiG-25 Foxbat, which could do it for a few minutes, according to the TechLaboratories video below.

The SR-71 was only about 45 feet shorter than the Boeing 727 passenger airliner. From nose to tail, the sleek jet measured 107.4 feet long, had a wingspan of 55.6 feet, stood 18.5 feet high and weighed about 140,000 pounds — including a fuel weight of 80,000 pounds.

Remarkably, the Blackbird had better gas mileage traveling at three times the speed of sound than at slower speeds. But it was still extremely expensive to operate, which is why Congress finally decommissioned the bird in 1998.

From its engines to its airframe, this TechLaboratories video explains the incredible engineering magic behind the SR-71 Blackbird:

TechLaboritories, YouTube
MIGHTY TRENDING

29 of the best politically incorrect Vietnam War slang terms

Every generation of veterans has its own slang. The location of deployed troops, their mission and their allies all make for a unique lingo that can be pretty difficult to forget.


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American troops in Vietnam (Pixabay)

That same vernacular isn’t always politically correct. It’s still worth looking at the non-PC Vietnam War slang used by troops while in country because it gives an insight into the endemic and recurring problems they faced at the time.

Here are some of the less-PC terms used by American troops in Vietnam.

These Gold Star parents donated a climbing wall to honor their fallen sonBarbecue from a “Zippo Monitor” in Vietnam. (Wikimedia Commons)

Barbecue – Armored Cavalry units requesting Napalm on a location.

Bong Son Bomber – Giant sized joint or marijuana cigarette.

Breaking Starch – Reference to dressing with a new set of dry cleaned or heavily starched fatigues.

Charles – Formal for “Charlie” from the phonetic “Victor Charlie” abbreviation of Viet Cong.

Charm School – Initial training and orientation upon arrival in-country.

Cherry – Designation for new replacement from the states. Also known as the FNG (f*cking new guy), fresh meat, or new citizens.

Coka Girl – a Vietnamese woman who sells everything except “boom boom” to GIs. “Coka” comes from the Vietnamese pronunciation of Coca-Cola, and “boom boom” can be left to your imagination.

Disneyland Far East – Headquarters building of the U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam. It comes from “Disneyland East,” aka the Pentagon.

Donut Dolly – The women of the American Red Cross.

These Gold Star parents donated a climbing wall to honor their fallen son
The Donut Dollies. (From “Cherries: A Vietnam War Novel”)

Fallopian tubing for inside the turrets of tanks – Prank used by tankers to send Cherries on a wild goose chase

Flower Seeker – Originated from Vietnamese newspapers; describing men looking for prostitutes.

Heads – Troops who used illicit drugs like marijuana.

Ho Chi Minh Road Sticks – Vietnamese sandals made from old truck tires.

These Gold Star parents donated a climbing wall to honor their fallen son
Ho Chi Minh Road Sticks (from “Cherries: A Vietnam War Novel”_

Idiot Stick – Either a rifle or the curved yoke used by Vietnamese women to carry two baskets or water buckets.

Indian Country – Area controlled by Charlie, also known as the “Bush” or the “Sh*t.”

Juicers – Alcoholics.

Little People – Radio code for ARVN soldiers.

Mad Minute – Order for all bunkers to shoot across their front for one minute to test fire weapons and harass the enemy.

Marvin the Arvin – Stereotypical South Vietnamese Army soldier, similar to a Schmuckatelli. The name comes from the shorthand of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam – ARVN.

Number-One GI – A troop who spends a lot of money in Vietnam.

Number-Ten GI – A troop who barely spends money in Vietnam.

Ok Sahlem – Term American soldiers had for villagers’ children who would beg for menthol cigarettes.

Real Life – Also known as Civilian Life; before the war or before the draft.

Remington Raider – Derogatory term, like the modern-day “Fobbit,” For anyone who manned a typewriter.

Re-Up Bird – The Blue Eared Barbet, a jungle bird whose song sounds like “Re-Up.”

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“Squaaaaak! Talk to your retention counselor! Squaaaaaaak!”

Search and Avoid – A derogatory term for an all-ARVN mission.

Voting Machine – The nickname given to ARVN tanks because they only come out during a coup d’etat.

Zippo Raids – Burning of Vietnamese villages. Zippo lighters were famously documented by journalist Morley Safer, seen igniting thatch-roof huts.

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The Ranger the Taliban called ‘the giant’

Alejandro Villanueva is a former West Point lineman and Army Ranger who got his first start at tackle on Sunday as the Pittsburgh Steelers faced the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. He took on the high-pressure role of protecting the “blind side” of backup quarterback Landry Jones, who’s in due to starter Ben Roethlisberger’s injury.


But Villanueva knows a thing or two about pressure, like, the life-or-death kind that soldiers face during wartime on a daily basis. And for him one night in particular stands out among many pressure-filled missions he carried out over the course of four tours in Afghanistan.

As reported by the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Villanueva was serving as a 2nd lieutenant in Afghanistan. Stationed in the Kandahar Province, he was the rifle platoon leader of the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team. A firefight had broken out between the Taliban and Afghan civilians, and, in trying to protect them, Lt. Villanueva had unknowingly led his troops into an ambush. The Taliban was waiting in the dark for Villanueva, the 6-foot-9 man known as “The Giant,” and opened fire, wounding three soldiers. Two of them survived, but Pfc. Dietrich, 20, bled out through the hole in his back moments after Lt. Villanueva had carried him from the fray and loaded him onto a helicopter.

Less than a month after Pfc. Dietrich died, Staff Sgt. Simon was shot three times, and Lt. Villanueva’s was the last face he remembered as he was loaded onto the helicopter. Staff Sgt. Simon nearly died twice, and Lt. Villanueva was given his dog tags and asked to prepare a memorial speech for his parents. But Staff Sgt. Simon lived, and he planned to watch his friend play against the Chiefs, his favorite team, from the stands of Arrowhead Stadium.

“It’s going to be crazy,” said Mr. Simon, now retired from the military.

And, along with knowing pressure, these war veterans know crazy.

Related: This why the national anthem is played before sporting events

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ISIS is thriving on the internet ‘dark web’

These Gold Star parents donated a climbing wall to honor their fallen son
Photo: Flickr


FBI Director James Comey made waves this week when he suggested that commercial encryption on mobile devices may prevent law enforcement from intercepting communications between Islamic State (aka ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) militants.

“The tools we are asked to use are increasingly ineffective,” Comey told a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday. “ISIL says go kill, go kill…we are stopping these things so far…but it is incredibly difficult.”

The FBI wants tech companies using end-t0-end encryption, such as WhatsApp, to give the agency backdoor access to its communications before the encryption leads us all “to a very, very dark place,” Comey argued.

But even if Comey got his way — which doesn’t seem likely given the companies’ protests — ISIS would still have an anonymous forum for procuring fighters, weapons, and cash: the Dark Web.

“ISIL’s activities on the Surface Web are now being monitored closely, and the decision by a number of governments to take down or filter extremist content has forced the jihadists to look for new online safe havens,” Beatrice Berton writes in a new report on ISIS’ use of the dark net.

“The Dark Web is a perfect alternative as it is inaccessible to most but navigable for the initiated few – and it is completely anonymous,” she adds.

Accessed via the anonymous Tor browser, the deep web — anything not searchable by Google — “is kind of like an iceberg,” Aamir Lakhani, senior security strategist at Fortinet, told Business Insider last month. “Only about 30% of it is actually visible, and some say it is around 1,000 times larger than web we use every day.”

Indeed, “since the Dark [Web] is far less indexed and far harder to come across than regular Websites are, there is the possibility that there are Websites used by ISIS of which we do not know yet,”  Ido Wulkan, the senior analyst at dark web tech company S2T, told Defense One.

These Gold Star parents donated a climbing wall to honor their fallen son
Photo: Tor

Messages sent and received on Tor are anonymized via a process known as onion rooting. “Just as an onion has multiple layers, onion rooting on Tor protects people’s identities by wrapping layers around their communications” that are impenetrable — and thereby untraceable — by either party, Lakhani explained.

Tor browser email services such as Torbox and Sigaint are popular among the jihadis because they hide both their identities and their locations, Berton notes. Encrypyted jihadi forums and chat rooms also allow militants and sympathizers to communicate without fear of detection from law enforcement.

As a result, “the dark web has become ISIS’ number one recruiting platform,” Lakhani said.

The browser’s benefits for ISIS don’t stop at anonymous messaging: Supporters of the group from around the world can also use one of Tor’s many ilicit exchanges to transfer Bitcoins — a digital currency — directly into the militants’ accounts.

These Gold Star parents donated a climbing wall to honor their fallen son
Photo: Youtube.com

One ISIS supporter went so far as to create a guide explaining how anyone could help fund the jihadis using Dark Wallet, a dark web app that promises to anonymize your Bitcoin transactions. Numerous dark web websites soliciting bitcoin donations for terror groups have reportedly been found.

The national security community has developed various tools to track the IP addresses and activities of those logged onto Tor — including the NSA’s XKeyscore, the FBI’s Metasploit Decloaking Engine, and the Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency’s Memex project.

If the uproar over FBI director Comey’s comments are any indication, however, web monitoring programs will continue to face significant resistance from internet freedom advocates.

Meanwhile, ISIS is taking full advantage of the shadowiest parts of the web.

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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This colonel-turned-mercenary has been battling terrorism for decades

When most people retire from the military, they look forward to spending more time with family, relaxing, and maybe pursuing their hobbies.


Neall Ellis isn’t most people.

After a successful career in both the Rhodesian and South African militaries, Ellis became bored with civilian life. Rather than sit back and relax, he decided to pursue the only hobby he knew — kicking ass.

With plenty of strife and a need for fighters throughout the African continent, Ellis decided to become a mercenary. He wasn’t going to be just any mercenary though. Ellis recruited a team and procured an Mi-24 Hind helicopter gunship.

 

These Gold Star parents donated a climbing wall to honor their fallen son
Russian Mi-24 Hind.

 

Ellis’ mercenary work eventually brought him to Sierra Leone, which was in the midst of a civil war in the late 1990s. The government of Sierra Leone, backed by the British, was attempting to quell a rebellion by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF).

Working for the Sierra Leone government, Ellis and his crew were seen as the most effective force against the rebels, even though they were a single gunship. As Ellis put it, “the gunship strikes the fear of God into the rebels. They run into the bush as soon as they see it.”

These Gold Star parents donated a climbing wall to honor their fallen son
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As the rebels advanced on the capital, Freetown, the British forces remaining in Sierra Leone evacuated. Freetown looked as if it would fall to the rebels.

Also read: 5 of the most badass snipers of all time

Ellis saw things differently. Though the rebels were attacking at night, and he had no night vision devices, he proposed that he and his crew fly out to meet them and try to drive them off. To his crew, this sounded foolish and none would agree to fly the mission. Unperturbed, Ellis, piloting his helicopter alone, flew against the rebel onslaught.

 

These Gold Star parents donated a climbing wall to honor their fallen son
The city of Freetown, Sierra Leone, was a front for brutal fighting during the Sierra Leone Civil War in the 90s. (Photo via Flickr user David Hond. CC BY 2.0)

In the dead of night, with no crew and no night vision, Ellis fought off the rebel advance. When the rebels came again, Ellis once again flew alone and turned them back from Freetown. Only when his helicopter broke down and he was unable to fly did the rebels finally take the city.

But Ellis wasn’t done fighting. Even though the government of Sierra Leone had lost the capital and could no longer pay him or his crew, they kept flying.

In an interview with the Telegraph, Ellis told them, “I have not been paid for 20 months. I do it because I don’t know what else to do. I enjoy the excitement. It’s an adrenaline rush.”

His staunch defense of Freetown had also drawn the ire of the RUF. His actions had so angered the RUF that they sent him a message: “If we ever catch you, we will cut out your heart and eat it.”

Ellis’ response was epic.

Ellis loaded up his bird and flew out to deliver a message of his own.

These Gold Star parents donated a climbing wall to honor their fallen son
Coalition forces release informational leaflets out of a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter over villages in the Logar province, Afghanistan, July 18, 2014. The leaflets are used to pass along information to the local populous regarding on going operations in the area. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Steven Hitchcock)

Arriving over the rebel camp they proceeded to drop thousands of leaflets, with a picture of their helicopter and the words “RUF: this time we’ve dropped leaflets. Next time it will be a half-inch Gatling machine gun, or 57mm rockets, or 23mm guns, or 30mm grenades, or ALL OF THEM!”

And he meant it. Although heavily outnumbered, Ellis kept fighting the rebels.

Eventually, his efforts drew the attention of the British, who decided not only to return to Sierra Leone, but also to provide support to Ellis and work in conjunction with him.

His vast knowledge of the country made him a valuable asset to the British and he actively participated in operations.

Need more inspiration? 4 Vietnam War heroes you’ve never heard of

In September 2000, Ellis flew his helicopter in support of Operation Barras, a rescue mission of several soldiers from the Royal Irish Regiment who had been captured. He would also flew missions with the British SAS.

Ellis and his crew would stay in Sierra Leone until the defeat of the RUF in 2002.

Ellis’ reputation earned him a trip to Iraq working with the British during the invasion in 2003.

Later, he would also fly in Afghanistan “where, he reckons, he has had more close shaves than in his entire previous four-decades put together.”

At the age of 67, he is currently rumored to be flying against the Islamic State.

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Don’t you wish you had these military chefs in your chow hall?

More than four decades later, the military’s premier culinary training event has evolved into something much greater than its meager beginnings.


It is larger — more than 200 competitors compete yearly, substantially more than the few dozen who competed at the start.

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Contestants compete in a past Military Culinary Arts Competitive Training event. MCACTE, in its 43rd year, endeavors to improve the skills of military food service personnel thereby enhancing force readiness. (U.S. Military photo)

It is more inclusive — over the years, the Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force and foreign countries have all thrown their hats into the competitive ring.

Its appeal to spectators combined with the camaraderie, spirit and competitiveness of participants has made it one of the most unique military training opportunities in the Defense Department, despite ongoing budget restraints, said Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 J.D. Ward.

“This event is healthy despite a fiscal climate of zero growth,” said Ward, the coordinator for the annual Military Culinary Arts Competitive Training Event scheduled at Fort Lee, Virginia, March 4-9. “We’ve had to reduce the size of the competition and the overall expenditures in order to remain fiscally responsible, but it still remains the largest culinary competition in North America.”

The MCACTE, in its 42nd year, was created specifically to improve the culinary skills of participants — and thus the readiness of the force — in an environment that is intensely competitive yet nurturing and educational. Featured among the American Culinary Federation-sanctioned events, are the Armed Forces and Student Chef of the Year competitions as well as a team event pitting installations and services against one another to determine an overall winner.

In addition to the competitive events that will be ongoing from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, MCACTE features live cooking demonstrations, celebrity appearances and food displays that can be described as varied and illustrative.

Furthermore, the popular Military Hot Food Kitchen Challenge — the event in which the public is invited to try out gourmet-inspired meals prepared during the competition — will make a return appearance. The meals are $5.55 and seats are available on a first-come basis.

These Gold Star parents donated a climbing wall to honor their fallen son
A pair of master chefs from the American Culinary Federation judge a meal at the 41st Annual Military Culinary Arts Competitive Training Event (MCACTE). The MCACTE is the largest culinary competition in North America, and has been held since 1973. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nathan McDonald/Released).

Among the changes to this year’s event is a change in venue. The MacLaughlin Fitness Center here will accommodate this year’s competition rather than the Post Field House, which has hosted portions of MCACTE for more than a decade. The change is expected to have minimal impact on the competition from a competitor and spectator perspective, Ward said.

Among the differences this year include a change in cooking facilities used in the Military Hot Food Kitchen Challenge. The mobile trailers that were standard in the event will not be used this year, but competitors still employ the same cooking equipment. Diners may not even notice the change, Ward said.

“In fact, it may be easier for them to better observe competitors’ cooking,” he said.

Ward, who first competed in MCACTE as a private first class, said the competition is full of highlights, but from his viewpoint, the student team of the year event is the most inspirational.

“These are groups of less-experienced, younger soldiers competing and demonstrating advanced and fundamental cooking skills for the judges,” he said. “It’s a wonderful event because it exposes young service members to the profession in an entirely different light.”

The winners in the student event go on to compare their skills against regional winners at the American Culinary Federation competition in July.

“It’s an opportunity for those young chefs to compete against their civilian counterparts and demonstrate to the civilian sector just how talented military culinarians can be,” Ward said.

The student chef of the year winner also will go on to compete at the same ACF event with the possibility of representing the United States at a 2018 international event in Switzerland.

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Female midshipmen will wear pants instead of skirts at graduation this year

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(Photo: U.S. Navy/Peter Lawlor)


In keeping with Navy Secretary Ray Mabus’ recent initiatives aimed at pushing gender integration as far as possible across the entire fleet, the U.S. Naval Academy’s Commandant of Midshipmen announced a few nights ago that this year’s female graduates will wear trousers to the graduation ceremony instead of the traditional skirts.

This decision comes on the heels of Mabus ordering a review of job titles across the Navy with an eye on eliminating those that use the word “man” in them. He has also told the Navy SEALs to prepare to accept female candidates into the rigorous training program.

USNA spokesman Cmdr. John Schofield told The Baltimore Sun that the new dress policy will reinforce the idea of “shipmate before self.”

“The graduation and commissioning ceremony at the US Naval Academy is not about individuals,” he said. “It’s about the academy writ large. It’s about the brigade writ large.”

Mabus introduced his gender-neutral uniform initiative during an address at Annapolis last year.

“Rather than highlighting differences in our ranks, we will incorporate everyone as full participants,” he told the Brigade of Midshipmen. “In the Navy and in the Marine Corps, we are trending towards uniforms that don’t divide us as male or female, but rather unite us as sailors or Marines.”

Female cadets at the Air Force Academy are allowed to choose whether to wear trousers or a skirt to graduation, and the entire Corps of Cadets at West Point has worn trousers to the ceremony for years.

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6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history

The Coast Guard, unlike the other military branches, is a law enforcement agency — meaning that it gets wrapped up in all sorts of operations that the Department of Defense generally is barred from by law.


One of the operations commonly undertaken by the Coast Guard is catching drug smugglers and their illicit cargos, and the Coast Guard gives special attention to the lucrative cocaine trade which has given them some of the largest maritime drug busts in history.

Here, in order of size, are six of the largest:

(All dollar values are converted to 2017 values.)

1. 43,000 pounds cocaine

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Members of the Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton crew stand next to approximately 26.5 tons of cocaine Dec. 15, 2016 aboard the cutter at Port Everglades Cruiseport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Eric Woodall)

In March 2007, the Coast Guard Cutters Hamilton and Sherman stopped and investigated the Panamanian container ship Gatun and found two containers filled with 43,000 pounds of cocaine which had an estimated wholesale value of $350 million and a potential street value of $880 million.

2. 26,931 pounds cocaine

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Cocaine sits inside a hidden compartment on a vessel found by a Coast Guard law enforcement detachment. (Photo: courtesy US Coast Guard)

A U.S. Customs Service plane spotted the fishing trawler Svesda Maru sailing around without functioning fishing equipment in April 2001 and the Customs Service obviously found that suspicious. When a Coast Guard law enforcement detachment arrived, it had to search for five days before they found the secret space below the fishing hold.

In that space, they found 26,931 pounds of cocaine.

3. 24,000 pounds/$143 million

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A Coast Guard law enforcement detachment searches a vessel suspected of piracy. (Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Cassandra Thompson)

A Coast Guard boarding team serving onboard a Navy cruiser was sent to investigate a suspected smuggling ship in 1995 and set the then world record for largest maritime drug seizure ever.

In two waste oil tanks they found over 12 tons of cocaine worth the equivalent of $230 million today.

4. 18,000 pounds/$200 million

These Gold Star parents donated a climbing wall to honor their fallen son
A U.S. Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules aircraft prepares to drop supplies aboard the national security cutter USCGC Bertholf in the Arctic Ocean Sept. 14, 2012, during a patrol in support of Arctic Shield 2012. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard Public Affairs Specialist 1st Class Timothy Tamargo)

A surveillance aircraft flying off of Central America spotted a possible submarine in the water in 2015 and the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf went to find it.

Surprise: Homemade submarines are usually filled with drugs. This particular sub was filled with almost 18,000 pounds of cocaine, about $205 million worth.

5. 16,000 pounds of cocaine

Just a few months before the Bertholf captured the narco sub with 18,000 pounds of cocaine, the Stratton captured another submarine with an estimated 16,000 pounds of cocaine.

The Coast Guard never found out for certain how much cocaine was onboard because homemade submarines aren’t exactly seaworthy and the vessel sank after 12,000 pounds were offloaded. Congrats, whales.

6. 12,000 pounds

The Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf made another 12,000-pound cocaine bust in March 2016 off the coast of Panama after spotting yet another submersible.

Had to feel like deja vu for the cutter.

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Here’s how this USMC vet became a political consultant and RNC delegate

These Gold Star parents donated a climbing wall to honor their fallen son
Marine Corps veteran Adrian Bruneau at the RNC in Cleveland as a Louisiana delegate. (Photo: Ward Carroll)


CLEVELAND, Ohio — After getting a taste of wearing uniforms and drilling while attached to a JROTC unit in high school, New Orleans native Adrian Bruneau joined the Marine Corps on his eighteenth birthday.

“My father was a colonel in the Air Force and he was not very happy about that,” he recalls. “He came straight home and said, ‘Son, don’t you know people get killed in the Marine Corps? I said, ‘Dad, I’m pretty sure people get killed in the Air Force flying and whatever too.'”

Bruneau wound up spending 15 years in the Corps — 8 on active duty and 7 in the reserves — primarily working as an avionics technician. “If it had an electronic heartbeat in an aircraft I could work on it,” he says. “Whether it was nav gear, satellite gear . . . anything that was electronic — not electric, but electronic — that needed to be fixed I could fix it.”

But while Bruneau got a lot of satisfaction out of his military service, his real passion was politics, largely because his father had been in the Louisiana state legislature for 32 years. As soon as he got off of active duty, he walked into the State House and found a job as an aide to a state senator. After working as a staffer at the state level for awhile, he decided he wanted to try his hand at working on political campaigns.

“I asked Ron Forman — a candidate for mayor of New Orleans and a longtime mentor — if I could have a job on his campaign even though I was a Republican and he was a Democrat — a conservative one, but still,” Bruneau remembers. “It was an interesting race for mayor because it was right after Hurricane Katrina and there were a lot of issues to figure out for the people there. After that, things just kind of snowballed.”

He formed a corporation — “BHC” — to give him some business and legal protections. Bruneau says, “My dad told me, ‘Somebody’s going to blame you for something at some point in time, so you’d better have the legal protection to back it up.’ ”

He followed that race (that was won by high-profile figure Ray Nagin) with a pivot into judicial elections — “popularity contests for lawyers,” as he puts it. And he made it a point to work on both Republican and Democratic campaigns.

“New Orleans is a little blue dot in a sea of red,” Bruneau says as a way to justify his bi-partisan track record. But as his network and impact grew along with his desire to work beyond the border of New Orleans, a trusted friend who worked at the national level told him he had to pick a side.

Bruneau focused on the Republican Party, and his first job was working on the campaign of Ilario Pantano, another Marine Corps veteran, who was running to fill North Carolina’s Second District congressional seat. Pantano, who first came to national prominence after being accused of murdering innocent civilians in Haditha, Iraq, while serving as a platoon leader — an allegation for which he was ultimately not charged — lost the race. But that didn’t deter Bruneau from jumping right back on the campaign trail with another hopeful.

“It’s just like a military campaign, really,” Bruneau says while describing the nuts-and-bolts of running political campaigns. “You got your ground game, your air game, and your logistics. Air game is your media, your television. On the ground side, you organize people and get the fire going, which I actually enjoy better.”

He doesn’t enjoy the fundraising part of the process. “Not my space,” he says. “I just stay away from that. I’m a Marine. Go stick me in the ground and let me do my thing.”

Bruneau admits the political world can be frustrating at times. “You serve two masters,” he says. “The candidate always has a group of insiders — his ‘kitchen cabinet,’ people he’s had around him his whole life. Sometimes those people were helpful, but other times they’d get the candidate’s ear and I’d have to spend hours talking him out of a bad idea. I’ve seen good people lose because they listened to the wrong people and I’ve seen candidates who I never thought could win do so because they formed a good team and listened to them.”

This week, Bruneau is in Cleveland because he has another role in politics beyond running Gulf South Strategies, the current name of his consulting firm. He’s an RNC delegate from Louisiana.

“Back in 2012 my business partner and I reached out to the Trump campaign through the state party chairman, but soon thereafter we were told that Trump was going to endorse Mitt Romney,” he says. “This time, the Trump campaign came to us and said, ‘Hey, fellas, we think we’re going to do this again.’ ”

Bruneau advised the Trump campaign on who should be part of their team in Louisiana, and because of that effort, he was asked if he was willing to be an at-large delegate. He jumped at the opportunity.

“A lot of people have said, ‘Gee whiz, Adrian, you’re crazy supporting Trump,’ ” he admits. “I said, ‘Nope, I read his book when I was a junior in high school and I’ve been fascinated by his business every since.’ ”

Bruneau admits that his path has been unorthodox, but he thinks politics is a viable follow-on career for those leaving the military.

“I tell former servicemembers that getting into politics is a relatively easy transition to make,” Bruneau says. “Politicians naturally have an appreciation for military service and are inclined to hire vets.”

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This is proof that Mattis knows exactly how to talk to the troops

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is well known for having delivered some controversial quotes in the past, and he uttered yet another during a speech last week to sailors at Naval Base Kitsap in Washington.


During a short speech on August 9 followed by a question-and-answer period, Mattis thanked the sailors of the USS Kentucky for being in the Navy, saying they’d never regret that service.

“That means you’re living,” Mattis said, according to the official Pentagon transcript.

These Gold Star parents donated a climbing wall to honor their fallen son
DoD photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr

“That means you’re not some p–y sitting on the sidelines, you know what I mean, kind of sitting there saying, ‘Well, I should have done something with my life.’ Because of what you’re doing now, you’re not going to be laying on a shrink’s couch when you’re 45 years old, say ‘What the hell did I do with my life?’ Why? Because you served others; you served something bigger than you.”

The Navy reversed its policy of only allowing males to serve aboard submarines in 2010, according to the US Naval Institute. A spokesman for Submarine Group 9 confirmed the USS Kentucky does not currently have any female sailors assigned to it.

Mattis went on to say that he wished he were young enough to go out to sea with the Kentucky’s crew, though the retired general joked, “there’s a world of difference between a submariner and a Marine, you know what I mean?”

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