Some of the most dangerous threats that could be employed against the U.S. military or homeland are the chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons of mass destruction.
While attempted dirty bombs or anthrax attacks have usually been stopped by the intelligence and police services before the attacks took place, there’s a group of Marines and sailors who train and constantly prepare to react to a successful attack.
Dubbed the Chemical, Biological Incident Response Force, or CBIRF, these Marines are ready to go into nightmare attacks after they happen.
“CBIRF is the only unit in the Marine Corps trained to respond to the worst scenarios imaginable here and abroad,” Erick Swartz, senior scientist with CBIRF and designer of the CBIRF battle drills, told a Marine Corps journalist. “At any moment CBIRF can and might be called on to save lives.”
Here’s a look at America’s 911 call for a nuclear, chemical, or biological attack:
1. The CBIRF is capable of deploying on short or no notice. Once they arrive, they have to confirm what the chemical and biological weapons in play are.
2. While operating in a chemical, biological, or nuclear-contaminated area, the Marines wear special gear to protect themselves.
3. When they arrive in a disaster area, platoons deploy throughout the area to start rescuing trapped people.
4. In a city that has suffered an attack, the Marines would face many technical challenges, so they train on the most difficult possible rescues.
5. The Marines’ mission requires a lot of specialized equipment, like these Paratech struts for lifting light structures and vehicles.
Marines with technical rescue platoon, Chemical Biological Incident Response Force, CBIRF, use Paratech struts to stabilize a truck and extricate a simulated victim during training with soldiers from 911th Technical Rescue Engineer Company stationed at Fort Belvoir, Va., as part of Exercise Scarlet Response 2016 at Guardian Centers, Perry, Ga., Aug. 23, 2016. (Photo: Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Maverick S. Mejia)
6. The unit has to be prepared to rescue people from factories, warehouses, and other challenging structures as well. Here, they practice a medevac from a simulated steam plant explosion.
7. The CBIRF has to search from the top to bottom of each structure while shoring up damaged areas to make sure the building doesn’t collapse.
8. The unit even trains to recover people from the wilds. Here, a Marine trains on rescuing a parachutist trapped in a tree.
9. The Marines could face a continuing threat, so they train to find and defuse or destroy dangerous devices.
10. The recovered survivors need lots of medical care, so the Marines evacuate them to field decontamination areas and hospitals as quickly as possible.
11. As areas are secured and cleared, the teams write notes at the entrances to let other Marines know the status of the building and the local rescue efforts.
12. At decontamination areas, the Marines clean each victim before they’re taken to the medical platoon for treatment. This gets most contaminating agents off the of the victims and protects them, the Marines and sailors, and other patients.
13. Thankfully, the Marines haven’t had many real-world incidents to respond to, but they do have real missions. For instance, they protected both the Republican and Democratic national conventions in 2016.
14. The CBIRF Marines and sailors constantly work to make sure that the rest of us can be rescued if the nightmare scenario ever comes to pass.
U.S. Marines with Identification and Detection Platoon (IDP) part of the primary assessment team, Chemical Biological Incident Response Force (CBIRF) locate and assess casualties found at a steam plant during a training exercise with the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) on Randall’s Island, N.Y., Sept. 15, 2016. (Photo: Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Maverick S. Mejia)
During the Cold War, the U.S. Air Force experimented with a seemingly crazy idea for dispersing the weight of their heaviest bomber across the tarmac of airports and bases. They would fit the bombers with tank tread-inspired landing gear.
Convair XB-36 takeoff during its first flight on March 29, 1950. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)
When flying shorter routes, the plane could carry as much as 86,000 pounds.
The massive B-36 was slowly developed throughout World War II but was finished too late for the war. The first bomber rolled off the line six days after the Japanese surrender. But the plane’s capabilities, carrying 10,000 pounds of ordnance to targets thousands of miles away, made the plane perfect for a nuclear strike role in the Cold War.
There was one big problem, though. The B-36 was extremely heavy, about 419,000 pounds when fully armed. And all that weight initially sat on two smaller tires in the front and two larger ones under the wings.
The weight on each tire was so great, the Peacemakers risked sinking into the concrete if they were parked for too long on most airstrips.
So the Air Force tried out a novel solution. They installed tank tread landing gear under the nose and both wings of the plane, allowing the weight to be spread over a much larger area.
Initial tests of the system were successful, but the Air Force scrapped it anyway. It focused on improving more airstrips rather than putting the bulky system on production B-36s. It did start buying the planes with four smaller wheels under each wing instead of the single large one, which also helped with the pressure per square inch on airfields.
“This room is the most advanced painting facility in the world,” retired U.S. Air Force pilot and F-35 simulation instructor Rick Royer told me as we toured Lockheed Martin’s highly secure plane facility in Fort Worth, Texas.
The Aircraft Final Finishes bay is where America’s most expensive weapons system gets coated with a highly classified stealth technology, which makes it invisible to radar.
After the jet is assembled and before it can take flight, three laser-guided robots apply the Radar-Absorbing Material (RAM) to each of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II variant aircraft.
Here’s all we know — and can share — about how the F-35 gets its invisibility cloak:
First, each F-35 variant is assembled in Lockheed Martin’s mile-long production facility.
Once an F-35 is ready to leave the production line, it is carefully rolled …
… into the windowless, multistory, 226,000-square-foot Aircraft Final Finishes (AFF) complex.
The jet is placed in one of two paint bays, where three laser-guided robots are programmed to spray RAM on all surfaces except the tails and various parts that are coated at a separate area called the Robotic Component Finishing System.
In January, a report from Inside Defense broke the news that the US Navy’s F-35 variant, the most expensive in the Joint Strike Fighter family, had an issue with the nose gear that made takeoffs untenably rough and the aircraft unsuited for carrier launches.
The Navy’s F-35C has a history of problems with its development as it attempts to master the tricky art of catapult launches from aircraft carriers, but the nose-gear issue could set back the F-35C into the 2020s if an innovative solution is not found quickly.
“This is a very stiff airplane, even though the oscillations about the same magnitude as you would see in a Super Hornet. It beats the pilot up pretty good,” US Air Force Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan told reporters at the McAleese/Credit Suisse defense conference earlier this month, US Naval Institute News reported.
F-35C pilots are “hurting after doing three or four of these [launches] and in some instances even banging his half-a-million-dollar helmet on the canopy,” Bogdan said. “That’s not good for the canopy or the helmet. So we knew we had an issue there.”
Testing at a land-based US Navy catapult system showed that instead of a costly and lengthy redesign of the F-35C’s nose section, some smaller adjustments may suffice.
Jeff Babione, the general manager of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 program, echoed that sentiment at the company’s office in the Washington, DC, area, telling reporters the company had worked on a few simple changes that seemed to yield results. Babione said Lockheed Martin changed the way the pilot straps in and their head and arm positions, as well as reduced the “holdback,” or stress on the plane, in the moments before launch.
“The initial indication is some of those techniques improved” the F-35C’s launches, Babione said. He conceded that the real testing would be done by the Navy aboard carriers “to see whether or not those changes were successful.”
The make-or-break tests of the launch will take place at sea later this year.
The cyber threat is now our greatest national security challenge, a 21st Century “weapon of mass destruction” that is currently having serious impacts on America and is getting worse – militarily and economically – across public and private sectors, and socially across all segments of society.
Our adversaries around the globe, from rivals like Russia and China to belligerents including ISIS, Iran, and North Korea, have developed significant cyber capabilities. This “global cyber proliferation” is serious and growing worse by the minute. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the emerging Cold War’s battlefront included the Space Race with the Russians, and eventually a symbolic American on the moon. Today, we have a similar situation: A “Cyber Space Race” which will represent the dominant high ground for decades to come.
We are being hacked and attacked every day in America. Our personal accounts and lives, our critical infrastructures, and there are undoubtedly many serious incursions that we have not detected or have gone unreported. A few recent examples illustrate this point: State-backed Iranian hackers conducted a denial of service attack against US banks to attack United States infrastructure, and not just the banks themselves.
While America’s public and private sector cyber defenses have grown since the mid-1990s, the threat to all elements of national power has grown even more rapidly. America is at high risk. Of particular concern is our soft commercial-sector underbelly, which comprises 85% of Internet use in the United States. Cyber breaches present an unprecedented and often disastrous risk to the value of commercial entities.
Consider the Target, Home Depot, Sony, and Equifax cyber intrusions. Each cost the companies billions in market valuation, lost revenue, employee productivity, reputation, and expenses. While it is harder to quantify than a stock price, companies and institutions are successful in large part due to trust. An individual company violating that trust with their customers can have devastating effects for that company, but the magnitude of recent data breeches strikes fear in the hearts of all Americans and undermines trust in the fundamental institutions of our society.
Cadets, pay attention — our future could be in your hands. (U.S. AF photo by Raymond McCoy)
Just as techniques and technology developed in America’s space program resulted in innovations benefitting the full range of American life, so, too, can military-grade cyber capabilities be leveraged to harden vulnerable government and commercial entities. Techniques and technologies such as the commercial sector onboarding of military-grade technologies, implementing network segmentation to protect sensitive information, applying advanced encryption techniques to protect large databases, ensuring protection from insider threats, and using advanced analytics to uncover risks to commercial internal or external networks.
America must win the 21st Century “Cyber Space Race.” We must mobilize the entire spectrum of American enterprise, from the cyber education of our children to the highest levels of academia, business, and government. The US commercial sector must do everything possible to protect themselves, their customers, and this nation. This includes using military-grade cyber defense capabilities to ensure commercial viability, thus securing America’s increasingly vulnerable economic engine.
When asked about the recent resignation of President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, Defense Secretary James Mattis sounded unmoved about Flynn’s departure.
“Here’s the bottom line, ladies and gentlemen. I’m brought in to be the secretary of defense. I give the president advice on the use of military force,” he said, according to Yahoo News Washington correspondent Olivier Knox.
“I maintain good relations, strong relations … and so military-to-military relations with other ministries of defense around the world,” he added.
“And frankly, this has no impact. Obviously, I haven’t changed what I’m heading there for. It doesn’t change my message at all. And who’s on the president’s staff is who I will work with.”
Mattis spoke after arriving in Brussels for a NATO meeting. Speaking with the press upon his arrival, he was reluctant to take many questions about Flynn resignation, according to Washington Post correspondent Dan Lamothe.
Flynn and Mattis have a history.
From August 2010 to March 2013, Mattis, then a Marine general, led an investigation into unauthorized disclosures of classified information allegedly made by Flynn, who was then a lieutenant general in the US Army.
The investigation found Flynn shared “classified information with various foreign military officers and/or officials in Afghanistan without proper authorization,” according to a Washington Post report late last year. Sources told The Post the secrets were about CIA operations in Afghanistan.
Flynn was not disciplined for the incident, however, since the disclosures were not “done knowingly” and not damaging to national security.
After the investigation, Flynn was assigned to lead the Defense Intelligence Agency in September 2011. However, he was forced out of that role in early 2014, reportedly due to mismanagement.
In November, NBC News reported that Flynn personally crossed Mattis’ name off a list of candidates for national-security positions in the Trump administration.
An unmanned US military space plane has landed at NASA’sKennedy Space Center following a mission lasting more than two years.
The , which looks like a miniature space shuttle, touched down May 7, causing a sonic boom as it landed on a runway once used for space shuttles which have been mothballed.
The sonic boom caused dozens of nearby residents to take to Twitter, with one saying her house “shook” and her dog had “gone into a frenzy”.
Exactly what the space plane was doing during its 718 days in orbit is not entirely clear, with the US Air Force saying the orbiters “perform risk reduction, experimentation and concept-of-operations development for reusable space vehicle technologies.”
The cost of the mission – the fourth and longest so far – is classified.
The Secure World Foundation, a non-profit group that promotes the peaceful exploration of space, says the secrecy surrounding the suggests intelligence-related hardware is being tested or evaluated aboard the craft.
At 29 feet-long and with a wingspan of 15 feet, the Boeing-built craft is about a quarter of the size of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s now-retired space shuttles.
This mission began in May 2015, when the plane set off from nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard an Atlas 5 rocket built by United Launch Alliance, a partnership between Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co.
Its first mission was eight-months-long from April 2010, its second from March the following year lasted 15 months.
A third took off in December 2012 and ended after 22 months.
Another mission is scheduled later this year.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, sonic booms used to be common in the area during the 30 years of NASA’s manned space shuttle programme, with landings at the Kennedy Space Center preceded by a loud double boom.
But the last of those shuttles landed nearly six years ago.
There is also a type of rocket – SpaceX’s Falcon 9 – which produces sonic booms and these were last heard earlier this month.
But officials had refused to confirm the return date for the , so its arrival was not expected by residents.
Pin this to your refrigerator for summer fun planning, military families.
Summer means baseball action, and many minor league baseball teams across the country are making an effort to honor those who serve the nation. Here’s the WATM list of minor league baseball Military Appreciation games:
*Scroll all the way down to view list of teams with season-long discounts.
Fort Myers Miracle – Free pre-game picnic for veterans and their guests (up to 100 attendees). Pre-game ceremony for veterans. Veterans and active military personnel admitted free of charge for all games.
Lakeland Flying Tiers – Free admission to all veterans and one (1) guest. The event features honoring veterans and local recruits, a JROTC Pass and Review, welcome home soldier ceremonies and much more.
St. Lucie Mets – They will wear custom military appreciation jerseys, which will be auctioned off during the game. The local Vietnam Veterans Chapter 566 will be selling tickets, and a portion of those ticket sales will go to the Health and Welfare fund of the VVA. Military receives a $4 discount for all games.
Hickory Crawdads – Salute to Troops Night offering free parking for military. Two free tickets for military members and one (1) guest for all games.
Salt Lake Bees – Free admission to all military members and ½ price tickets for their families.
South Bend Cubs – May 29th May 30th: Any former or current military member will receive 2 free tickets to either game with proof of service.
Biloxi Shuckers – Discount to all active and retired military personnel and their families in the box level and the reserved level seating locations.
Louisville Bats – Free admission to all active duty, reserve, guard and family members with valid ID. Tickets may be obtained in advance or the day of the game at the Louisville Slugger Field box office. Free admission to all veterans – VFW, DAV, AMVETS, American Legion, Ladies Auxiliary and all other veterans with ID or DD Form 214.
Indianapolis Indians – Ticket Discount: $1 off advanced ticket price, $3 off day-of ticket price. Players will wear specialty camouflage jerseys that will be auctioned off postgame. Auction proceeds to benefit WGU Scholarships Fund for Indiana National Guard members.
Toledo Mud Hens – Military families will receive free tickets to this game.
Bowie Baysox – Fort Meade Appreciation Night. Free tickets to military personnel at Fort Meade. Military discount $2 off general admission and $3 off reserved seat tickets for every home game during the season. Additional Military Appreciation nights: June 22, July 6, August 10, September 3 – show current or past proof of service to receive half price ($8) box seat ticket.
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers – Free admission for all military personnel (active and veteran). Pregame performance. First 1,000 fans will receive a Khris Davis bobblehead.
Palm Beach Cardinals $3 discount for family members of active and retired military. Veterans and active military personnel with valid military ID are admitted free of charge for all games.
Tampa Yankees – Free admission for all military personnel. Active and retired military receive a free upper reserved ticket with valid ID on all Saturday home games.
Indianapolis Indians – Ticket Discount: $1 off advanced ticket price, $3 off day-of ticket price. Indians to wear specialty Stars Stripes jerseys that will be auctioned off postgame. Auction proceeds to benefit Indiana National Guard relief fund.
Salem-Keizer Volcanoes – Military personnel honored on the field will receive complimentary box seats for them and their family.
Lowell Spinners – Vietnam Veterans Night. July 28th – Military Night/Camo Jersey Giveaway first 1,000 fans. All active/retired military and their families receive free standing room tickets to any Spinners home game with valid military ID.
Midland RockHounds – Military members can redeem a voucher for a free picnic for 4 people. Military members receive $1 reserved seats on all normal game days.
Princeton Rays – Dedication of Military Honor Seat at H.P. Hunnicutt Field. Free tickets for active duty and retired military and $4 tickets for up to four additional tickets for family/friends.
Durham Bulls – Military Appreciation Night. Active duty military receive free admission for all normal Durham Bulls games.
Missoula Osprey – and July 25th. $5 reserved tickets for all active retired military personnel with valid military ID.
Vermont Lake Monsters – Free tickets for active and retired military and their families along with Digital Camo and $5 Dunkin Donuts gift cards. Free tickets available to first 40 military members at each home game.
New Orleans Zephyrs – $5 ticket with presentation of ID for active or retired military. No cap on tickets purchased.
Rochester Red Wings – Free admission to military personnel with valid ID. Custom game-worn jerseys are auctioned off to benefit Children of Fallen Soldiers Foundation.
As you begin the transition to a civilian career, you are likely faced with a job search. Getting your resume to the right recruiters, in the right way, is a big part of your career strategy.
Recruiters are constantly approached by job seekers via Monster.com and other job sites, through their company website, via email, and in person. How do you ensure your resume will stand out?
Jessica Miller-Merrell, host of the Workology Podcast, is President/CEO of Xceptional HR and a leader in the human resources field. She suggests job applicants approach recruiters about opportunities with their company, even if a position is not posted.
Miller-Merrell advises we “Use the power of the internet combined with email messages to engage, customize, and create an impression with recruiters and hiring managers that encourages them to learn more about you. While the job search process is a numbers game, you can stack the odds in your favor by customizing your messages and tapping into your professional network in creative, targeted ways.”
The Referral Email
To get the attention of recruiters, consider starting with a referral email. This communication is used to solicit a direct introduction to a recruiter or hiring manager from a friend, peer or colleague. You will send the referral email individually to a handful of your most trusted contacts, along with a personalized note.
Dear insert friend’s name,
In 60 days, I will leave my military duty. It’s been a great insert number of years working as a insert job title. I’m looking for a new career which will challenge me and grow my skill set in insert skill name, insert skill name, and insert skill name in the civilian sector.
My job search is focused on five companies in the insert city name metro area for a career opportunity as an insert job title, insert job title or insert job title. I would appreciate your help by providing a direct introduction by email or phone to anyone you know who works at any of the companies listed below.
Name of company #1
Name of company #2
Name of company #3
Name of company #4
Name of company #5
Please include my resume (attached) and a short introduction about me that includes my xx years of experience in the fields of insert skill name and insert skill name, and that I’m interested in a job opportunity as a insert job title.
Thank you for you assistance. Let me know how I can help you.
Follow up email to a recruiter
Recruiters are very visible on the web today and following up with them via email or on social media after applying for a job opening can improve the likelihood that you will receive a response. Miller-Merrell says, “I like to engage recruiters on multiple channels to help ensure they will at least open the message. You can send them a tweet (on Twitter) telling the recruiter you just sent them an email and are awaiting their response, or issue a quick note on professional social media sites paraphrasing your email.”
Miller-Merrell offers this template for a follow up email:
Dear insert recruiter name,
I recently applied for a job opening at insert company name for the position of insert position name on your online career site. The position fits well with my experience in insert experience, insert experience and insert experience. You can learn more about me by viewing my website insert website url.
I follow you on insert social media site and appreciate the valuable resources you offer for job seekers and the way you interact with candidates.
Can we set up a call and talk about the position and my experience? I have availability on insert days next week from insert time span with time zone. You can email me at insert your email address or by phone at insert phone number.
I look forward to speaking with you.
insert your name
Remember that recruiters are receiving hundreds of messages each day. To make yours stand out, be specific and focused, highlight your experience and be sure to include your value and offer (what can you do for them?)
Johnny T. “Tommy” Clack has military heritage in his blood. He’s proud of being the eighth generation to serve and proud of his son for being the ninth. He wants to continue to recognize returning veterans, as well as those who came before.
“We go all the way back to founding of Savannah when Oglethorpe landed in Georgia,” Clack says. “We started out as redcoats. By the second generation, we were on Washington’s side and have been on the right side ever since. ”
Clack dropped out of college to enlist in the Army in 1966. He served as an artillery officer in Vietnam, a forward observer assigned to an infantry unit to call in artillery during firefights.
“Artillery is known as the King of Battle,” Clack muses. “It brings on massive destruction. I volunteered for artillery officer candidate school because I like to play with the biggest firecrackers. And I volunteered to go to Vietnam a few times before I finally got orders. I had to find out if I was half the man my dad was! He was a World War II and Korea veteran.”
After being in country for eight months, on My 29, 1969 then-Captain Tommy Clack was seriously wounded on the Cambodian border. He suffered massive internal injuries, hearing loss, and lost three of his limbs. He would spend 22 months recovering at a VA medical facility in Atlanta, undergoing 33 operations. Since May 1969, he survived 65 surgeries.
“Every day you wake up is a great day to be alive,” he says.
Clack recently sat with former Air Force combat photographer Stacy Pearsall as a part of Pearsall’s Veterans Portrait Project (VPP). The VPP honors veterans from every conflict, hearing their stories, thanking them for their service and preserving their image for generations to come. In 2008, the first year of the VPP, she photographed over 100 veterans. Since then, she’s made portraits of nearly 4000 more. See more of the VPP here.
A popular perception of the Vietnam War is that a vast majority of the men who fought there were draftees. In reality – a reality Tommy Clack wants to make sure everyone remembers – two-thirds of the troops sent to Vietnam were volunteers.
“I got spit on and called a baby killer all the time,” he remembers. “When you got out, you dealt with that all the time from the community. I’m missing three limbs. I didn’t have to explain to anyone how that happened. But I’m not afraid to stand up for myself or any other vet. I will not be intimidated by anyone who disagrees with me.”
That dedication to supporting those like him drove much of Tommy Clack’s life. He spent his post-war career as a Georgia state Veterans Service Officer. Now 68 years old, he spent the time in-between standing up for veterans and their families, working to get them the help they need and the benefits they deserve.
“You continue to be yourself,” Clack says. “That’s what God left me alive to do. The meaning of life is to get involved and be productive. That’s what I do.”
That is exactly what Clack does. He is now the President of the $32-million Walk of Heroes memorial in Rockdale County, Georgia.
“It’s the most unique memorial ever built in America,” he says. “It’s an educational complex honoring everyone who served in the U.S. military – Active, Guard, or Reserve – from January 1, 1900 through today.”
Clack was part of the original concept, after Georgia donated the land in 1998. They broke ground in 2000 but the memorial sat unfinished for years. In 2011, Captain Clack took over.
“I decided to finish this baby,” he recalls. “When I became president in 2011, I put together a Board of Directors who aren’t afraid of doing the hard work. This is all I do now. I work on this memorial 12-18 hours a day.”
The memorial walkway is crossed by 71 marble bands ranging from 10 to 20 inches wide, engraved with the actions of America’s military during that year. From the Boxer Rebellion to the Global War On Terrorism, each marble band represents a year where American Armed Forces were deployed overseas in armed conflicts.
“We have to ensure our vets from every era are remembered for what they did,” Clack says. “Today’s generation is no different, and we need to recognize that.”
“It’s a kinetic place,” Army Capt. Florent Groberg said Wednesday of Afghanistan’s Kunar province, where his instinctive tackling of a suicide bomber in 2012 earned him the Medal of Honor.
Of the 13 Medals of Honor awarded during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, 11 have come from actions in either Kunar or neighboring Nuristan province, collectively dubbed the “Wild East” by the troops.
Seven were awarded for combat in Kunar, and four came in Nuristan. The other two were awarded to Marine Lance Corp. William Kyle Carpenter for his actions in southwestern Helmand province and Army Staff Sgt. Leroy A. Petry for combat in southeastern Paktia province.
“It’s just kinetic, they fight as we fight” along the rugged ridges and slot canyons of Kunar, Groberg said. “Kunar’s a tough place, if not the most kinetic place in the world,” he said. “There’s no specific explanation for it. It’s kinetic.”
Before President Obama began the troop withdrawals from Afghanistan and the combat mission was ended, successive U.S. and NATO commanders had wavered over the years on whether to maintain combat outposts that came under constant attack from a hostile population in Kunar and Nuristan, or simply to abandon the area.
On Thursday, the 32-year-old Groberg, who grew up in a Paris suburb and is a naturalized U.S. citizen, will become the 10th living American to receive the nation’s highest award for valor since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks when President Obama makes the formal presentation at a White House ceremony.
At a roundtable session with reporters Wednesday, Groberg was joined by three members of his unit who witnessed his sprint to get at the suicide bomber near a bridge in the Kunar village of Assadabad on Aug. 8, 2012 — Staff Sgt. Brian Brink, the platoon Sergeant; Sgt. Andrew Mahoney, the communications specialist; and Spc. Daniel Balderrama, the medic.
All said they felt uneasy as they approached on foot along a paved road to a bridge as the personal security detail for then-Col. James Mingus, now a brigadier general assigned to Fort Carson, Colorado. Mingus was headed to a meeting with an Afghan provincial governor.
“That day, it just felt a little different when we got on the ground,” Groberg said. Brink echoed him: “Everything felt a little different that day. It was a gut feeling. We all felt it. Nobody had to say it. Things just didn’t set right with us.”
In the rear, they heard a car revving its engine. Brink radioed back — “Get him off us, get him off us.” They later concluded that the revving engine was the signal for two men on motorcycles to approach from the front. Brink and others raised their weapons. The men dismounted and backed off.
The road narrowed near the bridge. To the right was a stone wall, to the left a drainage culvert.
Two other men appeared, walking backwards in parallel to the unit. Brink said the man closest to the unit had a bulge on his hip, with his right hand resting on the bulge. Brink raised his weapon again and just as he readied to pull the trigger, Groberg ran at the man, followed by Mahoney.
“You face a threat, you go towards the threat,” Groberg said. For an instant, the man made eye contact. “He had a blank stare,” Groberg said. “He did a 180 and cut directly toward the patrol. I hit him, then we grabbed him and threw him to the ground. He detonated at our feet.”
The second man also set off his explosive device but the force of the blast mainly went into the stone wall.
Groberg was knocked unconscious. About half of his left calf had been torn away. He also suffered a blown eardrum and a mild traumatic brain injury.
Balderrama, the medic, had also been knocked unconscious and suffered shrapnel wounds to his legs. The force of the blast had thrown him into the culvert.
“The first thing when I woke up in that ditch, I was so thankful. He (Groberg) was calling for me, yelling ‘Doc, Doc save my leg.’ I remember seeing his boots covered in blood, his legs covered in blood,” Balderrama said.
Balderrama tried to stand to get to his captain. He couldn’t. “I recall trying to stand up and falling down. I couldn’t put weight on my legs. I kind of shimmied over, I think on my knees or something,” he said.
Balderrama managed to get a tourniquet on Groberg’s leg. “I just wanted to get him to the next level of care,” he said.
The suicide bomber had taken a heavy toll. In addition to the wounded, four had been killed — Army Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin J. Griffin, 46; Army Maj. Thomas E. Kennedy, 35; Air Force Maj. Walter D. Gray, 38; and Ragaei Abdelfattah, 43, a Foreign Service officer with the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Thinking back on it, Brink said the enemy had planned well for that day. “As we approached the bridge, we were attacked just short of the bridge. It was an absolute choke point. There’s no doubt in my mind, looking back in my mind, that it was well planned, coordinated. They knew we would have to constrict our formation into a smaller group and they took advantage.”
Groberg never stops thinking back on it. “We all fought those demons of ‘why me.’ Why not me? And in the end, you know, it’s combat,” he said. “All we can do now is honor those guys and their families. And make sure that we are better people, that we live our lives for them. And every day when we wake up, we remember. And when it gets tough, we remember.”
“They made the ultimate sacrifice,” he said of the four who were killed. “We’re here to tell you this. I’m so blessed and honored for the medal, but it doesn’t belong to me, it belongs to them.”
America’s aircraft carriers are the heart of the US Navy and serve as American territory floating around the world, allowing the US to project massive air and sea military might.
During flight operations, an aircraft carrier’s deck is an extremely dangerous place with expensive fighter jets and helicopters landing and taking off on a short runway. However, sailors and airmen mitigate risks by fine tuning the chaos with coordination and precision.