When the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) came under attack multiple times in October 2016, the ship was able in at least one instance to use its defenses to shoot down the incoming Noor anti-ship missiles.
But there are times when a ship can’t shoot down the missiles – and thankfully, U.S. Navy vessels have plenty of options.
There are a number of reasons why a U.S. Navy ship may not be able to fire. In some cases, it may be due to restrictive rules of engagement. Other times, the inability to shoot may be due to battle damage. Perhaps there’s concern about what a miss might do.
In those cases, the Navy relies on decoying an inbound missile in one of several ways.
One option is via electronic countermeasures, or “ECM.” Specifically, the goal is to interfere with the guidance systems on the missiles by confusing or blocking the seekers on radar-guided ones.
The confusion angle is very simple. An ECM system like the AN/SLQ-32 would create false targets. This gets the missile to hopefully chase into empty ocean. Another method is to reduce the seeker’s effective range with jamming. This would allow the ship to get outside the seeker’s ability to acquire a target — again sending the missile off on a merry chase to nowhere.
However, missile makers are wise to the countermeasures and haven’t stood still. The field of electronic counter-countermeasures exists to help make seekers both more powerful and more intelligent, enabling them to beat the ECM. Thankfully, there is another option.
Most U.S. Navy ships also have launchers for chaff. Like the deception portion of ECM, it creates a false target for a missile seeker. Unlike the deception portion of ECM, since it is actually physically metal, it creates a real “target” for the seeker to home in on.
Furthermore, firing a bunch of the rockets makes a bigger “target” – which the incoming missile will hopefully go for.
You can see a Burke-class destroyer launch a chaff rocket in the video below.
These are known as “soft” kills. The enemy missile is negated, but it is misdirected as opposed to being shot down. “Soft” kills do have a potential to go bad, though.
During the Argentinean air attacks on the Royal Navy on May 25, 1982, a Royal Navy frigate, HMS Ambuscade, fired off chaff to decoy incoming Exocet anti-ship missiles. The missiles flew through the chaff cloud and locked on to the Atlantic Conveyor, a merchant vessel carrying supplies for the British forces. Two missiles hit the vessel, which sank three days after being hit.
Soldiers aren’t likely to don space suits and blast off into space to fight an enemy, the head of Army Space Command said this week.
But the domain is going to play a big role in the way the Army trains and fights in the future, Lt. Gen. James Dickinson, commanding general of Army Space and Missile Defense Command, told reporters at the annual Association of the U.S. Army meeting in Washington, D.C.
“We need to make sure we’re going to be able to protect what we have in space,” the three-star said. “But I don’t think that lends itself necessarily to formations in space.”
Space as a future conflict zone led President Donald Trump to direct Pentagon leaders last year to create a Space Force. The U.S. has since stood up Space Command, a new unified combatant command that’s serving as a precursor to the future Space Force.
“Space is very important,” Dickinson said. “It’s gotten a lot of national senior leader attention over the last year or so, and the Army is excited to be part of that.”
The service is developing a new space training strategy, he added, which will likely be completed in the next three or four months. That could lead to changes across the force about how soldiers train for ground fights.
There are a lot of space-based tools on which soldiers currently rely, he said, that could be jammed or degraded by adversaries. The Army will need to place soldiers at the unit level who understand those risks and challenges.
“We need soldiers that are subject-matter experts who know about space in formations,” Dickinson said.
The Army’s upcoming training strategy could suggest how those formations will be organized, he said. It’s also going to outline how security challenges in space will affect future operating environments.
“The training strategy … will give you fundamentals on what we need to look for as far as environments we’re going to operate in and what we see in terms of those formations and who will be in those types of formations,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
President Donald Trump said he plans to increase the number of US troops in Afghanistan in a speech August 21 and continue the longest-running war in American history.
Currently, there are about 9,800 US troops stationed in Afghanistan and more than 26,000 contractors.
The Pentagon defines a defense contractor as “any individual, firm, corporation, partnership, or other legal non-federal entity that enters into a contract directly with the DOD to furnish services, supplies, or construction.”
US defense contractors versus US troops deployed to Afghanistan in last decade. Image by Skye Gould via Business Insider.
This also includes intelligence analysis, translation and interpretation, as well as private-security contractors — who began taking over roles once held by uniformed soldiers after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
The defense industry has also made incredible profits since 2001, including nearly $100 billion in Afghanistan since 2007.
The graphic above compares the number of US troops and defense contractors in Afghanistan over the last decade.
Combat aviators are conducting operational tests of Army modernization efforts using three UH-60V Black Hawk helicopters.
The UH-60V Black Hawk will retrofit the Army’s remaining UH-60L helicopter fleet’s analog cockpits with a digital cockpit, similar to the UH-60M helicopter.
Retrofitting aircraft that are already owned by the Army is a major cost saving measure over purchasing new builds, according to Mr. Derek Muller, UH-60V IOT Test Officer, with the West Fort Hood, Texas-based U.S. Army Operational Test Command’s Aviation Test Directorate.
Muller and his test team worked with aircrews from Company A, 2nd Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade by applying realistic operational missions, post-mission surveys and after action reviews along with onboard video and audio instrumentation to collect data directly from crewmembers.
Instrumentation installed by Redstone Test Center (RTC), Alabama provided audio, video and position data for test team to review after each mission.
“The OTC/RTC partnership has been paramount to the successful testing and evaluation of the UH-60V,” said Muller.
“The data collected during the test will support an independent evaluation by the U.S. Army Evaluation Center,” he added.
Aircrews from 2nd Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade and support personnel from 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team conduct sling load operations at Gray Army Airfield, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., during a logistics resupply mission during operational tests of Army modernization efforts with a new digital cockpit in the UH-60V Black Hawk helicopter.
(US Army photo by Mr. Tad Browning)
The evaluation will inform a full-rate production decision from the Utility Helicopter Program Office at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.
Aircrews flew over 120 hours under realistic battlefield conditions.
They conducted air movement, air assault, external load and casualty evacuation missions under day, night, night-vision goggle, and simulated instrument meteorological modes of flight.
“Anti-aircraft weapon simulation emitters are a valuable training enabler and reinforce much of the Air Mission Survivability training assault aircrews have received with respect to operations in a threat environment,” said Capt. Scott Amarucci, A Co. 2-158 Company Commander.
“This approach permitted evaluators from the U.S. Army Evaluation Center to see and hear how a unit equipped with the UH-60V performed operational missions against a validated threat in a representative combat environment,” said Muller.
“The operational environment designed by USAOTC and 16th CAB helped evaluators accurately assess the company’s ability to complete doctrinal missions, when equipped with the UH-60V,” said Mr. Brian Apgar, Plans Deputy Division Chief of USAOTC AVTD.
Aircrews from 2nd Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade staged at Gray Army Airfield, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., prepare the cockpit and conduct final pre-mission checks for a nighttime air assault mission during operational tests of Army modernization efforts with a new digital cockpit in the UH-60V Black Hawk helicopter.
(US Army photo by Mr. Tad Browning)
The U.S. Army Center for Countermeasures employed three types of threat simulations to stimulate the aircraft’s survivability equipment and trigger pilot actions using the updated cockpit capabilities.
“The three independent threat simulation systems enhanced the quality of the test and enriched the combat-like environment,” said Muller.
“2-158th aircrews reacted to threat systems they rarely have the opportunity to encounter,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Toby Blackmon, Test Operations Officer in Charge, USAOTC AVTD.
“Using Blue Force Tracking, the test operations cell and Battalion Operations Center tracked and communicated with crews during missions,” he said.
“Each day I hear feedback from the crews about the testing,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Clyde, 2-158 BN Commander. “Each Soldier I talk to is glad to place a fingerprint on a future Army Aviation program.”
Aircrews executed their Mission Essential Task Lists using the UH-60V conducting realistic missions against accredited threat systems.
“The UH-60V training has allowed excellent opportunities to train important tasks which enable our proficiency as assault aviation professionals,” added Amarucci.
In this photo clip of a 360-degree-view, aircrews from 2nd Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade and support personnel from 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team conduct sling load operations at Gray Army Airfield, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., during a logistics resupply mission during operational tests of Army modernization efforts with a new digital cockpit in the UH-60V Black Hawk helicopter.
(US Army photo by Mr. Tad Browning)
Testing at A Co.’s home station allowed the application of key expertise and resources, provided by the test team, while flying in its routine training environment.
New equipment collective training and operational testing caused A Co. to focus on several critical areas, including mission planning, secure communications, aircraft survivability equipment, and internal/external load operations, improving its overall mission readiness while meeting operational test requirements, according to Muller.
“Moreover,” Muller said, “the test’s rigorous operational tempo provided an ideal opportunity for 2-158th Aviation Regiment to exercise key army battle command systems including, but not limited to, Blue Force Tracker (BFT), secure tactical communications, and mission planning.”
Ground crews from the 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT) prepared and hooked up sling loads during 18 missions, allowing pilots to see how the UH-60V cockpit displays provided situational awareness while carrying an external load.
“Static load and external load training not only improved unit readiness, but fostered safe operations during day and night missions throughout the test,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Keefer, AVTD’s Test Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge.
Future operational testing will ensure soldiers continue to have a voice in the acquisition process, guaranteeing a quality product prior to fielding.
The Growler is a key factor in every attack squadron because of its ability to shut down ground radar with electronic jamming.
It’s equipped with receivers built on to each wing tip which search for radar signals to locate the enemy’s surface-to-air missile systems.
Inside the cockpit, the Weapon Systems Officer monitors the computer system that scans, analyzes and decides whether the signals it picks up are either friend or foe.
If a threat is detected, the Growler activates one of three jamming pods stored underneath the jet’s centerline that overwhelms the ground radar by sending out electronic noise allowing coalition aircraft to sneak by undetected.
But it doesn’t just jam the enemy’s radar, it also has the capability ofdeliveringphysical destruction as well.
The Growler comes equipped with an attack missile called “HARM” which stands for “high-speed anti-radiation missile.” Once this rocket is launched, it locks in on the ground radar’s electronic signal and explodes directly over its intended target.
The Growler’s impressive systems can locate, jam, and destroy enemy radar in under a minute.
Tears welled up in my eyes as I looked down at the blurry 23. Twenty-three inches. Sweat dripped down onto the measuring tape as I had just finished round two of cardio. In 48 hours I’d step on stage to fight for my professional athlete status as a figure competitor. And in this sport, the waist-to-shoulder ratio (also called the V-taper) is the money maker! As an average-sized athlete, who’s played sports all her life, and even had my waist measured for the Air Force Physical Fitness Test, I had never seen my waist this small.
Whether you want washboard abs or to melt away your love handles, the execution plan is the same. This measurement is very important, and not just to look sharp in uniform. Waist girth is more directly correlated to medical problems than most PFT measurements, so as I doctor, I always encourage fat loss around the belly. I know there are others of you not worried about the PFT or doctor recommendations. You just want that 6-pack for summer! Whatever your motivation is I can assure you the first step is to realize this takes patience and persistence.
The secret to a smaller, more cut waist can be broken into two points of execution: The right nutrition, and the correct exercises.
Nutrition for 6-Pack Abs
Drink 3 liters to 1 gallon of water per day. This will help flush your body’s toxins that can accumulate in the fat tissues and cause inflammation. Inflammation = bad.
Cut down daily fruit intake. Eating extra fruit is a common habit of many people when they are focused on a fitness goal. The issue is fruit has sugar and sugar limits the ability for your little ab muscles to pop through. Limit fruit to 1-2 servings per day and get the rest of your nutrients through vegetables.
Combine a protein and carbohydrate every time you eat.Yes, eat carbs! Good protein sources include egg whites, chicken breast, turkey, white fish, and protein powder. Some good carbohydrate sources include oatmeal, sweet potatoes, brown rice, polenta, rice cakes, and starchy veggies.
Eat plenty of calories. The men and women I’ve created customized diets that require 1800-2500 calories per day depending on body habits and goals. Undereating will make your body go into starvation mode and store every morsel of food you give it. You want to optimize your metabolism so your body doesn’t store any extra fat. The best way to do this is to eat enough.
Correct Exercises for 6-Pack Abs
Establish a strong good core. By working on your core first, you are establishing the foundation. Try isometric/balancing exercises such a planks.
Train abs like any other body part. You have to build the muscles so that as the fat melts away the muscles are ready for presentation! Do 3-5 sets of 3-4 different ab exercises 1-3 times per week.
Go hard! If you aren’t sore the next day, you aren’t working hard enough. Increase the intensity by increasing the weight, the number of reps or the number of sets.
Avoid obliques/side movements. If your oblique muscles are thick and large, that will make your waist thicker/wider. If your goal is a smaller waist, then stick to straight up and down movements without twisting. Some exercises I like are the hanging leg raise, sit ups on the Bosu ball, reverse crunches, and flutter kicks. (Note: If your fitness goals are functional in nature and size is not important then avoiding oblique exercises is not necessary for you.)
What Doesn’t Work
Sitting in the sauna and just sweating. Sweat is not fat and this will not get your waist smaller.
Wearing waist cinchers/corsets. These will bring in your waist temporarily (hours), but as your tissues in that area relax when the item is removed, the waist returns to your normal size.
Fat burning creams. These creams may help you to sweat but it’s scientifically impossible to spot reduce fat without surgery.
Fat burning pills. Nutritional supplements that are labeled as “supplements” have not been tested to confirm the contents in the bottle are actually in the bottle. So, you might pay for nothing or double the dose that’s listed – no one knows! If you want to crank up your metabolism just stick with caffeine the natural, guaranteed way and brew a good ‘ol cup of joe!
Full disclosure: My waist doesn’t stay 23 inches year round. That size takes an amount of commitment I don’t currently have as a resident physician. But what I do have is a small waist and a flat tummy I can take to the beach any day. I’ve adapted this execution plan as a lifestyle because there is no quick fix.
Now watch Simone’s workout:
Simone is an Air Force Academy graduate, doctor, and fitness model. Check out her website here.
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 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?”
A recent report from the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, written by Maj. Gen. Jeff Harrigian and Col. Max Marosko of the US Air Force, gives expert analysis and never before seen detail into how the US’s fifth-generation aircraft would fare in a war with China.
The report starts with a broad overview of fifth-generation capabilities and their roles in the future of air combat, and it concludes with a hypothetical war in 2026 against an unnamed nemesis after “rising tensions in a key region abroad.”
However, the locations mentioned in the scenario are all in the Western Pacific and clearly seem to indicate the rival is China, whose advanced radar and missile capabilities make for very interesting challenges to the US Air Force’s force structure.
F-35s and F-22s fly in formation. | US Air Force
As the scenario takes place ten years in the future, it is assumed that all the kinks with integrating fifth generation fighters into the force have been ironed out, and that the F-35 and F-22 work seamlessly to aid legacy aircraft via datalink.
In the opening stanza of such a conflict, the Air Force officials say that the US would send its F-35s and F-22s to a wide range of bases across the Pacific, leveraging the US’s vast network of bases and allies with some of the valuable warplanes.
Such a step denies China’s ability to land a “knockout blow” as they normally could, because typically US jets stay stationed at larger bases, presenting a more attractive target. Also, by this time, the US’s fifth-generation aircraft can find airfields on their own, without the help of air traffic controllers, allowing the force to be further spread out to present less target-rich areas.
Additionally, regional allies like Australia, who also fly the F-35, can quickly fill in for US airmen in a pinch. A US F-35 can land on an Australian airfield and receive much the same maintenance as it would at its home base, the officials claim.
With the Pacific now a patchwork of small units of F-35s and F-22s, the Chinese would seek to leverage their impressive electronic warfare capabilities, but the officials contend that the fifth-gens would weather the storm.
“Heavy radar and communications jamming confront US and coalition forces, but fifth generation aircraft leverage their networked multi-spectral sensors to detect and target enemy aircraft, while supporting a common operating picture through data links and communication architectures,” the Air Force officials write.
China’s military installations in the South China Sea create a huge area that could possibly be turned into an air identification and defense zone. | CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative
Meanwhile, legacy platforms like F-16s, F-18s, and F-15s provide a critical layer of defense closer to the US mainland. China’s formidable surface-to-air missile capabilities keep these older, more visible fighters off the front lines until the stealthier platforms, like the F-35, F-22, B-2, and the upcoming B-21 do their job.
The officials recognize the need for the fifth-gen fighters to strike quickly and get out of the heavily contested air spaces. Destruction of many of the US and allied airfields is expected, however the versatile fifth-gens continue to switch up locations as China depletes their supply of ballistic and cruise missiles on low-yield targets.
Some of China’s road-mobile missile batteries. | AUS Airpower
Some of China’s road-mobile missile batteries.AUS Airpower
Many of China’s SAM batteries are road mobile, so fifth-gen fighters will have to use their geo-location and electronic warfare capabilities to seek and destroy these sites.
The onboard sensors in the fifth-gens will provide vital leeway for the fighters to make decisions on the go.
From the report:
“Aircraft take off with minimal information—little more than a general target area that may be more than 1,000 miles away. On the way to target, the fifth generation aircraft receive minimal tanker, threat, and target information, but sufficient updates to enable them to ingress, identify, and prosecute targets successfully before returning to operating airfields.”
Loses of US and allied airfields and troops would naturally follow in such a conflict, however the forces are integrated and use the same platforms, so they can quickly fill in for each other in the event of loses.
All the while, F-35s and F-22s whittle away at China’s air defenses, gradually lowering the threat level from high to moderate. Eventually, the bulk of the US Air Force’s fleet —legacy fighters— can operate in the area with acceptable rates of survivability.
And that’s it. Once F-16s are flying over Beijing, the conflict is essentially settled. In the moderately contested airspace, fifth generation jets can essentially data-link with legacy fighters and use them as “armada planes,” leveraging their increased capability to carry ordinance to eliminate whatever remains of China’s air defenses.
Hundreds of people attended the memorial and funeral of a World War II soldier in his hometown of Troy, Indiana on March 30, 2019. Most of them never met him.
Pfc. Clifford M. Mills, a soldier who fought with the 319th Glider Field Artillery Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division, was buried 75 years after his death during Operation Market Garden in 1944.
Mills was considered Missing in Action since Sept. 18, 1944, after the glider he was in crashed behind enemy lines near Wyler, Germany, until January 2019 when his remains were identified by the Defense Prisoner Of War/Missing in Action Accounting Agency and transferred back to his hometown on March 28, 2019.
U.S. Army Paratroopers assigned to the 319th Field Artillery Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, carry the casket of Clifford M. Mills, a World War II veteran, in Troy, Ind., March 30, 2019.
(Photo by Spc. Justin W. Stafford)
Mills’ remains were transported from Tell City’s Zoercher-Gillick Funeral Home to Troy Cemetery in an elaborate procession consisting of local fire departments, law enforcement, and motorcycles flashing red and blue lights.
As the procession made its way, it passed beneath a large American flag attached to the outstretched ladder of a firetruck. Residents of all ages lined the streets or stood in front of public buildings waving American flags or saluting as the procession passed by them.
A portrait of U.S. Army Pfc. Clifford M. Mills, formerly a member of the 319th Glider Field Artillery Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division, is displayed at his memorial service in Tell City, Ind., March 30, 2019.
(Photo by Spc. Justin W. Stafford)
The Purple Heart recipient was buried with full military honors provided by the 319th Field Artillery Battalion, 82nd Abn. Div. from Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
“In the 82nd Airborne, we walk in the footsteps of legends,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Gregory Seymour of the 319th. “With each of these homecomings, we close the gap of those still missing and come closer to fulfilling our promise to never leave a comrade behind.”
Currently, there are 72,000 Americans still unaccounted for from World War II.
Seymour presented Mills’ 91-year-old brother, Robert Lee Mills, with a folded flag during the burial ceremony March 30, 2019.
U.S. Army Paratroopers assigned to the 319th Field Artillery Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, carry the casket of Clifford M. Mills, a World War II veteran, in Troy, Ind., March 30, 2019.
(Photo by Spc. Justin W. Stafford)
Mills was buried next to his wife, Ethel Mills, who died in 2004. She never remarried. Notably, the efforts of a 33-year-old Dutch man from the Netherlands proved unmeasurable in facilitating the positive identification and homecoming of Mills.
Nowy van Hedel was approved by a volunteer program 12 years ago, which assigned him the name of a soldier on the Walls of the Missing at the Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten, Netherlands.
After over a decade of research conducted in his free time, Hedel submitted his findings to the DPAA in 2017. Scientists from the DPAA were able to make a positive identification. Hedel received the news from Mills’ family in January 2019.
The casket vault of Clifford M. Mills rests above ground before being buried at Troy Cemetery in Troy, Ind., March 30, 2019.
(Photo by Spc. Justin W. Stafford)
“You’d get one lead and search that direction. Then you’d hit a dead end. It went on for 12 years,” said Hedel. “When I received the information from the family that there was a 100 percent match, my world was turned upside down. I couldn’t believe it.”
Hedel keeps a photograph of Mills in his living room. He also continues to help others in identifying unknown soldiers.
A rosette has been placed next to Mills’ name on the wall to indicate he has been accounted for. “It is like a piece of closure for me,” said Hedel holding back tears, “but you also feel the pain because it’s a funeral. He died 75 years ago for our freedom.”
Retired Rear Adm. John Kirby was a Navy public affairs officer for decades and now serves as the State Department’s top spokesman, so he’s been around journalists for a while and given plenty of briefings.
That may explain why he was so chill when — in the middle of reading a statement about defeating ISIS propaganda — he noticed a journalist playing Pokemon Go on a smartphone.
Look, WATM isn’t one of those places that wants to take people’s joy away. Do your thing and enjoy life. If Pokemon make you happy, chase those Pokemon.
But maybe let’s don’t interrupt a briefing about the importance of defeating ISIS on the internet by playing video games — Pokemon Go or otherwise.
Unless, of course, you’ve found a way to defeat ISIS via video games. Then please forward your idea to WATM so we can spread the word.
Mark Rasnake outside the hospital in October 2005. (Photo courtesy of Mark Rasnake)
Maj. Mark Rasnake was exhausted. The 32-year-old Air Force infectious disease specialist had worked through the night treating some of the worst trauma he’d seen in his life — seven soldiers who’d been brought in after sustaining catastrophic burns when their Bradley Fighting Vehicle hit an improvised explosive device near Daliaya, Iraq, and erupted in flames. But back at his bunk at Balad Air Force Base, north of Baghdad, he couldn’t sleep.
He opened his laptop and began to type a letter home. “I met a hero last night,” he wrote. “I did not realize it at the time … This is a place where the word “hero” is tossed around day in and day out, so much so that you sometimes lose sight of its true meaning. His story reminded me of it.”
As a medical professional, Rasnake never identified his patient, even in a letter only intended for family members. As it happened, though, his words would travel further than he imagined. His local newspaper in Eastern Tennessee took it as a submission and reprinted it; and eventually, Air Force officials reached out to the paper so the service could publish it too.
Rasnake’s letter survives on the Air Force’s official website as the first public account of the bravery of Army Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe, who sacrificed his life running again and again into the fiery vehicle, ignoring his own burning uniform. It has been 15 years to the day since Cashe hauled his teammates out of the Bradley on Oct. 17, 2005; but Rasnake, now the residency program director for the University of Tennessee’s Division of Infectious Diseases, says he’s never stopped thinking about him.
“I kind of think about the guy all the time,” Rasnake told Military.com in an interview earlier this month. “I’ve got a helmet bag that I use to carry stuff to and from work, and I put a 3rd Infantry Division patch on that thing, just to always have the visual thing to remember what he did. That’s just always been important to me, to at least carry that memory.”
Rasnake said he didn’t learn Cashe’s story until a few hours after he and more than a dozen other military medical professionals had finished treating the soldiers and loaded them on an air evacuation flight bound for Germany. He can’t remember who shared the account of what happened in the aftermath of the Bradley explosion. But as word spread among his colleagues and across the base, it provoked a common feeling of awe.
“The discussions we had is, you know, if his actions don’t deserve the Medal of Honor, we had trouble imagining anything that did that would,” Rasnake said.
Cashe was initially nominated for a lesser award, the Silver Star, by his battalion commander, Gary Brito, now a major general. Brito, by his own account, pushed for an upgrade to the Medal of Honor as soon as he learned of the severity of Cashe’s injuries. But as the years passed, no medal upgrade came.
At issue, according to various reports, was difficulty ascertaining accurate witness statements of what took place. While initial accounts led the Army to determine Cashe’s heroism did not take place in active combat, current descriptions — championed by lawmakers — say he dodged enemy fire while hauling body after body out of the vehicle: six soldiers plus an interpreter, who died on the scene. Cashe refused medevac until the others were taken away, according to his Silver Star citation.
Mark Rasnake (right) along with doctors Col. Ty Putnam and Maj. James Pollock, Oct 17, 2005. (Photo courtesy of Mark Rasnake)
What Rasnake saw is in none of those accounts, but speaks to the pain and trauma Cashe’s body endured because of his choice not to leave his brothers-in-arms behind.
“The surgeons worked for hours on his wounds and we worked for hours in the intensive care unit to stabilize him for transport. In the end, damage to his lungs made him too sick to be safely transported by plane to our hospital in Germany and then on to a burn center in San Antonio,” Rasnake wrote in his later-published letter home. ” … Our air evac team loaded him into the plane for the six-hour flight to Germany. They had to deliver every breath to him during that flight by squeezing a small bag by hand.”
Rasnake still has clear memories of that night, although the conditions and treatment of specific soldiers is a blur. Off-duty medical staff were called back up before the casualties arrived. A field intensive care unit was heated to treat those suffering from the hypothermia sometimes brought on by severe burns. Doctors had to intubate to keep the badly burned soldiers’ blood oxygenated, and some required surgical incisions to allow burn-traumatized limbs to swell.
Six of the men needed ICU treatment; ultimately, three would succumb to their injuries.
Rasnake had arrived in Iraq earlier that fall, and it wasn’t common for doctors at Balad to keep track of the wounded troops they’d treated once they moved on for additional care. But this case was different.
“It was heartbreaking,” he said. “For the next two weeks … Some of them didn’t make it, including Sgt. Cashe ultimately, and he was the last one to expire of the ones that ultimately died. And it was just heart-wrenching for us to hear what was happening back home … he had the entire [Air Force] 33nd Medical Group following daily what was happening.”
As Rasnake sat typing that first night in his sleeping quarters, not knowing the fate of Cashe or the other men he’d treated, he thought of a hero from his hometown of Greeneville, Tenn.: Marine Sgt. Elbert Kinser, who threw himself on a Japanese grenade in 1945, saving his men and earning the Medal of Honor. A bridge in the city of Tusculum, Tenn., bears his name.
“How many of his friends are still alive to remember the story? How many grew old and had grandchildren because of his sacrifice?” Rasnake wrote. “Did they thank him every day of their lives? The next time I cross that bridge I will stop for just a few minutes of my life to read about a man that gave all of his.”
Now 47, and 13 years out of the Air Force, Rasnake said he never lost hope that Cashe would receive the Medal of Honor that he never doubted the soldier deserved.
“The fact that he’s up for the MOH, reliving this and kind of seeing some closure for him and his family is just amazing,” Rasnake said. “I’m so glad; it’s probably the first piece of good news I’ve gotten in 2020.”
Although it will be years before the first humans set foot on Mars, NASA is giving the public an opportunity to send their names — stenciled on chips — to the Red Planet with NASA’s Mars 2020 rover, which represents the initial leg of humanity’s first round trip to another planet. The rover is scheduled to launch as early as July 2020, with the spacecraft expected to touch down on Mars in February 2021.
The rover, a robotic scientist weighing more than 2,300 pounds (1,000 kilograms), will search for signs of past microbial life, characterize the planet’s climate and geology, collect samples for future return to Earth, and pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet.
“As we get ready to launch this historic Mars mission, we want everyone to share in this journey of exploration,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) in Washington. “It’s an exciting time for NASA, as we embark on this voyage to answer profound questions about our neighboring planet, and even the origins of life itself.”
Members of the public who want to send their name to Mars on NASA’s next rover mission to the Red Planet (Mars 2020) can get a souvenir boarding pass and their names etched on microchips to be affixed to the rover.
The opportunity to send your name to Mars comes with a souvenir boarding pass and “frequent flyer” points. This is part of a public engagement campaign to highlight missions involved with NASA’s journey from the Moon to Mars. Miles (or kilometers) are awarded for each “flight,” with corresponding digital mission patches available for download. More than 2 million names flew on NASA’s InSight mission to Mars, giving each “flyer” about 300 million frequent flyer miles (nearly 500 million frequent flyer kilometers).
From now until Sept. 30, 2019, you can add your name to the list and obtain a souvenir boarding pass to Mars here.
The Microdevices Laboratory at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, will use an electron beam to stencil the submitted names onto a silicon chip with lines of text smaller than one-thousandth the width of a human hair (75 nanometers). At that size, more than a million names can be written on a single dime-size chip. The chip (or chips) will ride on the rover under a glass cover.
True color image of Mars taken by the OSIRIS instrument on the ESA Rosetta spacecraft during its February 2007 flyby of the planet.
NASA will use Mars 2020 and other missions to prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet. As another step toward that goal, NASA is returning American astronauts to the Moon in 2024. Government, industry and international partners will join NASA in a global effort to build and test the systems needed for human missions to Mars and beyond.
The Mars 2020 Project at JPL manages rover development for SMD. NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is responsible for launch management. Mars 2020 will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.