This man lost 90 pounds to enlist in the Marines - We Are The Mighty
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This man lost 90 pounds to enlist in the Marines

About a dozen young men and women are gathered at a shopping center, lining up outside Marine Corps Recruiting Sub-Station here, to prepare for the challenges of recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina.


Also read: A retired Navy SEAL commander breaks down his morning fitness routine that starts at 4:30

Some recruits are more prepared than others. Some still have ground to cover and goals to obtain, but 17-year-old Demetri E. Ramos has covered more ground than his peers.

This man lost 90 pounds to enlist in the Marines

Over the past three years he lost about 90 pounds to be eligible to enlist in the United States Marine Corps. He started his journey at 260 pounds and now weighs 170 pounds.

His stepfather, Robert Haag, challenged him during his freshman year to turn his life around. Haag noticed his stepson would spend many hours every day playing video games in the basement of his house. Haag approached Ramos and challenged him to earn his place on “the wall.”

“There is a big wall in our house that you have to earn your way [onto],” Haag said. On this wall are photos of six current and former Marines.

Setting a Goal

“My stepfather told me if I go from 260 pounds to 180 pounds, he would buy me an Xbox One,” said Ramos, a Severna Park High School native. At first, Ramos was hesitant about the large amount of weight he would have to lose.

But, he said, after eating healthier and spending long hours in the gym with his stepbrother he accomplished his goal.

After graduating high school this past spring, Ramos’ stepbrother and stepfather, who are both Marines, went with him to visit the local Marine Corps Recruiting Station, a trip that would change his life forever.

Ramos added he always looked up to and admired the Marines in his family because of their character and values they learned.

“To see the dedication he had before talking to [us] was incredible,” said Gunnery Sgt. Jason Irwin, the commander of the Glen Burnie Marine recruiting office. “You can definitely see the commitment he had to make himself eligible for enlistment, and to take the initial steps of becoming a United States Marine.”

“It wasn’t fun being incapable of doing things because of my weight, or being out of shape and not progressing,” Ramos said. “My motivation initially started with these restrictions and it grew more and more when I continued to lose weight and wanted to continue to make myself better as a person.”

Ramos is scheduled to attend recruit training at the end of this year, and according to Irwin, “he is pumped and ready to go.”

“If you never have confidence in yourself, you’re not going to go anywhere,” he said.

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Everybody should read General John Kelly’s speech about two Marines in the path of a truck bomb

Eleven years ago, two Marines from two different walks of life who had literally just met were told to stand guard in front of their outpost’s entry-control point.


Minutes later, they were staring down a big blue truck packed with explosives. With this particular shred of hell bearing down on them, they stood their ground.

Heck, they even leaned in.

I had heard the story many times, personally. But until today I had never heard Marine Lt. Gen. John Kelly’s telling of it to a packed house in 2010. Just four days following the death of his own son in combat, Kelly eulogized two other sons in an unforgettable manner.

From Kelly’s speech:

Two years ago when I was the Commander of all U.S. and Iraqi forces, in fact, the 22nd of April 2008, two Marine infantry battalions, 1/9 “The Walking Dead,” and 2/8 were switching out in Ramadi. One battalion in the closing days of their deployment going home very soon, the other just starting its seven-month combat tour.

Two Marines, Corporal Jonathan Yale and Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter, 22 and 20 years old respectively, one from each battalion, were assuming the watch together at the entrance gate of an outpost that contained a makeshift barracks housing 50 Marines.

The same broken down ramshackle building was also home to 100 Iraqi police, also my men and our allies in the fight against the terrorists in Ramadi, a city until recently the most dangerous city on earth and owned by Al Qaeda. Yale was a dirt poor mixed-race kid from Virginia with a wife and daughter, and a mother and sister who lived with him and he supported as well. He did this on a yearly salary of less than $23,000. Haerter, on the other hand, was a middle class white kid from Long Island.

They were from two completely different worlds. Had they not joined the Marines they would never have met each other, or understood that multiple America’s exist simultaneously depending on one’s race, education level, economic status, and where you might have been born. But they were Marines, combat Marines, forged in the same crucible of Marine training, and because of this bond they were brothers as close, or closer, than if they were born of the same woman.

The mission orders they received from the sergeant squad leader I am sure went something like: “Okay you two clowns, stand this post and let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass.” “You clear?” I am also sure Yale and Haerter then rolled their eyes and said in unison something like: “Yes Sergeant,” with just enough attitude that made the point without saying the words, “No kidding sweetheart, we know what we’re doing.” They then relieved two other Marines on watch and took up their post at the entry control point of Joint Security Station Nasser, in the Sophia section of Ramadi, al Anbar, Iraq.

A few minutes later a large blue truck turned down the alley way—perhaps 60-70 yards in length—and sped its way through the serpentine of concrete jersey walls. The truck stopped just short of where the two were posted and detonated, killing them both catastrophically. Twenty-four brick masonry houses were damaged or destroyed. A mosque 100 yards away collapsed. The truck’s engine came to rest two hundred yards away knocking most of a house down before it stopped.

Our explosive experts reckoned the blast was made of 2,000 pounds of explosives. Two died, and because these two young infantrymen didn’t have it in their DNA to run from danger, they saved 150 of their Iraqi and American brothers-in-arms.

When I read the situation report about the incident a few hours after it happened I called the regimental commander for details as something about this struck me as different. Marines dying or being seriously wounded is commonplace in combat. We expect Marines regardless of rank or MOS to stand their ground and do their duty, and even die in the process, if that is what the mission takes. But this just seemed different.

The regimental commander had just returned from the site and he agreed, but reported that there were no American witnesses to the event—just Iraqi police. I figured if there was any chance of finding out what actually happened and then to decorate the two Marines to acknowledge their bravery, I’d have to do it as a combat award that requires two eye-witnesses and we figured the bureaucrats back in Washington would never buy Iraqi statements. If it had any chance at all, it had to come under the signature of a general officer.

I traveled to Ramadi the next day and spoke individually to a half-dozen Iraqi police all of whom told the same story. The blue truck turned down into the alley and immediately sped up as it made its way through the serpentine. They all said, “We knew immediately what was going on as soon as the two Marines began firing.” The Iraqi police then related that some of them also fired, and then to a man, ran for safety just prior to the explosion.

All survived. Many were injured … some seriously. One of the Iraqis elaborated and with tears welling up said, “They’d run like any normal man would to save his life.”

What he didn’t know until then, he said, and what he learned that very instant, was that Marines are not normal. Choking past the emotion he said, “Sir, in the name of God no sane man would have stood there and done what they did.”

“No sane man.”

“They saved us all.”

What we didn’t know at the time, and only learned a couple of days later after I wrote a summary and submitted both Yale and Haerter for posthumous Navy Crosses, was that one of our security cameras, damaged initially in the blast, recorded some of the suicide attack. It happened exactly as the Iraqis had described it. It took exactly six seconds from when the truck entered the alley until it detonated.

You can watch the last six seconds of their young lives. Putting myself in their heads I supposed it took about a second for the two Marines to separately come to the same conclusion about what was going on once the truck came into their view at the far end of the alley. Exactly no time to talk it over, or call the sergeant to ask what they should do. Only enough time to take half an instant and think about what the sergeant told them to do only a few minutes before: ” … let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass.”

The two Marines had about five seconds left to live. It took maybe another two seconds for them to present their weapons, take aim, and open up. By this time the truck was half-way through the barriers and gaining speed the whole time. Here, the recording shows a number of Iraqi police, some of whom had fired their AKs, now scattering like the normal and rational men they were—some running right past the Marines. They had three seconds left to live.

For about two seconds more, the recording shows the Marines’ weapons firing non-stop…the truck’s windshield exploding into shards of glass as their rounds take it apart and tore in to the body of the son-of-a-bitch who is trying to get past them to kill their brothers—American and Iraqi—bedded down in the barracks totally unaware of the fact that their lives at that moment depended entirely on two Marines standing their ground. If they had been aware, they would have know they were safe … because two Marines stood between them and a crazed suicide bomber.

The recording shows the truck careening to a stop immediately in front of the two Marines. In all of the instantaneous violence Yale and Haerter never hesitated. By all reports and by the recording, they never stepped back. They never even started to step aside. They never even shifted their weight. With their feet spread shoulder width apart, they leaned into the danger, firing as fast as they could work their weapons. They had only one second left to live.

The truck explodes. The camera goes blank. Two young men go to their God.

Six seconds.

Not enough time to think about their families, their country, their flag, or about their lives or their deaths, but more than enough time for two very brave young men to do their duty … into eternity. That is the kind of people who are on watch all over the world tonight—for you.

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Why this French nobleman’s Paris gravesite is filled with dirt from Massachusetts

The United States owes its success in the Revolutionary War to help from France. The chief architect of that help was Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette. In America, we simply call him “Lafayette.”

When France needed help during World War I, a squadron of American airmen volunteered their skills to fight against Germany. They called themselves the Lafayette Escadrille. When American troops finally arrived in France years later, their leaders walked into the tomb of the nobleman and announced, “Lafayette, we are here.”

This man lost 90 pounds to enlist in the Marines
The Escadrille Lafayette in July 1917 (U.S. Air Force photo)

The relationship between the Marquis and the United States has endured for many centuries because of his admiration and service to a country that was not his own. That admiration runs so deep, that the nobleman is buried in American soil – in Paris. 

When the Marquis de Lafayette came to the United States to fight the British in the Revolution, he was so committed to the cause that he volunteered to serve without pay. Unlike other French officers volunteering, Lafayette had the military pedigree to be of use and soon came to be the right hand man to Gen. George Washington himself. 

That pedigree didn’t come with much experience. Lafayette would be learning as he served the American cause. Luckily, as a wealthy man, his personal contributions more than made up for what he lacked in military experience. But as he gained that valuable experience, he proved himself an able commander.

A dedicated Enlightenment thinker, his devotion to the cause of American ideals led him to fight in several battles, to be wounded at the battle of Brandywine, and encourage France to recognize American independence. Most crucially, it was Lafayette’s forces that harassed Cornwallis on his way to Yorktown.

This man lost 90 pounds to enlist in the Marines
John Ward Dunsmore’s 1907 depiction of Lafayette (right) and Washington at Valley Forge (Wikimedia Commons)

This forced the British to move across the James River, where they were eventually trapped by Washington, Lafayette and Comte de Rochambeau  by land and the French fleet by sea. He was forced to surrender his army after an almost three-week siege. It was the beginning of the end of the war, and the start of the American experiment.

Lafayette fought in the Continental Army all over the colonies, from New England to the Mid-Atlantic to the South, and was one of the few things that all the new states of the United States had in common. He so loved the ideals of the American Revolution that he tried to export them to France when he returned home. 

His advocacy for American liberty would serve him and his wife well in the coming years of the French Revolution. The French admiration for American values saved the lives of the noble and his wife. 

Lafayette would return to the United States many times in the years following the revolution. His visits would confirm the idea that the Founding Fathers had created a functioning democracy, based on the egalitarian values of the Enlightenment. He came to love the United States and proclaimed that he wanted to be buried in American soil.

Marquis de Lafayette
Lafayette’s grave (Wikimedia Commons)

On his final visit to the United States, Lafayette filled a trunk full of earth from the land near Boston’s Bunker Hill. When the noble died in 1834, his son interred him in the dirt from America. The American flag has flown over his grave continuously since 1850, a simple site behind an innocuous high stone wall.

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The ‘Hell Cannon’ is the Free Syrian Army’s homemade howitzer

The war in Syria is now five years old. In that time, there have been so many factions vying for power and battlefield superiority, some under-equipped group was bound to have to get creative with their weapons tech. Enter the Hell Cannon.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8JEQnHw6HMI

First rigged up in the rural areas near Idlib, the Hell Cannon is an improvised, muzzle-loaded cannon, built by the Ahrar al-Shamal Brigade, then a member force of the Free Syrian Army. The homegrown howitzer caught on and was soon produced in and around Aleppo. The cannon’s popularity is responsible for a grassroots weapons industry in the area.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TdGDIegH1S8

The weapon is essentially a barrel mounted to wheels and towed to where it needs to go. It’s entirely muzzle-loaded like an old timey powder smoothbore cannon. The powder is an explosive, usually ammonium nitrate (the explosive used by Timothy McVeigh in the 1996 Oklahoma City Bombing), which is ramrodded with a wooden stick. The round is a gas cylinder (commonly used in the region for cooking stoves) filled with explosives and shrapnel, and welded to a pipe with some stabilizing fins.The cylinder forms a tight seal in the cannon.

This man lost 90 pounds to enlist in the Marines
Improvised Hell Cannon rounds made of cooking gas canisters and mortar ammo seized by Syrian government forces (SAA) in Latakia (Twitter Photo)

Each round weighs roughly 88 pounds and will fly 1.5 kilometers (just under a mile). Some variants of the weapon will have multiple barrels, from two to seven. Others are welded to vehicles like cars and bulldozers.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rnXZ8LtbvEE

Newer developments in the weapon feature a 100mm shell used by Russian T-55 tanks attached to the tubes instead of the improvised gas tank. Others use real mortar rounds or compressed air cannons. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights calls the cannons “wildly inaccurate,” because it causes a lot of collateral damage and civilian casualties.

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Here’s how the F-35’s new tech could change aircraft carrier missions forever

Seven Navy F-35 Joint Strike Fighters spent Monday morning in a round robin off the coast of Norfolk, Virginia, completing a tight succession of take-offs and arrested landings as pilots with Strike Fighter Squadron 101 completed carrier qualifications on the aircraft.


The dozen instructors with the squadron each completed the required 10 traps and two touch-and-go maneuvers in less than two days. But thanks to an advanced landing system in the fifth-generation aircraft that limits the variables pilots need to monitor when they catch the wire, officers with the squadron said they could have gotten the practice they needed in much less time.

“What has traditionally been required for initial qualifications … that can probably be reduced, because the task becomes mundane after a while,” said Lt. Cmdr. Daniel Kitts, officer in charge of the testing detachment aboard this ship. “You can make corrections so easily.”

This man lost 90 pounds to enlist in the Marines
Courtesy of Lockheed Martin

The system that makes the difference is Delta Flight Path, developed by Lockheed Martin Corp. with input from Naval Air Systems Command. That system is one of more than a half-dozen F-35C features that are being tested in this third and final round of carrier exercises.

During a 20-day developmental testing period aboard the George Washington that will conclude Aug. 23, pilots will test the aircraft’s ability to fly symmetrical and asymmetrical external weapons loads, execute aircraft launches at maximum weight and against crosswinds, try out a new helmet software load designed to improve visibility in dark conditions, test the capabilities of Delta Flight Path and the Joint Precision Approach and Landing System, and take out and replace an entire F-35C engine to simulate major maintenance aboard a carrier.

At the conclusion of these tests, officials believe the F-35C will be substantially ready for initial operational capability, a milestone the aircraft is expected to hit in 2018.

But success of the built-in carrier landing technology may have even wider-reaching effects.

Like the Maritime Augmented Guidance with Integrated Controls for Carrier Approach and Recovery Precision Enabling Technologies, or MAGIC CARPET, system now being tested on the Navy’s legacy F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, Delta Flight Path gives the aircraft the ability to stay on glide slope automatically and minimize the number of corrections the pilot must make.

“All pilots are trained, we make corrections for glide slope with the throttle. We practice it when we get to our fleet trainers, and we practice it a bunch each and every time before we come out to the boat,” Kitts said. “So what you’re able to do when you come out here is hopefully spend less time practicing, because the workload on the pilot is extremely reduced.”

This man lost 90 pounds to enlist in the Marines
An F-35C Lightning II assigned to the Salty Dogs of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 lands on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) on Aug. 15, 2016, in the Atlantic Ocean. | US Navy photo by Wyatt L. Anthony

That’s important, Kitts said, because time spent in the field and on the carrier practicing landings is time in which pilots are becoming less tactically proficient because they can’t develop and drill other skills.

The commanding officer of VFA-101, Capt. James Christie, said pilots are collecting data as they complete their required takeoffs and landings that could be used to inform a prospective proposal to reduce carrier training and qualification requirements.

“We’re not going to move too quickly; we’re going to ensure it’s the right thing to do,” Christie said. “But as soon as we have the empirical evidence that shows we can safely reduce those numbers, I’ll be all for submitting that to leadership.”

So far, the data looks good. In this round of testing, there have so far been no bolters, when an aircraft unintentionally misses the wire, and no landing wave-offs attributed to aircraft performance or safety issues, said Lt. Graham Cleveland, landing signal officer for VFA-101.

Cleveland said this new technology might enable the Navy to cut ashore training from 16 to 18 field carrier landing practices to between four and six. He said he also envisioned cutting carrier qualification requirements from ten to six traps in the future.

“That’s going to save money, that’s going to save fuel, that’s going to save aircraft life, basically,” he said.

The future aside, getting out to the carrier for the first evolution of testing to involve operational pilots as well as test pilots was its own milestone for many at the fore of efforts to ready the F-35C for the fleet.

“It’s incredibly gratifying to see them come out and really make this aircraft real from the perspective of the fleet,” said Tom Briggs, acting chief test engineer for the Navy. “This is going to be a viable program, a viable aircraft that’s really going to do what it’s designed to do… watching them come out here and do this, it’s goose-bumpy.”

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This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages

Operation Credible Sport was hatched in the wake of the disastrous Operation Eagle Claw, the attempt to rescue hostages held at the U.S. embassy in Tehran, Iran that resulted in a collision at a refueling point in the desert that destroyed two aircraft and killed 8 service members. The mishap caused commanders to call off the mission.


But the hostages were still in Iranian hands and a new attempt at rescue had to be made. The Air Force decided to attempt the mission using a C-130 modified with rockets to takeoff and land in short distances. The modified aircraft would land in a soccer stadium near the U.S. embassy, allow the assault team out to rescue the hostages, then pick everyone up and fly them out.

 

This man lost 90 pounds to enlist in the Marines
The burned out C-130 from the failed Operation Eagle Claw sits in the Iranian Desert. At far right is the destroyed helicopter. (Photo: US Special Operations Command)

Rocket-assisted takeoffs, or RATOs, is a technique where rocket engines provide the lift necessary to let heavy aircraft takeoff on a short runway. The tactic had been in use since World War II and C-130s had already successfully employed the technique. The more well-known JATO, jet-assisted takeoffs, worked in a similar manner with jet engines doing the heavy lifting.

This man lost 90 pounds to enlist in the Marines
A C-130 conducting a Rocket-Assisted Takeoff. GIF: Youtube/Crediblesport’s channel

But Operation Credible Sport called for rockets to also assist in the landing, which required three sets of rockets to fire at precise times in the process. First, a set of forward-facing rockets would act as an air brake. Then downward-facing jets would slow the aircraft’s descent and after touchdown a third set of rockets would stop the C-130 on the short runway.

Unfortunately the C-130 test flight was less than successful. When the pilots attempted to land the plane, the first set of rockets blinded the pilots. Then the flight engineer was dazzled by the first rockets and thought the plane had already reached the ground. Thinking he just needed to stop the aircraft, he fired the final braking rockets and halted the plane’s forward momentum.

This stopped the wings from creating lift. The second set of rockets, designed to slow the plane’s descent and soften the landing, had not been fired. So the plane fell the final twenty feet to the runway almost straight down.

This man lost 90 pounds to enlist in the Marines
GIF: Youtube/Crediblesport’s channel

The shock of the landing broke part of the right wing off. The rockets then lit the jet fuel on fire, and the entire airplane was destroyed.

Luckily, the crew made it out of the wreckage alive. The Air Force buried the plane at the test site and ordered the rockets placed on a backup C-130 so testing could continue.

But negotiators were able to reach a settlement that freed the hostages and made the modifications unnecessary. The plans for a rocket-landed airplane were then scrapped.

Watch the modified aircraft fly below, (and check out 1:40 to see the crash):

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Russia is about to launch this massive military exercise as tensions with west simmer

Russia is preparing to mount what could be one of its biggest military exercises since the Cold War, a display of power that will be watched warily by NATO against a backdrop of east-west tensions.


Western officials and analysts estimate up to 100,000 military personnel and logistical support troops could participate in the Zapad (West) 17 exercise, which will take place next month in Belarus, Kaliningrad, and Russia itself. Moscow puts the number significantly lower.

The exercise, to be held from Sept. 14-20, comes against a backdrop of strained relations between Russia and the US. Congress recently imposed a fresh round of sanctions on Moscow in response to allegations of interference in the 2016 US election.

The first of the Russian troops are scheduled to arrive in Belarus in mid-August.

This man lost 90 pounds to enlist in the Marines
Putin meets with Chief of the General Staff of Russia’s Armed Forces and First Deputy Defence Minister Valery Gerasimov and Belarusian Defence Minister Yury Zhadobin, 2013. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

Moscow has portrayed Zapad 17 as a regular exercise, held every four years, planned long ago and not a reaction to the latest round of sanctions.

NATO headquarters in Brussels said it had no plans to respond to the maneuvers by deploying more troops along the Russian border.

A NATO official said: “NATO will closely monitor exercise Zapad 17, but we are not planning any large exercises during Zapad 17. Our exercises are planned long in advance and are not related to the Russian exercise.”

The US vice-president, Mike Pence, discussed Zapad 17 during a visit to Estonia in July and raised the possibility of deploying the US Patriot missile defense system in the country. The US may deploy extra troops to eastern Europe during the course of the exercise and delay the planned rotation of others.

This man lost 90 pounds to enlist in the Marines
Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commander, US Army Europe, is awarded the German Federal Armed Forces Golden Cross of Honor by German Lt. Gen. Joerg Vollmer, the chief of staff of the German Army. Photo courtesy of US Army.

The commander of US Army Europe, Lt Gen Ben Hodges, told a press conference in Hungary in July: “Everybody that lives close to the western military district is a little bit worried because they hear about the size of the exercise.”

The Russian armed forces have undergone rapid modernisation over the last decade and Zapad offers them a chance to train en masse.

Moscow blames growing west-east tensions on the expansion of NATO eastwards and in recent years the deployment of more NATO forces in countries bordering Russia. NATO says the increased deployments are in response to the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2013.

Russia has not said how many troops will participate in Zapad 17, but the Russian ambassador to NATO , Aleksander Grushko, said it was not envisioned that any of the maneuvers would involve more than 13,000 troops, the limit at which Russia – under an international agreement – would be obliged to allow military from other countries to observe the exercise.

This man lost 90 pounds to enlist in the Marines
Zapad 13. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

Russia could, theoretically, divide the exercise into separate parts in order to keep below the 13,000 limit. Western analysts said the last Zapad exercise in 2013 involved an estimated 70,000 military and support personnel, even though Russia informed NATO in the run-up it would not exceed 13,000.

Igor Sutyagin, co-author of Russia’s New Ground Forces, to be officially published on September 20 said, “unfortunately, you can’t trust what the Russians say.” He said, “one hundred thousand is probably exaggerated, but 18,000 is absolutely realistic.”

He did not envisage an attack on the Baltic states, given they are members of NATO . “Well, there are easier ways to commit suicide,” he said. But Putin is a master at doing the unexpected, he said, and Russia could take action elsewhere, such as taking more land in Georgia.

This man lost 90 pounds to enlist in the Marines
Zapad 13. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

In a joint paper published in May, Col Tomasz Kowalik, a former special assistant to the chairman of NATO’s military committee and a director at the Polish ministry of national defense, and Dominik Jankowski, a senior official at the Polish ministry of foreign affairs, wrote that Russia had ordered 4,000 rail cars to transport its troops to Belarus and estimated that could amount to 30,000 military personnel.

Adding in troops already in place in Belarus and the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad as well as troops arriving by air, it might be the largest Russian exercise since 1991.

NATO said its biggest exercise this year, Trident Javelin 17, running from Nov. 8-17, would involve only 3,000 troops. Trident Javelin 17 is to prepare for next year’s bigger exercise, Trident Juncture 2018, which will involve an estimated 35,000 troops.

This man lost 90 pounds to enlist in the Marines
Zapad 13. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

The NATO official added: “We have increased our military presence in the eastern part of the alliance in response to Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and its military buildup in the region. We have four multinational NATO battle-groups in place in the Baltic states and Poland, a concrete reminder that an attack on one ally is an an attack on all. However, NATO’s force posture is not in reaction to Zapad 17.”

During the Cold War, Zapad was the biggest training exercise of the Soviet Union and involved an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 personnel. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was resurrected in 1999 and has been held every four years since.

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US launches over 50 cruise missiles at Syrian airfields over chemical attack

The US Navy has reportedly launched 59 cruise missiles at airfields controlled by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in response to a chemical attack that killed at least 80 people in the northwestern part of the country on Monday.


Tomahawk missiles were launched from two Navy warships stationed in the Mediterranean according to CNN, and NBC News.

No casualties have yet been reported but officials tell NBC News that no people were targeted.

Missiles hit runways and military infrastructure used by Syrian and Russian forces, who the US blames for using chemical weapons in the attack on Monday.

Several prominent GOP Senators and Representatives urged strikes on Syria after evidence of chemical attacks surfaced. The strike, while not targeting troops themselves, carried a high risk of killing Syrian and Russian servicemen in collateral damage.

This story is developing. Click here for updates.

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The Navy’s baddest pilot in World War II isn’t who you think

This man lost 90 pounds to enlist in the Marines
(Official U.S. Navy photo)


David McCampbell might be the Navy’s “Ace of Aces,” but there is one pilot who might not have McCampbell’s kill total, but who arguably performed a more notable feat. That pilot was Stanley “Swede” Vejtasa.

Vejtasa didn’t start out flying fighters. Early in 1942, he flew the SBD Dauntless and saw action during the Battle of the Coral Sea. On May 7, 1942, he took part in the attack on the light carrier Shoho, helping put that ship on the bottom. He received the Navy Cross for his part in that attack. The next day, while trying to protect USS Yorktown (CV 5) and Lexington (CV 2) from a Japanese attack, his SBD got jumped by seven Mitsubishi A6M Zeros. Vejtasa emerged from that engagement with three kills, two using the SBD’s two forward M2 .50-caliber machine guns. The third came when Vejtasa rammed the Zero, slicing off a wing. That earned a second Navy Cross.

Fast forward to October 1942. Vejtasa was now flying the F4F Wildcat, having been transferred from the SBD after his exploits at the Coral Sea. During the strikes the Japanese launched, he shot down two Aichi D3A “Val” dive bombers and five Nakajima B5N “Kate” torpedo planes. It was a performance that arguably kept USS Enterprise (CV 6) from joining USS Hornet (CV 8) as hulks. Vejtasa got his third Navy Cross for his performance.

Vejtasa achieved all this in two days in the SBD and F4F. The former wasn’t even intended to fight the Zero, but Swede took down three. The F4F, while a good plane, was nowhere near the F6F Hellcat that McCampbell flew. The F6F had the benefits of insights gained from the Akutan Zero (an intelligence coup for the United States).

Vejtasa would share credit for a Kawanishi H6K “Mavis” flying boat during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal with three other pilots. It would be his last aerial victory, making his score 10.25 kills. Vejtasa’s kills are all the more impressive when you consider that in 1942, Japan still had many of the outstanding pilots who had flown the raid on Pearl Harbor.

Vejtasa would be sent back to the United States after the Battle of Guadalcanal. He was asked to test-fly the Vought F4U Corsair and angered Vought by handing them a list of changes that the “Ensign Eliminator” needed. After that, Vejtasa was sent to train the many pilots who were needed to fly the planes off of the carriers that would form Task Force 58 and Task Force 38. After the war, Vejtasa would spend most of his career as a test pilot, and even got some stick time on the F-4 Phantom before he retired.

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What the Army vet leading ‘The Mission Continues’ can teach you about fatherhood

This man lost 90 pounds to enlist in the Marines
Photo: Youtube


As president of The Mission Continues, Spencer Kympton knows a thing or 2 about leadership, service, and inspiring the next generation. His nonprofit believes that what military veterans “need most is an opportunity to deploy their skills, experiences, and desire to serve in their community.” Getting veterans to serve on the homeland not only keeps them doing what they love, it gives kids a firsthand view of how real heroes act.

Heroic ass kicking is Kympton’s forte. Since graduating as West Point’s valedictorian, he’s served as a Blackhawk pilot, worked with everyone from the FBI to McKinsey Company, and snagged a Harvard MBA with honors along the way. Now that he has a 6-year-old son, Kympton’s determined to teach service (and ass kicking ) the same way his father taught him.

How does your work with The Mission Continues influence you as a father?

One of the biggest things that I’ve learned is applying the same core values that we have at Mission Continues to my parenting:

  1. Work Hard — Parenting is hard and you got to work at it. It’s something that takes constant effort.
  2. Trust — Trust is at the center of it. The trust your child has in you is one of the most important things that you establish early on.
  3. Learn and Grow — If you are not walking into parenthood embracing the amount of learning and growing every day, then you’re behind the 8-ball from the start.
  4. Respect — Demonstrate respect for you kid and the struggles, challenges, and things they deal with.
  5. Have Fun — Parenting ultimately is fun, and there’s not a day that goes by — even through challenges and struggles — when there’s not something tremendously fun about my relationship with my son.

Does being a father affect your work at The Mission Continues?

We have quite a few fathers on staff. In fact, even though we are a veterans organization in the people we work with, the reason we exist is to inspire kids. If you listened to some of our internal conversations, the reason we do projects in communities and put veterans into community-facing organizations is ultimately to demonstrate to my son’s generation that service in the military or in the community is what makes this country strong. The more ways that we can get veterans out into communities and those stories in front of children the better. That’s success for us.

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Photo: Youtube

Out of curiosity, how many demerits did you receive as a West Point cadet and why?

At West Point there were things called “hours.” An hour was quite literally an hour of marching back and forth in full uniform with a weapon on the weekend. There were certain infractions that got you lots of hours, and the biggest issue was you weren’t allowed to go anywhere if you had to stay and march hours. I got a little crazy at a tailgate my sophomore year and broke a couple of rules and ended up walking 48 hours over the fall/winter of my sophomore year. I learned a lot from that, and I was taught respect for some of the rules at West Point. Didn’t make that mistake again.

What are some lessons you learned as a Blackhawk pilot that you apply in your work and family today?

One of the things that impacted me most as a Blackhawk pilot was when I was stationed in Honduras in the mid-90s. In one case, we spent a couple of weeks flying doctors, dentists, and veterinarians into the Mosquito Coast of east Nicaragua — villages with no roads that got to them. They quite literally had never seen a car or motorcycle, much less this big hulking helicopter that flew in. When we landed, hundreds of kids ran out fascinated. We watched these doctors and dentists issue inoculations, prenatal vitamins, pull back teeth, or just do basic humanitarian care.

What I took away from that is the magnitude of challenges some kids in this world face. I also realized how important it is to ensure my son knows how fortunate he is. Life shouldn’t be about making his piece of the pie bigger but making sure the pie itself is bigger and more people are able to come to the party to have some of the pie.

That time in Honduras, seeing the conditions that other cultures have to raise their kids in, was very eye-opening.

What did your father teach you that you draw on as president of The Mission Continues?

My dad went to West Point as well. I grew up in a family that places value on service to country, particularly through the military as a starting point. My dad didn’t stay his full career in the military, but I learned service in the military can be the start of the arch of service to country that lasts your entire life. It can show up in various ways: military service, service in the community, school systems, and public service, whether local, municipal, or national government. Service can pop up in a lot of ways throughout your career. It’s the glue that sticks it all together.

How do you inspire your son to follow a similar path?

My wife and I plan to expose him to as many opportunities to serve others as possible. That may involve going to service projects with The Mission Continues, which he’s done. It may involve ensuring every time he gets an allowance a portion goes to some endeavor that helps serve others. He gets to do this because we involve him in that selection process and understanding the organization and the endeavor he’s giving that money to.

One thing I don’t want to do is force my son into anything that doesn’t feel natural or inspiring to him.

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This article originally appeared at Fatherly. Copyright 2015. Like Fatherly on Facebook.

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This 1973 war is why the Air Force thinks the A-10 can’t survive in modern combat

In the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the Israeli Armed Forces successfully beat back a two-front invasion by Syria and Egypt. The war lasted only a few weeks, but its implications for air combat continue to reverberate — even helping make the case for ditching the iconic A-10 Warthog.


The Yom Kippur War raged from Oct. 6-25, 1973, and the Israeli forces initially suffered severe setbacks. It was a full, combined arms conflict where tanks, artillery, planes, infantrymen and air defense missiles all had their say.

But one string of events reaches forward in time from those weeks and threatens the A-10.

Israel’s air force, the Chel Ha’Avir, was able to slow and halt nearly all advances by tanks and other ground forces when it was safe to fly. But when the enemy forces stayed under the air defense umbrella, Israel’s pilots came under heavy attack.

In one instance, 55 missiles were flying at Israel’s pilots in a single, small strip of land occupied by Syrian forces.

This resulted in Israeli ground forces either quickly losing their air cover to battlefield losses or to pilots becoming so worried about enemy missiles that they couldn’t operate properly. In the first 3 days of fighting, the Chel Ha’Avir lost approximately 50 fighters and fighter-bombers — 14 percent of the air force’s entire frontline combat strength.

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The wreckage of an Israeli A-4 downed during the Yom Kippur War now rests in an Egyptian military museum. (Photo: Leclaire, Public Domain)

Israeli forces turned the tables with a few brilliant maneuvers. At one point, a pilot realized the enemy was firing too many missiles, so he led his men in quick passes as bait for the missileers, causing the enemy to expend all their ordnance while downing a relatively few number of planes. The survivors of this risky maneuver were then able to fly with near impunity.

On another front, artillerymen opened the way for the air force by striking the missile sites with long range guns. They moved forward of their established safe zones to do so, putting their forces at risk to save the planes above them.

Israel went on to win the war, allowing NATO and other Western militaries around the world to pat themselves on the back because their tactics and hardware defeated a coalition equipped with Soviet tactics and hardware.

But for the Chel Ha’Avir and aviation officers around the world, there was a lesson to be parsed out of the data.

Both the A-4 Skyhawk and the F-4 Phantom flew a high number of sorties against the Syrians, Egyptians and their allies. But the Skyhawk suffered a much worse rate of loss than the F-4s.

This was — at least in part — because the F-4 flew faster and higher and could escape surface-to-air missiles and radar-controlled machine guns more easily. Just a year after the A-10’s debut flight and over 3 years before it was introduced to the air fleet, the whole concept of low and slow close air support seemed dated.

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An Israeli A-4 similar to those which flew in the Yom Kippur War. (Photo: Oren Rozen CC BY-SA 3.0)

The resulting argument, that low and slow CAS is too risky, is part of the argument about whether the Air Force should ditch the low-and-slow A-10 Warthog for the fast-moving, stealthy F-35 Lightning II.

Of course, not everyone agrees that the Yom Kippur War is still a proper example of the close air support debate.

First, the A-10 has spent its entire service life in the post-Yom Kippur world. While it suffered six losses against the Iraqis during Desert Storm, it has been flying against more advanced air defenses than the A-4s faced in the Yom Kippur War and remained a lethal force throughout the flight. The A-10 has never needed a safe space.

Second, while the A-10’s speed and preferred altitudes may make it more vulnerable than fast movers to ground fire, it also makes the jet more capable when firing against ground targets. To modernize the old John A. Shedd saying about ships, “A ground-attack jet at high-altitude may be safe, but that’s not what they are designed for.”

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A-10s aren’t as safe as some other planes, but they save the bacon of the guys on the ground beneath them. (Photo: US Air Force)

Finally, the Yom Kippur War was a short conflict where the Chel Ha’Avir had to fly against a numerically superior enemy while that enemy was marching on its capital. This forced commanders to take additional risks, sending everything they had to slow the initial Syrian and Egyptian momentum.

The U.S. Air Force is much larger and has many more planes at its command. That means that it can field more specialized aircraft. F-35s and F-22s can support ground forces near enemy air defenses and go after missile sites and other fighters while A-10s or the proposed arsenal plane attack ground forces from behind the F-22 and F-35 shield.

This isn’t to say that the Air Force is necessarily wrong to divest out of the A-10 to bolster the F-35. The Warthog can’t stay on the battlefield forever. But if the A-10 has served its entire career in the post-Yom Kippur world, it seems like a shallow argument to say that it couldn’t possibly fight and win for another 5 or 10 years after nearly 40 successful ones.

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These stories of female concentration camp guards will haunt your dreams

At first, concentration camp guards during the Nazi regime of World War II were male. However, with the introduction of female guards to Auschwitz and Majdanek, a new era began and German officials soon learned that these incoming women were quite good at their jobs. By the end of the war, more than 3,500 women acted as camp guards, making up almost 7 percent of all Nazi guards employed.


With no special training or particular background, these women either volunteered or were recruited through shrewd marketing techniques. Mostly young women and unmarried, or possibly married to a man who worked in the camp. Many felt they were doing their duty to their country.

1. Maria Mandl

Maria Mandl was one of the head guards at Auschwitz, despite her gender, and was known for her cruelty, which aptly earned her the nickname “The Beast”. It’s supposed that she had her hand in up to half a million deaths. While she was unable to climb the ladder in her field to the very top as a woman, she had absolute control over all the female prisoners and the rest of the female employees. She was only forced to answer to one man. Her tactics vary, but tales of her behavior resonated with prisoners.

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Maria Mandl after her arrest in 1945.

Many say she would stand at the entry gate and, if any inmate happened to look over at her, that individual would be taken away, never to be heard from again. She also put together an orchestra at the camp and, after regular work hours were over, the prisoners would be forced to march in time to the music. The orchestra often coincided with executions.

After Auschwitz was liberated, Mandl fled to Bavaria. After her capture, she underwent interrogations, and showed high levels of intelligence. She was turned over to Poland, and was sentenced to death by hanging.

2. Irma Grese

Grese was one of Mandl’s inferiors, who also worked at Auschwitz and served as a warden for female prisoners. Her reign, however, was short and she only made it to the age of 22 before being executed for her war crimes. This was still plenty of time for her to earn her own nickname, just like “The Beast” — her boss. Grese became known as the “Hyena of Auschwitz”.

She managed to earn the second-highest rank available to females, and routinely participated in picking which of the prisoners would go to the gas chamber.

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Irma Grese in 1945.

Greece’s actions are immortalized in a memoir that was written by one of the camp prisoners. It says that Grese loved to terrify the women in the camps, and that she specifically picked women who were remotely beautiful, sick, or weak.

During her trial, witnesses said she would allow half-starved dogs to attack prisoners; she also enjoyed shooting prisoners and would beat them to death with a whip. In addition, Grese also had several love affairs at the camp, one of which resulted in a surprise pregnancy; she then entrusted one of the prisoners to give her an abortion. After the war was over, she had hoped to pursue a career in acting.

3. Hermine Braunsteiner

Braunsteines was the first Nazi war criminal extradited from the United States. Working at Majdanek, she was known as the “Stomping Mare”.

Her most infamous actions include lifting children by the hair to throw them onto trucks headed to the gas chambers, hanging young girls, and stomping women to death. She became known for her crazy tantrums and could be expected to lash out with a riding whip at the slightest provocation.

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Hermine Braunsteiner in 1946.

As the Soviets approached, Braunsteiner fled to Vienna, then remained jailed for a year. She was later granted amnesty and lived in Austria, under the radar, until she met an American on vacation. They married, moved to Canada and then later to the United States.

No one knew of her past and she became known as a friendly housewife. A Nazi hunter and a reporter ran across her in Queens and exposed her actions. While her husband said he knew of her work, he did not know exactly to what extent her cruelty ranged.

4. Margot Dreschel

Dreschel headed to Poland in 1942 for the new Auschwitz II-Birkenau concentration camp. She headed up all the camp offices and soon became known as a horrific sight for most prisoners. She often disguised herself as a doctor and went to conduct indoor selections within the camp. With a trained dog in tow, she would make all prisoners undress, take their shoes and then make them stand for hours, naked.

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Margot Dreschel in 1945.

She frequently went to and from various camps to help with the selection of women and children for the chambers. She fled the camp after Germany’s surrender, and while in the Russian zone, several former prisoners abducted her and took her to the Russian Military Police. She was executed by hanging within the month.

5. Ilse Koch

Koch worked at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp and later at Buchenwald. She is mostly known for her participation in an experiment during which she picked out prisoners with tattoos to be murdered and then skinned. The skins would then be used for study, as one of her colleagues was writing a paper on the relation between tattoos and criminality.

She was arrested in 1943 by the Germans for charges of enrichment and embezzlement, then acquitted in 1944; however, she was arrested again by the U.S. in 1945.

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Ilse Koch, taken after her capture.

The trial process was not easy, though. During her first trial, she announced that she was eight months pregnant, from one of her many affairs. She was given life in prison and then served two years, before her sentence was lessened to four years, due to lack of evidence. However, she was re-arrested and tried again. Witnesses stated they saw her with human-skin lampshades made from the tattooed skin.

She was delusional and thought that her victims were coming back to harm her. Eventually, Koch committed suicide in her jail cell at the age of 60. Her son, who regularly visited her after being born in prison, was shocked by the news. Now, her body rests in an unmarked grave.

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Meanwhile south of the border, there’s a lot of air-to-air action going on

Let’s be honest – the War on Terror hasn’t seen a lot of air-to-air combat.


In fact, since the start of the millennium, the U.S. military has a grand total of two air-to-air kills — both were UAVs, and one was an Air Force MQ-9 Reaper that went rogue.

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Peruvian Air Force AT-29 Tucano. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

But the real air-to-air action is taking place south of the border. In Central and South America, the Air Combat Information Group noted at least five planes have been shot out of the sky. In a June, 2016 report, WarIsBoring.com claimed that Venezuela had shot down 30 drug flights in 2015 alone.

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An A-37 with the Illinois Air National Guard. Similar planes have scored air-to-air kills over South America – targeting drug smugglers. (DOD photo)

That’s right, folks – the A-37 and AT-27 have over twice the kill total that the U.S. Air Force has notched since Desert Storm. Here’s a video showing one of the shoot downs in South America.

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