This airman enlisted to be an accountant and instead became the first female ICBM maintainer - We Are The Mighty
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This airman enlisted to be an accountant and instead became the first female ICBM maintainer

This airman enlisted to be an accountant and instead became the first female ICBM maintainer


When Jean Bennett joined the Air Force only three percent of its ranks were women. She went to basic training at Lackland Air Force Base as the Vietnam War came to a close. After a battery of aptitude tests, she was sent to technical training, hoping to become an accountant because of her bookkeeping background.

“The [Air Force] said, ‘No we don’t need you to do that’ but I did have one of two choices,” she told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “I could be a jet mechanic or a missile mechanic.” She chose to be a missile mechanic because they made more money.

In 1974, Jean was a divorceé with a child, living with her mother. She joined the Air Force so she wouldn’t be forced to marry again just to have someone support her and the baby.

“My mother of all people approached me and suggested military service as an option,” she recalled. She would be only the fifth woman ever to train to be a missile mechanic. She trained at Chanute Air Force Base in Rantoul, Illinois before moving on to her permanent station in Wyoming for the next nine years. She rose in rank quickly, and in five years she had outranked her first team chief.

“We went into training on the Minuteman Missile III, where we were responsible for removing or replacing the warheads, guidance system and propulsion systems,” Bennett said. She would also train on ground-launched cruise missiles in Tucson, and be sent to Sicily, Whiteman AFB, and after President Ronald Reagan signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 1987, she traveled around Russia as part of an on-site inspections crew to ensure the Soviet Union was complying with its part of the treaty.

Many of the men she worked with were “some of the best men who ever walked.” Others, she told her local newspaper, didn’t cope well with her success.

“I had to explain to one, you can’t call me ‘Sergeant honey,'” Bennett said. “A lot of guys called me ‘Mom.’ That was cool.”

“We would go to various missile bases in Russia … and we would watch them destroy them by either blowing them up or cutting them into pieces,” Bennett said.” She left the Air Force in 1993 as a Senior Master Sergeant (E-8).

“When I retired, I think I was the only woman Senior Master Sergeant in my field. For years, I was the highest ranking woman that worked on missiles because I was one of the first.” Men in Italy and Russia were unaccustomed to seeing a woman drive trucks or working in a leadership capacity. they often brought or threw flowers to her as she drove around local towns.

When she left the Air Force, Jean went back to college where she earned a Masters in Information Technology. She then took a job at the Weatherford, Texas Public Library, quietly living out the deserved retirement of one of the Air Force’s best ICBM maintainers.

“I was offered lucrative positions in defense contracting, but I didn’t want to do that,” Bennett said. ” I’m always hanging out in libraries anyway.”

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The Air Force will no longer fire three volley salutes at veteran funerals

When a veteran or member of the armed forces dies, he or she is entitled to a ceremony that includes the presentation of a U.S. flag to a family member and a bugler blowing Taps. Most of the time, there is a three-volley rifle salute if requested by family members. But now, if the deceased served in the Air Force, the three-volley salute is not an option because the Air Force can no longer support riflemen for funeral services for veteran retirees.


This airman enlisted to be an accountant and instead became the first female ICBM maintainer
Staff Sgt. Sean Edmondson and other new honor guard members exit the field after the funeral ceremony at the honor guard graduation at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

Seven member services for retirees included six members to serve as pall-bearers, a six member flag-folding detail, and a three riflemen to fire the salute. Veteran’s funerals now only receive the services of two-member teams, who provide a flag-folding ceremony, the playing of taps, and the presentation of the flag to the next of kin.

This airman enlisted to be an accountant and instead became the first female ICBM maintainer
(U.S. Air Force Photo)

“To me, without the 21-gun salute, it just does not make it complete a proper military burial,” veteran Wayne Wakeman told Honolulu’s KHON 2 News. “I think because of sequestration or the lack of funds or whatever excuse they’re giving, that they had to hit the veterans.”

Wakeman is correct in supposing the cut is due to sequestration, the 2013 automatic federal spending cuts required by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

This airman enlisted to be an accountant and instead became the first female ICBM maintainer
The RAF Mildenhall Honor Guard performs a three-volley salute during the Madingley American Cemetery Memorial Service in Cambridge. (U.S. Air Force Photo)

Rose Richeson, from the Secretary of the Air Force’s Public Affairs Press Desk, told We Are The Mighty the policy of restricting the funeral honor is an Air Force-wide requirement.

“The requirement is consistent with  DoD policy which require a minimum of two personnel,” Richeson said. “Any number of personnel above two that is provided in support of military funeral honors is based on local resources available.”

A three-volley salute is the correct term for what is commonly (though mistakenly) referred to as a 21-gun salute. There are often seven riflemen, totaling 21. The origin of the three-volley funeral honor lies elsewhere, according to the Tom Sherlock, an Arlington National Cemetery Historian. A 21-gun salute is reserved for Presidents of the United States or visiting heads of state.

 

 

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The US is edging ever closer to fighting ISIS, Assad, and his backers — all at the same time

The US-led coalition fighting ISIS in Syria launched its third strike in as many weeks on pro-regime forces inside a deconfliction zone around al Tanf, near a border crossing in Syria’s southeast desert.


Two US officials told CNN that the June 8 strike came after three vehicles were seen entering the deconfliction zone, and two of the vehicles were hit when they were 24 miles from the base at al Tanf.

Following that engagement, a US aircraft downed a pro-regime drone that was dropping bombs near coalition troops.

“The pro-regime UAV, similar in size to a US MQ-1 Predator, was shot down by a US aircraft after it dropped one of several weapons it was carrying near a position occupied by Coalition personnel who are training and advising partner ground forces in the fight against ISIS,” US Central Command said in a statement.

The “munition did not have an effect on coalition forces,” according to coalition spokesman Col. Ryan Dillon.

US and other coalition personnel are at the al Tanf garrison, near the border crossing, to train local partner forces, who captured the area earlier this year. (US personnel and local partners repulsed an intense attack by ISIS soon after.)

The first such strike in the al Tanf area came on May 18, when coalition forces targeted pro-Assad forces “that were advancing well inside an established deconfliction zone” spreading 34 miles around al Tanf, US Central Command said in a release at the time.

The strike came after unsuccessful Russian efforts to stop the movements, a show of force by coalition aircraft, and warning shots.

This airman enlisted to be an accountant and instead became the first female ICBM maintainer
Christopher Woody/Google Maps

Earlier this week, pro-regime and coalition aircraft both conducted strikes against opposition forces in the vicinity of al Tanf.

On Tuesday, Iranian-backed Shia militia fighters came under attack on the ground just inside the deconfliction zone boundary, according to CNN. In response to that attack, Washington and Moscow communicated on a deconfliction line set up previously. Russia shared a request from the Syrian government to launch a strike in support of the militia, to which the US agreed.

Hours later, pro-Assad forces were observed entering the deconfliction zone with vehicles and weaponry, including a tank and artillery, as well as over 60 fighters. The US then launched its own airstrike on those forces after they refused to withdraw from the area.

This airman enlisted to be an accountant and instead became the first female ICBM maintainer
An F/A-18F Super Hornet takes off from the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) for an aerial change of command ceremony. Photo courtesy of US Navy

The coalition said it issued several warnings before “destroying two artillery pieces, an anti-aircraft weapon, and damaging a tank.”

The US-led strike, carried out by a F/A-18 fighter, dropped four bombs and “killed an estimated 10 fighters,” according to CNN.

June 8th’s engagements add to a string of encounters that could lead to greater conflict in Syria between the US-led coalition and its local partners and pro-regime forces and their backers, Iran and Russia.

“The Coalition does not seek to fight Syrian regime, Russian, or pro-regime forces partnered with them,” CentCom said in its statement.

“The demonstrated hostile intent and actions of pro-regime forces near Coalition and partner forces in southern Syria, however, continue to concern us and the Coalition will take appropriate measures to protect our forces,” the statement said.

The strategic value of the al Tanf area — through which a highway connecting Damascus to Baghdad runs — as well as the direction of events elsewhere in Syria makes clashes between coalition forces and pro-regime forces a continuing possibility.

ISIS’ eroding control of territory in Syria, and the likelihood that Kurdish forces — who’ve signaled a willingness to negotiate with Assad for autonomy — will soon take control of the area around Raqqa in northeast Syria make territory in the southeast of the country increasingly valuable.

Recent events in Syria indicate that “the United States [is] seemingly looking to cement a north-south ‘Sunni axis’ from the Gulf states and Jordan to Turkey,” Fabrice Balanche, a French expert on Syria and a visiting fellow at The Washington institute for Near East Policy, wrote recently.

“The challenge is that Iran and its proxies would very much like to establish some sort of land bridge from Iraq into Syria and they have had designs on this for quite some time,” a former Pentagon official told The Christian Science Monitor.

Capturing al Tanf and the nearby border crossing would allow Tehran to link Iraq to the Mediterranean coast through Syria, facilitating the movement of men and material.

But doing so would also isolate coalition-backed forces fighting ISIS and their special-forces advisers.

Intelligence sources have told Reuters that the coalition’s presence near al Tanf is meant to prevent such a route from opening.

“Initially, the United States and the coalition had planned this unconventional warfare campaign to pressure the middle Euphrates River valley and cut off [ISIS communications lines],” the former Pentagon official said. “Now, ironically, it’s not just threatening [ISIS], it’s also threatening Iran’s designs for the area.”

Russia has also become involved in the confrontations around al Tanf.

Earlier this month, coalition-backed Syrian forces attacked Shia militias that had moved down the highway toward the Iraqi border. They forced the militias, which are backed by Iran, to retreat, but Russian jets soon launched strikes against the coalition-backed fighters, forcing them back as well.

Hezbollah, a Lebanon-based Shia militant group backed by Iran and heavily involved in the pro-regime fight in Syria, has entered the fray as well. The group’s military-news unit issued a statement this week warning that the “self-restraint” it had about US-led airstrikes would end if the US crossed “red lines.”

“America knows well that the blood of the sons of Syria, the Syrian Arab Army, and its allies is not cheap, and the capacity to strike their positions in Syria, and their surroundings, is available when circumstances will it,” the statement said.

Observers have noted that the Trump administration would likely be much less hesitant about attacking Hezbollah in Syria. Given the web of alliances that now ensnare forces in Syria, such attacks would likely have broader repercussions.

“American unwillingness to confront Iran and its proxies in Syria, if obliged by circumstances, is a thing of the past,” Frederic Hof, director of the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East and a former State Department liaison to Syrian opposition forces, told The Christian Science Monitor.

“And Moscow would now have to anticipate with high likelihood aerial combat with US forces should it elect to provide tactical air support to Iran and its proxies on the ground,” Hof added.

“Our people are gathering in the Tanf area right now, so a clash is definitely coming,” a Hezbollah unit commander in Beirut, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Monitor.

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That time drunk samurai didn’t realize they were under attack

In 1560, a Japanese leader attempting to capture the capital of Kyoto lost his head and most of his men when his army got too drunk and loud to realize it was under attack by a much smaller force until the enemy had cut its way to the leader’s tent.


Japanese samurai leader Imagawa Yoshimoto launched an offensive in 1560 to invade to Kyoto, leading approximately 20,000-35,000 samurai west and capturing a series of small castles on his way.

This airman enlisted to be an accountant and instead became the first female ICBM maintainer
Oda Nobunaga as painted by an Italian Jesuit. (Painting: Giovanni Nicolao, Public Domain)

Meanwhile, Oda Nobunaga controlled a small garrison approximately 60 miles east of Kyoto, right in the path of Imagawa’s massive force. While other garrisons and castles adopted a defensive posture or surrendered to Imagawa, Oda raised a small force of approximately 2,500 men, between one-twelfth and one-tenth the size of Imagawa’s army, and led it east.

As the two forces marched towards one another, each made its own small stop. Oda stopped to pray at the Atsuta Shrine. The priests there would later comment on how calm the samurai leader was.

This airman enlisted to be an accountant and instead became the first female ICBM maintainer
Monuments to the two samurai leaders at the site of the Battle of Okehazama. (Photo: Tomio344456 CC BY-SA 3.0)

Imagawa, however, stopped to loot a few castles.

That night, Imagawa’s forces got hammered and feasted as Oda took advantage of the terrain and confusion.

First, he had a small group set up false battle flags from behind a ridgeline, giving the impression that he was firmly camped for the night. Then, he led most of his men through a careful maneuver under cover of darkness and thunderstorms.

This airman enlisted to be an accountant and instead became the first female ICBM maintainer
Painting of the Battle of Okehazama where Oda Nobunaga defeated an enemy samurai against huge odds. (Image: Utagawa Toyonobu, Public Domain)

Oda’s force crept close to Imagawa’s camp and then attacked with its full force. The partying in the camp was so loud and the attack so sudden, that many of Imagawa’s samurai failed to realize they were in a fight.

Imagawa himself is said to have stormed from his tent to yell at his men for their level of drunkenness only to be immediately attacked by a spear-wielding enemy. Imagawa cut through the spear and injured his attacker, but was tackled and beheaded by another samurai.

The battle ended a short time later as Imagawa’s senior officers were cut down. Oda went on to consolidate his own power and ruled half of Japan before he was killed in 1582 by an assassin.

If you’ve ever seen that hilarious video about the history of Japan, Oda’s story is told from 3:15 to 3:40:

The site of the battle is now a park in Japan and a re-enactment is held every year in June.
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Tuskegee Airman and MLK bodyguard Dabney Montgomery dies at age 93

A legendary airman and World War II veteran who upheld his oath by fighting enemies both foreign and domestic recently passed away after weeks in hospice care.


This airman enlisted to be an accountant and instead became the first female ICBM maintainer
Bill Johnson, Dabney Montgomery, Julius Freeman and Richard Braithwaite at the Great Hall. (Photo by Michael DiVito)

Dabney Montgomery was one of the original Tuskegee Airmen and later a bodyguard for civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. He was with Dr. King from his hometown of Selma, Alabama on the famous March to Montgomery.

He was born in Selma in 1923 and was drafted into the U.S. Army Air Forces in 1943. He served as an aircraft mechanic in Southern Italy during the war.

The Tuskegee Airmen was a group of African-American servicemen in the WWII-era Army Air Corps, officially known as the 332d Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group. While the nickname commonly refers to the pilots, everyone in the units are considered original Tuskegee Airmen – including cooks, mechanics, instructors, nurses, and other support personnel.

This airman enlisted to be an accountant and instead became the first female ICBM maintainer
Tuskegee Airmen in 1945 (Library of Congress)

During WWII, the U.S. military was still racially segregated and remained so until 1948. The Tuskegee Airmen faced discrimination both in the Army and as civilians afterwards. All  black military pilots who trained in the United States trained at Moton Field, the Tuskegee Army Airfield, and were educated at Tuskegee University.

“When I saw guys who looked like me flying airplanes, I was filled with hope that segregation would soon end,” he told the Wall Street Journal in 2015.

This airman enlisted to be an accountant and instead became the first female ICBM maintainer
(Twitter photo)

After the war, Montgomery tried to live the south but found the racial discrimination to be too much. He moved to New York for a time until he found he was needed elsewhere. He joined the Civil Rights Movement after seeing marchers gassed and beaten on the Pettus Bridge in Selma. He joined the protests in his hometown and protected Dr. King during the march.

The heels of Montgomery’s shoes and the tie he wore on the famous Selma to Montgomery March will be in the permanent collection at the new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. when it opens on September 24.

This airman enlisted to be an accountant and instead became the first female ICBM maintainer
The Congressional Gold Medal for the Tuskegee Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo)

President George W. Bush all of the Tuskegee Airmen with the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007.

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Inside the submarine threat to US carriers off the Korean coast

With news that the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) is en route to the Korean peninsula with three other ships, there is no doubt that tensions are high. With two carriers, there is a lot of striking power, but it is also a target for the North Koreans.


This is not an idle thought. On March 26, 2010, the Pohang-class corvette ROKS Cheonan was torpedoed and sunk by a North Korean mini-sub firing a 21-inch torpedo. So, the concern is what one of these subs could do to a carrier.

This airman enlisted to be an accountant and instead became the first female ICBM maintainer

Let’s look at what these subs are. The North Koreans have two front-line classes of mini-sub, according to the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World. The Yono — the type of sub believed to have fired the torpedo that sank the Cheonan — is about 110 tons and carries two 21-inch torpedoes. The Sang-O is 295 tons and also has a pair of 21-inch torpedo tubes.

North Korea also has Romeo-class submarines, which have eight 21-inch torpedo tubes (six forward, two aft), with a total of 14 torpedoes. North Korea also has some mini-subs built to a Yugoslavian design with two 16-inch torpedoes, but those are believed to be in reserve.

This airman enlisted to be an accountant and instead became the first female ICBM maintainer
A Sang-O aground in South Korean waters. (US Army photo)

That said, American aircraft carriers are very tough vessels. In World War II, the carriers USS Yorktown (CV 5) and USS Hornet (CV 8) took a lot of abuse before they sank. The carrier USS Franklin (CV 13) had one of the great survival stories of the war, despite horrific damage.

But today’s carrier are much larger.

This airman enlisted to be an accountant and instead became the first female ICBM maintainer
Rear Adm. Hyun Sung Um, commander of Republic of Korea (ROK) Navy 2nd Fleet, and Rear Adm. Seung Joon Lee, deputy commander of ROK Navy 2nd Fleet, brief Adm. Patrick M. Walsh, commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, on the findings of the Joint Investigation Group Report of the ROK Navy corvette ROKS Cheonan (PCC 772). A non-contact homing torpedo or sea-mine exploded near the ship March 26, 2010, sinking it, resulting in the death of 46 ROK Navy sailors. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Jared Apollo Burgamy)

In fact, the Russians designed the Oscar-class guided-missile submarine to kill America’s Nimitz-class carriers – and those have 24 SS-N-19 “Shipwreck” missiles, plus four 21-inch torpedo tubes and four 25.6-inch tubes meant to fire torpedoes with either massive conventional warheads or even nuclear ones.

This points to a North Korean sub being unable to sink a Nimitz-class carrier on its own.

But two torpedoes will still force a carrier to spend a long time in the body shop. And the escorts are more vulnerable as well.

A U.S. carrier could take a couple of hits and in a worst case scenario, she’d have to fly her air wing to shore bases.

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These ancient Greek warriors would have laughed at ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

[ad-box path=”/41755326/300x250_button” width=”250″ height=”300″]Now that “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” is a thing of the past, the U.S. military accepts that homosexuality doesn’t affect combat readiness or battlefield performance. In fact the RAND Corporation studied this in 1993 and found no impact on allowing gays to serve openly in the military.


But there was a time when military leaders actually thought the opposite – that purposely forming a unit of gay couples would enhance their combat effectiveness. For 40 years, it seemed the theory was right on.

The Sacred Band of Thebes was a hand-picked unit of 300 Greek soldiers that were chosen for their abilities and merit, not on their social class. They were also 150 couples, male lovers devoted to the Greek god Eros, and – according to the Macedonian author Polyaenus’ book “Stratagems,” they were “devoted to each other by mutual obligations of love.” They trained constantly in all areas of classical combat, including horsemanship and unarmed combat.

What this translated to on the battlefield was that this hand-picked group of foot soldiers did a lot of ass kicking.

After the 2006 movie “300,” many tended to think of the Spartans as the most elite warriors of the Bronze Age. The Greek historian Plutarch actually records the first instance of the Sacred Band in combat in a fight against Spartan leaders Gorgoleon and Theopompus at the Battle of Tegyra. The Spartans outnumbered the Thebans 2-to-1 and advanced on the Theban force. The Sacred Band immediately killed the Spartan leaders then cut through the Spartans like a warm knife through butter. The rest of the Theban force flanked the Spartan army as it fell apart.

This airman enlisted to be an accountant and instead became the first female ICBM maintainer

It was the first time in history where a Spartan force was defeated by a numerically inferior enemy.

This led to a sharp rise in Thebes’ power and a general peace treaty between major city-states. Of course, that doesn’t mean the fighting ended there. Four years later, Sparta and Thebes were again at war. By this time, the mission of the Sacred Band in combat was to form at the head of the army to fight and kill the best warriors and leaders of the enemy force, just like they did at Tegyra. At the Battle of Leuctra, 12,000 Spartans were pitted against 8,500 Thebans. As the Spartans tried to end the battle by flanking the Thebans, the Sacred Band smashed into the entire Spartan right wing and held them in place until the rest of the Theban army could move in. The Spartan army was decimated, their king killed, and the city-state severely weakened.

Thebes maintained its independence for 40 years because of the Sacred Band’s combat skill. They didn’t lose a single battle in that time. It would all come crashing down when Philip II of Macedon and his son Alexander invaded Greece in 338 BC. The Macedonians brought a new battlefield innovation, the long-speared phalanx. Greek Hoplites were no match for the phalanx and when Philip met the Thebans at the Battle of Caeronea, the Greeks quickly broke and fled – except for the Sacred Band.

This airman enlisted to be an accountant and instead became the first female ICBM maintainer

The Band was long-thought to be invincible, but they died where they stood, to the last man. Their last commander fell with them. Plutarch, in his work “Lives,” wrote that Philip II wept when came upon the bodies of the Sacred Band of Thebes when he realized who they were.

Perish any man who suspects that these men either did or suffered anything unseemly – Philip II of Macedon

 

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The first Medal of Honor in modern Army aviation history came in Vietnam

On January 21, 1968, North Vietnam achieved an impossible feat. With its Viet Cong counterparts, it managed to launch a large-scale, coordinated assault on American and South Vietnamese military bases and cities across South Vietnam, and they caught their capitalist enemy completely by surprise. 

Nowhere was this surprise felt stronger by the Americans and South Vietnamese than in the ancient city of Hue, which was situated near the demilitarized zone between North and South. The communists caught the city completely unprepared. The U.S. response in its wake was so piecemeal because military planners couldn’t believe they could capture the city. 

When a division of North Vietnamese soldiers attacked the city in the early morning hours, the defenses were minimal. Much of the force from the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) was away for the Tet holiday. No matter what the remaining forces could muster, it would not be enough to repel the communists. 

This airman enlisted to be an accountant and instead became the first female ICBM maintainer
Marines patrolling the streets in Hue after Tet Offensive (U.S. Army)

The Americans, at first, didn’t fare much better. United States Marines responded with a counterattack but had no idea what they were actually walking into. In fact, in the immediate aftermath, almost no one in the U.S. Army command knew the extent of the losses or of the enemy’s real strength in the city. 

But those inside the city knew. Defenders of a small Military Assistance Command – Vietnam compound and a South Vietnamese Army Base were under heavy assault from the Viet Cong and had taken many casualties. Inside of Hue, they were fighting for their lives. The enemy quickly took control of the old citadel and were assaulting the ARVN base. 

U.S. troops in an American UH-1 Huey helicopter were shot down over the ARVN installation. Once on the ground, they were surrounded by North Vietnamese and Viet Cong soldiers. Luckily for them Chief Warrant Officer Frederick Ferguson was flying nearby in a Huey of his own. 

This airman enlisted to be an accountant and instead became the first female ICBM maintainer
U.S. Army

The Americans knew Hue was under attack. While they may not have known yet the full scope of the situation, they knew it was bad. Ferguson was advised not to try to assist the survivors of the crash but he wasn’t going to let them just die. 

He immediately disregarded his resupply mission and made his way to Hue, where he also started taking anti-aircraft fire. He took his bird on a low-level flight along the Perfume River at maximum airspeed as he flew to the city and found the isolated ARVN compound where the remains of the downed helicopter still lay. 

Under heavy small arms fire, he landed his aircraft in a space so tight it was almost impossible to operate the helicopter. The bird kicked up a storm cloud of dust as it landed and CWO Ferguson began to jettison everything aboard the airship that wasn’t necessary or nailed down. 

As they loaded the wounded and exhausted survivors of the crash, the Huey began to take an enormous amount of small arms and mortar fire, nearly crippling it where it sat. Somehow, though, Ferguson skillfully got the ship airborne in spite of the damage and flew it and the survivors to safety. He flew back at the same speed and altitude at which he came in, taking even more damage to the aircraft. 

His swift decision and cool head under fire saved the lives of five fellow soldiers, safely returning them to Phu Bai.

On Flag Day, 1969, Frederick Ferguson was presented with the Medal of Honor by President Richard Nixon. It was the first one presented to an Army aviator in the Vietnam War. That was far from the end for Ferguson, though. Over the course of his career he was awarded two Silver Stars, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star Medal, and 39 Air Medals. He is even one of a handful of Americans to appear on a postage stamp while still living.  

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8 soldiers who saved lives when grenades went bad

“Once the pin is pulled, Mr. Hand Grenade is no longer your friend.”


In war, troops who cover enemy grenades (or badly-thrown friendly grenades) with their own bodies have usually been awarded the Medal of Honor. Some lived, but all too often, the award is posthumous.

This airman enlisted to be an accountant and instead became the first female ICBM maintainer
U.S. Army Lt. Charles Morgan, with the 6th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, throws a M67 fragmentation grenade during skills training at Kunduz province, Afghanistan, July 3, 2013. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Avila /Released)

But the opening statement is also true in peacetime training. When recruits are taught to throw grenades, they use the real M67 fragmentation grenade. MilitaryFactory.com notes that this has about 6.5 ounces of Composition B explosive, and can kill people standing roughly 50 feet away. Fragments have gone as far as 750 feet from where the grenade goes off – and they don’t care who is in the way.

So it’s important that trainees handle grenades with care — and have fellow troopers who’ll step in to avert tragedy.

Here are eight badass troops who saved lives during grenade training.

This airman enlisted to be an accountant and instead became the first female ICBM maintainer
U.S. Army Spc. Stephen Maklos, right, throws a M67 fragmentation grenade under the supervision of Sgt. Brandon Johnpier while conducting live fire training at Kraft Range on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Sept. 29, 2016. In order to maintain a safe instructional environment and enforce safety standards, a ‘pit’ noncommissioned officer supervised the Soldiers who were conducting the training in the grenade pits, directing them on proper handling and use of explosives. (U.S. Air Force photo/Alejandro Pena)

1. Marine Sgt. Joseph Leifer

On June 13, 2013, Sgt. Leifer was manning a grenade pit when a student’s toss bounced back into the pit. According to the Marine Corps Times, Leifer grabbed the student, threw him out of the way, and covered him with his body. Leifer received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal on Nov. 7, 2014.

This airman enlisted to be an accountant and instead became the first female ICBM maintainer
Sgt. Maj. Anthony Cruz Jr., sergeant major, Marine Combat Training Battalion, Staff Sgts. Shawn M. Martin and Jason M. Kuehnl, and Lt. Col. John J. Carroll, commanding officer, MCT Bn. pose for a photo. The two staff sergeants were awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medals during a graduation ceremony at the School of Infantry West, June 23. On two separate occasions, the Marines immediately responded to improper M67 fragmentation grenade throwing techniques and saved the lives of their students with no regard to their own lives. (USMC photo)

2. and 3. Marine Staff Sgt. Shawn M. Martin and Marine Staff Sgt. Jason M. Kuehnl

According to a Marine Corps release, these Marines received their Navy and Marine Corps Medals on the same day, June 23, 2009. The previous year, each had saved recruits when mishaps took place during grenade training. The Military Times Hall of Valor notes that Kuehnl’s actions took place on Oct. 31, 2008, while Martin’s took place on Sept. 12, 2008.

This airman enlisted to be an accountant and instead became the first female ICBM maintainer
Sgt. William Holls, (right) a combat instructor with Mobile Training Company, Advanced Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry – East, is presented the Navy and Marine Corps Medal by Lt. Col. John Armellino, commanding officer of AITB, SOI-E, during a ceremony held aboard Camp Geiger, July 15, for saving a Marine’s life while conducting training in the grenade pit in September 2009.

4. Marine Sgt. William Holls

A 2010 Marine Corps release noted that on Sept. 28, 2009, Holls noticed one recruit seemed very nervous as he prepared for the grenade toss. When the recruit froze, Holls moved to assist. The recruit panicked and dropped the live grenade. Holls threw the recruit out of the way and shielded the recruit with his body. Both the recruit and Holls were wounded by the blast. Holls provided first aid to the recruit before help arrived. He received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal on July 15, 2010.

5. Marine Sgt. Duane T. Dailey

The April 2001 issue of Leatherneck magazine noted that Sgt. Duane T. Dailey caught a grenade dropped during training in midair. Dailey received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his actions.

This airman enlisted to be an accountant and instead became the first female ICBM maintainer
Staff Sgt. Kenneth Kam, Combat Training Company, with his Soldier’s Medal. (US Army photo)

6. Army Staff Sgt. Kenneth Kam

In June 2014, Sgt. Kenneth Kam saw a recruit fail to get a grenade over the wall of the grenade pit at Fort Leonard Wood. With what an Army release described as “three to four seconds” to act, he grabbed the recruit, moved her out of the pit, and saved her life. For those actions, he was awarded the Soldier’s Medal.

7. Army Staff Sgt. John King

According to a report from Newson6.com, Staff Sgt. John King, with less than a half-dozen seconds to react, threw a hand grenade over a wall after a recruit’s bad toss, then pulled the recruit to the ground. The report noted that King was nominated for the Soldier’s Medal. KSWO.com added that King received an Army Commendation Medal while the nomination was being processed.

8. Army Staff Sgt. Gary Moore

A 2013 report from Cleveland19.com described how Staff Sgt. Gary Moore had been doing grenade instruction when a recruit was about to throw a grenade the wrong way. While Moore was correcting the recruit’s aim, the recruit dropped the grenade. Moore was quoted as saying, “I proceeded to get the soldier and myself out of the bay as quickly as possible.”

More like Moore threw the recruit out of the bay and jumped on top of him. Moore received the Soldier’s Medal for his actions.

These near-tragic incidents remind us that even in peacetime, our troops are risking it all.

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This teenage genius created the best prosthetic ever

Easton LaChappelle, a 19-year-old from Cortez, Colorado, has created the most technologically advanced prosthetic the world has ever seen.


LaChappelle began experimenting with robotics when he was 17, creating a moveable robotic arm out of legos and other equipment found in his bedroom. Since then, he and his friends have created Unlimited Tomorrows, a robotics company that specializes in 3D printed prosthetics.

LaChapelle’s prototype possesses a range of motion that is nearly identical to that of a human hand, all controlled by the user’s thoughts. With more than 1,500 military service members having had major limb amputations since 2001, this device may be a game-changer for wounded troops.

And the best part? While most prosthetic limbs cost around $60,000, Chapelle’s prototype was created for only $350. This kid is going places.

To see more of Chapelle and his prosthetic, watch the video below:

DON’T MISS: Forget The Terminator Arm — DARPA Wants An Implantable Hard Drive For The Brain

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US aircraft carrier visits Israel for the first time in nearly two decades

It leads the United States’ war against ISIS and with 75 aircraft on its deck has the ability to carry out numerous combat sorties a day. On July 3, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the USS George H. W. Bush docked opposite the Haifa Port and became the first sitting head of state to visit America’s largest and most lethal floating war machine.


The docking of the ship on July 1 marked the first time an aircraft carrier visited Israel in 17 years.

“The visit of the USS George H.W. Bush speaks to the enduring commitment to our shared interests and a commitment to fight against our common enemies,” Commanding Officer Capt. Will Pennington told reporters during a visit to the ship. According to a statement by the US European Command, the ship’s visit is meant “to enhance US-Israel relations as the two nations reaffirm their continued commitment to the collective security of the European and Middle East Regions.”

This airman enlisted to be an accountant and instead became the first female ICBM maintainer
USS George H.W. Bush. Photo courtesy of the US Navy

According to Pennington, the crew is constantly engaged in cooperation with Israel, including sharing intelligence.

“There is a tremendous network of shared intelligence. As you are aware the airspace in the region is very, very, busy with lots of different actors so the need to deconflict that and make sure that everyone understands their missions is very important,” he said.

Visiting the ship with US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Netanyahu recalled his visit to another aircraft carrier 20 years ago.

“So much has changed since the first time I visited… our ties have gotten stronger and deeper,” he said. “It is a floating island of America. It is a symbol of freedom and strength and victory.”

This airman enlisted to be an accountant and instead became the first female ICBM maintainer
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The USS George H.W. Bush was in the region to participate in the fight against ISIS, carrying out its last operational mission on June 30. With 20-25 sorties per day, aircraft aboard the ship have carried out 1,600 sorties over both Syria and Iraq, striking targets in Mosul and in the vicinity of Raqqa on missions that can last seven to nine hours.

The targets which are directed by the coalition ground commander, are sometimes known prior to take-off and pilots have sometimes also received targets while in the air.

According to Carrier Air Wing 8 Captain James A. McCall, one of the real-time targets was the Syrian jet that was downed on June 18 in southern Raqqa province by one of the jets stationed on the aircraft carrier.

“The jet came within visual distance” McCall said, stating that US jets “warned the Syrian aircraft that they were approaching coalition friendlies. They (the Syrian regime jet) ignored the warning and even dropped bombs on the friendlies,” he said referring to the Syrian Democratic Force who are supported by the coalition.

This airman enlisted to be an accountant and instead became the first female ICBM maintainer
An F/A-18F Super Hornet takes off from an aircraft carrier. Photo courtesy of US Navy

Towards the end of its seven-month deployment, the USS George H.W. Bush arrived in Haifa after a 40 day voyage from Dubai.

While the ship will not be taking part in any joint exercises with the Israeli Navy, Israel provided security as it pulled into the Haifa Bay allowing the ship’s strike group to continue to other missions and port calls.

“We are very tightly linked with our colleagues and partners and allies from the IDF and have been for very many years,” Pennington said.

Speaking at a ceremony aboard the carrier, Admiral Michelle J. Howard, commander of the US Naval Forces Europe-Africa, stated that the visit marks “a special moment” between Israel and the United States which “has had long standing military to military engagements with Israel.”

This airman enlisted to be an accountant and instead became the first female ICBM maintainer
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on board the USS George H. W. Bush. Photo from DoD

“In this visit to Israel, the ship’s might is a metaphor for the strength of the bonds between our countries. I’d like to thank the Israeli people for hosting us and for taking care of our Sailors,” she added.

Intelligence Minister Israel Katz, who visited the ship on Sunday stated that it was “a timely show of American power projection and deterrence capability.”

“Its support for the countries fighting Islamic extremism and terror and Iran is very important, especially now when Iran is working to create facts on the ground in Syria, including a port on the Mediterranean, and Hezbollah continues to build its arsenal with more advanced and precise missiles.”

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This group has launched a fellowship program to put more veterans in Congress

This airman enlisted to be an accountant and instead became the first female ICBM maintainer


HillVets has announced a new Congressional Fellowship program exclusively for veterans seeking to begin careers in Washington, called HillVets House. Phase I of the program will feature six Congressional Fellows to be hosted and placed in staff positions on Capitol Hill and is set to begin with the first cohort in July 2016.

HillVets is a bipartisan group of veterans, service members, and supporters focused on empowerment through networking, community involvement, and education. HillVets strives to increase veterans involvement in government and advocacy. This is the first time the effort is being made to get more veterans onto Capitol Hill.

The program is the result of a survey taken by the organization in 2014 in an effort to connect vets on Capitol Hill. The surveyors found that not many veterans were active in Congress. The veterans organization says if they were to rank agencies by number of veterans, the Federal legislative body would be dead last. They are making this effort to change that with the help of the Atlantic Council and the Bob Woodruff Foundation.

Capitol Hill experience is largely considered a key component and invaluable experience for a long-term career in government and politics. Currently, less than three percent of staff members working for the United States Congress are military veterans. As hundreds of veterans continue to come to the Washington, D.C. area, they are often frustrated by an inability to quickly build an adequate network and open the initial doors necessary for long-term success.

This airman enlisted to be an accountant and instead became the first female ICBM maintainer

HillVets House is designed to help veterans overcome the many challenges they face beginning second careers by providing a comprehensive introduction to government, politics, and advocacy. HillVets says this program will provide the first premiere access point for veterans wishing to continue their service in unique roles across all government agencies and branches.

Veterans with honorable discharges, Bachelor’s degrees, or who will be in their final semester at the time of the fellowship, and are ready and able to take permanent employment will receive preference. HillVets will focus on recently-separated vets or those who just completed school.

The HillVets Fellowships will start twice a year, with the first class to start in July 2016 and the second in January 2017. Fellows will have a mandatory commitment to their host offices for a period of three months, the second three month period is to focus on finding a permanent, paid position on Capitol Hill, while continuing to work in the Congressional Host office. The placement will be sensitive to the individual’s political party affiliation.

In addition to full-time placement, Fellows will receive housing and/or a living stipend, educational and career development programs, and extensive networking opportunities.

Look for the program application on the HillVets House website by November 17, 2015. All applications are due by March 25, 2016 and should be sent to contact@hillvets.org.

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This is the best Navy life at sea video you’ll see today

A new YouTube channel dubbed “White Scope Media” shows what life is like for sailors in an EA-18G Growler squadron.


But it’s not like your typical Discovery Channel documentary or MTV “Cribs” special.

These Navy videos don’t have voice over narration. With only music and footage, they paint an intimate, true-to-form sailor experience.

Related: 37 Awesome photos of life on a US Navy carrier

While this is everyday life for active-duty sailors, veterans will get a prideful sense of nostalgia — especially after watching the second one, “Chapter 2: Meet the Patriots.”

It’s the type of intimate footage you’d expect from a family gathering. It’s why some veterans consider their shipmates their second family.

Like family, these sailors do everything together, from washing the birds, to relaxing, to preparing for war. But unlike family, this is every day, not just during a family picnic or reunion.

Life on a carrier is not the same as life on a cruise liner. Sailors don’t get the awesome hotel-style living quarters. Instead, they live in berthings with up to 100 other sailors — sometimes even more. But that’s okay because the friendships forged on deployment are way deeper than any cruise liner could ever deliver.

Watch:

White Scope Media, YouTube
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