WATM teams with Grunt Style to bring morale-boosting apparel to the people - We Are The Mighty
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WATM teams with Grunt Style to bring morale-boosting apparel to the people

We Are The Mighty has teamed up with Grunt Style to launch a new online merch store. Grunt Style is a veteran-owned and operated clothing brand founded by Army veteran and drill sergeant Dan Alarik.


Started as a small custom t-shirt operation at Fort Benning, Grunt Style has evolved into a multi-million dollar business that employs nearly 70 veterans and embraces military themes and values in its company culture.

Here’s what happened when Grunt Style visited the WATM offices:

[shopify embed_type=”product” shop=”shop-wearethemighty.myshopify.com” product_handle=”watm-we-are-the-mighty” show=”all”]
MIGHTY TACTICAL

In about face, Army restores ability to shoot down Russian jets

The US Army in Europe has made a number of changes in recent months as part of a broader effort by the Pentagon to prepare for a potential fight against an adversary with advanced military capabilities, like Russia or China.

The latest move came on November 28, when the Army activated the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, in a ceremony at Shipton Barracks in Ansbach, near the city of Nuremberg in southern Germany.

The battalion has a long history, serving in artillery and antiaircraft artillery roles in the War of 1812, the Civil War, World War II, and the Vietnam War. It was deactivated in the late 1990s, after the US military withdrew from the Cold War.


Lt. Col. Todd Daniels, commander of the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, uncovers the battalion colors during the activation and assumption of command ceremony at Shipton Kaserne, Germany, on November 28, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jason Epperson)

Its return brings new and important short-range-air-defense, or SHORAD, capabilities, according to Col. David Shank, the head of 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, of which the new unit is part.”Not only is this a great day for United States Army Europe and the growth of lethal capability here. It is a tremendous step forward for the Air Defense Enterprise,” Shank said at the ceremony.

The battalion will be composed of five battery-level units equipped with FIM-92 Stinger missiles, according to Stars and Stripes.

Three of those batteries will be certified before the end of the summer, Shank said, adding that battalion personnel would also “build and sustain a strong Army family-support program, and become the subject-matter experts in Europe for short-range-air-defense to not just the Army, but our allies.”

Those troops “will have a hard road in from of them,” Shank said.

Stinger missiles are fired from the Avenger Air Defense System.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

Air Defense Artillery units were for a long time embedded in Army divisions, but the service started divesting itself of those units in the early 2000s, as military planners believed the Air Force could maintain air superiority and mitigate threats posed by enemy aircraft.

But in 2016, after finding a gap in its SHORAD capabilities, the Army started trying to address the shortfall.

In January, for the first time in 15 years, the US Army in Europe began training with Stinger missiles, a light antiaircraft weapon that can be fired from shoulder- and vehicle-mounted launchers.

Lightweight, short-range antiaircraft missiles are mainly meant to defend against ground-attack aircraft, especially helicopters, that target infantry and armored vehicles. Unmanned aerial vehicles — used by both sides in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine — are also a source concern.

A 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade member loads a Stinger onto an Avenger Air Defense System.

(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Rachael Jeffcoat)

US Army Europe has been relying on Avengers defense systems and Stinger missiles from Army National Guard units rotating through the continent as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, which began in 2014 as a way to reassure allies in Europe of the US commitment to their defense.

Guard units rotating through Europe have been training with the Stinger for months, but the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, will be the only one stationed in Europe that fields the Avenger, a short-range-air-defense system that can be mounted on a Humvee and fires Stinger missiles.

The Army has also been pulling Avenger systems that had been mothballed in order to supply active units until a new weapon system is available, according to Defense News, which said earlier this year that Army Materiel Command was overhauling Avengers that had been sitting in a Pennsylvania field waiting to be scrapped.

A U.S. Army Avenger team during qualification in South Korea, October 24, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Marion Jo Nederhoed)

The Army has also fast-tracked its Interim Short Range Air Defense (IM-SHORAD) program to provide air- and missile-defense for Stryker and Armored Brigade Combat Teams in Europe.

The Army plans to develop IM-SHORAD systems around the Stryker, equipping the vehicle with an unmanned turret developed by defense firm Leonardo DRS. The system includes Stinger and Hellfire missiles and an automatic 30 mm cannon, as well as the M230 chain gun and a 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun. It will also be equipped with electronic-warfare and radar systems.

Final prototypes of that package are expected in the last quarter of 2019, according to Defense News, with the Army aiming to have the first battery by the fourth quarter of 2020.

The activation of the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, is part of a broader troop increase the Army announced earlier this year, saying that the increase in forces stationed in Europe permanently would come from activating new units rather than relocating them from elsewhere.

The new units would bring 1,500 soldiers and their families back to Europe. (Some 300,000 US troops were stationed on the continent during the Cold War, but that number has dwindled to about 30,000 now.)

A member of the Florida National Guard’s 3rd Battalion, 265 Air Defense Artillery Regiment, uses a touchscreen from the driver’s seat of an Army Avenger.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

In addition to the short-range-air-defense battalion and supporting units at Ansbach, the new units will include a field-artillery brigade headquarters and two multiple-launch-rocket-system battalions and supporting units in Grafenwoehr Training Area, and other supporting units at Hohenfels Training Area and the garrison in Baumholder.

The activations were scheduled to begin this year and should be finished by September 2020, the Army said in a statement.

“The addition of these forces increases US Army readiness in Europe and ensures we are better able to respond to any crisis,” the Army said.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

6 weapons that allow the US to strike anywhere in the world

When America decides to strike back at a threat, it has a lot of response options. Here are 6 of the weapons that allow the U.S. to hit an enemy from across the planet:


1. Nuclear submarines

Photo: US Navy

The Navy uses three kinds of stealthy nuclear submarines to carry out missions around the world. Attack submarines hunt enemy vessels but can also launch cruise missiles at land targets, guided missile subs carry up to 154 cruise missiles to strike land targets, and fleet ballistic missile submarines carry nuclear missiles that can wipe out entire cities.

2. B-2

Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III

The B-2 stealth bomber is capable of piercing enemy air defense networks because of its stealthy design. Even if enemies do spot it, missiles have trouble engaging the aircraft due to its reduced infrared, acoustic, electromagnetic, visual, and radar signatures.

3. Aircraft carriers

Photo: US Navy Lt. j.g. David Babka

Always a favorite, aircraft carriers are floating bases that launch strike aircraft and provide a command center for naval forces. As the Navy likes to brag, they are “So big they carry their own zip code.” The Navy currently has 10 Nimitz-class carriers in active service and is bringing the first of the larger, more capable Ford-class carriers online this year.

4. Minuteman III missiles

Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class Yvonne Morales

The Air Force’s Minuteman III missiles are focused on one mission: nuclear strikes. They have a range of 6,000 miles and each can carry up to three 335-kiloton warheads. Under the START II treaty, the 400 active missiles are currently equipped with one warhead each. There are another 50 unarmed missiles held in reserve.

5. Special operators

MARSOC Raiders conduct swim training. Photo: US Marine Corps Sgt. Donovan Lee

While special operators aren’t a weapon per se, their skills give America a useful option when it comes to striking enemy targets. Operators are capable of swimming, jumping, or rucking to target areas and conducting high stakes missions on short notice. Green berets rode horses into Afghanistan when the U.S. began the war there and SEALs flew into Pakistan in helicopters to get Osama Bin Laden.

6. B-1 “BONE” Lancer

Photo: US Air Force Airman First Class Keven Tanenbaum

The B-1 Lancer began its career as a nuclear bomber but switched to a conventional role during the 1990s. Ground troops know it as the “BONE” and love it for its huge bomb bays, long loiter times, and ability to quickly drop bombs on target when requested.

Articles

10 military units that define ‘the tip of the spear’

When America needs to break its way into an enemy country, these are the people who slip, kick, or explode their way past the defenses and blaze the way for follow-on forces.


1. Marine Raiders

Photo: US Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Robert M. Storm

Marine Raiders are the rank and file of the Marine Special Operations Command. MARSOC fields three Raider battalions that conduct special reconnaissance, counterinsurgency, and direct action missions. The Raiders trace their lineage to World War II where Marine Raiders led beach assaults, conducted raids, and used guerrilla tactics against Japanese defenders.

2. Green Berets

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Steve Hebert

The Army’s special forces soldiers were famously some of the first troops in Afghanistan where they rode horses to get to the enemy. They guarded Hamid Karzai when he was an unknown politician putting together a militia to aid an American invasion, and they’ve served in dozens of unpublicized conflicts around the world.

3. Delta Force

Photo: Department of Defense

Composed of the Army’s best green berets as well as operators from around the Department of Defense, Delta Force takes on high-stakes missions far ahead of the rest of the military. It was Delta Force that led the hunt for Osama Bin Laden in the Tora Bora mountains in 2001.

4. Navy SEALS

Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class William S. Parker

They got Bin Laden in Pakistan, saved Capt. Richard Phillips from Somali pirates, and produced “American Sniper” legend Chief Petty Officer Chris Kyle. Navy SEALs are the sea services’ most capable fighters on terra firma.

5. Army Rangers

Photo: USASOC Public Affairs Trish Harris

U.S. Army Rangers first led the way into combat in 1775. These elite infantrymen took out key positions on D-Day, led the way into Panama in Operation Just Cause, played a huge role in Somalia, and conducted airborne assaults into both Afghanistan and Iraq.

6. Force Recon Marines

Photo: US Marine Corps Cpl. Anna Albrecht

Recon Marines work for Marine ground commanders, moving ahead of other forces into any area where the commander needs “eyes on” but can’t otherwise get them.

The popular miniseries “Generation Kill” followed a group of these Marines spearheading the invasion of Iraq and feeding information up the chain to Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis and other senior leaders.

7. Carrier-based aircraft

Photo: US Navy

The Navy’s carrier groups provide an awesome platform for launching jets against American enemies, quickly conducting air strikes when the wars opened in Afghanistan, Iraq, and then Syria. This is done primarily by Navy Super Hornet air wings, though Marine Corps Harriers fly missions from carriers as well.

8. F-22 fighter wings

Image: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Jim Araos

While the F-22 has not yet fought in the first wave of an invasion, it’s proven that it’s capable in Syria. When it entered the fight about a month after airstrikes against ISIS began, it slipped past enemy air defenses to take out protected targets. It now escorts other jets past enemy air defenses, using its sensors to detect threats and targets.

9. Naval ships

Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Sunderman

While U.S. ships rarely get to mix it up with enemy navies these days, they still get to launch the opening blows in a fight by using long range cruise missiles, especially the Tomahawk Block IV. Navy destroyers, cruisers, and submarines have launched Tomahawks against Syria, Libya, Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan, Kosovo … ( actually, just see the full list at the Naval History Blog).

10. 509th Bomb Wing

Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo

The 509th Bomb Wing operates most of America’s B-2s, the stealth bomber that can slip into enemy airspace, destroy air defenses and runways, and then leave without the enemy knowing what happened. The B-2 has been used in strikes in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq and flew many of its missions from Missouri to the target and back, taking about 30 hours for each mission.

Articles

That time 4 Royal Marines strapped themselves to attack helicopters and rode into a Taliban compound

In January 2007, a group of Royal Marines threw together a crazy mission to rescue a wounded Marine trapped inside the compound. To get him back, four Marines strapped themselves to the outside of Apache helicopters and rode back into the compound.


The situation arose after an attack on Jugroom Fort went sour quickly. The Brits assaulted in armored vehicles with artillery and Apache support, but the insurgents returned a heavy volume of fire when the Marines dismounted. Poor communication during the raid led to a friendly fire incident and another miscommunication led to the Marines withdrawing without Lance Cpl. Mathew Ford.

After rallying back up, the Marines quickly realized Ford was missing and one of the two Apaches on the battlefield spotted what appeared to be a human silhouette just inside the compound with his infrared sensors. The Royal Marines quickly devised the plan to strap two Marines each to two Apaches and have them land just outside the compound. They would recover Ford, who appeared to be severely wounded, and then ride back out.

The men called for nearby NATO assets to assist and American A-10s and a B-1 came in to help. The B-1 kicked off the assault by dropping four JDAMs onto the opposite side of the compound from Ford. According to a report published in War is Boring, the American pilots were shocked by what they saw during the mission.

Photo: Youtube

“As I passed ahead of one Apache,” an unnamed pilot wrote, “I glanced high left to see a man, leaning over the stubby helicopter wing, unloading his rifle on the enemy. We matched with 30-millimeter and rockets.”

That’s right, the Marines were firing their rifles while strapped to the helicopters.

When the Apaches landed at the fort, there wasn’t enough space for both helicopters at the planned landing zone. So one Apache landed just outside the walls while the other landed inside the compound. The Marines quickly detached themselves and began searching for Ford. When one pair of Marines headed in the wrong direction, an Apache pilot jumped out of his bird to show them the way.

As the A-10s provided fierce covering fire, the Brits found Ford and carried him back to the helicopters. They managed it just in time. At three minutes after landing, the insurgents had recovered enough to begin firing on the parked Apaches. The Marines and pilots got away at five minutes without suffering further casualties.

The Apaches rushed Ford to medical aid before returning to base, barely making it before they ran out of gas. Unfortunately, Ford had died of his wounds sometime before the rescue attempt.

The men involved in the rescue attempt received awards for their valor. One of the pilots involved in the mission wrote a book, “Apache: Inside the Cockpit of the World’s Most Deadly Fighting Machine,” where he detailed his time in Afghanistan and the mission to rescue Lance Cpl. Ford.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Marines are being surveyed on their favorite performance snacks

Call it fourthmeal.

Since early 2018, the Marine Corps has been issuing Marine recruits and officer candidates in entry-level training a “performance nutrition pack” of high-energy snacks to get them through the 10-hour stretch between dinner and breakfast. Now, nutrition specialists want to know which items in the packs these prospective Marines are most likely to eat.

Surveys were distributed this month at Officer Candidates School in Quantico, Virginia to gather feedback on the items in the performance nutrition packs that candidates were most likely to consume, said Sharlene Holladay, the Marine Corps’ Warfighter and Performance Dietitian.


The packs are assembled with purpose; they’re composed of off-the-shelf non-perishable food items that can include fruit-and-nut trail mixes, cereal, peanut butter and jelly packets, shelf-stable milk and more. A typical pack totals 500-600 calories in a ratio of 50-60% carbohydrates, 30% fat and 12-13% protein, Holladay said.

The intent is to give trainees a caloric boost before they head out to rigorous morning PT before breakfast; but that only works if they’re eating what’s provided.

Rct. Thomas Minnick Jr., Platoon 1014, Bravo Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, lifts a 30-pound ammunition can during his combat fitness test Feb. 11, 2014, at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Octavia Davis)

“If you’re not consuming it, it becomes really nutrient-dense trash,” Holladay said.

The survey uses a Likert scale with ratings from one to five, inviting officer candidates to indicate what they are most likely to eat and most likely to discard. Feedback will be collected through the end of October, giving officials a 95% confidence rate in the results.

From there, the feedback will be used to design future nutrition packs. Holladay noted that tastes and preferences change over time with new generations of recruits, and the survey allows officials to stay current on popular items.

The rollout of performance nutrition packs at entry-level training, following a pilot program in fiscal 2016, mirrors efforts by other services to make sure trainees aren’t limited by chow hall meal times when it comes to fueling up.

The Marine Corps dispenses roughly 1,500 of the packs each month at OCS and the two recruit depots in Parris Island, South Carolina and San Diego, Holladay said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Articles

Afghan soldier opens fire on US troops, wounds seven

An Afghan soldier has opened fire on American troops, wounding at least seven of them, before being shot dead in a military base in northern Afghanistan, officials said, in the second so-called “insider attack” in the past week.


Abdul Qahar Araam, spokesman for the US military, said on June 17th that the attack took place at Camp Shaheen in Mazar-i-Sharif. Araam added that the soldiers returned fire and killed the attacker.

General Dawlat Waziri, a spokesman for the Afghan defense ministry, also confirmed the incident.

Presentation of the Resolute Support colors. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

The Resolute Support, the international training mission to Afghanistan, announced on its Twitter feed that seven US service members were wounded, adding that there were no US fatalities.

Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride, reporting from Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, said NATO soldiers were training their Afghan counterparts at the base where the attack took place.

“A source told Al Jazeera that the attack happened at the end of a training exercise,” he said.

“We understand that the soldiers were getting back into their vehicle when a soldier from the Afghan national army picked up what is said to be a rocket-propelled grenade and fired it at the group of soldiers, and that is how these injuries have happened.”

A helicopter flies over Mazar-i-Sharif. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Another insider attack

Three US soldiers were killed and a fourth was wounded on June 11 when an Afghan soldier opened fire on them at a base in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province.

Taliban claimed responsibility for that attack. Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the armed group, said at the time that a Taliban loyalist had infiltrated the Afghan army “just to attack foreign forces.”

On June 17th, Mujahid praised the Camp Shaheen attack in a statement sent to the media, but did not claim Taliban responsibility.

The Taliban Flag. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

In April, scores of Afghan soldiers were killed when fighters breached security at the camp, detonating explosives and shooting hundreds at a mosque and dining hall on the base. The attackers were disguised in Afghan army uniforms.

Coalition countries, led by the US, are considering sending thousands more troops to Afghanistan to help advise and assist Afghan forces struggling against Taliban and the ISIS.

On June 19th, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis said he would present options on Afghanistan to President Donald Trump “very soon.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

We must speak out against the flaws of America

Last week, I read an article on this site called, “America, Where Are You Going?” in which the author (anonymous) bemoaned recent social and political activism of his or her fellow military spouses.

I read all the way to the second page, where one line jumped out above all the rest: “However, that mutual understanding and respect that our spouses should never be publicly political seem to have fallen to the side for a few…” (emphasis added).

Dear Anonymous, I could not disagree with this sentiment more. Here is my rebuttal.


For over twenty years, I’ve served my country by making sure that my spouse’s home and family are taken care of. I make lunches and brush hair and comfort babies when they haven’t seen their daddy in too long. I make sure that if he is called to deploy, he can leave our family knowing that we are taken care of and focus on the job in front of him. I love my country. My work isn’t a sacrifice so much as it is an act of patriotism and pride.

At the same time, it is out of a deep and abiding love for my country that I recognize her flaws and errors. It is also my duty to speak up and call for change.

In 1830 the treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek was signed, and my ancestors were robbed of their homeland in Mississippi. Choctaw Nation would start the trek west to Oklahoma where they would be confined to a reservation in a wholly new environment. My ancestors survived, though many others didn’t.

This story was told to me as a child. I could hear the pain in my grandmother’s voice as she retold the story her grandma told her. The early 1800s was one of many dark chapters in American history. But my Nation grew strong and built a future in Oklahoma.

Ever since then, I have been firmly grounded in the understanding that my country has deep flaws that we should all mourn. We also have the promise of freedom and the opportunity to grow that is lacking in so many places around the world. My American story goes back far beyond the first European settlers, then later was enriched by Italian and Welsh ancestors. I am rooted in this country in deep ways. This makes me both confident in the future that is possible and aware of the blemishes within.

Part of my duty as a patriot, as a military spouse, and as an American is to speak out against actions that harm our citizens and dishonor our history. Of course we can be publicly political! We’re stakeholders in this great American experiment, aren’t we? That means we get a say in how our country’s run. In fact, as military spouses who have lived in all different kinds of places, we have unique insights on how different systems work. Our perspective is tremendously valuable to the political process.

Those who suggest that spouses should never be political are likely the spouses who benefit most from the way things are now. I do not have that luxury. My Nation does not have that luxury. For us, our existence is political. If we do not speak up, we risk being erased entirely.

At the very end of the article, the author wrote: “The military is not just one entity, it is a family made up of individuals, all with different outlooks on life, political affiliations, religions, every race, and every culture imaginable.”

On this we can agree. Military spouses are no more of a monolith than any other demographic in America. I have military spouse friends who are Muslim, Jewish, Black, Hispanic, Asian, Gay, Transgender, socialists, and conservatives. All of us come into this military life with passions and beliefs, some that change and some that grow stronger. The shared experience of serving together bonds us across those differences with a strength that is rarely seen in civilian circles.

So of course: I no more speak for all military spouses than they speak for me. (I’ll add that in the original New York Times article I’m pretty sure this author referred to, that was made abundantly clear.) However, it does not mean that we do not speak at all. On the contrary, we cannot and must not remain quiet when we see injustices. We can and must stand up and say enough.

If you’re interested in political activism like me and what to know where to start, I recommend checking out the Secure Families Initiative. They host nonpartisan webinar trainings on how to be the best advocate you can be, whether that’s lobbying your elected officials or simply telling your story. It’s a super cool community of kickass military spouses!

My voice is important, my voice is unique, and my voice is mine. I am not speaking for my spouse or anyone else, but I am speaking for what I believe is best for my family, national security, and my country.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

Articles

How the US military used social media to help hurricane victims in Texas and Florida

As victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma pleaded to be rescued on popular social media apps such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, the National Guard altered its response accordingly.


“It’s been a very dynamic and evolving environment,” National Guard Bureau Chief Gen. Joseph Lengyel recently told Military.com. “This has certainly evolved how we do it.”

Lengyel spoke with Military.com at the annual conference of the National Guard Association of the United States in Louisville, KY.

While social media isn’t the primary communications tool between the Guard and those at risk, it’s starting to play a larger role.

USAF Lt. Gen. Joseph Lengyel testifies before the US Senate Committee on Armed Services at a confirmation hearing for his appointment to the grade of general and to be chief of the National Guard Bureau on June 21, 2016. US Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Michelle Gonzalez.

The Washington Post reported that during Harvey, a Guard Humvee vanished in Katy, Texas. With no other way to reach the driver, soldiers finally were able communicate with him using SnapChat, a messaging app that can capture a photo or video, which is then relayed to the recipient briefly before it disappears.

Similar situations can happen when there is a communications capability gap in a disaster area, Lengyel said.

“Whenever you go into particular environments, communications is always difficult when you first start. Because the infrastructure [isn’t] there. It has to evolve,” he said.

For example, the Guard got the call to drive to Beaumont, Texas, before the Federal Emergency Management Agency or first responders could set up hub stations to house communications equipment.

US Soldiers with the Texas Army National Guard arrive in Houston Aug. 27, 2017, to aid citizens in heavily flooded areas from the storms of Hurricane Harvey. US Army National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Zachary West.

Coordinating Efforts

The military has crews that monitor response efforts as they happen in real-time.

For example, its only non-offensive air operations center, known as “America’s AOC,” at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, keeps track of relief no matter where it’s needed in the US.

Military.com visited the 601st AOC in March. It evaluates domestic operations, or DomOps, for Air Forces Northern, monitoring the airwaves — and social media sites — for events with potential military ties.

Lengyel said he was impressed with efforts as ongoing training rotations across the globe have not stopped despite the massive hurricane relief effort. Part of the Texas Guard deployed to the Horn of Africa even as Harvey laid waste to the Houston area and Hurricane Irma loomed.

Thousands of National Guard troops remain on the ground in Texas for relief efforts, and the Pentagon mobilized nearly 30,000 military personnel for Irma recovery.

Soldiers with the Texas Army National Guard rescue Houston residents as floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey continue to rise, Monday, August 28, 2017. More than 12,000 members of the Texas National Guard have been called out to support local authorities in response to the storm. US Army photo by 1st Lt. Zachary West.

That’s all thanks to planning.

“Every state creates and drafts an all-hazards response plan … and a lot of it comes together from various federal agencies,” Lengyel said of the constant training and push to get ahead of the next big disaster, which could vary from an earthquake to a terrorist attack.

Everybody has a plan. And we coordinate … and we think about it before it happens, and we’ve gotten much better about this over the years,” he said.

Emergency supplies are removed from a pallet and stacked by members of the US Coast Guard, Marines, Army, and Air Force at Cyril E. King Airport in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Sept. 14, 2017. US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Steve Strohmaier.

Special Mission Unit Milestone

This year’s relief efforts — from Harvey and Irma to wildfires in the West — created another milestone for the US military this year.

For the first time in the nearly 70-year history of the Air Force Reserve, all three special mission units — weather reconnaissance, firefighting, and aerial spray — were called to action simultaneously, the service said this week.

Air Force Reserve Command’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron — better known as the Hurricane Hunters — out of Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, “have been flying weather reconnaissance missions nonstop” since Aug. 17, the Air Force said in a release.

A US flag mounted to a Texas Army National Guard vehicle waves in the breeze during Hurricane Harvey rescue operations in Katy, Texas August 29, 2017. US Army Photo by Sgt. Steve Johnson.

The 302nd Airlift Wing out of Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, is assisting the National Interagency Fire Center by providing a Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System-equipped C-130H Hercules, aircraft and aircrew to support ongoing aerial firefighting efforts in the western U.S.

And the 910th Airlift Wing, out of Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio, is providing its aerial spray capability to repel mosquitos and other pests in eastern Texas following Harvey.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The bloody story behind the bells the US returned to the Philippines

It was Sept. 27, 1901, and C Company of the 9th U.S. Infantry Regiment was stationed in the area Samar in the Philippines, specifically the town of Balnagiga. It was during the evening watch that the unit sentries noticed an unusual number of irregularly clothed women heading into the local church with baby-sized coffins. After a search revealed the coffins were carrying children killed by cholera, he let them pass on.

They should have checked closer.


Company C, 9th US Infantry Regiment with Valeriano Abanador (standing, sixth from right) taken in Balangiga. Abanador would later lead the surprise attack against them.

The United States had occupied the Philippines since it was wrested from Spanish control during the 1898 Spanish-American War. The people of the Philippines at first welcomed the Americans as liberators. As soon as they realized U.S. colonial ambitions, however, they turned on the Americans, launching an almost four-year long insurgency they would lose, becoming a U.S. possession until 1946.

Even after rebel leader Emilio Aguinaldo surrendered to the U.S. in April, 1901, the fight wore on in places like Samar. The Americans stationed there should have been ready for anything.

Filipino insurgency leader Emilio Aguinaldo reports aboard the USS Vicksburg as a prisoner of war.

(U.S. Army)

During that September night in 1901, the small coffins really were filled by children, presumably killed by a cholera epidemic that was sweeping the villages of the area. The inspecting sentry looked into one of the coffins, saw what was there, and even helped the woman nail the lid down again when he was finished. If he had looked underneath the corpse, he would have found cane-cutting blades hidden under the body.

All the coffins were filled with them.

James Mattis and Philippines Ambassador Jose Manuel G. Romualdez shake hands in front of the Bells of Balangiga display at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Nov. 14, 2018. The ceremony in Wyoming signaled the start of an effort to return the bells to the Philippines.

(Wyoming Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jimmy McGuire)

The next morning, the Americans went to breakfast as the local police chief sent his prisoners to work in the streets. As an American sentry, Adolph Gamlin walked by the Chief in the plaza, the Chief, Valeriano Abanador, grabbed Gamlin’s rifle, butt-stroked the private across the face and unloaded it into the men in the mess tent. The town church bells began to ring, signaling the attack on the surprised American company.

Two guards posted at the entrance to the local convent were killed by locals. The Filipinos then broke through, into the convent, and killed the unit’s officers. Simultaneously, the Bolo fighters began an assault on the local barracks. The locals had gotten the drop on the Americans, but the victims had one advantage — there weren’t enough attackers to get them all.

Some Americans in the mess tent and barracks escaped the initial surprise, regrouped, and retook the municipal hall where their arms were held. Now armed, the tide turned in favor of the Americans. Behind the Filipinos, Pvt. Adolph Gamlin (the sentry) regained consciousness as well as his rifle, and was wreaking havoc in the attackers’ rear. Gamlin had the whole plaza as a field of fire, and the attackers had no cover to hide behind.

Abanador was forced to pull his insurgents out.

The bells arrived in Wyoming sometime in 1904.

Company C collected their dead, 48 of 74 men were killed in action. A further 26 were wounded and eight of those men would die later of those wounds. Not able to hold the town with their reduced numbers, they escaped by sea. The Filipinos could not hold the town either. They returned to bury an estimated 26-36 of their dead and then faded away before the Americans could come in and punish them.

The 11th infantry arrived in Balagiga on Oct. 25, 1901, and found the buried Filipinos. They burned the town and took the church bells, sending two of them to Fort Russell, now F.E. Warren Air Force Base. A third bell ended up with the 9th Infantry at Camp Red Cloud in South Korea.

A solider poses with the third Bell of Balangiga at Camp Red Cloud, South Korea, ca. 2004.

The bells were ordered to be returned to the government of the Philippines by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. On Dec. 11, 2018, a U.S. Air Force C-130 landed in Manila, carrying the bells back to the people of the Philippines 117 years after they were taken as war booty by the U.S. Army.

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Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation

An Italian paratrooper prepares for a static line jump in a US Air Force C-130J during exercise Swift Response 16. | Staff Sgt. DeAndre Curtiss/US Air Force


Staging aircraft carriers offshore or using drones from far away can be great assets in modern warfare. However, sometimes it’s necessary to go back to the basics when responding to a global crisis.

Exercise Swift Response 16, a month-long operation led by US forces, was conducted to keep up with traditional and newer methods of combat. Over 5,000 troops from nations such as France, Germany, Great Britain, and Italy took part in this massive airborne exercise to conduct a rapid-response, joint forcible-entry scenario. While working with their European allies, US forces also participated in notable scenarios, such as staging a base within 18 hours of notification.

Here are several pictures of the multinational airborne exercise:

US Army and Italian paratroopers board a US Air Force C-130J Hercules during exercise Swift Response 16, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

Staff Sgt. DeAndre Curtiss/US Air Force

A C-130J Super Hercules aircraft from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, takes off for Germany within several hours’ worth of notice.

Master Sgt. Joseph Swafford/US Air Force

British paratroopers conduct a static-line jump.

Staff Sgt. DeAndre Curtiss/US Air Force

Dutch Army paratroopers jump into Bunker Drop Zone at Grafenwoehr, Germany.

Visual Information Specialist Markus Rauchenberger/US Army

A US paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division lands with his parachute.

Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach/US Army

A French soldier watches soldiers descend from a Lockheed C-130 Hercules.

Spc. Lloyd Villanueva/US Army

US soldiers locate a target on a map.

Spc. Lloyd Villanueva/US Army

Multinational soldiers move toward their target.

Visual Information Specialist Jason Johnston/US Army

Multinational soldiers cut through the foliage.

Visual Information Specialist Jason Johnston/US Army

Soldiers weren’t the only ones dropped from the sky. Here, a US soldier prepares to untie a vehicle that had landed in the drop zone.

Visual Information Specialist Jason Johnston/US Army

A US paratrooper radios higher command while conducting defensive operations.

Spc. Gage Hull/US Army

A Polish soldier provides security while conducting defensive planning operations.

Spc. Gage Hull/US Army

Airplanes weren’t the only machines dominating the skies. Here, a United Kingdom Aerospatiale SA 330 Puma conducts an aerial-reconnaissance training mission.

Spc. Lloyd Villanueva/US Army

A British Parachute Regiment soldier prepares to load a helicopter while conducting a simulated medical evacuation.

Sgt. Seth Plagenza/US Army

In any real-life war scenario, bridges will be critical to both defensive and offensive forces. Here, military tactical vehicles prepare to engage their targets.

Visual Information Specialist Jason Johnston/US Army

A Polish soldier reloads his weapon while securing a bridge.

Visual Information Specialist Jason Johnston/US Army

Bridges will be fought for, from above and below.

Visual Information Specialist Jason Johnston/US Army

A British soldier provides security while conducting medical-evacuation simulations.

Spc. Nathaniel Nichols/US Army

The US wasn’t the only country that brought out their toys. Here, German Bundeswehr soldiers provide security while conducting a mounted patrol.

Staff Sgt. Nathaniel Allen/US Army

A French paratrooper aims his antitank weapon at an enemy tank.

Sgt. Juan F. Jimenez/US Army

A US soldier from the legendary 82nd Airborne Division readies a 60 mm mortar system for a simulated-fire mission.

Spc. Gage Hull/US Army

US soldiers of Chaos Company, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division prepare to move out with their Light Tactical All Terrain Vehicles.

Spc. Gage Hull/US Army

MIGHTY CULTURE

Study claims VA wait times are now shorter than private clinics

Wait times at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics have gone down significantly from recent years and are now shorter on average than those in private-sector health care, at least in big cities, according to a new study from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Critics of the study pointed out that main contributors to the JAMA report were current and former VA executives, including Dr. David Shulkin, who was fired as VA secretary in 2018 by President Donald Trump.


In a statement, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said the JAMA report published Jan. 18, 2019, showed that the VA “has made a concerted, transparent effort to improve access to care” since 2014, when wait-times scandals and doctored records led to the resignation of former VA Secretary and retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki.

“This study affirms that VA has made notable progress in improving access in primary care, and other key specialty care areas,” Wilkie said.

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.

The cross-sectional JAMA study of wait-time data from VA facilities and private-sector hospitals focused on primary care, dermatology, cardiology and orthopedics in 15 major metropolitan areas.

The findings were that “there was no statistically significant difference between private sector and VA mean wait times in 2014” and, in 2017, “mean wait times were statistically significantly shorter for the VA,” the JAMA report said.

“In 2014 the average wait time in VA hospitals was 22.5 days, compared with 18.7 in the private sector,” the study said, but in 2017, “mean wait time at VA hospitals had gone down to 17.7 days, while rising to 29.8 for private practitioners.”

The study, titled “Comparison of Wait Times for New Patients Between the Private Sector and Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers,” relied on wait-time data provided by the VA and calculated private-sector data from a survey conducted by a physicians’ search firm, Merritt Hawkins, using the so-called “secret shopper” method in nearly 2,000 medical offices in metropolitan areas.

“For the secret shoppers method, the research associates at MH [Merritt Hawkins] called physicians’ offices asking to be told the first available time for a new-patient appointment,” the JAMA study said.

“This earliest availability was recorded as the wait time. However, the VA data record scheduled wait times, which may not reflect the earliest available appointment,” the study said.

The JAMA report also noted that rural areas and follow-on care were excluded from the analysis and said that “follow-up studies are critical to analyze access to the entirety of VA health care,” since nearly one-quarter of veterans live in rural areas.

The overall conclusion of the report was that “access to care within VA facilities appears to have improved between 2014 and 2017 and appears to have surpassed access in the private sector for 3 of the 4 specialties evaluated,” with the exception of orthopedics.

In 2014, the VA was rocked by wait-time scandals and allegations of manipulated data at the VA medical center in Phoenix, Arizona. “This incident damaged the VA’s credibility and created a public perception regarding the VA health care system’s inability to see patients in a timely manner,” the JAMA report said.

The VA has since worked to improve access and reduce wait times.

“There is evidence suggesting that these efforts have improved access to care, including reports that 22% of VA patients are now seen on the same day as the requested appointment,” the report said. However, “Despite, these efforts, the adequacy of access to VA care remains unclear.”

As a result of the 2014 scandals, the VA initiated the Choice program to expand private-care options for veterans. Last year, Congress passed and President Trump signed into law the VA Mission Act to consolidate and streamline the Choice program, which has been riddled with inefficiencies.

In June 2018, the Government Accountability Office issued a report stating that many veterans who opted for the Choice program to avoid wait times still faced delays that could stretch for months before seeing a doctor.

In response to the JAMA report, a posting on the Disabled American Veterans website came under the heading: “Veterans Affairs Spins ‘JAMA Study’ It Authored On VA Wait Times.”

In addition to Shulkin, the posting noted that another contributor to the JAMA study was Dr. Carolyn Clancy, the former acting head of the Veterans Health Administration. She was replaced in July by Dr. Richard Stone as acting head of the VHA and has now taken the position at the VA of deputy under secretary for discovery, education and affiliate networks.

Stone, the former deputy surgeon general of the Army, has yet to receive Senate confirmation. The VHA has not had a permanent head since Shulkin left the position in January 2017 to become VA secretary.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

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POTUS announces Army secretary pick after first choice withdraws nomination

President Donald Trump is planning to nominate a Tennessee legislator to be Army secretary.


The White House says Trump has chosen Tennessee state Sen. Mark Green for the post. The West Point graduate is a physician and the CEO of an emergency department staffing company.

As an Army doctor, Green served in the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment where he made three combat tours to the Middle East. He also has served as an airborne rifle company commander and as a top Army recruiter.

Trump’s first choice, businessman Vincent Viola, withdrew his name for the position in early February.

Viola cited his inability to successfully navigate the confirmation process and Defense Department rules concerning family businesses. He was the founder of the electronic trading firm Virtu Financial.