A few weeks after D-Day, U.S Army Private Bob Levine was hit by the shrapnel from a grenade that landed next to him during a fierce battle to take a German-held hill overlooking the beach at Normandy. The next thing he knew he had an enemy paratrooper standing over him.
“He looked about 10 feet tall, and pointed his submachine gun at me,” Levine told the New York Daily News. “The kid next to me got up and took off, and he just wheeled around and shot him.”
Levine was suddenly a prisoner of war. And his situation went from bad to worse as his already wounded leg was hit again, this time by fragments from an American artillery shell.
The next thing Levine knew he was lying on a table in a French farmhouse with a Nazi doctor standing over him studying his dog tags.
“He says, ‘Was ist H?’ — and that was all I had to hear,” Levine recalled to the New York Daily News. “I said to myself — and I can still hear myself saying it — ‘There goes my 20th birthday.’
“I really did not think I would make it.”
But he did make it. He woke up missing two things: the bottom half of his left leg, which had been surgically amputated, and his dog tags.
The Nazi doctor had saved his life twice. Once by amputating his leg and preventing the onset of deadly gangrene and once by removing his dog tags, thereby hiding any evidence that Levine was Jewish — a death sentence of its own in the days of the Third Reich.
Levine did some research in the years following the war and discovered that the man who had saved him was Dr. Edgar Woll. Woll died in 1954 before the two had a chance to meet in person again, but Levine returned to Normandy in 1981 and met with the doctor’s family. The two families grew close, close enough that one of the doctor’s granddaughters stayed with the Levines while attending Fairleigh Dickenson University.
As terrible as war is there are times when it reveals the potential beauty of humanity. And what stands out most of all in Levine’s memories of that first meeting with the doctor’s family is a toast one of the German guests offered at a party the Wolls hosted: “Without you we’d all be saying ‘heil Hitler.'”
The A-10 Thunderbolt II, popularly known as the Warthog, was originally designed as a “tank-killer”. In fact, the entire aircraft was essentially built around a 30 mm rotary cannon, known as the GAU-8 Avenger, a fearsome name for a gun capable of spitting out depleted uranium shells the size of soda bottles designed to shred heavy Soviet tanks and armored personnel carriers into mental confetti.
While the Avenger’s primary use has been as the A-10’s main weapon, seeing combat action from the Persian Gulf War onward, the US Army once considered making this cannon its own by mounting it on the very thing it was created to destroy: tanks.
In the late 1970s, the US Army began looking to replace their aging force of self-propelled anti-aircraft guns with newer, more effective systems that could do a similar job with even more lethality and effectiveness than ever before. The result of this search for new air defense artillery would be fielded alongside the Army’s newest and fighting vehicles — namely the M1 Abrams main battle tank and the M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle, as part of the service’s vision for the future.
A competition under the Division Air Defense name was thus created.
The goal of the DIVAD program was to design, build and field a self-propelled air defense gun system, able to engage and shoot down low-flying enemy aircraft with controlled bursts of shells from a cannon mounted on a turret. The system would be manned by a small crew, aided by a radar tracking system that would pick up targets and “slave” the gun to them before firing. In concept, the DIVAD vehicle could go anywhere, dig in and wait for enemy aircraft to appear, then shoot them down quickly.
One of the various participants in the competition, according to Jane’s Weapon Systems 1988-1989, was General Electric, fresh from designing the GAU-8 Avenger for what would be the Air Force’s next air support attack jet – the A-10 Warthog. General Electric had the bright idea to take a modified version of the Avenger and place it in a turret, configured to hold its weight while moving the cannon around quickly to track and hit new targets as they appeared.
The turret, in turn, would be mated to the chassis of an M48 Patton main battle tank as per program requirements, giving it mobility. Able to spit out shells at a rate of 3900 rounds per minute at an effective range of 4000 feet, the Avenger would’ve been a major threat to the safety of any aircraft in the vicinity, sighted through its radar.
However, General Electric’s entry, referred to as the Air Defense Turret, didn’t advance during the DIVAD program. Instead, Ford and General Dynamics were given prototype production contracts to build their designs for testing, with Ford ultimately winning the competition. Known as the M247 Sergeant York, Ford’s anti-aircraft gun system was much more conventional, significantly lighter and apparently somewhat cheaper to build than the Avenger cannon concept.
However, it under-performed severely, much to the embarrassment of its parent company and the Army.
The DIVAD program soon proved to be an abject failure, with nothing to show for pouring millions into the project and the Sergeant York prototypes. The M247 couldn’t adequately track target drones with its radars, even when the drones were made to hover nearly stationary.
In 1985, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger finally put the program out of its misery, noting that missiles were the future of air defense.
The Avenger cannon nevertheless does serve in a somewhat similar role today, functioning as the core of the Goalkeeper Close-In Weapon System, found on a number of modern warships around the world. Goalkeeper is designed to engage surface-skimming missiles aimed at naval vessels and obliterate them by putting up a “wall of steel” – essentially a massive scattered burst of shells which will hopefully strike and detonate the missile a safe distance away from the ship.
Still, one can’t help but wonder just how incredibly awesome mounting a 30mm Gatling cannon to a tank could have been, had the Army chosen to pursue General Electric’s idea instead of Ford’s.
Recently, a video of Secretary of Defense James Mattis surfaced as the retired, decorated Marine met with a group of deployed service members. As the former general started to speak, a school circle quickly formed around him as his words began to motivate those who listened.
Mattis is widely-known for his impeccable military service and leadership skills, earning him the respect by both enlisted personnel and officers.
Mattis broke the ice with the deployed service members by humorously introducing himself and thanking them in his special way — an epic impromptu speech.
“Just hold the line until our country gets back to understanding and respecting each other and showing it of being friendly to one another, you know, that Americans owe to one other,” Mattis said. “We’re so doggone lucky to be Americans.”
Landing on an aircraft carrier is one of the most difficult tasks any aviator can face. A 1991 Los Angeles Times article quoted one Desert Storm veteran as saying that the stress really came “when I got back to the ship and started landing on the carrier in the dark,” rather than when he was being shot at by Iraqi SAMs.
How can that stress be eased? This is an eternal question – mostly because there are lots of variables. One carrier landing could be in daylight with clear skies and a calm sea. The next could be in the middle of a thunderstorm in pitch black darkness. A pilot has to keep all of that in mind, not to mention the fact that the carrier itself is moving.
Boeing, though, has been working on some new software for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and the EA-18G Growlers to make this most difficult and stressful of tasks a little less so. It’s called the Maritime Augmented Guidance with Integrated Controls for Carrier Approach and Recovery Precision Enabling Technologies. The acronym appropriately spells “MAGIC CARPET.”
This system handles calculating the many variables pilots making a carrier landing have to deal with, allowing the pilot to make simpler adjustments as the plane heads in for a landing.
Boeing put out a video about MAGIC CARPET. Take a look at the future of carrier landings!
Meanwhile, China’s neighbors have grown increasingly worried and timid as it cements a land grab in a shipping lane that sees $5 trillion in annual trade and has billions in resources, like oil, waiting to be exploited.
Six countries lay claim to parts of the South China Sea, and the US isn’t one of them. But the US doesn’t need a dog in this fight to stand up for freedom of navigation and international law.
Here’s how the US counters China in the region.
For the US, checking Beijing in the Pacific often means sailing carrier strike groups through the region — something the Navy has done for decades, whether China protests or not.
As Navy Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, commander of 7th Fleet, said recently at a military conference: “We’re going to fly, sail, operate wherever international law allows.”
The strike group has plenty of aircraft along with them, like this A F/A-18E Super Hornet and a nuclear-capable B-1B Lancer from Guam.
Unlike submarines and ICBMs buried under land or sea, the US’s strategic, nuclear-capable bombers make up the most visible leg of the nuclear triad. Placing a handful of B-1Bs in Guam sends a message to the region.
Here’s the US’s entire strategic bomber force lined up in Guam, representing more than 60 years bomber dominance.
It also doesn’t hurt when the US Navy shows off its complete mastery of carrier-based aircraft. There are F-18 pilots in the Navy that likely have more carrier landings than the entire Chinese navy combined.
Those jets benefit from the support of about 7,000 sailors on the ship, who keep them running around the clock.
Airborne early warning and control planes like the E-2 Hawkeye use massive radars to act as the eyes and ears of the fleet. Not much gets past them.
But carriers don’t sail alone either. Here a guided missile destroyer knocks through some rough seas accompanying the Vinson.
The US Navy may be the most professional in the world, with a very serious mission in the South China Sea, but they still make time for a swim on one of the US’s newest combat ships, the USS Coronado.
The Coronado doesn’t look like an aircraft carrier, but it does have serious airpower in the form of a MH-60S Seahawk with twin .50 caliber door guns.
But the key to the US’s success in far away waters is allies. The US doesn’t do anything alone, if you’re noticing a pattern here. Here US and Royal Brunei Navy sailors practice boarding a ship.
In February, US Marines partnered up with Japanese self-defense forces to practice amphibious landings — a skill that may one day come in handy on artificial islands.
Sometimes working with allies means getting down and dirty. Here a Seabee gets neck deep in Japan.
The bottom line is that the US military has decades of experience sailing, training, and fighting with its allies in the Pacific. China has come a long way in shifting the balance of power in the region, but the US remains on top — for now.
The Army’s 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta — or “Delta Force” or CAG (for Combat Applications Group) or whatever its latest code name might be — is one of the best door kicking-units in the world.
From raining hell on al Qaeda in the early days of the war in Afghanistan to going after the “deck of cards” in Iraq, the super-secretive counterterrorism unit knows how to dispatch America’s top targets.
But during the wars after 9/11, Delta’s brethren in the Army Special Forces were tasked with many similar missions, going after top targets and kicking in a few doors for themselves. And Delta has a lot of former Special Forces soldiers in its ranks, so their cultures became even more closely aligned.
That’s why it’s not surprising that some might be a bit confused on who does what and how each of the units is separate and distinct from one another.
In fact, as America’s involvement in Iraq started to wind down, the new commander of the Army Special Warfare Center and School — the place where all SF soldiers are trained — made it a point to draw the distinction between his former teammates in Delta and the warriors of the Green Berets.
“I hate analogies like the ‘pointy end of the spear,’ ” said then school chief Maj. Gen. Bennett Sacolick.
“We’re not designed to hunt people down and kill them,” Sacolick said. “We have that capability and we have forces that specialize in that. But ultimately what we do that nobody else does is work with our indigenous partner nations.”
So, in case you were among the confused, here are four key differences between Delta and Special Forces:
1. Delta, what Delta?
With the modern media market, blogs, 24-hour news cycles and social media streams where everyone’s an expert, it’s tough to keep a secret these days. And particularly after 9/11 with the insatiable appetite for news and information on the war against al Qaeda, it was going to be hard to keep “Delta Force” from becoming a household name.
The dam actually broke with Mark Bowden’s seminal work on a night of pitched fighting in Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1993, which later became the book “Black Hawk Down.” Delta figured prominently in that work — and the movie that followed.
Previously, Delta Force had been deemed secret, it’s members signing legally-binding agreements that subjected them to prison if they spoke about “The Unit.” Known as a “Tier 1” special operations unit, Delta, along with SEAL Team 6, are supposed to remain “black” and unknown to the public.
Special Forces, on the other hand, are considered Tier 2 or “white SOF,” with many missions that are known to the public and even encourage media coverage. Sure, the Green Berets often operate in secret, but unlike Delta, their existence isn’t one.
2. Building guerrilla armies.
This is where the Special Forces differs from every other unit in the U.S. military. When the Green Berets were established in the 1950s, Army leaders recognized that the fight against Soviet Communism would involve counter insurgencies and guerrilla warfare fought in the shadows rather than armored divisions rolling across the Fulda Gap.
So the Army Special Forces, later known as the Green Berets, were created with the primary mission of what would later be called “unconventional warfare” — the covert assistance of foreign resistance forces and subversion of local governments.
“Unconventional warfare missions allow U.S. Army soldiers to enter a country covertly and build relationships with local militia,” the Army says. “Operatives train the militia in a variety of tactics, including subversion, sabotage, intelligence collection and unconventional assisted recovery, which can be employed against enemy threats.”
According to Sean Naylor’s “Relentless Strike” — which chronicles the formation of Joint Special Operations Command that includes Delta, SEAL Team 6 and other covert commando units — Delta’s main mission was to execute “small, high-intensity operations of short duration” like raids and capture missions. While Delta operators surely know how to advise and work with foreign guerrilla groups, like they did during operations in Tora Bora in Afghanistan, that’s not their main funtion like it is for Green Berets.
3. Assessment and selection.
When Col. Charles Beckwith established Delta Force in 1977, he’d spent some time with the British Special Air Service to model much of his new unit’s organization and mission structure. In fact, Delta has units dubbed “squadrons” in homage to that SAS lineage.
But most significantly, Beckwith adopted a so-called “assessment and selection” regime that aligns closely with how the Brits pick their top commandos. Delta operators have to already have some time in the service (the unit primarily picks from soldiers, but other service troops like Marines have been known to try out) and be at least an E4 with more than two years left in their enlistment.
From what former operators have written, the selection is a brutal, mind-bending hike through (nowadays) the West Virginia mountains where candidates are given vague instructions, miles of ruck humps and psychological examinations to see if they can be trusted to work in the most extreme environments alone or in small teams under great risk of capture or death.
Special Forces, on the other hand, have fairly standard physical selection (that doesn’t mean it’s easy) and training dubbed the Q Course that culminates in a major guerrilla wargame called “Robin Sage.”
The point of Robin Sage is to put the wannabe Green Berets through a simulated unconventional warfare scenario to see how they could adapt to a constantly changing environment and still keep their mission on track.
4. Size matters
Army Special Forces is a much larger organization than Delta Force, which is a small subset of Army Special Operations Command.
The Green Berets are divided up into five active duty and two National Guard groups, comprised of multiple battalions of Special Forces soldiers divided into Operational Detachments, typically dubbed “ODAs.” These are the troopers who parachute into bad guy land and help make holy hell for the dictator du jour.
Delta is a small, elite unit that specializes in direct action and other counter-terrorism missions. (Photo from YouTube)
It was ODA teams that infiltrated Afghanistan with the Northern Alliance and Pashtun groups like the one run by Hamid Karzai that overturned the Taliban.
These Special Forces Groups are regionally focused and based throughout the U.S. and overseas.
Delta, on the other hand, has a much smaller footprint, with estimates ranging from 1,000 to 1,500 operators divided into four assault squadrons and three support squadrons. Naylor’s “Relentless Strike” even hints that Delta might have women in its ranks to help infiltrate operators into foreign countries for reconnaissance missions.
And while Special Forces units are based around the world, Delta has a single headquarters in a compound ringed with concertina wire at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
More than a year after a mandate for the Pentagon opened previously closed ground combat and special operations jobs to women, officials say the Navy has its first female candidates for its most elite special warfare roles.
Two women were in boot camp as candidates for the Navy’s all-enlisted Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman program, Naval Special Warfare Center Deputy Commander Capt. Christian Dunbar told members of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Service in June.
Another woman, who sources say is a junior in an ROTC program at an unnamed college, has applied for a spot in the SEAL officer selection process for fiscal 2018, which begins Oct. 1, and is set to complete an early step in the pipeline, special operations assessment and selection, later this summer, he said.
“That’s a three-week block of instruction,” Dunbar said. “Then the [prospective SEAL officer] will compete like everyone else, 160 [applicants] for only 100 spots.”
A spokesman for Naval Special Warfare Command, Capt. Jason Salata, confirmed to Military.com this week that a single female enlisted candidate remained in the training pipeline for Special Warfare Combatant Crewman, or SWCC. The accession pipeline for the job, he added, included several screening evaluations and then recruit training at the Navy’s Great Lakes, Illinois boot camp before Basic Underwater Demolition School training.
Salata also confirmed that a female midshipman is set to train with other future Naval officers in the SEAL Officer Assessment and Selection, or SOAS, course this summer.
“[SOAS] is part of the accession pipeline to become a SEAL and the performance of attendees this summer will be a factor for evaluation at the September SEAL Officer Selection Panel,” he said.
Because of operational security concerns, Salata said the Navy would not identify the candidates or provide updates on their progress in the selection pipeline. In special operations, where troops often guard their identities closely to keep a low profile on missions, public attention in the training pipeline could affect a candidate’s career.
It’s possible, however, that the first female member of these elite communities will come not from the outside, but from within. In October, a SWCC petty officer notified their chain-of-command that they identified as being transgender, Salata confirmed to Military.com.
According to Navy policy guidance released last fall, a sailor must receive a doctor’s diagnosis of medical necessity and command approval to begin the gender transition process, which can take a variety of different forms, from counseling and hormone therapy to surgery. Sailors must also prove they can pass the physical standards and requirements of the gender to which they are transitioning.
These first female candidates represent a major milestone for the Navy, which has previously allowed women into every career field except the SEALs and SWCC community. A successful candidate would also break ground for military special operations.
Army officials said in January that a woman had graduated Ranger school and was on her way to joining the elite 75th Ranger Regiment, but no female soldier has made it through the selection process to any other Army special operations element. The Air Force and Marine Corps have also seen multiple female candidates for special operations, but have yet to announce a successful accession.
The two women now preparing to enter the Navy’s special operations training pipeline will have to overcome some of the most daunting attrition rates in any military training process
Dunbar said the SEALs, which graduate six Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL classes per year, have an average attrition rate of 73 to 75 percent, while the special boat operator community has an average attrition rate of 63 percent. The attrition rate for SEAL officers is significantly lower, though; according to the Navy’s 2015 implementation plan for women in special warfare, up to 65 percent of SEAL officer candidates successfully enter the community.
But by the time they make it to that final phase of training, candidates have already been weeded down ruthlessly. Navy officials assess prospective special warfare operators and special boat operators, ranking them by their scores on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB, physical readiness test, special operations resiliency test, and a mental toughness exam. The highest-ranking candidates are then assessed into training, based on how many spots the Navy has available at that point.
“We assess right now that, with the small cohorts of females, we don’t really know what’s going to happen as far as expected attrition,” Dunbar, the Naval Special Warfare Center deputy commander, told DACOWITS in June.
Dunbar did say, however, that Naval Special Warfare Command was considered fully ready for its first female SEALs and SWCC operators, whenever they ultimately arrived. A cadre of female staff members was in place in the training pipeline, and the command regularly held all-hands calls to discuss inclusivity and integration.
“All the barriers have been removed,” he said. “Our planning has been completed and is on track.”
Salata said the Navy had also completed a thorough review of its curriculum and policies and had evaluated facilities and support capabilities to determine any changes that might need to be made to accommodate women. As a result, he said, minor changes were made to lodging facilities and approved uniform items.
Nonetheless, Salata said, “It would be premature to speculate as to when we will see the first woman SEAL or SWCC graduate. Managing expectations is an important part of the deliberate assessment and selection process; it may take months and potentially years.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated in the third paragraph to correct the school the SEAL officer candidate attends. She is a junior in an ROTC program at an unnamed college, not the Naval Academy.
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
Soldiers and United States Air Force Airmen unload an AH-64 Apache helicopter, for the soon to be activated 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, from a C-5 Galaxy at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, Aug. 20, 2015. TheU.S. Army Alaska battalion will receive a total of 24 Apaches by April 2016.
Soldiers, assigned to 2nd “Black Jack” Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, secure a landing zone after exiting UH-60 Black Hawks, from 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Official Page), during a training exercise at Rodriguez Live Fire Range, Republic of Korea, Aug. 20, 2015.
A Soldier, assigned to the The 75th Ranger Regiment, conducts a simulated assault during Exercise Swift Response 15 at JMRC, in Hohenfels, Germany, Aug. 23, 2015. Swift Response 15 is aUnited States Army Europe – USAREUR-led, combined airborne training event with participation from more than 4,800 service members from 11 NATO nations.
PACIFIC OCEAN (Aug. 20, 2015) Sailors receive cargo in hangar bay of the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) during an underway replenishment with the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Henry J. Kaiser (T-AO 187). The John C. Stennis Strike Group is undergoing a composite training unit exercise and joint task force exercise, the final step in certifying to deploy.
ARABIAN GULF (Aug. 26, 2015) An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to the Sea Knights of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 22 delivers cargo from the Military Sealift Command fast combat support ship USNS Arctic (T-AOE 8) to the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) during a vertical replenishment.
PORT HUENEME, Calif. (Aug. 24, 2015) Chief Utilitiesman Philip Anderton, assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 3, musters his platoon as his daughter hugs him before departing on a scheduled deployment to the Pacific region. NMCB-3 will support construction operations throughout the U.S. Pacific Fleet, sustain interoperability with regional governments, and provide fleet construction support.
INDIAN OCEAN (Aug. 25, 2015) Gunner’s Mate 3rd Class Alyssa Wynn fires the forward .50-caliber machine gun during a surface warfare live-fire exercise aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge (DDG 96).
Lance Cpl. Noah Soliz fires his M240-B medium machine gun during a live-fire squad attack course August 22, 2015, during Exercise Crocodile Strike at Mount Bundey Training Area, Northern Territory, Australia.
Marines assigned 1st Marine Division, run along hills during the Dark Horse Ajax Challenge aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Aug. 20, 2015. The eight-mile course tested the Marines’ and Sailors’ endurance and leadership skills with trials spread across the San Mateo area.
Lance Cpl. Riley Remoket, with 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, fills a water bull at a water distribution site during typhoon relief efforts in Saipan, Aug. 19, 2015. The Marines and sailors of the 31st MEU were redirected to Saipan after the island was struck by Typhoon Soudelor Aug. 2-3.
U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone meets Lt. Gen. Timothy M. Ray, 3rd Air Force commander and 17th Expeditionary Air Force commander, upon his arrival to Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Aug. 24. 2015. Stone, along with childhood friends, Aleksander Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler, were recently honored by French President François Hollande for subduing an armed gunman when he entered their train carrying an assault rifle, a handgun and a box cutter.
An F-22A Raptor from the 95th Fighter Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., flies over the Nevada Test and Training Range during Red Flag 15-3 at Nellis AFB, Nev., July 31, 2015.
Maj. Jason Curtis, Thunderbird 5, and Capt. Nicholas Eberling, Thunderbird 6, fly back from Minden, Nev., Aug. 25, 2015.
Paratroopers assigned to 1st Battalion (Airborne), 501st Infantry Regiment descend after jumping out of a C-130 Hercules, assigned to the 374th Wing from Yokota Air Base, Japan, over the Malemute drop zone at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Aug. 24, 2015.
Coast Guard Station Yaquina Bay is preparing for heavy weather this weekend. The coastal forecast is calling for 10-15 ft swells and winds up to 45 knots on Saturday. The Coast Guard defines heavy weather as seas greater than 8ft and winds greater than 30 knots.
Coast Guard Station Yaquina Bay has two 47 foot motor life boats. These boats have the ability to roll over and return to the upright position in 8-12 seconds.
One by one, the veterans made their inaugural trip up the steep mountainside armed with harnesses and ropes. For most of them, rock climbing was a brand new experience, yet they were scrambling up and repelling down the cliff face at Hartman Rocks in Gunnison, Colorado, with barely a semblance of a beginner’s nerves. Amid shouts of encouragement and good-humored banter, the Airmen were bonding. While they’d been strangers just the day before, they’d already become a team.
Traveling from different areas of the U.S., the eight Air Force wounded warriors, sponsored by Team Racing for Veterans’ (R4V), arrived at an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colorado, to participate in three unfamiliar sports: rock climbing, fly fishing and mountain biking. The biannual camps give wounded veterans a chance to prove to themselves they can adapt to and overcome any current limitations, from amputations to post-traumatic stress.
For those attending the camp, it was a chance to network with other wounded warriors who wanted to get out of their comfort zones, take on new challenges, and pursue a sense of normalcy.
In addition to sharing their common goals and adaptive sports experiences at the camp, the wounded warriors had a chance to get to know each other in a relaxed setting during their down time. Instead of staying in a hotel where they would be scattered throughout the building, the Airmen stayed in a large ranch-style home that was donated for the camp’s use. During some of their meals and at the close of each day, the wounded warriors could gather in a common area and talk.
Military veterans share their individual stories during dinner at an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colo. Each night of the camp ended with reflection and therapeutic conversations. | Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.
While engaging in one such casual conversation in the living room with four other veterans, Staff Sgt. Gideon Connelly, a 175th Wing chaplain assistant with the Maryland National Guard, found himself smiling and feeling at ease. The openness he displayed was something new, because Connelly had grown up building walls around himself that no one could get through.
As a child, his experiences in the foster care system left him unwilling to depend on others. Though he was eventually taken in by his aunt and uncle, Connelly still found himself disappointed after witnessing his relatives getting robbed by other children they had adopted.
“Watching those kids grow up, how cruel and jagged they could be, it just pushed my trust in people away a lot more,” Connelly said.
“Before these guys,” he indicated the other wounded warriors, “you had no shot for me to trust you.”
Unexpectedly, the injuries that brought Connelly into the wounded warrior family were causing him to change for the better, he said.
On July 5, 2011, Staff Sgt. Gideon Connelly’s life took an abrupt turn after a motorcycle accident on the streets of Baltimore. As a result of the crash, Connelly lost his left leg below the knee, his right knee required a partial replacement, and his right arm had to be artificially restructured.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Richard W. Rose Jr. (Ret.) and Staff Sgt. Gideon Connelly celebrate after climbing a 50-foot mountain. | Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.
“The first couple years were hard,” he said. “It was like gut-wrenching pain in my arm when I was lifting weights, curling, or anything like that, just because there wasn’t much muscle around the metal.”
Eventually he was able to build his strength back up, but by the time the doctors could take out the hardware in his arm, bone had grown over it and become fused to the metal. Because of this, Connelly opted not to have it removed.
“I’ve adapted to it,” he said. “I’ve adapted with my leg, my knee, and the arm was another thing. I just had to get over it. Cold affects it, but you move your wrist around a little bit and keep going. I’m all about adapting and overcoming everything. I’m not going to let anything stop me from doing what I want to do.”
Three years after his injury, Connelly became involved in the world of adaptive sports and attended an AFW2 camp. Striving for more, he was also selected to represent the Air Force during the 2014 Warrior Games in shot put, discus, and the 100- and 200-meter sprints. It was at this competition that he met a group of wounded warriors and began to finally let down his guard.
Two years later, his wounded warrior family remains important to him – it is a group of people he keeps in touch with nearly every single day.
Although Connelly is busy training in pursuit of his dream of running track at the Paralympic Games, he leapt at the opportunity to try new sports at a Team R4V mountain adventure.
“Mountain biking: that was the sport that brought everybody together today,” Connelly said. He found it inspiring to watch the guys zooming down the mountain tracks on hand cycles.
“The trails are probably 20 inches wide – the same as their wheel base – and they are just flying,” he added. “Watching them struggle, but still make it up and down the hills, it was awesome! It was definitely team building and it brought us that much closer together.”
Ricky Rose Jr. knew that the sports therapy aspect of Team R4V’s camps would help him physically, but he hesitated to participate.
After being medically discharged from the Air Force as a staff sergeant, Rose thought about attending a wounded warrior camp. It was an idea that had run though his mind many times before but what always stopped him were questions: Did he deserve to go? Would he even fit into the group?
When Team R4V invited him to their fall camp, Rose decided to set those doubts aside and give it a go.
At first he was nervous, but after realizing many people in the house shared the same medical conditions he did, Rose began to feel more comfortable. He found there was relief in being surrounded by people who’d gone through tough situations — from battling cancer to being shot in Afghanistan – because they could all relate to one another.
“While each individual’s circumstances are different in the grand scheme, we’re all fighting the same demons,” Rose said. “That’s been the most beneficial part of this camp; you feel comfortable talking to somebody that you know has been there and done that.”
At the camp, much of the conversation and bonding begins over food.
With a focus on overall wellness, Team R4V cooks healthy meals for the wounded warriors each day, and encourages them to eat breakfast and dinner together. At the kitchen table, sharing a meal and talking about the day’s events, the Airmen got to know each other better. As they talked, Rose felt a sense of camaraderie return, one that he’d missed since the last day he’d hung up his Air Force uniform.
“I wasn’t expecting us to come together as a family as quickly as we did,” he said. “We all realized pretty quickly that we’re all Airmen and we’re all in this together.”
Surrounded by people who could empathize with his journey, Rose spoke about his experiences in the Air Force and the daily challenges he continues to face as a wounded warrior.
During his time in service, Rose deployed three times, once to Kuwait and twice to Iraq. Employed as a combat photographer, his objective was to document the war through the experiences of the troops with whom he was embedded – the good times, the bad times, and everything in between.
“They didn’t send us on missions where we would just sit on base all day,” he said. “They’d send us on missions where crap was going to hit the fan, or there was a really good chance of it. More times than not, we were attacked … we got blown up what seemed like almost every mission. It felt like almost every day could have been the day you died because we lost a lot of people too. War is just nasty, and I got to help show that as honestly as I could to people.”
While deployed, Rose captured thousands of images, braving firefights and mortar attacks to accomplish his job. In 2007, Rose was named one of the Air Force’s 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year, in part for his dedication in the combat zone – a place seared into his memory by the very tool he used to perform his mission.
“The hardest thing, and I didn’t know this until after a lot of therapy and a lot of different doctors, but I didn’t realize, as a photographer, how many of those images I took were just going to stay in my brain,” Rose said. “I just kind of thought I’d take a picture and then they’d go away, but they don’t.”
Even at home, he was unable to turn his mind away from the combat zone. Feeling unstable, Rose asked for help. He went to see a doctor and was ultimately diagnosed with a TBI and PTSD.
PTSD is an anxiety disorder that presents a variety of negative effects, such as flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive thoughts and memories. Military members with PTSD can become hyper-vigilant, angry and depressed. Sights and sounds, such as large crowds, random crazy noises, and sudden flashes of light – can mentally bring them back to the combat zone and trigger an unconscious response.
“PTSD is horrible,” Rose said. “Imagine never being able to feel comfortable or like everything is alright. Every day is a challenge because I don’t know how my body and mind will react to whatever happens that day. Will I see, touch, or smell something that will give me an instant flashback and turn me into a different person? Will my conversations lead to nightmares? Do I feel like killing myself today? That’s what it’s like.”
The temporary home in Colorado is quiet and isolated from outside stimuli. The intensity and focus needed to learn new sports is designed to wear the Airmen out and give them the ability to be calm.
“I haven’t really had a bad thought since I’ve been here, other than being exhausted and tired (from the day’s activity),” he laughed, adding, “I haven’t really had a trigger or nightmare or anything since I’ve been here. It’s been peaceful, very peaceful.”
The physical, mental and emotional benefits of regular exercise have been proven time and time again, which is why Team R4V staff said they provide support to veterans through a wide variety of physical activities. Rehabilitation though adaptive sports has been an idea at the forefront of the organization since its conception.
Inspired by a friend who coached the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program’s team for the Warrior Games, a Defense Department competitive adaptive sports event for injured, ill and wounded service members, Bethany Pribila, Team R4V’s founder and CEO, decided to start a non-profit organization that would enable veterans from every branch of the military to benefit through participation in sports.
Team R4V provides wounded warrior athletes with funding for races and events, but it is their own sports camps, which they host in partnership with the Crested Butte Adaptive Sports Center, that holds a special place in the heart of the organization.
At the camp’s end, Pribila reflected that everything had gone as envisioned. She had witnessed the wounded warriors supporting one another, cheering each other on, and forming lasting bonds. Though the Airmen had arrived as strangers, when they left, it was as friends and as family.
The European Command has released dramatic photos of a Ran jet coming within a few feet of a reconnaissance jet over the Baltic Sea in a maneuver that has been criticized as fe.
The photographs released Friday show the Ran SU-27 coming so close to the wing of the RC-135U that the Ran pilot can be seen in the cockpit in some images.
Intercepts are common and are usually considered routine, but EUCOM said in this case on June 19 “due to the high rate of closure speed and poor control of the aircraft during the intercept, this interaction was determined to be fe.”
Two days later, Sweden summoned Ra’s ambassador after another SU-27 jet flew close to a Swedish Gulfstream reconnaissance plane over the Baltic.
From the Ship of the Line to the Dreadnought battleship, the British have been advancing the art of naval warfare for hundreds of years. 2015 was no different.
This past summer, the Combat Systems Team at BMT Defence Systems unveiled Dreadnought 2050, a multifunctional stealth submersible design that, as the company puts it, “maximizes naval effectiveness while mitigating risks to British sailors.” Here are seven new ideas the BMT team is bringing to the high seas:
1. The “Moon Pool”
A floodable pool area the ship can use to deploy Marines, divers, drones, or other special operations.
2. Drone Launcher
A flight deck and hangar used to remotely launch drones, all of which could be 3D printed on board the ship.
A hovering device to give the ship a 360-degree view of the battlespace around the ship, complete with electromagnetic sensors to detect enemy ships. The quad-copter itself could be armed for fights in close quarters around the ship.
4. “Smart Windows”
An acrylic hull, coated in graphene that could turned semitransparent by applying an electric current.
5. Stealth Propulsion
Highly efficient turbines would drive electric motors on what would be the first surface ship to have parts of its structure below the water line, making it difficult to detect.
6. Holographic Command Center
A holographic command table will offer a 3D rendering of the battlespace in real time.
7. Next-Level Naval Weapons
Hypersonic missile systems, rocket-propelled torpedoes, and an electromagnetic rail gun round out a definitive “don’t mess with me” message to the enemies of Great Britain.
The situation surrounding a number of Allied ships sunk in a series of desperate battles around what is now Indonesia 75 years ago is a mixed bag, a new report finds. Late last year, advocates worried that many of the wrecks had been looted by modern-day grave robbers, forever altering important monuments to World War II history.
At Tjilatjap, Java, Feb. 6, 1942, seen from USS Marblehead (CL-12), which was passing close aboard. Houston’s colors are half-masted pending return of her funeral party, ashore for burial of men lost when a bomb hit near her after eight-inch gun turret two days earlier during a Japanese air attack in Banka Strait. (US Navy photo)
According to a report by USNI News, recent sonar surveys show the wreck of the heavy cruiser USS Houston (CA 30) is still in good shape, while there is inconclusive data on the Australian light cruiser HMAS Perth.
Past surveys have revealed that other wrecks, including the Dutch destroyer HNLMS Kortenear, the British heavy cruiser HMS Exeter and the British destroyers HMS Encounter have been stripped by looters.
The British destroyer HMS Electra, also sunk in the battles around Indonesia, has been “picked over,” while the Dutch cruisers HNLMS Java and HNLMS Dr Ruyter have had large portions of their wrecks removed. In one special case, the submarine USS Perch (SS 176), scuttled by her crew, has also been salvaged.
According to the United States Navy’s Naval History and Heritage Command, only 368 personnel survived the sinking of USS Houston when she sank as a result of gunfire from the Japanese cruisers HIJMS Mogami and HIJMS Mikuma. Of those 368, only 291 survived roughly three and a half years in captivity.
In a release, the Naval History and Heritage Command noted that the survey, conducted by the Australian National Maritime Museum and the National Research Centre of Archaeology Indonesia was the first survey to provide a full view of USS Houston’s wreckage, thanks to the use of remotely operated vehicles and multi-beam sonar scanning.
Past surveys had focused on sections of the ship, using underwater video cameras and still cameras to assess the status of the wreck.
“We’re grateful to the Australian National Maritime Museum and Indonesia’s National Research Centre of Archaeology for sharing this information with us,” Naval History and Heritage Command Director Sam Cox said in the release. “We take very seriously our obligation to remember the service of American and allied Sailors who have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of freedom. We’ll do everything we can, and work with everyone we must, to safeguard their final resting places.”