Vietnam Forward Observers - We Are The Mighty
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Vietnam Forward Observers

During the Vietnam War, all too often the chaos of battle found Allied forces trapped and facing annihilation in hostile territory. The situation called for courageous men to rise above their fears and carry out some of the deadliest missions in the history of warfare. Forward Observers, often alone, moved ahead of the Allied forces to secure vital vantage points. They served as the eyes of the artillery gunner in delivering rounds on enemy targets. In this episode, Medal of Honor recipients Barney Barnum and Brian Thacker tell their dramatic stories, In Their Own Words.

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Combat Medics in Vietnam

Combat Medics courageously fought to save lives as the war raged around them in Vietnam. Helicopters became virtual hospitals in the air, buying the combat medic valuable time to heal the wounded.  Max Cleland, a future US Senator from Georgia, lost three limbs when a grenade exploded in his hand. His life was saved by four beleaguered field medics. In this dramatic episode, Max Cleland recounts his story and we also hear from Clarence Sasser, who earned the Medal of Honor for his actions as a Combat Medic in Vietnam.

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Glider Attack On D-Day

They are known as America’s first military stealth aircraft. Under cover of darkness, the Waco CG-4A combat glider carried U.S. troops and materiel into battle during World War II.  William Horn and Leo Cordier, pilots who flew these unarmed and un-powered planes, landed behind enemy lines before the invasion troops arrived in Europe on D-Day. Their courageous stories are a little known chapter in the Allied march to victory during WWII.

 

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Iran threatens to drop missiles on US bases if White House imposes new sanctions

The chief of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard said Oct. 8 the US should move its military bases farther from Iran’s borders if it imposes new sanctions against Tehran, the official IRNA news reported.


The Oct. 8 report quotes Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari as saying, “If new sanctions go into effect, the country should move its regional bases to a 2,000-kilometer (1,240-mile) radius” out of the range of Iranian missiles.

Currently, US military bases are located in countries neighboring Iran, including Bahrain, Iraq, Oman, and Afghanistan, less than 500 kilometers (310 miles) from Iran’s borders.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Photo from CounterExtremism.com

Jafari rejected the idea of negotiating with the US over regional issues and said if the United States designates the Revolutionary Guard a terrorist group, the Guard — which has suffered significant casualties fighting the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq — will also consider the US army a terrorist group.

He said such moves by the US will eliminate “any chance for engagement forever.”

President Donald Trump appears to be stepping back from his campaign pledge to tear up the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, instead aiming to take other measures against Iran and its affiliates.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Photo from White House Flickr.

New actions expected to be announced by the White House in the coming days will focus on the Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group blamed for sowing discord in the Middle East and seeking Israel’s demise. They include financial sanctions on anyone who does business with the Revolutionary Guard, as well as millions of dollars in rewards for information leading to the arrest of two operatives of Iran-backed Hezbollah.

On Saturday, Iran’s president defended the nuclear deal and said not even 10 Donald Trumps can roll back its benefits to Iran.

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The USS Squall fired shots after an ‘incident’ with Iranian navy ships

Vietnam Forward Observers
The USS Squall transits the Persian Gulf during exercise Spartan Kopis on December 9, 2013. | MC1 Michelle Turner


Just one day after video emerged of Iranian ships swarming and harassing the USS Nitze, Business Insider has confirmed a separate incident on Wednesday involving the USS Squall, a coastal patrol ship, in the northern Arabian Gulf.

CNN’s Barbara Starr reports that the Squall was harassed by Iranian fast-attack craft that came within 200 yards of the ship.

After repeated attempts to contact the boats by radio, the Squall had to resort to firing warning shots, according to Starr.

Business Insider has reached out to US naval officials for comment.

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Putin is playing all the angles in the Middle East

After watching for years as the United States called the shots in the region, Russian President Vladimir Putin is seizing the reins of diplomacy in the Middle East, establishing footholds, and striking alliances with unlikely partners.


From the battlefields of Syria to its burgeoning relationships with Iran and Turkey to its deepening ties with Saudi Arabia, Russia is stepping in to fill a void left by the United States first under the Obama administration and now in the vastly inconsistent and largely hands-off policies of Donald Trump.

Embroiled in controversy at home and loathe to engaging in the strife-riddled region beyond fighting the Islamic State group, Trump has largely stayed on the sidelines of attempts to help find a political settlement for Syria’s long-running civil war.

Those efforts are now led by Russia, in partnership with Iran and Turkey, organizing local cease-fires and creating “de-escalation zones” that have significantly reduced the violence in the country. Russia’s role in Syria has raised its international profile and allowed it to claim fighting terrorist groups such as the Islamic State group while it shored up President Bashar Assad’s government.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) meets with Hassan Rouhani, President of Iran, in Tehran. Nov. 1, 2017. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

Moscow has stood by Tehran while Trump has refused to re-certify the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers — a stance reiterated by Putin himself Nov. 2 on a visit to Tehran. It has also reached out to Iran’s Mideast rival Saudi Arabia in recent weeks, promising weapons deals and other investments to the Sunni power house.

Bilal Saab, a senior fellow and director of the Defense and Security Program at the Middle East Institute, said that while Russia has clearly become a more influential interlocutor on Syria, there are clear limits to its overall foray into the region.

“What Russia offers is transactional, as opposed to strategic. Arms sales are no substitute for deep political rapport, which is what Washington provides, despite lingering tensions with key partners,” he said.

Still, Putin appears to be positioning himself as Mideast broker, seeking to expand his influence in a region where the US remains the most dominant military actor.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Russia President Vladimir Putin (right) meets with Syrian President Assad. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

Syria Power Broker

Moscow’s military involvement in the Syrian war since 2015 has propped up Assad’s forces and turned the conflict in his favor, while Russian mediation earlier this year launched cease-fire talks in Astana, Kazakhstan. The talks, sponsored jointly with Iran and Turkey, have brokered local deals that have significantly reduced violence in the war-torn country.

This week, Russia announced plans to host Syrian groups and government representatives for political talks on Nov. 18 — just 10 days before a new round of UN-sponsored talks are to start in Geneva. The invitation has roiled Syrian opposition groups who described it as an attempt to “bypass” UN efforts to resolve the country’s conflict and dictate the terms of any settlement.

Russia invited over a dozen groups, a mix of government representatives and political opposition parties, including for the first time the main US-backed Kurdish party now in control of northern Syria. The Syrian Kurdish PYD has previously been barred from participation in political negotiations at the Geneva Talks, at Turkey’s insistence.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Photo courtesy of Kurdish YPG Fighters Flickr. The People’s Protection Units (YPG) were initially formed by the Democratic Union Party (PYD).

The invitation by Russia has led to speculation that Russia may use the conference to broker a wider reconciliation between Assad and the Syrian Kurds under conditions that preclude long-term US influence in Syria.

“Russia is accelerating its effort to subvert the Syrian political process by establishing a new diplomatic framework that sets conditions to expel the US from Northern Syria,” said an analysis by the Institute for the Study of War this week.

Related: The US is supplying weapons to Kurdish fighters in Syria

Badran Ciya Kurd, an adviser for the Kurdish-led self-administration who met with Russian officials ahead of the invite to Sochi, said Russia supports the Kurdish federal project while the US strategy has been vague.

“It is not yet clear what their (Americans) strategy is after Raqqa, and we would like to understand,” he said, referring to the northern city liberated from Raqqa last month.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Russian President Putin (left) finds common ground with Iranian President Rouhani.

Shared interests with Iran

While Iran promised a foreign policy that would be “neither East nor West” after its 1979 Islamic Revolution, Tehran has tilted toward Russia given its antipathy for Washington. Tehran relied on Moscow’s support to complete its Bushehr nuclear power plant in 2011 and received Russia’s S-300 surface-to-air missile system in 2016.

In that time, Russia and Iran also found themselves fighting to support the embattled Syrian president. The countries regularly coordinate on Syria and have provided overwhelming military and political aid to prop up Assad’s government and army.

On a visit to Tehran on Nov. 2, Putin strongly backed Iran and its nuclear deal with world powers, saying Moscow opposed “any unilateral change” to the accord after Trump refused to re-certify it.

Putin made the comments on a one-day trip to Tehran for trilateral talks between Azerbaijan, Iran and Russia, during which he met with both Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Russian and Saudi government officials, including President Putin of Russia and King Salman, meet in expanded format, Oct. 5, 2017. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

Gulf Contracts

Across the Gulf Arab states, the US has been the guarantor of security since the 1991 Gulf War. In recent years, however, Gulf countries have increasingly looked toward making defense deals with Russia, especially after growing wary of the US detente with Iran under President Barack Obama. In the last weeks alone, Russia has gone big into Saudi Arabia, which supported the Afghan mujahedeen against Soviet troops in the 1980s.

King Salman of Saudi Arabia visited Moscow last month and signed multi-billion dollar energy deals with Russia, which also agreed to sell the Iranian rival its advanced S-400 missile system, which Tehran does not possess. Other deals would include Saudi Arabia locally producing Russian anti-tank missiles, rocket launchers, and automatic grenade launchers, as well as the latest version of the Kalashnikov assault rifle.

King Salman’s visit marked the first by any Saudi monarch to Moscow and heralded a new era of cooperation and a thawing in a bilateral relation that has been severely strained since Russia’s military intervention in Syria on behalf of Assad.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, on a visit to Sochi, Aug. 23, 2017. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

Close cooperation with Israel

Israel and Russia maintain a close, if sometimes uneasy, relationship on regional issues — particularly when it comes to the war in neighboring Syria. In recent years, the Israeli and Russian air forces have been active in Syrian skies and have maintained, throughout the fighting, a hotline to prevent clashes between their air forces. Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has also held a number of meetings and phone conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, to discuss the situation in Syria.

Still, Israeli officials are concerned about Russia’s cooperation with Iran. But they also believe that Russian and Iranian interests could diverge as both countries compete for lucrative reconstruction contracts and political influence in postwar Syria. Israeli officials believe that Russia considers Iran a potentially destabilizing force in postwar Syria, and are cautiously optimistic that Russia understands Israel’s security concerns.

“Russian and Israeli interests in Syria may not be the same but that doesn’t necessarily mean that Russia cannot play a constructive role in Syria in Israel’s view or that certain understandings can’t be reached between Russia and Israel with regard to Syria,” said Chagai Tzuriel, the director general of Israel’s Intelligence Ministry.

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These 8 surprise military marriage proposals will warm your heart

Presented by Shane Co.


Know what’s fun? Troops surprising their families and friends. Know what’s more fun? When they surprise their loved ones with engagement rings. Check out these 8 troops who managed to pull off amazing surprise engagement proposals:

(Use the links embedded in each description to see the full videos.)

1. This sailor asks his pastor for the chance to propose in front of the entire congregation

Vietnam Forward Observers
GIF: YouTube/Ring On The Finger

This corpsman was going through training, and his entire congregation, including his girlfriend, thought he was still in Cherry Point, North Carolina. The sailor surprised his girlfriend and left her speechless at the altar (in a good way).

2. This lance corporal pulls off a public surprise

Vietnam Forward Observers
GIF: YouTube/Danny Brandt

This Marine surprised his girl at a Red Wings game and got a standing ovation from the audience before he even dropped to his knee.

3. A soldier photobombs his girlfriend’s Disney photo before proposing

Vietnam Forward Observers
GIF: YouTube/pered066

This soldier snuck up to where his girlfriend’s family was taking a photo in front of Sleeping Beauty’s castle. Once the photo was taken, he asked if they could take another, and his girl was shocked to hear his voice. She got a larger shock a moment later when he proposed.

4. This Marine make an entrance before proposing in front of a packed house

Vietnam Forward Observers
GIF: YouTube/ZebulonThomasFilms

This Marine got himself and his future fiancee invited into a Christmas show at the mall and surprised her when he stepped out of a box reserved for toy soldiers.

Vietnam Forward Observers
GIF: YouTube/ZebulonThomasFilms

The Marine then got down on his knee in his full dress uniform and proposed in front of three floors filled with spectators.

5. This soldier proposes in the middle of the airport.

Vietnam Forward Observers
GIF: YouTube/Homecoming Heroes

The Army trooper had just made it through the gates when he kissed his girlfriend. After he interrupts the kiss to get down on one knee, she senses what’s up and says, “Shut up, shut up, shut up!” But she eventually says yes (when she gets her voice back).

6. This airman proposes during a “Welcome Home” ceremony

Vietnam Forward Observers
GIF: YouTube/Brock Maze

The airman barely stops walking before he’s on one knee in front of his happy fiancee and presents her with her ring. There is an odd moment when a passing old woman seemingly blesses them with an American flag, but it’s probably a “Congrats and good luck!” kind of thing.

7. This Marine allowes a friend to hide a proposal in her award ceremony

Vietnam Forward Observers
GIF: YouTube/Karin Ramirez

According to the video uploader, Karin Ramirez, the ceremony was supposed to be all about her friend getting promoted to master sergeant. However, right after the promotion ceremony, the master sergeant pulls out a ring for her friend’s boyfriend to propose with. The officer is so surprised she can’t stop laughing.

8. This sailor proposes to a soldier on Independence Day in front of the Lincoln Monument in Washington D.C.

Vietnam Forward Observers
GIF: YouTube/Ring On The Finger

There are quite a few “Merica!” sentences on this website, but this one might take the cake: A sailor went with his soldier girlfriend to the Lincoln Memorial in uniform to stage a special proposal video on Independence Day. The soldier says yes and the crowd congratulates them both.

If you want to create a magical moment like these 8, check out engagement rings on Shane Co.

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These are the 3 soldiers going to the 2018 Winter Olympics

Every time the Olympics roll around, we’re proud to cheer for the American veterans who make the team. Not only have they made their country proud with their service; as world-class athletes, they’ll represent the United States and try to bring home the gold.


For the 2018 Winter Olympics, three of the current 102 American competitors are U.S. Army soldiers, part of Army’s World Class Athlete Program. They are Sgt. Emily Sweeny, Sgt. Taylor Morris, and Sgt. Matt Mortensen.

Sgt. Emily Sweeny — Women’s Singles Luge

Vietnam Forward Observers
(Image via Army MWR)

Sweeny was the first soldier to secure a spot on the 2018 U.S. Olympic team. She is a military police officer in the New York National Guard. After joining the Guard in 2011, she took on more of a leadership role within the USA Luge team where she not only competes, but helps identify and recruit talented youth to the sport.

She won the Gold Medal at the 2017 Winterberg Germany World Cup sprint race. Currently, she is ranked 8th in the world for women’s luge.

Sgt. Taylor Morris — Men’s Singles Luge

Vietnam Forward Observers
(Image via Army MWR)

Morris secured his place at the Olympics when he earned the Bronze medal at the Lake Placid World Cup sprint race. He solidified his position on the USA Luge team after his career-best run. He joined the U.S. Army in 2011 as a Human Resource Specialist in the New York National Guard.

Sgt. Matthew Mortensen — Doubles Luge

Vietnam Forward Observers
(Image via Army MWR)

Mortensen is an Engineer out of the New York Army National Guard, joining in February 2010. He is a two-time Olympian who missed the bronze at the 2014 Sochi Olympics by a mere 0.005 seconds with his luge teammate, Sgt. Preston Griffall. For PyeonChang, Griffall chose to focus on his studies and Jayson Terdiman stepped into his role.

Mortensen and his new teammate finished the 2016-2017 seasons ranked 3rd internationally and together have won three straight Norton National Championships.

The 2018 Winter Olympics will begin Feb. 9, 2018 and end on Feb. 25, 2018.

Go Team USA!

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Here’s a look inside Canada’s most elite search and rescue force

Canada is the second largest country in the world in terms of land mass and size, with harsh, unforgiving territory marking the majority of its geographic map. Air traffic nevertheless crisscrosses these large expanses of land, boats and ships still ply the rough seas around, and hikers and the adventurous of heart still navigate their way through the desolate north to explore the country’s natural beauty.


But when the unthinkable happens – be it an airplane crash in a remote area, a stranded an grievously ill hiker in the middle of  forest, or a sinking vessel off Canada’s coast, the Canadian armed forces are among the best prepared in the world.

We Are The Mighty recently flew with the Royal Canadian Air Force to watch its search and rescue teams in action.

The RCAF’s mission is known as Canadian Armed Forces Search and Rescue, CAFSAR for short, conducted by teams of fixed-wing and rotary aircraft, which can seamlessly integrate with Canadian coast guard and naval vessels for waterborne rescue missions, should the need arise.

From recovering downed aviators to rescuing civilian boaters adrift at sea, CAFSAR’s various units can do it all.

Vietnam Forward Observers
A CC-130H Hercules and CC-115 Buffalo (right) sit side by side before a training sortie (Photo Ian D’Costa)

Canada’s SAR units primarily use fixed-wing aircraft like the CC-130H Hercules and the CC-115 Buffalo to function as “spotters.” On missions, these aircraft fly low to the Earth, with aircrew inside maintaining vigilance over the terrain below for telltale signs of the imperiled.

To better facilitate these missions, the RCAF has modified their H-model Hercs with plexiglass “spotting stations” where the para-doors once existed towards the rear of the aircraft.

Both the Herc and the Buffalo are capable of remaining on-site for extended periods of time, and they often contain supplies and support materials relevant to the mission. For example, sometimes crews carry inflatable air-dropped life rafts and bilge pumps for at-sea rescues or recoveries. They also carry a complement of orange-clad SAR Technicians, who represent the backbone of the CAFSAR apparatus.

SAR “techs” are among the most elite of the Canadian Forces, numbering only 140 out of the nearly 70,000-strong military. Techs are considered specialists in their field, trained to provide “advanced pre-hospital medical care,” and are broadly qualified to perform missions in all areas of the Canadian wilderness and North, ranging from lakes, oceans, heavily-forested areas, mountains and onward to the bleak Arctic tundra.

SAR tech training is arduous and difficult. The attrition rate for students is high, and only the best students of each training class are posted to CAFSAR’s various joint rescue commands across the country.

Vietnam Forward Observers
Aircrew with 424 Sqn, RCAF prepare to drop inflatable liferafts to stranded boaters below (Photo Ian D’Costa)

CAFSAR also uses rotary aircraft— namely the CH-146 Griffon and CH-149 Cormorant — to move SAR techs to hard-to-reach places, and to conduct seaborne rescue operations. These aircraft can hover in place while techs are lowered and raised via winches, horse collars, and metal baskets. Rotary assets are often “vectored” to the site of a rescue by the spotter aircraft, when the site of the incident has been triangulated and located.

Given the urgent nature of rescue operations, missions can appear when least expected, and require crews to be alert and ready at a moment’s notice. In a matter of minutes, a Herc or a Buffalo can be loaded up and prepared for launch while SAR techs and the aircrew ready themselves for the mission at hand. Simultaneously, Griffons and/or Cormorants begin spooling up nearby for their own inevitable launch.

When on a larger joint SAR operation, a Herc or a Buffalo will lift off with the intention of finding and marking the location of the incident/rescue with a smoke canister. This can happen within minutes of reaching the general area, or after an hour of low-level flying. Depending on the nature of the emergency, support materials are prepped and deployed, while rotary units are flown over to the area with SAR techs ready for action.

Should the circumstances merit immediate assistance, CAFSAR’s SAR techs have one very important and versatile trick up their sleeves. Its members are qualified to perform “pararescue” operations, which involve parachute jumps from Hercs and Buffalos to reach areas on the surface where aircraft can not hover or land nearby.

The careful coordination of these assets, the advanced and well-developed abilities of SAR techs and rescue aircrews, and years of experience in performing rescue missions throughout Canada has helped CAFSAR become what it currently is – one of the most competent and effective search and rescue apparatuses in existence today.

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