It’s well known that many U.S. service members join the military to protect their country from its enemies and to serve a higher purpose. It’s a calling that’s drawn millions of Americans into uniform over the nation’s history.
But when the bullets start flying, most of those higher-minded motivations are stripped away, and it becomes about protecting that buddy at your side. It’s a bond unlike any other.
While often this camaraderie manifests itself in acts of courage during battle, it can also shine in private moments of tenderness and respect — even under life-threatening stress.
In episode one of National Geographic’s amazing series “Inside Combat Rescue,” there’s a short scene that shows this inseparable bond — one that many might miss as the action of a medical evacuation swirls across the screen.
As Special Forces soldiers load their severely-wounded comrade — the team’s medic — on the Black Hawk MEDEVAC, each takes a second to kiss their fellow soldier before he’s flown to a field hospital.
It’s in those few seconds — barely noticeable by most viewers — that the true bond between combat veterans is on display (the video is cropped to the specific scene).SnakeDog/YouTube
John Nicely was a Sergeant in the US Marine Corps during the brutal Pacific island campaigns of WWII. He saw his first action in the battle for the island of Saipan on June 15th, 1944. From there he continued fighting from island to island and eventually prepared for the invasion of Japan. Nicely and his unit entered the devastated city of Nagasaki, just 25 days after the nuclear blast. We met up with him at a reunion of the 2nd Marine division in 1994 and he shared his vivid personal memories of front-line combat.
Born with a birth defect causing seizures, battling anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and facing divorce and separation from a child can be a lot for anyone to handle, but with a community of support, things can get better.
For retired Air Force Capt. Rob Hufford, no statement could ring truer. From an all-time low to bear-hugging England’s Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, while in Australia to compete in the Invictus Games, things are looking up for Hufford.
“I researched the effect of lingering hugs,” Hufford said. “Psychotherapist Virginia Satir said four hugs a day for maintenance, eight hugs a day for survival, and 12 hugs a day for growth.”
After graduating the Air Force Academy in 2006, Hufford became a civil engineering officer and, over the next nine years, was stationed in four locations and deployed to Iraq twice.
It was during this time that Hufford’s life seemed to fall apart and things began to spiral. He reached the limit on the medicine he could take for his condition, which was a good and bad thing.
The drugs were causing anxiety and anger, but without them, his physical activity was limited until surgery. His outlook became bleak.
In January of 2013, he had a temporal lobectomy to remove a piece of his brain.
Retired Capt. Lawrence “Rob” Hufford yells triumphantly after lifting 418 pounds, setting a personal best in the heavyweight category of power-lifting at the 2018 Invictus Games.
“It was about the size of a tube of Chapstick,” Hufford said.
In 2015, the secretary of the Air Force decided that he should be medically retired. In 2016, his marriage fell apart and he became geographically separated from his son.
Keeping a positive attitude while coping with everything was a constant struggle.
His lifeline came in the form of friend, Dana Lyon, Air Force Academy javelin and strength conditioning coach. She had noticed that Hufford was a shell of what he once was and pushed him to become involved with the Air Force Wounded Warrior program.
In June of 2017, he attended Offutt Air Force Base’s AFW2 Caregivers, Adaptive Sports, Resiliency, Empowerment and Transition event. Hufford was able to share his stories with others who were suffering and got to know himself better.
“I could finally see the effects that denial issues and my illnesses had had on my relationships with other people,” Hufford said. “It was a turning point in my life.”
It was also during the CARE event that he heard about the Warrior Games. He applied for the winter trials at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, and was one of 40 selectees and 10 alternates to participate in the games at the Air Force Academy.
Team Air Force athlete Capt. Rob Hufford looks at the scoreboard after competing in the rowing competition during the Department of Defense Warrior Games at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado, June 9, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech Sgt. Anthony Nelson Jr.)
The next thing he knew, he was invited to participate in the Invictus Games in Sydney, Australia. The event, created by Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, in 2014, was inspired by the Warrior Games created by the U.S. Department of Defense in 2010.
Hufford said he was honored to see Prince Harry during the sailing event. He called out to the prince to inform him that he could expect to receive a hug when he met him again.The Duke decided that there was no better time than the present and accommodated him with a big bear hug.
As Hufford continues to compete in Wounded Warrior programs, he has also made an effort to pay it forward. He works with Omaha organizations that help to identify what he calls “invisibly wounded” individuals throughout the community.
His efforts don’t go unnoticed.
“Rob is always the person there supporting everyone else regardless of what he is going through,” said Marsha Gonzales, Warrior Care Support branch chief.
Impressed by his attitude, Gonzales assisted Hufford in returning to Air Force employment.
He is currently the lead engineer for the upcoming Offutt AFB runway restoration project and the Omaha Lincoln Airfields due to kick off in 2019.
This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.
Frightening attacks on US personnel in Havana struck the heart of America’s spy network in Cuba, with intelligence operatives among the first and most severely affected victims, The Associated Press has learned.
It wasn’t until US spies, posted to the embassy under diplomatic cover, reported hearing bizarre sounds and experiencing even stranger physical effects that the United States realized something was wrong, individuals familiar with the situation said.
While the attacks started within days of President Donald Trump’s surprise election in November, the precise timeline remains unclear, including whether intelligence officers were the first victims hit or merely the first victims to report it. The US has called the situation “ongoing.”
To date, the Trump administration largely has described the 21 victims as US embassy personnel or “members of the diplomatic community.” That description suggested only bona fide diplomats and their family members were struck, with no logical motivation beyond disrupting US-Cuban relations.
Behind the scenes, though, investigators immediately started searching for explanations in the darker, rougher world of spycraft and counter-espionage, given that so many of the first reported cases involved intelligence workers posted to the US embassy. That revelation, confirmed to the AP by a half-dozen officials, adds yet another element of mystery to a year-long saga that the Trump administration says may not be over.
The State Department and the CIA declined to comment for this story.
The first disturbing reports of piercing, high-pitched noises and inexplicable ailments pointed to someone deliberately targeting the US government’s intelligence network on the communist-run island, in what seemed like a bone-chilling escalation of the tit-for-tat spy games that Washington and Havana have waged over the last half century.
But the US soon discovered that actual diplomats at the embassy had also been hit by similar attacks, officials said, further confounding the search for a culprit and a motive.
Of the 21 confirmed cases, American spies suffered some of the most acute damage, including brain injury and hearing loss that has not healed, said several US officials who weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the investigation and demanded anonymity. They heard an unsettling sound inside and in some cases outside their Havana homes, described as similar to loud crickets. Then they fell ill.
Over time, the attacks seemed to evolve.
In many of the more recent cases, victims didn’t hear noises and weren’t aware an attack was occurring, identifying the symptoms only later. That has raised concerns among investigators that the attacks may be getting more sophisticated and harder to detect, individuals briefed on the investigation said.
Though the State Department has called all the cases “medically confirmed,” several US officials said it’s unclear whether all of the victims’ symptoms can be conclusively tied to attacks. Considering the deep sense of alarm among Americans working in the embassy, it’s possible some workers attributed unrelated illnesses to attacks.
Almost nothing about what has transpired in Havana is perfectly clear. But this is Cuba.
For decades, Washington and Havana pushed their rivalry to unprecedented levels of covert action. The former enemies tracked each other’s personnel, turned each other’s agents, and, in the case of the CIA, even mounted a failed attempt to overthrow the Cuban government in the 1961 “Bay of Pigs” invasion.
There were hopes, though, that the two nations were starting to put that bitter history behind them after renewing diplomatic relations in 2015. When the attacks first occurred, the US and Cuban governments were hard at work on clinching new commercial and immigration agreements. No new spat among intelligence services was publicly known.
Cuban President Raúl Castro (left) shakes hands with former US President Barack Obama, 2015. Photo courtesy of the White House.
Eleven months on, the US cannot guarantee the threat is over. Last week, the State Department warned Americans to stay away from Cuba and ordered more than half the embassy staff to leave indefinitely. The US had previously given all embassy staff the option to come home, but even most of those struck by the mysterious attacks had opted to stay, individuals familiar with the situation said.
For those staying and new arrivals, the US has been giving instructions about what to watch and listen for to identify an attack in progress. They’re also learning steps to take if an attack occurs that could mitigate the risk, officials said.
But the US has not identified whatever device is responsible for the harm. FBI sweeps have turned up nothing.
So to better identify patterns, investigators have created a map detailing specific areas of Cuba’s capital where attacks have occurred, several individuals familiar with the matter said. Three “zones,” or geographic clusters of attacks, cover the homes where US diplomats live and several hotels where attacks occurred, including the historic Hotel Capri.
Since first disclosing the situation in August, the United States had generally avoided the word “attacks.” It called them “incidents” instead until Sept. 29. Now, the State Department deems them “specific attacks” targeting Americans posted in Havana, without saying what new information, if any, prompted the newfound confidence they were indeed deliberate.
The most obvious motive for attacking Americans in Havana would be to drive a wedge between the US and Cuba. If that’s the case, the strategy appears to be succeeding.
Last week’s embassy drawdown added to the growing friction between the nations. And an accompanying new travel warning deemed Havana’s hotels unsafe for visitors, threatening to drive down tourism, a backbone of Cuba’s economy.
In Havana, American diplomats are frantically selling off possessions — from mattresses to canned goods to children’s toys — and hurriedly making plans to return to the US, where some haven’t lived in years. The State Department has worked feverishly to arrange transportation, temporary jobs, and places to live for those coming back early from Cuba.
“Heartbroken? Me too, but this will make you feel better,” one seller posted in a chatroom for foreigners in Cuba, under a picture of a Costco artichoke hearts jar selling for $6.
For Cubans, it may be no better. The US has been providing 20,000 visas a year to Cubans moving to the United States. It has issued thousands more to Cubans wishing to visit family in America. The reduction in US staff in Havana means visa processing there has been suspended indefinitely.
Cuba has vehemently denied involvement or knowledge of the attacks. Some in the US government believe the Cubans may be telling the truth, officials said.
When President Raul Castro denied any culpability in February, he did so on the sidelines of a meeting in Havana with five visiting US members of Congress, the AP found. The US had raised complaints about the attacks to Cuba just days earlier through diplomatic channels.
Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, Chargé d’Affaires at US Embassy Havana. Photo from US State Department.
But the visiting lawmakers knew nothing of the attacks taking place in the country they were visiting.
Nor did they know that Castro had used the occasion of their meeting to pull aside Jeff DeLaurentis, then the top US diplomat in Cuba, to say privately that his government was equally alarmed and willing to help.
The lawmakers all declined to comment. Cuban officials say they’re disappointed in the US retaliatory measures but will continue cooperating with the investigation.
Military snipers were trained sharpshooters assigned to kill a man with one perfect shot. These highly disciplined marksman often stalked a target for days waiting for just the right moment to squeeze the trigger. Lurking in the shadows alone, the deadly stealth of the sniper made him the most feared man on the battlefield. As a young hunter, Chuck Mawhinney grew up with a gun in his hand. In October 1967, Mawhinney was just 19 years old when he made his first kill as a scout sniper in Vietnam.
Turkey finalized its purchase of the Russian-made S-400 surface-to-air missile system earlier this month.
The acquisition has stirred concern in other NATO countries since it was first reported several months ago, and the sale comes at time of increased tensions between Ankara and the West, the US in particular, over the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as well as the US-led campaign against ISIS in Syria.
Turkish state-run news agency Anadolu appeared to make pointed references to the S-400’s potential use against NATO and US planes on Sept. 20, when it tweeted out an infographic displaying the specifications of the S-400 and which US planes it could shoot down.
The graphic, as noted by Military Times, says the S-400 can react to targets in less than 10 seconds and can hit targets at a range up to 250 miles while traveling at about 10,000 mph. It also says the system can eliminate such US aircraft as the B-52 and B-1 bombers; F-15, F-16, and F-22 fighters; as well as surveillance aircraft and Tomahawk missiles.
— ANADOLU AGENCY (ENG) (@anadoluagency) September 21, 2017
Ankara’s purchase of the S-400 raised alarm among other NATO countries for the consequences it would have for military cooperation as well as the signals it appeared to send about the contentious diplomatic relationships within the defense alliance.
Militarily, the missile system would not be interoperable with NATO defense systems and would not be subject to the same restrictions on deployments, meaning Turkey could put it in places like the Armenian border or Aegean coast.
The S-400 is Russia’s most sophisticated missile-defense system (though Turkey is unlikely to get the most advanced version). It can detect and target manned and unmanned aircraft and missiles, and hit targets up to 250 miles away.
A Turkish official said this summer that the S-400 would not come with friend-or-foe-identification system, meaning it could be used against any target. Turkey has said that a domestic firm would install software so it could distinguish between friend and foe aircraft, but there are doubts that process is technically feasible.
Diplomatically, the sale seemed to be the culmination of a period of frosty relations between Turkey and its partners in Europe and the US.
Ankara has clashed with Germany in the wake of a failed coup against Erdogan, after Berlin criticized the Turkish government for a crackdown on people accused of involvement.
Turkish-US relations have also suffered because of the war in Syria, where the US backs Kurdish fighters who Turkey sees as aligned with the Kurdish PKK, which both the US and Turkey have designated a terrorist group.
Turkey has threatened to target US-backed Kurdish fighters in Syria several times.
The deal also underscores for many in the West who believe there is an increasingly cozy relationship between Russia and Turkey.
Some view the sale as another step by Moscow to undermine NATO — a sentiment Russian presidential adviser Vladimir Kozhin may have tried to nurture earlier this month by saying, “I can only guarantee that all decisions taken on this contract strictly comply with our strategic interests.”
The new rules would allow Defense Secretary James Mattis to retain troops who had been serving openly
Rear Admiral Alene Duerk, the Navy’s first female admiral, died July 21 at 98 years old
He’s been the standard for invading, conquering, savaging mother-scratchers for centuries, but what do you really know about Genghis Khan? Take our quiz and find out:
NOW: How well do you know military slang? Take the quiz
Toward the end of December 1944 it was clear the Germans were losing WWII. Low on fuel, munitions and morale, the ability of the rogue nation was slipping by the hour. Still with 6,000,000 men under arms, Hitler burned with a passion for one more mad drive into the Allied lines. In December, 1944 with the Russians closing in from the east and the Allies chipping away at the western front, the Nazis made their move. 600,000 Germans in 29 divisions with 11 armored panzer divisions, surged into the Allied front. The stage was set for total Allied defeat, but Hitler had failed to calculate the most important element of all. He could count the thousands of guns, the tons of munitions and the hundreds of tanks, but he could never grasp the unfailing courage and valor of the American fighting man.
The Super Bowl is so many things. All the football, merch, traditions and fanfare … and all the money in the land to attend.
But turns out, one of the very best parts of the Super Bowl is absolutely free.
The USAA Salute to Service Lounge is colocated with the NFL Experience, but unlike the Experience which requires purchasing a day pass, the Salute to Service Lounge is open to anyone with a valid military ID.
Of course lounge-goers love all the free drinks and chips, the swanky leather furniture and the sweet set up, but more than anything, the candid conversations with NFL superstars was second to none.
This year’s lineup was absolutely incredible. Players sat down for a one-on-one interview with lounge host Dave Farra and then the audience had the opportunity to ask questions, followed by a chance to get an autograph and chat with the individual players.
This year’s lineup:
WATM and Roger Staubach
Legendary Dallas Cowboys QB and Navy QB Roger Staubach
Tessa caught up with legendary Cowboys football player and Vietnam Veteran Roger Staubach to hear about his ongoing relationship with the military…
Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson
Listen as Tessa interviews Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson about growing up in a Habitat for Humanity house, the importance of paying it forward and the…
Christian McCaffrey at the USAA Salute To Service Lounge at the Super Bowl LIV NFL Experience.
Carolina Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey
Arguably the best running back in the NFL, Christian McCaffrey talks with Tessa about his Super Bowl pick, his love for the military and his harmonica.
Steelers running back James Conner at the USAA Salute To Service Lounge at the Super Bowl LIV NFL Experience.
Pittsburgh Steelers RB James Conner
Tessa catches up with Pittsburgh Steelers’ James Conner to talk about his brother’s military service, his Super Bowl prediction and his unbelievable…
Also joining the Salute to Service Lounge was Tennessee Titans QB Ryan Tannehill and Washington Redskins Coach Ron Rivera. Next year, join USAA at the Super Bowl in Tampa and don’t miss this once in a lifetime experience.
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.