Rangers: No, not the baseball team. Nope, not the Lone Ranger. I’m talking about the real-life special law enforcement division known officially as the Texas Ranger Division. Since 1823, the Texas Rangers have taken down criminals and outlaws like Bonnie and Clyde, investigated crimes like the infamous Irene Garza murder, and protected VIPs like President William Howard Taft whose assassination attempt in Mexico was thwarted by a Ranger. Today, the Rangers serve under the Texas Department of Public Safety as the state’s Bureau of Investigation.
As of January 1, 2020, there were 166 commissioned members of the Texas Ranger Division across six companies. The Rangers perform a wide array of law enforcement duties. While Rangers conduct mainly criminal investigations and arrests, other programs also fall under their direction and supervision. Rangers conduct Public Corruption/Integrity investigations, Joint Intelligence and Border Security operations, and even riverine reconnaissance operations. The Rangers Special Operations Group includes tier one professionals like Crisis Negotiation Units, SWAT and SRT operators and EOD personnel.
As previously mentioned, the Rangers are organized into six companies in Houston, Garland, Lubbock, Weslaco, El Paso and Waco with the Ranger Division headquartered in the state capitol of Austin. Additional Rangers are stationed across the state, with each Ranger having responsibility for a minimum of two to three counties, some with even larger areas. Becoming a Texas Ranger is no easy task. Due to the high standards and illustrious legacy of the division, their acceptance rate is low. Applicants need to have an outstanding record of at least 8 years of law enforcement experience primarily investigating major crimes. As such, even military police experience does not meet this requirement. Additionally, the Rangers only recruit internally from the Texas Department of Public Safety and require applicants to be commissioned officers with the rank of at least Trooper II. If these requirements are met and the background check passed, the hard part begins.
Applicants must undergo a written examination that includes competencies like reading comprehension, grammatical skills and knowledge, and mathematics. If they pass the written exam, they go before an Oral Interview Board. Board members have the final say in who becomes a Ranger, and who doesn’t. According to the Rangers’ website, “Little recruiting has ever been necessary and it is not unusual for many officers to apply for only a handful of openings.” Once a law enforcement officer is accepted into the Rangers, they are required to attend at least 40 hours of in-service training every two years. However, most Rangers will conduct training that far exceeds this requirement. Additionally, specialized fields like SWAT, SRT and EOD will train constantly to keep their skills sharp and prepare for new and evolving threats.
According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, in 2019, the Rangers conducted 993 felony arrests and secured 562 confessions to various crimes. A whopping 537 convictions resulted in 8,531 years in prison assessed, 76 life sentences and three death sentences. All of that in one year from the work of 166 Rangers. You don’t mess with Texas, but if you’re foolish enough to commit a crime in the Lone Star State, watch your back. The Texas Rangers rarely miss their mark.
Needless to say, you don’t want to miss the reboot of TV’s most famous Texas Ranger. Check out Walker when it premieres on January 21, Thursday 8/7c on The CW.
Pandemic mania has set in as the country braces together (on their couches) to flatten the curve. While we’re all hoping to drop a few curves (on the international scale), our doomsday snacks are threatening to exponentially expand our waistlines.
Sticking to a militant regiment of working out might look different, but it’s not impossible. Think of it like a fun drinking game…without the drinking and a lot less fun. Here’s your new at home PT list.
Replace your Drill Sergeant with your hangry kids
Eager to replace the salty Sergeant voice still ringing in your head yelling, “Drop and give me 20?” We’ve got a solution for that — kids in quarantine. Every time you hear “I want a snack” that’s your cue to drop and pump out a quick round of push-ups, sit-ups or burpees. Believe us when we say you’ll never be in better shape.
Trips to the fridge require squats
It’s 10:27 am and you’re on your third trip to the icebox. You want to quit the snacks but the snacks are calling you. How do people ignore a perfectly good pint of ice cream all day? They do it by mandating squats for each and every trip to the fridge. Rocky road looks a lot rockier if it means a set of 50.
No ruck, no problems
Working out with a full-fledged army of children running around makes sunrise PT look a lot more attractive right about now. Need to get some miles in with munchkins around? This is what they made child carrier backpacks for. Strap ’em in and ruck on.
How to end news cycle scrolling
Doomsday news is so fascinating, it can lead to an infectious disease we’re calling “mindless scrolling.” But alas, there is a cure for getting off the couch and redirecting your tired eyeballs from the hourly updates. Next time you’re feeling the itch to peek at the latest pandemic news, require yourself to run a solid mile first. Yep, a whole mile. Give a mile, get a minute (or 60) of news coverage. If you’re a habitual news checker, you can thank us later for your new marathon-ready body.
Keep calm and drink on
We’ve said it before — military life has prepared you for this. Watching every civilian lose their s!*t right now over the government disrupting plans and telling them what to do is entertaining to say the least. We as a community know a thing or two about government mandates. For every Facebook post you see fretting over cancelled plans, take a drink…of “water.” Drinking half your bodyweight in water is a challenge no more if you follow this plan. We’re guessing you’ll be up to your mark well before noon.
Ready or not America, Inauguration Day is here. With nothing better to do in 2020, more Americans than ever became engrossed in the most heated election of our time. What’s sure to mend hearts and minds together in unity? How about a not-at-all ostentatious celebration costing on average over 175 million dollars. Here’s everything you want to know.
We “go Dutch” on the bill
If the hundred million plus tab had you gagging on your 2020 tuna sandwich rations, fear not middle-class citizens—taxpayers and private donors split the ticket. Basically, you pay for the stage and bulletproof glass, not Beyonce’s performance or the bubbly served by the caseload.
It should be no surprise that the event racks up a security bill of epic proportions. Think traffic control, building sweeps, snipers on rooftops, entry point checks, motorcades, minding angry protestors, and more.
A casual stroll
The stroll down Pennsylvania Avenue made famous by President Carter in 1977, varies in length throughout the years. President Obama walked for roughly eight minutes compared to President Bush’s short three-block stroll during his second parade. The entire route driven by motorcade is approximately 1.5 miles.
Every 3-letter agency is involved
Technically designated as a national security event, this federally funded operation led by the Secret Service gathers intel from partner agencies like the FBI and ATF. This year especially, the CDC will be joining the inauguration party as well.
Give them lobster
Lobster made the cut for the Inaugural Luncheons of President Trump, Obama, and George W. Bush. The multi-course luncheon hosted by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (JCCIC) is a longstanding tradition dating back to 1897.
Take the stage
The temporary stage is constructed to hold over 1,600 important members of the American Government. Being temporary in nature, it consists of plywood, lumber, and cinderblock and is made to compliment the architecture of the capitol building according to the JICC. This year will look a little different due to COVID protocols with only a couple hundred people on the stage.
Party like it’s 1997
President Clinton’s 1997 inauguration holds the record for most “official” inaugural balls—14 in total. Countless unofficial parties exist on the day of, however, only events sponsored by the Presidential Inaugural Committee are listed as official and are guaranteed as an official POTUS destination. This year, in lieu of inaugural balls, the President and First Lady will have a ceremonial first dance.
Poppin inauguration bottles isn’t cheap
Planning arguably the most important party of the quadrennial is a big deal requiring an even bigger budget. The opulent celebrations funded by the PIC are so “yuge” they hold Guinness World Records. President Trump’s PIC currently holds the record for raising over $90 million followed not-so-closely by President Obama’s 2009 total of $55 million.
What about the tickets?
How much does it cost to attend an inauguration? That depends. While tickets to the swearing-in portion of the day are free, they are limited and can only be obtained upon request to your local Congress member’s office. Invitations to balls and other celebratory events average a few hundred dollars, well into the thousands.
On May 16, 1771, the Battle of Alamance ended the War of the Regulation, a colonial war that some say was the start of the American Revolution.
By 1771, tensions were boiling in the colonies. A group of North Carolinian rebels calling themselves “the Regulators” began to openly fight against Crown officials they believed were corrupt. For decades, farmers had protested excessive fees and high taxes they were required to pay to local sheriffs and the colonial government. They demanded changes to the laws and began resisting and harassing local officials they deemed to be taking advantage of them.
On May 16, 1771, 2,000 Regulators met Royal Governor William Tyron and his 1,000-strong colonial militia at Alamance, in the western part of the colony. The Regulators demanded an audience with the Governor to discuss their differences; Tyron refused unless the Regulators agreed to disarm themselves.
Governor Tyron’s goal was to end what he saw as open rebellion and a refusal to obey local laws. After sending two warnings to the Regulator army to surrender, Tyron marched his force forward.
The Regulators had zero training, little ammunition, and no cannons. Their best hope was to fight as they’d seen Native Americans fighting: avoiding lines and formations and shooting from behind tree lines.
The battle lasted two hours. Tyron and the militia answered the Regulators’ bullets with cannon fire. The militia were organized while some of the Regulators were reported to have simply left the field of battle when they ran out of munition. Nonetheless, both sides suffered.
The casualty count for the Regulators is unknown but nine militiamen died on the field of battle and over sixty more were wounded. In the immediate aftermath, leaders amongst the Regulators were given ad hoc trials. Fourteen were tried, twelve were convicted, and seven were hanged for treason.
The rest were promised amnesty on the condition that they took an oath of allegiance. In the next two weeks, 6,409 complied.
But many say that this was the beginning of the Jeffersonian-thinking that “a government that exercises the least control over its people governs best,” hinting at the earth-changing war to come.
Featured Image: Image From North Carolina Museum of History; “Battle of Alamance” Postcard Circa 1905-1915, by artist, J. Steeple Davis
There’s a reverence that surrounds Memorial Day in the military community. A day that’s typically associated with summer barbecues and mattress sales has a very different meaning to those of us who understand that “the fallen” we’re all asked to honor are our brothers and sisters in arms, husbands, wives, mommies, daddies, friends.
It’s a day that feels heavy, weighted with nostalgia and fraught, wanting to honor their sacrifice by living, but wanting the rest of the world to pause alongside us, to bear some of the burden of the grief and to mourn our collective, irreplaceable loss.
This year, we’re asking you not just to pause, but to act.
In 2018, USAA, in partnership with The American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, created the USAA Poppy Wall of Honor to ensure the sacrifice of our military men and women is always remembered, never forgotten. The wall contains more than 645,000 artificial poppies – one for each life lost in the line of duty since World War I. Red flowers fill one side while historic facts about U.S. conflicts cover the opposite.
The exhibit was installed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., over the Memorial Day weekend in 2018 and again in 2019. This year, USAA is making it available to more people by presenting the educational panels of the wall digitally. We encourage you to take the time to look at the wall, to teach your children and grandchildren about service and sacrifice. But more than that, we’re asking you to dedicate a poppy.
WATM had the opportunity to sit down with Wes Laird, Chief Marketing Officer at USAA, to talk about why this event matters, not just to the company, but to him.
“I tell people I grew up in a Ranger Battalion,” Laird said. “A long, long time ago in a land far, far away. Just eight and a half months after I enlisted, I was in combat on a tiny island called Grenada. I lost five people from my company, including a young man named Marlin Maynard, who was a PFC. When I got back, I was asked to eulogize PFC Maynard. I just turned 19 and I had to talk about the sacrifice he’d given. It was a very formative, impactful moment in my life.
Wes Laird in his Army days. Photo courtesy of Wes Laird.
“Every Memorial Day since, every 4th of July, every time I hear the National Anthem, I think about PFC Marlin Maynard. I think about how I went to college with my veteran benefits. I think about how I went on to have a family, to raise two boys — one who is in the Air Force — how I had a career and a whole life, and how he, and 645,000 other soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen, Coast Guardsman, how they didn’t. But that’s why this – why Memorial Day, and what we’re doing at USAA – is so important. I want Marlin’s family to know that he is remembered and honored. That his sacrifice, all these years later, has never been forgotten.
PFC Marlin Maynard, Grenada Company A, 1st Battalion (Ranger)
75th Infantry, kia October 25, 1983. Photo via Sua Sponte Foundation.
“This Memorial Day and every Memorial Day, I dedicate a poppy to him and the four others we lost in Grenada that day. What we’re doing at USAA with the USAA Poppy Wall is giving others an opportunity not just to honor, but to act. This year especially, with the COVID crisis, we are providing people the ability to come together, to unify around something we can all agree on — the importance of remembering the ultimate sacrifices of so many men and women.
“We are proud to partner with the incredible team at the Tragedy Assistance Survivors Program (TAPS) to provide meaningful opportunities for Gold Star families. You see these kids come in who have lost a parent, and the fact that we’re able to assist in their journey is so humbling. These kids need to know that their moms and dads are remembered and honored by all of us. Yes, it’s the right thing to do, but it’s also part of our DNA. We were formed by the military for the military. We say we know what it means to serve and we do know what it means to serve. It’s part of who we are, why we exist — to honor the great sacrifices of so many thousands of men and women who have served before us, alongside us and will continue to serve after us. Memorial Day is the most important day of the year for us. We hope you’ll join us this year by honoring through action.”
For more information about the USAA Poppy Wall, click here.
‘Upskilling’ is the new corporate buzzword taking employers by storm. Never heard of it? Don’t be shocked; be prepared for a whole new mindset.
Upskilling is when a corporation takes already-talented individuals and teaches them an entirely new skill set. It gives the company a new expert in a critical role and it gives an employee an entirely new career trajectory.
While the word may be new, it’s something Microsoft has been doing with active duty military personnel for years.
Employers need skilled workers. But technology changes fast and the pace of that advancement changes the ways we live and work faster than we may realize. For job seekers, this can be an intimidating prospect. For veterans leaving the military and entering the civilian workforce for the first time, it can be overwhelming.
Finding a career in tech as newly-separated veterans can be especially daunting if their military career wasn’t in a technical field. Those looking to go to college or technical training may not know what to study or be fearful of missing an emerging trend.
Wouldn’t it be great if America’s leading tech companies just offered training in the most necessary fields and then offered career prospects for those trainees? That’s what “upskilling” is all about. And the company leading the way is one of the world’s most valuable: Microsoft.
Microsoft isn’t just recognizing veterans’ service to a higher calling, the company recognizes their near-limitless potential. Microsoft knows what the military community has known all along: separating veterans leave the military with highly desirable skills that uniquely position them for a career in tech.
Veterans come with the technical skills of their military career, which can provide valuable problem-solving abilities. They also come with the soft skills employers in this industry so desperately need. These are skills like self-actualization, leadership, being a part of a team and – of course – the value of a good day’s work. Some of us even come with security clearances.
MSSA is a training academy for high-demand careers in cloud development and server and cloud administration. The course lasts 16 or 18 weeks and graduates are guaranteed an interview for a full-time job at Microsoft or one of its hiring partners. The program is open to honorably discharged veterans and active duty service members with authorization from their units or commands.
The program is the result of Microsoft’s ambitious 2015 goal of establishing 14 MSSA programs throughout the country and eventually having the ability to graduate 1,000 veterans every year. In January 2020, it met that goal, graduating its 100th cohort.
MSSA is overseen by the Microsoft Military Affairs team, whose chief concern is helping veterans realize the full potential their military service offers them as well as any potential employer. Best of all, the team is made up of military veterans who know just how daunting a task leaving the military can be.
Numbers don’t lie. To date, MSSA has a graduation rate of 94 percent and more than 600 companies have hired MSSA graduates. It’s a program that really works for the veteran community.
Transitioning out of the military is a challenging time. Deciding what and where to study or finding that first post-military career is central to a successful transition. For vets who want a career in tech, Microsoft Software and Systems Academy is the place to hit the ground running. Their Tech Transition Toolkit offers some great tips on how you can get a head-start toward a fulfilling, rewarding career in tech.
Joe Cardona is no stranger to being a leader both in the fleet and on the field. Joe is a two-time Super Bowl Champion who plays for the New England Patriots. He was drafted as a long snapper, which doesn’t happen often and established himself as one of the most consistent snappers in the NFL. He also has set an example as a leader in the Pats’ locker room. How was he able to do that? A lot had to do with his college experience: Joe is a Naval Academy graduate.
Cardona played for the Midshipmen and had a perfect career as a snapper which drew the eyes of plenty of NFL scouts. Playing in the NFL is tough, but Cardona also serves as a Lieutenant in the Navy.
Joe is partnering with USAA, during this Memorial Day to bring awareness to USAA’s digital tribute PoppyInMemory.com where people can pay homage to a lost service member. We got a chance to sit down with Cardona and talk about honoring those who lost their lives, his career and a little football.
Tell me about this partnership with USAA and what it means to you?
It’s an honor to work with USAA to do a lot for service members. I am a member myself and it’s funny how that comes full circle. Poppyinmemory.com is pretty cool because it really highlights this history of remembrance with the red poppy that dates back to WWI. But now, as we enter the digital age, they have an opportunity to dedicate a poppy to a service member who made the ultimate sacrifice.
It’s an opportunity to highlight a loved one, whether it is a family member or friend, who made the sacrifice for our freedom.
The website itself is a great resource to honor members from every conflict back to WWI. Its pretty awesome and I am glad to be a part of it.
Memorial Day means a lot to many of us veterans. Is there something specific about Memorial Day, like a person or part of history that really symbolized what Memorial Day means?
Most of us have someone close to us who has passed. Whether it’s a teammate, mentor or friend we all lost someone. I had a buddy who died in an aviation accident, Lt Caleb King. I just reflect about him and his family and how much he and them sacrificed so much for all of us. And for others who have died in conflicts, even if it’s not in the forefront of our mind all the time.
I hope people will take time before you kick off a celebratory weekend to go to that veteran’s memorial or park. Stop by the memorial you walk by every single day, read the names on the memorial and reflect about them on a day like this.
Let’s talk about you a little bit. You’re a Naval Academy Grad, you were drafted right into the NFL as a long snapper. That doesn’t happen quite often. The USNA prepares you for military service and going into battle. Is there anything the academy did to prepare you for life in the NFL?
They are really good at preparing people to be excellent and every graduate wants to carry that tradition as an officer in the Navy or Marines.
They answer the call to serve but we all do it differently; in different paths both in and out of the service.
For me, having this opportunity that I never thought I would get, playing in the NFL provides that. I know I have to come every day and prove myself. But I also know I have to earn the privilege of leadership.
You have to earn it at the Academy, and you have to earn it with your teammates, and it comes into play in high pressure moments. There are a lot of parallels between football and military service when it comes to that.
You were promoted on the 75th anniversary of D-Day and got your Super Bowl ring the same day. How surreal was that? That has to be one heck of an experience!
Being promoted to LT is something I will never forget. I got to do it in front of my teammates and coaches who invest a lot of time in me and with peers who I served with, were there as well. For me it was awesome because it was both of my worlds coming together. The celebration that followed was pretty great, getting presented a Super Bowl ring and all, so I can’t complain about that. But it was a good moment to bring together my two worlds of football and service.
Last question. We asked this of David Robinson who went to the Naval Academy and Steve Cannon of the Falcons organization who went to West Point, so we have to ask you too. Who wins next year, Army or Navy and what does Navy need to do to get back into this fight?
I think Army-Navy this year, we are going to see a completely different set of circumstances. Navy had a down year, but they are hungry right now. They had a good spring camp. It reminds me of after my freshman year at the Academy and we were excited to go hit people so hopefully it’s the same for them.
This past year, Army got us on their home turf. But it will be a neutral site this year, so I hope we can go kick their ass.
In observance of Memorial Day this year, USAA is leading an effort to encourage Americans to offer a digital tribute to fallen military members by visiting PoppyInMemory.com.
Visitors to the site can:
Learn about lives lost in military conflicts since World War I
See how to dedicate a digital poppy to a fallen military member and learn about the significance of the red poppy flower
Get involved with the conversation on social media using #HonorThroughAction
On Memorial Day, America remembers those who gave their lives in military conflicts to protect the freedoms we enjoy. Since World War I, the red poppy flower has been a symbol of remembrance for the ultimate sacrifice made by more than 645,000 heroic men and women.
Every once in a while, a tv show hits on something that resonates so deeply, we can’t help but find tears in our eyes. Last night, CBS’ military comedy “United States of Al” delivered such a scene.
As the show explores the relationship between an Afghan interpreter (Al) and the US Marine (Riley) who sponsored his immigration to the United States, viewers have been treated to laughs every Thursday night. We’ve cracked up watching Al fumble through the nuances of American life, giggled at the things quite literally lost in translation and felt the many pulls at our heartstrings as the complexity of life off the battlefield unfolds.
We’ve grieved with Riley’s sister over the loss of her fiance who was killed in action, we’ve struggled alongside Riley at the deterioration of his marriage during deployment and we’ve so deeply empathized with these characters as they find their “new normal” on the home front, away from the bizarre comfort a warzone offers when you’re side by side with your brothers and sisters in arms.
We’ve seen glimpses of Al and Riley “over there,” but we haven’t truly understood the relationship between the two – representative of the relationships between thousands of interpreters and service members – until a speech by Al at the local veteran’s hall, where Riley’s dad is a member.
Throughout the episode, we’re given flashes into Riley’s discomfort at being honored at a ceremony at the post. In his dress uniform, Riley arrives at the ceremony, immediately lauded for his bravery, and asked the questions so many veterans face returning from war. Things like, “What was it like over there?” “Did you throw a grenade?” “I heard you’re a hero!” Riley is visibly uncomfortable and walks out before he is supposed to give his speech. While Al has prepped for his “big moment” by reading a speech giving book, his vulnerability and the harrowing truth about the “eyes” steals the show:
“I read a book on giving speeches and it suggested opening with a joke. But I’m not going to. Because there is nothing funny about the 17,000 Afghan interpreters still waiting for visas which were promised them. When we decided to join the US forces, we were not only risking our lives, we were putting the lives of our families in danger. We were the eyes and ears of American troops and that is what the Taliban called us – the eyes. On missions I would hear them over the radio say, ‘Shoot the eyes first.’ And a lot of times, they did.
But not me.
My friend Riley saved my life on three separate occasions. Twice from gunfire, once from red tape. He got my visa application out from whatever pile it was buried under and brought me to America. I know he doesn’t like to be called a hero, but the interpreters who don’t have a friend like him are probably not going to make it here. So if he won’t let me call him a hero, I will call him my brother.”
Al’s speech is all too familiar to interpreters and veterans here at home. An estimated 18,864 Afghans are still waiting for approval in a process that has significantly slowed in the past few years. With violence against civilians and targeted killings increasing in Afghanistan, and with a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan looming in the near future, many SIV applicants worry that their visas will come too late, if at all.
They were our eyes and our ears over there. They gave us everything to aid our fight to advance freedoms across the world – they risked their lives, their families, their stability. We gave them our word we’d bring them home with us. The least we can do is to keep it.
Check out The United States of Al on CBS Thursday nights at 8:30pm EST/PST or stream on Paramount Plus.
The Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment is the primary aviation unit that flies in support of special operations. When Rangers, Delta Force and Navy SEALs hunted Mohamed Farah Aidid in Somalia, the 160th supported them from the air. When the Navy SEALs took down Osama bin Laden, the Nightstalkers flew them in and out. When the British SAS and Navy SEALs rescued aid workers taken hostage by Afghan bandits during Operation Jubilee, well, you can guess who flew them. However, despite SEALs being flown by the 160th in the aforementioned operations, the Navy does have its own dedicated squadron for special operations.
Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron EIGHT FIVE (HSC-85) is a U.S. Navy Reserve squadron based at Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego, California. The squadron traces its lineage back to the legendary FLEET ANGELS of Helicopter Utility Squadron ONE (HU-1), established on April 1, 1948. As the Navy’s first operational helicopter squadron, HU-1 paved the way for all future naval rotary wing missions.
In 1966, HU-1 was redesignated as Helicopter Combat Squadron ONE (HC-1). When the squadron deployed the Vietnam, the demand for rotary-wing assets grew the squadron until it broke up into four new squadrons. One of these squadrons was the SEA DEVILS of Helicopter Combat Squadron SEVEN (HC-7), assigned the mission of combat search and rescue. Another was the SEAWOLVES of Helicopter Attack Squadron (Light) THREE (HA(L)-3), assigned the mission of special operations support.
Throughout the Vietnam War, these squadrons developed new tactics and procedures for the unique demands of their top-tier missions. After the Vietnam War, the Navy recognized the need to retain the skills of the experienced combat aviators and maintenance personnel of HC-7 and HA(L)-3. In 1975, Helicopter Wing Reserve (HELWINGRES) was established at NAS North Island.
Five years earlier, the GOLDEN GATERS of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron EIGHT FIVE (HS-85) were formed at NAS Alameda, California. In 1993, the squadron moved to NAS North Island. The next year, HS-85 was assimilated into HELWINGRES and took on the mission of search and rescue.
In 2006, HS-85 gained the combat designation and became HSC-85 and became the HIGH ROLLERS. They also began flying the Sikorsky MH-60S Seahawk. In 2011, USSOCOM requested that the Navy stand up a dedicated special operations support squadron. HSC-85 was assigned the mission and took on their current FIREHAWKS name. They also traded their MH-60S Seahawks for the HH-60H model. Along with their sister squadron, HSC-84 REDWOLVES, the FIREHAWKS supported special operations in the Pacific and Middle East. However, in 2016, HSC-84 was disbanded. Two years later, HSC-85 traded their HH-60H Seahawks for the Block III MH-60S Seahawks that they now fly.
Today, HSC-85 FIREHAWKS stands as the Navy’s only squadron dedicated to providing training and readiness support to Naval Special Warfare and sister service special operations units. As an expeditionary helicopter squadron, HSC-85 deploys deploys in response to requests for forces from geographic combatant commanders. With highly skilled aircrews and disciplined maintenance professionals, the FIREHAWKS are ready to deliver top-tier support to America’s special operators.
Sideboys salute Capt. Brett Crozier, commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), during a change of command ceremony on the ship’s flight deck. Crozier relieved Capt. Carlos Sardiello to become the 16th commanding officer of Theodore Roosevelt. U.S. Navy/Sean Lynch
The USS Roosevelt has dominated headlines lately after news broke that a few sailors had contracted COVID-19 while the carrier was at sea. First, the count of sick sailors was only two. Then, as this virus tends to go, the number grew exponentially. As of Wednesday, there were 93 crew members with the virus. Roosevelt Captain Brett Crozier requested help and after he thought enough was not being done, he was suspected of leaking the letter to the press, as it was published in the San Francisco Chronicle, Capt. Crozier’s hometown paper.
In the four-page letter to senior military leadership, Crozier asked for additional support, stating that only a small number of those infected had disembarked from the deployed carrier, in port in Guam. A majority of the crew remained onboard, where, as anyone who has spent time on a ship knows, social distancing isn’t just difficult; it is impossible. “Due to a warship’s inherent limitations of space, we are not doing this,” Crozier wrote in the letter. “The spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating.”
Crozier asked that the majority of his crew be removed, asking for compliant quarantine rooms on Guam as soon as possible. “Removing the majority of personnel from a deployed U.S. nuclear aircraft carrier and isolating them for two weeks may seem like an extraordinary measure. … This is a necessary risk,” Crozier wrote. “Keeping over 4,000 young men and women on board the TR is an unnecessary risk and breaks faith with those Sailors entrusted to our care. …This will require a political solution but it is the right thing to do,” he continued in the letter. “We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors.”
While the letter ultimately had the outcome Capt. Crozier intended — many of the crew were quarantined on Guam, it came at a high cost: Capt. Crozier was relieved of command.
In a press conference Thursday evening, Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said Crozier was removed because he didn’t follow chain of command protocol in how he handled the situation.
While Modly praised Capt. Crozier, he ultimately relieved him because the captain “allowed the complexity of the challenge of the COVID breakout on the ship to overwhelm his ability to act professionally.” You can read the full text of Modly’s statement, here.
“The responsibility for this decision rests with me,” Modly stated. “I expect no congratulations for it. Captain Crozier is an incredible man. … I have no doubt in my mind that Captain Crozier did what he thought was in the best interest of the safety and well-being of his crew. Unfortunately, it did the opposite. It unnecessarily raised the alarm of the families of our sailors and Marines with no plans to address those concerns.”
The crew cheered the Captain off of the ship. We wish all of the sailors on the Roosevelt a speedy recovery.
Alex Stromski, a Disney World cast member and U.S. Navy veteran, holds a 1950 photo of himself in uniform. (Disney).
Walt Disney and the Disney Company have always been a strong supporter of the military, especially the Navy. In fact, much of Disney’s construction in the first few decades was overseen by a former Navy Admiral. In 2021, another former Naval officer was honored by Disney for Armed Forces Appreciation Day.
Alex Stromski enlisted in the Navy at the age of 17. Although WWII was coming to an end, he felt a calling to serve his country. Stromski served honorably and earned a commission as a Naval Aviator. He attended flight school at NAS Pensacola where he was classmates with future astronaut Neil Armstrong. After earning his wings of gold, Stromski served in maritime patrol squadrons at bases around the world. Following the signing of the Korean War armistice, Stromski was part of the team responsible for keeping the peace in the newly designated demilitarized zone. He even worked on experimental naval aircraft like dirigibles.
In 1967, Stromski retired from the Navy as a Lieutenant Commander. Four years later, Walt Disney World in Florida opened its doors. Stromski became a regular annual passholder and often visited the resort with his family. His love for all things Disney grew to the point where he applied for a job in the parks. “I loved how Walt had great respect for the military,” Stronski said. “I realized that this was something I wanted to be a part of, so I applied and got a full-time job at Pinocchio’s Village Haus in 2013.”
Now working as a cast member in the happiest place on earth, Stromski brings his military experience with him to enhance guest experiences. “I love helping create the experiences that families will remember for years,” he said. “I especially enjoy meeting the military families and veterans who visit us.”
At the Magic Kingdom, the flags that line Main Street, U.S.A. only have 49 stars. Technically not American flags, they don’t have to be raised and lowered daily or illuminated at night. The only official American flag in the park flies proudly in the Town Square at the entrance. In observation of U.S. code, the flag is ceremoniously raised and lowered daily. In recognition of Armed Forces Appreciation Day, Stromski joined the flag detail and proudly carried the stars and stripes during the sunrise flag-raising ceremony. As the flag was raised, the 92-year-old Navy vet rendered a salute. “I’m honored and humbled,” Stromski said holding a shadowbox of the flag flown over the park the previous day in his honor. “This is something I never would have expected.”
Stromski is one of thousands of military veterans working for the Walt Disney Company. To encourage veteran hiring in other companies, the Disney Institute is holding the 2021 Veterans Institute Summit from September 13-14 at Walt Disney World. The complimentary event is geared towards helping companies who want to build or enhance their own hiring, training, and support of veterans and their spouses.
Featured image:Alex Stromski, a Disney World cast member and U.S. Navy veteran, holds a 1950 photo of himself in uniform. (Disney)
American hero Michael Collins passed away on April 28, 2021 at the age of 90 after a battle with cancer. Along with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, Collins was one of the Apollo 11 astronauts who made the legendary trip to the moon in 1969. He also served as an Air Force test pilot and reached the rank of Major General in the Air Force Reserves.
Collins was born on October 31, 1930 in Rome, Italy. He was the son of a U.S. Army officer serving as the U.S. military attaché. As a military child, Collins spent his youth in a number of locations including New York, Texas and Puerto Rico. It was in Puerto Rico that Collins first flew a plane. During a flight aboard a Grumman Widgeon, the pilot allowed Collins to take the controls. Though this ignited Collins’ passion for flight, the start of WWII prevented him from pursuing it.
When the U.S. entered WWII, Collins’ family moved to Washington, D.C. where he attended St. Albans School and graduated in 1948. He decided to follow his father and older brother into the service and received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point. His father and brother were also West Point graduates. Collins graduated in 1952. In his graduating class was fellow future astronaut Ed White who tragically perished in the Apollo 1 disaster.
Collins’ family was famous in the Army. His older brother was already a Colonel, his father had reached the rank of Major General, and his uncle was the Chief of Staff of the Army. To avoid accusations of nepotism, he opted to commission into the newly formed Air Force instead.
Collins received flight training in Mississippi and Texas and learned to fly jets. He was a natural pilot with little fear of failure. After earning his wings in 1953, he was selected for day-fighter training at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada where he learned to fly the F-86 Sabre. Although 11 pilots were killed in accidents during the 22-week course, Collins was unfazed.
After training, Collins was stationed at George Air Force Base, California until 1954. He moved to Chambley-Bussières Air Base in France where he won first place in a 1956 gunnery competition. He met his future wife, Patricia Mary Finnegan, in an officer’s club. A trained social worker, Finnegan joined the Air Force service club to see more of the world. Their wedding was delayed by Collins’ redeployment to West Germany during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. However, they were married the next year in 1957. Their first daughter, future All My Children actress Kate Collins, was born in 1959. The Collins’ had a second daughter, Ann, in 1961 and a son, Michael, in 1963.
In 1957, Collins returned to the states to attend the aircraft maintenance officer course at Chanute Air Force Base, Illinois. In his autobiography, Collins described the course as “dismal” and boring. He preferred to fly planes rather than maintain them. Afterward, he commanded a Mobile Training Detachment and a Field Training Detachment training mechanics on servicing new aircraft and teaching students to fly them.
Eager to get back into the cockpit, Collins applied to the Air Force Experimental Flight Test Pilot School. He was accepted to Class 60C in 1960. His classmates included fellow future Apollo astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Irwinn and Tom Stafford. The test pilot school put Collins at the controls of the T-28 Trojan, F-86 Sabre, B-57 Canberra, T-33 Shooting Star and F-104 Starfighter. Notably, Collins quit smoking in 1962 after a suffering bad hangover. The next day, he flew four hours as the co-pilot of a B-52 Stratofortess. Going through the initial stages of nicotine withdrawal, Collins described the flight as the worst four hours of his life.
Following the historic Mercury Atlas 6 flight of John Glenn in 1962, Collins was inspired to become an astronaut. However, NASA rejected his first application. Undeterred, Collins flew for the Air Force Aerospace Research Pilot School. He later applied and was accepted to the Air Force’s postgraduate course on the basics of spaceflight. He was joined by future astronauts Charles Bassett, Edward Givens, and Joe Engle.
In June 1963, Collins applied to the astronaut program again and was accepted. After basic training, Collins received his first choice in specialization: pressure suits and extravehicular activities. In June 1965, he was received his first crew assignment as the backup pilot on Gemini 7. Following the system of NASA crew rotation, this slated Collins as the primary pilot for Gemini 10.
Along with John Young, Collins lifted off from Cape Canaveral at 0520 on July 18, 1966. Gemini 10 took them to a new altitude record of 475 miles above the Earth. Collins later said that he felt like a Roman god riding the skies in his chariot. On Gemini 10, Collins also became the first person to perform two spacewalks on the same mission. At 0406 on July 21, Young and Collins splashed into the Atlantic and were safely recovered by the USS Guadalcanal.
After Gemini 10, Collins was reassigned to the Apollo program. He was slated as the backup pilot on Apollo 2 along with Frank Borman and Tom Stafford. However, Collins’ future in Apollo was put on hold when he began experiencing leg problems in 1968. He was diagnosed with cervical disc herniation and had to have two vertebrae surgically fused. Originally slotted as the primary pilot for Apollo 9, Collins was replaced by Jim Lovell while he recovered.
Following the success of Apollo 8, Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins were announced as the crew of Apollo 11. While training for the mission, Collins compiled a book of different scenarios and schemes during the lunar module rendezvous. The book ended up being 117 pages.
Collins also created the mission patch for Apollo 11. Backup commander Jim Lovell mentioned the idea of eagles which inspired Collins. He found a painting in a National Geographic book, traced it, and added the lunar surface and the Earth. The idea of the olive branch was pitched by a computer expert at the simulators.
At 0932 on July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 lifted off. Collins docked the Command Module Columbia with the Lunar Module Eagle without issue and the combined spacecraft continued on to the Moon. Apollo 11 orbited the Moon thirty times before Aldrin and Armstrong entered the Eagle and prepared for their descent to the lunar surface. At 1744 UTC, Eagle separated from Columbia, leaving Collins alone in the command module.
While Aldrin and Armstrong performed their mission on the Moon, Collins orbited solo. During each orbit, he was out of radio contact with the Earth for 48 minutes. During that time, he became the most solitary human being alive. Despite that, Collins did not feel scared or alone. He later recalled that he felt, “awareness, anticipation, satisfaction, confidence, almost exultation.”
Collins orbited the Moon a further 30 times in the command module. After spending so much time in the spacecraft, he decided to leave his mark in the lower equipment bay. There, he wrote, “Spacecraft 107 – alias Apollo 11 – alias Columbia. The best ship to come down the line. God Bless Her. Michael Collins, CMP.”
At 1754 UTC on July 21, Eagle lifted off from the Moon and rejoined Columbia for the trip back to Earth. Columbia splashed into the Pacific at 1650 UTC on July 24. The crew was safely recovered by USS Hornet. As the first humans to go to the Moon, Collins, Aldrin, and Armstrong became worldwide celebrities. They embarked on a 38-day world tour of 22 foreign countries.
Satisfied with his legendary space flight, Collins retired from NASA after Apollo 11. He was urged by President Nixon to serve as the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs. However, the Vietnam War, the invasion of Cambodia, and the Kent State shootings, sent waves of protests and unrest across the country. Collins did not enjoy the job and requested to become the Director of the National Air and Space Museum. Nixon approved and Collins changed jobs in 1971.
Along with Senator and former Air Force Major General Barry Goldwater, Collins lobbied Congress to fund the building of the National Air and Space Museum. In 1972, Congress approved a budget of $40 million. With a smaller budget than what Collins had hoped for, he also had a short suspense to meet. The museum was scheduled to open on July 4, 1976 for the country’s bicentennial. Not one to back away from a challenge, Collins got to work hiring staff, overseeing the creation of exhibits, and monitoring construction. Not only was the museum completed under budget, but it opened three days ahead of schedule on July 1, 1976.
Still a member of the Air Force Reserve, Collins reached the rank of Major General in 1976 and retired in 1982. He served as the museum’s director until 1978 when he became undersecretary of the Smithsonian Institution. In 1985, he started his own consulting firm. He has also wrote books on spaceflight, including a children’s book on his experiences. Collins enjoyed painting watercolors of the Florida Evergreens or aircraft that he flew. He lived with his wife in Marco Island, Florida and Avon, North Carolina until her death in April 2014.
Following Collins’ passing, NASA released a statement. “NASA mourns the loss of this accomplished pilot and astronaut, a friend of all who seek to push the envelope of human potential,” the release said. “Whether his work was behind the scenes or on full view, his legacy will always be as one of the leaders who took America’s first steps into the cosmos. And his spirit will go with us as we venture toward farther horizons.” Michael Collins will forever be remembered as an American hero and a champion for humanity on its quest into space.
In this brand new video created by the very talented and quarantined folks here at We Are The Mighty, we showcase our exclusive footage of North Korea’s Supreme Leader all over the world. From atop the Taj Mahal to smooching the Big Buddha, we’re wondering if he was just on a vacation this whole time, not dead like this senior executive in China stated for her 15 million fans to hear. After making an appearance on Monday, no one really knows where Kim has been.
Where is Kim Jong Un? It’s kind of like a game of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? Or Where’s Waldo? Except it’s not fiction. Or a suitable game for children. Also, why doesn’t anyone know?
The only thing we really ever know about North Korea is that we can’t ever be sure about what’s happening there, but rumors about Kim’s grave health and possible passing were circulating for weeks before he allegedly made an appearance at a ribbon cutting on Monday.
When Kim failed to make an appearance on April 15 for the country’s most important holiday which honors the founder of the country (Kim’s late grandfather Kim II Sung), suspicion started building that Kim was sick. April 25 was another major holiday – the 88th anniversary of their armed forces, the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army and again, Kim was noticeably absent. People across the world started saying he was, indeed, dead.
But then, plot twist: According to Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), Mr Kim was accompanied by several senior North Korean officials, including his sister Kim Yo-jong at a ribbon cutting ceremony on Monday.
The North Korean leader cut a ribbon at a ceremony at the plant, in a region north of Pyongyang, and people who were attending the event “burst into thunderous cheers of ‘hurrah!’ for the Supreme Leader who is commanding the all-people general march for accomplishing the great cause of prosperity,” KCNA said.
In the absence of any information about where Kim’s been the last month, we drew our own conclusions. And made our own video.