Retired from the Navy in 2014, the EA-6B Prowler – one of the United States’ oldest warplanes – is finding new life in the fight against The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) by scrambling enemy radios and cell phones.
“We were the first USMC aircraft in Syria on the first wave of strikes, and have continued to support strike packages, air drops, and other electronic warfare requirements as directed by the Combined Force Air Component Commander, ” said Lt. Col. David Mueller, VMAQ’-4’s commanding officer in an interview with Marine Times.
The mission against ISIL may be the military’s final use for the Prowler, since it’s scheduled for retirement from the Marine Corps in 2019.
“It is capable, but the platform itself is aging,” Dakota Wood, a retired Marine officer, told Marine Times. “It’s capabilities are still relevant … but the airplane itself can only have so many flight hours on the airframe.”
Introduced in 1971, the Prowler was made to protect friendly assets from enemy detection by providing an electronic cloak. It’s instruments jam enemy radar signals necessary for launching attacks while allowing friendly signals to pass through. It also detects the location of enemy radar, which it could use to hone in and destroy. Put simply, the Prowler blinds the enemy.
Apart from scrambling ISIL radio and cell phone signals, the Prowler can also block anti-aircraft weapons and devices used to set off roadside bombs. It can even block propaganda broadcasts used to recruit more followers by jamming the Internet and radio airwaves.
This 1970’s video shows the Prowler’s capabilities, minus its current technology:
Unmanned combat air vehicles, or UCAVs, are seen as a key part of the future of military aviation. A number of countries have openly been developing these vehicles, including the United States, Russia, and France.
But as We Are The Mighty has learned, Japan also was developing a UCAV, but didn’t tell anyone.
During a recent Air Force conference near Washington, We Are The Mighty witnessed a video at the Kawasaki booth that revealed a brief clip of the company’s research and development efforts into a UCAV. The UCAV appeared to be similar to the Boeing X-45 and Northrop Grumman X-47 test vehicles.
An initial request for information was declined by a company representative, who told us that the Japanese government did not wish to discuss the program. The next day, another representative claimed to have no knowledge of the program.
Only after a third Kawasaki representative, Takumi Kobayashi, was forwarded a cell phone photo of the UCAV’s cameo did he state that it was “an experimental aircraft tested about 10 years ago” and that “it was a research project funded by Japan MOD.” Kobayashi later stated in an e-mail that the described the UCAV as “a project in 2008.” Japan does maintain a Self-Defense Force and established a Ministry of Defense in 2007.
When WATM asked Dave Deptula, a retired Air Force lieutenant general who was the Air Force’s first deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance who now serves as the dean of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, about whether he had any indication Japan was developing a UCAV, he had a one-word answer: “No.”
This points to Japan’s UCAV program being carried out behind a veil of secrecy comparable to those used with American black projects like the F-117 Nighthawk.
The likely reason for this veil of secrecy and the reluctance to discuss the Kawasaki UCAV lies in Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution. This provision states “the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes,” and that “land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained.”
The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter destroyer JS Hyuga (DDH-181) underway in the Pacific Ocean as U.S. Navy Seahawk helicopters hover nearby. Japan calls this carrier-like vessel (Photo: U.S. Navy)
How does Kawasaki’s UCAV fall within those restrictions? Its apparent similarity to the X-45 and X-47 opens the possibility that it may not. Deptula told WATM in a phone interview that UCAVs presently fit “much more in an offensive context as opposed to air defense” given the current state of technology.
Inquiries from WATM to Japan’s Ministry of Defense received no responses, but the Japanese embassy in the United States did respond to an inquiry, offering to have a defense attaché contact Kawasaki for more information. When asked about any plans the Japanese Self-Defense Force had involving UCAVs, they stated, “The Japanese self-defense force is currently not planning on acquiring or deploying UCAVs.”
The U.S. Army Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team on March 25, 2020 selected the two competitors for the second phase of the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) program: the Bell 360 Invictus and the Sikorsky Raider X. As you may already know, FARA is intended to fill the capability gap left by the retirement of the Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior with initial fielding of the new helicopter by 2028.
BREAKING NEWS: @USArmy selects @BellFlight and @Sikorsky (@LockheedMartin) to build and test #FARA Competitive Prototypes @armyfutures #FVL #ArmyModernizationpic.twitter.com/dktlAS25Wc
As noted in the official statement, the program is structured into three phases: preliminary design; detailed design, build, and test; and prototype completion assessment and evaluation for entrance into production phase. The first phase saw the preliminary design of five candidates presented by Bell, Sikorsky, Boeing, AVX Aircraft/L3 Harris and Karem Aircraft. The U.S. Army selected Bell’s and Sikorsky’s proposals after an initial design and risk assessment, granting them contracts for detailed design, build and test of their air vehicle solutions worth respectively $ 700 million and $ 940 million. The two companies will face a final fly-off competition in 2023.
“The Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft is the Army’s number one aviation modernization priority and is integral to effectively penetrate and dis-integrate adversaries’ Integrated Air Defense Systems. It will enable combatant commanders with greater tactical, operational and strategic capabilities through significantly increased speed, range, endurance, survivability and lethality”, said Dr. Bruce D. Jette, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology.
The Bell 360 Invictus, which we covered in greater detail in a previous article here at The Aviationist, uses a simple design with proven technologies to reduce risk and cost, like its main rotor which is a scaled down version of the articulated five-blade rotor designed for the Bell 525 Relentless, a super-medium-lift twin-engine commercial helicopter for the off-shore market.
One aspect that hit the headlines as soon as the Invictus was unveiled is its streamlined design much comparable to the RAH-66 Comanche. Here’s what this Author wrote about this in that occasion:
Another feature that will help the helicopter reach high speeds is its streamlined profile, internal weapon bays, main rotor aerodynamic shroud, retractable landing gear and a ducted tail rotor, which is also slightly canted. This design is highly reminiscent of the Boeing/Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche, the stealth armed reconnaissance helicopter designed in the 1980s to replace the OH-6 Cayuse and the OH-58 Kiowa and to designate targets for the AH-64 Apache. The program was canceled in 2004 with only two flying prototypes built.
Stealth, however, is not the reason of the design adopted for the Invictus. “Everything we have done has been focused on how do you keep the lowest drag possible on the aircraft, so we don’t have to add exotic solutions to the aircraft the meet the requirements to get the speeds that you need for the FARA program”, said Flail during the presentation.
The Sikorsky Raider X, on the other hand, features a more complex solution with a coaxial main rotor and a pusher propeller. The Raider X is a scaled-up version of the S-97 Raider, with a side-by-side cockpit to widen the fuselage and increase the payload carried in the internal weapon bays. Speaking about the payload, Lockheed Martin (which acquired Sikorsky in 2015) published a new concept art that shows for the first time the Raider X with its weapon bays open and the turret for the 20 mm cannon in front of the cockpit.
Recently, Bell and Sikorsky were awarded contracts also in the other Future Vertical Lift program, the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) that will replace the UH-60 Black Hawk. Like for FARA, the two companies submitted two completely different designs, with Bell proposing the V-280 Valor tiltrotor and Sikorsky (in partnership with Boeing) proposing the SB1 coaxial compound helicopter. This time there were no additional competitors, so Bell and Sikorsky received two-years contracts to refine their already flying prototypes and produce conceptual designs, requirements feasibility, and trade studies for a final, ready to combat, aircraft proposal.
The recent, fatal crash of a F-16 Fighting Falcon at Nellis Air Force Base that claimed the life of a Thunderbirds pilot is the latest in a string of accidents. We all know that flying high-performance jets comes with an element of risk — but many don’t realize just how dangerous these powerful vessels truly are.
The same people who denigrate former President George W. Bush’s service with the Texas Air National Guard forget that of the 875 F-102 jets produced, 259 crashed, leading to 70 pilot fatalities. No matter the conditions, flying these high-powered war-fighting tools comes with a great deal of risk.
An ejection seat saves Lieutenant (Junior Grade) William Belden after the brakes on his A-4 Skyhawk failed.
In Top Gun, Goose was killed despite hitting the loud handle in his F-14. Why is that? For the answer, let’s take a look at how ejection seats work. In essence, after the hatch or canopy is blown open, a catapult fires the seat away from the plane. Then, a rocket ignites, further propelling the seat. Then, if all goes well (which can be a big “if”), the seat then separates from the pilot, the chute opens, and the pilot drifts safely down.
A pilot with the Thunderbirds ejects from his F-16C Fighting Falcon during a 2003 air show,
(USAF photo by by Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)
Ejection seats have limits
So, why are some pilots still killed in crashes? In some cases, the ejection simply doesn’t go well — as was the case with Goose. Other times, though, it’s a different problem entirely. Ejection seats, like planes, have envelopes. A plane can be going too fast for a seat to reliably work (one F-15 pilot survived ejecting at Mach 1.4 and later returned to flight status). The fact is, it takes a lot of force to get a pilot out of a high-performance fighter, like the F-15, safely.
Other times, pilots are determined to save their plane. Such was the case recently for the crew of an EA-18G, and their superb skills resulted in earning Air Medals for acts of non-combat heroism. Sometimes, however, pilots will try to save their vessel for too long and, by the time the ejection seats get the pilot out, they’re badly injured or even killed.
While the Air Force is best known for dropping bombs on the enemy — and they’ve done a lot of that throughout the War on Terror — there is one critical mission that some elite airmen carry out: evacuating wounded troops in the middle of a firefight. Air Force Pararescue took that mission on in Afghanistan, even though it’s not exactly what they were trained for — the original mission was to recover downed aircrews.
As a result, the Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk has had quite a workout. This is the Air Force’s standard combat search-and-rescue helicopter, which replaced the older HH-53s. According to an Air Force fact sheet, the HH-60 has a top speed of 184 miles per hour, a maximum unrefueled range of 504 nautical miles, and the ability to use 7.62mm miniguns or .50-caliber machine guns. It has a crew of four and has a hoist that can haul 600 pounds.
But there is one question: How do you get a Pave Hawk to Afghanistan? Or to other disaster areas, like Mozambique in 2000? Well, believe it or not, the helicopters fly in — but not by themselves. Despite the fact that they can be refueled in mid-air thanks to a probe, the helicopters often are flown in on the Air Force’s force of C-5 Galaxy and C-17 Globemaster III cargo planes.
You may be surprised, but the HH-60 is actually an easy cargo for one of these planes to carry. It comes in at 22,000 pounds — or 11 tons. The C-17 can carry over 170,000 pounds of cargo, per an Air Force fact sheet. The C-5 carries over 281,000 pounds. With weight out of the way, the only remaining issue is volume — and the HH-60 addresses that with folding rotor blades.
So, if a Pave Hawk needs to go to Afghanistan, they fold the rotor blades, roll the chopper onto the C-5 or C-17, and take off. The cargo planes reach Afghanistan with a bit of mid-air refueling. Once it lands, the HH-60 rolls off, the rotor blades are unfolded, and it’s ready to save lives.
Check out the video below to see an HH-60 arrive in Afghanistan:
In the United States of the 1950s and 1960s, there were a few things you could count on: poodle skirts, sock hops, rock ’n’ roll … and the ever-present specter of nuclear Armageddon. The technological innovation of the rocket age brought the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) into being, nukes that could conceivably end modern civilization in about an hour.
At the other end of the spectrum was a nearly farcical desire to bring nuclear weapons and nuclear power as the solution to every problem. Need a canal? A nuke will save millions of man-hours of digging. Need to improve your miles-per-gallon in your car? Trade your shitbox in for a nuclear-powered lead sled, and you’ll be able to drive around the world on a few ounces of uranium.
While the more outlandish ideas never really got that far in the civilian sector, the military had no such constraints. In fact, when your evaluations are written based on how many bad guys your weapons can kill, it’s practically guaranteed to generate some truly exceptional flights of fancy. You can practically hear the meeting where someone asked, “But what if we made it nuclear?”
From the early days of the Cold War, NATO was confronted with overwhelming numbers from the Warsaw Pact. In 1961, for example, the Soviet Union had roughly a 2-to-1 numerical advantage in troops. While the West has always valued quality over quantity, quantity has a quality all its own. Accordingly, while strategic nukes threatened mutually assured destruction (MAD) upon the populations of the US and USSR, there was a whole family of tactical nukes designed merely for battlefield use.
Tactical nuclear missiles and bombs make intuitive sense, but as weapons were delegated to lower echelons, nuclear artillery gave new meaning to the term “danger close.” Starting with the 230 mm M65 “Atomic Annie” in 1953, “fire for effect” would have had a whole new meaning had the Cold War ever gone hot. Atomic Annie only ever fired one nuclear round in testing. It left service after the 203 mm M110 was fielded in 1963. But 155 mm nuclear shells stayed in the US arsenal until 1996.
Being able to plant a time bomb and GTFO just in time has been a thing since before ’80s rocker Pat Benatar blew up Nazis in “Shadows of the Night.” Certain Special Forces detachments during the Cold War were equipped with the B54 atomic demolition munition, or “backpack nukes.” The B54 was designed to destroy critical infrastructure, either that of the enemy or to keep friendly assets from falling into enemy hands. With a 1-kiloton yield, the B54 wasn’t the most devastating weapon in the US arsenal, but tell that to the guy whose job it was to hump his way out of the blast radius.
Nuclear land mines
Leave it to the British to go full reductio ad absurdum and create the nuclear land mine. Unfortunately, it was not the sort of land mine where some poor Russian grunt takes a step and hears a click, followed by the biggest “oh shit” moment in history. The nuclear land mine was something more akin to a hand grenade placed underneath a corpse. As Soviet troops advanced, the mines would detonate behind their lines by command detonation or timer. Unfortunately (or probably fortunately) only two prototypes were built.
Nuclear air-to-air missiles
Usually, aerial combat is the epitome of precision killing: knights of the air, dueling mano a mano. Or, if you were a pilot in the 1950s and ’60s, you could just shoot the enemy with a nuclear-tipped missile. In the early days of the Cold War, NORAD still envisioned massive bomber raids, much like those the US inflicted on Japan. With that in mind, the unguided Genie missile packed a 1.5-kiloton warhead.
While “if you can’t hit it, nuke it” is a valid design philosophy, it wasn’t a great military one. It makes one wonder if today’s military is similarly clueless as to the true utility of the cutting edge today, be that artificial intelligence or space travel. Regardless, I hope I’m still around in 2060 to make fun of them.
If you’re about to join the Air Force any time soon, there’s a good chance your work is going to involve maintaining aircraft. If you’re lucky, you’ll get assigned to the F-22 Raptor. Even with the rise of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, there is no better air dominance fighter in the world. Unlike the F-35, however, if one of the F-22’s Pratt & Whitney engines fail and you don’t have the tools to fix it, you can just head out to Home Depot and get what you need.
Air Superiority: You can do it, we can help.
The F-35 steals headlines in terms of the latest whiz-bang technology when it comes to stealth, visibility, and even the giant helmets worn by F-35 pilots. But the F-35 cannot substitute what the Raptor brings to the fight. The F-35 has an aerodynamic performance similar to flying the F-16 Fighting Falcon. It can’t fly as high or as fast. What it brings is firepower – and a lot of it. It was designed to be an air-to-ground fighter.
Meanwhile, the F-22 Raptor is the quiet professional in the world of air superiority fighters. It has a smaller radar cross-section than the F-35 (the size of a marble versus the size of a golf ball) and is probably the most lethal air combat aircraft in the world, even considering the fifth-generation fighters produced by great power adversaries like China and Russia. But the area where it’s even more superior isn’t in the air, it’s on the ground.
We’re talking about maintenance and repairs.
The F-22 gets repaired like a normal plane while the F-35 is happy it doesn’t catch fire before take off. Small victories.
The F-22 Raptor is one of the Air Force’s most reliable planes. Roughly half the time a Raptor spends being repaired is just to fix Low Observable (LO) stealth coatings that get damaged when ground crews open her up for things like routine maintenance. Lockheed-Martin is currently working on a way to reduce the damage to the stealth coating for this. What is really impressive about the F-22 is how easy it is for a trained ground crew to repair her engines.
Lockheed-Martin designed the F-22 with two F-119 Pratt Whitney engines. These sturdy but powerful thrust monsters were designed to be maintained on the flightline using only six common tools available at any commercial hardware store – Not something you’d expect from one of the world’s most advanced air superiority fighters, but it came from what used to be a common principle in the military: simplicity.
And yet, I still wouldn’t trust the Army with this.
The Pratt Whitney engines used in the F-22 Raptor deliver 22 percent more thrust while using almost half of the parts used in the previous Pratt Whitney designs while making the F-22 the most maneuverable fighter ever flown by any military anywhere and allowing for supercruise speeds of almost two times the speed of sound. Everything about this engine has been expertly engineered, from the titanium alloys to the ceramic coating used on certain parts to absorb radar signals.
Now new airmen can be sent to Home Depot to pick up the tools to fix this marvel of engineering – along with the usual buckets of prop wash.
The United States Marine Corps: 241 years of butt-kicking and tradition.
Russian Naval Infantry: A Russian military force with 311 years of victory — and defeat.
Which is the deadlier unit in a matchup of the U.S. versus Russia when it comes to naval infantry?
In a major crisis, the U.S. would likely send a Marine Expeditionary Brigade. Perhaps the most notable example was its use in 1990 after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
Using a force of five pre-positioned vessels, the U.S. delivered the gear and supplies needed for the 4th MEB to operate for 30 days as additional heavy forces arrived. It wasn’t anyone’s idea of a slouch: It brought a reinforced regiment of Marines (three battalions of Marine infantry, a battalion of artillery, and companies of AAV-7A1 Amphibious Assault Vehicles, Light Armored Vehicles, and tanks) for ground combat, and also featured three squadrons of AV-8B+ Harriers, two squadrons of F/A-18C Hornets, a squadron of EA-6B Prowlers, and seven squadrons of helicopters.
A Russian Naval Infantry Brigade is also quite powerful. For the sake of this discussion, let’s look at the forces of Red Banner Northern Fleet, centered on the 61st Kirkinesskaya Red Banner Marine Brigade.
The Red Banner Northern Fleet’s naval infantry force has three battalions of naval infantry, one air-assault battalion, one “reconnaissance” battalion, one “armored” battalion, two artillery battalions, and an air-defense battalion.
If things were to come to blows in Norway during the Cold War (or today, for that matter), these units would go head-to-head. In fact, ironically, the 4th MEB was diverted from preparations for a deployment exercise to Norway to respond to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. So, who would win that face-off?
With what is effectively four battalions of infantry, a reconnaissance battalion, a tank battalion, two artillery battalions, and the other attachments, the Russians have a slight numerical edge in ground firepower. The air-defense battalion can somewhat negate the air power that a Marine Expeditionary Brigade would bring to a fight.
That said, some of the equipment is older, like the PT-76 light tank and the BRDM-2 armored car. The BMP-2 is equipping some units, but many still use BTR-80 and MT-LB armored personnel carriers. Very few BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles or T-90 main battle tanks have arrived.
That said, the American Marines have potent firepower of their own. Perhaps the most potent ground firepower would come from the company of M1A1 Abrams tanks. Don’t be fooled by their 1980s lineage — these tanks have been heavily upgraded, and are on par with the M1A2 SEP tanks in Army service.
Marine Corps LAV-25s and LAV-ATs can also kill the armored vehicles attached to the Red Banner Northern Fleet. This does not include man-portable anti-tank missiles like the FGM-148 Javelin or the BGM-71 TOW.
What will really ruin the day for the Russian Naval Infantry is the Marine aviation. Marine aviation specifically trains to support Marines on the ground, and the close-air support — particularly from the AV-8B+ Harrier — will prove to be very decisive.
In short, the Marines might be spotting Russian Naval Infantry seven decades of tradition, but they will show the Russians why they were called “devil dogs.”
If you ever wonder why the littoral combat ship is often seen as a disappointment, one really only has to look at what Denmark has done. This small European country has developed vessels that have much of the same multi-mission flexibility as the American-designed vessels, but with a whole lot more firepower.
Denmark’s Iver Huitfeldt-class guided missile frigates are some incredibly versatile ships. They have quite the firepower, according to the Sixteenth Edition of the Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World: four eight-cell Mk 41 vertical launch systems and two 12-round Mk 56 vertical launch systems that give the ship 32 RIM-66C SM-2 Standard Missiles and 24 RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles, a 76mm gun, up to 16 RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and two twin 324mm torpedo tubes.
Oh, and they can add a second 76mm gun or a 127mm gun.
But that is not all these ships can do. They are based on the Absalon-class support ships. The Absalon carried a five-inch gun, 16 RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and three 12-round Mk 56 vertical-launch systems for a total of 36 RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles. The Absalon also can haul up to 1,700 tons of cargo, including tanks.
The Iver Huitfeldt doesn’t quite have that space. This got more engines to reach a higher top speed than the Absalon, but she still has space for some containers and plenty of extra berthing (officially for flag and staff, but anyone can use a bed). In short, she could carry a platoon of troops, and her helipad can operate a helicopter the size of the Merlin.
In other words, these are vessels that clearly outgun the littoral combat ships, albeit the latter ships can out-run them. You can see more on these modern and versatile ships below.
During the Cold War, the Soviet Union was looking for transports. They needed these transports to support their numerous airborne divisions. By the Cold War’s end, the Soviets had six airborne divisions but historically, they had as many as 15 active airborne divisions, which makes for a lot to move.
They also had the same need for tactical airlift to supply personnel. While the United States met that need with the C-130 Hercules, the Soviets turned to the Antonov design bureau to address their needs. The plane that emerged was the An-12, nicknamed the “Cub” by NATO.
According to MilitaryFactory.com, the An-12 can reach a speed of 480 miles per hour and has a maximum range of 3,540 miles. It can carry up to 60 paratroopers or two BMD airborne armored fighting vehicles. It was in production for sixteen years and 1,248 airframes were produced.
What distinguishes the Soviet-designed plane from the C-130 is that some variations of the An-12 sport a twin 23mm turret. The other big difference is the accident rate. Aviation-Safety.net reports that of the 1,248 Cubs produced, 232 have been lost in accidents. By comparison, that same site notes that 353 C-130-type transports (including the civilian-model L-100) have been lost in accidents out of the more than 2,500 airframes.
China also has a version of the Cub known as the Y-8, a pirated design that was reverse-engineered after the Sino-Soviet split in the last 1960s. According to FlightGlobal.com, China has over 100 Y-8s in service, including airborne early-warning, maritime reconnaissance, and electronic-warfare variants. China also has the Y-9, a stretched version, with seven airframes in service.
You can see a video about this Russian ripoff of the Hercules below. That said, if you need a tactical transport, an An-12 “Cub” is not the way to go. Just buy a real C-130.
Marine Corps Systems Command just announced a contract award in its Squad Common Optic program to Trijicon. The Corps chose to outfit its Fleet Marine Force, basically all of its line units, with Trijicon’s VCOG 1-8x variable magnification optic.
According to Matt Gonzales at MARCORSYSCOM’s Office of Public Affairs:
Six months after seeking industry proposals, Marine Corps Systems Command awarded an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity, firm-fixed-price contract to Trijicon, Inc., of Wixom, Michigan, Feb. 21 to produce Squad Common Optic systems.
The contract has a maximum ceiling of million, and Trijicon is slated to produce approximately 19,000 units. The purchase also includes spare parts, training, nonfunctional units, interim contractor logistics support and refurbishment of test articles.
Fielding to Fleet Marine Forces will begin in the first quarter of fiscal year 2021 and will be completed by fiscal year 2023.
Mickey Ireson, a Marine Corps veteran in rural America, struggled with all the worse elements of the VA system. He drove three hours each way to appointments, struggled to reach doctors, and had to juggle his medical needs with school and a full-time job. He kept fighting to stay on an even footing, but he slowly gave way. Eventually, he was homeless, jobless, and kicking a drug habit.
Some vets who have learned to deal with the bureaucratic nightmare are helping out their peers. An Army veteran who knew the problems of getting care from the VA in the country met Ireson through a non-profit and helped him out. Ireson is now back in school with a 3.8 GPA, president of his student veterans club, and employed.
Still, Ireson’s story is not unique. Check out the full story on America’s rural veterans from from James Clark at Task and Purpose
Carpenter, who received the Medal of Honor last year for jumping on a grenade to save his friend’s life during the battle, told his fellow Marines that “it’s your medal” at a reunion on the five-year anniversary of Operation Moshtarak last week at the National Museum of the Marine Corps.
“With this short amount of time I have to speak to you tonight, I couldn’t possibly sum up the historical battle of Marjah,” Carpenter said in his speech, according to a transcription from Hope Hodge Seck of Marine Corps Times. “I am comforted, though, by the fact that the men in this room don’t need a summary because you were right there beside me. You felt the incredible heat of a 100 percent humidity day and the cool waters of a muddy canal. You felt the weight of 100 pounds of gear, ammo and water at your back, the weight of knowing as Marines we are and forever will be the first line of defense for our loved ones, our nation and above all, freedom.”
The Battle of Marjah involved 15,000 American, Afghan, Canadian, British, and French troops in the largest joint operation up to that point in the Afghan war. The effort to wrestle the key town of Marjah from the Taliban took NATO forces nearly 10 months, according to ABC News.
“I stand here today extremely proud of you all. I’m proud of the job you did in the face of what most cannot even fathom. I am more than honored to call you friends, fellow Marines and brothers,” Carpenter said. “You stand as an example for others and for what’s best for not only our nation but the rest of the world.”
In his speech, Carpenter did not reference his incredible example from Nov. 21, 2010, when he jumped on a grenade while providing rooftop security at a small outpost. “I only remember a few moments after I got hit,” Carpenter told me previously when I interviewed him for Business Insider. “But nothing before.”
He was severely wounded — as was his friend Lance Cpl. Nick Eufrazio — but both survived. While Carpenter lost his right eye and took shrapnel throughout his face and lower body, his recovery has been nothing short of remarkable.
Carpenter continued (via Marine Times):
Be proud of who you are. Be proud of what you did in that country. You are alive today and have been blessed with this opportunity of life. Don’t waste it. Live a life worth living, full of meaning and purpose, and one that will make the fallen who are looking down on us proud.
Marines, I’m proud to have worn the same uniform as you.
Never forget that when no one else would raise their right hand, you did. You sacrificed and became part of our nation’s history and our Marine Corps legacy for taking part in the historical battleground of Marjah. Thank you so much. I really do appreciate it.