Janine Stange is looking for a lot of people to acknowledge what a few people have obtained over the past 156 years.
Stange, who, in 2014, became the first person to perform the national anthem in all 50 states, is in her third year of asking people to write letters of appreciation to those who have received the Congressional Medal of Honor.
“I didn’t realize how many people wanted to do this,” Stange said over the telephone from her Baltimore, Maryland, home.
Janine Stange performing the National Anthem for the 2016 National Medal of Honor Day gathering.
The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the military.
March 25th is National Medal of Honor Day. During the last week of March, recipients meet for an annual event in Arlington, Virginia. In 2016, Stange was invited to sing the national anthem at that gathering.
In the weeks leading up to the event, she had an idea. “I thought I would ask people if they wanted to write them,” she said.
Just some of the packages and letters Janine has received to pass onto MOH recipients.
The response was encouraging.
During the first two years, Stange and event organizers reminded them of their service years. “We handed the letters out in packages, ‘mail-call style,'” she said.
There are currently 72 living Medal of Honor recipients. The honor was first issued in 1863 and has been bestowed upon 3,505 recipients since. The oldest living recipient is Robert Maxwell, 98, who served in the Army in World War II. The youngest recipient is William Kyle Carpenter, 30, who served in the Marine Corps in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.
“If they didn’t have their medal on, you’d think you were talking to the nice guy in the neighborhood,” Stange said about her moments getting to know the ones who have been honored. “They are so in awe that people take the time to write them. Many take time to write people back.”
Stange said humility is a common trait among the recipients.
“This is an opportunity for people to learn about these selfless acts of valor. They were not thinking of their lives, but their buddies, and something bigger than themselves. They were not concerned about their own life, they were looking at future generations,” Stange said.
Medal of Honor recipient Roger Donolon with some of the mail he’s received via Ms. Stange.
Stange said she doesn’t use the word “win” for a recipient.
“They don’t ‘win’ this. It’s not a contest. I don’t say ‘winner.’ It’s because of their selfless sacrifice.”
In addition to the letters, Stange said people have included small gifts, ranging from pieces of art and carved crosses to postcards from the writers’ homes and pieces of quilts.
“Don’t limit it to letters. These small mementos make it feel very homegrown,” she said.
Stange said the letter writing is open to anyone, from individuals to group leaders (school teachers, community organization leaders, sports coaches, businesses, etc). Those interested in leading a group in this project can go online to www.janinestange.com/moh – recipient(s) will be assigned to ensure an even distribution of letters.
Iranian state TV cited a report by the Associated Press (AP) claiming that 100 bodies were found at the site of a US military plane crash in Afghanistan, but the news agency says this report doesn’t exist.
The Islamic Republic of Iran News Network (IRINN), which is part of the state-run Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, reported Tuesday, according to BBC Monitoring: “US authorities have not yet released official casualty figures but the Associated Press, quoting local officials in Ghazni Province in Afghanistan, has announced that nearly 100 corpses have been found at the crash site.”
The AP has published reports on the disaster, but none of them have contained the 100-bodies figure. The AP told Business Insider it did not report this.
Neither officials in the US nor in Ghazni, the Taliban-held province where the crash took place, have given a death toll so far.
US officials on Tuesday recovered the remains and are confirming the identities of people involved in the crash, Reuters reported. The officials did not give a number.
The plane, a US Air Force Bombardier E-11A, is widely believed to have been carrying no more than six people at the time of the crash. New York Times correspondent Mujib Mashal said on Tuesday that the most widely-cited figure is two.
Ghazni provincial police chief Khalid Wardak told Reuters on Tuesday “there are four bodies and two onboard were alive and they are missing,” but said Taliban fighters repelled Afghanistan’s attempt to access the crash site.
Iran’s state-run Channel One network also peddled a theory that a senior CIA official named Michael D’Andrea had been on the plane.
Recently, Oliva Wilde shared that she is slated to direct a feature film for Sony Pictures that will take place in the Marvel Universe. While the details are being kept quiet, rumors are that the story will be about Spider-Woman.
Plus, Wilde tweeted a spider emoji and Sony doesn’t have rights to Black Widow, so…
Though recently, and exceptionally, depicted in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Spider-Woman has yet to appear in her own film, despite decades of popularity. With Disney’s Marvel films continuing to lead the way in superhero box-office triumphs, it’s never been a better time for Spider-Woman to hit the silver screen.
And Olivia Wilde is the perfect person to lead the charge. Last year, her feature film debut Booksmart delighted audiences and critics alike, thrusting Wilde forward as a powerhouse in her own right. The Independent Spirit Award winning director joins Booksmart writer Katie Silberman and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse producer Amy Pascal to create the highly-anticipated film.
Wilde will follow in the footsteps of female filmmakers finally getting long overdue opportunities to bring superheroes to life, including Patty Jenkins, Cathy Yan, Chloe Zhao, and Nia DaCosta — as a result, we probably don’t have to worry about another Spider-Woman butt-gate.
Controversial Spider-Woman #1 cover art. (Marvel)
Instead, Wilde and Silberman ought to give us a pretty good time. Whether Wilde’s Spider-Woman will be Gwen Stacy (as she was in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse), Mary Jane Watson, or the OG Jessica Drew is unknown. And of course, it’s always possible the film could be about another character altogether. Sony had been slated to bring forth a Madame Webb film — and there’s always Silk, the Cindy Moon character who was bit by the same spider and on the same day as Peter Parker but who was then locked in a bunker as a result of her powers (dark, right)?
All we have to go on is a little emoji in a big Twitterverse. And if we think we might be getting any more hints anytime soon, we appear to be, sadly, mistaken.
After several years of increases, Coast Guard seizures of cocaine at sea declined slightly during fiscal year 2019, but that fiscal year ended and the 2020 fiscal year, which began on Oct. 1, 2019, and runs to Sept. 30, 2020, began with major busts.
During the 2018 fiscal year, Coast Guard personnel removed 207,907.6 kilograms, or just under 208 metric tons, of cocaine worth an estimated $6.14 billion, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Barry Lane said in an email.
The amount of cocaine removed by the Coast Guard is the sum of all cocaine physically seized by Coast Guard personnel and all cocaine lost by smugglers due to Coast Guard actions, according to a Homeland Security Department Inspector General report for fiscal year 2018.
US Coast Guard personnel unload bales of cocaine from a “narco sub” in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Oct. 23, 2019.
(US Coast Guard)
The amount of cocaine lost by smugglers is at times “an intelligence-based estimate of the quantity of cocaine onboard a given vessel that is burned, jettisoned, or scuttled in an attempt to destroy evidence when Coast Guard presence is detected,” according to the report.
The 2019 total is the second year of decline, following the 209.6 metric tons seized in 2018, according to the Inspector General report. The 223.8 metric tons seized in 2017 was up from 201.3 metric tons in 2016 and 144.8 metric tons in 2015.
The Coast Guard has led efforts to intercept narcotics coming to the US by sea from South and Central America, working with partners in the region through Operation Martillo, which involves ships and aircraft scouring the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific.
High-seas busts happen regularly, yielding not only drugs and drug smugglers but also intelligence on the groups behind the shipments.
In July 2019, the Coast Guard’s newest cutter, Midgett, caught a “narco sub” carrying 2,100 pounds of cocaine and three crew in the Eastern Pacific Ocean as the cutter made its first trip to its homeport in Hawaii.
US Coast Guard personnel unload bales of cocaine seized from a “narco sub” in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Oct. 23, 2019.
(US Coast Guard)
“Narco sub” is often used as a catch-all term, sometimes describing true submarines or semi-submersibles but usually referring to low-profile vessels.
They are all typically hard to spot in the open ocean, but the Coast Guard has seen a resurgence of them.
In September 2019, Coast Guard cutter Valiant tracked down another narco sub in the eastern Pacific, pursuing the 40-foot vessel over night and into the early morning. It was stopped with 12,000 pounds of cocaine aboard, but Coast Guard personnel were only able to offload about 1,100 pounds because of concerns about its stability.
Boarding teams from the Harriet Lane got to the smuggling vessel just before midnight, taking control of it before four suspected smugglers aboard could sink it using scuttling valves.
US Coast Guard personnel aboard a “narco sub” stopped in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Oct. 23, 2019.
(US Coast Guard)
‘A mission enabler’
Coast Guard officials have pointed to narco subs as a sign of smugglers’ ability to adapt to pressure.
The service has pursued what Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz has called a “push-out-the-border strategy,” sending ships into the Pacific to bust drugs at the point in the smuggling process when the loads are the largest.
But Schultz and other officials have cautioned that the service can see more than it can catch.
In the eastern Pacific, where about 85% of the cocaine smuggling between South America and the US takes place, the Coast Guard has “visibility on about 85% of that activity,” Schultz told Business Insider in November 2018. “Because of the capacity — the number of ships, the number of aircraft — [we act on] about 25% to 30% of that.”
Stopping drugs, as well as the Coast Guard’s other missions, are opportunities to employ new technology, Schultz said in October 2019.
“That counter-drug mission, where you’re trying to surveil the eastern Pacific Ocean … you can take the entire United States and turn it on a 45-degree axis and drop it there, it’s the equivalent of patrolling North America with five or six police cars out of Columbus,” Schultz said during an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“You’ve got to bring some technologies in … We’ve fielded small unmanned systems, the Scan Eagle, on the back of our national-security cutters,” Schultz added. “We haven’t fielded them all out yet, but hopefully by the end of next year every national-security cutter will have a Scan Eagle. That’s a mission enabler.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The real James Bond is finally revealed: A few years ago Larry Loftis decided to stop publishing legal articles and work full-time on researching and writing the story of Dusko Popov, the daring World War II double agent who worked tirelessly to keep the Nazis off guard about the upcoming D-Day invasions.
1. Popov was captured by the Nazis before he became a spy.
Dusko Popov was a student in Germany as the Nazis took power and began to persecute the German Jews. No fan of the Nazis, Popov thumbed his nose at the thugs who came to intimidate patrons of Jewish businesses. He was quickly visited by the Gestapo, who imprisoned him and tortured him for information.
He was able to escape Germany because of his family’s connections. Hermann Göering ordered his release to Yugoslavia.
Johann-Nielsen “Johnny” Jebsen
2. He was recruited by his best friend.
Johann-Nielsen Jebsen – known as “Johnny” – went to school with Popov. But Jebsen is from a very wealthy European family with German roots. They met each other at the university of Freiburg but where Popov was expelled from Germany, Jebsen, as a German citizen, was forced to join the Nazi war effort. He joins the Abwehr (German military intelligence) as a spy recruiter.
His first recruit is Dusko Popov and the two both became double agents for the British.
3. He warned the U.S. about the attack on Pearl Harbor
Popov warned the FBI on Aug. 18, 1941, that the Japanese were about to attack Pearl Harbor. Popov and his MI6 supervisor met FBI officials at the Commodore Hotel and for three hours laid out the entire plan. Popov was in the country to set up a spy ring in New York and recon the defenses at Pearl Harbor.
The attack was supposed to be a repeat of the British attack on the Italian fleet at the defended port of Taranto in 1940. The Japanese wanted to know how they could be as successful as they enter the war against the Americans. The reason President Roosevelt never saw the information will enrage you.
Check out the book (or finish this podcast) to find out!
4. He was critical to the success of D-Day.
The British determined that the best way to keep the Germans off guard on D-Day was to convince them that the invasion would come at Pas-de-Calais, not Normandy. At the risk of his life, with interrogators who were convinced that Popov was compromised by the British, Popov returned to Germany.
He gave the Nazis the false information the British wanted them to believe during multiple, marathon interrogation sessions that lasted for hours at a time over a series of days. Popov was the only spy who was interrogated by the Nazis about D-Day.
Simone Simon in 1942’s “Cat People.”
5. His real-world girlfriend was a movie star.
Just like his silver screen counterpart, James Bond, Popov had a slew of women he used for various reasons as a undercover agent for two opposing countries. But his heart belonged to just one – and she was as glamorous as the rest of his World War II life: Hollywood movie star Simone Simon.
Larry’s next book will be The Courier: The True Story of World War II’s Most Highly Decorated Woman, about the World War II spy heroine Odette Sansom and Captain Peter Churchill. Learn more about Larry, The Courier, and Into the Lion’s Mouthat Larry Loftis’ website. You can also follow Larry Loftis on Twitter and Facebook.
As a veteran, while I was active duty I had a hard time deciding where to focus my efforts to make myself competitive for a job after the service. I wanted to prepare for my future both in the military and as a civilian.
In the last couple years and following months leading up to transition, I was constantly debating the desire and effort to get either a master’s degree or get a professional certification. The difficulty I found was not that I wanted one or the other but that I was unsure what I wanted to do after transition and I wasn’t sure what would help me the most. I considered an MBA, MS in logistics or MS in Supply Chain Management, MA in operations or management etc. Then there was the factor of time available and time until I transitioned; neither of which I had a lot of.
When I talked to a mentor of mine I was advised to pursue the certifications rather than education. This surprised me, but it was good advice for my situation.
Here were some of the factors I was dealing with:
I had a defined timeline. (less than 2 years)
I wanted the best value for my effort and money with versatility. (I wanted to save my GI Bill for my kids)
I didn’t yet know what I wanted to do for a career with enough specificity to invest in a master’s degree.
I needed something to help me get a job/make me competitive in the job market and also demonstrate my skills to an employer.
For me the choice to pursue certifications was better than to pursue a masters and has been huge for me since I left active duty. This isn’t to say that certification is better than a master’s degree, but I think this is an overlooked opportunity for active duty before and during transition.
As I have coached individuals through this question over the past two years I start with a simple process.
What field do you want to go into and what role do you want to have? *If you are unsure then look at a job posting to see what qualifications are required.
Ask the right questions
Knowing the type of industry and what position/type of work a person wants to hold/do helps frame and shape what qualifications, certifications, and education might be beneficial. Certain industries value certifications more than formal education. Things like IT/Software development tend to value certifications more (Security Plus, C++, ITIL, ACP, SCRUM). Areas like finance and business value more formal programs like MBA. Engineering and construction look for both (BS/MS degree and PE/PMP).
What is your timeline? Various education programs have very different timelines to obtain. Master’s programs usually take about 2 years. Certifications are usually less depending on if there is a project associated or not.
What is your budget? Formal education programs are typically much more expensive than certification programs.
As I began to look at the qualifications listed on jobs I was interested in two certifications stood out. Lean six sigma and PMP. Both of these I was able to earn and have funded by the military.
So what do you choose? Here are some pros and cons to each.
Quick Timeline to obtain
Both narrow and broad application depending on which certification
Quicker return on investment
Often demonstrate education and experience
Cost may be reimbursed or covered by employer or military unit.
Often Industry specific
Many require experience in a field (PE, PMP)
Not all instructional programs are quality (Flooded market)
Often require re-certification/maintenance
Often Required for upper movement in a corporation
Broad acceptance and application
More in depth learning and education
Costs may be reimbursed
Long time to obtain
May be industry specific
The choice is not always easy but hopefully this provides some insights that have not previously been considered and a way to approach this decision.
I can tell you that for me my PMP certificate and the training I received was invaluable. I have used the training in my role as a Project Manager in a heavy rigging company and how as a consultant with a DOD firm. The best thing was that my military unit funded it as well as my lean six sigma certification.
This article originally appeared on G.I. Jobs. Follow @GIJobsMagazine on Twitter.
There are mainly two types of missiles being pursued in this race: hypersonic cruise missiles (HCMs) and hypersonic glide vehicles (HGVs). Both are being pursued by a number of nations, but China, Russia, and the US are leading the way.
Two types of weapons
HCMs are essentially faster cruise missiles and HGVs are basically replacements for conventional re-entry vehicles that are put on ICBMs.
Of the two, HGVs are the easiest to make, since they only have to overcome one of the three obstacles — material science.
HGVs are put on top of ICBMs. When they reach a maximum altitude, they separate from the missile and glide on top of the atmosphere to their target — in this case, at hypersonic speeds.
Because of their hypersonic speeds, there may not even need to be any explosives on the weapons themselves, since the kinetic energy could be strong enough to cause damage in a limited area — although nowhere near the size of a nuclear blast.
What makes both weapons so threatening is the fact that they are maneuverable, meaning they can change direction at any moment and keep their intended target secret until the last few moments before impact.
Current missiles can be intercepted because their flight paths are determined by momentum and gravity. Most, if not all, anti-ballistic missile defenses, like THAAD and Aegis Ashore, require a projectile to make physical contact for a successful intercept or be close enough so that shrapnel from a proximity explosion could damage an incoming missile.
Because HCMs and HGVs are maneuverable and fly at such high speeds, interception of such missiles is almost impossible.
Dangerous potential results of hypersonic weapons
Widespread proliferation of this technology could have results that increase the risk of conflict and destabilization, especially when these weapons are armed with nuclear payloads.
According to a report on hypersonic weapons that was published by the RAND Corporation, governments may be so concerned with maintaining first-strike capability, since the response time for these weapons is so short, that they may take be forced to take risky actions.
These include devolving the command and control of the weapons to the military instead of the national leaders, wider disbursement of the weapons across the globe, a launch-on-warning posture, and a decision to strike first.
The RAND report shows that at least 23 countries are active in pursuing hypersonic technology for commercial or military use. Currently, the US, Russia, and China are leading the race.
The report suggests that widespread proliferation of hypersonic technology could lead to militaries around the world, particularly those that have tense relations with their neighbors, having capabilities that could be destabilizing.
The RAND Corporation suggests that this could also spur changes or amendments to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), a voluntary agreement with 35 nations that aims to prevent the proliferation of missiles that can carry nuclear warheads.
RAND believes that the MTCR should include completed hypersonic delivery vehicles, scramjets, and other hypersonic components to the list of items that cannot be exported. At the very least, a trilateral agreement between the US, Russia, and China could be made to prevent hypersonic weapons from falling into dangerous hands.
RAND believes that hypersonic missiles will become operable on the battlefield in the next 10 years.
Obstacles preventing sustained hypersonic flight
Hypersonic technology allows cruise missiles and nuclear weapons to go as fast as Mach 5 or above — roughly 3,800 miles per hour, or 340 miles every six minutes.
Missiles and rockets have long been able to go hypersonic; space shuttles and ICBMs, for instance, both fly at hypersonic speeds, sometimes as high as Mach 20 or 24 (Mach 25 is the upper limit). However, they only do so for a short period of time.
Technology is now being developed that will allow sustained hypersonic flight, overcoming three different challenges: material science; aerodynamics and flight control; and propulsion.
The problem of material science is relatively straightforward. Because the missile will be flying at such high speed, materials with high melting points are needed so they can absorb heat that would be gathered over a long period of time, so as to prevent the disintegration of the missile.
“You can think of it as flying into this blow torch,” Rich Moore, a senior engineer at the RAND Corporation, said. “The faster a vehicle flies, the pressure and temperature rises exponentially.”
The problem of aerodynamics and flight control is somewhat related. In order to achieve hypersonic speeds, the body of the missile needs to be constructed so that air resistance is minimal. Furthermore, the shape of the missile must be structurally strong enough to prevent bending and flexing which would affect the flight performance.
“You’re under such high pressures, you are going so fast, that the body itself may not keep its shape all the time,” George Nacouzi, a senior engineer at the RAND Corporation, told Business Insider in an interview.
Propulsion is probably the most complex challenge after material science. Once an object reaches Mach 5, traditional jet engines cannot generate enough power to maintain the speed or go faster. “It has been compared to lighting a match in a 2,000 mile an hour wind,” said Richard Speier, a political scientist at RAND.
Trying to keep the engine going is extremely complex.
“You have potential shockwaves, the combustion has to be just at the right rate, you have to have the right mixture of fuel and oxidizer,” Nacouzi said of the difficulties.
The result of trying to overcome this problem is a scramjet, an uncluttered, air-breathing engine that uses oxygen from the atmosphere as the oxidizer for combustion. Though scramjets are currently in a testing phase, they have already reached hypersonic speeds.
Dr. Nacouzi believes that out of those three problems, flight control may be the easiest to overcome.
The once-proposed, hotly-debated November 10th parade in Washington D.C. has been put on the back-burner in the face of climbing costs. When it was first published that the price of the event was jumping from $10 million to $92 million, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said, in response to the erroneously-suggested figure, “whoever told you that is probably smoking something.” Regardless of where the costs actually stand, it’s been officially postponed until 2019.
Unfortunately, by pushing the whole thing back a year, the event will lose much of its luster. This Veterans Day, which falls on November 11th, 2018, is the centennial of the signing of the armistice that ended the First World War.
So, what do we do now on such a tremendous anniversary? There have been many suggestions made by many sources, but two stand out against the noise: The American Legion’s request to focus on veteran support and attending the Centenary Armistice Forum in Paris.
I’m fairly confident that there would be little argument for a military parade when the War on Terrorism concludes.
(Photo by David Valdez)
To be frank, America has seldom felt the need to rattle its saber and show how powerful of a force it is — it just is. This fact has been proven when it matters time and time again. But putting on a parade doesn’t have to be a show of force. In fact, countless Veterans Day parades are held across the country at which Americans can show their support of the United States Armed Forces.
American troops are, at present, in armed conflict and, typically, military parades in Washington D.C. are reserved for the ending of wars, such as the celebration of the end of the Gulf War in 1991. Any military parade this November should focus on what the day is really about: Supporting America’s returning veterans and memorializing the end of World War I.
You know, like getting federal acknowledgement of the hazards of burn pits or the alarming number of veterans who commit suicide on a daily basis. A simple “we hear you” will get the ball rolling on helping those affected.
(U.S. Army photo by the 28th Public Affairs Detachment)
Meanwhile, it’s no secret that the Department of Veterans Affairs hasn’t been, let’s say, “well equipped” to handle the many issues within the military community. National Commander of the American Legion, Denise H. Rohan, issued the following statement through the American Legion’s website:
“The American Legion appreciates that our president wants to show in a dramatic fashion our nation’s support for our troops. However, until such time as we can celebrate victory in the War on Terrorism and bring our military home, we think the parade money would be better spent fully funding the Department of Veterans Affairs and giving our troops and their families the best care possible.”
Securing funding for Veterans Affairs is always going to be a uphill battle, but any event held in the United States could be used to champion relevant issues and bring to light the very serious struggles that many veterans face.
Besides, Paris will be hosting their own Armistice Day parade. If America were to join in theirs — it’d send a strong message to both our allies and our enemies. We save money and it shows the world that they’ll have to face off against more than our fantastic military alone.
(DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique Pineiro)
On the other side of the coin, French President Emmanuel Macron will be hosting an international forum in Paris on November 11th to advance the promise of “never again” for the war that was supposed to end all wars. He has invited more than 80 countries to attend the event, including the United States.
Macron has invited world leaders to join together to work towards international cooperation. He compared present-day divisions and fears to the roots that caused World War II. On August 17th, in a tweet, President Trump said that he’ll be there.
The dreaded announcement came through the 1MC: River City. If being deployed in the middle of the ocean isn’t bad enough, try being deployed in the middle of the ocean with no comms.
The unfamiliar sound of a V-22 Osprey overpowered the sound of normal flight operations. The updates kept rolling through; starting from the flight deck down to the hangar bays, everything is secured. The rumors start to flow through the grapevine. You can hear the whispers and feel the electricity in the air. Nobody has any information, but everyone knows.
We got him.
A plane captain directs and oversees the landing and take-off of a V22 Osprey.
(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Katie Earley)
It was the only email that was fired off before comms were shut down. The surveillance screen of the flight deck runs 24/7 on all screens throughout the airwing, but today they were all blacked out. The only channel working was CNN. The feeling was odd. We didn’t know anything that was happening except for what we were watching live on TV. We were there, yet we knew nothing. Every sailor was glued to a screen, reading the ticker and waiting for the headlines.
The rumors were confirmed: We got Osama bin Laden and his body is on our ship. The entire ship erupted like Times Square at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve.
Sailors man a mounted .50 caliber on the looking out.
Images taken from WikiCommons.
I ran down to the aft part of the ship and poked my head out of a hatch leading to the flight deck. There were two MAs standing guard that immediately turned me around and told me to get inside. Before I reversed course, I got a glimpse of two men dragging a body out of the helicopter.
The worst part about securing the hangar bay was that the chow hall was on the level beneath it — and the only access to it was through it. Starving, we sat around snacking on Snickers from a Costco pack my mom had mailed to me. When the next rotation shift came on and asked us what was happening, we jokingly told the new shift to line up down by the hangar bay because they were letting us hit bin Laden’s body with wiffle ball bats. I also told them to tell the MAs that they were there for the wiffle ball party and that Petty Officer Kim had sent them.
We weren’t hitting him with bats, but the next shift must have really asked about the wiffle party because a few minutes later, I was called into the ready room and getting chewed out by the chief’s mess about never taking anything seriously and being a bad example to the younger guys. My division chief was an inch away from my face, screaming. I could practically taste his lunch. I guess chow was only secured for E6 and below.
Sailors fire a .50-caliber machine gun during a pre-action calibration fire exercise aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67)
We were told, “officially,” that the body was prepared in accordance to the Muslim religion: wrapped in a white garb, buried on his right side, and oriented northeast to face Mecca. Off-record, we were told that they verified his DNA and they tossed him over the side.
Officially, no country would accept responsibility of the body, so it was laid to rest at sea. Unofficially, I think we didn’t want his burial site to become a martyr’s shrine.
Either way, the mighty back-to-back World War champions found the world’s foremost hide seek expert. If you can’t beat him, kill him.
* Editor’s Note: This article was updated to clarify that the sailors weren’t actually hitting Bin Laden’s body with bats. Petty Officer Kim jokingly said the line to the next shift.*
A photo released by AFRICOM reportedly shows a Russian MiG-29 Fulcrum jet flying over Libya.
The U.S. military has provided more details about an alleged Russian deployment of fighter jets to Libya, as officials in Russia continued to deny the presence of Russian military aircraft or personnel in the North African country.
The United States says Moscow deployed the jets to provide support for Russian mercenaries helping a local warlord battle Libya’s internationally recognized government.
The alleged deployment could have a big impact on the war pitting the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) of Khalifa Haftar and forces of the Government of National Accord (GNA), which is recognized by the United Nations.
The conflict has drawn in multiple regional actors, with Russia, France, Egypt, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates backing Haftar’s command.
Turkey, which deployed troops, drones, and Syrian rebel mercenaries to Libya in January, supports the government in Tripoli, alongside Qatar and Italy.
As Libya continues to be subjected to a UN arms embargo, the U.S. military’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) on May 26 said it assessed Russia had recently deployed military jets to Libya via Syria to support Russian mercenaries fighting alongside the LNA. It said the jets were repainted in Syria to remove Russian Federation Air Force markings.
In a tweet on May 27, AFRICOM added that MiG-29 and Su-24 fighters bearing Russian Federation Air Force markings departed Russia “over multiple days in May.”
After the aircraft landed at the Russian military base of Hmeimim in western Syria, the MiG-29s “are repainted and emerge with no national markings.”
AFRICOM wrote in a separate tweet that the jets were flown by “Russian military personnel” and were escorted to Libya by “Russian fighters” based in Syria.
The planes first landed near Tobruk in eastern Libya to refuel, it said, adding: “At least 14 newly unmarked Russian aircraft are then delivered to Al Jufra Air Base” in central Libya, an LNA stronghold.
Meanwhile, LNA spokesman Ahmed Mismari denied that new jets had arrived, calling it “media rumors and lies,” according to Reuters.
Viktor Bondarev, the chairman of the Federation Council’s committee on defense and security, dismissed the U.S. claims as “stupidity.”
“If the warplanes are in Libya, they are Soviet, not Russian,” Bondarev said.
Vladimir Dzhabarov, first deputy head of the Federation Council’s international affairs committee, said Russia had not sent military personnel to Libya and the Russian upper house of parliament has not received a request to approve such a dispatch.
Vagner Group, a private military contractor believed to be close to the Kremlin, has been helping Haftar’s forces. A UN report earlier this month estimated the number of Russian mercenaries at between 800 and 1,200.
The Bondarev and Dzhabarov comments are the latest denials from Moscow that the Russian state is responsible for any deployments.
But U.S. Army General Stephen Townsend, commander of AFRICOM, said on May 26: “For too long, Russia has denied the full extent of its involvement in the ongoing Libyan conflict. Well, there is no denying it now. We watched as Russia flew fourth-generation jet fighters to Libya — every step of the way.”
Oil-rich Libya has been torn by civil war since a NATO-backed popular uprising ousted and killed the country’s longtime dictator, Muammar Qaddafi, in 2011.
Haftar, who controls the eastern part of the country, is seeking to capture the capital, Tripoli, from GNA forces.
But his LNA lost a string of western towns and a key air base in the past two months after Turkey stepped up military support for his rivals.
But it wasn’t always this way. During the Cold War, Airborne forces relied on the M551 Sheridan, an Airborne-capable light tank first fielded in 1969.
The Sheridan was a replacement for the World War II-era Mk. VII Tetrarch tank and the M22 Locust Airborne tank. The Tetrarch was a British glider-capable light tank and the M22 was an American tank custom-built for glider insertion.
The M551, unlike its predecessors, was airdrop-capable, meaning it could be inserted using parachutes instead of gliders. The tank was also used with the Low-Altitude Parachute Extraction System, an airdrop system that allowed the U.S. to drop the tanks from a few feet to a few dozen feet off the ground.
The tank used an experimental 152mm gun that could fire missiles or tank rounds. Even its tank rounds were experimental, though — they used a combustible casing instead of the standard brass casings.
The Sheridan served well in Vietnam and Panama. During Operation Just Cause, it was even airdropped into combat, allowing paratroopers to bring their own fire support to the battlefield.
The tank’s main gun could inflict serious damage at distances of up to 2,000 feet, allowing it to punch out enemy bunkers from outside the range of many enemy guns.
Unfortunately, the light armor of the Sheridan posed serious issues. Some Sheridans were pierced by enemy infantry’s heavy machine guns, meaning crews had to be careful even when there was no enemy armor or anti-armor on the field. Worse, the main gun started to develop a reputation as being unreliable.
Firing the main gun knocked out the electronics for the longer-range missile, meaning that a tank firing on bunkers or enemy armor at close range would usually lose their ability to punch targets at long range. And there was no way to avoid this issue as the Shillelagh missile couldn’t hit targets at less than 2,400 feet.
The only way for an M551 to punch at close range was to give up its capability at long ranges.
By 1980, most cavalry units were moving to the M60 Patton Main Battle Tank, which was actually introduced before the Sheridan. The Patton featured heavier armor, more power, and a more reliable gun. It had also just been upgraded with new “Reliability Improved Selected Equipment,” or “RISE.”
The airborne forces would keep the Sheridan through 1996, partially because they had no other options. A number of potential replacements were canceled and modern airborne forces just make do without true armored support.
This week’s Borne the Battle podcast features Marine Corps veteran Chris Burke and the youngest head coach in NCAA Lacrosse, Mitch Shafer.
Burke discussed his service in the Marines, including his injury and recovery from an IED explosion in Afghanistan. However, Burke’s real story begins on what he did after serving in Afghanistan.
When Burke left service, he went back to school, where he planned on joining the lacrosse program in hopes of playing with his younger brother. But his plans didn’t go the way he had hoped. Instead, he found a new sense of purpose, one that reminded him of the camaraderie that he experienced in the Marines. In time, that new sense of purpose led to Burke accepting the position of defensive coordinator at Maryville University.
Marine Veteran Chris Burke is now mentoring youth as a the defensive coordinator for the Maryville Lacrosse Program.
Now, at Maryville, with Shafer’s help, Burke uses his Marine Corps leadership experience to to mentor and coach his college lacrosse players for more than just on the field. From visiting local VA hospitals to sending care packages overseas, Burke and Shafer lead the lacrosse team in bridging the military-civilian gap.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
United States Army Air Forces airman Henry Eugene “Red” Erwin, Sr., who was presented the Medal of Honor for his actions in World War II. (Courtesy of Erwin family)
Red Erwin was in such bad shape, suffering from burns all the way to the bone, that then-Maj. Gen. Curtis LeMay put one of his legendary bull rushes on the regulations to get him the Medal of Honor before he died.
The medal was awarded and presented to Erwin within a week of his near-fatal injuries; it’s still believed to be the fastest approval on record of the nation’s highest award for valor.
Staff Sgt. Henry E. “Red” Erwin, the radio operator on a B-29 Superfortress over Japan in April 1945, beat long odds to survive and go home to Alabama, where he was welcomed at the hospital with a kiss from his wife Betty on the only part of his face that wasn’t scalded.
The doctors didn’t think he would see again, but he did. They thought he would lose his right arm, but he didn’t. Following more than 40 surgeries, Erwin would work for 37 years counseling burn patients and advising on benefits for the then-Veterans Administration in Birmingham, Alabama.
He and Betty would have four children. Following his death in 2002, son Henry Erwin Jr., who had become a state senator in Alabama, said his father “embodied all the ideals of the Medal of Honor. He wore them like a well-pressed suit.”
“He was honest, thrifty and patriotic,” the son told the Pentagon, “[and] treated everyone with courtesy and respect.”
There was never any doubt that what Erwin did on April 12, 1945, deserved the Medal of Honor — not among the other 11 crew members whose lives he saved and definitely not for LeMay, then-commander of the bombing campaign against Japan.
As the radio operator, Erwin was also in charge of dropping white phosphorus charges down a chute to signal rallying points for other bombers in the formation to proceed to targets.
On that day, something went terribly wrong with the “willy peter” charge. It either jammed in the chute or went off prematurely, bouncing back up and hitting Erwin in the face. He was blinded, part of his nose was burned off and his clothes were on fire. Flames were spreading through the aircraft.
Despite his injuries, Erwin picked up the white phosphorus charge, still burning at more than 1,300 degrees Celsius, or 2,372 degrees Fahrenheit. He groped and crawled his way to the cockpit, where he somehow unhinged a small desk blocking his way to a window. He heaved the charge out the window and then collapsed.
On Guam on April 19, 1945, Erwin’s entire body was covered in bandages when Maj. Gen. Willis H. Hale, commander of Army Air Forces Pacific Area, presented him with the Medal of Honor. It had been approved by the newly sworn-in President Harry Truman.
LeMay would later tell him: “Your effort to save the lives of your fellow Airmen is the most extraordinary kind of heroism I know.”
Erwin’s story has become part of Air Force lore, but the effort to honor his legacy and preserve it for new generations has taken on a new form to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II.
WWII Hero’s Incredible Medal of Honor Story Now to Be a Movie
His grandson, Jon Erwin, in collaboration with author William Doyle, has written a book, to be published Tuesday, on Red Erwin’s astonishing sacrifice, his life after the war, and the strong Christian faith that saw him through hardship: “Beyond Valor: A World War II Story of Extraordinary Heroism, Sacrificial Love, and a Race against Time.”
In a 1999 History Channel documentary with other Medal of Honor recipients, Erwin said, “I called on the Lord to help me, and He has never let me down.”
Jon Erwin and his brother, Andrew, the director-producer team in a string of successful inspirational movies such as “Woodlawn” and “I Can Only Imagine,” also are at work on a movie about their grandfather.
For Jon Erwin, the book and movie are a way of coming to grips with the meaning of his grandfather’s legacy, which he may not have fully appreciated in his youth.
In a phone interview, he recalled being about six years old when his grandfather took him to the basement and retrieved the Medal of Honor from its display case.
“He let me hold the Medal of Honor in the basement,” but initially said nothing as the young boy tried to grasp what his grandfather was telling him, Jon Erwin said.
Then, Erwin leaned over his shoulder and said only, “Freedom isn’t free.”
The message was lost on him as a boy, Jon Erwin said, and he feels that he never truly comprehended through his teenage years his grandfather’s passion for duty and service.
“I think my generation doesn’t look back enough on the heroism that built this country,” typified by the World War II generation, he said. “I didn’t either. That’s my one lasting regret — that I didn’t take the time to listen.”
Jon Erwin said there is new material in the book, including a stash of letters that his grandparents wrote to each other during the war, interviews with Erwin’s crew members, and a quote from LeMay on his determination to get the Medal of Honor to Erwin quickly.
“I want to pin the Medal of Honor on that kid’s neck before he dies,” LeMay said.
Jon Erwin said his grandmother shared her husband’s general reluctance to dwell on what had happened during the war.
“He didn’t talk about it; that was my husband,” he recalled Betty saying.
‘He Cradled It Like a Football’
Red Erwin was born in Docena, Alabama, on May 8, 1921. His father, a coal miner, died when he was 10. He quit school to join the Civilian Conservation Corps, one of President Franklin Roosevelt’s “alphabet soup” agencies meant to ease the devastating effects of the Depression.
Erwin joined the Army Reserve in July 1942 and was called to active duty as an aviation cadet in the Army Air Forces in February 1943, training as a pilot in Ocala, Florida. He didn’t make it through flight school and later was trained as a radio operator and radio mechanic.
He was assigned to the 52nd Bombardment Squadron, 29th Bombardment Group, 20th Air Force, which left for the Pacific in early 1945.
From Feb. 25 to April 1 of that year, his unit participated in 10 missions against Japanese cities. On April 12, his B-29, called the “City of Los Angeles,” was the lead bomber in a formation on a low-level mission to attack a chemical plant at Koriyama, 120 miles north of Tokyo.
The following account of the mission is based on Air Force historical records, which included interviews with other crew members, Erwin’s medal citation and the interview with his grandson Jon.
Erwin’s job dropping the white phosphorus charge down the chute on the signal of Capt. George Simeral, the B-29’s flight commander, was crucial to the success of the mission. The bombers flew individually to Japan and would await the phosphorus signal to form up on Simeral’s aircraft.
Over the Japanese volcanic island of Aogashima, Simeral barked the order to Erwin, “Now.”
Erwin pulled the pin on the charge, which contained 20 pounds of white phosphorus, and dropped it down the chute.
There was supposed to be an eight-second delay on the charge, giving it ample time to clear the aircraft, but it either went off prematurely or caught in the chute. Erwin was kneeling over the chute when the charge shot back up and hit him in the face.
Erwin said later that he immediately sensed something was wrong as he lit the charge. “I knew that sucker was coming back. I was completely aflame.”
Thick white smoke spread through the aircraft. The charge, burning at 1,300 degrees Celsius, was eating its way through the metal bulkhead.
The navigator’s table blocked Erwin’s path to a window. He clutched the white-hot charge between his right arm and his chest — “he cradled it like a football,” other crew members said — and reached out with his left hand to unlock the table.
Erwin “stumbled into the cockpit, threw the bomb out the window, and collapsed between the pilots’ seats,” an Air Force report said.
“After Red threw that bomb out the co-pilot’s window, the smoke cleared out, and I could see the instruments. And, at that point, we were at 300 feet,” Simeral said. “If he hadn’t gotten it out of there, well then, why we probably would have gone on in.”
Simeral aborted the mission and headed back to Iwo Jima, the closest place where Erwin could be treated. The crew used a fire extinguisher to put out the flames on Erwin’s clothes, but the white phosphorus embedded in him continued to smolder.
Erwin was in agony but never lost consciousness. He kept asking, “Is everybody else all right?”
On Guam on May 7, LeMay asked Erwin what else could be done for him. He asked for his brother Howard, who was on Saipan with the 7th Marine Division.
Screen idol Tyrone Power, star of swashbuckler hits and a Marine Corps cargo pilot in the Pacific during World War II, flew Howard to visit him in the hospital on Guam.
“And so my brother was there the next morning,” Erwin said. “He stayed with me for 24 hours. I couldn’t see him, but I knew he was there and that was a great comfort.”
Erwin received a disability discharge from the Army in October 1947 as a master sergeant.
In a 1986 oral history for the Air Force, he said, “I love the military. Even though I was severely burned, if they had retained me, I would have stayed in.”
Reflecting on World War II, Erwin said, “We had the leaders, we had the logistics, and we had the brave men at the right place at the right time.”
In the business of movie-making, Jon Erwin said that he and his brother try to tell stories that “have the power to uplift and inspire people,” adding that their grandfather’s story is the best example.
“The lessons of Red Erwin inspire us with the ideals of endurance and perseverance,” which can mean the difference between success and failure, he said. “And I’ve found that the people who are successful are the people who can go above and beyond. I learned that from my grandfather.”