That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated 'Saudi Gras' in Desert Storm - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

Everyone who deploys during a holiday makes a special effort to feel as if they aren’t really missing it. No matter how short the war is, no one wants to miss one of those crucial days. Even if the entire buildup and fighting lasted just a few months, you still want that piece of home. The Louisiana National Guard was no different in the Gulf War. No way were they going to miss Mardi Gras.


So the celebration may not have been as raucous as it is on Bourbon Street. Nor was it a family affair as it is in other wards and and cities in Louisiana. Still, it was important to the men and women who deployed to Saudi Arabia during operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield. Mardi Gras isn’t something to be casually missed, so the unit threw their own version: Saudi Gras.

In 1990, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded neighboring Kuwait, sparking off a huge U.S. military buildup in Saudi Arabia call Operation Desert Shield as a bulwark against further Iraqi aggression. It was part of a larger plan to go on the offensive and expel Iraq from Kuwait in an operation known as Desert Storm. The forces required to execute Desert Storm and secure Saudi Arabia took a while to arrive. From August 1990 to January 1991, American and Coalition troops began arriving in the Saudi Kingdom.

One of those units called to action was the Louisiana National Guard, who arrived in late January and early February. Their only problem was that Mardi Gras began on Feb. 12 that year.

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

(Louisiana National Guard)

Mardi Gras is a Christian tradition, a celebration that begins on the Feast of the Epiphany and runs through Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. While Mardi Gras may not be a big deal in the rest of the United States, for the French-descended people of Louisiana, it is. For them, it’s more than beads on Bourbon Street – it’s a time of celebration, good food, parades, and family. Some 8,000 miles away from the French Quarter, the members of Lousiana’s National Guard deployed to Saudi Arabia decided they wouldn’t let the holiday pass them by.

Saudi Arabia saw its first-ever Mardi Gras celebration, dubbed “Saudi Gras” by those who were a part of it.

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

(Louisiana National Guard)

The beer was non-alcoholic (by necessity and general order), the parade queen was a Lt. Col. who volunteered to dress in drag, and the Saudi Gras King, a member of the 926th Tactical Fighter Group and native of New Orleans, was given the title “King Scud.” Elsewhere, Louisianans formed ad-hoc krewes, those celebrating Mardi Gras with the pledge to form a group that hosts a party, builds parade floats, and attends social events all year long.

You can take the troops out of Louisiana, but you can’t take Louisiana out of the troops.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The massive SAS legend who made it through selection. Twice.

Donald Large had one of the aptest last names in the history of last names. He was a beast, 6-ft. 6 inches tall and 240 pounds by the time he went through SAS selection the first time (more on that in a moment). But his road to military service started when he was just an over-sized tyke.


Badass: The Legend of Lofty Large

www.youtube.com

Born in 1930, he was just a boy when British troops preparing for service in France and Germany began training near his home. He watched the men readying to take the fight to Hitler and decided he would be a military man as well, a goal made even easier by his frame, and the frequent hunting trips his dad took him on.

He started as an Army Cadet, a sort of military-affiliated Boy Scouts in Britain, and then managed to get into the real British army at just 15 years old. As he trained in the military and then served Britain, he grew to his adult height and received the nickname “Lofty,” but he still craved combat.

Despite thinking Korea was a useless war, Large volunteered to serve in it and was ordered to the Gloucestershire Regiment. He fought at the Battle of Imjin where a terrain feature was named Gloster Hill after his unit’s defense.

But Large was wounded from a gunshot and shrapnel in the fighting and was taken prisoner, surviving a 10-day forced march to a prisoner of war camp. He survived another gunshot wound, disease, 80 pounds of weight loss, and two years of muscle atrophy and near starvation before he was swapped in a wounded prisoner exchange.

The army tried to give him a medical discharge, but he came back swinging over four years and put on even more muscle than he had lost. Once doctors cleared him, he put in for Special Air Service Selection, one of the most grueling military selection processes in the world. (When the U.S. formed Delta Force in 1977, the American officer in command formed the selection process from the SAS model.)

Despite all the scar tissues, Large reportedly did quite well in selection, only struggling with jumping out of the plane due to his being oversized for the plane and parachute. He weighed enough that he fell faster than other paratroopers, and this combined with a fear of heights made falling the hardest part for him.

But he was a stalwart man and made the jump anyway. He had proven himself capable and was on his way to the SAS.

Except.

Except that he rode a motorcycle soon after and crashed, crushing his ankle. The SAS told him that he would need to go back through selection to prove he was still capable of meeting the unit’s high standards. While most people would’ve probably waited a few months if they ever went back, Large simply re-bandaged his ankle, found out what his new boot size was with the swelling and bandages, and went back.

Yeah, he went back through selection while his ankle was still injured. He had only taken four weeks from crash to his second selection process.

He would serve with the SAS around the world and retired in 1973. He died in 2006.

(A hat tip to Today I Found Out whose video, embedded at top, brought Large to our attention. Their article on Large is good as well. People who want to know more about him and his exploits can see an interview series with Large on YouTube. The SAS Commando wrote his own biography before he died, Soldier Against the Odds, but it’s sadly out of print.)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Thief who stole from the National Archives will go to jail

French historian, Antonin DeHays, who stole almost 300 U.S. dog tags from fallen Airmen and around 134 other items, which included identification cards, a bible, and pieces of downed US aircraft, has been sentenced to 364 days in prison.

Approximately 291 Dog Tags and 134 other items were sneaked out by Antonin DeHays during his visits to the National Archives in College Park in Maryland. All of the dog tags belonged to fallen airmen who fell in Europe in 1944. Those tags bore the cruelties of war and Antonin DeHays made advantage of that when selling these items online.


“Burnt, and show some stains of fuel, blood… very powerful items that witness the violence of the crash,” DeHays told a potential buyer in a text message.

On another dog tag, he texted a potential buyer that the item was “salty” or visibly war-damaged while also marketing the “partially burned” appearance of a Red Cross identification card.

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm
The National Archives Building in College Park, Maryland.
(National Archives)

Not only did he sell most of the items, some of the items were used as a trade in return for rare experiences. He gave a brass dog tag to a military aviation museum in exchange for the chance to sit inside a Spitfire airplane, according to the Department of Justice.

On April 9, 2018, a federal judge in Maryland sentenced DeHays to 364 days in prison for the theft of government records, and ordered him to pay more than $43,000 in restitution to the unwitting buyers who purchased the stolen goods.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. Navy veteran detained in Iran freed, on his way home

U.S. Navy veteran Michael White, who has been detained in Iran for nearly two years, is returning home as part of a prisoner swap between Washington and Tehran.

White’s release on June 4 is part of a back-channel deal involving the release of an American-Iranian doctor prosecuted in the United States, U.S. and Iranian officials said.


U.S. President Donald Trump said on Twitter he had spoken by phone with White, who took a Swiss plane to Zurich on his way to the United States.

“Thank you to Iran, it shows a deal is possible!” Trump wrote, in an apparent olive branch to Iran.

White was sentenced to 13 years in prison last year for allegedly insulting Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and posting private information online.

In March, he was temporarily released on medical grounds amid the coronavirus pandemic to the Swiss Embassy, which represents U.S. interests in Iran.

The navy veteran was detained in July 2018 while he was visiting a woman he had met online and fallen in love with.

White’s mother, Joanne White, said in a statement that “the nightmare is over, and my son is safely in American custody and on his way home.”

The AP news agency quoted U.S. officials as saying his release was part of an agreement involving Majid Taheri, an Iranian-American physician prosecuted by the Justice Department.

Taheri served 16 months for violating U.S. sanctions against Iran and on June 4 a federal judge released him to go see family in Iran.

The developments follow the deportation to Iran this week of Sirios Asgari, an Iranian scientist detained in the United States.

U.S. and Iranian officials have denied that Asgari’s release was part of a prisoner swap.

Switzerland, the intermediary between the U.S. and Iranian governments, has facilitated months of quiet negotiations over prisoners, reports said. Qatar, which has good relations with both the United States and Iran, reportedly also facilitated the prisoner swap.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter he was pleased the two Iranians and White will join their families.

“This can happen for all prisoners. No need for cherry picking. Iranian hostages held in — and on behalf of — the U.S. should come home,” he said.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Iranian authorities had been “constructive” on freeing White but urged the release of three other U.S. citizens, all of Iranian descent, who are detained in Iran.

Observers have speculated that prisoner swaps can offer a rare opportunity for back-channel diplomacy between the two adversaries to start official dialogue, but few see any serious progress before the U.S. election in November.

Relations between Washington and Tehran have become increasingly hostile since 2018, when Trump withdrew the United States from a landmark nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Air commandos wrecking cars and saving lives

Jaws of life. Hooligan tools. Chainsaws. Hammers.

Awkward names for things that could save lives on the battlefield as well as on the streets of America. But these and other tools can be found in the search and rescue and personnel recovery arsenal of the elite Air Commandos.


Earlier in October, Pararescuemen and Combat Control operators from the 125th Special Tactics Squadron refreshed their extrication skills, showcasing along the way the importance of a little known but important skillset.

Utilizing old vehicles, the Air Commandos simulated the extrication of troops or civilians from wrecked vehicles with a variety of methods tools. However, it’s important to remember that the Air Commandos will often have to carry the tools on them, so the equipment must be effective yet portable.

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

An operator from the 125th Special Tactics Squadron uses a chainsaw during extrication training at Portland Air National Guard Base, Portland, Ore., Oct. 8, 2020, to simulate removing trapped personnel from a vehicle or aircraft. The members may use these techniques in combat environments or humanitarian assistance and disaster response zones. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Valerie R. Seelye)

“By using non-salvageable vehicles, we are able to develop a scenario in which all procedures and tools are utilized, enhancing proficiency in this specific Tactic, Technique, and Procedure,” said the 125th Special Tactics Squadron flight commander in a press release. “The non-salvageable vehicles provide the most realistic training possible.”

The advent of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) has made extrication capabilities that much more important. If a vehicle, regardless if it’s armored or not, triggers an IED, chances are that it will suffer significant, if not catastrophic, damage. But if the explosive charge in the IED isn’t sufficient to destroy the vehicle altogether, the crew might survive, probably trapped inside the wreck. That’s why the extrication capability becomes important. But the skillset is also important in domestic or humanitarian scenarios, especially considering that this particular unit is part of the National Guard and might be called on to help civilians in distress as it has been doing in the past months.

“We also use this equipment during state emergency response operations or humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations to establish landing zones,” added the officer. “Or in the case of hurricanes, we’d possibly cut holes in the tops of houses to evacuate personnel by helicopter. These procedures were also utilized by Special Tactics Pararescuemen during the earthquake response in Haiti in 2010.”
That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

Break it down, boys (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Valerie R. Seelye).

Part of the Oregon Air National Guard, the 125th Special Tactics Squadron is based in Portland.

Pararescue is the only career field in the whole Department of Defense (DoD) that is specially trained and equipped to conduct combat search and rescue and personnel recovery.

Back in 1993 and the Battle of Mogadishu, the Air Commandos’ extrication training proved crucial. When the first MH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crashed during the “Black Hawk Down” incident, several of the crew members were trapped inside the twisted metals of the battered machine.

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

The moment the two pilots are finally extricated in the very realistic movie Black Hawk Down (Sony Pictures).

Even though the two Night Stalkers pilots who had been killed, the rest of Task Force Dagger resolved to not leave them behind. But only specialized equipped and trained men could extricate them. So, the burden fell on the Pararescuemen of the elite 24th Special Tactics Squadron. In the end, and after another day and night of fighting, the rescue force managed to extricate the two pilots.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.


MIGHTY TACTICAL

This Fresco was an aeronautical work of art

In the world of art, frescos are paintings done on walls or ceilings as the plaster sets. In the world of aeronautics, a “Fresco” is a Soviet-made, high-subsonic fighter that could beautifully carve and sculpt the skies.

However, most of these planes ended up looking a lot more like a Jackson Pollock than an ancient Roman masterpiece.


We’re talking about the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-17, which had the NATO code name “Fresco.” The MiG-17 first took flight in January 1950 and entered service in 1953, a tad too late to take part in the Korean War. Once development was finished and the MiG-17 was ready for its introduction, the Soviet Union quickly put a halt to all MiG-15 production — likely because the MiG-15 got its ass kicked at MiG Alley.

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

A lot of MiG-17s have appeared in gun-camera footage from American and Israeli fighters.

(USAF)

The MiG-17 had a top speed of 711 miles per hour and a maximum range of 1,230 miles. The MiG-17 found some success in the Vietnam War despite being considered obsolete by time it saw combat and using guns as primary armaments (either two 23mm and one 37mm gun or three 23mm guns) in the era of rockets — likely because, after Korea, the United States became overly reliant on missiles.

However, according to a compilation by the Air Force Association, during the Vietnam War, the Air Force shot down 61 MiG-17s while the Navy and Marine Corps shot down 39 more. The North Vietnamese, using Soviet aircraft, shot down a grand total of 83 planes in air-to-air combat.

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

The last moments of a MiG-17 Fresco as a F-105 tears it apart with 20mm cannon fire.

(USAF)

In the skies over the Middle East, the story was very different. The Israeli Air Force destroyed a lot of MiG-17s during the Six-Day War. In a 1970 incident, two MiG-17s accidentally landed at an Israeli airstrip. These planes eventually found their way to the Nevada desert, where the Air Force put them through their paces. As a result, several MiG-17s ended up getting involve, in a way, in modern art: They were splattered apart to degree of which Pollock would be proud by American and Israeli planes.

The MiG-17 hung on after Vietnam and the Yom Kippur War. Currently, the North Korean Air Force operates about 100 of the Chinese copy of this plane, the Shenyang J-5/F-5.

Learn more about this plane in the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dB6h5kGRMjA

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY HISTORY

The only legal pirate ship of the 20th century was the Goodyear blimp

There’s a lot to unpack in this headline – the legality of pirates, why there would be pirates in the 20th century, how they came to be flying the Goodyear Blimp of all things, and what would be the best way to be a pirate when your only ship is an unarmed airship that proudly displayed your tire company of choice.

First, let’s talk about legal piracy.


That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

Definitely not your torrent collection. If you don’t know what torrents are, then you’re probably good.

Know that “piracy” is always illegal, and the only time it’s not against the law is when we agree to call it something else. In the old days – that is the old days of wooden sailing ships – ships known as “privateers” sailed the high seas. These were privately owned and operated ships that were allowed to board and capture this ship of a particular nation, claiming it and its cargo as prizes. A privateer is not a pirate for one simple reason: the privateer carries a Letter of Marque.

A Letter of Marque is issued by one country, listing the specific assets available to the privateer, the enemy nation from which those assets can be seized or destroyed, and the authorization for the privateer to do it in the name of the issuing country. Famous privateers include Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh (who raided Spanish gold ships for the English) and the Goodyear Blimp Resolute.

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

Wait, what?

(U.S. Navy Photo)

For the first time since the War of 1812, the President, through Congress, issued a Letter of Marque to a civilian ship. In this case, the letter of marque allowed the private-owned airship to search for Japanese submarines in the Pacific Ocean, and allowed its crew to be armed without violating any laws of armed conflict.

And it was. The Resolute was based in Los Angeles and was used in regular patrols of the Pacific Ocean, searching for Japanese submarines operating along the United States West Coast. Its crews’ only armament was small arms, but there was little chance of the airship successfully boarding and capturing a Japanese submarine. The airship would just have radioed the location of the submarine to ships who could come do something about it.

Too bad there would be no chance of taking prize money.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is who nabbed the Army’s first submachine gun contract in 50 years

In 2018, the U.S. Army submitted a request to the industry for what they termed a Sub Compact Weapon (SCW), to be issued to close protection teams. Specifically, the Prototype Opportunity Notice called for a “highly concealable [Sub Compact Weapon] system capable of engaging threat personnel with a high volume of lethal force while accurately firing at close range with minimal collateral damage.”


Six companies were selected for prototype testing. Everyone (us included) expected SIG SAUER to flatten the competition, as they have a dedicated team whose job it is to address solicitations like this, as well as a ready-made and debugged solution in the MPX lineup. It came as a surprise then, that when the announcement was made on April 1, 2019, the gun the Army chose was made by the Swiss firm of BT.

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

(RECOIL)

The contract award dollar amount to BT USA LLC is ,575,811.76 for the purchase of “350 SCWs, with an option for additional quantities of up to 1,000 SCWs, with slings, manuals, accessories, and spare parts.”

Let’s take a look at the gun.

Based on the existing APC9 K Pro, the tiny subgun has a host of features tailored specifically to the Army requirements. For example, it has a collapsing stock, dual folding non-reciprocating charging handles and M-Lok slots on the handguard to accept aiming and illumination tools. It would seem the users wanted the gun to run suppressed for a substantial portion of its lifespan, as it was requested to be optimized around 147gr ammunition – BT also gave it a threaded barrel with a tri-lug thread protector in order to maximize compatibility with existing suppressors. This model deviates from the existing catalog in its ability to accept AR15 pistol grips, and in its bolt design, which is adapted to strip rounds from not only BT subgun mags, but also to work with Glock and SIG P320 pistol magazines.

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

(RECOIL)

We’ll be getting hands on the Army’s new toy in the next couple of weeks – stay tuned…

This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Influential military wives from the Revolutionary War to today

Military spouses have played a key role behind the scenes in supporting military members from the beginning of America’s history. In honor of Women’s History Month, this roundup focuses on these amazing women. So many military spouses’ stories are lost in history as their military service member’s service and sacrifice is often the main focus of historical records. However, we can see from the stories that were preserved that military spouses have made their mark on history just like the men and women who served in uniform.


The role and impact of military spouses continues today, but even the earliest military spouses showed their grit.

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

Revolutionary War

Unlike today’s war that continues despite the weather, in the winter, each Army would hunker down in place. Martha Washington would come to the camp at her husband’s request to provide comfort and even helped manage the camp. Martha oversaw social events, nursed sick soldiers, acted as a liaison between her husband and other officials and encouraged troops even though the chance of victory looked bleak. Martha Washington set a precedent for spouses in war through her reliance and strength and willingness to give up so much for their spouses.

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

Civil War

Julia Grant was married to Ulysses Grant, who was a General for the Union Army. Although her immediate family supported the Confederacy, she felt her role was to support her husband. And, she showed her loyalty to the Union time and again. She played a key role in the Civil War by providing him a constant flow of support. Because of her ability to manage her family and finances, he could stay focused on the war. Later, she made an impact as the First Lady when her husband became the President of the United States.

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

Vietnam War

If you have seen “We Are Soldiers” you know that Julia Moore was the wife of Lt Gen Hal Moore. When the Battle of Ia Drang went terribly wrong, she took it upon herself to notify her fellow military wives of the news. The Army didn’t have a system in place and would send telegrams via taxi cab drivers. Her efforts and complaints led to the U.S. Army, setting up a survivor support network and created casualty notification teams consisting of uniformed officers that are still in use today. She was also active in setting up the Army Community Service organizations that are now a permanent fixture on Army Posts. Her legacy continues today with an award in her name. The Julia Compton Moore Award recognizes the civilian spouses of soldiers for “Outstanding Contribution to the U.S. Army.”

Desert Storm

For Linda Stouffer, Desert Storm began months before as her husband deployed to Saudi Arabia to prepare for the war against Iraq. She was the head of the Family Support Group at the time, and watching the war come to life on television was very hard. The families left behind had little to no contact with their service members overseas, and they had to pick up the pieces of their lives and keep moving. There were countless military spouses who had to stay behind and take care of their families during a time of much uncertainty and change.

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

The Rosie Network Facebook

Post 9/11

Stephanie Brown is the founder of The Rosie Network that is designed to help military spouses jump into entrepreneurship. As a successful small business owner, she saw a need to help military spouses build their business and wanted to create a tool that provided needed resources. She is married to retired Rear Adm. Thomas L. Brown II (SEAL). Brown is still active in the military community and was recognized for her dedication with the Department of the Army Commander’s Award for Civilian Service.

Bonnie Carroll took her personal tragedy of her husband, Brig. Gen. Tom Carroll dying in a plane crash with seven other soldiers in 1992 and turned it into hope, resilience and encouragement for countless survivors. At the time of her husband’s death, there was no national support network for the families of America’s fallen heroes. In 1994, Bonnie launched the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) to give support to the families of the fallen. Since its launch, TAPS has cared for the more than 100,000 surviving family members. In 2015, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama. She has also been featured in a number of publications and recognized for her work through various awards and programs.

Military spouses are no longer expected to accompany their partners onto the battlefield, but they are still asked to make massive sacrifices for their country. And for many, their contributions continue after their spouse has left the military behind. It has been proven throughout history that the men and women who stand beside their service members are making an impact on the future of both the military and America.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A dog adopted by coalition troops fighting ISIS is finally home

U.S. Army Reserve Sgt. Tracy McKithern loves dogs. She loves her dog, she loves other peoples’ dogs, she loves dogs she sees in memes and on TV shows. When she found a dirty little white stray sniffing around the camp she was stationed at during a one-year deployment in Iraq, only one thing was going to happen.

“I fell in love with her immediately.”


McKithern, a combat photographer from Tampa, Florida with the 982nd Combat Camera Co. (Airborne), was stationed at the Kurdistan Training Coordination Center, a multinational military organization responsible for the training of Peshmerga and Northern Iraq Security in and around Erbil, from April 2017 to January 2018.

The little dog and her mom had been wandering around the base for weeks, McKithern found out. Stray dogs are common in Iraq, and the culture is not kind to them. Erby and her mom were kicked and hit with rocks daily, and starving. Her brother and sister had disappeared before McKithern arrived.

Despite her rough experiences with humans to that point, Erby ran right up to McKithern the first time she held out her hand to the shaky little pup covered in scratches and dirt.

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm
(U.S. Army photo by Tracy McKithern)

“She loved everyone,” said McKithern. “She is the sweetest little soul. She came up to me immediately, probably hungry, but gentle. I think she was looking for love more than anything else.”

McKithern, together with soldiers from the Italian and German armies her unit was partnered with, took to caring for the little dog. They named her Erby Kasima, after nearby Erbil, the largest city in northern Iraq, and “Kasima” being the Arabic name for “beauty and elegance.”

The coalition soldiers would go on convoys into the surrounding countryside to train Iraqi army units six days a week, with McKithern documenting the missions. Every time they returned to the base, Erby was waiting.

“She ran up to our convoy every day,” McKithern recalled. “She was so tiny she would fall and trip all over herself to get to us.”

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm
(U.S. Army photo by Tracy McKithern)

It didn’t take long for Erby and her mom to realize that, not only were they safe around McKithern and her Italian and German friends, but these humans would feed them too. As the weeks went by, their wounds began to heal and they started putting on healthy weight.

Eventually, the growing pup took to sleeping on the step outside McKithern’s quarters.

As the end of her deployment approached, she started to wonder how she could ever leave Erby behind when she went back to the states and lamented about it on her Facebook page.

“One night I posted a pic of us on Facebook, with a caption that read something like ‘I wish I could take her home,'” McKithern said. “I went to sleep, woke up and my friends and family had posted links to various rescue groups. I reached out to one of them, the non-profit Puppy Rescue Mission, and they responded immediately. We sent them $1,000 and they set up a crowd fund to get the rest. We needed an additional $3,500.”

The immediate outpouring of generosity was astounding, said McKithern.

“We raised the rest of the money very quickly, and most of it was from complete strangers!”

McKithern had many preparations to make before she left Iraq so Erby could eventually follow her. Vaccinations, documentation, travel arrangements — all had to be done somehow, in a war zone, while she was still fulfilling her duties as a Soldier. It seemed like an overwhelming task in an already overwhelming situation. Even though she now had the funding, McKithern began to lose hope that she’d have the time and energy to pull this off.

That’s when the brotherhood of the Coalition stepped in to help. Several Kurdish and German officers McKithern had befriended on missions stepped in and offered to tie up anything she couldn’t get done and get Erby onto the plane. With their help, everything got squared away. McKithern returned home, and Erby was set to follow her several weeks later.

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm
(U.S. Army photo by Tracy McKithern)

McKithern had only been home in Florida for about a month when, in a cruel twist of timing, she received orders for a 67-day mission to Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, leaving March 11, the very same day Erby was scheduled to arrive at JFK Airport.

“I couldn’t believe it!” said McKithern. “But I’m a Soldier first, and my commander received an email looking for volunteers. The need at Fort McCoy was desperate at the time. It is a gunnery exercise, which was an opportunity to expand my skills and knowledge as a soldier. It killed me that it was going to keep me away from Erby for another two months, but it’s an important mission. It will all be worth it in the end.”

McKithern’s husband, Sgt. Wes McKithern (also a combat cameraman for the 982nd), met Erby at the airport and drove her home to Tampa, where she has been assimilating into an American life of luxury and waiting patiently to be reunited with her rescuer.

In a few short weeks, McKithern will fly home from Fort McCoy to be with her sweet Erby at last. It will be the end of a 16-month journey that’s taken her across the world to find a little dog in a war zone and — with the help of generous strangers, a nonprofit dog rescue, and soldiers from three different armies — bring her all the way back to become part of a family.

“I can’t believe it,” says McKithern. “It feels like a miracle is happening.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s what it was like to be on a South Korean Navy ship

The United States and the Republic of Korea have a history of conducting bilateral military exercises where we team up and plan to take on an objective together to strengthen our relationship and coordination. One of these annual exercises is called Ssang Yong, and it’s a part of Foal Eagle, which typically takes place in the early spring. This training exercise is one of the largest military exercises in the world and, historically, it’s made North Korea really angry.

As part of Ssang Yong 2014, Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment was attached to a ROK Marine company and together, they boarded three ships. When first platoon boarded the ROKS Dokdo, the Marines had no idea they were in for a full seven days of suffering and pain.

The experiences were life-changing and here’s why.


That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

You could barely even stand between the racks of the berthing.

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Brien Aho)

It was crammed

The ROKS Dokdo is a very small ship. The berthing areas were so tiny that they were only used for sleep. If you wanted to hang out in the berthing, you might as well just climb in your bed and stay there — or else you’re just occupying otherwise valuable space.

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

Cash made things at least a little easier.

(U.S. Navy photo by Culinary Specialist Petty Officer 3rd Class Cedric Ceballos)

The debit/credit card machine was down

You know how ships have a store on them from which you can buy snacks so you aren’t starving between meals? Well, typically, items there can be purchased with a special card that only works on the ship. The only problem is that no one told us that, and no one gave us any. So, our only option was to pay with cash.

Some of us, however, didn’t get a chance to withdraw cash prior to departing, which put a serious damper on snack time.

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

Most of us mainly ate rice and seaweed paper.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Immanuel Johnson)

The food portions were terrible

South Koreans don’t eat nearly as much as Americans. We eat like it’s going out of style and that’s especially true if you’re an infantry Marine. The ship was stocked with enough food to support ROK Sailors and maybe a handful of Marines — but they were in no way prepared to handle a platoon and a half of us.

Not only were we starving between meals, the meals didn’t do too much for us, either.

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

The Korean cigarettes aren’t bad, trust us.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Logan Kyle)

There were only Korean tobacco products

The ship only carried (go figure) Korean tobacco products, specifically cigarettes. If you didn’t bring some extra American cigs, you’d have to settle for the Korean stuff. Admittedly, these aren’t bad at all, but it felt wrong.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China practices plan to defeat U.S. missiles in a war

Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy ships drilled in the East China Sea in August 2018, practicing honing its skills and countering missile threats from rivals like Japan, the US, and other potential combatants.

More than 10 naval vessels from three different command theaters participated in an air-defense and anti-missile live-fire exercise on Aug. 11, 2018, according to Chinese media reports.


“Intercepting anti-ship missiles is an urgent task as the surrounding threats grow,” Chinese military expert Song Zhongping told Global Times, specifically referring to the potential threats posed by the US, Japan, and other countries that engage in military activities near China.

“Anti-missile capability is indispensable to building a fully functional strategic PLA Navy. Such exercises are aimed at ensuring the PLA is prepared for battles,” the expert explained.

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

PLAN Type 056 corvette.

During the drills, the Meizhou, a Type 056 corvette with the South Sea Fleet armed with both anti-ship and surface-to-air missiles, gunned down an incoming anti-ship missile, according to Asia Times. The Tongren, another ship of the same class with East Sea Fleet, reportedly missed a missile on purpose to demonstrate the ability to follow with a successful second shot.

The drill comes on the heels of two other naval drills in the Yellow Sea and South China Sea.

China’s naval exercises appear to be, at least in part, a response to part of the most recent iteration of the Rim of the Pacific maritime drills. On July 12, 2018, aircraft, submarines, and land-based missile systems manned by US, Australian, and Japanese military personnel opened fire on the former USS Racine, a decommissioned ship used for target practice during the sinking exercise.

For the “first time in history,” Japanese missiles under US fire control were used to target a ship and sink it into the sea.

China is actively trying to bolster the combat capability of its naval force, the largest in the world today. China is producing new aircraft carriers, as well as heavy cruisers to defend them. China’s growing power is becoming more evident as it attempts to flex its muscles in disputed seas, such as the East and South China Sea.

The sinking exercise during RIMPAC “demonstrated the lethality and adaptability of our joint forces,” US Indo-Pacific Command chief Adm. Phil Davidson said of the drill in a statement published on Facebook.

“As naval forces drive our enemies into the littorals, army forces can strike them,” he said, adding, “Conversely, when the army drives our enemies out to sea naval firepower can do the same.”

In response to Chinese drills in the East China Sea, where China and Japan often feud over the contested Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, Japan will deploy an elite marine unit for drills before the end of 2018. The Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade, which has not been in service since World War II, was reactivated in March to counter potential Chinese threats to Japanese territory, according to Taiwan News.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

‘1917’ is going to be the coolest World War I movie ever

After a century, World War I is finally getting the treatment in American cinema it so richly deserves. While some of the best war movies were World War I movies, Paths of Glory, All Quiet on the Western Front, and Lawrence of Arabia, there were also many misses. What’s surprising is that there are relatively few WWI movies, when compared to those depicting other wars.

No longer. 1917 is a new movie based on the Great War, coming in December. And it looks like it could be the definitive WWI movie.


The film takes place during the Third Battle of Ypres, where a British contingent of 1,600 men is due to walk into a German trap. Two Tommies are given the assignment to proceed on foot to warn the unit about their orders – the ones that take them directly into an ambush. Their mission takes them across the Ypres battlefields and through the deadly trench warfare that is now synonymous with the Great War.

What’s more remarkable about 1917 is that it’s based on a true story, one told to director Sam Mendes by his own grandfather, Alfred. Alfred Mendes received the Military Medal for “acts of gallantry and devotion to duty under fire” during the war. The Military Medal was replaced by the Military Cross in the UK armed forces in 1993, and would be the fifth-highest medal awarded by the United Kingdom today.

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

Relentless rain, mud, and death marked the Battle of Ypres.

The elder Mendes ran through snipers, trenches, moving artillery barrages, and machine-gun fire to deliver messages for two full days during the Battle of Poelcappelle. Mendes’ grandfather was raised on the Caribbean island of Trinidad but left to join the fight against Germany, joining the British Army in 1916, at the age of 19. He saw action at the WWI Battles of Passchendaele (Ypres) and Poelcappelle. He was sent to go find survivors of a failed attack during Poelcappelle. It was a dangerous assignment, one his commander said he might not return from.

Despite encountering all of World War I’s signature death traps, he still managed to find survivors while surviving himself. He made it back to his company’s shell hole intact.

“In spite of the snipers, the machine-gunners and the shells, I arrived back at C Company’s shell hole without a scratch but with a series of hair-raising experiences that would keep my grand and great-grandchildren enthralled for nights on end,” he would later write in his autobiography.

1917 is based on Medes’ experiences on this mission. The film is set to release on Dec. 25, 2019.