This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

When Johnson Beharry was awarded the Victoria Cross, it was the first time a living soldier received the award in over 30 years. It’s not an easy award to pick up, and perhaps Lance Sgt. Beharry should have died in Iraq – but he didn’t. And because he survived, so did many, many men from his unit.


In May 2004, Beharry was driving an armored vehicle to help rescue a foot patrol that was caught in an ambush. The Warrior, an armored infantry fighting vehicle used by the UK military, had taken so many RPG hits that most of his crew were injured and he was unable to see using his periscope.

So, he popped open the hatch.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

A British Army MCV-80 Warrior Infantry Tracked Fighting Vehicle.

He drove the rest of the way with his head outside of the protection of the vehicle. In doing so, he exposed his head to the same nonstop barrage of bullets and RPG fire that wounded most of his fellow soldiers. He drove the Warrior right through the ambush until he got to the threatened foot patrol.

He drove through multiple ambushes, small arms fire, heavy machine gun fire, several RPGs, and even improvised explosive devices. His commander and gunner, along with others in the crew, were wounded and incapacitated. Beharry didn’t know their status because the Warrior’s communications system was damaged in the initial ambush. With smoke pouring into his vehicle, he drove through the Iraqi night.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

Beharry’s Warrior fighting vehicle after arriving at Cimic House outpost.

At one point, he could see an RPG flying at him, directly toward his face. He quickly pulled down the lid of the hatch with one hand, while driving the vehicle with the other. The blast pulled the hatch out of his hand but allowed the force and flame to pass over him.

Next, a 7.62 round hit Beharry in the head, lodging into his helmet, but miraculously not wounding him. Beharry pressed the vehicle on, away from the ambush area. He saw another Warrior from his unit and followed it through the dark streets of al-Amarah until they reached their destination: a British Army outpost. Still under intense fire, Beharry lifted his platoon commander and then his gunner out of the vehicle’s turret and into the safety of the other Warrior. He then went back into his Warrior and drove it to the outpost.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

Lance Sgt. Johnson Beharry poses with one of two captured Chinese cannons used to create Victoria Cross medals.

Once inside a defended perimeter, Beharry secured the Warrior, pulled the fire extinguisher, and moved to the other, seemingly undamaged Warrior, where he passed out from sheer exhaustion. But his story doesn’t end there – Victoria Crosses, the UK’s equivalent to the Medal of Honor, are exceedingly difficult medals to earn. A month later, Johnson Beharry was back in action in Iraq.

The coalition base in al-Amarah was under attack from a mortar team in June, 2004. Beharry was part of a quick reaction force sent to neutralize the threat to the base. Driving again through the city at night, Beharry’s armored vehicle was ambushed on its way to the attackers. The initial volley of that ambush saw an RPG explode just six inches from the young soldier’s head, causing serious injury.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

Beharry is presented with the Victoria Cross by Queen Elizabeth II.

Other RPGs rocked the vehicle, and the turret, again incapacitating and wounding the vehicle commander and the others in the crew. With blood pouring into his face, Beharry stayed in control of the vehicle. He drove the vehicle out of the ambush area – in reverse – until it became lodged in the side of a building. Only then did he lose consciousness from loss of blood. But in moving out of the ambush zone, other Warriors were able to come to their aid. All of them survived both of the deadly attacks.

The attack put him in a coma, and his wounds ultimately required him to leave the service. Before that, he was presented with the Victoria Cross by Queen Elizabeth II on Apr. 27, 2005. Since then, he has made a number of public appearances and implored veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to seek mental health assistance for post-traumatic stress. These days, he runs a youth foundation to keep kids away from gangs and rehabilitate former gang members.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How Florent Groberg earned his Medal of Honor

Just shy of twenty years ago, Florent Groberg was getting ready to graduate from high school. He was a newly-minted American, an immigrant from France. Like many Americans, he went on to college and studied things he was passionate about while playing college sports in his spare time.

Unlike many Americans, Groberg didn’t go off to work in the civilian sector after graduating. Groberg joined the U.S. Army and became an officer in 2008. That decision would alter the course of his life forever.


This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head
President Barack Obama presents the Medal of Honor to retired U.S. Army Capt. Florent Groberg

Since entering the Army in 2008, Groberg has had some 33 surgeries and was retired from the service. His time in the Army was, of course, consequential for many, not just himself. His second tour in Afghanistan would be the defining event of his service.

He was a Personal Security Detachment Commander for Task Force Mountain Warrior in Afghanistan’s Kunar Province in August 2012. One day, while escorting high-ranking senior American and Afghan leaders to the provincial governor’s compound, Groberg noticed one person making a beeline for their protected formation. Noticing a significant bulge in the man’s clothing, the Army officer didn’t just shout at the man, he ran toward him.

Before anyone else could react, Capt. Groberg used his body to push the would-be suicide bomber away from the formation, not once but twice before he could detonate his vest. The blast killed four members of the formation but it could have been a lot worse – Groberg managed to push the man well outside the formation’s perimeter, limiting the damage to the group, while taking the brunt of it himself. The blast detonated a second vest nearby, which blew up almost harmlessly.

For Groberg, the first explosion was anything but harmless. The blast took off half of his calf leg muscle while damaging his nervous system, blowing his eardrums, and delivering a traumatic brain injury – but it could have been a whole lot worse.

You can catch Florent Groberg speak at the 2019 Military Influencer Conference in the Washington, D.C. area on Sept. 8-10, 2019, courtesy of Caliber Home Loans.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Meet the Marine Corps’ first female F-35B fighter pilot

Twenty-four years after the Marine Corps got its first female aviator, another woman pilot is making history.

Capt. Anneliese Satz is the Marine Corps’ first-ever female F-35B Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter jet pilot. The 29-year-old from Boise, Idaho, has spent the past four years training as a naval aviator.

Now, she’s cleared to operate the cutting-edge fifth-generation stealth, supersonic fighter aircraft in combat. She’s the first woman to complete the F-35B Basic Course, designed specifically for the Marine Corps variant of the fighter jet. The F-35B can take off and land vertically from amphibious assault ship flight decks and austere locations with little runway space.


Satz is joining the “Green Knights” with the Japan-based Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121. VMFA-121 was the first F-35B squadron to complete an operational deployment with a Marine expeditionary unit aboard a Navy ship.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

Capt. Anneliese Satz conducts pre-flight checks prior to a training flight aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Ashley Phillips)

Satz recalled the first time she took off in the Joint Strike Fighter in a Marine Corps news release announcing her career milestone.

“The first flight in an F-35 is by yourself,” she said. “… It’s an exhilarating experience.”

Satz was licensed to fly the single-engine Robinson R44 light helicopter before joining the Marine Corps. Since switching to fixed wing, she’s flown the T-6 Texan II tandem-seat, turboprop trainer and the T-45C Goshawk carrier capable jet trainer, which prepares naval aviators for tactical missions.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

Capt. Anneliese Satz puts on her flight helmet prior to a training flight aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Ashley Phillips)

She then joined Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501, where she trained to fly the military’s newest fighter jet. Showing up and working hard are what allowed her to succeed, she said in the release.

Satz also credited the instructors, maintainers and other members of Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 for helping her complete the F-35B Basic Course.

“This is a phenomenal program made possible by all of their hard work,” she said in a Marine Corps news release. “I am thankful to have had the opportunity to learn from all of them. I am incredibly excited to get to VMFA-121 and look forward to the opportunity to serve in the Fleet Marine Forces.”

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

Capt. Anneliese Satz conducts pre-flight checks prior to a training flight aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Ashley Phillips)

Earlier this week, another female Marine aviator made history when she became the first woman selected to fly the Corps’ other Joint Strike Fighter variant — the F-35C.

First Lt. Catherine Stark will join the Navy’s fleet replacement squadron, Strike Fighter Squadron 125, where she’ll fly the F-35 variant designed for carrier operations.

Female Marines have been able to fly only since 1993 when the service opened pilot positions to women. Then-2nd Lt. Sarah Deal, a CH-53E heavy-lift helicopter pilot, became the Marine Corps’ first female aviator in 1995. And Capt. Vernice Armour, an AH-1W Cobra pilot, became the service’s first black female pilot in 2001.

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

Humor

4 of the top reasons Chuck Norris is dead to me

Why do we worship Chuck Norris anyway? What has he ever done besides getting whopped by Bruce Lee in a bad sequel to Enter the Dragon?


When, exactly, did he become downright holy? I wish I could give you all the answers because he really grinds my gears!

Here are my top 4 reasons why Chuck Norris is dead to me:

Disclaimer: I am an Air Force veteran who spent the entirety of his 13 years in uniform as a Security Forces member. The following is written — and intended to be taken — in jest. I love Chuck Norris and I’ve actually been to his first Tae Kwan Do school. Also, we share a common duty unit (Osan, ROK).

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head
Pictured: The last ass-whipping Chuck Norris ever took. (Image from Golden Harvest’s Return of the Dragon).

Related: 5 of the best moves from Air Force Combatives

4. The Chuck Norris meme phenomenon

Where did this come from? Did he start them himself? Who decided he was so cool? He’s literally the master of life, according to the internet and I need answers!

I just don’t understand it, and we all hate things we don’t understand, right?

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head
Don’t forget to look away — Chuck Norris once beat the sun in a staring contest.

3. Total Gym? Yeah… it bites!

Have you ever actually tried to use a Total Gym?

Did you pinch parts of yourself in the nest of cables and pulleys all while getting exactly no workout from the supposed ‘gym,’ too? If so, then you know what I’m talking about.

It supposedly offers 80 different exercises, but you’d have to be a pretty clever f*cker to figure out more than three.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head
Pictured: Chuck Norris doing all 80 of the proposed exercises available on the Total Gym. (Image from Total Gym Direct)

2. He thinks he’s a Marine

I guess, he is a Marine — technically. He was made an honorary Marine back in 2007. That’s fine and dandy, but there’s one problem with that… he was already a veteran of the U.S. Air Force!

If you happen to be one of those few people who knew Chuck Norris was a veteran going into this article, it is likely that you thought he was a Marine. Just based on the sheer number of photo ops, he seems to love having wearing Marine Corps uniforms!

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head
Chuck Norris sharing a laugh with his fellow Marine. (USMC photo by Sgt. Sheila Brooks).

Also read: 5 best reasons why the Air Force doesn’t need warrant officers

1. Chuck Norris is omnipotent

If you believe everything you read on the Internet, then Chuck Norris is all-powerful and unstoppable — where’s the fun in that?

In fact, Chuck Norris is actually controlling my hands to write this piece because… well, Chuck Norris.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head
Chuck Norris never takes no for an answer. (Image from Cannon Films’ Invasion U.S.A.).

MIGHTY HISTORY

The crazy Coast Guard rescue of an Air Force pilot in Vietnam

During the Vietnam War, some Coast Guard pilots were given the chance to volunteer for service on the front lines, relieving the pressure on over-tasked Air Force pilots. Some of those Coast Guard pilots who volunteered would go on to dramatically rescue a downed Air Force pilot and were later awarded Silver Stars for their actions.


This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

Pararescuemen leap out of a HH-3E during an exercise. The HH-3E, known as the “Jolly Green Giant,” was widely used in Vietnam.

(U.S. Air Force)

The 11 Coast Guard pilots selected for the program went through months of special training in survival, tactics, and the aircraft they would be flying, the HH-3E, before flying to Vietnam to start their tours.

In country, they were folded into flight crews, often with Air Force copilots, engineers, and pararescuemen. Their job was to pick up isolated personnel — usually downed aircrews — provide immediate medical care, and deliver them to field medical facilities.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

A U.S. Air Force F-105G, similar to the one lost on July 1, 1968, leading to a dramatic rescue by U.S. Air Force and Coast Guard personnel under fire.

(U.S. Air Force)

On July 1, 1968, an F-105 Thunderchief with the callsign “Scotch 3” was hit over the Vietnamese peninsula and made for the gulf, but fell too fast and the pilot was forced to eject into a jungle canyon. Lt. Col. Jack Modica was knocked out by the impact of his landing, and woke up two hours later.

He reported his condition to the forward air controller, and the HH-3Es attempted to get to him. The first attempts were unsuccessful due to ground fire, so the Air Force sent in another HH-3E with ground attack aircraft suppressing enemy air defenses.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

A Douglas A-1 Skyraider like the one shot down July 2, 1968, while trying to suppress ground fire in Vietnam.

(Clemens Vasters, CC BY 2.0)

Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Lonnie Mixon flew the helicopter during these attempts, taking fire that damaged his fuel tank, a hydraulic line, and the electrical system. Shockingly, even after all that damage, he made one more attempt, but was again forced to break off due to anti-aircraft fire. This forced the pilot to spend the night in the jungle. Mixon later received the Silver Star for his brave attempts.

So, the rescue birds came back again in the morning, but it went even worse than the night before. One of the ground-attack aircraft, an A-1 Skyraider, was shot down, and the rescue chopper was forced back home after suffering heavy damage, including having an unexploded rocket lodged inside of it.

With this list of failures, dangers, and damage, the Air Force turned to Jolly 21 pilot U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Lance Eagan and asked him to fly in behind a B-52 bomber strike. Eagan and his Air Force crew accepted the mission and went to work.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

An Air Force crew lowers a jungle penetrator from a HH-3E helicopter during an exercise.

(U.S. Air Force)

Again, ground fire opened up, striking the rescue bird, but Eagan was able to get through the flak intact and spotted smoke thrown by Modica. He found a nearby open patch to lower the PJ into the jungle to go grab Modica. The PJ found that Modica had a pelvic break.

Eagan was forced to lower the helicopter down into the trees, striking some of the high branches, to get the jungle penetrator as close to the pilot as possible, but the PJs still had to carry the injured man a short distance. As the crew began raising the men from the jungle floor, the Vietnamese sprang their trap.

Automatic weapons fire thundered into the helicopter, shattering the windscreen and penetrating the thin metal skin, but Eagan kept the bird steady until the hoist cleared the trees and the HH-3E was able to tear away low and fast.

The injured pilot was successfully delivered to a hospital, and the rescue crew was later decorated for their bravery. Eagan was awarded the Silver Star by the Air Force for his actions.

He and Mixon weren’t the only Coast Guard pilots to receive that award. Lt. Jack Rittichier had been shot down the month before during a rescue attempt, and he was awarded the Silver Star along with the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart.

The Coast Guard’s involvement in combat air rescue continued for another four years, ending in 1972.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How to use thermoplasic to make tools for your gun

While working on a completely different project I discovered something curious on Amazon. That product was moldable thermoplastic pellets.

Shaped in balls like smaller-than-usual airsoft pellets, moldable thermoplastic melts at just 140F, can be formed like clay, and then increases in hardness as it approaches room temperature.

There are seemingly endless uses for this product, but I had a pet one in mind for the test: a US Optics turret tool.


This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

(RECOILweb)

With most scopes (several of them being US Optics) a simple hex wrench can be used to float turrets back to zero after obtaining a physical zero.

But no, not the case with the USO BT-10.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

(RECOILweb)

While official instructions say to press down with your palm on the top and rotate, the reality meant several friends and I tried in vain to accomplish this for about an hour.

And once you get it, it has to be pushed back in the same way.

Either way you cut it, it sucked on both ends.

So, a US Optics BT-10 tool it would be.

Firstly, you heat up some water at a medium temperature. Then drop some thermoplastic in place. Once it’s clear, then it’s pliable.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

(RECOILweb)

Then all you have to do is mold it around an object. I have found that it does not stick to treated metal but may to plastics (so use a release agent like PAM). As it comes to temperature, it becomes opaque again.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

(RECOILweb)

[Note that I did attempt to add texture which is why it looks so rough]

Does it work?

Hell. Yes.

The extra area and easier grip makes floating turrets a HELLUVA lot easier with this scope.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

(RECOILweb)

The best part is, if you muck it up it can be re-melted and reused.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army recruiter saves mass shooting victims in mall

Savannah VanHook celebrated her fourth birthday Jan. 13, 2019, by visiting Claire’s at the Fashion Place mall, Murray, Utah, with her parents to pierce her ears — something she’s been asking her mother and father for over five months. It stung, but she seemed proud of her freshly-pierced ears. The family headed to the food court when something entirely different pierced her ears: The sound of four gunshots ringing throughout the mall.


Savannah’s father, Sgt. Marshall VanHook, a recruiter with the Herriman U.S. Army Recruiting Station, recognized the sound immediately and directed his daughter and wife, Sarah, into a T-Mobile store to take cover.

Vanhook then ran toward the commotion.

“I saw the flash, and I heard the shots. I knew immediately what it was; it’s very distinctive,” recalled Vanhook. “My first response was to make sure my family was taken care of … and then it was just a matter of ‘I need to stop this before it gets to my family,’ so I took off. I ran towards where I thought the threat was at. While I was running there really were no thoughts other than ‘take care of business.'”

Vanhook ran through the mall and made his way outside in an attempt to see the shooter to get a description, he explained.

“I got out to the parking lot and it was a bit of chaos, people were running and I had no idea where they went,” he said. “I just came back and that’s where I saw the two victims.”

The two victims, an adult male and adult female, were starting to fall to the ground. He ended his search for the gunmen and jumped into action to assist saving lives.

“It was just a matter of getting to work,” said Vanhook.

A mobile phone video from a fellow shoppers captured his next actions. VanHook removed his belt and created a makeshift tourniquet above the woman’s visible gunshot wound. Keeping a calm disposition, he directed an observer to use her scarf to apply direct pressure to the leg injury while he moved on to assess the man’s condition.

Victims of shooting at Fashion Place Mall in Murray, Utah

www.youtube.com

Victims of shooting at Fashion Place Mall in Murray, Utah

Dramatic footage of two victims being treated by bystanders following a shooting at Fashion Place Mall in Murray, Utah.

Vanhook has served in the U.S. Army Reserve for nine years. Before joining the Herriman recruiting team four months ago, he served as a civil affairs specialist with the 321st Civil Affairs Brigade. There, he received first aid response training, including Combat Lifesaver in 2014.

“Because of the Army, it instilled something in me to react in danger and not to flee from it,” explained VanHook.

Combat Lifesaver Course is the next level of first aid training after Army Basic Training Course. It provides in-depth training on responding to arterial bleeding, blocked airways, trauma, chest wounds and other battlefield injuries. The course was presented as realistically as possible, making it effective and easier to apply in a real scenario, explained VanHook.

“You go over [the training] and over it. It’s just a matter of muscle memory,” he said. “There really wasn’t thought. It was action.”

Although VanHook doesn’t consider himself a hero, his leaders feel he has represented himself and the Army well.

“His actions definitely, I think, were heroic,” said Lt. Col. Carl D. Whitman, commander of the U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion (Salt Lake City). “Most people don’t normally run to the sound of the guns, if you will… but he’s a soldier and went into action as soldiers do. We’re well-trained. His training and that mindset took over.”

“A lot of folks out there may call him or other soldiers that do that a hero, but I think those of us in uniform don’t see ourselves that way, and I know he doesn’t, but definitely his actions were heroic,” Whitman said. “His actions resulted in saving a couple people’s lives.”

VanHook explained after everything that occurred, his family is doing well but it all seems surreal.

“It doesn’t feel real,” he said. “It makes me angry. I’m a little angry that something like that happened. It was my daughter’s birthday and it kind of messed it up. We had plans that night and because of the incident, it kind of got put on hold.”

He explained his wife was scared to leave the house following the shooting, but now they are working together to get back to normal life. His daughter Savannah, too young to realize the weight of the incident, he said, described the evening as “not how she wanted to spend her birthday.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch the bizarre 4-minute video the White House made for Kim Jong Un

Donald Trump played Kim Jong Un a Hollywood-style video hyping the prospect of peace, which cast Kim as its leading man.

The video, which Trump made public later that day at a press conference, made a dramatic pitch for the benefits of peace between the two nations. You can watch the English version above.

The film, credited to “Destiny Pictures” drew on the “in a world” and “one man, one choice” framing of Hollywood action movies.


It labored the comparison further by including credits for Trump and Kim like Hollywood stars. The dramatic voiceover framed Kim as a potential “hero of his people” with the chance to achieve “prosperity like he has never seen.”

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head
A frame from the video showing Trump as a star of the film.

It includes a sweeping orchestral score, epic shots of earth from outer space, and horses galloping along the beach, interspersed with imagery of Kim and Trump.

According to President Trump, Kim “loved” the video, which he played in Korean to the North Korean leader and eight aides on an iPad at their private bilateral meeting.

Here is a transcript of the pivotal part of the video, which offers Kim the chance to “remake history.”

“A new world can begin today. One of friendship, respect and goodwill. Be part of that world, where the doors of opportunity are ready to be open: investment form around the world, where you can have medical breakthroughs, an abundance of resources innovative technology and new discoveries.
“What if? Can history be changed? Will the world embrace this change? And when could this moment in history begin?
“It comes down to a choice. On this day, in this time, in this moment the world will be watching, listening, anticipating, hoping.
“Will this leader choose to advance his country, and be part of a new world? Be the hero of his people? Will he shake the hand of peace and enjoy prosperity like he has never seen?
“A great life, or more isolation? Which path will be chosen?
“Featuring President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un… in a meeting to remake history. To shine in the sun. One moment, one choice. What if? The future remains to be written.”

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head
A shot of the sun rising over the earth, included as part of the video.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head
Assembled media being shown the video before Trump gave a press conference.

Trump was asked a question about the video at the press conference, during which he said he commissioned the video as a way to sell peace to Kim.

Trump said:

“I showed it to him today, actually, during in meeting, towards the end of the meeting and I think he loved it. We didn’t have a big screen like you have the luxury of having, we didn’t need it because we had it on a cassette, an iPad, and they played it and about eight of their representatives were watching it and I thought they were fascinated by it.

“I thought it was well done, I showed it to you because that’s the future, I mean, that could very well be the future. The other alternative is just not a very good alternative, it’s just not good.

“But I showed it because I really want him to do something.”

He later said that the video showed a vision of “the highest level of future development,” and that North Korea could also opt for “a much smaller version of this.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Soldiers share stories of suicide to save others

There was the staff sergeant who walked onto the street in front of his home — gun in hand — ready to end his life, when a neighbor stopped him from pulling the trigger.

There’s the lieutenant who vulnerably opened up to his commander during a battle assembly weekend — eyes so tired from not having slept in two days — and admitted he needed help.

The chaplain who lost his father to suicide in his grandmother’s house.

The sergeant who lost a soldier during deployment.

The officer who handled a suicide investigation case.

A lost brother. A mother. A close friend.


Each of them sat in front of the camera to share their stories — raw and real and unscripted — for a new take on suicide prevention.

“The idea was, talk directly into the lens as if you were looking at that person who is in crisis. Look at them in the eye. Say whatever it is you need them to hear,” said David Dummer, the suicide prevention program manager for the 200th Military Police Command, headquartered at Fort Meade.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

Sgt. Claude Richardson, a U.S. Army Reserve soldier and suicide prevention instructor with the 358th Military Police Company, talks about his experience as an instructor during a video project hosted and organized by the 200th Military Police Command’s Suicide Prevention Program to document the stories of suicide survivors and those affected by the suicide of loved ones during a two-day shoot at the Defense Media Activity, Fort Meade, Md., Dec. 14, 2018.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

Since 2010, the command’s suicide rate has dropped 65 percent. It is currently at its lowest point on record. In four of the last five years, the command’s suicide rate has been below the civilian rate, based on similar age demographics. That’s not often true throughout most of the armed services, said Dummer.

“We’ve already seen a tremendous, tremendous reduction in our suicide rate using the old material, and I think these new (videos) will take us even further in the right direction,” said Dummer.

The goal is to create something new, powerful and impactful to use in suicide prevention training, unlike some of the canned material that has been in use for several years now.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

Maj. Valerie Palacios, a U.S. Army Reserve public affairs officer for the 200th Military Police Command, operates a camera on a slider during an interview for a video project organized by the 200th MP Command’s Suicide Prevention Program to document the stories of suicide survivors and those affected by the suicide of loved ones during a two-day shoot at the Defense Media Activity, Fort Meade, Md., Dec. 14, 2018.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

Suicide prevention training is required for all soldiers. In spite of everyone recognizing how incredibly important it is, soldiers often groan at the training because the materials used often feel scripted or repetitive, said Dummer.

“Our suicide prevention effort is to save lives. We recognized some time ago that the training material we have been given to use is rather stale,” Dummer said.

These new video messages are intended to change that. They are designed to supplement current material, not replace it.

“The official Army line is to reduce suicides, but in the 200th we’re aiming to eliminate them completely,” said Dummer.

The video shoot spanned two days at the Defense Media Activity (DMA), recorded inside a state of the art studio that reassured everyone that this was important. Their stories would be handled

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

U.S. Army Reserve soldiers listen to a final “out brief” after completing a video project hosted and organized by the 200th Military Police Command’s Suicide Prevention Program to document the stories of suicide survivors and those affected by the suicide of loved ones during a two-day shoot at the Defense Media Activity, Fort Meade, Md., Dec. 14, 2018.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

with care and professionalism. It wasn’t going to be some PSA message haphazardly thrown together at the last minute. Dummer and his team at the 200th MP Command had been planning this shoot for months, calling soldiers from across the United States to take part in the effort.

“Their words have power. That power will ripple throughout the audience and beyond as people start to talk about what they saw on camera … It takes a lot of courage to get up and speak about your personal experiences publically,” Dummer said.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

U.S. Army Reserve soldiers and civilians pose for a group portrait after completing a video project hosted and organized by the 200th Military Police Command’s Suicide Prevention Program to document the stories of suicide survivors and those affected by the suicide of loved ones during a two-day shoot at the Defense Media Activity, Fort Meade, Md., Dec. 14, 2018.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

The primary audience for this video is the MP command itself, composed of nearly 14,000 U.S. Army Reserve soldiers across the United States. Most of those soldiers are MPs who specialize in combat support, detention operations and criminal investigations — among other job specialties. These are soldiers who have experienced deployment, trauma and life stressors as intense as any active duty soldier.

“I always brag that I have more combat stripes than I have service stripes,” said Staff Sgt. Preston Snowden, a 20-year Army veteran who is also a civilian police officer from Atlanta.

Snowden is also a suicide prevention instructor who often shares personal experiences to connect with soldiers during training.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

David Dummer (top), suicide prevention coordinator for the 200th Military Police Command, and Maj. Valerie Palacios, the command’s public affairs officer, conduct a video interview during a project organized by the 200th MP Command’s Suicide Prevention Program to document the stories of suicide survivors and those affected by the suicide of loved ones during a two-day shoot at the Defense Media Activity, Fort Meade, Md., Dec. 14, 2018.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

“Me being a police officer thinking I knew how to handle every situation, because I’ve dealt with child molestations. I’ve dealt with suicides … Overdoses. Murders. On the outside looking in, you have that mindset, just like you would in the military, that it’s work. When it’s over, it’s over. You go home,” he said.

Yet, the challenges of adjusting to home life after deployment only grew worse when trauma struck in his own house. One of his own daughters was sexually assaulted. He felt like a failure. He was her father. Her protector. A police officer. A former infantryman. If he couldn’t protect her, who could?

Over time, that sense of shame and worthlessness brought him onto the street with a gun. He didn’t want to end his life in his house or his back yard. He looked both ways to ensure no cars were coming. Then he heard a voice.

“Hey, brother, what are you doing?” It was his neighbor. Up until that day, Snowden didn’t even know the man’s name.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

Staff Sgt. Preston Snowden, a U.S. Army Reserve military police soldier with the 200th Military Police Command, poses for a portrait while participating in a video project hosted and organized by the 200th MP Command’s Suicide Prevention Program to document the stories of suicide survivors and those affected by the suicide of loved ones during a two-day shoot at the Defense Media Activity, Fort Meade, Md., Dec. 14, 2018.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

Snowden tried to make some excuse.

“That’s bull—-,” the neighbor responded. “I see it. Cause I’ve done it. I was there. I could see it a mile away. I could pretty much smell it on you. Let’s talk.”

The man introduced himself as Fred. A 32-year Army veteran. A man who cuts the grass and works in the yard every day as his personal outlet. Through that interaction, Fred saved Snowden’s life.

Other stories shared on camera didn’t have a happy ending. On holidays and birthdays, soldiers still miss the loved ones they lost to suicide. Yet, even though each story is personal and unique, they all share a universal message.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

U.S. Army Reserve soldiers listen to a final “out brief” after completing a video project hosted and organized by the 200th Military Police Command’s Suicide Prevention Program to document the stories of suicide survivors and those affected by the suicide of loved ones during a two-day shoot at the Defense Media Activity, Fort Meade, Md., Dec. 14, 2018.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

“I think the one theme that emerged from every single story … is the value of reaching out to someone around you, or to the people around you, and asking them for their support in getting through whatever tough time you’re experiencing,” said Dummer.

Soldiers often don’t express their need for help because they’re afraid of losing their security clearances, or their careers. They’re afraid of appearing weak or inferior. Dummer hopes to help dispel those fears through this video series.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

Sgt. Claude Richardson, a U.S. Army Reserve soldier and suicide prevention instructor with the 358th Military Police Company, talks about his experience as an instructor during a video project hosted and organized by the 200th Military Police Command’s Suicide Prevention Program to document the stories of suicide survivors and those affected by the suicide of loved ones during a two-day shoot at the Defense Media Activity, Fort Meade, Md., Dec. 14, 2018.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

Dummer also wants all Army Reserve leaders to know that if a soldier expresses suicidal ideations, commanders can place those soldiers on 72-hour orders to provide them immediate medical treatment at the nearest civilian emergency room or military hospital. The video will also provide a list of other helpful resources, such as “Give an Hour,” which offers free behavioral health services to all military members.

It’s not enough to raise awareness about a problem, if that awareness offers no solutions, Dummer said. These videos will do both.

The command has at least one more day scheduled at the DMA studios in January, before post production and editing begins. Once finished, the videos will be packaged and distributed throughout the command for training purposes beginning in the spring of 2019.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Photo exclusive: Hidden from the Nazis, murdered Jewish artist’s trove of paintings discovered in Prague house

Fearful that the occupying Nazi forces in Prague could confiscate a lifetime’s worth of artwork, Jewish painter Gertrud Kauders decided in 1939 to hide her vast array of paintings and drawings.

Nearly 80 years later, in the summer of 2018, Michal Ulvr was leading a demolition team tearing down a decrepit house south of Prague when “about 30 paintings tumbled out and fell onto my head,” he told RFE/RL.

As the day wore on, the crew turned up more stashes of strikingly beautiful artwork as they dismantled the house — some were under floorboards, others behind walls. By the end of the day some 700 paintings and sketches lay out in the open on the worksite as summer rain clouds gathered over Prague.

IN PHOTOS: The Art Of Gertrud Kauders (25 Images)

When Jakub Sedlacek, the owner of the house, was alerted to the strange discovery, he realized immediately what had been uncovered. Sedlacek had been raised on stories of exquisite art hidden inside the family home he recently inherited. A close inspection of the canvases confirmed the family legend was real — many of the paintings were signed “Gertrud Kauders.”

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

Kauders was born in 1883 in Prague, one of two children in a well-to-do Jewish home. After the Nazis rose to power in neighboring Germany and began a step-by-step takeover of Czechoslovakia, most of Kauders’ family fled the country and urged her to do the same. But Kauders, whose first language was German, refused to believe the Nazis would hurt someone as harmless as her and she chose to stay.

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Nazi troops march into Prague Castle as crowds salute them in March 1939.

But as the full horror of the German plans for Europe’s Jews was slowly laid bare, Kauders turned to a close friend, Natalie Jahudkova, for the favor of a lifetime.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

Jahudkova was an elegant Russian woman born in 1895 in a small town north of Moscow. She had emigrated to Czechoslovakia in 1920 after catching the eye of one of the Czechoslovak Legionnaires — volunteer soldiers fighting for their homeland during World War I. The legion famously battled their way across Siberia after being caught up in Russia’s civil war.

Jahudkova was one of about 1,000 Russian women who married one of the dashing European fighters and sailed with them from Vladivostok for the newly-founded Czechoslovakia, a country their husbands had helped fight into existence.

Kauders and Jahudkova met while students at Prague’s Academy of Fine Arts. The two became close while taking weeks-long trips with their professor, noted artist Otakar Nejedly, to paint the landscapes and cities of France and Italy.

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A city scene that may have been painted during one of Kauders’ and Jahudkova’s trips through Europe.

By 1939, those carefree days of summer painting trips abroad with their famous professor were a distant memory as Nazi bureaucrats and their jackbooted enforcers were busy making life impossible for Czechoslovak Jews. With time running out, Kauders untacked her canvasses from their frames and smuggled her entire life’s work to Jahudkova’s house in the southern Prague suburb of Zbraslav.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

A canvas edge, showing where tacks were pulled out so the paintings could be separated from their frames and more easily transported and hidden.

At enormous risk to herself, Jahudkova — probably helped by Kauders — hid some 700 artworks throughout the structure of her house. Jahudkova’s new home was still under construction, making the hammering and labor of the two friends’ secret project relatively inconspicuous.

Soon after the artwork was safely embedded in the Zbraslav house, Kauders was snagged in the nightmarish machinery of the Nazi state. After being identified as Jewish, records show she was arrested and transported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp in May 1942. Kauders was held briefly among the starving and sickly prisoners in the camp north of Prague, then transported some 600 kilometers east to Majdanek, an extermination camp in Lublin, Poland.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

Smoke rises from the Majdanek extermination camp in October 1943.

Sometime after May 17, 1942, Kauders was killed in the camp and her body burned in ovens built for the industrial-scale murders that would come to be known as the Holocaust.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

The house in Zbraslav where Kauders’ work was discovered.

Although a handful of Czech news outlets wrote about the accidental discovery of the artwork in 2018, it was reported at the time that just 30 paintings and sketches were found. Ulvr believes a Czech journalist may have misunderstood his description of the event and assumed the 30 paintings that fell onto his head during the demolition were the entire find.

Photos released to Czech media at the time showed only a handful of sketches and watercolors that are among the least compelling of Kauders’ work.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

Natalie Jahudkova’s gravestone stands in a Zbraslav cemetery. It remains a mystery why the Russian emigrant to Czechoslovakia took the secret of Gertrud Kauders’ hidden art to her grave when she died in 1977.

How The Scale Of The Discovery Was Uncovered:

Both Kauders and Jahudkova were childless, but Kauders’ brother had a son, Cornelius, who fled Czechoslovakia for New Zealand in 1939. He had five children, including Miriam Kauders.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

Miriam Kauders with a pencil sketch of her father, Cornelius, as drawn by Gertrud Kauders.

Miriam Kauders learned about the 2018 discovery and made repeated inquiries from her home in New Zealand into the whereabouts of what she thought were 30 paintings and sketches by her great aunt.

Though early reports of the find indicated the paintings would be donated to the Jewish Museum in Prague, Miriam Kauders learned the museum had not received the art.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

Jakub Sedlacek in August 2020. Sedlacek’s link to Natalie Jahudkova is complex — he is the grandson of a Russian immigrant to Czechoslovakia who was taken into Jahudkova’s care as a child and raised as her own.

After RFE/RL inquired on Miriam Kauders’ behalf, Sedlacek eventually met with its journalists at his home in a quiet Prague suburb.

Then, on September 25, Sedlacek allowed Kauders’ entire collection of some 700 paintings and sketches, laid out like giant packs of playing cards in a Prague storeroom, to be photographed by RFE/RL.

Sedlacek said that before knowing Gertrud Kauders had living descendants he was thinking about monetizing what he knew was a historic art discovery – perhaps through exhibitions.

But after RFE/RL showed documentation proving Gertrud Kauders had living heirs, he said he “wouldn’t be able to live with [himself]” knowing that there were descendants of Gertrud Kauders unhappy with what he was doing with the art.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

Jakub Sedlacek leafs through some of the work of Gertrud Kauders. He said stories of what happened to Kauders were his first introduction to evil when he was a boy.

Sedlacek said he is ready to donate the art to a Czech museum if Gertrud Kauders’ descendants give him the power of attorney to do so. Miriam Kauders has also said she would be willing to bestow the art but reserved the right for her and her siblings to keep some portraits of her long-deceased relatives — including their father — for their own walls.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

A sketch captioned with the phrase “Were you frightened, little one?” may depict Gertrud Kauders with Cornelius (1916-2002), the father of Miriam Kauders.

Miriam Kauders said her father was known as a humorous boy who was nicknamed “clown” in his school years. But she said his personality darkened after the war and he “never recovered” from the Holocaust, largely because of what the Nazis did to his beloved aunt. He remembered Gertrude Kauders as a kind, gentle woman with an unusually quiet life and “no interest in men.”

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

A self-portrait of Gertrude Kauders

When photos of Gertrude Kauders’ artwork was shown to Michaela Sidenburg, the chief curator of Prague’s Jewish Museum, she called the discovery “unique in the context of the history of art within the Czech lands” due to the number of paintings and the fact it seems to represent nearly the entire life’s work of a significant artist who largely kept her art to herself.

Sidenberg applauded Sedlacek’s decision to go public with the entire discovery.

“I can imagine all kinds of horrible scenarios where the art was destroyed, or sold in secret, so Mr. Sedlacek absolutely deserves credit for coming forward with this,” she said.

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

MIGHTY SPORTS

No-fail trial PT tests could help improve fitness scores for airmen

The top enlisted leader of the U.S. Air Force is making resiliency a top priority for the last year of his tenure, and part of his plan to promote strong and mindful airmen is to revamp how airmen approach the physical fitness assessment, commonly known as the PT test.

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright is looking at new ways of approaching the PT test. One possibility under consideration is a no-fail trial PT test, that if passed, would count as the airman’s official score, Wright’s spokesman, Senior Master Sgt. Harry Kibbe, said.

“The intent is to relieve some of the anxiety, and hopefully this is one of the steps that can get [the Air Force] closer to a culture of fitness rather than a culture of fitness testing,” Kibbe told Miliary.com on Aug. 7, 2019. The news was first reported by Air Force Magazine.


Kibbe explained that, in the Air Force, an “excellent” composite score is equal to or greater than 90 points with all minimum components met. A satisfactory score is between 75 and 89.99 points. Anything below 75 is a failing score. If an airman scores 90 or above, he or she has a year before the next test. Those within the 75 to 89 category only have six months before they must take the next assessment.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

(United States Air Force)

The current Air Force fitness test is gender and age-normed and combines a 1.5-mile run time with maximum pushup and sit-up repetitions within one minute.

“In order to try to relieve some of the anxiety that airmen are having when they’re getting close to their due date, we’re going to allow them to take a ‘diagnostic test,'” he said.

It can be taken anytime in the year-long or six-month window, though not after.

“They’re going to take that diagnostic test and if they pass it, as long as they’re doing it through the official testing system … their clock would reset,” Kibbe said. “If they don’t pass it, but they’re still current, there will not be any punitive actions.”

If an airman fails the pre-test, he or she still has time to work on “what they need to work on” to improve for the next PT assessment, he said.

Kibbe said the Air Force is in the process of developing the policy, but stressed it’s still “months away” from any potential implementation.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head
A Day in the Life

(U.S. Air Force photo by Jamie Pitcher)

There may also be a change to the tape test, Kibbe said. The tape test, which measures body fat based on waist circumference, has drawn criticism over the years as an ineffective way to assess body composition due to differences in body type and musculature.

Officials are “looking at incorporating an equation,” Kibbe said. “To find out your fitness index for the abdominal circumference, they’re looking at adding into an equation your waist measurement, your height and your run time to get an overall cardiovascular fitness index, or a number that more accurately represents how you’re doing.”

The waist maximums remain 39 inches for men and 35.5 inches for women.

There are outliers when it comes to waist measurement, though, including very tall men and women and those with big builds. Kibbe said the Air Force is still weighing what the cutoffs for the proposed equation method would be.

“The science is telling us that we do need to keep a measurement of the waist because [it] is an accurate predictor of health,” he said.

For any changes to PT, Kibbe said Wright is making sure the service “gets it right rather than fast.”

“He’s more than comfortable to handing this off to the next [CMSAF] knowing it has been set up for success,” Kibbe said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

DARPA will be ready to show off its drone swarms next year

DARPA is progressing toward its plan to demonstrate airborne launch and recovery of multiple unmanned aerial systems, targeted for late 2019. Now in its third and final phase, the goal for the Gremlins program is to develop a full-scale technology demonstration featuring the air recovery of multiple low-cost, reusable UASs, or “gremlins.”

Safety, reliability, and affordability are the key objectives for the system, which would launch groups of UASs from multiple types of military aircraft while out of range from adversary defenses. Once gremlins complete their mission, a C-130 transport aircraft would retrieve them in the air and carry them home, where ground crews would prepare them for their next use within 24 hours.


A recent flight test at Yuma Proving Ground provided an opportunity to conduct safe separation and captive flight tests of the hard dock and recovery system.

“Early flight tests have given us confidence we can meet our objective to recover four gremlins in 30 minutes,” said Scott Wierzbanowski, program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office.

In addition to preliminary flight tests, the team has focused on risk reduction via extensive modeling and simulation. The team looked at how fifth generation aircraft systems like the F-35 and F-22 respond to threats, and how they could incorporate gremlins in higher risk areas. The gremlins’ expected lifetime of about 20 uses could provide significant cost advantages by reducing payload and airframe costs, and by having lower mission and maintenance costs than conventional platforms, which are designed to operate for decades.

The C-130 is the demonstration platform for the Gremlins program, but Wierzbanowski says the Services could easily modify the system for another transport aircraft or other major weapons system. Modularity has made Gremlins attractive to potential transition partners.

“We are exploring opportunities with several transition partners and are not committed to a single organization. Interest is strong with both the roll-on/roll-off capability of the Gremlins system — as it does not require any permanent aircraft modification — and a wing-mounted system to provide greater flexibility to a wider range of aircraft,” said Wierzbanowski.

Gremlins also can incorporate several types of sensors up to 150 pounds, and easily integrate technologies to address different types of stakeholders and missions.

DARPA recently awarded a contract to a Dynetics, Inc.-led team to perform the Phase 3 demonstration. The DARPA program team currently is exploring the possibility of demonstrating different sensor packages with potential integration partners prior to program completion in 2019.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Photos surface of tense standoff between destroyers

A Chinese destroyer challenged a US Navy warship in an “unsafe and unprofessional” encounter in the tense South China Sea Sept. 30, 2018.

The Chinese ship, reportedly the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Type 052C Luyang II-class guided-missile destroyer Lanzhou (170), part of the Chinese navy’s South Sea Fleet, took on the US Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Decatur (DDG-73) during a close approach near Gaven Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands.


The Chinese vessel “conducted a series of increasingly aggressive maneuvers accompanied by warnings” for the US Navy ship to “leave the area,” Pacific Fleet revealed in an official statement on Oct. 1, 2018. US Navy photos first obtained by gCaptain and confirmed to CNN by three American officials show just how close the Chinese destroyer got to the US ship.

(The USS Decatur is pictured left, and the Chinese destroyer is on the right)

The USS Decatur was forced to maneuver out of the way to avoid a collision with the Chinese vessel, which reportedly came within 45 yards of the American ship, although the pictures certainly look a lot closer to the 45 feet originally reported.

Ankit Panda, foreign policy expert and a senior editor at The Diplomat, called the incident “the PLAN’s most direct and dangerous attempt to interfere with lawful U.S. Navy navigation in the South China Sea to date.”

China condemned the US for its operations in the South China Sea, where China is attempting to bolster its claims through increased militarization. The US does not recognize Chinese claims, which were previously discredited by an international tribunal.

Beijing said the US “repeatedly sends military ships without permission close to South China Seas islands, seriously threatening China’s sovereignty and security, seriously damaging Sino-U.S. military ties and seriously harming regional peace and stability,” adding that the Chinese military is opposed to this behavior.

The latest incident followed a series of US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress long-range bomber flights through the East and South China Sea. Beijing called the flights “provocative,” but Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis insisted that the flights would not mean anything if China had not militarized the waterway.

“If it was 20 years ago and had they not militarized those features there it would have been just another bomber on its way to Diego Garcia or wherever,” he said on Sept. 26, 2018.

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

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